Tuesday, April 20, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of National Volunteer Week
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to this, the 61st year that people across Canada have celebrated National Volunteer Week. This is a time set aside to recognize and celebrate the people who donate their time and energies to their fellow citizens.
Volunteer week was first declared in 1943 in Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver by the Womenís Voluntary Service, who wanted to draw the publicís attention to the vital contribution women were making to the war effort here at home in Canada. Since then, the focus has been broadened to include all community volunteers.
Mr. Speaker, we all know that the Yukon could not run without its core of volunteers. From the southernmost border with B.C. to our most northerly community of Old Crow, volunteers have stepped forward to help build better communities for their friends, for their neighbours and for people they donít even know. They serve on boards and committees of agencies and associations. They organize cultural and recreational activities. They help their neighbours. They clean up parks; they coach teams; they fund raise for special projects. They work in our schools; they work in our hospitals and extended care facilities. They work in our libraries. Mr. Speaker, volunteers are everywhere.
Volunteers are indeed a special breed of individual who seem to know what is needed and then just come forward and fill that need. We have seen them before when Yukon hosted the last Arctic Winter Games in 2000, with last weekendís Western Canadian Gymnastics Championship, and I know we will see the volunteers again step forward to help with the 2007 Canada Winter Games. Think of all the things that would not get done here in the Yukon if it were not for volunteers ó no Rotary Music Festival, no Girl Guides, no Boy Scouts, no Frostbite Festival, no bike or road relays. Volunteers help build better communities for all of us, and in doing so they make us and our community much better. Itís the place we have chosen here in the Yukon or we were born here in the Yukon, but volunteers all contribute to our lifestyle and to our enjoyment here.
Iíd like to thank all of those volunteers who have stepped forward to serve others here in the Yukon. Thank you very much.
Mr. Cardiff: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to National Volunteer Week. Volunteerism impacts every aspect of our lives, whether itís recreation, health, education, social services or the arts. We are all volunteers, whether itís for our favourite sport, assisting our church, working on a council, a committee, socializing or in dedication to a cause.
All of our non-governmental organizations need volunteers to help provide services and many of our institutions such as the schools and the hospitals rely on volunteers as well. There are 6.5 million volunteers in Canada and in the Yukon we have a very high number of those volunteers. The work of volunteers is relied on to support our tight economy.
While the number of volunteers needed is more and more, there are fewer available because of our busier lifestyle. We rely on volunteer organizations to be creative and to use their volunteers efficiently to develop innovative ways to recruit new volunteers and to retain and reward volunteers so they stay involved.
Organizations are responding well by offering shorter commitments, group sharing of work, references for career building and providing valuable training. In the forefront of these challenges is our own Yukon Volunteer Bureau. The Volunteer Bureau in the Yukon is the Yukon contact for other national volunteer organizations and support networks. In response to their goal of offering services to all voluntary organizations throughout the Yukon, they list available volunteer opportunities, provide free advertising space for literature and pamphlets and have a library of resources. Quarterly they publish a community calendar of events, published in the local newspaper and on-line.
The Volunteer Bureau has offered 10 or more noon-hour training events that have been very productive in supporting volunteer organizations, covering a range of subjects such as budgeting, liability and evaluation techniques. These have been well-received by local volunteers and we thank them all for their efforts.
This week, the Yukon Volunteer Bureau is sponsoring a contest to recognize volunteers. We are asked to submit names in recognition of volunteers who will be eligible to win gift boxes of gardening tools and gift certificates for seeds, an apt reward recognizing their theme this year, which is "Volunteers grow community".
I am pleased to join with all members of this House in paying tribute to the energy and commitment of all Yukon volunteers.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to extend my thanks and tribute to our Yukon volunteers. Volunteering is giving a most precious gift, your time, to an organization, an individual, your community. In volunteering, you commit not only your time, your energy and your skills, you also commit yourself.
It has been noted in the recent edition of the Yukon Trails, which is the newsletter of the Girl Guide organization, that volunteering is the most fundamental act of citizenship, and volunteers impact on every aspect of society: the environment, the arts, recreation, sports, culture, youth, social services, education and health. Yukoners would be hard pressed to name an event or an organization that is without its volunteers.
This week itís our opportunity to say thank you and to recognize the contribution that volunteers make to making our Yukon such a wonderful place to live. Merci beaucoup, mahsií cho, thank you, volunteers, we do appreciate all that you do.
In recognition of Yukon Writers Festival and Young Writers Conference
Hon. Mr. Hart:It gives me great pleasure to rise today to mark the opening day of the 14th annual Yukon Writersí Festival ó Live Words. This yearís festival, Mr. Speaker, will prove to be one of the liveliest. This successful festival brings Yukon people together with visiting writers to celebrate the joy of Canadian writing and reading.
Maybe it is the awesome beauty or the relaxed pace of life that inspires Yukoners. The fact is this Yukon has a long and rich tradition of producing exceptional authors. Yukon has profoundly influenced poets like Jack London and Robert Service. Other authors, like Laura Beatrice Berton and her son, Pierrre, and many, many others have recounted tales of life in the Yukon that have resonated with readers around the world.
For the next five days Yukoners will exchange ideas, skills and stories with internationally acclaimed Canadian writers.
The public is invited to read, listen and write with six celebrated national fiction and non-fiction writers.
I wish to welcome to our territory authors Frank Clifford, Merilyn Simonds, Wayne Grady, Laisha Rosnau, Greg MacArthur and Booker prize winner Yann Martel.
Wayne Grady is a returning guest, Mr. Speaker. He was a 2002 Yukon writer in residence.
The Yukon public and Yukon writers are welcome to join these skilled and honoured authors for readings, workshops, book-signings and receptions. The Yukon has much literary talent, as I said earlier. It is part of our history and it is events like the Live Words festival that develop and celebrate Yukonís own to work hard and to pursue national and international literary success.
Iím particularly pleased to say that the 25th Yukon Young Writers Conference will also take place later this week on April 22 and 23 at F.H. Collins high school.
The conference will include almost 100 students from grades 8 to 12, from all schools in the Yukon and Atlin, B.C. The students will work closely with these same writers to develop their craft through workshops, readings and discussions. For our young writers this will likely be an intense but wonderful opportunity to write and be coached by six of Canadaís experts.
Mr. Speaker, events like these only happen with the support of many community groups and businesses. I would like to thank all our partners and sponsors who have collaborated over the years to ensure the success of this conference and this festival.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to give special acknowledgement and thanks to those Yukon sponsors and volunteers. It is their love of the written and spoken word and their hard work that will guarantee that this yearís festival and conference is a great success.
Finally I would like to remind Yukoners that the festival events are free or at a minimal charge. Tonight there are workshops starting at 7:00 p.m. downtown and a public reading at 8:00 p.m. at the Beringia Centre. This year the festival will travel to Haines Junction for an event on Saturday.
Information on the events and times is available through local media on the Yukon government Web page at Yukon Public Libraries.
Thank you, and I invite Yukoners to enjoy the festival.
Mr. Hardy: Mark Twain once wrote: "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." The writers of the Yukon certainly contributed a world supply of good books, and on behalf of the official opposition, I am pleased to rise in tribute today to the poets, the playwrights and writers of the Yukon.
Now, Mr. Speaker, Iím a writerís best friend. Iím an avid book reader. At the present time, speaking of Yukon books, right now Iím reading a book called Breaking Trail, A Northern Political Journey, which has come out recently, by a former government leader, Tony Penikett. I recommend it to people, whether they are involved in politics or not.
I, like so many other people, read for pleasure and joy, for truth and insight, for knowledge and help, and it is the writers who give that to us. Often unmentioned is how significant the written word has been in shaping our world, enabling the sharing of knowledge and perspectives. The simple written word plays an important role in breaking through the walls of ignorance and stereotyping used to suppress people and cultures. For the writers, I would like to quote Anna Quinlan: "I read and walk for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me."
We in the Yukon are proud of our writers and also pay tribute to the many volunteers who work year after year to encourage aspiring adults and youth to be that person.
We celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Yukon authors conference, which attracts youth from all over the territory and encourages students and teachers alike. I encourage everyone to participate in the workshops, readings and conferences organized for the 14th Yukon Writers Festival, April 20-24, and to make today a good day to take a new Yukon book off the shelf.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to join with my colleagues in the Legislature in paying tribute to the Yukon Writers Festival.
The driving force behind the Yukon Writers Festival for over a decade has been well-known teacher, Joyce Sward, and Iíd like to thank her for her volunteer efforts, and most especially, her dedication. Ms. Swardís efforts have ensured that one of the key elements of the Yukon Writers Festival is linking well-known Canadian writers with young Yukon writers.
Another fundamental part of the Yukon Writers Festival is the support of the Yukon private sector individuals, and this year, one of the territoryís political parties, our own.
The Liberal Party has sponsored a discussion at the Beringia Centre on Wednesday evening as part of the Yukon Writers Festival. This sponsorship from throughout our community ensures that all of the Writers Festival events, with the exception of the specific writers workshops, are free to the general public.
I would like to join with my colleagues, who have also thanked the Yukon community for their sponsorship and their participation in the Writers Festival. In paying tribute to the Writers Festival, it also affords us an opportunity in the Legislature to recognize the tremendous wealth we have of Yukon writers. Our print media regularly feature our home-grown talent and there are many, many publications authored by Yukoners, and more to come, as I understand there are several due for release in the near future and some under negotiation currently with publishers. We are truly fortunate to enjoy having so many talented writers in our larger community of the Yukon.
On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I offer our encouragement and best wishes and, most importantly, I look forward to their books.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would ask all members to join me as I introduce a member from my constituency of the Klondike, from the City of Dawson, one of the colourful 10 percent that contributes to the fabric, one of the proprietors of Bombay Peggyís, Wendy Cairns, and sheís accompanied by her father, Alan Cairns. They have joined us in the visitors gallery today.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart:I have for tabling the Yukon Lottery Commission annual report for 2002-03.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have today for tabling the 2002-03 Yukon College annual report and audited financial statements, per Section 16(2) of the Yukon College Act.
As well, today I am also tabling the 2002-03 annual report of the Department of Education public schools branch.
Speaker: Are there any further tabling of returns or documents?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) economic development initiatives in the Yukon should be assessed primarily in terms of their ability to create meaningful jobs for Yukon people;
(2) the economic development strategies of the current Yukon government are heavily biased in favour of resource extraction activities that will not necessarily provide the maximum number of jobs for Yukon workers;
(3) the current governmentís economic development strategies fail to take into account the number of sustainable jobs that can be created in the areas of alternative energy, conservation and environmental protection; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to broaden its economic vision to include a thorough exploration of the territoryís potential to create and sustain employment opportunities in areas related to energy conservation, alternative energy and environmental protection.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is opinion of this House that
(1) economic activities such as mining and oil and gas extraction often result in increased production of greenhouse gases;
(2) the Yukon Party government has indicated its support for increased resource extraction activities in the territory without any corresponding commitments to reduce the volume of greenhouse gases associated with such activity; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government not to allow any resource extraction activity in the territory that would negatively affect Canadaís ability to meet or exceed its greenhouse gas reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to examine options to provide tax incentives for Yukon residents to achieve significant and sustainable reductions in the use of fossil fuels in their homes and vehicles.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House condemns the Yukon Party governmentís deliberate refusal to honour long-standing commitments to develop and implement a Yukon protected areas strategy that would provide permanent protection for representative areas of each of the Yukonís unique ecosystems.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, segregation cell
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. When did the minister first learn that a man with a serious mental disorder had been confined to a two-metre by three-metre cell with no windows for more than a month and a half?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As this individual is in care of Health and Social Services in the Whitehorse Hospital, I can confirm that this individual is in the Whitehorse Hospital and he is currently being addressed under the Yukon Mental Health Act.
Mrs. Peter: My question was for the Minister of Justice. This situation is completely intolerable. A gross indignity has been committed to someone who is sick and the minister must account for that. On Friday the Chief Territorial Court Judge found this person not guilty of two criminal charges because of his mental disorder. He also found that keeping this person in whatís called "the hole" violates Canadaís Constitution and may be a breach of international human rights agreements.
Why did the Minister of Justice allow this situation to happen?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This individualís condition is being addressed under the Yukon Mental Health Act.
Mrs. Peter: Both the prosecution and the defence lawyers said that the segregation cell was not the right place for this individual. Corrections staff said thatís not the right place for people in that situation. A psychiatric assessment showed that the manís mental health had gotten worse during his confinement.
Has the Minister of Justice asked for a full review of this outrageous situation and will she make that review public?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What this points out clearly is that the system does work. This individual is being dealt with under the Yukon Mental Health Act.
Now, the case that the member opposite is trying to make is that we need a brand new facility. What this clearly points out is that we need programming to address the needs of people who have to be dealt with by the various stages in our system.
Correctional reform is an initiative the Minister of Justice has underway to address these needs, but as this individual is currently being held under the Mental Health Act, there is a potential for an appeal. This individual is currently in the hospital, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, segregation cell
Mrs. Peter: I have another question for the Minister of Justice. The judgeís ruling last Friday was very clear. Holding a person with a serious mental problem in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre segregation unit was a breach of his fundamental rights as a Canadian citizen. Does the Minister of Justice agree with that assessment or is she planning to appeal the judgeís ruling?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I said earlier, this matter is being dealt with under the Mental Health Act here in the Yukon. This individual is being reviewed at the Whitehorse General Hospital, and the matter may potentially still be before the courts, so really we cannot comment on it other than to tell you that the Department of Health and Social Services, in conjunction with officials from Justice, are reviewing the options for assessment of this individual.
Weíre moving forward. The process does work. Itís clearly identified as being an issue, and all I can confirm for the member opposite is that the system is working, and itís working as it was intended to work.
Mrs. Peter: The public is requesting accountability from the Minister of Justice. The minister wouldnít respond to media questions yesterday, but there are serious policy issues involved, not to mention the questions of basic human dignity.
I would like to give the minister another chance to respond today. Can the minister give an assurance that the segregation unit at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre wonít be used in future for accused criminals who require psychiatric assessments?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated earlier, this individual is being addressed under the Yukon Mental Health Act. He is being reviewed at the Whitehorse Hospital. Thatís where the case is currently. There is a potential for an appeal, so no one really can comment on the case. What this clearly shows is that the system does work.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that there have been problems with criminal psychiatric cases. Itís also not the first time a judge has criticized the way this government has handled such cases. In this latest case, the Crown prosecutor asked the judge to direct Justice officials to provide copies of the most recent agreements it has with psychiatric hospitals outside the territory. Has the ministerís department complied with that request, and will the minister provide those agreements to this House by the end of this week?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated to the member earlier, this case is under appeal. The individual in question is being held and being reviewed at the Whitehorse General Hospital under the Yukon Mental Health Act.
The system does work. If the member opposite is advocating a new facility to warehouse people, thatís not the case here. What we need to do is address the root problem. What we need to do is have programs. Some programs we can provide here in the Yukon in these cases. There have been two in the past three years. We do not have the capacity. We have to buy capacity in other jurisdictions, as we do for ó if you want to look at another medical condition ó heart transplants. We donít have the capacity here in the Yukon. We have to buy the services in British Columbia and Alberta.
Question re: Business loans, outstanding
Ms. Duncan:I have some questions for the Minister of Community Services, in his new role as mayor of Dawson City. Yesterday I asked the Premier if he was going to take any action to ensure the MLA for Klondike and the MLA for Porter Creek Centre pay back the $400,000 they owe taxpayers and to make the terms of that repayment public.
The Premier told the Legislature yesterday he has no intention of making repayments, if there are any, public.
The MLA for Klondike has been content not to pay back the $270,000 he owes taxpayers, and the Premier and the Yukon Party have been content to let that happen. According to a letter written by a former city councillor in Dawson City, the MLA is also content not to pay his debt owed the City of Dawson for cable TV and convention fees.
The Minister of Community Services, as the new mayor of Dawson, is now responsible for these unpaid bills ó the receivables. How much money is outstanding by the MLA for Klondike and when will it be repaid?
Speaker:Before the minister answers the question, I remind the leader of the third party that the minister is the Minister of Community Services. Heís not the mayor of Dawson City; heís the Minister of Community Services and I would ask that you address him as such.
Please carry on.
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, although Iím not really the mayor of Dawson City, the trustee is in control of the Dawson City financial situation and Iíll bring it up with him when I next talk to him.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services has a responsibility and has the role of overseeing Dawson City and gives direction to the trustee. He has also tabled the financial statements in this House. Iím asking about the receivables on those financial statements.
Now, the MLA for Klondike and the MLA for Porter Creek Centre owe taxpayers $400,000 in unpaid loans. Now we learn that the MLA for Klondike also owes the City of Dawson money as well ó a double debtor, if you will, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister ensure that the MLA for Klondike pays what he owes the City of Dawson or will there be special arrangements made for these receivables?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned earlier, the financial situation is the responsibility of the new trustee for Dawson City, and that is where it will stay.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has responsibility. He provides direction to that trustee. He has been speaking regularly about the financial statements of the City of Dawson. These receivables are part of those financial statements.
Now, for the last six months, the MLA for Klondike has been working with the minister removing the elected mayor and council. The reason is because the city wasnít managing their money properly. At the same time, the MLA for Klondike is part of the problem because he is on the list of outstanding bills.
What steps is the minister going to take to ensure that the MLA for Klondike, who has a history of not paying these bills, pays what he owes the City of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have been in conversation with the new trustee for the City of Dawson. He has requested that a forensic audit be taken of the financial situation and until such time as that is complete, we will forward the draft report of the situation when we have that.
Question re: Psychiatric treatment and assessment
Mr. Fairclough: We have already heard that a judge has ruled that holding someone with a serious mental disorder in the segregation unit at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre was a breach of that personís fundamental rights.
The person in question is now being transferred to a secure room, as was said by the minister, in the Whitehorse General Hospital. Since the care of this person falls under the Mental Health Act, my question would go to the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Has the minister given his department any direction about working with Justice officials to determine how to handle this very unfortunate case?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I havenít had to provide any direction. We have very capable departments here in the various areas. Justice and Health and Social Services are working together on this initiative.
Mr. Fairclough: I would have thought that the minister would have taken this seriously and really looked into this matter in detail.
There have been problems in the past getting psychiatric referrals for Yukoners facing criminal charges. There have even been charges dropped because a psychiatric assessment could not be done in a timely manner. According to a Justice spokesperson, there is a shortage of resources across Canada for handling cases such as this. So what steps has the minister taken during the past year to overcome this shortage?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thereís a shortage of all health care professionals everywhere in the world, not just Canada, not just here in the Yukon. We recognize and are addressing our responsibilities, but we cannot comment on this specific case as it still potentially could be before the courts. Thereís a 30-day appeal period that has not expired. But I can confirm that this individual is being reviewed at the Whitehorse General Hospital under the Mental Health Act here in the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister avoided the question. I asked him what steps he has taken, and obviously none have been taken so far.
The territory has more money for health care, yet we continue to see really disturbing cases like this coming to light.
Now, this government should be taking its responsibilities seriously before a major tragedy occurs. It keeps dragging its feet on replacing the jail. It keeps dragging its feet on the mental health services. Will the minister agree to work with the Minister of Justice to provide a proper facility for accused criminals who need psychiatric assessment and treatment without any further delay? Will he provide the funds to meet the territoryís obvious need for improved psychiatric services? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, we have provided funding for a tremendous number of initiatives here in the Yukon Territory; among those are some areas of which the member speaks. Mr. Speaker, I canít understand it. The member opposite and his entire party vote against these funds, and yet theyíre asking us to earmark more funds.
Question re: Youth housing
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Recently, attention has been brought to the need for safe housing for youth. Young people with no place to live are couch surfing and often putting themselves at risk by bunking down with strangers. What is the departmentís policy on dealing with young people who cannot live in their own homes but arenít able to support themselves?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member knows full well, Mr. Speaker, we have a number of group homes if theyíre below the age of majority that can and do deal with youth. When they achieve the age of majority and they require housing, as is the case with the situation at the Roadhouse, we do fund a number of the residents there through social assistance, as we do across the entire Yukon. There are social assistance people in place who address the needs of those who require social assistance in all the communities, and we accommodate individuals in this category quite well. There is always room for improvement. Weíre always striving for improvement. But currently Iím not aware of anyone who is left out or whose needs are not being met.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, it is not good enough for the minister to ignore social problems because he doesnít agree with the solutions that are being suggested to him. Social programs can have a profound effect on young peopleís ability to reintegrate into society instead of becoming a lifelong burden to the taxpayer.
We are talking about homeless young people in the territory. Will the minister commit to taking a serious look at addressing the housing needs of Yukon youth?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The department is taking a serious look at not just youth but seniors, the whole area that weíre responsible for in our portfolio. To that end, I know where the member opposite is heading: itís with respect to the Youth of Today Society, the Blue Feather group that is proposing to acquire the Roadhouse. Weíre working with that organization.
To that end, our government has provided them with $110,000 in funding. Thatís an annual amount, Mr. Speaker, that addresses some of the needs. They provide some very good programming. They provide a youth centre, they provide some training, they provide opportunities for a measure of counselling, and the training looks as if itís going to reintegrate some of these youth ó and weíre talking about individuals from about 18 to 30 in that category ó and theyíre looking at being integrated back into the workforce after theyíve acquired some basic skills.
Mrs. Peter: We are talking about a major problem in the territory. Todayís youth are tomorrowís adults. Do we want to have even more adults unemployed, addicted, or in jail? This is what living on the street leads to, Mr. Speaker.
When will this minister stop penny-pinching on services to people in need and come up with an effective solution to address the needs of homeless youth in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This government has placed its money where it is well-needed. A million dollars more is going into youth here in the Yukon, this budget cycle. That breaks down to $110,000 for the Blue Feather, the Youth of Today Society. Thatís just one example of the areas that we are concentrating on.
Yes, we do have some problems. We have a drug problem. We have an alcohol problem. Itís not indicative of the way things are just here in the Yukon. Itís Canada-wide, and it affects a certain portion of our population. We are developing programs and we have programs that are working to overcome this area and address the needs of youth in our society.
Question re: Nurse recruitment
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
On April 8 of this year in Hansard, the Minister of Health says, on nursing recruitment, and I quote: "Öthere is still a lot of work to be done. There is still a constant recruitment program."
There are seven vacant nursing positions in community nursing, and of those who have been hired, most of them are hired on as auxiliary on-call.
Now, the Public Service Commission is currently advertising for two float positions, which really means auxiliary on-call. Why is the Public Service Commission hiring auxiliary on-call nurses instead of meeting community needs with permanent nursing positions? When will we see a change for hiring permanent positions? This is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If the member opposite doesnít know, he should know that we are having trouble recruiting nurses for some of the smaller communities. In the department we have a rotation for the nurses so that they can spend a short time, because itís a very intense, high-pressure workload that they assume in some our smaller communities. To that end, we allow for a rotation of nurses in and out ó we are speaking of nurse practitioners ó of some of the communities such as Ross River, Pelly, Teslin and other places. What we require in the department, and what the department has requested of the Public Service Commission, is to fill some of the float positions by way of auxiliary, because we donít know how long before some of these people burn out or when weíll be needing them. This is the best way to fulfill our obligations and meet the health care needs of Yukon people in rural Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís obvious that this minister is really controlling matters that are policy of the Public Service Commission. I would like to see the minister sometimes get up and answer questions that are put forward to him.
In at least four communities there is only one nurse on call, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for two to three months without relief. If the nurse is called out on a medevac or is working with a patient all night, the nursing station closes. An auxiliary position does not appeal to a nurse practitioner who is looking for work here in the territory. Nurses are not staying in the Yukon, and the turnover is unacceptable. Why is this acceptable to the minister, and when will we see long-term plans to staff nursing stations in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what the member opposite is speaking of is nurse practitioners. They are a very highly qualified nurse. Weíre in not just a national competition but an international competition for people qualified to this level. We have one of the best wages and benefit packages, plus a rotation system to avoid the burnout of which the member opposite is speaking.
In the last collective bargaining agreement, the nurses were one of the first groups in the bargaining unit who accepted and endorsed the new arrangements that the department had put in place for them to work under in rural Yukon. So we have recognized this issue. Yes, there are still vacancies in this area, but weíre filling them, and weíre filling them as fast as we possibly can.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister just said he doesnít have any long-term plans. Dawson City normally needs approximately four to five nurses over the summer months to deal with the influx of the population. In June, just six weeks from now, there will only be one nurse on duty in Dawson to cover 24-hour care, seven days a week. Even if the leave of the two is cancelled ó the two who are taking leave ó that means that there would only be three nurses available. But thereís only one in Dawson in June. What is the minister doing to correct this unacceptable and potentially dangerous situation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What the member opposite is failing to recognize and acknowledge is that Dawson has four doctors in place ó four. In addition to that, yes, we have nurse practitioners, and there will be float nurse practitioners who will probably be rotated to backfill for the maternity leave that one nurse practitioner is on that Iím aware of.
Question re: Alcohol and drug treatment services
Mr. Fairclough:My question is again for the Minister of Health and Social Services. What is available to persons seeking addictions treatment after they go through detox?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: A complete range of outpatient services.
Mr. Fairclough: A complete range of outpatient services.
Mr. Speaker, in the past, residential treatment has been offered at the Sarah Steele Building; later it was accommodated through the bed and breakfast housing and, most recently, the department has had a contract with the committee on abuse in residential schools, or CAIRS, for the residential treatment at a home on Bamboo Crescent. Now that we understand this contract will not be renewed, has alcohol and drug services branch made any residential arrangements for the next program intake, beginning at the end of this month?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím pleased to advise the House that weíre working on taking the Sarah Steele Building and removing the stovepipe of administration put there by the previous Liberal administration and converting it back to its programming for intake for residential care.
Mr. Fairclough: It is the minister who has been in power now for a year and a half who needs to make those decisions. The only treatment being offered is a day program. Anyone coming in from communities for treatment will not have housing here in Whitehorse. An addictive person seeking treatment will be on their own for housing overnight, which could be very dangerous for their rehabilitation. Patients will be forced into situations that will not encourage sobriety and will most likely end up staying in cheap hotel rooms.
Why is the minister cutting back on services to those in need with substance abuse, which is one of the greatest health and social problems we face here in the Yukon? Why is he doing that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The opposite is reality. We have improved services; we have expanded services. There are six 28-day, live-in programs offered a year, 12 clients per program. In the Sarah Steele Building, office space is being removed to other locations, and weíre having a 28-day, live-in program placed in that facility. Itís going back to the purpose for which it was originally built and intended, not a stovepipe of administration. Iíd encourage the member opposite to know the answers before he asks the questions; thatís usually a good homework lesson for the member opposite.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Notice of government private membersí business
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the names of government private members to be called on Wednesday, April 21, 2004. They are Motion No. 254, standing in the name of the Member for Copperbelt and Motion No. 235, standing in the name of the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin.
I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 43, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act.
Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agree
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 43 ó Act to Amend the Income Tax Act
Chair:The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 43, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act. We will begin general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: A great deal was dealt with in yesterdayís proceedings in the House in regard to this bill through second reading. We had some discussion yesterday about the need within the spirit of constructive debate to be dealing with correct information ó information of substance, information of fact. Itís important that we debate on that level. We have seen many examples where that is not the case. The government side is endeavouring to make sure that we are proceeding on a factual basis so that we, in the best interests of the public, are producing something in this House.
When we see examples of information that alludes or implies that the Sarah Steele Building and the closure of Crossroads was the doing of this government, we have another example ó when, in fact, the NDP government of 1996 to 2000 closed the Crossroads program. So itís important that the opposition ensure that we are debating matters of substance.
When it comes to this bill, this is a very straightforward operational amendment. It allows us to extend the mineral exploration tax credit, something that the mining industry ó albeit the official opposition does not really support the mining industry. Thatís obvious from their motions read into the record today. But it provides an incentive for the mining industry and puts in place an element of competitiveness for the Yukon Territory when we try to attract investment into this particular resource sector. We promote nothing but responsible development, Mr. Chair, and this mechanism is but one approach that this government takes to ensure that we make best efforts to attract that investment.
And we want to commend all the Yukoners who sat at the tax round table who put forth the effort and did all the work necessary to bring forward the recommendation that created the mineral exploration tax credit. We want to extend thanks to the third party, then the Liberal government in place, for increasing the component of the tax credit up to 25 percent. That improved it. And there is a sign of constructive debate and constructive input that this Legislature must always strive to achieve.
So the amendments to the bill are to allow us to extend for another three years. Iím sure there will be some debate around what that will mean in terms of cost. I would say up front to the members that much of how we determine that is based on the uptake. We can project some figures, but the uptake will provide us the actuals.
It will take time after the fact to actually produce the actual cost to government; however, I must add that it is a nice problem to have, to be able, through this incentive and this tax credit, to work closely with the mining industry and have to deal with that on a financial basis, because the investment that we attract far outweighs the cost in the tax incentive. One only has to look at the projected millions of dollars of mining exploration and connect that with all the spinoff business that evolves from that injection of exploration investment in the Yukon to recognize that this incentive is a good investment for the mining industry, but more importantly itís a good investment for the Yukon, because it provides net benefit.
Mr. Chair, I think weíve covered many of the issues on the bill, although Iím sure the opposition members may have further questions on it. There are actually two components, as I mentioned: the extension issue, but then there was a small technical detail that had to be addressed and was neglected when the amount for the tax credit was increased to 25 percent. Thatís inclusive in this particular amendment to the Income Tax Act, and we feel the opposition may want to make some positive suggestions on this particular legislation as it relates to the mining industry.
With respect to that, maybe the official opposition and/or the third party might view some things in the future that could contribute to or improve on this incentive we are providing the mining industry, considering the fact that I think we all agree it is a good investment for Yukon and does provide net benefit for Yukon, and it gives us that little bit of a competitive advantage that other jurisdictions may not have. Thatís important in todayís world.
The forces at play in todayís world in the mining industry are, to the largest degree, external to Yukon. On the world markets thereís a tremendous amount of pressure and competition seeking these investment dollars. One must always be conscious of that.
So when we can provide these types of incentives, we know the Yukon is on the world stage, we know the Yukon is reflected in the industryís day-to-day operations and deliberations, and we are seeing from the evidence of increased exploration and having major companies like Teck Cominco come back into the territory ó we are seeing evidence that this is working and that bodes well for the Yukon, not only today but in the long term, because it connects to the overall economic plan of the government to ensure we stimulate as much as we can in the immediate, keeping our focus always on the interim and the long-term economic development for the territory.
The mining sector is a strategic industry. It always has been, and it will remain one given the tremendous potential and wealth in Yukonís mineral resources. But I will certainly qualify this position by government, and I want to be clear that government promotes nothing more than responsible development. The government is confident that the legislative regimes and the regulatory mechanisms we have in place in todayís Yukon, along with land use planning and partnerships, can be a very effective tool to ensure that we do not compromise our environment in the long term, to ensure that we mitigate and diminish impacts and to ensure that we proceed with responsible development.
This government will keep a consistent focus on the mining sector as a strategic industry, and weíll be looking for other incentives and mechanisms to further attract the industry to our territory. What those are may come in many forms. It may come in our contribution, as we have done in this budget to create a training program among our aboriginal people out in rural Yukon to get involved in the mining sector at the exploration phase. Thatís another investment that coincides with the tax exploration incentive ó the credit ó and itís an example of how we can further involve ourselves as a government to create more competitive advantages.
The industry is always looking for a skilled workforce. Thatís something thatís very important to them, especially if itís local in the region that they want to go work and explore.
The opposition has already signalled clearly that they will be voting against this budget. The official opposition makes that very plain in their day-to-day debate and discussions here in the House, and the third party is already on record that they will not support the budget.
So not only are they not supporting the costs of this incentive ó and Iím interested to see how they proceed in debate on this bill, because how can you support the amendment to the legislation if you vote against the cost that would be in the budget cycle to pay for the incentive?
It is unbeknownst to me, but maybe they can explain that to the public.
How can the opposition benches on one hand support the need to train and build capacity in our First Nation communities but then, on the other hand, vote against a budget that contributes a significant investment toward building capacity and training our aboriginal people, especially in rural Yukon, to participate in the mining industry. Itís all about building partnerships and incentives.
Of course, itís investment in infrastructure that coincides with this amendment, so itís not in isolation. When we consider what weíve done in the budget for this coming fiscal year, which again the opposition benches are opposing, there is a lot of investment in infrastructure. Well, infrastructure is important to the mining industry. There is a definite reduced cost in driving product, supplies, material that is required, versus flying it. When we have infrastructure such as highways, even though there are secondary roads that are available to the industry, that is vital to them and provides another competitive advantage. When we have bridges that we can cross rivers on versus waiting for ferries and/or building ice bridges, thatís another definite advantage.
These things are in the budget. These things, along with this amendment to the legislation, are certainly something that challenges the opposition benches to make the decision. Do they support progress and economic development and a better life for Yukoners or are they against it? The challenge is the oppositionís, and the government side leaves it in their hands.
Mr. Hardy: Well, itís interesting. Iíll pick up where the Premier left off and the absolute and disgusting rhetoric I just heard. I actually find it really, really insulting that this Premier would stand there and act like he doesnít know how we on this side can vote against a budget and yet vote for or support this bill when he did it for two years straight, maybe three ó I donít know. It would be two years. The Liberals brought it in every year. He supported it ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Three years. Thank you.
Three budgets. The Liberals brought it in every year. He supported it in every year and he voted against the budget every year. Maybe this Premier should look in the mirror once in awhile and see what his actions are instead of pointing over here.
Now, I can tell him quite clearly why weíre going to vote against this budget. But Iíll save that for the general debate, and Iíll save that for when we talk to the media and talk to people of this territory ó why we disagree with this budget. There are a lot of reasons why we disagree with it. I can tell you a lot of it is based around the consultation, based around the secret deals that are being cut, based around people getting extra and other people going without. This is not a perfect budget by any means. That does not mean we vote against every aspect in this budget, but overall we cannot support this government and we cannot support the party thatís in government right now. Thatís why we will vote against it ó because itís a confidence vote.
We have a few questions about this, as we always do. We also have a question about rewriting history. Everybody in this territory knows who brought this in, which is contrary to what this Premier is saying about this party not supporting industry, not supporting mining, because all this government has done is copy what the NDP has done. Thatís all they have done ó all they have done.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Now Iím hearing the kibitzing from the Premier. "Well, vote for the budget; vote for the budget." Well, you know what? Maybe the Premier should grow up once in awhile and take a look at himself.
We are not voting for the budget. Weíve made that very clear. So who brought this bill in? Why canít he recognize that we, the NDP, did some really good work? He canít do it. He has to spin it all in different directions, because heís not big enough to do it, Mr. Chair.
The NDP brought this in: two years at 22 percent. The Liberals worked on that, increased it to 25 percent, and what is the Yukon Party bragging about? They say theyíre going to keep it going for three more years, but there hasnít been an increase; there havenít been any changes, and theyíre proud of that.
Well, thanks, we support that. Thatís not a problem, but they havenít improved it really. This is a big deal. This is one of their great initiatives. Itís not their initiative, no matter how much they want to spin it or lay claim to it.
I really take offence to the comments that we do not support industry. Our record ó the NDP record ó is very good. Three governments ó and we have done more in the industry than this government did in two terms, or ever will.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: This is lovely, Mr. Chair, listening to all the kibitzing from the other side. I wonder, if it were coming from this side, what you would do?
Chair:Order please. Again, Iíll ask that all members please afford the member whoís speaking the respect he or she deserves, and Iíd ask all sides in the Assembly to contain their extraneous comments and their exuberance.
Mr. Hardy: I have a couple questions. Are there any quantitative surveys being done on this bill?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The only way we can do this is by assessing the uptake from past years and then factoring in what the projections are for exploration in a coming year, but then again we wonít have the actuals, as I pointed out, until the uptake is in, and we know exactly what we will have to reimburse at the 25-percent level.
Mr. Chair, please indulge me for the moment, because I must reflect on the leader of the official oppositionís comment on their record ó Iím talking about the NDPís record ó on industry. It is quite a record. Itís a record of the industry leaving the territory as fast as they could. They didnít even stop to pick up their equipment; they left it here. It is quite a record. Itís a record of building layer after layer of impediment with such initiatives as a very politically motivated Yukon protected areas strategy, when in fact we had a land use planning process that had millions invested in it and was very sufficient in terms of being able to address what would happen on the land base.
We take a balanced approach as a government, and we are proud of it. We certainly will not be bashful about promoting that, but when it comes to record, the record for the official opposition, the New Democrats, in this territory is intact ó they do not take a balanced approach. In fact, the pendulum under the NDP was very skewed, and I think the results speak for themselves: the exodus from this territory of industry in many forms.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Chair. You do allow a fair amount of indulgence for the minister to rewrite history and to put his own spin on something, which means, I guess, that we have a lot of room to go any direction we want on a very simple bill.
In regard to the Yukon protected areas strategy, I will stand here and say that I have a different opinion than this Premier across the way in regard to that. I would like to remind the Premier that it was an 18-member committee that worked on that ó people all around the Yukon, representative of industry, representative of First Nations, representative of all people of the territory. They came to an agreement, amazingly so. Thatís a huge achievement and something that should be recognized. People came together and agreed on it and moved forward on it. This minister, this Premier, continually finds this as a fault. He continually believes that what people can agree upon is a fault because itís not in his view and itís not his way.
Thatís a shame, because these people spent hundreds of hours working on this and came to a solution, and something that many, many people were very proud of and was recognized around the country. As a matter of fact, itís being duplicated. We have heard the former Premier of N.W.T. praise it. I guess he is wrong too.
So I would like to see some facts instead of just the rhetoric of the Premierís hatred of the Yukon protected areas strategy or any kind of protection for the environment anywhere in this territory. I would like to see some facts when he says we drove industry out, because those facts do not exist. They are just an impression that this Premier wants to leave in the minds of people in order to try to get more votes. I donít think itís going to work.
Now, I asked the question about the quantitative surveys done. I will ask another question: what is the anticipated take-up cost that the department and the Premier have for, say, the upcoming year?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As I pointed out earlier, we can only go by past uptake, which are actuals, and then factor in the projections for exploration values in the coming year. In doing that I think we can say with the greatest degree of confidence that the cost would be in the range of $3 million to $4 million.
Mr. Hardy: Has the Premier considered what will happen, or thought about situations where maybe a mining company that has been using the tax credit and finds itself in arrears in paying its employees or in arrears in paying many of the small businesses? Local businesses in the community may find that theyíre not making their payments; theyíre not keeping up to them and theyíre putting a strain on their employees and the small businesses. Has he considered the tax credit being withdrawn from companies that continue to violate the rights of small businesses and employees?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, this is very hypothetical. One can only assume, in trying to deal with this question, that the mining industry is going to come here and not pay their bills or leave something behind, but it is hypothetical.
There are a number of processes in place today, though, when it comes to this situation, which any individual or corporate entities can avail themselves of in order to make sure that they have gone through the due process that gives them the legal linkages to any unpaid liability.
But I canít speculate. I have constantly said on the floor of the Legislature that the government side will not enter into speculative debate and offer speculative answers to speculative questions. We go forward on the basis that this is an incentive. Should this kind of situation arise, having never really used this mechanism in any other area but providing a tax credit after the fact, based on uptake, we may consider looking at something, but weíd have to do the research necessary to determine whether we even have the regulatory, legislative or legal authority to do something like this.
Mr. Hardy: Iím assuming that if the territorial government has the authority to withhold licences to what they call deadbeat fathers, Iím sure they probably would be able to be creative enough to come up with an ability to withhold the mineral tax credit for companies or businesses that do not honour their debts or possibly not pay their employees according to what was originally arranged with the employee. I donít think thatís a big leap.
Iím also not talking hypothetically. Weíve seen many, many cases and many, many industries, and we also have had many cases up here in the mining industry where, through difficulties ó whether mining prices or just poor management ó some of these businesses have left the territory and left massive debt behind and put a phenomenal strain on small businesses and communities and witnessed many employees who have to feed their families ó have put in a dayís work, a monthís work, not received the money and, at the end of the day, maybe 10 cents on the dollar. That is not hypothetical, Mr. Chair; thatís based upon fact and itís based upon history in the territory, unfortunately. Itís not something any of us likes to see, but it has happened.
When I asked the minister if he had given any thought, thatís what Iím asking. Iím not asking him to speculate; Iím asking for him to engage his grey cells and give it some thought ó or has he done it in the past?
So Iíll put it out there again. Is it something the Premier would possibly consider as another lever to ensure that small businesses that deal with the mining industry, that are hoping to benefit from Bill No. 43, or the employees ó itís just one more lever we could possibly put in place to ensure that, if an unfortunate situation like this comes up in the future, at least thereís the possibility to use it as a lever to try to get some monies back to the many businesses that work with the mining industry.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Should individuals or corporate entities come forward with an issue in this particular area, the government would always assist in providing them all the options available and direct them to all the agencies and areas that they can avail themselves of assistance to deal with what may be unpaid accounts receivable. But as far as the tax issue, we donít even administer our taxes. Theyíre administered by Canada, so that would be a good question possibly for the member ó if he so chooses ó to ask in a letter to the Minister of Finance in Canada ó if thatís the appropriate area ó to ask if Canada has any lever or mechanism in the administration of taxes in this area in this regard.
Mr. Hardy: I think it would go a lot further if the Minister of Finance would be so inspired to write the letter. I think there would be a lot more weight to it than just an opposition member inquiring about it. I would hope that the Finance minister would actually consider this.
Taking it a little further, if a company is charged for environmental infraction, would this be a consideration as well? I want to put it on record: if there was an environmental infraction, if there were charges against a company ó weíre witnessing it all around the world, but here weíve seen it where thereís tremendous liability when a company leaves often not in the manner weíd like, leaving a site not cleaned up, and of course there is the environmental liability that the Yukon government now will be incurring from that. Is there any way to prevent us giving out a 25-percent tax credit after the fact, knowing full well that weíre going to be inheriting from tens of thousands to millions of dollars of liability in environmental damage? Again I put it on the record. Is that a consideration that the minister would be willing to entertain?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There seems to be somewhat of a disconnect here. This bill is a legislative amendment with respect to a tax credit for exploration. The leader of the official opposition is very much focused on what would be the downstream end in the mining industry, and that would be a production mine. Exploration can come in many forms. It can come as a prospector and a backpack and a rock hammer going out and exploring. It can come from hauling a winkie on your back into a particular site and drilling a tiny little hole ó itís called a winkie drill. It can come from a BQ size diamond drill. It can come from an NQ size diamond drill. It can come from a HQ size diamond drill. All of this is exploratory. All of these things are assessed up front.
But to get to where the member is going, there is a huge amount of environmental assessment required before any licenses would be offered to go into a development and production phase of a mine. Exploration, however, Mr. Chair, is the prerequisite to any of that ever happening.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I donít necessarily want to get into a debate about how much impact exploration can actually have. They can have environmental impacts that the government would be responsible to ensure are cleaned up. The minister described a small-scale prospector going in with a pan. Iím sure Iíd doubt if there would be anything there, but there is also large-scale exploration and that could have an impact.
There is also the fact that, depending on the size of exploration, they do ó and hopefully do ó buy locally, set up accounts, employ people. That all applies to exactly what Iím asking. If youíre talking about exploration in tens of thousands or youíre talking about it in the hundreds of thousands or possibly in the millions, that is money that is going to be spent here. That is also debt that could be incurred.
I am just looking at another lever that local businesses can use, that the government can use, and that employees, through actions with the government, possibly could use to recoup some of their lost wages or benefits.
So Iím going to leave it at that, and allow the leader of the third party to ask some questions.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd just like to walk through with the Finance minister a few facts surrounding the mineral exploration tax credit. If he could just enlighten the House, this isnít like a grant program like community development fund or FireSmart where we budget a $500,000 or a $1.5-million expenditure in our budget. What it shows up as is foregone revenue.
In 2002, we had the figures for what was the foregone revenue for 1999. Because itís a tax credit, itís filed, and thereís a time delay. So my question is: whatís the time delay? So this is 2004. Do we now have the figures for 2002 just coming in, or could the Finance minister just tell us what the time delay is? My understanding in reading through Hansard and my knowledge of the bill is itís about two years or so before we know what the foregone revenue amount is definitively. Is that correct? Is it two years?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís approximately two years for the full process to take place, where we get to the foregone revenue or the exact actual amount, but there are projections. In this case, weíre projecting, based on all available information, including a go-forward projection for the amount of exploration somewhere between $3 million to $4 million of foregone revenue.
Ms. Duncan: Weíll get to the forecast. I just wanted to clearly understand, for the record, itís about two years. So the Income Tax Act extends the mineral exploration tax credit to 2007, which would mean that it would be 2009 before we know the final figures for what that cost. So the impact is really right through to 2009, because of the extent of this work that weíre doing today. I just wanted to make that clear for the record.
Does the minister wish to address that? Heís nodding in confirmation.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Weíve already estimated an amount that would give us the projected foregone revenue ó itís between $3 million to $4 million. If weíre out, we wonít know. It wonít be the full amount; itíll be the difference, but we have no way of knowing until the actual uptake happens.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that. I was just pointing out for the record that the effects of what weíre doing today in the House will live on, if you will, until 2009 in the financial statements of the territory.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Whatever the cost is, whatever the foregone revenue will be there. Weíve already made an estimate, but it may or may not match that. Iím certain, in the public sector accounting board standards, that amount has been booked. I see the Finance minister nodding.
So letís get to the forecast of what that foregone revenue is. In 1999, which was the first year of the tax credit ó and the tax credit was at 22 percent ó the foregone revenue in that year was $1.3 million and that was based on low exploration ó exploration and metal prices had suffered a downturn in the territory.
Itís $1.3 million based on, if memory serves me correctly, about a $5-million to $7-million exploration year. Now the tax credit has been increased, thanks to the work of the previous Liberal government, and extended by the Yukon Party to 25 percent. Now the cost, as I understand it, for 2000 was estimated to be about $2.1 million, and thatís still based on a low exploration dollar figure.
Weíve heard quite extensively in this Legislature that exploration figures are expected to increase significantly. I believe the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has estimated quite a significant increase, and the mining industry itself has estimated a significant increase and theyíre the ones who provide the yearly estimates.
So the minister has said the estimates are three to four. In light of this expected significant increase in the exploration season, isnít that $3-million to $4-million figure low?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Actually itís an estimate based on available data of past uptake, projections on a go-forward basis. It has been booked as an estimated amount. Itís a projected figure, but itís a great problem to have if itís more, because that means thereís more investment in the Yukon, more spinoff benefit. We look forward to more, because it means thereís more mining activity taking place in the territory. Thatís a good thing.
Ms. Duncan: Itís a great problem to have unless youíre the Finance minister and youíre trying to deal with rising health care costs and decreased revenues and renegotiating the formula.
The mineral exploration tax credit is a very good program and our party and I are very supportive of it. It also does present a difficulty for the Finance minister when there is a significant exploration season.
Now it seems to me that the Yukon Chamber of Mines come out with their figures of what they estimate for an exploration season, and they do that based upon talking to the industry themselves. I know it pains the Finance minister, but I would like him to agree with me for the record that $3 million to $4 million may be an estimate, but if we have as significantly good a season as we anticipate, $3 million to $4 million is low based upon the $1.3 million in foregone revenue and $1.9 million under a 25-percent tax credit with $5 million to $7 million in exploration. $3 million to $4 million is a low estimate. Itís a conservative estimate ó a fiscally conservative estimate ó and it may in fact be significantly higher. Would he agree with that statement?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, I know where the memberís going, but that would only be logical if the projections by industry on what the amount of exploration would be in the coming year are exact. Theyíre not; theyíre estimates. Weíre estimating based on available data, and that would include ó there are going to be expenditures that might not qualify. Thatís a fact, because there may be conditions or circumstances that preclude or disqualify. So there are all kinds of variables here.
And, as a government, we look forward to more, and weíre certainly capable of adjusting as we go through a fiscal period. But our hope is itís going to be more. Thatís what weíre seeking to do in this territory ó attract more industry, and in this particular case, the mining industry. And the more we can attract and the more exploration that takes place for Yukon, the more potential for us to move into the interim and long-term benefits, which would be development and production phases for the mining industry.
Ms. Duncan: It could be significantly more than what has been estimated. The Finance minister has come that far.
He mentioned what would qualify under the exploration tax credit. Now, my familiarity in the past with the placer industry has been that stripping qualified as an exploration expense under federal CCRA rules. Without going into too much detail, what are the qualifications for this income tax credit? In general terms, what qualifies and constitutes exploration? For the placer industry, is it stripping? For the mining industry, is it camps? Could he be specific as to what qualifies?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Please allow me to relay this to the House. There is a list, and it begins with an expense incurred in that period in the course of: prospecting, tearing out geological, geophysical or geochemical surveys, drilling by rotary, diamond, percussion or other methods, or trenching, digging test pits and preliminary sampling, or an expense described in this paragraph that is renounced by the taxpayer under section 66 of the federal act. And I will not attempt to read the French.
There are some other issues here that are relevant but they are not specific to what qualifies. Thereís also a list of ineligible expenses, Mr. Chair, and I could list them: an expense incurred by the taxpayer in drilling or completing an oil well or gas well or in building a temporary access road to or preparing a site in respect of any such well; Canadian development expense of the taxpayer as defined in subsection 66.2(5) of the federal act; an expense incurred by the taxpayer that may reasonably be considered to be related to a mine that has come into production in reasonable commercial quantities or to be related to a potential or actual extension thereof; an expense incurred by the taxpayer that is described in any of the paragraphs (g), (j) and (l) to (o) of the definition "Canadian exploration expense" in subsection 66.1(6) of the federal act.
So there are a number of federal linkages here that are important and also a Canadian exploration and development overhead expense of the taxpayer as defined in Part XII of the federal regulations. We have to work closely with the federal government on this issue.
Ms. Duncan: We do have a good working relationship with Canada Revenue Agency federally. Would the Finance minister answer the question this way then: how is the Yukonís mineral exploration tax credit supportive of the placer mining industry in the Yukon? And, if he wishes, the Finance minister can respond to me by legislative return, but I would appreciate receiving an answer before the end of session.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Provided the fact that this is not a production site, there are occasions when drilling takes place for a placer property ó exploration drilling. There are also examples of digging test pits ó exploration ó or trenching ó exploration. That was listed, as I mentioned on the floor of the House. But if this were actually a production exercise, then it would not qualify as stated.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that, but if weíre looking at a new claim or an added claim, then perhaps there might be more that would qualify, but that would be in concert with what I understand they already are eligible for under the federal rules. Is that correct? Would the Finance minister like me to repeat that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, please.
Ms. Duncan: If this is a new property to a particular company or an adjacent claim to an existing property, then stripping, as an example, might qualify under the federal rules and therefore it would qualify. There are not two credits; itís just you either qualify under the federal or you qualify under the Yukon. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, this would not be an easy question to answer because stripping, in the normal circumstances on any placer property, is done to remove overburden or waste material. The cost of moving dirt is not conducive to practice or exploration. Thatís why the exploration phase would have been done beforehand to determine at what level the pay streak is at. That would dictate any kind of stripping program. Trenching and test pits are significantly different in the exploration phase. But when you start stripping overburden, itís an exercise that is required to get to the pay streak.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that, Mr. Chair. But we also worked with Revenue Canada in the mid-1980s to get stripping declared as an exploration expense for placer mining. So I was just trying to double-check to ensure it was still qualified, and ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: That was my question. I understood it would qualify under the federal guidelines so therefore it qualifies and is considered part of our exploration tax credit. Perhaps the Finance minister will review the Blues and take another look at that and provide me by letter or a legislative return a more detailed answer.
The Finance minister mentioned the tax round table, and as the initiators of the mineral exploration tax credit ó and thatís my recollection, as well, that the tax round table certainly was a proponent and made this suggestion. Has the tax round table been reconvened by the Finance minister?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have already responded in detail, read into the record the conditions, the areas that would qualify or disqualify and, no, the tax round table has not been reconvened or created.
Ms. Duncan: Does the Finance minister have any intention to reconvene the tax table?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: At this point in time we have a number of initiatives underway with the public when it comes to economic development, and we have not had any real in-depth, detailed discussions with anyone in the public about creating a tax round table at this point in time.
Ms. Duncan: Thereís another tax benefit that is up for discussion in the budget. Is it anticipated that that will also require amendments to the Income Tax Act ó the child tax benefits ó or will the amendments be brought in in some other way?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The child tax benefit is by regulation.
Ms. Duncan: Is there any consideration being given to other amendments to the Income Tax Act to allow for tax credits, such as the teacher supply tax credit that I suggested to the Finance minister in January?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: At this point, the Department of Finance and its very busy officials are reviewing taxation in the broader context, and we will in due course determine if there are going to be any other tax measures that we as a government may employ to further advance our economic growth and provide incentive for private sector investment in the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: That wasnít a direct answer to a direct question.
Will the government be bringing in a teacher supply tax credit, for lack of a better term? Will they bring in that amendment or another amendment in the fall sitting?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It was a direct answer to a direct question. It wasnít a surgical strike, but it certainly provided the answer.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I will certainly review the Blues, but the answer I heard was: maybe, we are thinking about it and weíll tell you when weíre good and ready and not a minute before. Unfortunately, thatís hardly open and accountable.
There is one other item I would like the Finance minister to address, and he could address it by legislative return. Could I have an update on the Kassandra file?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, thatís a huge file and I am not about to direct officials to start typing a legislative return on that file. It has been an ongoing file for a number of years and if the member has some questions on that file, we are here in the House to debate; I have an official with me, and Iím sure we can answer those questions.
Ms. Duncan: All right. I am sure that the Finance officials will bring them when we get to the Finance debate. I will have a couple of questions for the minister on that file and would appreciate the answer. Perhaps he will take the time to acquaint himself with it before he comes back to the Finance debate.
With that, Mr. Chair, I have no further questions on the Act to Amend the Income Tax Act or the extension to the mineral exploration tax credit, save to state, once again, for the record, my appreciation to the public, which brought forward this suggestion in the tax round table convened by the NDP government who brought it in in 1999, and to my colleagues for expanding it in 2000, when we increased it. I look forward to the continuing extension of this and to debating the Finance figures when they finally do arrive for the mineral exploration tax credit forgone revenue for the next couple of years.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing no further general debate, weíll proceed line by line.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 43, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that Bill No. 43, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 10 ó First Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Chair:I understand that we are now moving back into Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We are in general debate on the budget for the fiscal year 2004-05 ó the largest budget in the history of the Yukon. I think that it behooves us all to get on with the debate, get beyond the needless repetition of questioning that has little substance in regard to the budget. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can ferret out from the opposition benches what exactly their vision and positions are on budgeting when it comes to the Yukon for its needs today and indeed its needs tomorrow. With that, I move that general debate be cleared.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Premier went on quite a wild ride of his own at the end of yesterdayís debate, throwing insults to people on this side of the House.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Order please. Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the member opposite, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, is imputing false or unavowed motives.
Chair:Thereís no point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Iíd like to encourage the Member for Klondike to go back and read Hansard, and he might be amazed at how the Premier presented himself in this House. Basically, it showed the general public that this is the kind of leader he is presenting, and that is the way this Premier will conduct himself, I would say, for the rest of the term.
So, Mr. Chair, I know members, even backbenchers listening to the debate yesterday, certainly were not feeling very much comfort in the way the Premier puts his words together and how he attempts to belittle members on this side of the House and members of the general public. Itís certainly clear in his statements. It also shows his inability to read the public and to really take seriously the issues that we raise here.
Consultation, for example ó one word. Thatís all I asked yesterday and it threw the minister into a rage in this House. It is such a serious matter. That whole issue on the definition of "consultation" has been taken to court. This minister just dismisses that as if it is not a serious matter to First Nations. As a matter of fact, he accuses us on this side of the House as being anti-First Nations. Well, I would say, if there was ever a statement that is so wrong that has been made in this House, that is one of them. I think the Premier needs to rethink what he has been saying to members on this side of the House and the people we represent.
It appears that the Premier has a view one day, tells it to the public, and then turns around and says something else and has a totally different view the next day. I know the members opposite are now talking about this balanced budget. The Premier says it is a balanced budget and no other budgets that have been presented in this House were ever balanced, but, my goodness, the Yukon Party of today now brings forward a balanced budget. He certainly didnít explain that with very much explanation.
But, in the past, that Premier felt that other budgets were balanced. He said so in this House. He defended it.
When it comes to the environment, that minister defended previous budgets. Iíll read you a quote, as a matter of fact. It was read out yesterday, too, and itís from February 22, 2000. Iíll go through it. That is when the Premier was a backbencher on the government side at the time.
He says, "There is a great balance in the budget between the environment and our economy." That was when he was with the New Democrats. The two are married, he said. "Without sustainable environment it is virtually impossible to develop sustainable, viable economies, and thatís why we budget in the manner we do."
That member at the time was part of the budgeting, but now he says thereís no balance; it had no substance. As a matter of fact now he feels he knows best and, at the time, Yukoners were consulted in developing this budget ó which was probably the most extensive consultation that ever took place on a budget. We throw a word out there about consultation and it throws this minister off. How does it do that? I think itís the guilt factor. I brought up a couple of examples to the minister and the minister skirted away from them.
Mr. Chair, the minister knows this is a very serious matter. He knows that consultation is not a word that can be disregarded and put aside. Often in this House, Iíve heard my colleagues ask the members opposite to look up the definition of "consultation". They havenít done that. We asked them to refer to the Delgamuukw case where it clearly spells out "consultation". We asked them to refer to the Umbrella Final Agreement and First Nation final agreements; still that party did not have the confidence in that definition and how itís spelled out in final agreements and had to go to the point of putting together other agreements with First Nations.
Now heís saying we on this side of the House are anti-First Nations. Certainly we will send those statements back to our communities and we will let our constituents look at that carefully and make comments to the members opposite. I asked the member about consultation, and he said that for 30 days theyíve consulted the general public. Thirty days ó and then they got elected. Thatís where the consultation process took place. Well, he forgot to recognize the fact that we on this side of the House have also been elected and also went through that process and have also had people contact us and basically give us direction. We relay it in this House and this minister, this Premier, belittles that, pushes it aside.
He also says that they are closer relationships than any other government has had in the past. It might be a good statement for him to make, but where was the minister all those years when he was elected in government and on this side of the House? Where was that member, that MLA? Did he not look at the world with open eyes? I think not, making a statement like that.
I have lots. This Hansard is full of them. He also says that when it comes to the captive wildlife issue, the minister responsible has been consulting with First Nations. That couldnít be further from the truth. Why did the First Nation come forward and say to the members opposite that they want consultation to take place?
So the minister ought to watch his words in this House when it comes to statements like that, because it upsets the public out there. We only expect a lot more from the Premier, that he rise to a higher level instead of the record low that weíve come to in this House. And that was the other thing with the rant that took place in the House by the Premier: he promised ó and the members opposite also ó in their platform to improve decorum in this House. Has that happened? I donít think so.
So I guess we on this side of the House will have to take it from the members on that side of the House ó criticism over and over again. I know that we will be belittled by the member opposite. I encourage him to rise above that type of low debate and to bring issues and answers to our questions.
With all of that, Mr. Chair, this Premier didnít even answer the question about consultation and the whole agreement and how it related to improvements of the Umbrella Final Agreement. Why would he bring an agreement forward that is not an improvement? And why didnít the government follow it? Why didnít the government follow those agreements? Well, that is the reason why we on this side of the House have been asking questions.
The minister also said that the government has been bringing forward materials, has been bringing briefing notes to members on this side of the House daily. And weíve gone to briefings, weíve asked questions, weíve asked for information and material. In past practice, there has always been a package of detailed material given to the opposition. Well, this minister and this Premier and the ministers, the Yukon Party, decided not to do that any more. Theyíre withholding information unless it has been asked directly at the time, rather than speeding up the process and having to ask all kinds of questions that could have been taken care of through those briefing notes. So thatís a new direction. Not being open and accountable is the one choice that this minister and this government would like to take.
The Premier also says that he is breathing life into the final agreements. He is breathing life into the final agreements ó and he is doing this by throwing money out. Look at the statements: $1 million here; $1 million there; a few hundred thousand dollars here. Thatís what the Premier said: he is breathing life into it by supporting First Nations through revenue streams. Thatís what he said. Those were the words that the Premier used. I would think that, if anything, the Premier and his government need to sit down and talk in detail with the First Nations about the final agreements themselves.
There are issues, like every other government has in their communities that could be dealt with, and should be dealt with, and are dealt with by every government. Thatís the other thing that I find amazing with this Premier and the Yukon Party government. If we talk about exploration tax credit or any other issues in supporting non-government organizations or communities or whatnot, it almost appears as if the Yukon Party created this, and itís a new thing; itís a new direction.
Lo and behold, every time we dig into this matter or have a chance to respond to it, we find, again, and have pointed out to the members opposite, that, in fact, this is an ongoing issue; itís an ongoing matter and itís supported by the Yukon Party ó except for a few things like the protected areas strategy, for example, which his party supported ó the Yukon Party did support it when they were on this side of the House. John Ostashek, I remember ó there was a vote on this and they voted for it. Why? Because it was a document that had extensive debate, extensive consultation ó probably the one that is closest to that, if not more, was the Education Act.
So the general public is not happy with the way the Premier has made debate in this House and addressed the questions of the opposition. I find that it just brings a whole new low to this Legislature.
I know the Premier is going to get up now, rise above debate and move on, or go on attack of the members opposite, we in the opposition. I would think thatís where the member would go. But not answering a question is only making things worse for the general public.
We on this side of the House are taking issues from the public, from membersí own ridings, from people here in Whitehorse and interest groups, and weíre voicing their concerns here in the Legislature. When we do, what is being said? Well, the Premier said that we have nothing to talk about. Is that all he can on consultation? Well, we have brought up so many issues, I think maybe itís just too many for the members opposite to even gather together, and now the Premierís fixated on the word "consultation" and I can see why. I can encourage the Premier to pull up his socks and really tackle the whole issue of consultation in a more serious manner.
Do not let things like changes to the captive wildlife regulations go forward without consultation with First Nations. They had to come forward and make it a big issue with the members opposite ó take the Premier aside and talk to him.
And that shouldnít happen. It should be a normal thing to go forward with consultation. And the members opposite know that.
Making movements that involve and affect the public or organizations ó they should only have the courtesy of being consulted with, asked for their opinion. Emergency measures, for example ó well, the minister said there was all kinds of consultation on that. But as it turned out, Mr. Chair, there wasnít. As a matter of fact, there was very little ó nothing with the professionals and nothing with the union. It is as if this government is saying to the general public that they know best and weíve made a decision, and how do you like it so far. Thatís the attitude that is being presented out there. And it is one that is upsetting the general public in every riding, Mr. Chair, because weíre hearing it from across the territory and they want a change. They want a change in the attitude that this Premier is presenting to the general public right now. Itís not coming. Itís a year and a half. Another year and a half goes by very quickly, Mr. Chair, and before you know it, weíll be very much in an election. We want to see some improvements and weíre trying to help them out. We on this side of the House have been asking simple questions.
So we will be asking questions in regard to consultation way down the road on every matter that the members opposite bring forward because theyíve committed to it, and itís only a commonsense thing when you deal government to government, Mr. Chair. If there is anything that we can say on this side of the House, itís for the members opposite to try to rise above the level that they have set for themselves in debate in this House, try to make improvements, like they said and promised Yukoners. And Iíll leave it at that and ask my colleagues to ask questions.
Chair: Order please. Before debate continues ó when the member was asking his question, he used the phrase "couldnít be further from the truth", and I would remind the member that on May 13, 2002, that statement was ruled out of order and, at the time, the member was asked to retract that statement.
I would remind all members to speak within the confines of our Standing Orders, to review the past rulings, and I would ask that member to withdraw that remark.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fairclough:It is hard to withdraw a truth, but I will do that.
Chair:The Chair is very uncomfortable with the preamble and the qualification placed on the retraction of that comment. I would ask for an unqualified withdrawal of the remark, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fairclough:I can understand that. I withdraw it.
Chair: Thank you.
We will continue on with general debate.
Mrs. Peter: Yesterday, the Premier made some statements in this House in general debate with a few of my colleagues. I take issue with that. It was in regard to issues and questions regarding the land claims process in the Yukon and consultation with First Nations throughout the territory.
During his comments, Mr. Chair, he accused the official opposition of being anti-First Nations. In his many challenges that he made, he also stated that we are trying to pit First Nations one against the other.
We as MLAs in rural ridings are not making inroads in our respective constituencies due to his biggest budget in the history of the Yukon. It has been more than once Iíve heard in the House from the Yukon Party government members ó I heard them say how our questions and the list of issues and concerns we bring on behalf of the Yukon public have no substance.
Let me remind the Premier and his colleagues, Mr. Chair, to never underestimate the people of Old Crow, as well as the First Nation communities throughout the Yukon Territory. Statements such as those he made in this House yesterday only reinforce to our people out there the fact that this Yukon Party government knows very little about Vuntut Gwitchin. By suggesting that I as a member of the official opposition am not making any inroads into my riding, the Premier is disrespecting the clear choice my people made in the past two elections at the polls.
May I suggest to the Premier to be very careful in that regard. The people in the riding of Vuntut Gwitchin are very aware of the political scene and what it entails.
They are very respectful. They care about decisions being made here on their behalf. And let me tell you, they are very protective of their leaders, and for a very good reason. At the request of our people, leadership at all levels of my community has maintained professional, respectful and progressive relationships with governments no matter what political stripe the government wears. We are a self-governing First Nation, and our priority is the needs of our people. On a daily basis, Iím in communication with people across this territory from many walks of life, and I feel very fortunate for that. They entrust us with bringing their questions and their issues to this forum so we can ask the government questions on their behalf.
Yesterday I heard the Premier say that our questions and our list of issues that we bring to this forum have no substance. I was absolutely appalled at that statement ó to have so much disrespect for the people of the Yukon, and yet I am not surprised. Those kinds of statements say a lot, Mr. Speaker, to the people who listen, to the people whom we communicate with on a daily basis. And itís a sad day when we have to listen to that kind of rhetoric from the Premier of the Yukon Territory, who represents all of us at the end of the day on many fronts.
Iíd like to ask the Premier to tell the people of Old Crow what progress has been made to date on the accord that was signed with VGFN, and what are the priorities that are listed in that accord?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I can assure this House and the people of Old Crow that I and the government have nothing but respect for the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin and have always had a deep respect for the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin. I think itís important that we get on the record the issues as they are. I accept criticism for whatever was relayed for debate in this Legislature.
I have no problem accepting that, but I will also challenge the opposition at every instance when incorrect information is brought to the floor of this Legislature. That is the obligation and responsibility of any elected member of this House. So that challenge will always be there. There can be no doubt about that.
The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin may have taken exception to that, and I can say the government side does not in any way preclude the member from taking that position. That is a position of the memberís choice, but itís important that we reflect on what we do here and stick to the matters of fact and substance. There are a lot of procedures in this House that certainly get off base on many occasions, especially when weíre trying to deal with matters of fact and substance.
There are motivations for it, but itís not my place to judge what those exact motivations would be. Iíll leave that up to the members opposite. Letís provide disclosure to the Yukon public when they so desire.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun went on again at great length about many things. I will ignore that. Theyíre the same statements as made yesterday. Any reference or inference that the government does not consult with First Nation people is incorrect. Again, we will challenge the members opposite whenever they present that sort of criticism.
Criticism must have substance; criticism must be constructive; otherwise itís empty criticism that has no value for anyone in this territory.
As far as the protocol with the First Nation government in Old Crow ó the Vuntut Gwitchin government ó we have advanced that particular agreement. We have invested in those initiatives and those priorities for the people of Old Crow, but I have to say that the members opposite voted against those investments and have all along. There is a definite reckoning that must come with the voting record. There can be no other option. That is a definite position taken. Itís a matter of choice always, but the government also has made a choice, and we have invested in those priorities for the government of Old Crow and its citizens. We do not dictate what those priorities will be. We will work with the First Nation at a government-to-government level, and thatís much of what consultation is all about. Thereís no question that we do that on every level and beyond. Weíre promoting partnerships with First Nations. That moves us away from the 30 years of the us-and-them attitude of sometimes very acrimonious negotiations on the land claim front. However, there is a great deal of vision and focus in regard to how we can, collectively with First Nations in partnership, build the future of this territory. What weíre doing with the Vuntut Gwitchin and their government is exactly that.
Again it becomes an issue for the members opposite to really, really consider what the facts are, to remove the partisan mirror and look at the budget as it relates to balance throughout the territory in the communities.
There is no question that every effort has been made to invest everywhere we can to meet needs. The community of Old Crow is certainly one of those areas that has received a significant investment in this budget. The question for the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin ó and we on the government side will respect the decision. The question is: what decision will the member make in voting for or against that investment for the people of Old Crow? We do not pass judgement. We do not in any way say to the member opposite that the member should vote in a certain manner. We merely have presented the detail, the facts; the choice is the memberís. We will continue to work with the government of the Vuntut Gwitchin people on its priorities. That is why we have entered into that protocol.
And again, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun alluded to the fact or made insinuations that we do not live up to those protocols. Well, what we are doing in Old Crow is testimony, clear evidence, that the government does, and we will continue to do that.
Mr. Chair, it is unfortunate that we have reached this stage. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun alluded to the fact that this House has reached an all-time low. The government side agrees; we have reached an all-time low. That all-time low is the level of correct information being brought forward by the opposition benches to this Assembly. It is at a low. All the government is doing is urging them to get back up to the level that Yukoners require that we conduct the business of this House on.
At the end of the day, the judgement will be in the next election. The government side is more than prepared to place its future in the hands of the voting public. Until then, we have a great deal of work to do. We have accomplished a number of things to date. We have seen some positive trends developing. We see a bit more optimism in the territory. We see what was once conflict now moving toward cooperation and collaboration. All these things are good for Yukon, not only now but in its future.
With that, again, I say, general debate could go on and on and on; however, this is a big budget. Iím sure the members have many questions on each department, and that would be a very constructive approach. Dig in; delve in to the departments with the ministers in detail. Thatís what debate is all about, not this approach that the members opposite have chosen to bring to this House.
Mrs. Peter: I donít mind constructive criticism myself. It helps me in my job. And Iím sure the Premier listened to my comments very carefully, and the question that I ended with was about the progress made on the accord so far that he has signed with VGFN ó not what his relationship is with VGFN. Weíve heard about that relationship in this House on many occasions. The priorities that are listed in that accord are very important to the people of Old Crow. Iíll ask the Premier again. The accord that was signed with Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has a list of priorities. Can the minister tell me what those priorities are and what progress had been made in that area?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is general debate in the budget. I will stick to the budget items. First, Mr. Chair, we have to go back to the supplementary budget, which has a huge bearing on where weíre at with this budget. The road to Old Crow ó this winter road ó was important to be able to mobilize the necessary supplies and equipment into the community of Old Crow to be able to address a number of the priorities. Those priorities are quite obvious in the budget breakdown. Thereís $1.2 million invested in the quarry development site. Thatís critical because another priority is to deal with the bank restabilization. Thereís also the priority of the Old Crow Airport and runway; however, without granular, there can be no work on the runway. Thereís also the issue of the Old Crow Airport terminal building, another priority that we as a government have invested in. We also commend the federal government for recognizing a need in the community, so weíre partnering not only with the Vuntut Gwitchin government but also with the federal government.
I think itís fair to say, Mr. Chair, that with the priorities the community has brought forward, this budget is addressing some of them. We canít address them all, but at the end of the day, Mr. Chair, the budget document has a detailed list of a number of the priorities we have met when it comes to the community of Old Crow.
Mrs. Peter: The Premier took us down another road that eluded the question I asked directly of him, and then we wonder where our debates go.
Anyway, let me enlighten the Premier. Have a little patience with me. I did have a public meeting in the community of Old Crow in February. At that meeting, there was a good variety of people in attendance. The elders were there, there were the middle-aged and a couple of youth. The concerns and the dialogue that took place at that meeting were very interesting. It was one of many Iíve held in the community in the last few years. And, yes, we appreciate the financial assistance we get from this government so that we can make progress with the projects that our people had a vision for in the last 10 years. One was the airport terminal. We have a commitment for that. One was the winter Cat train. The equipment is in Old Crow. There were several other issues that Iím not able to mention today; Iím still waiting for more information.
One of the highest priorities for many of the parents in Old Crow is in regard to the education of their children.
Weíve had a working committee group that came to Old Crow on one occasion that I witnessed. There is a huge concern in the area of justice.
The community that I come from, Mr. Chair, is not allowed any alcohol. We call it a dry community. However, that was a very positive step for my people a few years back, and today weíre seeing some impacts and effects that our community would like to address in conjunction with the courts.
Our elder population, Mr. Chair ó the percentage is high. Families in my community are concerned about the care that our elders receive. And Iíve brought that to this forum before. We have programs and services in the areas of dentistry, dental hygienists and optometry that we need in the community on a regular basis. We make do, Mr. Chair, with whatever few resources we have.
We heard a tribute today to volunteers throughout our communities and throughout this territory, at many levels. Thatís how most of our communities function.
When I bring up the issue of an ambulance, that is a need that we have in Old Crow. I have told this House before that I canít picture a screaming siren flying down the main street in Old Crow. We can be creative with those kinds of ideas.
And always at the back of our minds is the issue that we have with the Porcupine caribou herd and its very survival.
Those are just a few of the issues that the community addressed at the public meeting that I held. Those are the kinds of issues I was hoping that the Premier would address in regard to the priorities that he might know about in my community. If any of those issues are being addressed by the Premier in that accord or in his relationship with Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, I would like to hear those from the minister.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There are many other areas where issues for the community of Old Crow, and indeed every community of the Yukon, are being addressed.
The education issue, for example. The Minister of Education has a great deal to debate and discuss in this House when it comes to that departmentís budget and what the minister is doing, through his leadership, to address especially the issue of education as it relates to our aboriginal people. And the offer from the Yukon government is clear.
When it comes to the Porcupine caribou herd, our commitment is solid and continues to be, but we are taking our direction from the government of the Vuntut Gwitchin, which has said to us, "We will be the lead and, if need be, we will request assistance from you." Thatís how we are working with the Vuntut Gwitchin on that priority. And the list goes on.
I think the way this can be dealt with in the appropriate and most constructive manner is to deal with those specific issues as they relate to that specific department. Thatís where the members opposite can truly engage in constructive debate. To continue on with the general debate area of this budget serves no real purpose because the same questions are going to have to be asked to the appropriate ministers.
I will not, in any way, shape or form, preclude the Minister of Education and that ministerís obligation and responsibility to provide the members opposite with responses to their questions. I will not preclude the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Highways and Public Works and Community Services, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, and the list goes on.
So the way this should unfold in constructive terms and with respect to the position the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has just put on the floor to raise the level of debate ó well, thatís the scenario that would certainly do that.
We are meeting commitments and addressing demonstrated needs and priorities for Yukoners. This budget reflects a great deal of those commitments and has a great many examples of meeting those demonstrated needs and priorities. But, you know, in Committee of the Whole there seems to be a constant desire to get things on the record that may not even be relevant to the budget. Again, thatís not for me to judge. We have due processes to deal with that, but I would suggest that we can do a great deal, minister by minister, department by department, to better articulate and disseminate information to the member opposite. This is simply not the vehicle or the mechanism to do it.
So what I am saying, as the minister responsible for the budget in my capacity as Minister of Finance, to the members opposite is that the way to truly address their questions is to move on and deal with the departments where these issues are related. I will not respond to Education in any sort of detail, so what would be the net purpose of continuing the debate. Iím not going to respond in any detail to the Department of Health and Social Services. What would be the purpose? I will not respond in any detail to the Department of Justice or Tourism. Thereís a minister responsible for those two departments. Iím not going to respond in any detail with regard to Energy, Mines and Resources, and the list goes on.
In fact, in general debate on the overall budget, the members opposite should know that we will not respond in any great detail when there are specific questions that relate to a department. The purpose of that is to be constructive in debate, and thatís exactly what weíre promoting on the floor of this Legislature, somewhat contrary to what the Member for Mayo-Tatchun believes to be happening.
And thatís unfortunate, because thatís a huge part of constructive debate ó how the opposition members conduct themselves.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the Premier for his lecture and avoiding the question that Iíve asked him.
In regard to general debate, Mr. Chair, this is my one chance, let me say, to address the Premier in his capacity as Premier of the Yukon Territory in regard to questions that I might have about the budget in all areas. These are questions that I bring forward regarding my riding, and they are very important. And these are the kinds of information that I bring home to the people in Old Crow, and they read it and they watch us every night on television so that they know what is being addressed on their behalf. So I donít need to hear how Iím not making any headway here, because I know I am.
In regard to environment, Mr. Chair, this government with the Department of Environment has a mandate to protect our lands and animals on behalf of the Yukon people. The Premier and some of his colleagues have called the official opposition a no-development party.
When we hear that kind of comment, Mr. Chair, I have to sit here and shake my head. He is talking about the conduct or level of debate that happens here. But making those kinds of comments on the floor of this House ó he talked about untrue statements or statements that are being brought forward by opposition members, with him being the Premier of the Yukon government. The list goes on, like he says.
We all have a vision for the Yukon Territory. In that vision, there always has to be a balance.
We know that the Premier cannot answer individual departmental financial questions, but I believe that heís obligated to answer general questions for departments.
I would like to hear from the Premier what his vision is for the Yukon Territory in regard to parks.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, that is a question that requires much more involvement by the minister responsible for the environment. But I can tell you ó I see that the leader of the official opposition finds that quite amusing. Maybe it has been very amusing in that memberís mind over the last decade, but it certainly hasnít been amusing to Yukoners in this territory.
Yukon found itself at the time of the November 2002 election in a desperate situation. That was unfortunate considering the potential and the opportunity that this territory has. Having said that, one of the important areas of vision is to recognize flawed policy and process. As a government we have done that and we have ceased implementing flawed policy and process. Secondly, when it comes to the finite detail, the Department of Environment will be the area of debate, but the Yukon can stand proud at the amount of parks and protection in place today in this territory, and the Yukon has layer after layer of legislative mechanisms and regulatory regimes to ensure that the environment is not compromised. We need not go to the past practices and the mistakes made by past governments. Why would we? When it comes to vision, vision is not in the rear-view mirror; vision is looking forward. In todayís Yukon and in todayís world, there is a tremendous amount of ability for all jurisdictions to ensure that the environment is not compromised and yet to proceed in a very balanced manner with responsible development.
There is a distinct difference between the vision of this government and the official opposition. The official opposition is on record saying that, before development takes place, all protected areas must be concluded. This government does not agree with that, and thatís something this government is not pursuing.
We will pursue responsible development. We will ensure that assessments are done in a manner so that we mitigate impact and do not compromise our environmental future.
But letís consider todayís Yukon as it exists ó a huge land base with little footprint today, huge potential with little access today, a tremendous amount of opportunity for the people of this territory to grow and build a better and brighter future, not only in protecting our environment and our wildlife, culture and way of life, but producing an economy all can benefit from. And that is why we are promoting, encouraging and working on full economic partnerships with our First Nation people. Itís so that they can share in those benefits and they can bring to the table a very important aspect of the protection of our environment, their thousands of years of knowledge. Thatís what partnership is all about. Thatís vision, Mr. Chair.
Now, I know the two visions. First let me couch it this way: we do have a vision and itís evident. It began with our platform and our plan. Thereís a question, though, on the other side of the House if there is a vision and a plan. Letís reflect back in recent times. A government in place, now the third party, was a government with no vision and no plan. The results are evident. Things are happening today in the Yukon, and we donít take all the credit. Iíve said this time and time again, but we are contributing to a change of attitude and direction in this territory because of vision and because of a plan.
So I would say to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin: the environment is in no danger, but now our economy is no longer being neglected. There is a government that takes a balanced approach, ensuring responsible development and mitigation of impact on our environment. That is what Yukoners elected the government to do; that is how we are proceeding.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the Premier for those comments. I do agree with him that this Yukon Party government will definitely leave its footprints in our environment.
Moving on, Mr. Chair, in the area of justice, the Whitehorse Correctional Centre has been an issue, a long-standing concern for the people who work there and the people who have to spend any amount of time there.
Today, in this House, weíve heard of a very serious situation that has taken place and involves two departments, and the need to address the facility is very urgent. I would like to hear from the Premier today why or how and when ó would it be in the near future or is it a 10-year vision to build what some of them were calling the other day a concrete box? How soon would we see a building taking place so that some of these very seriously dangerous situations can be avoided?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Maybe there is a misunderstanding of "jail". A jail is a facility. The issue, though, is what goes on in the jail.
This government will not proceed to build another warehouse. Given the recidivism factor in this territory, that is exactly what weíve got. That is not the correct approach to address the issues the member has just put on the floor. In fact, it is not even remotely close to addressing those issues.
What we will do as a government is construct a new facility that is program led, not facility led. Now, the third party had launched into a very misguided process, where they were already spending money to redesign a design because it was millions of dollars over projected cost.
Well, Mr. Chair, this government will ensure that a large portion of the investment toward corrections goes to programming, not a building.
Mrs. Peter: Weíve been through this issue before many times. Iíd like to make a suggestion again on the floor of this House that we can address the area of service and program delivery. We are not talking about warehousing; we are talking about a safe place for people to work and a safe place where inmates can stay for the length of time that they are asked to be placed in that facility. We are talking about a building that is falling down around the feet of the people who have to spend their days in that place.
We canít make it any more extreme than that. It might be a laughing matter to some of the members on the other side, but this is very serious, Mr. Chair. I didnít hear an answer to my question from the Premier. When can we as the Yukon public see any commitment or definite timeline when a building may be started? Would it be a year, two years, five years; what is it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, there is an investment right now in this budget ó which the members opposite will probably vote against ó and that is an investment in correctional reform, which includes the construction of a facility. But weíre also addressing other issues through an investment in dealing with requirements within the structure itself.
Now, the member opposite has a different view, and thatís fine. But all the debate in the world in this House will never change the fact that we are not going to build another warehouse, because thatís whatís going on. Secondly, I would urge the member to reflect on the percentage of aboriginal people being warehoused in that place and ask the question: are some of those people ó should they even be there? Thatís what correctional reform is all about. We are not rehabilitating people; we are not healing people. We are institutionalizing people. That is wrong. That has to change. Thatís what this budget is investing in.
Mrs. Peter: Iíd like to thank the Premier for that answer because, again, weíll know only too well what history is all about. I donít have to be told a second time that 99 percent of the inmates being held at the Correctional Centre are of First Nation descent. Thatís a well-known fact across this country, and it has been a well-known fact for centuries. Weíre not suggesting that we warehouse these people. Weíre dealing with a situation today thatís very serious, Mr. Chair, where a person with psychiatric disabilities had to be placed in this building, and that is totally unacceptable. I canít imagine the stress and the impact that it had on this individual. Now theyíve shifted that responsibility to the Department of Health and Social Services and all I can get from the Premier is the same old rhetoric.
We have to read between the lines in the answers given to us. There is an urgent need, and we know what those needs are.
Theyíve been written in many reports. The communities have been consulted. The Elders Council has spoken. Where are those reports?
Iíd like to move on ó from what seems like one bad situation to the next ó in regard to the mandate of the Womenís Directorate in dealing with family violence in the territory. We only have to look at information regarding our territory and the use of the safe houses that are available.
There was a very powerful letter a few days ago in one of the papers regarding addressing the issues of violence against aboriginal women in this country. Iíd like to acknowledge the Premier for reinstating the department of Womenís Directorate and putting money into this very important cause. Yet, it seems that we need to address this issue at a deeper level. There was a workshop or a conference, a forum that was held within the last month and a half, and I believe some very important information came out of that forum. It was attended by women from across the territory. Iíve requested a copy of that report and have yet to receive it.
Also in the area of youth, again, Mr. Chair, there are many questions, and more especially today with homelessness facing the youth in the territory.
I believe that as leaders in this territory it is our responsibility to provide the youth of our communities with some hope for their future and to provide and help empower the youth in this territory to look forward to a future where they will achieve their goals in the many areas of their lives, including education. We have, as a government, the responsibility to offer the guidance and support in those areas.
I heard the word "consultation" in this forum one too many times. I refer to the many reports that have been written to address these many issues that we have to address ó whether they be at a First Nation government level or at the territorial level or leading to federal responsibility. The bottom line is that we have a mandate.
We have a mandate. This government has a mandate to address those issues that concern our people out there ó all peoples. Those are my comments in general debate, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is always of great value for the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin to stand and make representation on the issues that face women in this territory ó no question about it.
As far as the Womenís Directorate, the government side appreciates the recognition that the member provides in how we dealt with the Womenís Directorate. But itís also important to note that it wasnít that long ago, in a conference for the ministers responsible for the status of women in this country, the federal lead was offering, in regard or with respect to the incidence of violence against aboriginal women in the country, to gather more statistics.
And I can say to you, Mr. Chair, that the Womenís Directorate for the Yukon took the lead on changing that approach, from gathering statistics to putting together a committee on the national level to start to address the issue. The Womenís Directorate has had recent discussions and a recent workshop to help provide input into that process. But we are certainly, as far as the Yukon and the two territories, Nunavut and the N.W.T., are concerned, taking a lead in that area.
Secondly, Mr. Chair, when it comes to youth, thereís no question that the increased investment that we have put into our youth and the situation they face in this territory today, especially those youth at risk, is quite significant.
There are many questions Iím sure the members opposite would like to ask the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and Social Services and me when we get into the Executive Council Office and deal with the Youth Directorate. But just as a general statement, in this budget alone, a million more dollars have been invested into issues for youth in this territory. When it comes to our frontline workers in societies like the Blue Feather and the Yukon Youth of Today Society, there is more money in base funding to help them. We will pay for program delivery. We will forge ahead, with the ministerís leadership, on alternative schools. We have created another $500,000 investment into trades training to focus on the youth who can be trained in a trade and advance themselves. But of course itís always vital that we have something to empower the youth of today in the Yukon so that they can look forward with optimism, and that is an economy, because they, too, need to see whatís ahead for them. They, too, want to be assets to society. They, too, want to be productive, and what we do today will set the stage on where our youth are at tomorrow. We are investing in youth; we are investing in the needs of women. We in the Yukon take these issues very seriously. I think one of the members opposite, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, is bang on in how she approaches this. I would hope her colleagues view it the same when it comes to the budget and the position they take.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís nice to be able to get up and talk to the Premier and ask him some questions and make some comments in general debate on the budget today.
I would like to go back to yesterday afternoon and to some of the comments that the Premier and the Minister of Finance made. The minister, by his own admission, called it a tirade and I was shocked to listen to that, to the way he talked about me and my colleagues and the way that he berated and belittled us.
One of the things the Premier said about consultation was that the consultation was done over 30 days with all Yukoners. The result of that was that there was a Yukon Party government. Iíd like to remind the Premier that we, too, on this side of the House participated in that 30-day discussion, that 30-day consultation, and I would like to remind the Premier that we were elected as well as the members on the opposite side, and that we are working our best and doing our best ó consulting on an ongoing basis, attending meetings, phoning constituents, sending out e-mails, stopping and talking to people on the streets, in the grocery stores and at public events, on a regular basis.
We are consulting, and we are listening to what people are saying about both the job that we are doing and the job the government is doing. To belittle the questions and the issues we bring to this Legislature, I donít think does any good.
That said, before I ask the Finance minister and Premier a question, weíd also like to point out another statement he made, and then Iíll ask him a question about that.
One of the things the member said yesterday was that members on this side had had ample briefings, that ample material was provided to them daily and for them to say weíre not doing that is another incorrect statement.
Well, Mr. Chair, if itís an incorrect statement, I would challenge ó Iíll say it again then. We are not getting ample information in budget briefings, and it is necessary for us to have good information, the same information thatís available to the ministers opposite. Why is it, when we go to budget briefings to get the information from the officials, that in some instances weíre told that they have been told not to provide any documents to members on this side of the House?
To me thatís a double standard. We talked about a double standard yesterday when it came to Yukon Housing and pet policy and how people are treated, and I look forward to discussing that one further with the minister responsible for Yukon Housing.
The Minister of Finance ó the Premier ó is responsible for the budget overall and for the provision of information not just to us as members of this House but to the public.
When we go to meetings and are asked questions about government initiatives, we need information to take back to those constituents who are asking questions. I admit this is only my first time being elected, so I donít have experience being at budget briefings with other governments, but I have done some of my consultation and my homework talking with my colleagues here on this side of the House, who have been in those situations and been in those budget briefings before, where information was much more forthcoming from the government during budget briefings. There was a more detailed analysis of the budget. The explanations as to where money is being spent, how itís being spent, the rationale for it being spent is available to the officials who provide the briefings, and itís available to the ministers when they sit on that side of the House. Itís pretty obvious that we canít get an answer in here; it just seems like Question Period all over again.
They call it Question Period ó they donít call it Answer Period ó but weíre not getting answers here either. So Iíd like to ask the Minister of Finance why information that helps us do our job ó in the platform, part of the platform was to work more cooperatively and to be open and accountable, but when the government on that side doesnít permit the flow of information, that doesnít seem open and accountable or cooperative. And so Iíll leave it at that, and maybe the Premier can respond to that.
Chair: It has come to our customary time for a break. Do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take 15 minutes.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and general debate.
Mr. Cardiff: So here we are again. As I said when we were leaving, itís just like Question Period all over again. The Premier doesnít like answering questions. I asked him a question but he didnít want to answer it. The question related to the remarks he made yesterday.
This is what the Premier said yesterday afternoon: "These members have had ample briefings, ample material provided to them daily. For them to say that we are not doing that is again another incorrect statement." Well, itís not an incorrect statement.
The Premier is incorrect. In technical briefings on the budget, members on this side of the House have been told by those doing the briefings that they have been told not to provide any documents to members on this side of the House. Whereas, in the past, documents that explained the line items in the budget were made available to members in the opposition. Iíll run this whole thing by the Premier again if he needs to hear it again. Again, Iím new. This is my first time being elected, but I have gone out and consulted with my colleagues, consulted with people who have been in this position before.
The Premier has been in this position before and the Member for Klondike has been on this side of the House before, and theyíve been in budget briefings and theyíve received the information, but they donít want to share that information with the members on this side of the House or with the public.
They donít want to provide us with the information. And it has been done before. It was done in 2001, and Iím sure that the Member for Klondike remembers getting the briefing packages when he was attending budget briefings. Iím asking the Premier why the information wonít be provided to members on this side of the House at budget briefings. And they committed to open and accountable government and to working cooperatively with us on this side of the House. This does not sound like open and accountable government, and it doesnít sound, again, like working cooperatively with members on this side of the House. If they wanted to work cooperatively and they wanted to be open and accountable, the information would be made available, and then maybe we could move on to debate the department. But he is the Premier; he is the one who is responsible for giving directions, as he is the leader.
But the information hasnít been forthcoming. So maybe he can tell us why that is.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I stand by the statement I made yesterday that there has been every attempt to provide the opposition information. Not only did they have a budget lock-up and get a briefing on the budget, they are being given briefings on every department. They have a copy of the budget; all the lines are in it. The officials are available during briefings to answer their questions.
This is what this House is all about. Ask the questions. If the members donít like the answers, that cannot ó cannot in any way, shape or form ó be defined as not answering. Thatís impossible, Mr. Chair. There is every effort made to provide the opposition information. We are now, on a very consistent basis, once the work is done by the officials in whatever department, tabling information for the members opposite.
So the issue here now, as I understand it, is: the member is saying that we cannot move on from general debate because they donít have any information. Well, I guess we are here in general debate for the rest of this sitting. I am not averse to sitting here day in and day out. In fact, I quite enjoy engaging with the members opposite, to ferret out what they believe the territory should do and where they think the territory is going and what their position is on First Nation partnerships when it comes to the economy, and how they deal with the issues of the day.
We donít hear that from the members opposite, but I can guarantee you this, Mr. Chair: the longer we sit here, sooner or later the government side will ferret that out.
Mr. Cardiff: Youíre right. I donít like the answer, because the Premier is not being forthcoming with the information weíve asked for. When we go to a budget briefing, weíve asked for written information, budget handouts, not the big blue and green book the Premier is waving.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: The Premier is quite right; it is the budget. We would like the same information from the officials who are doing the briefings, the same explanation the minister stands up in the House and gives when we ask about a line item ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: What is there to hide? The Premier doesnít want to share the information with us; he doesnít want to share it with the public. Itís behind the closed doors, in the backroom. He doesnít want to share the information. Why?
Itís a simple question: why?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iíve just heard a gem of a response and a position put forward by the member opposite. The member is saying ó now let me just try to get this right ó that they should be provided from the officials the same information as a minister is provided during debate.
Letís follow that logic. That being the case, why would we have this Assembly? What would be the purpose? In fact, why donít we just get the members opposite to join the Yukon Party and come to this side of the House and we can have officials sit beside them and give them information, the same information that we as ministers are providing today on the floor of the Legislature, or any day during Question Period and during debate.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun goes on to say that we are hiding something. There again is another insinuation. There is another statement that has some connotations, but I will give the member the benefit of the doubt for he knows not what he says. He has made a mistake again.
Letís get serious. If the members opposite want to debate the budget, the government side is here to debate it. Every minister is prepared and ready. The members have had briefings, have been given great detail. Well, letís get on with the debate. What do the members feel about investing millions more in reconstructing our highways? What do the members feel about a million more dollars invested for youth at risk? What do the members feel about building multi-level care facilities in both Dawson City and Watson Lake, meeting a demonstrated need? What do the members feel about $1.5 million in training funds and $500,000 of that directed to trades training? What do the members feel about economic partnerships with First Nations?
What about the issue of resource development and revenue sharing with First Nations? What do the members feel about that? What do the members feel about the investment in the College ó another $1 million in the base grant? What do the members feel about the increased base grant to our villages? What do the members feel about the Tantalus School being built in Carmacks? What do the members feel about a community complex for the Village of Mayo? What do the members feel about our focus on resource development and strategic industries, like tourism, culture, the film industry? What do the members feel about our investment in the IT sector to give our local suppliers the ability to project where theyíre going to be this year and next year?
What do the members feel about our ability to not have to continue the budget cycle 12 months of the year by providing our construction community a clear indication of where they can be in the coming months in a fiscal year and allowing them to pick up tender packages and bid on jobs in a timely manner?
What do the members feel about our ability, as weíve clearly shown, to change the fiscal position of the Yukon Territory by the decisions made? What do the members feel about reallocating a $10-million permanent fund back into general revenue ó dissolving that fund?
What do the members feel about the new agreement with Canada on health care, giving us a special fund and a commitment to address the inadequacies of per capita formula financing?
What do the members feel about whatís going on in todayís Yukon when it comes to the statistics that show there is more population, more people in the workforce and a much lower unemployment factor? In fact, weíre third in the country. What do the members feel about the millions of dollars invested in the social side of the ledger? What do the members feel about our approach to the economy?
This constant, incessant demand that we are not giving them information is incorrect, totally incorrect.
Now, the members have a responsibility and obligation to deal with the public also. Weíre not going to have our officials running around at the beck and call of the opposition when there are programs and services that must be delivered to the Yukon public. That is their primary duty, but they make every effort to ensure that the members opposite are given the detail that they request. And nobody can dispute that fact. Itís happening here on a daily basis. If the members donít like the answers, that does not denote that theyíre not getting answers. But they are being provided answers and detail. It is up to them to show their mettle and debate in a constructive manner and put their position on the floor. Thatís what this is all about.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, Mr. Chair, it looks like we got under the Premierís skin again. The question was: why was information that was forthcoming under previous governments not forthcoming now? There were technical briefing documents available when the Member for Klondike was in the opposition, but they donít seem to be available to us now. Weíve asked for them in budget briefings, and they were available in 2001 ó February of 2001 during budget briefings, they were available.
Now the Premier went on another tirade. How do we feel about this? How do we feel about that? Well, if the Premier had been listening to what I was saying prior to when I asked the question before the break, maybe he would have heard that we had been out there, consulting, talking to people.
Maybe he remembers this line. I probably canít recite it. But going to public meetings, talking to people on the street, in the grocery stores, at public events, going to community meetings ó how does the public feel about unpaid loans? Yesterday the Premier seemed to think the unpaid loans didnít have to be paid back because the contribution of the ministers who owe the money, their public contribution, their volunteer status ó itís Volunteer Week, Mr. Chair ó is paying back the $400,000. How does the public feel about that? Well, Iíll tell you how the public feels about it. I got a phone call at the break. Thatís how the public feels about it.
How do they feel about the way that public employees were treated during the computer use investigation? How does the public feel about that? How do the members opposite on the government side feel about that? How do members of the public feel about the Premier bragging about cancelling the Yukon protected areas strategy?
Thereís a small footprint, he says.
The Premierís colleagues are all in favour of cancelling the Yukon protected areas strategy. So instead of that small footprint the Premier was talking about, thereíre going to be 22 of them and theyíre going to be larger. Theyíre not concerned about the environment. How does the public feel about that?
I think the Premier and his colleagues are going to find out how the public feels about that the next time they do their 30-day consultation. How does the public feel about secretive government not providing information and not answering questions? They sit in the gallery, they listen on the radio where they can. How does the Premier feel about making the dialogue in this Legislature available more widely throughout the Yukon?
Iíve had requests for that. There are people out in Southern Lakes who would love to listen in on this conversation that weíre having here today. Believe it or not, Iíve had requests for that. But there is no money for that.
People want to hear what we on this side of the House are saying, and they want to hear the answers that the members on the other side are providing. But the Premier, the Minister of Finance, doesnít want to provide the information. It was a pretty simple question: in previous budget briefings with previous governments ó previous to the Premier being on that side of the House ó there were budget documents made available at budget briefings. They were called handouts, and they were made available. What we hear now when we go to a budget briefing is that the officials are not to provide any written documents to the members on this side of the House.
I go back to it again: it doesnít seem like open and accountable government. It doesnít seem like working cooperatively. I didnít ask the Premier to have his officials follow me around and answer every question. I asked for the information on paper. Itís an explanation of where the money is being spent and a tiny little bit of rationale for it. Thatís all we are asking. Then we could move along a lot faster.
The Premier wants to move along a lot faster because he doesnít want to answer the questions. So, give us the information.
Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There is a failure to communicate here. Thatís exactly what debate is all about. Thatís why we get into department debate and line-by-line debate. If the members opposite have a specific question on a line item, the minister is available to respond in answer to the question.
This is nonsense. Now we either get on with the debate or we can sit here until this Legislature closes. Thatís up to the members opposite.
They have been provided ample information to date. We continually ó on a consistent basis ó provide legislative returns and other information to the members opposite, but if they want to ask a question specific to a line item in a department, letís get to that department and that line item and ask the minister and thatís exactly what will take place: they will get an answer.
What the members want is all the answers given to them, if they have all the questions ó and weíve noticed far too often that the questions are incorrect and of little substance. So we have a failure to communicate. Now the government side is communicating. Itís providing information and itís providing answers, so either the members donít like the answers or they donít understand the information or we just simply canít communicate.
Now as I understand it, weíre both speaking English. Thatís the common language here in this House, so it should be a major step forward because we all understand the language. Now letís get on with constructive debate. If you want a specific issue answered on a line item in a department, as the member pointed out, ask the question when weíre at that department and that line item. Thatís what the debate is for. Thatís why weíre here in Committee of the Whole. Thatís the purpose. Weíre here to answer. All we need are the questions.
But this incessant complaint that the members opposite donít have the information is ridiculous. Maybe they have more information than they can actually manage, and weíre starting to see signs of that today and yesterday and other days of this sitting, albeit early in the sitting. I wonít prejudge that, but weíre here ready to answer the questions when theyíre asked.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, again, he didnít answer the question. He wants to say that there is a communication problem and that theyíre communicating. Well, Iím over here listening, and I can hear what heís saying, but I donít hear the answer. If they want to debate the budget, then why wonít they provide the information so that we can? Heís complaining about the content and substance of our questions.
Why did the Premier change the rules then? If this is about debating the budget and getting into departments, then why did they change the rules and tell their officials not to provide any documents to the official opposition? What is the problem? Why did the Premier and the Minister of Finance ó Iím sure he had a little help in doing this from his seatmate, the Member for Klondike and government House leader ó deny information that has been previously given to members on this side of the House in budget briefings? Why did the Premier change the rules?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Here are the rules of debate, and I can assure the member opposite that no rules have been changed, but there is also a responsibility of the members opposite. They have to know their job of being a critic and have to understand exactly what it is they are supposed to ask in representing their constituencies, and thatís why we have debate. Ask the questions. The ministers are here and available to answer specific questions.
Nobody has changed any rules. We are constantly providing information in writing to the members opposite.
Iím starting to wonder whatís happening in the opposite benches, because weíre hearing the same rhetoric continually, considering, even on-camera, the amount of detail thatís being presented ó clear evidence ó for the public to see. Surely the member must understand that the public is watching and theyíre seeing that information in detail is being provided almost on a daily basis. But I will say, Mr. Chair, that the primary purpose of our officials is not to be at the beck and call of the opposition; itís to deliver programs and services to the Yukon public, and we as a government are going to ensure that happens, and we as a government will also ensure we do our job in answering the questions the members opposite ask in detail.
We have to get to the portion of the debate that is all about the detail, and thatís department by department, line by line.
This general debate to date has been a useless exercise.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I disagree with the Premier totally. This has not been a useless exercise at all, because the public, whoever is listening, is listening to the Premier deny the information to the opposition and has put on record lots of things, the position of the government on many things in relation to questions that have been asked by my colleagues in the House. Those constituents of my colleagues look forward to reading the comments of the Premier and the questions that have been asked and the lack of answers and the lack of information.
And I go back to the 30-day consultation. Weíll be there. Weíll be back at that 30-day consultation, and that is when the Premier will come to realize the folly of his ways.
So weíre in general debate, and the minister thinks that itís totally useless just to ask questions in general debate and that we should be right into the departments and we shouldnít have any discussion with the Premier or the Minister of Finance about the budget in general. Well, I disagree, because this is, as my colleague from Old Crow said, one of our only opportunities to ask the Premier about the overall budget and to ask about the priorities.
Heís the one who sat down and constructed the budget with his colleagues, helped set those priorities, and itís the ministersí leadership ó he talked about the ministersí leadership and that we should be asking them. Well, if weíre going to go to the departments and ask for the ministers to show leadership, what Iím asking is for the Premier to show what his leadership was in developing the budget and what his priorities were and how that whole thing ends up in the big green and blue document that he was waving around earlier.
One of the things that the Premier brought up ó he asked us how we feel about $1 million for the College. I feel great. I think thatís what I asked the Premier to do a year ago, and he came through.
The Premier has said today that vision is looking forward. The vision is looking forward. What I want to know is where in the Premierís vision and in future budgets ó
I mean, it has been well-documented that the College was falling behind, both through inflation, the increased cost of materials, books, forced growth, and increasing demands on the College. We know that education is a priority, so $1 million for the College is a good thing. Among other things, itís a great thing.
What is the Premierís vision for the future of post-secondary education in the Yukon as a whole? What is the Premierís vision for dealing with the needs of the College in the years to come? Is there a commitment by this government to look at ways of improving funding to post-secondary education and Yukon College here in the Yukon in future years? Maybe he can answer that question.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The government happens to have a minister responsible for the Department of Education. That minister is more than able to disseminate the vision on where, under the ministerís leadership, this government will be taking education. That is the point of this whole exercise. That is why, if the member opposite is interested in education and has specific questions with respect to education, the minister is the one those questions should be directed to.
This is general debate on the overall budget. So, if there are specific questions to the department ó the Department of Education ó the minister is the lead and the minister will respond.
Mr. Cardiff: Thatís not what I asked the Premier. I asked the Premier where post-secondary fits in the overall view of the government. I acknowledged ó
The Premier canít even take a compliment. I acknowledged that the million-dollar increase in the base to the College is welcome and itís something that I asked for, and have been asking for, for years. But what Iím asking the Premier is: overall, in post-secondary education, where is the government going? What is their commitment as a government?
The Minister of Education I believe is committed to the College or he wouldnít have lobbied his colleagues. The big picture vision is looking forward, the Premier, the Minister of Finance, said earlier. The big picture. Where does post-secondary education and Yukon College fit in the budget picture in the years to come? A million dollars is great. Whatís in the future? Can the Premier tell us what his vision is?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís in the budget, obviously. Of course weíve increased the base grant to the College ó demonstrated need. Thatís what we committed to do. Of course we are confident that investing in training, as we have, and increasing it in this budget is going to help Yukoners, whether it be for post-secondary or those who decide that school may not be that avenue, but at least we are trying to provide initiatives that will give them a skill set or skill sets. But again I point out to the member opposite that the minister responsible for the Department of Environment is here to articulate the vision, as he should. That is the responsibility of the minister.
Thereís no need for us to extend this discourse of circular motion because if the member truly wanted to get to that detail, the member would move on and get into departments and line-by-line debate. Thatís how the members can achieve what they request. Thatís how the members opposite can show the Yukon public their substance and what theyíre made of ó itís by the questions they ask the ministers responsible, in a detailed fashion in line-by-line debate.
Mr. Cardiff: So, the Premier doesnít have a vision about post-secondary education and what it can contribute to the Yukon ó culturally, socially and economically. We know that the Premier is also the Minister of Economic Development. I canít stand up and ask the Minister of Education and the Minister of Economic Development the same questions. Here I have the opportunity to ask the Premier, who has the responsibility for the whole package.
Heís the leader. He talked about the ministerís leadership, but he hasnít talked about his own leadership on post-secondary issues. Yukon College is a valuable institution in the Yukon, and I know the Premier agrees with me. It contributes to every community in the Yukon. What I want to know is what the Premierís commitment is to post-secondary education in the Yukon, including Yukon College, for the future?
Yukon College brings a lot of benefits to the Yukon, including economic benefits.
Overall, in the budget, the Premier must have some idea of where it fits as a tool in the Yukon to promote the growth of cultural industries, the social well-being of communities and economic development. There was a report done last fall that pointed out those things that Yukon College contributes to the Yukon.
I introduced a motion last December asking the government to think forward, to look at investigating expanding Yukon Collegeís role here in Whitehorse, in the communities, in the social area of the Yukon, in the economic area and in the development of culture in the Yukon. But the Premier doesnít have a vision about that. Thatís where Iím going here. Iím trying to ask the Premier whether or not he sees any value to expanding Yukon College, or to at least looking at it, and the benefits that post-secondary education can bring to the Yukon. And Iím asking him that as the Premier, as the Finance minister, and as the Minister of Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, first let me reiterate. The issue here is, if we want to debate specific departments, then letís move on to those departments and debate them. The member is continually asking about the vision. Well, as I recall, a great deal of time was spent in this Legislature delivering a budget address. If the member had the time to look at the same document I have here ó I know the member has one; itís very much a public document ó the member would read approximately three and a half pages of material that lays out in detail this governmentís position on education.
Again, I point out that we need not continue with this type of debate. Itís counterproductive. The information is there and available. The question asked, should the member want more detail in regard to anything in Education, belongs to the minister responsible. We operate as a team ó a team. Now, I donít know how the official opposition operates below permafrost in that little office there; however, I can tell you that the government side operates as a team.
Now, would the Toronto Maple Leafs put Pat Quinn in goal? Of course not. Therefore, I do not in any way, shape or form, involve myself in the responsibilities of any minister. But as a team we ensure that the collectivity of Cabinet and the agenda and the public support that we receive is moving forward. That is the vision; thatís the plan. Itís in all the pages of this information, specifically in the budget address. So, what are we doing here, Mr. Chair? This is needless debate.
The same questions have been asked for two days now and itís all the same theme: the opposition does not have any information.
I have then provided evidence that they have the same information we do.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the Minister of Education is screaming, "Put me in, coach", because the coach, the leader ó he doesnít want to answer the question. Obviously, weíre back to it again.
Iím asking the Premier, as chair of Management Board, then. I mean, surely these discussions must take place. Heís the lead on this. Will he answer the question that I asked about Yukon College, about post-secondary education, and the commitment to at least look at the viability of expanding Yukon Collegeís role in the Yukon and the economic benefits of that?
Is the Minister of Education going to answer for the Minister of Economic Development and for the Premier as chair of Management Board when I ask the question? I donít think so. Heíll probably tell me I should have asked that of the Premier in general debate, or I should attend Management Board meetings, maybe, as the Premier suggested. But I donít think that weíll get anywhere with that.
So this is my opportunity to get the Premier on record, the Minister of Finance, the chair of Management Board, the Minister of Economic Development, to tell me in simple terms what he thinks the role of Yukon College is and what the governmentís commitment is. I can read the pages 37, 38, 39 in the Premierís budget speech, but I donít see ó I see the $1 million, but I donít see whatís down the road. I donít see whatís in the future.
I remind the Premier the vision is looking forward, so Iím asking him to look forward down the road: whatís the plan? Is he open to looking at expanding the role of Yukon College here in the territory to enhance society, to enhance culture and to enhance the economy, and to use it as a tool to improve the economy the way he wants to use the bridge in Dawson City to improve the economy, or roads to resources or any of the other things theyíve been investigating? So maybe the Premier in that context can tell me what the vision is.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: The Premier doesnít like answering questions. Imagine that. So the Premier doesnít have a vision when it comes to postsecondary education, doesnít really want to talk about the benefits of postsecondary education, what it does for communities in the Yukon, the potential it has to play a major role in the economy of the Yukon. Thatís unfortunate.
Iíll move on. The Premier doesnít have anything to say about that, so Iíll move on to another topic. Hereís something the Premier said in his budget speech: "Clean water is a fundamental service". Itís on page 32. So there are some commitments there that have been made that address the issue of clean water as a fundamental service, but there are a lot of things left by the wayside.
There are still a lot of people out there who are dealing with high water bills ó increased costs of water. If clean water is a fundamental service, is it also a fundamental right that people should have access to water? And should that water be affordable? There is no money in here to make water affordable for a lot of people who are my constituents. Whatís fair about people who pay $150 a month for water, as opposed to some, in some communities, who pay $11 a month for the same service? What is the Premier doing to address issues like that?
The Premier berated us yesterday about consultation. Well, Iíve been consulted to death about the issue of the cost of water. Iíve raised it in the Legislature and Iíve written letters. The Premier can stand up and tell me to ask the Minister of Highways and Public Works or the Minister of Community Services or the Minister of Health and Social Services, but what I want to know is what the Premier is going to do to address the high cost of water that some people in this territory are being forced to pay.
Itís a pretty simple question, and I think itís a fundamental right that people should have access to water. Itís like having access to housing, access to air. People need this to survive.
Now, the Premier has said in his budget speech that water is a fundamental service and that he has undertaken some initiatives. What specifically is the government prepared to do to step up to the plate and address the issue of making water affordable for all Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I will respond to the member opposite in this manner: there are actually two ministers involved in what is a process that we have undertaken to achieve safe, affordable drinking water for Yukoners. I would urge this member that, when either one of those ministers is up for debate, that he delves into this in great detail, as I am sure he will.
But I would point out to the member that the budget that was made available to him clearly shows some of the things that the government is doing. Not only is there ongoing process toward safe, affordable drinking water ó which is critical, considering what has happened in other provinces and other jurisdictions on this issue ó we are also investing in a program for well-drilling. In this budget there is some $700,000 being allocated toward that initiative ó another example of how the government is addressing the issue that the member speaks of.
But the member knew that because itís in the documentation he has before him ó the same documentation that I have before me.
So, letís go back to the memberís dissertations on the College. If the member had really chosen to be constructive in debate, he could have gone through the pages that specifically reflect the Department of Education. So, allow me, once again, to be helpful for the members opposite, and take them by the hand and lead them to the promised land of information that is already in their domain.
We talked about an alternative path school here in Whitehorse as one of the initiatives, as led by the Minister of Education. But we also talked about two other paths, and they have to do with the College. Let me just quote for a moment: "Our government will pay tuition for high school students to take courses or programs at Yukon College." Thereís an example. Thatís vision, Mr. Chair ó it is certainly connected to vision.
This program will be of particular benefit to students in rural communities, another component of vision, recognizing that there are children and students in rural communities who need help, demonstrated need, and weíve addressed it. They will have more course options to complete their high school diplomas and prepare them to move into post-secondary. Now, there is an excellent example of seeing ahead on behalf of our children. And that will allow them to be able to participate in college trades programs and be better prepared for entrance into post-secondary studies. There it is.
Now, the member had that example, that information, sitting there before him. Why are we going through this kind of debate? Now, the member could have gone into much more detail with the minister on this issue. But it goes on to say that the Department of Education will also be creating a promotional campaign, a promotional campaign to provide more information on trades and technology career options ó trades and technology career options. I would submit, Mr. Chair, that thatís another example of vision and post-secondary and involvement with the College.
Unless the member has some other view of that ó but I would caution the member that that view should be fleshed out with the minister responsible. It says ó and this has to do with vision ó that our government believes we need to place as much emphasis on the importance of trades and technology as we do on academic university degrees. That is vision ó V-I-S-I-O-N, capital V for vision. Mr. Chair, this was before the member opposite, yet weíve spent a good hour listening to the member make the point, make the statements that they do not have any information.
Again, the member is incorrect. It also points out that there is $500,000 of a $1.5-million investment in community training funds that is directed toward pre-employment and trades training. Thatís vision, because we see the connection here of academics as it relates to trades training. Some students, some individuals, are not really wanting to take the academic path. They look to the trades, for example. We are, through vision, addressing that issue. We are also, as the member pointed out, supporting the College now, and obviously that support today has impact in the future when it comes to the College. For example, in the 2004-05 budget, funding for the College will total $14.4 million.
Now, Mr. Chair, please allow me for the moment to explain something. $14.4 million invested into the College is $14.4 million that is linked to vision. We see the importance of the College. The vision is clear. The College has a major role to play in educating our citizens, in connecting and providing benefit in a very constructive, positive way to the Yukon economy and to the future of this territory.
The list goes on. We have a real vision here on dealing with our First Nation people. Our First Nation people ó and itís clearly an admission by this government, itís an admission by the federal government, itís a clear, clear direction by the Auditor General that there is a capacity issue, an education issue when it comes to the aboriginal people of this country. Well, we are trying to address that also in this budget with the ministerís leadership in dealing with the YNTEP program. We are investing $500,000 to hire six new native language instructors and trainees in order to increase support for native languages. How can we ensure that we improve the capacity and the education of our aboriginal people if we do not address culture and language?
Those are important components of achieving an improvement in education and capacity. We had the vision to invest in it.
The list goes on: the Yukon grant; the Yukon excellence awards; weíre creating more jobs for summer students through the STEP, the student training and employment program. These are opportunities for students to get insight into the corporate world, the working world, at the same time theyíre going through their schooling. And they may make decisions based on those experiences because we are, through vision, recognizing that more and more of those students should be involved on an interim basis, as provided by the STEP, not only to make some money during the summer, but to get experience and better insights into where they could go in the future. Thatís vision ó big-time vision ó and we are investing in it.
We are adding new positions. $177,000 is being invested in new positions. Adult literacy is also important to our government, and $100,000 will be added to the base funding for literacy in the 2004-05 budget. That comes from vision, in recognizing that there are adults out there too, who require assistance to be a more involved citizen in todayís Yukon. We are addressing that through vision.
The home tutor program is another area, and itís on a cost-share basis in Old Crow and has been very well-received. Given the fact that other communities have expressed interest, we are investing money. $375,000 is being provided to support tutors for rural schools. Thatís vision because we see the need and address the need. Now, what does that tutorship do? It helps those young people better prepare themselves ó for what? ó the future.
That could include trades training; that could include the job market, by achieving skill sets; that could include post-secondary education at the College.
There is an extensive list based on community priorities, and thatís an important factor because there were demonstrated needs in this area ó a total of $1 million in funding through the supplementary that was approved. It addressed immediate needs in every school. There was a vision involved here. That vision, in recognizing and seeing that there were immediate needs, was addressed. We invested $1 million in that particular area.
Now, Mr. Chair, it goes on. Letís look at vision when it comes to our schools. The Tantalus School in Carmacks is important to this government because itís required; there is a need for replacement. We are addressing it, and there is a vision here, by recognizing that need, that requirement. Under the leadership of the minister responsible for Education, we are moving forward. There is a great deal of vision on this side of the House ó a vision that began in an election in November 2002.
We presented that vision, that plan, to the Yukon public. We presented it in a manner that we believed the Yukon public would recognize that this was the right plan and vision for the Yukon. The Yukon public made the choice. It is our duty and responsibility now to carry it out, and we are doing just that. There is a long list of delivery when it comes to that vision.
We can no longer accept in this House what the members opposite are saying. I have just spent 15 minutes presenting to the members opposite information that addressed the questions from the members on education, post-secondary education and Yukon College. All that information was in the same document that every one of those members on the opposite side of the House has in their possession.
We do have an issue here and the issue is the oppositionís failure to recognize what their responsibilities and obligations are. I again will reach out to help the opposition in their attempt to carve out a niche in the political landscape, and theyíre not getting very far, but I will attempt to help them. The members opposite must recognize that if they want to make a difference, it begins with how they conduct themselves in this House in debate. And if they want to make a difference, they will quickly recognize that the approach they have taken is counterproductive. The approach they have taken is tuning Yukoners out. Yukoners cannot continue to listen to the members opposite imply that the government side is not answering questions and not providing information when on a daily occurrence itís on live television. Many Yukoners are witnessing the exact opposite. They are witnessing answers being provided. They are witnessing the tabling of detailed documentation for the members opposite. I could go on at great length, but the members opposite have to start to come to the realization that what theyíre doing is counterproductive and is actually of no useful purpose to the Yukon Territory.
So all the members have to do is stop for a moment, think about it, and come to that realization. And if they do, they will then quickly move on to debate department by department and line by line, because thatís where the detail is encompassed. Now, I think the government side has presented many examples that show the members opposite are incorrect. They are incorrect in their assessment.
Now, I canít understand why they continue this tack, this approach. This is not a good strategy. This is a strategy that does more harm to the opposition than good. This is a strategy that does not lend itself to constructive debate. Itís a very partisan-type strategy. Well, in many of these issues, there are no political boundaries, none whatsoever. There are no political boundaries in educating our children. There are no political boundaries in dealing with adults who have literacy issues. There are no political boundaries in dealing with situations in our economy. There are no political boundaries in dealing with our social issues in this territory. Itís a responsibility of all of us.
So the members could get to that detail quickly. All they have to do is stand down the partisan strategy and approach this with a strategy that reflects the interests of the Yukon public.
The Yukon public is more interested in turning the economy around, the improvement of their lives on a daily basis, and what is in their future. How do we address education needs? What do we do about our health needs? What do we do about our social issues? What do we do about small business? What do we do about taxation? Can we improve it? How do we attract investment into the territory? How do we maintain the Yukonís culture, its history, so rich and vibrant? Well, all those questions can be answered with the assistance of the members opposite if they choose to debate the budget in a constructive manner.
There are many pages in this budget. Thereís a huge investment, not only in the territory of today and its needs but in its future. The members opposite have a great deal to contribute if they move off the partisan approach and go after this on a basis that reflects their insights, their in-depth knowledge in areas of expertise that they may have, reflects what theyíre hearing from their respective constituencies, reflects the needs and requirements of the Yukon public. The constant, constant approach of not getting information is wearing quite thin, because the Yukon public is not in any way, shape or form buying that because they are witnessing the consistent delivery of information by the government side.
Now, Mr. Chair, I have tried on a number of occasions to get the members opposite to see the error of their ways. But I will not cease, no matter what. I will continue to promote constructive debate in this Legislature. In fact, every member on this side of the House will continue to promote constructive debate here in this Assembly. Itís our duty; itís our responsibility.
The members opposite must start to live up to their duty and their responsibility. They have the ability to come into this House better prepared, with all the information they received, and be able to debate this budget in a constructive, productive manner that improves the lives of Yukoners through their input.
Mr. Chair, with that, I will move that we report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that the Committee report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved 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:Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Committee of the Whole has also considered Bill No. 43, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, and has 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.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 20, 2004:
Yukon Lottery Commission 2002-03 Annual Report (Hart)
Yukon College 2002-03 Annual Report "Building Tomorrow Together" (Edzerza)
Yukon College Financial Statements, June 30, 2003, Office of the Auditor General of Canada (Edzerza)
Education, Department of: Public Schools Branch 2002-03 School Year Annual Report (Edzerza)