Tuesday, March 30, 2004 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.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 2 received
Clerk:Mr. Speaker, and hon. members of the Assembly: I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 2 of the First Session of the 31st Legislative Assembly, as presented by the leader of the official opposition on December 16, 2003.
The members will be aware that Standing Order 66(1) required that this report be delivered to them on the first sitting day of this spring sitting. It is to be hoped that the generosity for which members of this Assembly are renowned will be fully exercised in this regard and that the unfortunate delay of the Clerk in meeting his obligation will be quickly and silently forgotten.
With respect to Petition No. 2, a number of the pages of the petition were photocopies of facsimiles. The majority of the petition, however, does contain original signatures and the photocopies therefore do not render it invalid. Also it should be noted that an argument may be made that the language of the petition strains the bounds of that considered appropriate. For future reference, members and petitioners may wish to keep in mind the expectation set out in annotation 1029(1) of Beauchesne that the language of a petition be respectful and temperate. In this case, however, Petition No. 2 is found to meet the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 2 is, accordingly, deemed to be read and received.
Are there any petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 44: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Hart:I move that Bill No. 44, entitled Act to Amend the Municipal Finance and Community Grants Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Community Services that Bill No. 44, entitled Act to Amend the Municipal Finance and Community Grants Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 44 agreed to
Bill No. 45: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Hart:I move that Bill No. 45, entitled Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved that Bill No. 45, entitled Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 45 agreed to
Bill No. 104: Introduction and First Reading
Mr. Hardy:I move that Bill No. 104, entitled Act to Amend the Public Service Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that Bill No. 104, entitled Act to Amend the Public Service Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 104 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hassard:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to meet its obligations to fund boards and committees established under the Umbrella Final Agreement; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and his parliamentary secretary, Yukon's Member of Parliament, to cause interim funding, including any funding shortfalls, to be provided for these boards and committees at the time that the funding for these boards and committees expires on March 31, 2004, and remaining in place until such time as long-term funding can be established.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the decision to move ambulance services under the authority of the Yukon Hospital Corporation was undertaken with insufficient consultation; and
THAT this House recognizes that at least one Yukon Party government minister has publicly supported a two-tier health care system; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to guarantee Yukoners that ambulance fees will not be introduced as a result of this ill-advised move of ambulance services to the Hospital Corporation.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) more than a year after the U.S.-led war against the people of Iraq began, neither the United States administration, nor the Government of Great Britain has provided any compelling evidence to justify the war;
(2) the Government of Canada acted properly as a sovereign nation by refusing to allow itself to be drawn into this unjustified military adventure at the behest of the United States; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to maintain an independent foreign policy that precludes the use of Canadian fighting forces from participating in morally indefensible military actions on foreign soil.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Dawson City supervisor position
Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. Will the minister now admit that his decision to hire a consultant from British Columbia to supervise Dawson City's financial affairs was a mistake and that that has seriously damaged the relationships between the Yukon government and the municipality of Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, we are handling Mr. Carrel, he is dealing with the City of Dawson's financial situation and we are confident in his abilities.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister can't stick his head in the sand any longer on this one and pretend that there is nothing going on here.
The other night in Dawson City, there was another angry public meeting. Now, Dawson residents said that they have had enough of the minister's hired gun micromanaging their community. As one person put it at the meeting, this person has essentially been paid $40,000 to take a dump in their back yard.
One cannot bring into the House language that is unparliamentary. So I would ask the member not to do that. Please carry on.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Cardiff:Sorry, I will withdraw that.
The consultant has interfered in contract decisions by the elected council and has even demanded videotapes of public meetings. He has even been threatening to the council. In short, he continually seems to be pouring gasoline on the fires that he is lighting.
Will the minister confirm that he attempted to replace this outside consultant with someone who was less confrontational and that they even accepted the position, but he was thwarted by his Cabinet colleagues?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will reiterate what I have said in the past on several questions on this issues. Mr. Carrel is doing his job as designed by the Municipal Act. He is performing his duties as per the Municipal Act. He is informing the City of Dawson and its councillors to do what they have agreed to do as per the municipal plan, which they have agreed to follow. And that is what he is following them to do. The issues that he is talking about are the ones that are identified in the financial plan and that have financial aspect to the City of Dawson. That is what he is dealing with.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister didn't answer the question, and the question was about whether he had attempted to replace the outside consultant.
The minister has painted himself into a corner on this issue, with the help of his Cabinet colleagues, and I'd like to offer them all a way out. Many people in Dawson, including the mayor, would like to see a full public disclosure of this whole situation. One way of doing that would be through an inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act, which would be expensive. So here's another option for the minister and his colleagues. If the municipal council of Dawson City decides to refer this matter to the Ombudsman under section 11.5 of the Ombudsman Act, will the minister give his guarantee today in this House that the hired supervisor from British Columbia will not deny Dawson's council the spending authority to do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Carrel will be doing the duties as outlined under the Municipal Act, and that is what he will be carrying forward.
Question re: Multiplex cost overruns
Mr. Hardy: Yesterday, the Minister of Community Services refused to provide details to this House about the new financial arrangement with the City of Whitehorse for the multiplex. Thanks to the media, but not to this government, Mr. Speaker, we finally have at least part of the answer we were looking for.
Now, my question is for the Premier as Minister of Finance. Is the additional $2 million to pay for the increased cost of the multiplex tender covered in the main estimates for 2004-05, or will there be a supplementary budget coming later in the sitting?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I thank him for his question. I would like to advise him that we didn't provide identification of monies because I didn't want to spoil the issue at last night's council meeting for the City of Whitehorse. We are not having any monies put forth in the 2004-05 budget for this project.
Mr. Hardy: The question was directed to the Minister of Finance, and I would appreciate it if he would answer a question that is directed toward him.
Now by all accounts, the meeting in the Premier's corner office on Friday afternoon was both rather large and rather stormy. Will the Premier confirm the published report that the government's original position was that the City of Whitehorse should come up with half of the money on its own and borrow the remainder from the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to advise the member opposite that there were several negotiations taking place on Friday evening, and it took us awhile to come to a solution, but in the end we came to a solution that both parties could agree upon and take forward and make this valuable project for all Yukoners take place in the Yukon. This is a very important aspect for the City of Whitehorse and for the Yukon in general. We are going to have a very busy summer in the City of Whitehorse once the City of Whitehorse awards the contract to a local contractor, I might add, who has a very big aspect here.
Mr. Hardy: Basically, the Premier has refused to stand up. The other minister stood up and obviously didn't deny what I asked, so I have to assume that it's correct. Now it seems like only yesterday when this very same Finance minister was insisting that the Government of Yukon was getting out of the loans business. No more loans, period. Now there's a new policy. Loans are okay when the Premier says so, but they are not okay when he says they're not.
We could say the same thing about skyrocketing spending. When the Premier wants to spend, of course it's okay. They'll go for broke. Last year it wasn't okay. If the multiplex project goes over budget during construction of which there is a great possibility, knowing these kinds of projects and how they work what amount of tax dollars is the Premier willing to put on the table the next time the city comes and asks for help? Is there a contingency for that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working with the City of Whitehorse on this very issue. There is a contingency in the contract for an overage in the process. It is built in to their existing bid. We will be working very closely with them on that particular issue as they come by. Again, the issue here is to get the spade in the ground, get the dirt moving and get our people back to work here in the Yukon, especially for this upcoming summer.
Question re: Thomson Centre, future use
Ms. Duncan:In a newspaper story yesterday, the minister said that he is considering putting detox patients, mental health patients and seniors receiving physiotherapy all into the Thomson Centre at the same time, once it reopens.
Can the minister tell the House with whom he consulted prior to making this statement? Did he talk to anybody but himself?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The minister never said anything of the sort.
Ms. Duncan: The minister is quoted in the paper. The Yukon Party's 2002 election platform states: the Yukon Party would "conduct genuine public consultation on matters of importance to Yukoners." Obviously the minister was not consulted when that part of the platform was developed. His idea of consultation reads more like, "Minister knows best and I hope you like what I have decided to do because that is what is going to happen."
Shortly after getting elected, he unilaterally dismantled the alcohol and drug secretariat. Consultation none. Then he announced he was going to close Macaulay Lodge and move seniors out of their homes in the middle of winter. Consultation none. Last month he announced the transfer of ambulance attendants to the Hospital Corporation. There was no consultation with ambulance attendants or the hospital board. Before another ministerial dictum comes down from above, will the minister commit to meaningful consultation with affected Yukoners on the future of the Thomson Centre?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The future of the Thomson Centre is very much in doubt because a previous administration failed to consult with the public on how best to address the issue, which was faulty construction. It was well-known that there were over $1-million worth of repairs necessary just for the roof alone.
We're still wrestling with the issue surrounding the construction of the building. We have yet to determine what will be occupying that building after it's back on track, but we're still a long way down the road, Mr. Speaker, before that can occur.
Currently we're at about $1.3 million for the repairs to the roof. We've just had a team of architects, engineers and seismic engineers into the structure and they've determined a great deal of other undertakings that are necessary.
Our budget, which is before the House right now, will identify the need for an additional $2.6 million, I believe it is, for repairs to this structure, which I'm sure the member opposite will vote against, because she does not want to see anything occurring in that structure.
Mr. Speaker, we're identifying with the needs of Yukoners and we're doing our level best to address the ills of the past.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have information for the member opposite. The time for blaming the previous government and the government before that is past. He has nowhere to look for his lack of consultation but in the mirror. He has failed to consult on Macaulay Lodge; he failed to consult on the alcohol and drug secretariat; he failed to consult with ambulance attendants; and he has not yet consulted with the Hospital Corporation, to which he may or may not intend to transfer both the Thomson Centre and the ambulance attendants.
It's a straightforward question. Will the minister answer it? Will he consult with Yukoners about the future use of the Thomson Centre? Will he commit publicly in this House today to actually listen to what Yukoners have to say and hear from them?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This budget is all about Yukoners. This budget is all about restoring investor confidence in the Yukon. This budget is all about consulting with Yukoners as to the future direction of the Yukon. This budget is a tremendous example of the efforts that our government has gone to will be going to to consult with all Yukoners to get this economy back on track, to address the issues of our health care system, our educational system, our justice system, the environment, mining the full gamut.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline
Mr. McRobb: Last week, we learned that Warren Buffet had dropped his plans to build the multi-billion dollar Alaska section of the proposed Alaska Highway pipeline. Buffet's company, Berkshire Hathaway, and its subsidiary Mid American Energy Holdings, saw the pipeline as a way to help invest some of the $36 billion of cash it held at year-end. This is a company that packs a lot of spending punch.
Buffet pulled out after Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski apparently didn't live up to their understanding.
Can the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources tell us what he is doing to help the Yukon's interest with respect to these latest unfortunate developments?
Hon. Mr. Lang: What we are doing is what we can do inside of the borders of the Yukon Territory. We started the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, which is up and running. It is hopefully going to Ottawa this weekend and raising some awareness of the issues here that are going to be front and centre when a pipeline comes. Our government is committed to doing that and we are going to lead the charge as of this weekend. We are very actively working with the Government of Alaska to address any issues we can address from our jurisdiction. We are certainly working with the producers, keeping abreast of their decisions and also, again, of how we can address some of the issues that they have in our jurisdiction.
As far as the Mid American Energy Holding's deal with the Alaska government, we certainly weren't part of that. Certainly it obviously was a decision made by a corporation that found that the timelines weren't available to them to make the proper decision and they made a corporate decision to back out.
As far as we as a government are concerned, that issue was a corporate decision and was a deal made between them and the Alaska government.
Mr. McRobb: Soon after Buffet's pullout, Calgary-based TransCanada Corporation, owner of Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd., announced that it is interested in building the state's leg of the pipeline. Yukoners will recall that Foothills used to have an office here. Further, whatever happened to establishing an office for the Northern Pipeline Agency? We know this minister spends a lot of taxpayer money on this pipeline. What has he done to bring those offices here?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly Foothills Pipe Lines is getting a higher profile here than they had in the past. They have First Nation representation locally. As far as what we are doing to encourage it, we certainly would encourage any corporation to set up an office in the Yukon but, again, those are corporate decisions. We certainly can encourage. We are working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, and you will see an office opening with them very soon. We are doing our homework as far as the pipeline is concerned.
Mr. McRobb: It does not sound like we are getting a very big bang for our buck. I will be looking forward to following up on these matters with the minister in this sitting.
The Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Group was formed in September to further the interests of Yukon First Nations; however, at the time the Kluane, Carcross-Tagish, and Teslin Tlingit First Nations have not signed on to the group. We could not help but notice how the interests of the Kaska have been looked after. It has an agreement in principle that provides a liaison position, a strategy for training and environmental mitigation, in addition to an equity position on the proposed pipeline.
Can this minister tell us what he is doing to ensure that the interests of other First Nations are protected, as are the territories, in advancing our preparation for the eventual construction of this mega project?
Hon. Mr. Lang: There is a bit of misinformation out there regarding the facts of the Kaska agreement with Foothills. Again, that's another corporate decision made by Foothills Pipe Lines. We of course have been working with all nine First Nations on the route to address the concerns they would have as an aboriginal pipeline group. There are seven on board; there are two observer First Nations on this group. We're working toward a day when all nine will be sitting on the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, making decisions and working with their people to facilitate the building of this pipeline.
Question re: Ambulance contract
Mr. Fairclough: My question is to the Minister of Health and Social Services. Mr. Speaker, professionals in the field advise that the diesel engines are more reliable than the gasoline engines and, according to them, 4x4 ambulances are not needed, particularly here in Whitehorse. But the minister is buying gasoline 4x4 ambulances and, on top of that, is sole sourcing the purchase.
Yesterday in the House, the minister said this: "In the past, the government has sole sourced ambulances to that same firm." In fact, Mr. Speaker, in the past, according to the company, the government has tendered to them, but this year this minister decided to sole source the contract to them.
Why did the minister give direction to do away with the tendering process used in the past and sole source this contract? Why did he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I don't know where the member opposite is heading on this question. What we have had is virtually the same question three consecutive sitting days. The issue before us is that there were some serious problems with the volunteer and the Whitehorse ambulance service. Our government the first government in a long time has addressed the issues. They were the issue of training, the issue of uniforms, and the issue of the reliability of the vehicles; there was the request for four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Now all of these issues have been dealt with by our government, and some of the issues like the honoraria paid to our volunteers hasn't been indexed since 1972 or 1973. We have done what any good government should have done, and we have done it, and we will continue to do what is the best for all Yukoners, especially in the area of the volunteers, who are so much appreciated for their efforts.
Mr. Fairclough: For the third day in a row, the minister avoids answering the question directly. We can expect that from this minister in this House. Yesterday, again, Mr. Speaker, the minister said this, and I quote: "You have to go back quite a number of years to find the purchase of a new ambulance here in the Yukon." In fact, Mr. Speaker, at least seven new ambulances have been purchased by various governments since 1996. The minister, when in opposition, voted against every one of them. In fact, Mr. Speaker, by those comments yesterday, the minister misled the House yesterday. So would the minister like to correct
Speaker:It's unparliamentary to suggest another member is misleading the House. I would ask you not to do that. Please carry on.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That calls for a full-blown retraction, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker:I think the Chair has dealt with it sufficiently. There is no point of order. Member for Mayo-Tatchun, please carry on.
Mr. Fairclough: Obviously this issue is very touchy for the members opposite, standing up on a point of order when you already ruled. So I'd like to ask the minister if he would like to correct this false impression that he made yesterday.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would construe that as being another point of order. There was nothing false about anything I said, and I would ask you to rule, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker:For the Chair to recognize a point of order, one must stand up on a point of order. If the minister has a point of order, please stand up.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is imputing false or unavowed motives to another member of this House.
Mr. Fairclough: On the point of order, all I asked is that the minister correct the false impression.
Speaker:The Chair would like to review this, and I will report back to the House tomorrow.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun, your question. You have about five seconds left.
Mr. Fairclough: I did not think that your time would be cutting into my question.
I would like to ask the minister
Speaker: You have the floor.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a few minutes, okay.
Neither ambulance fits into the bay used for them. The length of the new ambulances is 24 feet, and the bay is Ross River is 23½ feet. This minister says that it is okay, that the ambulances do fit. Now the cost of extending the ambulance bay in Ross River has been estimated between $40,000 and $80,000; that is the cost of a new ambulance. My question to the minister is: will he confirm his deputy minister's contention that there is no problem with the size of both ambulance bays?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the issue of the ambulance length, the last time I heard it reported it was six feet longer than the current ones. The ambulances that are on order are 23 feet long. They're just over a foot longer than the present ambulances, Mr. Speaker.
There is the issue of height, and the request from Ross River was for a four-wheel-drive ambulance. The initial look and what was envisioned was converting one of the vans with an after-market four-wheel-drive conversion, which would have led to the height being higher than what a new four-wheel-drive ambulance type 1, with dual rear wheels and the box back, would have.
So we've identified what the sizes of the vehicle bays are and, yes, there's an issue with the heating ductwork in Ross River that has to be relocated, but it would have to be relocated for either size ambulance.
So the member is going to an area and causing needless repetition and debate in this House for nothing.
Question re: Game farming
Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Minister of Environment. Yukon First Nation chiefs have been making their opposition to the captive wildlife issues very clear. We know that the chiefs were extremely assertive in expressing their desire to be consulted.
First Nations believe that the proposed regulations breach their final agreements. Why has this minister chosen a course that did not meet the government's obligations under the First Nations final agreements?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I would remind the member opposite that the Umbrella Final Agreement obligations require that we consult with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. This was done well before the election and well into the mandate of the previous Liberal government. And I do recognize, of course, that we inherited rather quickly that issue after the shortest lived majority government in the history of Canada. We have concluded those, and we have extended it voluntarily to consult with First Nations chiefs. Perhaps the member opposite has not been reading the papers, but that is what we have been doing in the last number of weeks, and we will continue that good work.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, in spite of many warnings, the minister had simply ignored First Nations' input into the captive wildlife regulations. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the Premier had to rescue the Minister of Environment from the reactions of many Yukon people. People are still confused about the mixed messages coming from this government. Will the minister confirm that the April 1 deadline for the regulations has been extended, and will he tell us what the new deadline is?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, I note with interest the phrase "rescue," and I'm not really sure how that enters into this whole thing. We've done such a terrible job, Mr. Speaker, in dealing with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board that to date we have accepted all but three of their recommendations, and we hope in the near future that we will continue with the rest. Their primary recommendation was that we purchase the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. When that recommendation was made, the finances weren't there. It was set aside. It was not rejected. That's a phrase that has been invented by only one side of the House. We set it aside, and we are now dealing with those as circumstances allow, and we will continue to meet those recommendations where we can. But I would remind that member opposite that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the renewable resource councils are completely in an advisory role very valuable advice, very valuable advice to our government, to First Nations governments, but they never supplant the decisions of our government and the First Nations governments. The deadline has been extended.
Mrs. Peter: The final agreements require the minister to meet publicly with First Nations leadership and the renewable resource councils. We understand that the minister has finally started holding these meetings with leadership and the renewable resource councils in the communities. Can the minister provide his assurance that these meetings will be public, and will he table a schedule of all public meetings he intends to conduct before he brings in any changes to those regulations?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Yes, the deadline has been extended. It will be extended to when it is necessary to complete these meetings. The meetings are ongoing. They have been ongoing, I would remind the member opposite, for over five years five years. I think perhaps we have accomplished a great deal in terms of consulting. I ask the member opposite to give some thought to what she considers reasonable consultation. I think five years is reasonable.
Question re: Land sale
Mr. McRobb:I have another question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Will he confirm what is being widely reported by real estate agents and others that we are about to see a major land sale in the territory starting April 1?
Hon. Mr. Lang: On this side of the House, we would say yes, we would hope so, but I really do not get the question. Why is he asking the question on the land? Do you have a specific piece of land you want?
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to remind the minister I'm not a member of the Yukon Party, so I don't put my own interests first. I'm not looking for any land.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker:Order, order, order please. Although humorous, it's unparliamentary.
Please carry on.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
What I would like from the minister and I asked him the question because he is the minister. A major land sale right now could have enormous implications down the road. It's easy to see how this could set off a frenzy of land speculation that hasn't been seen in Canada for 100 years.
If this government is thinking of allowing miners to gain title to their claims or outfitters to get title to some or all of their concessions, the potential for abuse is staggering.
Will he make a commitment right now that there will be no wholesale disposal of Crown land until regional land use plans are in place throughout the territory, as required under the First Nation final agreements?
Hon. Mr. Lang: On this side of the House, we look at land use planning as a very important tool for the Yukon, but also economics enters into it. Economics is part of land use planning. If you don't have an economical plan for the land, how can you come up with a final land plan?
We certainly are proceeding with our dispositions in north Yukon on the oil and gas front. We're certainly looking at forestry in the Yukon. We're certainly looking at the mining community in the Yukon. There is agriculture.
So we are moving ahead as a government in a very positive way with land use planning and economic development.
Mr. McRobb: I am sure if the minister had more time, he would have said, "And we are prepared to sell off whatever it takes our children's heritage; whatever to be able to reach that stage." That's not right, Mr. Speaker. We disagree with that philosophy.
Now, the Yukon has only had control of its lands and resources for a year, and already this government seems ready to sell off our heritage. Can the minister reveal what his plan is? Is this government planning to allow agricultural lease holders to double or even triple their holdings? And why weren't Yukon people consulted on this major change in policy?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think the member opposite we understand what his side of the scenario is on development. I find it interesting that when the NDP was in government, he who didn't have any interest in personal things put a $4.5-million tax on the back of the ratepayers for increased diesel instead of using hydro power from Aishihik. That is no different that is playing politics at the expense of the ratepayers of the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Speaker:Before we proceed to Orders of the Day the Chair will deliver its ruling on a point of order raised yesterday by the Member for Southern Lakes.
The Member for Southern Lakes argued that the leader of the official opposition had imputed false or unavowed motives to members of the Assembly who are responsible for appointing members of the public to boards and committees.
Standing Order 19(g) says, "A member shall be called to order by the Speaker if that member imputes false or unavowed motives to another member."
In reviewing the Blues the Chair finds that the leader of the official opposition did not speculate on the motives of any individual member or members of the House. Rather, his criticism was cast more generally as a criticism of government practice. The Chair therefore rules that there was no point of order in that regard.
However the Chair would caution members, as he did yesterday, to choose their words carefully so as not to damage the reputation of persons who are not members of this House and cannot defend themselves against statements made in this House. The Chair accepts the statement of the leader of the official opposition that he had no intention of maligning anyone; however, members should keep in mind that their words and actions can have unintended consequences.
The Chair would also like to comment on the discussion that arose on the point of order. In responding to the issue the official opposition House leader asserted that there was no point of order. Other members have, in the past, made similar statements. When the Chair recognizes a member to speak to a point of order he is seeking advice about which rules or practices ought to be considered and how those rules or practices ought to be interpreted. Simply advising the Chair that there is, or is not, a point of order does not accomplish this.
Further, during his remarks the official opposition House leader also referred to the Member for Southern Lakes as a "rookie" and "thin skinned." Such remarks are not in order as they are disrespectful and can lead to disorder. Similarly, later in the day the Minister of Environment referred to the leader of the third party as "the leader of the last party." That is also a disparaging remark and is not in order. Members are to refer to one another by their recognized titles in this House.
On another matter both the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party used the phrase "contempt for the legislature" during second reading of Bill No. 9. As the Chair of Committee of the Whole pointed out in a statement on December 9, 2003, contempt for the Legislature is a specific and serious charge. Contempt for the Legislature is a finding that only the Assembly can make after consideration of a substantive motion to that effect. It is not a statement that members are free to interject into debate. The Chair appreciates that members have strongly held views that they wish to express. However, the use of the word contempt in that context is not in order.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. McRobb:Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, March 31, 2004. The items are a bill entitled Act to Amend the Public Service Act, standing in the name of the leader of the opposition, and Motion No. 217, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to identify any items for discussion tomorrow afternoon.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee today is Bill No. 9, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will sit in recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 9, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Bill No. 9 Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05
Chair:We will begin with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I'm pleased to be able to provide the Committee with some introductory comments on Bill No. 9, the Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05 before we move on to general debate.
This appropriation act is required to allow the public service to continue to make certain expenditures while the main estimates for 2004-05 are being considered by the Legislative Assembly during this spring sitting. The interim funding requested is for the period of April 1, 2004, until the end of June 2004. The total amount for which approval is sought is for $328,149,000 and is made up of capital expenditures amounting to $93,416,000 and O&M expenditures of $234,733,000.
The amounts required for this three-month period have been derived by canvassing all Yukon government departments to determine their minimal expenditure requirements for this three-month period. The amounts are significant, largely owing to the fact that a number of government-funded organizations, such as the hospital, Yukon College and some NGOs, receive the bulk of their grants in the first quarter of the year. In addition, a large percentage of the capital expenditures are made during this period. I look forward to debating this appropriation bill in the Legislature.
Mr. Hardy: I look forward to asking a few questions around the interim supply bill, and I would also like to thank the Finance minister for finally getting it forward so that we can do that debate. As you know, we have waited a substantial amount of time, basically a month of delays, to get into this Legislature so we can do the public's business, debate a budget and debate finances. Now everybody knows what the interim supply bill is about. As the Finance minister has already articulated, it is basically to ensure that there are operating funds for NGOs, for corporations and for government day-by-day during the three-month period leading up to the end of the budget debate.
Where we have had some problems, of course, around this is just the approach that the Premier and his government have taken with the opposition in trying to do this. I do have some questions in regard to that because I would like to hear from the member opposite directly why he would be putting out a press release in regard to special warrants insinuating that the opposition was not going to work closely in passing the interim supply bill.
So my first question very simply is: why did he initiate this type of move in approaching the Commissioner to get a special warrant for a different sum of money in order to possibly threaten the opposition?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In the context and the spirit of raising the level of debate in the Legislature, I will not respond to comments like "threaten" and those types of things. What I will say is that the government side took the prudent course of action to ensure that the machinery of government had the necessary expenditures available beginning April 1.
I would also like to point out that it would not matter if we had come in to the Legislature on February 29 or when we did; we would still be debating an interim supply bill.
There is one more important factor, and this is very much about the democratic process. The government has taken its time, after extensive consultations with the public on the budgetary process, to go back out to the public to inform them exactly what their government was spending their money on.
Therefore, I submit that we have, in the highest regard for the integrity of this Assembly, better enabled our public to understand and to draw conclusions, now that they are informed, on the debate that transpires in this House.
So everything we've done is simply the prudent course of action and it's certainly lending itself, I believe, to challenging the opposition to be much more constructive in their debate.
Mr. Hardy: That's very nice, Mr. Chair, that the minister would once again tell us to be more constructive in our debate, especially when it's after the fact that he has taken action that, in many ways, is a slap in the face to the democratic process. I could point it out very easily.
He talks about going out to the public. Did he go out to the public to raise this issue around how the special warrant should be used? Should a special warrant be used as a hammer to force in the interim supply bill? Did he ask the public that? Is that the question he asked the public?
I bet he didn't, but that's the action that was taken by this government. They went to the Commissioner and they got a special warrant signed off to follow the interim supply bill.
He also talks about the democratic process and working together. Did this minister approach the elected members of this House and the opposition and ask them? Did he ask them about the interim supply bill and what we would do with it? Did he approach or ask us about special warrants and if they were appropriate?
So I put it to this Legislature, Mr. Chair did he do due diligence in that matter, or is he just spouting off a bunch of words?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the best course of action for the government side to take here is to point out to the members opposite that, if we conclude debate on the interim supply bill and provide its passage, the special warrant is redundant.
So a lot of the points being made here are moot.
What we've done is taken the prudent course. The interim supply bill is before us. It's not an unusual piece of legislation or appropriation bill that we debate in this House. Historically, interim supply bills have been given virtually immediate passage.
I can understand that the opposition may be somewhat miffed that we have taken the time to inform the public because, in many cases, an uninformed public does not add to the democratic process.
I think this shows that this government clearly believes that being open and accountable to its public is of the utmost importance, and that is what we have done in this case. We are now here to give passage to the interim supply bill and look forward to moving on to the debate for the rest of the budget. This budget is an investment in Yukon's future some $162 million in capital for this territory, creating jobs and benefits for Yukoners, not only with immediate stimulus but with investments that will link to the mid- and long-term economic development of the territory, the economic growth of the territory. The challenge for the opposition is: how do they vote against so many constructive measures in such a balanced budget?
Mr. Hardy: I find it quite easy to answer that last question. It is basically a vote of confidence and, frankly, we on this side do not have any confidence in the people on that side. It is very easy to make that case. Look at the two budgets. Look at the two reactions to the economy of this territory. We go from extreme slash-and-burn techniques that hurt many people in this society, in the Yukon, and have really hurt many businesses and families. We swing over to a massive amount of spending that the minister himself has freely admitted is not sustainable. How can we support any kind of actions taken by this government when obviously their ability to put together consistent budgets that point to a future does not lend any confidence not just to us but to the public itself and we have already seen the results of that through polling.
The minister once again says that he went out to the public. Well, the question is, if this is what he wants to keep saying, then tell me where he went out to the public and talked about the interim supply bill because this is what we are debating here today. Where did he go out to the public and talk about the interim supply bill, and where did he go out to the public and say that it is all right, in 15 or 16 months, to bring in over $250-million worth of special warrants inappropriately? Where did he talk to the public? Do not sit there and say you did it; prove it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: All right, Mr. Chair. Let me go through the list: Community Services, some $12,643,000 in capital. Much of that came from the public. We did go out to the public on that investment. When it comes to Department of Highways and Public Works, my goodness, Mr. Chair, some $50,821,000 was front-end loaded in the interim supply bill. We've all heard the third party argue continually for the need for a fall capital budget to keep the machinery of government constantly in the budget process.
We, again, taking the prudent course of action, Mr. Chair, have come forward with a way to ensure that our contracting community, such as our highway construction community, can tender, can go to work while we in this House debate what is one of the most significant budgets ever to be brought forward. Those are examples of going out to the public. These are items the public wanted to see. They wanted to see increases for Community Services, which, by the way, means villages like for the Member for Kluane Haines Junction, which will be receiving more in their base grant. For the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, the communities of Carmacks and Mayo will be receiving more money in their base grant. For our Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, the community of Teslin will be receiving more money in the base grant. That is talking to the public, Mr. Chair. All these initiatives, such as the base grants, came forward from the Association of Yukon Communities.
Now, let's look at some more facts. The leader of the official opposition has just stood on the floor of the Legislature and made a number of points: "extreme slash and burn" in the last budget. Well, Mr. Chair, that's not the case and everyone knows it. There was a gentle reduction of expenditure until we got our fiscal house in order. Now if the members would choose to look back and compare mains to mains, we would all quickly see what the accumulated surplus was for the last fiscal year.
It was $1 million and change.
Now let's look at the facts as to how we got here today. Let's fast-forward to today. Did we not do the undercount as a government, led by some very diligent and hard-working officials? Did we not as a government do the undercount and experience a $23-million turnaround in the transfer because the undercount showed clearly that the federal government owed us that money? In doing that, that also negated the need for a $15-million census contingency fund.
Let's add the two together this is for the benefit of the members opposite, Mr. Chair. $23 million plus $15 million all done in the last 12 months has created $38 million more in general revenue for the Yukon Territory. So we've gone from a $1-million surplus, add $38 million and we are at $49 million of surplus. Then we go to a very misguided attempt at creating a Yukon permanent fund by the third party when in government. So we reversed that and put that back into general revenue. Now we are going from $49 million to $59 million.
Then, let's add in some other misguided trust funds that were doing absolutely no good for Yukoners; now they are $162 million in capital investment in this budget. That reversal was some $1.5 million that reversal. Now we are at $61 million. Then let's factor in the special health care fund of some $20 million. Add it all up. In 12 months, the government side, through its hard-working officials their dedication and their commitment and working with our MP and our Senator in Ottawa, by presenting them the case that we made, we have turned the financial situation in this territory around by $70 million. That has given us the ability to expand our expenditures, to deal with more demonstrated needs in this territory. We have addressed needs on the social side of the ledger. We have addressed needs on the development side of the ledger. We have created a balanced budget that is an investment in this territory now and in the future. We are proud of it.
Mr. Hardy: Oh, wasn't that a sweet little speech from the Premier?
As a matter of fact, it was so sweet I was watching the other side, Mr. Chair, and I saw that the DM was blushing; the praise on him was so great. I don't know if the Premier is looking for another vote or not, but that's beside the point.
What I'd like to point out, though, is the 2002-03 actual of $78,514,000. Now, the Premier just went down and said, where did it all come from and how did he find 2003-04 forecasts of $70 million; 2004-05, $59 million. These are the resources and the surpluses.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Do some of the members on the other side want to speak? I'm quite willing to listen to those comments as well, but the point we have here, and what we're debating and talking about, is the interim supply bill. We will be talking about the budget very shortly and the way this was handled, and the treatment of the opposition and the treatment of the public and the inappropriate use of special warrants when they're not called for over $250 million of special warrants in a little over a year by this government.
We have to remember that the Premier has stood in this House, time and time again, and challenged I guess it was the previous Liberal Party on their use of special warrants and called them to task on them. This Premier also has assured that he would not be doing that, but here we are today with a tremendous amount of money being used on special warrants.
I'd be very comfortable passing this interim supply bill, because I believe it serves a good purpose, but I do have a problem and I'd really like to have an explanation from the Premier very simply of why he felt it was necessary to have a special warrant applied to this and this amount.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again I point out that the speedy passage of the interim supply bill will make the special warrant redundant; it will not be needed. We took the prudent course, as I pointed out right at the outset of the debate with the leader of the official opposition, to ensure that all these constructive measures would not be delayed for any reason. We have not accused anyone of doing anything. This is not about treatment of the opposition; this is about a government doing its job. I also add to this the fact that now the public is much more informed, much better able to draw a conclusion on the debate in this House. That, I submit, raises the level of the debate that we all must conduct ourselves with.
Mr. Hardy: I do not disagree with that comment, but the words here that the Premier has used the "prudent course". This is the first time I understand that a special warrant has been brought in and used in this manner before an interim supply bill is passed. I would assume that the prudent course was based upon actions in the past or indications that there was going to be a problem with the passage of the interim supply bill; otherwise we would have just gone ahead normally and done as we see fit. So what is the justification? What was the reason? Where does the Premier get the idea that this would be a prudent course when, historically, interim supply bills have always been passed? I can assure the Premier that we would not have a problem, we do not have a problem, passing this bill.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I am glad to hear that. We are all on the same page. We pass the interim supply bill; the special warrant is redundant. So it is not really an item of debate here. I think the important items of debate are where we are going in this territory and how the opposition factors into that. The challenge for the opposition in going through the budget is: how do they vote against a million dollars more in the base grant for the College, how do they vote against $1.5 million in training trust for Yukoners a half a million of that is for trades training, an obvious target given what is going on in the territory.
How do they vote against tax credits for small business and child benefits? How do they vote against extending the mineral exploration tax credit? And considering the projections for this year, this season, in the mining industry some $30 million of exploration investment for this territory how do they vote against a significant increase in our highway reconstruction, putting many Yukoners to work? Given how we are projecting into the future, these Yukoners can be working virtually year-round in this particular area.
How do they vote against multi-level care facilities for Watson Lake and for Dawson City, where a demonstrated need was addressed? How do they vote against increased expenditures at the hospital? How do they vote against increased expenditures for health care for Yukoners? How do they vote against opening up more beds in Copper Ridge and Macaulay Lodge and taking care of our seniors and others who are in need in this territory? And how do they vote against the indicators that are showing clearly that the territory, through the efforts of so many Yukoners, including the government, is heading in a more positive direction? I say that because the GDP has increased; real estate is up; we have an unemployment rate that is down in the single digits; we have projections of increased mining exploration, of increased oil and gas exploration.
We have created a sense of optimism, which was very important, and we are, most certainly, Mr. Chair, by showing our fiscal management and prudence, creating a climate of certainty for the investment community, which is looking more and more to this territory as a place to invest. That's what we were elected to do. That is what we are doing. The challenge for the opposition is: are they with us, are they with Yukoners, or are they against Yukoners?
Mr. Hardy: I think that's a fairly aggressive final statement. It reminds me of George Bush's comments after he decided that he wanted to go to war. He basically put people in an extremely difficult situation based on philosophical and moral principles.
How do you vote against? Ask the Minister of Health. He never voted for a single budget in all the years that he was in opposition. I think that was close to seven years. How do you vote against? Maybe he needs to stand in front of the mirror the Premier himself and ask why he never voted for a single budget when many of these same items have been in other budgets. Very simple a vote of confidence. We do not have confidence in these people across the way and it hasn't been indicated to us yet that they know what they are doing.
The two budgets and the way they've been brought down already, the negative impacts that they have had on the economy make it very, very difficult for us to support a budget in its whole. That does not mean we will not stand here and recognize and praise some of the initiatives that this government has done. There are some very good ones, but I am not asking the questions around that at the moment. We will be moving into that debate later on.
Now, a very simple question in regard to special warrants, once again: can we expect this to be the norm from now on since the Premier has already indicated that this is a prudent action? Now do we have to assume that for the next couple budgets possibly the supplementaries as well we are going to see a special warrant attached to every one of them?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We as a government will continue to take the prudent course of action. We will continue to take a course of action that is in the best interest of Yukoners and their future.
Mr. Hardy: There's nothing like a non-answer. That's very common in here. How are we supposed to work together when one side refuses to answer the question from the other side?
How are we supposed to? How are we supposed to? It's very simple.
I have a question about the special warrant. The figures on the interim supply this is a number question and should be easy to answer for the minister opposite. The interim supply is $328 million; a special warrant was $223 million. Could the minister explain the difference, please?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The difference is the difference between a one-month special warrant and three-month interim supply.
Mr. Hardy: So then the minister assumed the interim supply would have passed within a month?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I would remind the member opposite that taking the prudent course of action is never assuming anything.
Mr. Hardy: Then I would like to remind the Premier that the prudent course of action would have been to ensure that the special warrant would have covered the three months to ensure the passage of the budget.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I think where the member is going here is that he's signalling we should have brought in a three-month special warrant because they may filibuster the interim supply bill.
Mr. Hardy: No, I believe I'm just reminding the minister opposite, the Premier, that prudence means you would have covered the whole shebang, just in case.
I'm going to wrap up. Those are most of my questions in regard to this, other than I would like a little more detail on some of the capital if the minister just wants to run down a few things there. I'd be quite happy to see where some of the money is being spent.
I went through the O&M and it looks fairly clear to me. I just need some of that clarification on some of the capital.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In the documentation, there is no finite detail; it is in lump sums. The money that will address block fund transfers to municipalities, funding agreements or contributions to NGOs, capital projects that are being bid on and can commence, is front-end loaded. Those are the types of things. Of course, wages, salaries, those types of things. But if the member would wish more finite detail, I am sure the department can provide some listing, but for now it is merely totals of monies front-end loaded to capture where these expenditures are required on April 1.
Mr. Hardy: I appreciate the offer. I would like some more detail on these, and I am willing to move on.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a couple of questions for the Finance minister. Would the Finance minister indicate yes or no: was he advised by his House leader that he had had a discussion with me and that I had committed to pass the interim supply?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We have had many discussions. This team provides a great deal of advice for people like me, our ministers and others. However, a decision was made by the government to inform its public in a much more detailed way and to take the prudent course of action, which we have done. This, frankly, has no reflection on what the leader of the third party has done or did not do. It was a decision made by this collective, and that is how we govern.
Ms. Duncan: I would take it from that answer that the House leader did not inform the Finance minister of that commitment.
Special warrants for the benefit of the listening audience, I would just like to discuss very briefly with the minister, and I have a very specific question. Essentially, money expenditures, taxpayer money, has to be voted on in this Legislature, has to pass the Legislature before it's spent. The Legislature, in effect, is the signature on the cheque, if we're going to compare it to everyday household terms. And I see the Finance minister nodding.
In the event that the Legislature is not sitting, the government goes to the Commissioner and asks for a special warrant to be passed. That can be done when the Legislature is not sitting, and the circumstances should be very carefully considered by the government before a special warrant is used. We have all agreed on that in this House, and it's stated in the Financial Administration Act. In effect, the special warrant is a signing of a cheque. It's done; the money's gone. The money has been spent. It has been signed off by the Commissioner. The departments have the authority to go ahead and spend it.
How, then, does a special warrant become redundant? Will the minister explain how a special warrant is becoming redundant? Is he going to go to the Commissioner and say, "No, you don't have to sign it; we want that cheque back?" How does it become redundant?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, given the fact that the government side has the highest regard for this Assembly, the passage of the interim supply bill overrides the special warrant. It's as simple as that. We are here right now debating an interim supply bill that will give spending authority to these allocations of funds. But, as I stated earlier, we have taken the prudent course to ensure that municipalities get their money, that government employees get their money, that capital projects are being funded. This is no reflection again on what the opposition may or may not do. It was a decision made by the government, but we see no problem with passing the interim supply bill and ensuring that the special warrant is, in fact, redundant, because it will not be needed.
Ms. Duncan: The Finance minister missed the point. The money has already been spent. He can't say, "Oh, we didn't mean to spend that $223 million; we are actually going to spend $328 million." It's gone. The money has been spent. The fact is the Premier either wasn't told or refused to listen to the fact that there was a commitment by this side of the House, made in front of witnesses. We were fully prepared to pass the interim supply bill. He refuses to recognize that, in fact, money is spent with the authority of this Legislature and that special warrants should be used in special circumstances, as outlined in the Financial Administration Act. What he is not recognizing is: (a) the authority and responsibility of every member of this Legislature in thoroughly discussing taxpayers' money, and (b) his own arrogance in not recognizing
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I use that term knowing full well that it may incite disorder, in which case I will withdraw it. I would ask that the Chair recognize that that was made because members of this side, certainly speaking for myself, feel a very strong responsibility to fully scrutinize taxpayers' money before it's spent. Before it is cashed, it should be discussed and it should be voted on.
An interim supply is recognized as "Go ahead with these projects; we want to keep government moving." I only wish that the Premier would recognize that all members of this House have a responsibility, including the opposition, and I viewed it, as did others, as a very threatening statement not prudent but threatening the use of the special warrant.
I believe that the minister should recognize that that's the way his words issued under his authority were viewed.
He did not show the respect that should be afforded all members of the Legislature, not just the members on that side.
I am concerned about the expenditures. I look forward to their full debate in the Legislature, and they will be fully debated. The interim supply bill should be passed. It will be passed. I committed to doing that. I am also going to put on the record the way the government's actions have been viewed, not solely by members on this bench, on this side of the House, but members in the public as well. It is not about making a special warrant redundant. It is about the fact that the government, content in its majority and with disregard for full and thorough debate, went ahead and spent the money anyway. That is what happened.
Chair:Members of the Assembly, I would just like a moment here to remind members that in addition to not being able to do something by way of indirect comment that they could not do directly, as was discussed earlier by the Speaker, it is also inappropriate for members to make a statement and then immediately seek the indulgence of the Assembly for knowingly breaking our Standing Orders. We are here to conduct the people's business in a civil and straightforward manner. We have all agreed to the Standing Orders that govern our behaviour in this Assembly, and I would ask all members to pay attention to our Standing Orders, to follow them, and to engage in vigorous, thorough debate and to conduct the people's business in the manner in which they expect us to conduct it.
Thank you for your attention.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I must first begin by saying, personally, I'm quite humbled by the scope of the challenges that are faced by this territory and its citizens. Having said that, I would point out to the leader of the third party that not one nickel has been spent not five cents has been spent. If the member would please take the time to look at the special warrant, the member would quickly realize that it comes into force and effect April 1 of 2004; therefore I submit, Mr. Chair, nothing has been spent.
We are here this afternoon debating the interim supply bill, and if it is passed we will not need this special warrant. Then on April 1, with the passage of the interim supply bill, fully debated by the members opposite, having been scrutinized by this Assembly, we are going to begin allocating the funds that are contained within the interim supply bill.
So I just want to try to get to the point where the member and I can debate on the basis of what it is we are doing. No money has been spent to date for the fiscal year 2004-05, and the special warrant does not come into effect until April 1, 2004. If we give passage to the interim supply bill here today, the special warrant is redundant.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in your cautionary comments which I appreciate you essentially asked us to conduct ourselves in a manner in which we would wish to be treated: do unto others as you would be done by.
I would appreciate the Premier recognizing that no member on this side of the House needed to have a special warrant held over our heads, as was done; that the minister had a commitment from me, and we've seen that one member does have the ability to deal with business in this House that he had a commitment made in front of witnesses that we would pass the interim supply. There was absolutely no need to hold this heavy, heavy, heavy hand which was not prudent over the opposition parties.
And to do so, it is not raising the level of debate; it's not conducting ourselves in the manner in which we wish to be treated, and I would ask that, at a minimum, he publicly recognize that that's how that action that he deems prudent has been seen not just by members of the opposition but by the public as well. It is not the manner in which to treat a colleague in this Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, again, I point out that what the government has done in this particular process is no reflection on what the opposition benches would or would not do or are doing. It is not being held over their heads whatsoever. It does not come into force and effect until April 1, which gave the opposition ample time to discuss, debate and give expeditious passage to the interim supply bill. So I just put that on the record so that the public understands what it is that has taken place. There is not much we on the government side can do about the unwarranted feelings expressed by the member opposite, but we did take the prudent course.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none, we'll now proceed with line-by-line debate. At this point, if any member wishes to request unanimous consent to deem all votes read or carried, that might be appropriate.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would respectfully request that in order to expedite the business of the House, we deem all clauses, schedules and the title of Bill No. 9 read and carried.
Unanimous consent re clearing Bill No. 9
Chair:Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of Committee to deem all clauses, schedules and the title of Bill No. 9, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05, read and carried.
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Chair: There is no division on this. We're asking unanimous consent to deem all lines read and carried. Do we have unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I believe the ayes have it. Unanimous consent has been granted.
Bill No. 9 deemed read and agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fentie:I move that Bill No. 9, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that Bill No. 9, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be now moved out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Bill No. 9: Third Reading
Clerk:Third 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 third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 9, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be now read a third time and do pass. Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 9 has passed this House.
Bill No. 10: Second Reading adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 10, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie. Adjourned debate, the Hon. Mr. Kenyon.
Speaker: I believe you have 11 minutes left.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I believe that is correct.
Again, it's my pleasure to rise to speak to the budget a very large budget and a very good one for all Yukoners, for Porter Creek North and for the Department of Environment, Mr. Speaker.
Among some of our initiatives, the Department of Environment has identified $30,000 in new funding for the 2004-05 budget concerning electronic waste management, or e-waste. It was interesting to note yesterday that the leader of the official opposition referred to this as $15,000. In review, I find that the $15,000 was referred to in the small summary handout, but he only read the summary.
Electronic waste includes desktop and portable personal computers, printers, television sets, photocopiers, some types of music equipment, electronic components. Most people don't realize that the average computer monitor or the average small television contains over two and a half pounds of lead and it's important that we deal with this.
One of the problems in the past has been that there have been very few ways to deal with this, but now that we have some very distinct ways to recycle that material, this will be shipped out. We're doing this in conjunction with Highways and Public Works, Raven Recycling, computers for schools, and we're partnering with a larger group of people to get the biggest bang for the buck on that.
Another innovative project in the Department of Environment is taking on the production of a hunter education meat-cutting instructional video. We've identified $15,000 for this. Meat wastage is a contentious issue with our wildlife and the judicious use of our wildlife, and so it's important that we address this. It's estimated every year that many kilograms of meat is wasted, and we have to look at ways of doing this much better.
Another item, which I notice the leader of the third party has identified accurately, is our board game a Department of Environment oriented board game that can be used in schools, with children and with adults. This is something that has been in the proposals of the Department of Environment for over 12 years, Mr. Speaker. Every government has allowed this to drop off the table. It's important that we develop this and it's important that we finally do this production, so we've allowed for that in the budget.
We're always looking for engaging ways and new ways to try to work with our students and with our youth, and this is certainly a good way to do it.
In the 2004-05 budget year, $5,000 will be used for the initial development and writing, and that will occur again in the next year for the final design, layout and printing.
Our department is taking an integrated resource-management approach, working with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, to manage the territory in order to mitigate impacts from development and to allow responsible development to proceed. To simply declare everything as being not permitted is not the way to encourage business to come into this territory, so we will continue to work with this in a very broad manner.
The Yukon protected areas strategy a very flawed process, with the best of intentions in its beginning certainly remains dead, but we will approach this whole thing from a biodiversity aspect to preserve the biological diversity of all types within the territory. We have been working very closely with a number of non-governmental organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund and others, in order to develop this.
One thing that bothers me greatly, though, is that some of the members opposite have been complaining that there is no emphasis on environment, and I would remind them particularly the leader of the official opposition, if he goes back to the summary sheet, which he obviously read of the $21,127,000 for Environment, $15,123,000 for Economic Development. This government has put more money in the Department of Environment than it actually did in Economic Development, so if they want to look at it strictly in a dollar-and-cents manner, there are the facts. The reality, of course, is quite different. The reality is that by working creatively, we give a high priority to both. It is interesting to take the facts strangely and not simply look at the short summary sheets coming up with the wrong data and giving the Coles' notes version.
There was a comment the other day, too, that referred to several million dollars from trapping. And I agree, Mr. Speaker, that we have to do what we can to promote the trapping industry. The promotion of Yukon's soft gold has really allowed us a market for many more furs and many more skins than we can produce. This is something that we're actively working on with the First Nations and we're actively working with renewable resource councils to do that. But really, Mr. Speaker, last year, $170,000 was the figure for fur sales in the territory, not several million. I wish it were. I'd love to take credit for that. We're projecting up to $250,000 next year, or a 47-percent increase. Perhaps with a lot of diligent work from all levels and orders of government, we can do much better than that.
What bothers me the most, though, are two comments that come out of the leader of the third party. Our lone Liberal has made the comment that our Liberal Member of Parliament has been responsible for all of this, and I find that very disrespectful to some of the very talented, hard-working officials within the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Statistics, and particularly our director of statistics. They have done a superior job in identifying areas and identifying things that have brought an enormous amount of money into this territory. I'm surprised that our leader of the third party isn't aware of this, but perhaps that's indicative of the fact that they, for one reason or another, didn't really see the reason to tell her that. It bothers me most, however, that she has already stated in this House publicly that she will not vote for the budget no debate, not going to listen to any of that, not going to take any information. I don't know why we're doing briefings for the third party, because she has already said she's going to vote against it.
I have difficulties with that. The definition of "consultation", the definition of "debate", the definition of "good government" is that we debate things in the House; we discuss them and we question them or at least we're supposed to. For someone to come out on the very first day and say, "Absolutely not won't support it," I find that distressing, to put it mildly.
With those comments, Mr. Speaker, I again commend this budget to the House the largest budget that has ever been presented in this House and one that will see an excellent rebound of the economy of this territory, and we look forward to the coming years. After we finish with this, we certainly look forward to our second mandate.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I rise today to speak to the budget before us of 2004-05. It is with great pleasure that I am able to say a few words on our government's behalf.
I'd just like to start by saying a great big thank you to all the officials within our departments of Tourism and Culture and Justice for all their hard work and for their diligence, and for bearing with all of us in helping us come through on many of our platform commitments made during the election, and also responding to some of the very dire needs within our communities today and addressing some of the social challenges that face Yukoners at large.
This budget is reflective of who we are as a government. We certainly have exercised fiscal prudence on behalf of all Yukoners over the last year and, as a result, we've been able to come up with the additional funding to make some of these very important commitments come to fruition.
I would like to extend a large thanks to the Department of Finance in particular for their hard work and due diligence in this regard.
Certainly a lot has happened over the almost a year and a half since we were elected. It has been a very busy time indeed, and it has taken a lot of initiative and a lot of work on everyone's behalf, but in general I think there is a sense of optimism in the Yukon today that we are turning a page in Yukon's history, we are approaching a new era of economic prosperity, and certainly optimism, on the social front. I think this budget is very clearly reflected in the sense that we have been able to address some of these very important issues of importance to all Yukoners today.
I would just like to somewhat reiterate what has been said already by some of my colleagues on some of the economic indicators. As you know, we were elected on a platform that primarily had to do with getting the economy going. I am happy to say that over the last year and a half, the population in the Yukon has started to increase. In December 2003, Yukon's population was 30,255; that is an increase of 295 individuals over December 2002. Unemployment has dropped to single digits again. In February of this year, Yukon's unemployment rate was 7.5 percent compared to that of 10.2 percent a year ago. Real estate transactions have increased. During the fourth quarter of 2003 alone, transactions increased by 17 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2002. Mining exploration in the Yukon is expected to exceed $30 million this year.
Of course, exploration in 2003 a year ago reached $13 million. Again, it's a very clear indication of where we are heading.
Forestry thanks to the good efforts of my colleague, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, we were actually able to release some 80,000 cubic metres of wood in southeast Yukon. That is the first wood released in southeast Yukon since 2001, as I understand.
Of course, that was certainly based on one of the recommendation of the Kaska Forest Resources Stewardship Council to release this timber. This council's mandate, of course, is to develop a regional forest management plan and make recommendations to government on interim wood supply. That was created through a memorandum of understanding signed by Canada, Yukon and the Kaska First Nation. So, it's another good indicator that we are on the move.
Of course, when we talk about the oil and gas sector, Yukon is extremely fortunate to carry significant oil and gas reserves in eight sedimentary basins. The Kotaneelee field in southeast Yukon, for example, remains Yukon's sole producer, with two wells that have been in production for decades an annual production, I might add, that has been estimated at between $8 million and $10 million.
Devon, as the minister pointed out in his Budget Address, is planning a drilling project that is a new well from an existing location. This project alone is estimated to be worth about $10 million and is expected to create anywhere from 30 to 50 jobs alone for contractors both on and off location.
Tourism is yet another bright, shining light on the economic horizon. It has been shining but it is shining even more these days. The signs are there. I am very optimistic about this upcoming tourism season. As we speak, I should point out that Holland America, for example, is planning to reopen the Klondike Inn this operating season, creating some 45 additional jobs.
And while Westmark hotel bookings are up by 17 percent over last year, their cruise traffic is seeing an even stronger return, in the 20- to 25-percent range.
Mr. Speaker, I share this optimism. In speaking with a number of tour operators over the last couple of months, we certainly are very encouraged that the signs of a good tourism season are there. We are hoping that not too many unexpected, unforeseen circumstances such as what hit our country last year will be here again. Rather, we hope to expand upon our tourism season, grow the tourism industry, and I think that this budget will help do just that.
When we talk about tourism, as I have had many discussions over the last year with our Tourism Industry Association, tourism is not just about marketing what we have; it's about building product, it's about developing our product here in the territory, it's about growing tourism, it's about attracting people, visitors alike and encouraging residents alike to enjoy what we have here.
I think that not just within our Department of Tourism and Culture but throughout this budget, there are a number of exciting initiatives that I'm really proud to be here to expound upon. When we talk about product, we talk about a number of initiatives, from the extension of the waterfront trolley to the Chilkoot Centre this summer an investment of $425,000 alone and we talk about the preservation of the roundhouse, a commitment that was made during the election and something that we're pleased to be coming through on.
There are a number of announcements I have made over the last month on tourism, in particular, and I'll just take a little bit of time to go through them again. One was a new tourism cooperative marketing fund in the amount of $500,000. That's reflected here in this budget. This fund is something that the Tourism Industry Association, among other initiatives, had requested back to our office in late 2003. This is an initiative we're very proud to see come through.
The fund is aimed at individual tourism operators and groups to cost share in creative and innovative tourism marketing programs, tactics and campaigns that directly generate awareness and interest in the Yukon as a travel destination.
What's particularly rewarding about this fund is that it will help encourage visitors from all over to stay that extra day. In fact, we want them to stay more than one day; we want them to stay for a week, for weeks on end. This fund will help tour operators and tourism organizations, governments alike, to do just that.
In turn, this fund will help leverage additional funds from other sources of revenue. For every dollar that will be put up by the private industry, we will match that fund. So effectively what we're talking about here is not just a $500,000 fund but a $1-million fund. That will probably have far more reaching effects than just the $1 million.
We're very pleased to partner with industry in this respect and we look forward to working with industry on further defining the terms of reference and how this fund will be rolling out here in the next couple of months.
In addition to this new fund, I am also pleased to announce the increased funding of $100,000, bringing it up to almost $200,000, to product development. That is also reflected here in the 2004-05 budget. As I was just explaining, product development is not simply marketing, but it is placing investments in our existing businesses today to help them build their product, to help market their market, to help build that niche capacity in those markets that we have the ability to focus in on and capitalize on as a destination of choice for all.
Our efforts to increase product development have simply been guided by the product development strategy and an implementation plan, both of which were developed in consultation with the tourism industry through our senior marketing committee. This increased funding will be invested primarily in capacity building, niche product development and educational workshops. So again we will be looking very forward to working with industry toward this end.
This government, when we do see a good product whether it was an initiative of the previous NDP government or the previous Liberal government we will take ownership, but we will also pay tribute where tribute is due. The gateway cities initiative was brought in by the previous Liberal government, and it was a very successful initiative. We are continuing with that initiative and building on it with an additional $100,000. It is another marketing tool to enhance and raise awareness about the Yukon and help visitation to our gateway cities of Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Of course, the tourism industry and Air North have both been very instrumental to its success, and we're pleased to continue our partnership with Air North. We're also pleased to welcome Zip into the program for the very first time.
Along with the investment of these new marketing dollars, the government will also be spending over $400,000 on a new visitor exit survey. This survey is something that industry had urged our government to proceed with. Visitor exit surveys have traditionally been held every five years. They serve to provide information to tourism businesses to make sound business decisions to successfully compete in a global marketplace.
This survey will be held throughout the Yukon and will provide approximately 30 different jobs in the Yukon this summer. So again, it is another very integral part of marketing; it helps us complete research-driven marketing and will be a very integral force in helping us redefine and define our marketing programs here in the near future.
I just wanted to refer to some comments from the leader of the third party yesterday. It's truly unfortunate, but she said, "Mr. Speaker, I was dismayed when I looked at this budget about the short shrift given to the Department of Tourism. There's not one new innovative, thoughtful program, not one program that is going to demonstrate for Yukoners a return on investment."
It's very unfortunate that she can't even recognize that one of the programs we are expanding upon was actually one of her own programs. Clearly the leader of the third party it's not so surprising because she had so much confidence in the Department of Tourism that she shredded that department and put that department into what became the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture.
So she actually effectively removed the Department of Tourism, removed some of those programs, and unfortunately that was not very well received by industry. That is exactly why we made the commitment to reinstate the Department of Tourism and Culture, and I believe that I'm very proud to be a part of the government that recognizes tourism as an economic engine in the territory, a real driver. That was one of the first things that our government did to reinstate the Department of Tourism and Culture.
It is unfortunate that the leader of the third party does not recognize some of these initiatives that we have announced as a good thing. I'll just relay to the members opposite about this is actually captured in a news release from the Tourism Industry Association Yukon on March 23, and it says, basically, in December 2003, TIA Yukon submitted a wish list, including cooperative marketing funds, investment into product development, and the necessity of closing the five-year loop with a 2004 visitor exit survey. The TIA Yukon president goes on to say, "We have just seen a reflection of our advocacy efforts in this announcement and thank the Minister of Tourism and Culture for considering industry's needs and working so hard to ensure that industry has had a voice at the table." It pays a lot of attention to our cooperative marketing fund and how it will enable industry to come to the table with their own money and propose and conduct marketing activities in the marketplace. It talks about the importance of the visitor exit survey, how it's vital to the research needed to best understand our visitors, their interests and travel motivators.
So I'm very proud to be able to work with the tourism industry, and I believe that we have been able to foster a very positive relationship over the last year, and it's simply by listening and taking time to understand the needs of industry and by responding to the needs of industry. That's exactly what we have just done.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things that we have been able to capitalize on. Diversity of our tourism interests in the Yukon includes not only marketing interests, heritage interests, but, of course, also our vibrant arts community. I am very proud to be part of a team that is very supportive of the cultural sector in the Yukon. This is demonstrated not only in our awareness of the distinct needs of the cultural sector as a source of community recreation and professional fine art, but as an economic engine that is alive and growing well in the territory.
Just as our artists and cultural programs are becoming increasingly well-known across our country, so too is our reputation as a region of Canada where the cultural sector is valued.
According to a report that was released back in January of this year by Stats Canada, spending per person by the Yukon government was approximately $421, the highest of any provincial/territorial government in the country. That speaks volumes regarding our commitment to the cultural sector as an economic engine in our territory.
I refer to our decision to support the training in the heritage sector through the creation of a heritage training trust fund. I also refer to our decision to renew the cultural industry training trust fund to help build the capacity of cultural industry entrepreneurs to produce better products and services and to increase their business.
I also refer to initiatives such as $150,000 coming out of the community development fund to support the $500,000 technical upgrade to the Yukon Arts Centre. Thanks to that particular funding, new equipment will not only enable the centre to serve artists, organizations and audiences, but will also create an inventory of decommissioned equipment to various community facilities, including the Guild theatre, the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, Porter Creek Secondary School, and the St. Elias Convention Centre.
I am also very proud of our government's contributions to Yukon's sound recording industry. During this fiscal year alone, our government has supported RAIYA alone, through the arts fund, through the cultural industry's training trust fund, and through the community development fund, to the tune of just under $120,000. On top of that are individual applications to these various funds, advanced artists and lotteries. Our department is also pleased to provide RAIYA with some $100,000 toward stay-another-day initiatives, to help sponsor performing artists and events hosted throughout each of our communities, encouraging them to stay that extra day or week, which I would like.
The film industry is very important to the growth of our economy. We recognize the very economic benefits that accrue to the territory from immense film activity here in the Yukon. Whether it may be shooting a commercial for Home Depot in Dawson, filming a documentary on the Blue Fish Caves in Old Crow or producing a major feature film, Yukon continues to draw increased attention as a place to do business, to film and to invest. Film potential in the Yukon is tremendous, to say the least, and the economic spinoffs to hoteliers and suppliers, especially during the winter season, is next to none. Our government recognizes this potential and has demonstrated it with an injection of $675,000 toward film and sound recording development.
Preserving and protecting our museums was a priority identified in our election platform. We have historic resources of enormous significance to the Yukon and the world. As a case in point, we have seen a great deal of local and national media interests in Beringia resources especially, with the international mammoth conference held in Dawson City last summer.
The Alaska anthropological conference will be held in the Yukon this spring; ice-patch research continues to attract worldwide attention, whether it be from CNN or the Smithsonian Institute; and archaeology of the Blue Fish Caves, to name but a few initiatives.
So preserving our resources for both present and future has far-reaching impacts. One of the ways we're working together to preserve and protect our heritage resources in the Yukon is through the development of the Yukon museum strategy. The work of the department has been helped tremendously by a great input from our heritage community, including our museums, our cultural heritage centres, First Nations and, of course, the Yukon Historical and Museums Association a big thank you to all those various stakeholders for their input.
The government has also made progress in providing significant resources to museums and the heritage community. I'd just like to point out a study that was done in 2002 to assess the economic impact of our heritage institutions. It was found that over $3 million in direct spending was earned, employing some 39 person years indeed, another economic engine in our territory.
Last year in response to our election platform, our government introduced new flexibility in our funding that better meets the operational requirements of each of our museums. At the same time, we also expanded the eligibility list for museums to include the Binet House in Mayo, the Northern Lights Centre in Watson Lake, the Campbell Regional Interpretive Centre in Faro, and the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society here in Whitehorse.
I'm also pleased that this budget contains a new funding program that will assist the operational needs of First Nation cultural centres.
Within this particular announcement, we have identified up to $220,000 in operational funding to our existing four cultural centres in the territory. Along with that announcement, we have also made the commitment to initiate or to reinstate a position of First Nations heritage worker in the Department of Tourism and Culture, as a position that will help work with each of the First Nation governments in developing their First Nation products but also in helping develop their cultural centres as certainly a place to visit and also a place to reflect each First Nation's culture.
I am also pleased that the archival advisor program continues to thrive with substantial interest in this service continuing in both First Nation and museum archival programs. Our government is also pleased to participate in the Canadian historic places initiative and the Canadian register of historic places.
We are also working very closely with our museum community in support of education tourism initiatives such as stay-another-day program, the north to knowledge product club and passport program, which help showcase our collective heritage for Yukoners and visitors alike. Walking tour brochures and joint initiative ad campaigns that include the Whitehorse placemat campaign are additional initiatives that our department continues to work with in conjunction with our heritage sector.
Mr. Speaker, whether it may be our museums, art galleries or cultural centres, the cultural industries do have a very important role to play in generating revenue and pursuing their primary mandate of preserving and interpreting our culture. There is a real pride in the fact that we do have a very strong presence of arts and culture here in our communities, of which our government is very pleased to offer recognition and support by way of programs and various initiatives.
Again, reflected in this budget are ongoing commitments to the arts fund worth $500,000; Yukon artists' award, $80,000; Yukon arts planning program, $425,000; our commitment to core funding to KIAC, $250,000; $200,000 for stay-another-day initiatives and arts and culture products, services and events; decade of sport and culture, $200,000 finding ways to capitalize on the development of our culture in preparation for the Canada Winter Games events leading up to and thereafter.
Of course, yet another exciting initiative is that of the Whitehorse waterfront development. As the Minister of Tourism and Culture, I believe the waterfront is probably the most important development for Whitehorse in this decade and perhaps the next.
Once the waterfront is developed, it will have an enormous impact on residents and visitors alike, and it will influence how current and future generations relate to their city, and it will be a major attraction for visitors.
Like successful projects such as Granville Island in Vancouver, Toronto's Distillery Historic District, or the Winnipeg forts, the inclusion of arts, cultural industries and heritage will only serve to create both economic and social vitality on the waterfront.
So our government recognizes the very importance of the inclusion of cultural industries and looks forward to working with the respective governments and all economic sectors in realizing the great potential and opportunity that we do have here in our Whitehorse waterfront.
I wanted to go on to my other portfolio, the Department of Justice a very important portfolio and one that I spend a lot of time on and am committed to.
I just refer back to some comments made yesterday by members of the opposition about how the operation and maintenance budget has gone up significantly, how this government has been spending a whole lot more on running government.
You know, you are right. In Justice, O&M has gone up; in fact, it has been increased by 3 percent, representing an increase of just over a million dollars from the 2003-04 forecast. Of this increase, $592,000 more will be spent on policing services in the Yukon from the 2003-04 forecast. So I have to wonder if members opposite are saying that we should not be investing money in our police. Perhaps members opposite are saying that we should not be investing in dollars toward victim services, the family violence prevention unit, on contract services for training, clinical supervision services, or how about money toward legal aid or aboriginal courtworkers. Are members saying that we should not be proceeding with the implementation of the adult protection and decision-making legislation, legislation that was passed by all members of the Legislature last fall?
A total of $3,690,000 will be spent on transfer payments to groups and individuals who deliver programs on behalf of the Justice department. Now, I am not sure but are the members saying that we should not be proceeding with these commitments, working in partnership with the other partners in delivering justice in the territory? I do not think that is what they mean, but hopefully that will give them another opportunity to take a look at what they have been saying.
When we talk about O&M, I refer to a commitment to childcare. Childcare is a very important issue that was raised at the doorstep in the last election.
Since elected, funding to our Yukon childcare centres and family day homes has increased by over $675,000. That's with the input of the Yukon Child Care Board, the Society of Yukon Family Day Homes and the Yukon Childcare Association. These funds have gone toward the wages of childcare workers and operational spaces based on set-up spaces. While there's still much work to do, this additional funding reaffirms our government's commitment to improving access to quality, affordable childcare services in the territory, as we promised in the last election and are delivering on.
To address the longer term needs, a working group on childcare has been established to also develop a four-year plan. I commend the Minister of Health and Social Services for rising to this challenge, and I look forward to working with him and my other colleagues in furthering this very important and worthy initiative.
Our commitment to education is yet another very important initiative that was raised during the election at the doorsteps of Whitehorse West. Over the last year, I couldn't be more happy or pleased with the large investments this government has placed in education: an increase to Yukon College funding by $1 million; increased community training trust funds by $1 million for a total of $1.5 million, of which $500,000 is to be earmarked for trades training.
I should say that was something the community training trust funds were literally half-dismantled by the previous Liberal government we are very pleased to reinstate. We have indexed the Yukon student grant and training allowance. We've added 30 new positions to the student training and employment program, a very important initiative and one that will be grasped wholeheartedly this summer with our students coming back home. We've earmarked $1 million to address the short-term needs of Yukon schools.
And we have also expanded our Yukon excellence awards to include math, science and language arts at the grade 10 level. On health care, in addition to the Minister of Health and Social Services and his commitment to childcare, he has also seen that within this budget about $10 million worth more in O&M funding toward meeting the challenges placed on our health care system today. Very worthy initiatives $3.1-million increase for hospital operation and maintenance costs, including a new cardiac stress testing program; $2.3 million on primary health care; $1.9 million to help open 12 more beds at the Copper Ridge place within my riding.
Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to be part of a government that recognizes the economic engines in the territory and that is addressing some of the very social needs within our territory today. I look forward to expanding upon these initiatives that we have announced, and we will continue to re-announce, because they are such good news. Perhaps there's not enough time to digest it all today.
I look forward to hearing constructive debate from my colleagues across the way, and I look forward to carrying on more debate as the budget unfolds.
Thank you very much.
Unanimous consent re Member for Pelly-Nisutlin responding to Budget Address
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, I have a procedural request. I would request unanimous consent of the House to allow the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin to be able to respond at second reading to the Budget Address.
Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Member: Disagree.
Speaker: We do not have unanimous consent.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On a point of order, I request that you rule on the procedural business of this Assembly. Today the official opposition tabled a bill. That bill was Act to Amend the Public Service Act. Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), when opposition private members' business has proceeded, no later than the time at which the Assembly proceeds to Orders of the Day on the sitting day preceding the call of opposition private members' business, the leader of the official opposition or designate may on behalf of the members of the official opposition identify the order in which the items standing in their names on the Order Paper or on the Notice Paper shall be called.
Subsequent to that, the official opposition identified the bill that they had tabled just today as being the item that they would call for debate tomorrow. Pursuant to Standing Order 54(2), it is proceedings on bills. "Bills, printing and distributing" is the title of that category. Part 2 reads, "No bill shall receive Second Reading until it has been printed and distributed for one clear sitting day." It would appear that the only exemption to this rule is part 3, where an appropriation bill bringing forward the main capital or operating and maintenance budget may receive second reading on the same sitting day on which it has received the first reading.
So I would submit that the request to call the bill that was tabled today that you rule on it and I see it as being out of order according to the Standing Orders of this Legislature.
Speaker: On the point of order, Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Mr. Fairclough: That was a lengthy point of order to follow the different Standing Orders for this House, and I would like a request to review what the government House Leader is requesting and have some time to review it so we can comment.
Speaker:The Chair agrees with that point. Later on today or first thing at tomorrow's sitting we will give a ruling.
Mr. Fairclough: If you are going to bring a ruling forward, Mr. Speaker, I request that we submit a written submission to you.
Speaker: That is agreeable. The Chair awaits the pleasure of the House.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to comment on the Premier's budget speech, and I will be short, hopefully, in my response to the speech. There were many announcements taking place before the House sat about exactly what government was doing and it is reflected in this budget, so there is no use going over that again. Government has made an announcement, they want to do a re-announcement, and again we are hearing the same announcement from the members opposite. So I will not go there. Also, the Premier read a very lengthy budget speech I think it is the longest we have heard yet some two hours and 10 minutes. I believe it is double the time normally premiers have for reading a speech. It was not short and to the point. It gave a little bit of a history lesson and, in a lot of cases, going off where I believe the Premier should have been focused on really telling the public exactly what is in the budget.
I think some people found it kind of boring, Mr. Speaker. As a matter of fact, when I looked over and saw the Minister of Environment, within three minutes into the budget speech, he was asleep. That holds the same for the Minister of Health and Social Services, who, not long after the Minister of Environment, fell asleep too.
The Chair feels that those are inappropriate comments. Although they may not be unparliamentary, they are simply inappropriate. I dont believe that we should, as members of this House, be judging each other.
I would ask the member to withdraw it. Please do not comment on it again.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fairclough:Mr. Speaker, I believe that was past practice and it has been said in this House about people nodding off or not paying attention and that type of thing. That's what I was getting to, but if it is the wish of the Speaker for me to withdraw that, then I will.
I would like to continue, Mr. Speaker.
I am hoping that that same ruling will be applied as strongly to the government side as it is on our side. I am confident that you will do that, Mr. Speaker.
There are a few things that bother me in the budget that has been brought forward. I would like to talk about my riding, but first of all I would like to talk about promises and so on.
Before the election, the Yukon Party made it clear to Yukoners what they were going to do. They promised not to touch the Taxpayer Protection Act. They also said to the public just last year that there was no money. There was no money in government; there was no surplus. There was very little. We even heard it today, as a matter of fact, from the Premier. He said there was $1 million sitting in the bank.
If that's the kind of message they are giving out to the public and not being backed up by their own documents in this House, then I can see why people are losing confidence in this government. You cannot say one thing and find out that, in fact, it is something else. This government has done it over and over again, and I am surprised to this day that we continue to hear that same message from the Yukon Party government. It's unfortunate, and the public is seeing through that.
There were requests, many of them, last year for small amounts of money, whether it was an increase to SA rates, looking at small projects in the communities, meeting the priorities of First Nations, municipalities and so on. This government said that they have to get tough with spending, they have to get control of government spending, they have to lower the government trajectory that was the word that has been used. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, they felt so strongly about it and probably had all kinds of advice about this that they included it in the budget speech of last year. And it was all about government spending. I have it right here. It's called, "Controlling the Trajectory of Government Spending," and they were going to do that. As a matter of fact, I have a quote in here from the speech. The Premier said that "Curbing a government's trajectory of spending is akin to turning around a supertanker. It will take both time and effort." Well, I would assume that government is going to lower their spending. That hasn't happened. The efforts didn't take place. Last year's budget was pretty big. Certainly the time hasn't been put into that.
Let's look at when this government first got elected. The Liberals are out; the Yukon Party is in. We were all asking that they bring forward a budget that addressed winter works, and we were willing to sit for a few days and talk about how we could get people to work that winter.
Well, it didn't happen. The government brought forward special warrants, and they started spending and that's where the spending started that's how quick it was, from the election to just a couple of months later $12 million without debate in this House shows up again as a supplementary budget in the following year. We had to go through that. We on this side of the House at the time were willing to put our thoughts together to address the situation Yukoners were in.
It didn't happen. That government the Yukon Party government didn't allow the opposition input into addressing the situation, even though they promised to improve the procedures in this House. Then, Mr. Speaker, we had a budget put together very quickly without any public consultation none whatsoever. That's all we've heard from the members opposite, about how well they do their consultation.
The budget of last year was put together without any public consultation, or very little. They said it came from the election but, as a matter of fact, many issues were brought up to the members opposite and were not reflected in the budget.
So we on this side of the House will not let members on the government side forget what they have said to Yukoners, and we will bring this forward time and time again.
It was so strong at the time. Members opposite felt so strongly at the time that if you went through Hansard and read the speeches of the members opposite, particularly from the Member for Lake Laberge, then you would think that that was the way government was headed. But it did not take long after this budget was put together that we started seeing more promises and government spending beyond the budget. Of course, fall came around and winter and we see another $16 million in special warrants not debated in this House. I guess they were exercising prudence on their side when doing this. Now we have a budget here that is the largest ever and a total flip-flop from what they believed in just a short year ago.
One of the things that they on that side of the House all stressed in their budget replies was that they had to do things wiser, in a better way; they had to spend money in a better way; they will not have the public face an election, and they will not because they all believed at that time in the Taxpayer Protection Act.
Well, they have been given some advice, which was to make amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act, and again, perhaps, fool Yukoners or I do not know what the proper word could be, but mislead Yukoners into thinking that government has more money than they do, and it's laid right out here in black and white for everybody to see. I believe that is the way this government is heading. We are going to spend more. We understand with devolution taking place that of course there is more spending that is going to happen there with 240 employees coming over.
But also the capital budget has gone up significantly. When we quickly review what is in the budget presented to the House and what has been said over and over again by the members opposite, it is that the government didn't have much money in the bank. That's what every one of the members opposite said they didn't have it; the surplus just wasn't there for them to deal with the issues that Yukoners had raised. It has been said by the official opposition leader and read out in this House as to how much the surplus was in 2002-03 just over $78 million. At that time, the Yukon Party called it $1 million. Well, that's a big difference. We heard that number float around here today again. $1 million that's all government had.
Along came the following year and numbers were again given out to the public for 2003-04. At the beginning of that year, we had $70 million in the bank. Of course at the beginning of this year, we have close to $60 million. That's at the beginning of this year.
For a year and a half, this government has asked Yukoners to wait. It did not have the projects funded, even though there were promises made on the doorsteps. I remember, for example in Mayo at the 100th anniversary, when it was promised by the Yukon Party that there would be a recreation centre a building of some type for the celebration. Well, what happened? Nothing happened, because the Yukon Party broke their promise again.
So when a promise is broken like this over and over and we can point them out time and time again the public loses confidence, because they are painting a picture of themselves as the government that cannot be trusted.
Mr. Speaker, when these are read by the public the finances in government, and I'm only referring to the Budget Address and I'm not going through the whole capital funding. I've read off some of the numbers to the members opposite about the surplus. One of the other things this Yukon Party was not going to do was deficit finance. Well, we look at the spending patterns and we see the deficit going up. This year it's $31 million. It doesn't seem to be a problem with the members opposite because what they can say to the public, Mr. Speaker, is that they have some $354 million in surplus in non-financial assets. It'll be interesting to see where it goes. I mean, it was a big deal at the time for Yukon Party members to change the Taxpayer Protection Act to ensure that the assets government has are reflected in the books to do one set of books, they said. That was a big push at the time: do one set of books.
But guess what? There's not one set of books that's being done; there's still two.
So that didn't go over well. I believe it is because the Yukon Party side did not fully understand the outcome of changing the Taxpayer Protection Act. It is perhaps not what the Finance minister told them at the beginning and it's totally different from what they thought it was and certainly different from what the public has been subject to seeing now.
What it could mean for the Yukon Party down the road is borrowing against the surplus, this non-financial asset surplus. We certainly seem to be going down that road in a number of areas.
It is like a second mortgage, I guess. It is not going to be the Yukon Party government that pays this second mortgage off; it will be Yukon taxpayers down the road. Let us see where that goes. Let us see how far this Yukon Party government goes with P3s. They are certainly making a move to try to get rid of some of their responsibilities.
It was said before, by Yukon Party members, that they have consulted and they will consult. They have signed agreements with First Nations about consulting them properly. Today we heard from the Environment minister that he does not really know exactly what consulting means. Well, let me give an example of what the Yukon Party means by consultation.
The Health minister said that he consulted with the ambulance attendants and he consulted with the union. The next day in the papers, the union said that they were not consulted. The way in which this minister carried out his consultation process with the union was: this is what we have decided to do in this letter; here you are; you have been consulted. That is it. That was it. That is shocking. I think every one of the members on that side of the House should be ashamed of that process and ought to talk with the Minister of Health about improving that relationship because it is not about what government does so much as how they treat people. This is not the first time we have seen this minister do that.
What about Macaulay Lodge? How did that all come about? Was that thorough consultation that took place by the Health minister? I think not. As a matter of fact, if it was not for the outcry of residents of Macaulay Lodge, this minister would have gone ahead with his plans. As a matter of fact, I think he is going ahead with some of his plans anyway when it comes to the Thomson Centre.
Let's see how he respected the people at Macaulay Lodge. This was said at a public meeting, Mr. Speaker, "We would like to move the residents out of Macaulay Lodge to the extended care facility where they can be contained." That was the word used "contained".
People don't forget how they get treated. It's not the first time that this minister has said that afterwards either. It seems to be a regular way in which this minister does things. The ambulance deal or sell off, as it's being called by the union. It's being sold to the Hospital Corporation. They had no consideration for how the government employees felt. It didnt address the issues raised by the ambulance attendants. It did not address the issues raised in the communities. I know that the minister knows this is a hot issue. The one way that he may be able to get out of it, he thinks, is to wash his hands of it. That's what took place.
The deal was made before ambulance attendants even knew about it or the union. It's reflected in the budget. It's put in the budget as $3.1 million. As far as the minister is concerned, the deal is done.
Well, I don't believe that people are done talking just because the minister has made that move. Many people will voice their concerns on this matter for some time to come. So this minister will not be off the hook on this matter.
It's about people and how people were treated. We've seen the same thing happen with the computer investigation. This government had to do some damage control and very quickly and as hard as they can, because this is not something small. Government had in their possession through this investigation people's names from all over the territory, from First Nation offices to municipalities, businesses, and so on. If there was any interaction through e-mails that had sexual content that wasn't to the liking of government at the time, they were on this list, which is a violation of one's privacy.
So there was obviously a government doing some major control in that. It cost millions of dollars. They said they were going to manage the Yukon government's money wisely. It cost millions of dollars and had all kinds of personnel time spent on this issue. And what did they get out of it? Did they fire anybody? No, they didn't fire anybody at all. Some people got some suspensions; that's about it, but there was no firing that took place none.
So millions of dollars spent, and they believe that they were spending money wisely and they were investigating every employee of government, and it's unfortunate because I think a lot of confidential information was looked at by government that shouldn't have been looked at. And where did all that information go and who is able to access that information? And really, in the long run, what has the government done? Have they cleaned up the situation with the misuse of computers? Have they cleaned up the situation of having employees spend time away from the computers that government doesn't see with regard to personal business? I think not.
Why did government only go halfway on this matter? What happened was a computer crashed and they looked at the contents in that computer and it had pornography taking up all the space, but that was all the focus was. There was no focus on hate literature, and so on. So the government only went halfway if they were ever going to do an investigation, and it went wrong. The Yukon Party government blamed the opposition for it spiralling out of control. They had to put the blame somewhere. It was their decision and, as a government, they made a conscious decision to do exactly that, to spend the taxpayers' dollars on that.
The other thing that this government says they are very proud of is the fact that they do proper consultation. I have hit on a couple of them that were certainly not acceptable to us on this side of the House. They have signed off protocols with First Nations. We will consult on matters that affect you. As a matter of fact, they went so far as to be interpreted that the memorandums of understanding that were signed off government would consult them on legislation, bills in the House, and so on, not just what government direction is. Well, that did not happen. As a matter of fact, some of the First Nations ask why it is even there. I mean, why even sign a memorandum of understanding when the final agreements are clear when it comes to consultation.
Certainly, the Premier ignored that or actually he didn't even know what was in the final agreement. Neither did any of the ministers at the time.
So I am glad that perhaps the officials came forward and said, "Look at the final agreements; those are what you agreed to; abide by them."
One has to just review the letters that were sent from First Nations particularly about the captive wildlife saying, "This was not consultation that took place. Just because you came here and said a few words and gave us an update, it was not consultation." Where this minister thinks that, because he is going to communities and First Nations, this is consultation big difference there, Mr. Speaker.
Perhaps the members opposite should pick up the definition of "consultation" in the Delgamuukw case to get an idea about what Yukoners are thinking, too, because there it is very clear.
What about the captive wildlife regulations? It is the same thing. This government said they were going to respect First Nations it was going to respect them, treat them in a respectful way. Then the minister comes out publicly with announcements that these captive wildlife regulations are going to be enforced April 1 or was it March 24? April 1.
Guess what? The First Nations spoke up. The Premier had to reel in the Environment minister because he fell out of the box or he didn't show the respectful integrity of governments that should be there for First Nations as a senior government. He didn't show that.
And we have lots on this, by the way. I have to keep some for Question Period stuff, because the Environment minister will not be off the hook, even though he was rescued a few times by the Premier.
Mr. Speaker, I just take note what the Environment minister just said about the budget. His own colleague from Pelly-Nisutlin didn't spend one second debating this budget, chose not to and tried to pull a fast one and tried to get the Premier to stand up and speak and not allow people to speak about the budget. So, in our view, again, that was the government trying to muzzle the opposition from saying a few words, because I believe that every time we raise the issues about what the Yukon Party has done in the past, it doesn't sit well with members opposite.
Well, let's talk about other consultation that supposedly took place. How about the Yukon native teacher education program? This was one that affects First Nations; chiefs have fought for this program for a long time. Now along comes the Yukon Party and it made changes without consultation. But you know what they said, Mr. Deputy Chair? That they did consult with First Nations. As it turned out, the minister only spoke to two chiefs, and he made a decision just like that, made a decision: it doesn't matter any more; I'm changing the program forever. That's exactly what happened. That was their consultation.
What about being full partners in Economic Development? Is consultation taking place out there? I think not, when I look at the Premier. And First Nations can see this too.
This is a statement made last year by the Premier: "It is important to recognize land claims settlements. They will not only enable First Nations to run their own affairs, but these agreements will give First Nation governments the necessary capital to invest in economic development in the Yukon." That is the focus, I believe, this government has, not on trying to implement or work with First Nations to implement the agreements, to work on small parts to try to make it work. That was not there.
Another interesting thing not said in this House that is in the budget for planning anyway by those who have spoken so far was the Dawson City bridge. Let us talk about consultation there: major government taxpayers' dollars going toward this. Where was the consultation? Well, it's to satisfy the Member for Klondike, I believe. He has a large pull in Cabinet and they think that this is the way they are going to attract people to the Yukon so they can drive right through. No thought about road maintenance, improvements to the highway, how much money is going into this and, really, any real figures that will be given to Yukoners for years to come.
Then we hear from people speaking out in that community. Well, it is not something they asked for. When asked a question in the House, the Premier said, "Well, what are you, all for pollutants when a barge goes across the river, all the oil or fuel or wood that is going into the river?" I couldn't believe that comment, especially when this government is not moving on water and sewer. Instead they choose to shut down the City of Dawson, the mayor and council, and instead of hearing them out and letting them work in the community as best they can, there it is: they have no confidence in a community that has elected these people.
That's the heavy-handedness that comes down from this government, instead of working with them. It is one issue after another. I am totally surprised that this government does not handle these matters in a better manner one that is respectful to the people of the Yukon Territory.
So, yes, there is some nice stuff about improvements to municipalities, funding and so on. I think the number that has been floating around is $200,000 more that Carmacks and Mayo will be getting, and they appreciate that.
I think there are some things in here that are a little bit misleading. To say that there is $700,000 I will get into some riding stuff here in planning a school it is used for planning and design of a school. So, public consultation will have to take place, and that's what the money goes toward paying an architect and a committee, and so on. Well, there was money in the last budget for that, too. Why are we delaying and not moving this project along as quickly as it should be? Well, another year has gone by and hopefully, if the community gets it together with government, we can see a school at least started to be built this summer. If they can give a supplementary budget to the City of Whitehorse, why not do that to the community of Carmacks?
Several things $1.1 million to the Carmacks sewage. Great, it is money owed. They don't have a complete plan yet and they haven't gone through Environment Canada for environmental assessment. I know that the community appreciates that. That is their big concern to get that done. I was hoping to see more money go into the community gardens initiative that the community has been asking for, and into improvements on roads.
I was hoping the Minister of Health would have recognized the wishes of the Northern Tutchone Council to try to get the Tatlmain Lake treatment centre up and running. There are no real solid dollars there to identify the operation and maintenance of that good initiative. The other thing that community really wanted was improvements to the roads, and of course jobs, and they wanted to see a skateboard park for the youth. That's not in this budget.
Let's go down the road a little bit to Stewart Crossing, which I think this government forgot even existed, that there are people there. I have said in this House before that they're looking at the simple things like street lights. It didnt happen in this budget. They have $350 million, but no street lights. They wanted the government to work on a sliding hill for the kids, and there is a youth centre there that has been sitting for awhile. They wanted it upgraded, and there again, Mr. Speaker, we would like to see the government side perhaps make some shifts in dollars to see what they can do to that.
One of the big things they said was they consulted with the communities, and the community of Mayo, with the First Nation I'm hoping government listens to this, because this is big. The recreation centre was one, and the Premier had no problem having a $5-million recreation centre built in his community, but what we're seeing is a community hall. Great. Maybe it's the first step. But what the First Nation really wanted was to look at lands for development, residential lands that are up on high ground and to move away from the constant problems they have with the permafrost situation in downtown. That is one thing they really, really wanted to get done. It's not reflected here.
Educational issues certainly have not been addressed to the satisfaction of that community. Keno same thing they want to see: some maintenance to roads, signpost roads, and, of course, the Silver Trail has always been talked about, making improvements there so that it can be recognized and driven on by tourists who have big, fancy motor homes, and, of course, they wanted to see more dollars for improvements to their museum. So I am hoping that government is listening to those few things. I have a lot more I can raise during departmental debate.
I was hoping to see a lot more money going to heritage buildings. I know I have a very short time here, but if the government can focus on that, I am sure that is going to satisfy a lot of people who have seen buildings falling down or disappearing. Some important places I think that in the end could be very much a place where tourists want to go for example, Little Salmon village, Big Salmon village, Yukon Crossing, and a lot more. Just take for example the area around Pelly Crossing. They have their agreements and monies flowing to improving buildings, and that is how I think Yukon government should be moving in recognizing our past and putting money into it.
I have a lot more to say although time has run out, and I am hoping that government members have heard what I have to say and are cognizant and make some decisions that they can keep.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to thank the member opposite for that short rendition of the budget. In my short term here in the House, I find it amazing the lack of capacity of the opposition to understand a financial statement the capacity is lacking.
I find it interesting that we would debate the length of time we have on last year's budget when they don't understand how last year's budget and this year's budget make the 12 months. In other words, we know where we came from the books are out there and here we are today. Because of the strength of our budget today, they have to talk about yesterday. Well, we aren't a yesterday government. We are a today and looking-forward government. That's where the Yukon people are very lucky to have the calibre of people who sit around the Cabinet and sit around the caucus table to understand the needs of all Yukoners.
When they say we favour one community over another or that we tend to direct money toward our own ridings, we only have to take one riding to prove that wrong.
Old Crow in this year's budget gets an expanded airport. It's very necessary for the Old Crow people. We listened to the chief and council. Of course, with that comes working on the new terminal. It's very important that we move the terminal and get it into a more appropriate location. The rock crushing that is going to go on this year is going to make work for the Old Crow people. That will be part of the airport reconstruction. Then, of course, there is the riverfront. The riverfront rip-rap is very important to save the community from the Porcupine River.
The members opposite are going to force the member from Old Crow to vote against these. She is going to stand up here and vote against the expanded airport, the new terminal, the rock crushing that is going on today. She voted last year against the winter road.
So these put the members opposite in a very tenuous position with their constituents, because they say one thing to their constituents and they do another thing in this House. It is not a very
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I note that you have been calling members quite frequently on matters that fall outside of the Rules of the House. I believe I heard the Member for Porter Creek Centre allege that members of the opposition were intentionally doing something and had motives to do so. I believe that the member should be called for mentioning that.
Speaker: There is a point of order. I would ask the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources not to use that phraseology.
Carry on, please, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I apologize for using that, Mr. Speaker. So what I was trying to do in the start of my talk on the budget was point out that these 11 members are very conscious of the concerns and needs of our communities, whether we have members in those communities or not. Again, looking forward, I would like to bring to the attention of members my riding Porter Creek Centre which involves Porter Creek North and Porter Creek South. Our commitment is to build a school there, to expand that cafeteria, to make it more user friendly for not only the students but also the faculty. We're also expanding on the park in the Versluce Meadow. Those are two issues that were very dear to the Porter Creek citizenship, and we are working very hard to make sure that they're addressed. That is just my riding alone.
But going on to the department that I am very happy to represent here today, Energy, Mines and Resources a very upbeat, good-news department, looking forward, not looking back like the opposition. We're going forward with managing the resources in the Yukon. We're revitalizing the natural resource economy by creating a positive investment climate, capable of attracting private sector investments by developing regulatory certainty and by partnering with First Nation governments. We're starting to see the results of our efforts, and optimism is returning to this sector of the Yukon economy for the first time in many years.
I would like to say that I opened the First Nation mineral exploration and development symposium this morning. I was very happy to open that. There were 200 people First Nations and industry together in a room discussing concerns. This is the second one that has been brought forward. We as a government encourage these things, and today the head count proved that this government did the right thing. We are also working with the First Nations. From May 27 and 28 if you would like to put that in your calendar there is going to be a development First Nation and private sector partnership meeting here in Whitehorse to again address the economic benefits of partnering with the First Nations.
We have extended the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit until 2007. We did that so the mining community could have certainty, so they did not have to come back to the table every year and wonder if it was going to be approved for another year.
A survey conducted in 2003 of mining companies working in the Yukon indicated that the YMETC is a significant factor in helping companies raise capital and lever funds for Yukon-based programs. The Yukon mineral exploration tax credit is a significant factor in helping mining companies carry out exploration in the Yukon. Another factor that should be addressed or talked about is that we had the largest staking rush in the Yukon this winter in the Mayo area we have had in 15 years. That was a sign of the confidence that mining companies had put in us, Yukon and Yukoners that their money is well-invested in the Yukon. The value of the mining exploration in Yukon last year reached almost $14 billion. That is double what it was the year before. The outlook for this year remains optimistic with exploration spending expected to reach $20 million to $25 million.
This Yukon government continues to play a key role in the design and development of a new regime to regulate the placer mining industry. We are hopeful that the recommendations aimed at establishing a new regime will be presented this spring and that a new authorization will be in place before 2007.
We're launching an exploration technology training project aimed at preparing Yukoners for opportunities in the mining industry while ensuring the industry has an adequate supply of the skilled labour it needs to explore and develop Yukon mineral potential. We're responding to a need for trained workers that became evident last year when all sectors of the industry had difficulty locating experienced local field crews.
We're working cooperatively with the First Nation governments to support mineral development. One example of the progress we're making is the agreement we have reached with Kaska Mineral Corporation and Teck Cominco for exploration in southeast Yukon. We have issued permits and authorization for exploration activity on the land selected by the Kaska the R15 block and anticipate and expect that work will commence in this area next month. That will be up to 30 people on the ground from Ross River, working with Teck Cominco good news for the community of Ross River.
We're working with Canada to ensure that abandoned mines do not pose a threat to the environment or result in unfunded financial liabilities to the public, and we're doing that in a manner that creates jobs and business opportunities for Yukon people and companies.
This year, funding of over $4.5 million flowed directly to the Yukon government from Canada for three sites: BYG, Clinton Creek and United Keno Hill. In total, over 45 Yukoners have been employed at these three sites through direct employment opportunities and contract work with further indirect benefits flowing to Yukon. Through the purchase of supplies and services from local businesses, the Yukon government has been able to maximize opportunities for Yukon employment and Yukon business.
Another $13.6 million is expected to be spent on the Faro property in 2003-04 on the care and maintenance and special projects. Up to 70 percent of the operation and maintenance budget $3 million to $4.3 million and 45 percent of $4.2 million of the special project budget is expected to be expended in the Yukon direct employment for 36 Yukoners and indirect employment for numerous others through the provision of supplies and services, including numerous contracts to Yukon businesses.
In total, we expect to see over $20 million from the federal government for care and maintenance and site investigation work at type II sites in the Yukon in 2004-05. Of this, approximately $13 million will be spent in the Yukon on care and maintenance and consultation. These dollars provide opportunities to Yukon businesses and communities through direct employment, contract work and the purchase of supplies and services in the Yukon.
We are working to provide regulatory clarity and certainty in anticipation of an application by Devon Canada Ltd. to drill a new well and work over an existing well at the Kotaneelee gas fields in southeast Yukon this summer. The proposed drilling program is aimed at extending the life of the field. The Yukon government appreciates Devon's efforts to engage the public and First Nation governments as the company's plans evolve.
The Yukon government has announced its fourth sale of exploration rights for oil and gas in two areas of north Yukon that began with the call for nominations on March 8. Both parcels are rich in potential and are relatively unexplored. The call for nominations follows improvements in the disposition process that enables stakeholder input before the call for nomination is released. A call for bids leading to the award of exploration licence is expected this fall.
The Yukon Geological Survey has partnered with the Geological Survey of Canada to conduct a seismic survey in the Whitehorse Trough near Carmacks. The survey is part of a scientific study to learn more about the geology and oil and gas potential of this basin.
The survey is taking place in the Klondike Highway right-of-way, assuring virtually no environmental impact. The results will not only inform the Yukon government about the oil and gas potential on public land in the region but also inform the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation about the petroleum potential of its land.
This Yukon government is continuing to work with the aboriginal pipeline committee, which is comprised of First Nation governments along the right-of-way of the proposed Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline project, to facilitate a coordinated approach to planning for the project. Interest in the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline project remains high, and the Yukon government will continue to work with other northern and First Nation governments where northern pipelines are concerned.
We recently reached a historic economic partnership agreement in southeast Yukon that lays the foundation for establishing a sustainable forest industry in this region. Under this agreement, the Yukon and First Nation government will jointly manage an annual allowable harvest that includes both public and First Nation land after a forest management plan is completed next year. In order to ensure a supply of timber in southeast Yukon while this agreement is finalized and implemented, we have secured an interim wood supply that should total almost 128,000 cubic metres per year for each of the next two years. The first quantities of this wood, totalling about 60,000 cubic metres, should be available for harvesting this spring and summer. An additional 60,000 cubic metres is expected to be available in the near future. This timber supply is the first of its kind since 2001. Additional wood supply is being made available throughout Yukon with community support.
We have reached another agreement with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations to implement the draft Alsek strategy forest management plan. Under this agreement we will prepare a plan aimed at implementing the principles and direction provided in the strategic forest management plan surrounding the spruce-beetle infestation.
This effort will focus on four key objectives, including fuel abatement, economic opportunities, forest health and forest renewal. Major improvements in the acquisition of the forest inventory have been made with 150 new map sheets of inventory expected to be complete for central Yukon by the end of the summer, and forest management planning is proceeding in several regions of the Yukon. We have almost completed the Yukon forest policy framework that would guide the development of a new Yukon forest act. The policy framework has undergone a thorough consultation since last summer, and I want to thank all these people who took the time to share their thoughts about how Yukon forests should be managed in the future. Work on the new forest act will begin this year once the policy framework is complete, and we have established the successor resource legislation working group required in the devolution transfer agreement.
The Yukon government continues to ensure that there is an adequate supply of land available for industry, commercial and residential use throughout the Yukon. We have also streamlined and simplified land management processes by establishing one process for Crown land or federal land transferred at devolution, and Commissioner's land. We are working to create opportunities for tenures for outfitters and commercial wilderness operators and for other land use such as recreation.
Last summer the Yukon government signed an agreement with Canada that enables money to flow through our agricultural policy framework. This agreement has leveraged significant federal funds for the enhancement and development of the Yukon agricultural industry. We are working with Canada and the Yukon Agricultural Association to flow $270,000 of federal transition funding to Yukon farmers to improve the productivity of Yukon farms. We are continuing to update and modernize the Yukon agricultural policy to ensure continued growth in the agricultural sector.
We hope to have the new policy in place by the middle of this year. Thirteen agricultural land titles were issued in 2003, totalling 460 hectares.
We have completed a draft Yukon government strategy for climate change management that will be available for public review and comment this spring. It broadly identifies the environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change. It identifies Yukon government commitments related to climate change as well as specific climate change initiatives.
EMR is working with the Yukon Development Corporation, the Department of Economic Development, the Yukon Housing Corporation, the Northern Climate Exchange and the federal government to identify new economic opportunities related to innovation and research in energy conservation and efficiency. Mr. Speaker, that is only one department in the vast Yukon government.
As Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I would like to say thank you to the department, to the members of DIAND who came over to work with us to make the Yukon a better place to do business and to live in, and I would like at this moment to say I'm in full support of the budget. The budget is a progressive budget. The budget is a go-forward budget, and I look forward to debating it with the opposition when I get the opportunity.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Hart: It is with pleasure that I add my voice in support of this budget. I would like to just provide a quick preamble here. Members of the opposite side have complained about us not spreading the monies around on an equal basis. I would challenge them to demonstrate where they have in the past I'll give you an example of one issue: Carmacks. We're going to expend $13 million to $14 million in the next three to four years in that community in Community Services alone, in addition to what we're spending in Education. I dont see how the member opposite can talk about that particular aspect the way he has in his last rendition.
Anyway, I will carry it forward. We have committed to all Yukoners that we will work together and we will do better. Toward that end, we have committed to govern according to the following principles.
We wanted to achieve a balance between the economy and the environment; we wanted to practise good government, and we also have to achieve a better quality of life.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to examine this budget in light of those commitments we made to Yukoners. Our goal, as a government, is to help all Yukoners achieve a better quality of life. However, to help Yukoners achieve a better quality of life means that their government must govern in such a way as to allow Yukoners to help themselves. By providing more options, Yukoners may choose the approach that best suits their needs. To provide more choices means that we must practise good government.
One of our first priorities was to put our fiscal house in order. To that end, we have worked hard to get a handle on our finances. Last year, we had to look very carefully at our expenses. Due to our sound fiscal management and the good work of Yukon government officials, we were able to turn the situation around. As our Premier has already noted in his speech, we now enjoy a healthier financial position.
This budget will contribute further to improving Yukon's financial well-being. However, the Yukon government cannot do this alone. We need to work in partnership with Yukon First Nations. As we said in our campaign, together we will do better.
As we outlined in our platform, good government would be characterized by formalizing government-to-government relationships and partnerships with Yukon First Nations. For too long, Yukon has been governed by principles of division and opposition. Yukon's spirit of cooperation, so vital to our community, has been challenged by an attitude of confrontation and conflict. I'm pleased to be part of a government that rejects confrontation and conflict, and instead says that together we will do better.
Yesterday, the leader of the official opposition reflected on this government's penchant for signing accords and agreements with First Nations. He then asked what we have done.
Yukon faces challenges that cannot be solved by government alone. What has been done is that the government has formalized our relationship with First Nation governments. What has been done is that we have brought more partners to the table to help us find solutions to Yukon challenges. We have found ways to draw upon all Yukoners' talents, wisdom and resources. What has been done is that Yukoners have elected a government that really believes that together we can do better.
To review the contents of this budget the Yukon Party committed to Yukoners to accomplish the following: to achieve a better balance on the environment and the economy as I said earlier, practice good government and carry on. Our first two goals serve to enhance our third goal, which is a better quality of life.
By achieving a balance of the environment and the economy and by practising good government, we will have the tools necessary to achieve a better quality of life. Our goal as a government is to help all Yukoners achieve a better quality of life; however, to help Yukoners achieve a better quality of life means that the government must govern in such a way as to allow all Yukoners to help themselves in achieving this aspect. By providing more options, Yukoners may choose which approach best suits their needs.
As I examine this budget, I am pleased, as it focuses on the cooperation and partnership and together we will do better.
Yukoners are privileged to live in the most beautiful region in Canada. We have the scenery that attracts tourists from the world over. Our environment is one of the most compelling reasons to live here. To be sure, enjoying the environment is one way Yukoners keep healthy physically and mentally. Who doesn't feel terrific after spending time at the lake, fishing, hunting or just plain doing a walkabout in the Yukon?
As we celebrate the decade of sport and culture, I reflect on tremendous opportunities available to Yukoners to enjoy the great outdoors, through cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, canoeing and camping.
Our environment must be healthy for those who would enjoy it to be healthy. To that end, this budget sets aside money for the Chisana caribou herd to help restore this genetically distinct herd to its previous population levels. By investing $146,000 in a protected perimeter during the birthing season, we have increased the survival rate of the calves dramatically. We have partnered with both the Canadian Wildlife Service and the White River First Nation. This is just one more example of how we are working together to do better.
The government's involvement with the Yukon Wildlife Preserve is another example of how we are working together. By accepting the advice offered by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and by working with a dedicated group of Yukoners known as the Friends of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, officials in the Department of Environment and Peter Carsten, a consultant from the Calgary Zoo, our government managed to purchase the Wildlife Preserve. The potential for the preserve to become a world-class wildlife conservation centre, a wildlife research and rehabilitation facility, a specialized education centre, a national showcase for northern wildlife and a tourist destination is undeniable. In the interim, the Department of Environment will be seeking $582,000 in 2004-05 to run the wildlife preserve until an operational transfer can take place.
To cite one final example of good work with respect to the environment, I would like to mention the partnership and cooperation this government has with the Yukon Fish and Game Association. Government is budgeting $10,000 to improve and upgrade another major tourist attraction, the Whitehorse fish ladder viewing facility. As the Premier noted in his address, over 30,000 residents and tourists visit the fishway annually.
Mr. Speaker, among the changes I'm most pleased to see is the number of Yukoners who choose to retire here. In previous years, those Yukoners who needed an increased level of medical care were forced to leave. Unfortunately, with their departure, Yukon lost valuable members of our society. For example, many of our seniors were forced to retire outside the Yukon, which was both hard on them and on their families who remained. The stress of separation, especially for those in declining health, benefits no one.
Family is so important to helping shape one's values and to passing on cultural knowledge. By removing the old generation, all Yukoners lose. How do young people, especially those going through difficult teen years, develop a sense of community if their grandparents are not part of that community? The Yukon Party is committed to building healthy communities, which means we need all generations for the community.
By investing $1.8 million in the opening of an additional seven beds at Macaulay Lodge and 12 new beds in Copper Ridge, we will help keep Yukoners in the Yukon. Just as it was not good for Yukoners to leave the Yukon, so too we recognize that it's not good for rural Yukoners to be forced to move to Whitehorse because of lack of medical facilities in their communities. To that end, this budget sets aside money for planning work for multi-level care facilities in Dawson City and Watson Lake and will continue with additional monies planned for each facility as we proceed to the design stage in 2004-05.
Mr. Speaker, building healthy communities means investing in facilities for rural Yukoners. I support the $10.6 million planned in 2005-06 for the construction of the two multiplex care facilities. This budget calls for $100,000 in capital for a feasibility study for facilities in both Haines Junction and Teslin. We will also be increasing honoraria paid to rural ambulance supervisors and attendants and enhancing their training opportunities. $200,000 has been set aside for this in recognition of the critical role these volunteers play in the rural communities.
With the provision of two new four-wheel-drive ambulances one for Ross River and one for Whitehorse Yukoners' needs will be met with an improved level of service.
Our government is following through with its commitment to safe drinking water with the implementation of the 2004-05 new public drinking water and bulk water regulations. I am pleased to support this budget. By working collaboratively with the owners and operators of independent water systems, this government will see that the public has access, including highway restaurants, motels, lodges, rural schools, and care facilities toward the eventual development of regulations. Together, again, we will do better.
Mr. Speaker, the provision of a place for pregnant women to come to Whitehorse to await birth and for the children to stay is another example of this budget's focus on cooperation and partnership. The Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, the Lake Laberge Lions, the Whitehorse Rotary Club and the Yukon government have cooperated to make available a fully furnished suite with two bedrooms, living room and bathroom and a kitchen and, again, together we will do better.
I am pleased to support this budget as it supports Yukon families. The increase of the Yukon child tax benefit to $37.50 per month per child from $25 is welcome news.
Mr. Speaker, the development of the alternative school in downtown Whitehorse in 2004-05 will help school-aged students to finish school and to achieve their career goals. By our government paying tuition for high school students to take courses or programs at Yukon College, we provide more choices to students in rural communities who will have more course options to complete their high school diploma, be able to participate in college trade programs, and be better prepared for entrance into post-secondary studies.
The Department of Education will also be creating a promotional campaign to provide more information on trades and technology career options to students and parents. Our government believes we need to place as much emphasis on the importance of trades and technologies as we do on academic university degrees.
By investing $500,000 of the $1.5 million in community training funds in pre-employment and trades training, more Yukoners will have more educational options. By offering more choices to Yukoners, this budget supports the Yukon Party commitment to good government.
By opening the Yukon Native teacher education program, we will help Yukon First Nation students to do better in school and benefit all other students through increased cultural awareness in the classroom.
Mr. Speaker, this budget set aside $500,000 in 2004-05 to hire six new native language instructor trainees in order to increase support for native languages in our classrooms. The native language instructor trainee program is being offered through the Yukon native language centre, operated at Yukon College by the Council of Yukon First Nations.
Our government is keeping its election commitment to increase the student grant programs in 2003-04 to keep pace with the cost of living. The Yukon training allowance provides a training subsidy for students taking full-time programs within the Yukon. Both the Yukon grant and Yukon training allowance were indexed against inflation.
Through a partnership between the government and private sector employers in 2004-05, our government is creating more jobs for summer students with the addition of 30 new positions to the student training and employment program. These jobs provide Yukon post-secondary students with valuable career experience.
We need to give young Yukoners both the incentive and ability to maximize their educational options, so that they will develop their potential skills and become full and productive members of our society. Together with our children, we will do better.
The increase in educational funding clearly demonstrates that our government is committed to education, training and life-long learning for all Yukoners. The Education minister has been on a needs assessment throughout the Yukon and has addressed many of the immediate needs identified by each individual school or school board.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Riverdale North, we have sponsored crime prevention initiatives in our community. To be sure, the $244,000 awarded by the crime prevention and victim services trust fund to support 24 projects aimed at crime prevention and victim services in the Yukon is welcome news. I would like to review the contribution the trust fund makes to our communities. It awards money to projects designed to provide services to support victims of offences. It is to help reduce the incidence of crime, to address the root cause of criminal behaviour, to prevent violence against women and children and publicize information about crime prevention and how people can protect themselves from becoming victims.
All members of this Legislature are well aware of the disappointment of learning that one's family member or neighbour has been a victim of crime. I wholeheartedly support this government's commitment to reduce crime in our communities. We need to broaden our focus from the criminal act alone and also address those aspects that motivate people to commit crimes. I would suggest that providing meaningful employment opportunities and providing hope will make a positive difference in our communities.
The Department of Justice has received $340,000 in additional monies in the policing area. The majority of the funding will be used to support the First Nations community constable program. This program gives First Nation candidates an opportunity to upgrade their academic and life skill qualifications in order to meet RCMP entrance requirements before undergoing the five-month formal training in Regina.
The Department of Justice, working in partnership with Yukon First Nations, will be embarking on correctional reform. The signing of the memorandum in 2003 with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation outlining the Government of Yukon's intent to work with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and other Yukon First Nations to review, design and develop programs for use at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is another example of the Yukon government taking a cooperative approach to problem solving.
There is a strong focus on youth in the 2004-05 budget. Almost $1 million has been identified in the budget of three government departments in the new fiscal year to assist programs and initiatives aimed at helping out youth within our territory.
Education, Health and Social Services and Executive Council Office Youth Directorate will find new and continuing initiatives to support children and youth who need extra support and are at risk. An additional $215,000 is being allocated for our Youth Directorate to provide a $50,000 increase for each of the three youth groups: the Whitehorse Youth Centre, Youth of Today Society, and Bringing Youth Toward Equality, better known as BYTE. Each organization will receive $110,000 from this government.
A further $65,000 will be made available to increase contributions available to the community under the winter activity program, and the communities of Tagish, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne will now be supported through the summer activity program. Both programs are focused on youth leadership and youth employment through relevant community-sponsored projects. I support these initiatives, Mr. Speaker.
The budget highlights our government will be focusing on strategic transportation and construction projects that will ultimately contribute to building a sustainable and competitive Yukon economy.
There are two ways to travel to and from the Yukon: through our airports and on our highway system. For many of our first-time business and tourist air travellers, arriving at the Whitehorse Airport is their first Yukon experience. When they arrive, they expect an airport that is safe and secure but also offers efficient and convenient services. The budget highlights strategic projects that ensure our capital city airport is a public facility that we can all be proud of and meets or exceeds the expectation of the travelling public.
Approximately $1.4 million invested in the Whitehorse Airport by Canadian Transport Security Authorization and the Yukon government will provide security improvements at the airport that will ensure compliance with the new federal baggage screening regulations. Air travellers will see an expanded departure gate and additional space in the pre-boarding area.
Mr. Speaker, our government recognizes that the replacement of the Old Crow air terminal building is a top priority in the Vuntut Gwitchin Old Crow physical development plan. A $2.3 million construction project to replace the air terminal building will commence this year and be completed by 2006. The new airport building will provide a much larger public area, additional commercial cargo space and energy savings with a heat recovery system. A new terminal will meet the operational needs of the Old Crow air carrier and travellers for the foreseeable future.
The Government of Yukon successfully lobbied Transport Canada for a $2.96-million contribution agreement to upgrade the Old Crow airport runways and airfield electrical system. This two-year project will commence this year and will ensure the Old Crow runway meets national safety standards for safety and airport operations.
The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin noted that her community faces the challenge of a high cost of living and the challenge of seeming to be disconnected from the rest of the territory. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the concerns raised by the Member of Vuntut Gwitchin and, in response, this government has invested several million dollars in a new airport facility to improve the quality of service.
I look forward to the member's comments on other ways we can assist her community.
Mr. Speaker, our highway systems provide a vital economic link between Yukon and western Canada, Alaska and above the Arctic Circle to our vast northern wilderness. All Yukoners value the importance of mining, tourism, culture, forestry, oil and gas energy, agriculture, retail and wholesale trade, which all rely on the development, operation and maintenance of our highway transportation system.
This budget shows our commitment to Yukon highways with a further investment of $30.6 million toward major highway reconstruction projects, bridge upgrades and planning for the Yukon River bridge in Dawson City.
Mr. Speaker, the Shakwak Highway reconstruction project will continue this year because of an agreement with the United States for a six-year funding agreement at approximately $18.8 million per year to complete the Shakwak reconstruction along Sheep Mountain, replace four major bridges and commence hot-mix asphalt paving.
A new $415,000 Watson Lake weigh scale station will provide a more functional building for long-haul truckers and carrier compliance staff.
In 2003, almost 12,000 people rode the Whitehorse trolley. The Whitehorse trolley expansion is an exciting project that will provide additional appeal to the waterfront. Shoppers and visitors will be able to travel back and forth between Chilkoot Centre and the downtown area in a historic vehicle operating out of the preserved and restored heritage building. The track extension to the Chilkoot Centre is expected to be operational by the end of August. The budget identifies $425,000 for new track for the trolley and additional loading platforms. Local contractors will benefit from this project as they have already benefited from contracts for the relocation and complete exterior retrofit of the train shed known as the roundhouse.
Our government's budget focuses on the projects that will serve to build a sustainable and competitive economy. Our commitment to working with the City of Whitehorse, Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nation and all stakeholders to expand and operate the trolley on the waterfront will significantly impact the economy in future years. I believe the trolley will be the main cornerstone for the waterfront development in the future.
This government recognizes an increasingly important and strategic part of the Yukon economy that is outside of the traditional natural resource base that we have come to rely on. The sector I speak of is the information technology sector, which provides income for approximately 25 businesses. These entrepreneurs provide technology services and expertise to local companies, citizens and this government. We are the largest user of the technology in the territory.
I have met with representatives of the Yukon Information Technology Industry Society, or YITIS as it is known. This is the official non-profit organization that represents IT retailers, technology and telecommunication service providers, and system business consultants. They have made it clear that what they need from the government is stable funding for government IT projects. The previous historical unpredictability of IT funding from year to year has made it very difficult for them to develop their own business plans and acquire the resources that will ensure they can supply the expertise and services that the government relies on.
They are even more hard pressed to plan to expand their operations and look for new markets when they are unsure of the government's basic intention and requirements of information technology. This knowledge-based industry provides many high-paying jobs to Yukoners and has the potential, through increased spending on IT by this government, to create more private sector jobs. With stability and growth, they can expand their products and services to new markets outside our borders. These knowledge-based skills are an alternative to the Yukon historical resource or tourism-based job market. They are potential employment opportunities for our high school and Yukon College graduates, as well as Yukon students who have gone to learning institutes to complete post-secondary education Outside.
Mr. Speaker, many of this government's current information systems are over 15 years old and use technology that is no longer supported by hardware or software vendors. Many are also in dire need of replacement to meet new and expanded program delivery requirements and information requests demanded in today's electronic world. Ready and accessible information is key to any successful operation. Roughly half of the $5.8 million of capital funds that the Premier spoke of in the budget speech will be used to partner with the IT sector to provide innovative solutions to replace these aging information systems. The other funds will be directed toward replacing the aging hardware and desktop software across the government.
Mr. Speaker, the information technology sector has tremendous potential in the Yukon, and this capital funding will be used to make long-term investments to provide employment, create opportunities and ensure our government systems as well as our connections and electronic services between agencies, the public and the communities are the most secure and up-to-date possible. Mr. Speaker, this is a key component of our strategy to economic growth and diversification in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, one of the most obvious ways to build a healthy community is to help them help themselves. The Association of Yukon Communities has requested for several years that the communities of Haines Junction, Teslin, Mayo and Carmacks receive a level of funding on par with those received by Dawson City, Faro and Watson Lake.
This budget supports their request.
Beginning this year, the Government of Yukon will phase in base grant increases for those four communities currently sitting at the bottom of the scale. Haines Junction, Mayo, Carmacks and Teslin will see their base grants rise to $650,000 over the next two years. For Teslin and Carmacks, this is a jump of $115,000 this year, while for Mayo and Haines Junction, it means $65,000 for this year. Next year, each of the four communities will receive an increase of $85,000.
The Association of Yukon Communities requested that none of the other municipalities have their grants reduced, and I'm pleased to say, on behalf of the government, that we have been able to accommodate their request.
Teslin, Haines Junction, Carmacks and Mayo will see their base grants climb to $565,000 this year and to $650,000 in 2005-06. This year, our government will transfer more than $12 million to our communities, of which $5.5 million is in community-based grants. By partnering together with these communities, we will make life better for all Yukoners.
The community recreation society of Ross River has worked hard to make their new community hall a reality. This year, construction begins. It will be a multi-use assembly space and community daycare facility. Construction of the community hall will also bring jobs to the community of Ross River. The budget calls for $1.3 million to support this worthwhile facility.
Partnering with the federal government, the community of Mayo and the Yukon government will provide one-third of the cost to build the Mayo community centre. The centre will provide a new focal point for the community of Mayo and an economic stimulus to that community. This project is just one more example of how, through cooperation, we can do better.
When we were in Mayo for the special sitting, Mayor Cooper and the council gave me a tour of their current facility. They have worked hard to get the most out of the existing building, but it is clearly time to move forward. This budget has set aside monies for the new community centre in Mayo, in conjunction with the other partners.
We are also looking at improving our sewage treatment in cities and rural Yukon. The government is committed to assisting with treatment of waste to ensure the health of community residents and the local environment. To that end, we are investing $2 million in Teslin and $1.1 million in Carmacks sewage treatment options. While no decision has been made on the situation in Dawson, the building of a bridge will provide more options to that community with respect to their sewage disposal issues.
Spending on our community's ability to fight fire locally is one of the most important investments we can make. We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure our rural communities are as safe as possible. An investment in firefighting is an investment in the long-term future of our community. The budget calls for a $10 increase for volunteer firefighters. I understand that the last time the volunteer firefighters received a raise was in the early 1970s. It is long overdue.
In addition to this raise for our firefighters, the government has also set aside $1.5 million for the FireSmart program. As the situation in Kelowna last summer demonstrated, forest fires can very quickly have a devastating impact on our communities. We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure our rural communities are as safe as possible. I might add that it is important to note that we have just gone through the first year of being combined with our friends from DIAND, and I expect that we will get all the quirks out of the system by this year. We had a very successful year last year and I look forward to the same next year.
Yukoners also care deeply about their animals. We are pleased to support those Yukoners who take care of their animals through the Humane Society. To that end, we have sent aside $95,000 for the Humane Society.
Safe drinking water is critical to healthy individuals and to healthy communities. This program, which focuses on those living outside of the municipal boundaries, spreads out the cost burden of drilling new wells over a number of years. By providing another funding option, this government through this budget gives Yukoners more options in resolving the issue of the rising costs of acquiring potable water.
This budget calls for $700,000 this year to help Yukoners outside the municipalities to access drinking water.
Mr. Speaker, to conclude my remarks concerning the budget's attention to community services, I would like to speak for a few minutes about the 2007 Canada Games. I have noted earlier in my address that this is a decade of sport and culture. There I spoke about the importance of environment providing the setting for Yukoners to engage in sport and recreation activities. I also spoke about the importance of the environment in shaping our culture.
I would like to address the 2007 Games and significance of the event of the decade of sport and culture.
In 2007, Canada Games are a celebration of our nation's athletes and artists. We will be showcasing Yukon to the people from across Canada who have dedicated their lives to excellence. These athletes recognize and respect excellence and achievement. They understand the rewards of overcoming obstacles and challenges and the tremendous effort required to achieve excellence.
To achieve excellence, we in the Yukon will also have to overcome obstacles and challenges, and I would add that the rewards are worth it. These Games are more than just athletic events. These Games also celebrate Canada's rich cultural heritage. Yukon has so much to offer all Canadians. Yukon's rich First Nation heritage will be showcased to the nation, offering many visitors their first opportunity to learn about our First Nations' contribution to Canada.
As the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin mentioned how enriching it was for young athletes from her community to attend the Arctic Winter Games, we hope that other young people will also have their lives enriched in a similar fashion when they attend the 2007 Canada Games here in Whitehorse. These Games will generate in the neighbourhood of in excess of $100 million to the local economy. These Games will provide jobs to many Yukoners. They will provide local opportunities for skilled labour to work here in the Yukon. Obviously there will be more opportunities for athletic development. For Yukoners to excel in their sports, they must have access to appropriate facilities.
These Games will leave behind a legacy of facilities that will benefit future Yukon athletes and residents alike.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support this budget. We have addressed the quality of life issues. We will build stronger communities to accomplish this task. We have had to get our financial house in order, and we have had to provide strong fiscal management. I am pleased that this budget addresses our commitment to Yukoners.
I concur with the budget, and I would ask my colleagues on both sides of the House to support it.
Thank you very much.
Mr. McRobb: There is a lot to comment on in this budget. I know that we are limited to only 40 minutes, so I will just probably have to avoid talking in-depth about many of the points I wish to raise. I am sure if the attentiveness from the members opposite is any indication, I would like to extend an invitation to them, if they would like to hear more in detail, maybe we could talk about it in the members' lounge after the sitting is over.
First of all, I would like to set out my thoughts on this spring sitting. It's going to be quite a bit different from the sitting in the fall. I will explain what I mean by that, Mr. Speaker. In the fall sitting, we saw the government side evade answering our questions because the sitting ended on a set date. The government side realized that the best strategy for them to adopt was to stall and not provide answers to our questions. The onus was on us to try to make as much progress through the departments as possible, and we did a very good job of that; however, it came at the cost of lost opportunity to hold the government side accountable.
Under this new agreement in the Standing Orders that sets out a termination date for each sitting, really the opposition's hands are tied in trying to get anything out of the government. That is quite a departure from sessions past when the onus was on the government to satisfy the requests of the opposition parties in order to try to reconcile differences and come to an agreement on when any sitting would end. There is a lot of merit to that system, but under the current rules when there is a definite date to end a sitting, it has changed all that. What we saw last fall was nothing less than despicable. It was a gross evasion of accountability. I do not expect anybody to believe me, so I would refer them to Hansard, to last December, and they can see for themselves, especially in the last couple of days of the sitting and, more specifically, when some of the ministers rambled on for the maximum allowed period of time in response to very simple questions from opposition members. It was very obvious the government side was using the strategy to wind the hands of the clock and run out the time of the sitting in order
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: I believe that the Member for Kluane is in contravention of Standing Order 19(g), imputing false or unavowed motives to another member, and is also in contravention of Standing Order 19(i), using language likely to create disorder.
Speaker:There is no point of order; however, the Member for Kluane, using terms like "despicable" could lead to discord, and I would ask you not to do that.
Mr. McRobb: I'll have to start packing a thesaurus with me because it's difficult to find replacements for some of the classic terminology used in the past and reconcile that with the constraints of a modern Yukon Legislature where only more tempered language is permissible.
So, back to finish off this point. We have what could be a 40-day sitting in this spring sitting. We intend to use an appropriate and practical period of time for each and every department and corporation in order to try to glean the information the government side should have offered up in the fall. So, this time, the name of the game won't be "beat the clock" for the government side; it will be "hand over the information." Or we'll just keep the ministers under questioning for several days at a time and that will make us all look silly.
So, let's have a different sitting this time around and let's be more transparent and forthcoming when it comes to meeting information requests. After all, it has been said several times, especially at the federal level, that a government is only as good as the opposition. And we see a classic example of that now with the crumbling of the federal Liberals. They had a large majority for several terms now. One could make a good argument that they weren't held accountable enough.
Certainly, Yukoners deserve better than that and it's incumbent upon the government side to deliver to be held accountable. After all, that's what it promised Yukoners in its election platform. It promised the people of the territory before they voted that it would work better with all MLAs in this Legislature to improve decorum.
Now, I do not wish to travel down that road too far, but let us just say that there have been lots of examples where that promise has not been upheld. So there is lots of room for improvement. I am not saying it is all the fault of the government side; I think we could all improve in that regard. So let us start doing it.
Still on the subject of information, I want to put on record my disappointment that certain budget information still has not been provided by the government. At the budget lock-up on Thursday, we requested that community breakdowns be provided, and we were told by departmental officials they would undertake to provide that on Monday. Now I assume that the government side has been holding on to that information for the past couple of days without providing it to us. For any Yukoners listening or reading, the opposition requires the community breakdown in order to see what is being spent in each community throughout the territory. It also breaks it down by department, so instead of having to take the government's word for it, listening to the members' speeches, we can see for ourselves what the budget numbers are on a broken-down basis. And this government has so far refused to provide it.
I seem to recall this was an issue last spring and maybe even last fall on the big supplementary they tabled, so this is not a new issue. I think I even recall tabling a motion to the effect that this information must be provided at budget time. As well, the Member for Klondike and the Member for Watson Lake used to raise this same matter when in opposition, but now the tune is different since they are in government.
I would urge the government side to stop playing games when it comes to withholding important budget information from the opposition.
There's still time today, Mr. Speaker. The stack of paper is up there on somebody's desk. Just bring it on down and hand it out. That's the proper thing to do.
As well, Mr. Speaker, we asked for information in the fall sitting, and I'm not sure if everything has been delivered yet. I recall some tourism questions. I haven't seen the responses yet. I apologize if they have been delivered, but I don't recall ever seeing them, so I would ask all ministers to review the undertakings they gave in the fall, and if there are any still outstanding, then please deliver them.
The topic of budget consultation has been discussed today and yesterday, and I've got a couple things to add to the debate, Mr. Speaker. One of them is that Yukoners weren't told that the Yukon Party was going to launch this huge capital budget. Instead, Yukoners were told about the trajectory and the need to be fiscally responsible and realistic in their expectations and so on. So that had an effect of suppressing budget requests from people throughout the territory. Now the situation is such that the Yukon Party has basically broke the bank in this coming fiscal year, and the harsh reality of limited funds will be the rule of the day in the remaining two years of its mandate. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, it is reasonable to assume that anyone still with requests or suggestions that are of a significant nature, especially in terms of capital items, will be simply out of luck.
So, it would have been more up front had the government announced that it was planning to have a large capital budget and made it clear to everybody that this is it and if it's not in this one, it probably won't be in the next two. This is a conversation that I know Yukoners would have relished. I recall a phone-in show on one of the local radio stations a few months back. I believe the question of the day revolved around the federal dollars provided to the territory and program funds for the municipal and strategic infrastructure programs.
Several dozen callers phoned in with their suggestions. At the time, the Yukon government pled poverty. It was still dealing with that terrible trajectory that, really, only existed in the minds of the members of the government side because we knew that the Auditor General, in her report in late October, would show otherwise, and that did materialize.
Nevertheless, the point is that Yukoners do like to contribute their suggestions when the question allows them to think about what projects of significant funds are possible for the territory and what might be suggested in terms of government spending. In reality, however, they were deprived because the communities and groups that were consulted it was definitely not Yukon-wide. Only select groups, in select communities, were consulted. But the ones that were consulted were not advised about the circumstances and the very nature of this capital budget.
So I think the government should have been more forthcoming in order to collect the most appropriate suggestions.
Now this budget is a record amount both in capital and in operation and maintenance and it's not sustainable. Those are the facts, and we all know that. This budget also throws money at several problems. Obviously, the government members hope the problems will disappear, but in several instances they won't. We all know that simply throwing money at a problem doesn't make it disappear. In addition to money, we have to put sound thought, resources and skills to work in order to resolve many of the problems our society is faced with today.
On another issue, we have heard the government side for three days now accuse the opposition side of wanting to vote against the budget as if that were something bad. There is even some leveraging when that is said against any members' constituents. I believe I heard one just this afternoon, about how a member's constituents should know how the member is voting. There was even use of some language that I would have thought was unparliamentary, which I won't repeat.
My point, Mr. Speaker, is that any member in this Legislature does not have to completely agree with any budget to vote for it or vote against it. Practically any budget that has ever been tabled in this Legislature I would go so far as to say that any opposition member previous or present would find items they would support. It's even possible that those items were something that were advanced by opposition members.
Maybe it was even the opposition members who really deserve the gratitude for those items showing up in the budget, but that should not dictate the overall vote because a vote is based on a lot more than just a single project or two. So I would urge the Premier and the government House Leader and the others to dispense with the tired old lines of throwing that at the opposition members and try to be more constructive, and maybe together we can all elevate the level of debate in this Legislature and try to improve upon the level of respect we are awarded by Yukoners.
I want to turn now to how this budget will affect people in my riding. Following that I hope to have time to discuss some of the more Yukon-wide issues and so on. First of all, I want to comment on the highway work. There is $17 million for Shakwak reconstruction this coming summer. If I heard the minister responsible for highways correctly, he indicated there was a five-year agreement with about that same amount every year. That information might be new I would have to refer back to the files to determine that but it was my understanding that the $17 million for this year basically cleaned out the Shakwak bank account. It will be interesting in the days ahead to get to the bottom of that one.
If the bank account is cleaned out, then, of course, future funds for reconstruction are still up in the air. As the minister said, there is still I believe it's 17 miles alongside Kluane Lake that are pretty expensive to reconstruct, and those funds are still in question.
Even so, with $17 million, that's still about 50 percent less than normal. I know the government side has put a spin on it that it's about the same, but really it's about 50 percent less than normal. So the result will be probably about 100 or so fewer highway jobs on Shakwak this coming summer. Now, I see the minister shaking his head, but if we go strictly by the dollars spent in comparison to previous years, that's probably a reasonable expectation. If he knows differently, then I'd invite him to send some information over.
Also, I haven't heard anything about the continued rip and reshape on already built portions of the Shakwak Highway. I'm hoping it's in the budget somewhere, but I would have thought the minister or Premier would have mentioned it by now, and there has been no mention, to my knowledge.
Just to elaborate, Mr. Speaker, last summer, about $2 million was spent rehabilitating the surface between Beaver Creek and the U.S. border, the Alaska border. I have had the opportunity to tour that section and speak to several truckers and locals and highway workers. That work was very much appreciated. It's one of the good things this government has done. The question has always been, will it continue, because there is a need for that work to continue a few more years in the very bad spots.
I believe I have even heard the Highways minister refer to that project continuing at least that was on his wish list. So, I am hoping it didnt get forced out the back door when they plunked the Dawson bridge into this budget, but that's what I am fearing.
On the Alaska Highway, there are also funds for reconstruction, but this is not new. We knew about this last fall. I think it was in a newsletter I sent out in October, identifying which sections those would be. Basically, it's the section from the Pine Lake corner to Haines Junction, which is a few miles long. Also, the six-kilometre section west of Champagne that sits between two recently reconstructed sections there was discussion in this House last spring about how leaving that six-kilometre section provided a road hazard. Fortunately, I am not aware of any serious accidents, but certainly it has provided several close calls, as it is a hazardous section. It's good to see the government finally getting around to repairing that six kilometres. It's something that should have been in last year's budget.
Aside from those two projects, there are still two large sections that remain untouched on this side of Haines Junction. I spoke about those sections before. They are the only old sections of Alaska Highway within the whole territory that are the responsibility of the Yukon government. They should be treated with higher priority than upgrading some of the back roads in the territory.
But we see this government spending millions of dollars to upgrade the Campbell Highway, instead of upgrading the main artery the main international corridor through the territory. This calls into question the priorities of the government. That will be a subject that will be followed up on at a later date.
I also want to raise the issue of the rough section of highway through the Ibex Valley region because I have not heard any mention that smoothing it out is somewhere in this government's budget. This is an issue that is important to many people who live in the Ibex Valley, who are now part of the Laberge riding.
I am aware that the few times they do see their MLA, they have raised this issue. I know they are going to be disappointed if, in fact, this need is left out of this budget. This is also part of the main corridor connecting the Yukon with Alaska and B.C., yet it has been ignored. It contains what is probably the roughest section of road in the entire territory.
So, I know it must be tough for the Member for Laberge to arm-wrestle with the Member for Klondike at the budget table firstly, because he's not sitting at the budget table and dealing with some projects, like the weight of the Dawson bridge simply forces these other projects out the back door. We know that. But how the government could ignore what is a serious situation is beyond me.
One other issue on highways, and that is the maintenance budgets. Last spring I revealed how the government side slashed the maintenance budgets across the territory in order to boost spending in the Klondike region by some 20 percent. This was absolutely outrageous and was uncalled for and again is simply another clue as to what happens at the budget table upstairs. It is not right because it is not fair government. It is not government being fair to all regions and all people. What happens under such circumstances is a free-for-all and personal agendas, and that is not right.
The government is undertaking a couple of buildings in the Kluane region. There is the Mendenhall fire hall. I congratulate the minister for finally getting around to it. It's not the first time it has been announced though. The Liberal minister announced it a couple of years ago and, after the election, it fell by the wayside, and if not for the spirit and enthusiasm from the people of Mendenhall in organizing a volunteer fire squad, this project probably would not even be in this year's budget. I would like to thank the people in the community for coming together and forming this volunteer firefighting force.
Mendenhall, for anybody not familiar with it, is located about halfway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction, just on the north side of the Alaska Highway. It has been involved in continuing FireSmart projects for a number of years. In fact, it has been held up as a model of success for the FireSmart program. So that community definitely is in tune with protecting property, lives and resources from the risk of wild fire.
Another building in the budget but it's not being built, it's being planned is the new protective services building in Beaver Creek. Now, we don't know much about this. I presume it's in the community breakdown we still don't have. And I also presume it's probably to house the rescue vehicle in Beaver Creek, which has been an identified need.
In previous sittings, I've asked the Community Services minister about a new fire hall in Beaver Creek. So that is also on the radar screen, and I would ask him to be especially careful when it comes to designing it to make sure it's long enough to accept the emergency vehicles it is intended to house.
There is also some money for the beetle-kill situation in the Haines Junction area, and we heard the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources elaborate a little bit on that. That's a good investment. I'm not sure if it goes far enough. This is an issue I've raised in this Legislature before a year ago, in fact about the need for fire protection. That's just with this government, Mr. Speaker. I've raised it with the previous government to no avail for the past few years now. I'm aware there was $200,000, I believe it was, for the spruce beetle stuff last year, and I'm not sure exactly what was done, how that money was spent. But again, that will be an issue to deal with in the remainder of this sitting.
There is a lot of beetle-killed wood in the region. It presents a fire hazard. It also presents an economic opportunity. Hopefully, the government will act in the best interests of the people in the region.
That brings us to the study for the seniors facility. This is a matter that I asked the Health minister about yesterday in Question Period. This was clearly the top priority project of the Kluane region, both in the last election and since then. The government could have acted sooner for instance, like it did for Watson Lake and Dawson City in kicking off the plans a year ago. Those plans even though they are based on 20-year-old studies and a lot of the information was pretty stale, the government still was anxious to push the green button when it came to communities in its own ridings but it was a little standoffish when it came time to do the same in somebody else's riding. So I would urge the government to be a little more fair when it comes to dealing with what clearly is a priority of the people.
In the next year for that facility, there will be some planning that will be undertaken. I sincerely hope that the government doesn't use this process as an open-ended excuse to delay the construction that is promised for next year. The objective for this facility was to allow our elderly to continue living in and contributing to their home communities and their region. Let's not lose sight of that.
That's about it for things in the budget for my riding. It's a pretty short list.
There is one other item that we've heard even the Premier touting. It was the increase in the grant to the community of Haines Junction.
I want to make sure to get this on record before my time expires. I'll paraphrase from March 10, minutes from the Village of Haines Junction. It says that Haines Junction will receive an increase to the base grant portion of the comprehensive municipal grant of $65,000 in 2004, and $85,000 in 2005. It was noted that if the additional grant amount calculated by formula remains the same as in 2003, Haines Junction will receive the lowest comprehensive municipal grant of any community.
Well, well, well, Mr. Speaker. Maybe it's not something the Premier should be touting as loudly and prolifically as he has been. Isn't it interesting to see what happens to the arguments advanced by the government when they're put to a bit of a test? That's the value of opposition, and that's one of the reasons why the government should not be withholding information from the opposition.
One significant item not in the budget is any money for the sewage lagoon at Kluane Lake. For your information, there was about $450,000 spent to advance that sewage lagoon in recent years. That was stopped once this Yukon Party came to power, and it still continues to be held up. This is almost half a million dollars of public money. Will this money be wasted? This is an outrage. The least this government should have done is finish that project off.
If it was in the Klondike riding, it would have been a done deal.
Mr. Speaker, also missing is any mention of cultural centres. I know Burwash Landing didn't it have a study done last year for a cultural centre, a museum expansion? No mention of it in this budget. What about the same in Haines Junction? I know people within Champagne and Aishihik First Nations who are working to develop such a facility. There is no mention of a cultural centre in this budget for Haines Junction. Now, there is one already in Dawson City; we know that. And what about recreation facilities? What about the requests that some of the nearby communities share in hosting Canada Winter Games 2007 events? Is there anything for Haines Junction for this budget? Unfortunately not. Maybe if Haines Junction moved to Teslin it would start to reap some of the awards.
The Tourism minister mentioned the ice-patch survey, but didn't I notice the other day the amount for that was only something like $50,000? Well, that doesn't buy a whole lot of chopper time and all the other things that go with it, Mr. Speaker. So really, this is another one of the projects that are window dressing.
What about alcohol and drug treatment? It's a shame to see the facility at Aishihik Lake not being used. This is a real problem in our communities, and it could get worse. For those of you who saw a special on The National a few weeks ago about the crystal methamphetamine problem along the Yellowhead Highway and communities like Drayton Valley well, dont be so sure that that problem won't get imported into our territory.
Already there are rumblings that Hell's Angels are moving in. Is this the type of investor climate this government is creating? I say shame on it; shame on this government for not protecting our children and resolving some of the harder problems in society.
I realize I have less than a minute left, and I will just quickly mention White River First Nation. We know it's a Department of Indian Affairs' band. It is struggling. It has several challenges, but it would sure be nice if the government treated it like it did the Kaska and shared some resources. There are a lot of people up that way who would appreciate it and it's not too late. If the members would like to discuss opportunities, I will make myself available.
Finally, the government takes a lot of liberties with some of the election platform promises: the protected areas strategy, Dawson bridge, Campbell Highway, genuine consultation, to name a few. I hope to have time in the remaining sitting days to elaborate further. Also, where are the bandwidth capacity dollars
Speaker: Order please. The member's time has expired.
Prior to the Minister of Education speaking, I would just like to quickly give a Speaker's ruling with regard to the government House leader's point he raised earlier.
Rather than delay the Minister of Education, the Chair would prefer that he started his reply to the budget now. But I would just like to tell the House that prior to 6:00 p.m., I will read the Speaker's ruling with regard to the government House leader's point of order.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It gives me pleasure to rise in this House today to share in the excitement of a budget that will bring forth many opportunities for Yukoners. Traditionally we must seek understanding of the needs of citizens in this territory and then try to meet those needs as best we can.
I believe this budget meets these objectives. So it is understandable why the opposition will probably vote against the budget. This budget speaks to investing in the future of the Yukon both mid term and long term which is something that they probably omitted while they were in government.
I am particularly pleased to say that I am proud to be a member of this government that introduces the budget commitments that truly serve Yukon people.
Before I go into specifics, I would like to take a moment to thank the Premier, fellow ministers and all the staff for all the hard work they put into this budget.
Agreeing on a budget is not an easy task and I think that we have come up with a budget that will truly serve Yukoners in many ways and a budget that we can be proud of. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone whom I have met with or heard from over the past year First Nation leaderships, school councils, teachers and other frontline workers, students, parents and everyone else who told us their needs and priorities for education.
We value this information, recognizing that the amount we can spend is limited. We have done our best to make sure that our budget priorities take into account what we've heard from Yukoners during our time in government. This is a budget that will contribute to a strong economy that will give us a new direction. This budget works toward building a sustainable and competitive Yukon economy, a budget that builds sound relationships and partnerships with First Nation governments, and a budget that builds on healthy communities and focuses on implementing our social agenda.
Mr. Speaker, we have put our fiscal house in order, and we are working at settling the future agenda by ensuring a balanced budget of $705.7 million, of which $163.6 million is capital. There are no tax increases, and our department officials have worked hard to successfully negotiate a new five-year territorial formula financing agreement.
The three northern premiers also successfully negotiated with Ottawa, and we are pleased that increased health care funding has been extended for a future three years. At the present time, government spending makes up most of the Yukon's economy; therefore, it is important to spend government money strategically and that is what this budget is about. This budget is designed to stimulate the economy in the short term. It is about creating jobs and increased training. An important part of stimulating the economy is to ensure we make education a top priority. This government understands the direct correlation between the economy and ensuring there are effective lifelong learning opportunities available for all Yukon people so they may participate effectively in work and in their communities.
This budget will do many things, including new education initiatives, which will bring more opportunities for Yukoners. We recognize that education is the foundation on which to build a strong economy and stronger healthier communities.
Speaker:Order please. Prior to standing the House adjourned, the point of order raised by the government House leader with regard to the Act to Amend the Public Service Act the Chair is in a conundrum. We have past practices versus Standing Orders. I am going to ask the House leaders to meet in my office tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. to assist the Chair in finding a fair and equitable settlement to this issue.
Having said that, this 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.