Monday, April 26, 2004 ó 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Hardy:It gives me great pleasure to welcome once again Margaret Commodore back to the Legislature. I donít think sheís going to be joining us down here, as she did definitely serve the people of the Yukon very well. She was also my MLA when I lived in Whitehorse Centre, and she is my favourite MLA.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart:I have for tabling a letter to the Member for Kluane in response to questions he raised regarding highway camp operation and maintenance for 2003-04.
Speaker: Are there any other returns or documents for tabling?
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. Fairclough:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to act immediately to address the need for a secure, therapeutic environment for people with serious mental disorders who are facing criminal charges, and to begin by commissioning a comprehensive, professional study of appropriate options in the Yukon and in nearby jurisdictions.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Justice to apologize, on behalf of the Government of Yukon, to the individual who spent more than a month in an isolation cell at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Dawson City sewage disposal
Mr. Hardy: Last week, I asked the Premier about some correspondence he had received from the Alaska regional director of the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council.
At the time, the Premier did not indicate that he had replied to that letter the day before, and what I have for tabling are copies of the letter dated April 20.
I have a follow-up question for the Premier based on that letter of reply. Is it the position of this government that the former Mayor and Council of Dawson City misspent $10.4 million under the long-term capital funding agreement between the Yukon government and the municipality?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, the issue with regard to the Mayor of the City of Dawson has been addressed. We have appointed a trustee to look into the situation and, right now, itís too early to respond to any of the issues with regard to that matter.
Mr. Hardy: The question was directed to the Premier in regard to a letter that the Premier had written. I donít believe that the minister is familiar with that letter.
Now, the language in the Premierís letter certainly implies that the former mayor and council misspent this money. The letter refers to a mismanagement of projects that has put the City of Dawson into financial insolvency. This letter not only went to Alaska, it was copied to a variety of other people, from the Prime Minister to the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, and even the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
The question is for the Premier. Has the Premier now decided that there is no need for either a forensic audit or a public inquiry in Dawson Cityís financial affairs?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As mentioned earlier, the trustee is in place for Dawson City and we are working our way through the aspect. The forensic audit is underway and weíre looking forward to its results.
Mr. Hardy: Once again I would like to advise the members opposite that Iím speaking in regard to a letter that was written by the Premier. The Premierís letter says that this government is committed to building a secondary sewage treatment facility in Dawson City that "will meet the most current standards while employing the most modern technology".
Once again, we have the Premier making announcements to people outside the territory before he lets anyone in the Yukon in on his plans.
The Premier even went so far as to invite a representative of the Intertribal Watershed Council to sit on the project management team. When was this project management team established, and what financial arrangements has the Premier made for building a sewage treatment facility?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have been working on the Dawson sewage system for some time now and this group is underway. We are reviewing the situation. As mentioned before in the House and in public, we are looking for a reasonable and affordable solution to the sewage system in Dawson for the Dawson residents and the taxpayers of the Yukon. We are in the process.
With regard to the tribal council, we have made that offer for them to sit on the council, for them to have some input into the system and also to see that weíre actually moving ahead on the issue.
Question re: Youth housing
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier, who is also responsible for the Youth Directorate. A number of people in leadership positions around the territory have expressed real concern about the lack of facilities for homeless young people. Last week, the manager of a downtown shelter for homeless youth told local media that the Premier and one of his senior advisors had offered the young offenders facility as a possible solution for housing homeless youth.
Was that a serious offer on the Premierís part and, if so, is that option still under consideration?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Here we are, back once again to buying the Roadhouse for $1.7 million by various methods. The issue before us is one of meeting the needs of youth. Letís look at the youth the member opposite is referring to.
The youth are those aged 18 to 30 and a number of them are being looked after through various agencies of the government. That is a fact and, further to that, our government is committed to funding the Youth of Today Society. They receive $110,000 under our watch. Thatís up from zero just a few short years ago to $110,000 in core funding to assist them with programming.
Mrs. Peter: This question is about an offer that was made by the Premier to use the young offenders facility. In March 2001, the Northern Research Institute published a study of Whitehorse youth and homelessness. Couch surfing was the most common response to the question, "Where do you sleep most nights?" Sixty-four percent of homeless young people said they had felt they had no place to go, nowhere to stay. The only option for many of them was couch surfing. This is a dangerous situation for all of us, Mr. Speaker, not just the youth. Homelessness amongst our youth leads to drug use, sexual assaults, theft, mental illness and even suicide. What is this government doing to make the problem of homeless youth in Whitehorse a priority and when will we see some concrete action?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite should be well aware that thereís concrete action being taken right now by our government and it has been ongoing since shortly after we took office. It took us a short time to get a handle on the financial position of the government, and then we moved forward. The Youth of Today Society has received $110,000 in core funding, but Iíd be remiss if I didnít mention that last year our government received a proposal from the Youth of Today Society to purchase the Roadhouse Inn. That was for use as a youth shelter. Capital cost: $1.77 million. The Youth of Today Society wanted a commitment from YTG for a $382,000 down payment, the ongoing cost of O&M and all of that area.
My colleagues and I have met continuously with leadership of the Youth of Today Society.
We havenít seen our way clear to fund this initiative directly, but we are buying program space. We are committed to providing the Youth of Today Society with $110,000 in core funding, as well as the other youth shelter.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre repairs
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice. Despite a nine-year-old report that tells the Government of Yukon not to waste any more money fixing up the jail, this Yukon Party government is set to spend a whole bunch of money fixing up the jail. Everyone in the Yukon knows the facility needs to be replaced, not repaired. We are simply wasting taxpayersí money. On Friday, the government issued a tender for upgrades to the existing building. Can the minister tell the Legislature how much money is budgeted for these repairs and can she confirm that the repairs are being done because the jail is in violation of the safety rules?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As I have said repeatedly on a number of occasions in this Legislature, our government is certainly committed to replacing the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We have also said, however, that we want to ensure that the project replacing the Whitehorse Correctional Centre properly reflects the needs of the community it serves. We are adhering to each of the recommendations made by the fire marshal, and that money of course was reflected in the supplementary budget presented last fall.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Iím delighted the minister has found her voice. The ministerís answers tell Yukoners a great deal about the priorities of this government.
While the Minister of Justice was busy on Friday wasting money on repairs to the jail, her colleague, the Minister of Highways, and the Premier were busy announcing that the Yukon Party was building a new $415,000 weigh station in the Premierís riding. And the reason, Mr. Speaker ó Iím going to quote from the governmentís press release: "This project will provide a safer facility for users and staff and it will allow us to replace a 30-year-old building that is increasingly costly to maintain." So the jail is 37 years old and is increasingly costly to maintain. Itís not being replaced. A weigh station that just so happens to be in the Premierís riding is being replaced.
Perhaps we should build the jail in Watson Lake and it might become a priority of the government.
Why does the Yukon Party government continue to play Russian roulette with public safety by deciding not to rebuild the jail?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate our position here again. I will reiterate it again and again and again. The safety and security of our staff and our inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is of utmost importance to me as Minister of Justice, as well as to this government, the Government of Yukon.
I have stated on a number of occasions we are committed to the full replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We have also made a commitment, though, to include the full involvement of all Yukon First Nations as well as community stakeholders and other levels of government in the consultation on corrections.
I have stated on a number of occasions that, prior to constructing a facility, it is very important to take the time to discuss this very issue, this very important initiative, with all Yukoners regarding the scope of the facility to go up, regarding the type of programming to deliver in the facility and what can be delivered in our communities ó communities such as Old Crow, which the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin had referred to earlier in a motion that was debated on the floor of this Legislature a couple of weeks ago.
We are fully committed to that full discussion. We welcome it, and we look forward to it.
Ms. Duncan: The government is ignoring $2 million in consultation, planning and actually moving the dirt to replace the facility. A court decision last week highlighted how inadequate the current facility is. Itís more evidence that the building needs to be replaced. The Yukon Party government has been criticized by a judge, by the legal community, by human rights advocates, by experts in mental health and by friends of the victim for its inhumane treatment of this individual. Itís clear to everyone that this mentally ill man was poorly treated by the minister and by the department and by the Government of Yukon.
Will the minister finally admit her department, the Department of Justice, did something wrong, and will she apologize to the victim?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, once an individual is found to be not criminally responsible, it is no longer a criminal justice matter. It becomes a health matter, and the member opposite is harping time and time again ó
Speaker: Order please. Order please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I withdraw the term "harping."
Speaker: Thank you. Carry on.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite goes on continuously about the need for a new jail. What we do need are new programs. And when we do need programs that we are not able to provide here because of the small size of our population, we buy those services. Whether it be a heart transplant or a bypass operation or psychiatric services, we have to rely on outside jurisdictions for their expertise and we have arrangements with them ó yet a verbal arrangement with Alberta and British Columbia and we access capacity there.
So where weíre starting, Mr. Speaker, is correctional reform. We are going to endeavour to provide the services the best way possible and continue to provide them from outside of our jurisdiction where we donít have the capacity in-house to do so.
Question re: Renewable resource council funding
Mr. McRobb:The first four First Nations in the territory to sign agreements had a commitment from the federal government to fund renewable resource councils. That 10-year funding agreement has now expired and weíre still waiting to hear news of any commitment from anybody to continue funding the RRCs. This situation has unfortunately taken a turn for the worse. Some offices were closed last month while others are able to maintain only skeleton operations. We need to know what this government has cooking. Can the minister inform this House whether a solution to this funding conundrum has been found and whether heís willing to cough up some bridge funding for the councils if necessary?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite certainly brings to light an unusual problem here in that the funding was federal funding; it comes through the Department of Environment for YTG, but it is federal funding. We continue to negotiate and to work with the federal government with our federal MP to point out that some renewable resource councils are having problems. Some have existing funds up to about $114,000 and some have none. Itís a federal problem. We are in continual contact with the federal government and we are working with our MP, who we hope is doing his good work in getting this problem solved.
Mr. McRobb: Here we go. The minister is waiting for a sugar daddy to come along and fix the problem for him.
Now, this government has a huge surplus and is willing to spend millions to fund a bridge that people donít want but isnít willing to find bridge funding for the councils. What kind of government is this? Letís review some of the facts: three of the four RRCs have no money to operate; First Nations have no direct responsibility for RRC funding. That responsibility lies completely with the Yukon government and the federal government.
The Yukon government uses and depends on RRCs extensively. The existence of these councils is mandated in the Umbrella Final Agreement. What is this minister doing to ensure these councils are able to function as they should?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly the concept of sugar daddy is well-known across the way. Thatís certainly where I usually hear it.
To correct the member oppositeís math ó the NDP math ó I believe there are seven or eight renewable resource councils. When the member opposite says that the First Nations have no direct responsibility, heís quite right. I would also point out that the territorial government has no direct responsibility. This is a federal matter and we continue to work with our federal Member of Parliament and we certainly hope that he has luck with his colleagues in providing the funding that the federal government has committed.
Mr. McRobb: The minister failed to answer the question of whether or not this government is prepared to cough up the bridge funding. Now, resource councils are involved in many important local initiatives. For example, in the Mayo district, the renewable resource council is involved in the Peel River planning effort, the Northern Tutchone planning effort, oil and gas development plans, trapline allocations, fire management zones, forestry legislation for the Yukon government and placer mining.
The Alsek Renewable Resource Councilís working on those same important initiatives, plus caribou quota negotiations, prescribed burning, agriculture applications, forest policy framework, the spruce beetle symposium and so on.
Can the minister tell us: without the RRCs operating effectively, what organization or body will this government be using to allow local input on these important matters to continue?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, this is a federal problem that actually goes much further than the member opposite has noticed, if he gets out of the lip-lock of his lists there. It also includes ó
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Kenyon:I withdraw that, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker:Although humorous, itís out of order. Iíd ask the member not to use that term.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I was just at the moment impressed with the list. This goes well beyond renewable resource councils. It goes into heritage boards; it goes into tourism; it goes into a number of different departments. The federal government has made a commitment and it is a federal government responsibility.
For our part, we have offered to renewable resource councils and, I believe, to others to be in contact with their bank so they can arrange their own bridge financing, but I have to stress to the member opposite that these are independent bodies funded by the federal government. It is not a First Nation problem; it is not a territorial government problem; it is a federal Liberal problem.
Question re: Psychiatric treatment and assessment
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Last week the minister wouldnít make any commitments to change how prisoners with serious mental health problems are treated. He has convinced himself that the system works, in spite of the fact that this type of treatment goes against international and Canadian standards.
In British Columbia, this type of treatment was outlawed 30 years ago as cruel and unusual punishment. Why is the minister continuing to ignore the plight of inmates who need psychiatric help, or does he still insist that the system is working?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite knows full well that the system is working and will continue to work. The issue before us is one of a judge, or a justice of the peace, sentencing an individual to remand and for an evaluation. There were three choices. The choice made by the judge, or the justice of the peace, was to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. It could have been the Whitehorse Hospital; it could have been into another jurisdiction, in Alberta or British Columbia; but the justice system worked. The judge, or the justice of the peace, elected Whitehorse Correctional Centre. From there, the assessment was done.
Mr. Fairclough: Heís missing the point. I ought to review this matter in some detail. This government is fond of saying how great the working relationship they have with our neighbouring territories and provinces is. Until last year there were agreements in place to send Yukon prisoners to B.C. or Alberta for psychiatric assessment. Why didnít the minister renew those agreements when he had the chance, or was he just trying to save some money?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member well knows ó once again, he must have been listening to the news, which reported incorrectly that there was an arrangement. Thereís a working arrangement. Thatís all we have with British Columbia and with Alberta, and we continue to rely on that working relationship with these neighbouring jurisdictions for a number of health care areas, not only for psychiatric evaluations but for bypass surgery and for heart transplants, just as an example. We just do not have the capacity, given our size, to provide all of these facilities. We have to rely on our neighbouring jurisdictions for a lot of the services and we have to buy those services in those jurisdictions.
Mr. Fairclough: Part of the ministerís answer was correct: this government had a choice. This prisoner could have gone to another jurisdiction instead of being subjected to inhumane treatment in a tiny punishment cell.
Now, another judge has spoken up about the problem of using Whitehorse Correctional Centre as a mental hospital. A British Columbia law professor called the treatment of this prisoner a gross human rights violation, one of the worst he has seen.
Now, the minister is speculating about using part of the Thomson Centre for psychiatric patients, but he wouldnít provide any studies to show that this would work. So will the minister commission a comprehensive professional study of the best way to address this problem before anyone else has to suffer at the hands of this government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The issue before us is a rapid and quick treatment of individuals who come before the criminal justice system when they have a health issue. Mr. Speaker, that is currently being done. One option that the court system had was to sentence this individual to the Whitehorse Hospital, where this individual currently is located. That was an option. It wasnít anyone in the ministerial or government ranks who made the determination that this individual was to be sentenced to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre for evaluation. It was the court system that did that. That same individual could have made the determination that this individual could be sentenced to the Whitehorse Hospital or to a facility in a neighbouring jurisdiction. Those options exist. We just develop and operate the programs. Thatís where we are. Weíre a service provider, and we provide some of the highest possible levels of care and service here in the Yukon that youíll receive anywhere in Canada.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, segregation cell
Mrs. Peter:I have a question for the Minister of Justice. All last week, the minister refused to answer serious questions regarding her department. The minister needs to show some leadership on an issue that cannot be ignored any longer. This government has a responsibility to make sure that people who need help will not be simply put in "the hole" and left there while their condition gets worse. Weíve heard a great deal from this minister about correctional reform, but the fact remains that the existing facilities are simply not acceptable. When will the Minister of Justice get on with providing a safe, secure facility for people who are incarcerated?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Once more for the record, Mr. Speaker, once an individual is found to be not criminally responsible, it is no longer a criminal justice matter. It becomes a health matter.
Now, I donít know how many times I have to say that, Mr. Speaker, but Iíll say it as often as is required. What the members opposite want us to do as a government is go out and build a new $30-million jail, buy the Roadhouse hotel, spend millions and millions of dollars without doing proper homework, and that proper homework entails a correctional reform review. And that is whatís currently underway.
As for the individual who was sentenced to WCC for evaluation, the courts could have made the determination that the Whitehorse Hospital was a more appropriate setting. That is also a designated site for mental health, the same as Whitehorse Correctional Centre is.
Mrs. Peter: Perhaps the question wasnít clear enough. It was for the Minister of Justice.
And the Minister of Health and Social Services is blaming the courts now.
The Premier and the Justice minister both like to say that this issue is not about facilities but about programming. I agree with that, Mr. Speaker. Rehabilitation requires good programming. This Minister of Justice needs to do more than just pay lip service to programming or to community justice. So far, we have seen no planning, no evaluation, and no new restorative justice programs under this ministerís watch.
Since the minister is not doing anything to replace the jail, can she tell us what she is doing to support community justice programs in the territory?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Indeed, this government is very much committed to restorative justice delivered by our communities. In fact, we do support it to the tune of almost $500,000, which is actually reflected in this 2004-05 budget that weíre debating here and, coupled with that is the federal government; thereís almost $1 million toward the delivery of community justice in our communities. Now, as I have also said on a number of occasions here, again, we are very much committed to the full replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We are also committed, however, to ensuring that the project replacing the actual facility ensures that the needs of all citizens in this territory are met.
Mr. Speaker, we both debated at great length with respect to the need for consultations ó full and comprehensive consultations ó on corrections in the territory. I had made that commitment on the floor of the House. Iíll do it again today, that we are fully committed to the full involvement of Yukon First Nations in the delivery of corrections in the territory. Weíre also committed to a full consultation process that will be transparent, meaningful and comprehensive.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair:Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Before we begin Committee of the Whole, the Chair would like to make a statement about the language used in Committee.
Last Thursday the Chair intervened after the leader of the official opposition used the terms "rant", "rave" and "tirade" to describe comments made by the Premier. Afterwards the leader of the official opposition said he would try to restrict his language to what he called "a very narrow, defined box". The Chair is not without empathy for the leader of the official opposition. The Chair appreciates that he, like other members, wishes to express strongly held views. The Chair also acknowledges that the leader of the official opposition and some other members have expressed the view that rulings and statements from the Chair are unduly limiting their freedom of speech as regards their choice of words.
However, the Chair hopes that members will appreciate that the Chairís duty is to maintain order and decorum during debate. In this regard, the Chair is also guided by the desires members have expressed to elevate the level of decorum in the Chamber. When strong language is used on one side of the Chamber, it will then be heard coming from the other side. Invariably this leads to disorder when members begin making derogatory comments about one another rather than discussing the issues before the Committee.
I hope, therefore, that members will appreciate why the Chair is making the rulings and statements that he is and adhere to them.
We will now continue on with general debate on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Bill No. 10 ó First Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Hon. Mr. Fentie:Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate your ruling, as Iím sure all members of the House do.
Letís just reflect for a few moments on where weíre at today in the Assembly in regard to the budget for 2004-05. Weíve spent a great deal of time in general debate trying to encourage the members opposite to recognize the fact that, should the members want to get into specific detail in regard to a specific department, we should move on from general debate to get into department-by-department debate and line-by-line debate. That is exactly what that area of debate is all about: for the members opposite to be able to delve into more detail in these areas.
However, we have not managed to do that. General debate has started to become a matter of circular discourse, where the same questions are being asked and the response, of course, has to be the same. But I think for a moment we should reflect on maybe some of the main themes of this budget and what it is weíre doing.
It begins with putting our fiscal house in order, Mr. Chair. That was an imperative and prerequisite for us to move on to get to the point where we have been able to table a very balanced budget ó the highest budget in the history of the Yukon, with a huge investment in capital, a huge investment in our social agenda and, of course, a huge investment in Yukon communities and in Yukoners themselves.
The second theme is a new direction. Itís about building a sustainable and competitive Yukon economy, and that means that, given Yukonersí highest priority, which is our economic situation, the budget reflects to the greatest degree that new direction and that work of building a sustainable and competitive Yukon economy. It focuses on the immediate with the stimulation weíre providing with this budget, with the investments across the territory in so many areas, be it tax incentives, investments in infrastructure, or the jobs and benefits being created.
Itís about the mid- and long-term linkages to our economy, because the focus must be maintained beyond today so that the direction the territory is now starting to go in will continue in that direction and continue to build momentum.
Itís about focusing through investment in the budget on strategic industries and projects. Examples of those are the mining industry, and weíre seeing improvements there. Of course, what happens today in the mining industry has a major bearing on the mid-term and long-term economic well-being and growth of the territory.
Itís investing in tourism and culture. When we look at tourism, itís a tremendous strategic industry for our territory, itís a huge employer, and we in the Yukon recognize the importance of tourism ó not only what it means now, in the immediate, but also in the mid and long term. Again, thatís why the investment in tourism is there.
Cultural industries are tremendously important, and letís look at the investment in the Department of Economic Development when it comes to the film incentive program. We are today experiencing in the Yukon Territory a tremendous project from the film industry, called Big White, a film that is a high-budget, major-production film. They are here in the Yukon because of the investment that this government has provided in the film incentive program, and we recognize that focusing that investment in the arts and the cultural industries is as critical as focusing on resource industries.
Another strategic industry is forestry, and we know where weíre going there with our investments in forestry, Mr. Chair. We are advancing the Yukonís capacity and ability to build a forest industry, not only now but for the mid-term and long-term economic well-being of the Yukon Territory.
Oil and gas ó another important strategic industry. Above all, as we find through exploration more and more reserves, as we are able to develop and put into production those reserves, especially in southeast Yukon, all Yukoners benefit simply by virtue of the fact that our own-source revenues increase, which allows the government more options in terms of where they can invest and how much they can invest in the future of our territory.
Energy, another strategic industry; there are investments there. Agriculture; investments there. Transportation and construction; many investments there helping create the economic direction in which we are heading. Information and technology is another area of investment that is certainly important strategic industry, and of course retail and wholesale trade. Those investments throughout those strategic industries and projects were not ours alone to make the decision on, but in working with many groups and associations and representation of Yukon business community, labour and First Nations, and also our Association of Yukon Communities. These ideas and these strategic focuses are the product of a collective, which we call "Team Yukon".
The fourth area, or theme, of the budget is formalizing a government-to-government relationship with First Nations and building partnerships. We are investing in that area and some of the successes to date are allowing us to realize benefits in our strategic industries, for example, and building healthy communities and implementing our social agenda. There is a tremendous investment in the social side of the ledger when it comes to this governmentís approach to reaching out to those in need and to making the lives of Yukoners better.
Investments in community services, the Youth Directorate, the Womenís Directorate, justice, the Public Service Commission, education, environment. We went through that issue the other day. Substantially more monies and resources are put toward the Department of Environment than the Department of Economic Development. I believe itís some three times more investment in our environment than the Department of Economic Development. Thatís the seriousness that we approach the issue of our environment with.
We are going to ensure that our environment is there for future generations. However, this government, unlike the members opposite, is convinced and believes in the fact that we can take a balanced approach and we can allow responsible development without compromising our future and our environment.
Also, Mr. Chair, huge investment in Health and Social Services ó and itís all predicated on the fact that at the very first instance we put the Yukonís fiscal house in order.
Now, Mr. Chair, the time has come to move on so that we can debate with the members opposite in great detail those investments, those themes and so that we can debate with the members opposite the direction that this government is now taking the Yukon Territory. The trends are showing positive signs. Itís the increase in population ó positive sign. The increase in the workforce ó and for the most part, that increase is a collaboration of government and private sector. The downturn in the unemployment rate to the third lowest in the country is another positive sign that the trends are heading in the right direction. We know there is more coming.
So if the members opposite, within the spirit and the context of constructive, expeditious debate on behalf of the Yukon public ó we will move on. If the members opposite are more interested in debating in a manner that will delay the inevitable, the passage of this budget, it is to their detriment, Mr. Chair, because the Yukon public has concerns far beyond the repeated questions coming from the members opposite and far beyond having to listen to the repeated answers from the government side. The only way to solve the issue on behalf of the Yukon public is to move on to department-by-department, line-by-line.
Letís get debating in detail this budget, the biggest budget in the history of the Yukon, with some $162 million of capital investment in Yukon for today and for tomorrow. It is a good budget, we stand by it and we commend it to the House and to the Yukon public, because the greatest degree of the construction of this budget is the Yukon public.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Hardy: I do have to agree on one statement in all that discussion on our position the Premier took, and thatís the final one where he says that the public has concerns far beyond this budget. That is an absolute and fundamental statement. Thatís the first one Iíve heard from that side that I can actually agree with.
Because Iíll tell you, Mr. Chair, that the general public does not just judge a government based upon how much money it can spend or whatís in the budget. They also judge a government on its character, its ethics, how it crafts that budget, and also how it behaves and treats the general public and how itís accountable. Thatís what the general public does. Itís not just on supplementaries; itís not just on the fact that this government has brought in the largest budget in the history of the Yukon and is spending money, the taxpayersí money.
The people of this territory expect a far greater accountability than just spending money, and this Premier does not understand that.
Mr. Chair, there are many issues facing the territory. How we resolve those issues is fundamental to the future of this territory.
What are the ethics? What are the guidelines? What are the principles of the people who are elected who make these decisions? To date, we do not know. We do not know what the Yukon Party government stands for because all we hear is about how much money itís spending.
I hear on the streets daily issues that are not talking about the money.
The issues are talking about the behaviour of this government, about the stacking of the boards and committees, removing qualified people, good people, from around this territory and putting in place people of their chosen field, of narrowing the opportunity for the people of this territory to have input. Thatís one example.
What about the environment? This Premier talks like he has created a balanced budget. In the same breath, he talks about his strike against the environment. Mr. Chair, itís not a balanced budget and the people of this territory know that.
What about the workers of this territory? What about the employees of the territorial government and what they were put through, Mr. Chair? It was an unfair and aggressive witch-hunt on the workers of this territory. Is that any way you treat people ó on the computer use investigation? Thatís what people are talking about in the communities.
What about the loans? Where are the ethical standards, Mr. Chair, in regard to paying back loans that are owed to the government and yet collecting a paycheque from the people of this territory. Where are they? Thatís what the people of this territory want to see.
Itís not good enough to talk about how much money you can spend, how much of the peopleís money you can spend. You also have to talk about how you collect that money from people who owe it back to the taxpayers.
What about the Liquor Act? I havenít seen any legislation, or very, very little legislation come into this Legislature, this House, since they have been elected. Why? Does that mean that work is not being done over there? You know what, Mr. Chair? People really care about that.
The Education Act review. People really care about that. Thatís part of being a government. The Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board review. Occupational Health and Safety regulations are supposed to be brought in. Where are those, Mr. Chair? I donít see the work being done. We wait in here to have that debate. It doesnít happen. The whistle-blower legislation. Promises made. We have to bring something forward to try to instill some debate around that. I donít see that coming forward. The huge and very, very disturbing discussions around the captive wildlife and the changes that were going to be forced through. If it werenít for people standing up and voicing their opinions and fighting for a chance to slow it down and allow an opinion to be expressed ó a different opinion from what the Yukon Party government is putting forward ó we would have seen those rammed through.
We see decisions made, for instance, around the tow truck issue where a minister interfered. Where is the accountability there? What about the municipal government in Dawson City and how theyíve been treated?
Iíd like to remind you, Mr. Chair, and Iíd like to remind this House that that municipal government was fairly and duly elected by the people of Dawson City. There is an expectation by the people of this territory, by the people in Dawson City and by the people down here and throughout all the communities and municipalities that there will be a relationship between those levels of government. It should be conducted in a manner of respect and recognition of each levelís roles.
In this case, we did not see it. There have been many reasons brought forward why they should have been removed by the Yukon Party government, but there are just as many reasons why they should stay. This is a council that was doing its best to resolve issues that it did not create but inherited. And they were doing some good work. And what has to be pointed out is they were working with the territorial government over the last few years. It is not just that the municipal government up there worked in a vacuum and totally ignored the direction that was given by the territorial government in regard to the monies. There was a supervisor up there working with them from the territorial government. There were discussions at a ministerial level to the municipal level about the loans, about where the money can go. There were people involved in those projects, those capital works projects, that there are some problems. The territorial government was as responsible and involved as the municipal government and must share some of that responsibility in the end.
Does that mean that the territorial government should also resign? Why should one? Of course not, that would be silly; but it wasnít fair to have the municipal government removed ó the people up there, the people who are duly elected, who are from Dawson City and doing their best.
What about the jail? We ask questions in here, and all we get back is that we want to build this $30-million jail. Itís interesting that the jail has gone from $18 million to $22 million to $30 million by the estimates on that side. Obviously, they donít have any studies; they havenít done any studies, Mr. Chair. But letís use the last figure that we heard, which was around $18 million to $20 million to build a jail.
The argument on the other side is that theyíre focusing on program development. Well, you know what, Mr. Chair? I donít think thereís a person in this territory who doesnít recognize that jail has to be replaced. There is no question about it. That work can be ongoing. That work can work in the same stream as program development. That can happen with the First Nation governments. All that can be happening together. Itís not programs or the jail; it has never been that. No one has ever said that, but that is the picture thatís being painted by the government across the way and thatís why we have difficulty debating and thatís why we have difficulty talking about this budget ó because these elements are not put in it. The government across the way refuses to answer questions that we ask in this regard.
They bring forward money very casually in regard to a bridge. They criticize the opposition about studies that we supposedly should be referencing, but whereís the study on the bridge? Whereís the cost analysis on the bridge? Whereís the needs assessment on the bridge? Where are the environmental impact studies on the bridge? That was never given to us because thereís nothing current ó absolutely nothing current. Yet the Yukon Party government, in all its wisdom in this budget, puts money toward the bridge.
So where did that come from? Where is the rationale? Where did that come from ó from a small group of people sitting in a room? It didnít go out to the public. There havenít been open discussions in Dawson City on what kind of impact it would have on their tourism, good or bad. But it was very easy to spend $1.4 million to initiate the process of building this bridge without any studies done, without any consultation done, and you wonder why we have difficulty accepting this budget? Whereís the rationale? Whereís the thinking in this budget?
Sure, if you give any group of people enough money, they are going to do some good, but theyíre also going to do some bad. Theyíre also going to go in directions that may not be the best direction for this territory. I just named some of them. To me it looks like this is a government that operates on the theory of chaos, because it doesnít seem to have any rhyme nor reason to the crafting of this budget. There doesnít seem to be rhyme or reason. We have heard already that this is the flagship budget. So what does that mean next year? If youíre going to say that this is the flagship budget, what are you telling the people next year? That thereís going to be a complete implosion, everything is going to collapse inward, that all of a sudden the budgets are going to go from $705 million plus, because we havenít seen the supplementaries for the fall yet, back to $600 million or $620 million. What kind of impact will that have on our economy? Is that long-term planning? No. This type of budget is what I see as boom-and-bust, up-and-down type of spending. We have debated whether this budget is sustainable. We have asked those questions. Can you do this type of budgeting next year? Can you spend $705 million next year? Of course you canít. It has already been said now that itís going to be smaller next year. Whereís the rationale around it then?
When we ask questions, what do we get back? How dare we question this budget. Itís the greatest budget in the history of the Yukon; blah, blah, blah. Well thatís what weíre here for ó to question this budget, to pick it apart, to analyze it, to debate it. We will do that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, the Premier on the other side is kibitzing once again. Well, letís get at it. He seems not to understand that general debate in the mains is exactly that.
At some point I would hope that he would understand what this Legislature is about, but when we are in general debate of the mains, it allows every single person on this side to ask questions to the Premier, who is supposed to be the leader and be able to answer these questions instead of always trying to deflect them. Even when we ask questions in his own department, he tries to deflect them. Thatís not what being a leader is about. Itís about accepting responsibility and being able to stand on this floor and answer the questions that are directed at him.
Mr. Chair, thereís a lot of inconsistency in the approach that the Yukon Party government has taken to develop this budget, and one of the biggest concerns we hear out there in the general public is the unaccountable nature of this government ó when questions are asked, how they attack back, and when we ask a certain question, how they say, "Oh, the oppositionís dwelling in the past." Even when we ask a current question, we get accused of being in the past.
What do they do when they stand up on the other side, Mr. Chair? They immediately go into the past and attack us about some past incident. You canít have it both ways, Mr. Chair, and you should never put down the knowledge gained from the past, nor should we ever ignore our past. It is what gives us the wisdom to go forward.
And, yes, at times we will reference the past and that should be respected. Itís like going and spending time with elders or your seniors and listening to them tell the stories of the past. Thatís where you gain strength; thatís where you gain knowledge. I would never ignore the seniors when they speak, and I donít think we should. And I donít think we should ignore the lessons learned in the past and pretend they donít exist. Thatís why we have Hansard; thatís why we have recorded statements. Thatís why the actions within the Legislature are recorded, so people can reference it, learn from it, move forward, recognize that mistakes have been made, recognize successes that have been made in the past, bring those forward and advance our agendas. There are a lot of issues.
Now, I asked the question, Mr. Chair ó it was a simple question, and the Premier spent 20 minutes responding to all kinds of things except for the simple question I asked, and like most questions on this side, itís about accessing information. Even if we get a breakdown, it will be tabled or sent to us in letter form, whatever, later, and it is for the public interest that we ask these questions. And it allows us to debate them thoroughly.
And what was the question I asked? It was simple: could the Premier give me an idea of what the unemployment level in Watson Lake would be today? That was all it was. Now Iíve had 20 minutes that did not address a simple question. Why is that, Mr. Chair? Why? Why is it so hard for the Premier to stand up on the other side and say, "I donít have those figures in front of me" ó unless he does have them. But if he doesnít, "I donít have those figures in front of me at this moment, but Iíll make sure the member gets them."
Weíll get hold of the Bureau of Statistics, weíll get a breakdown and send those figures over.
So letís start where we left off. Itís a very simple question: could the Premier give me an idea of what the unemployment levels in Watson Lake are today?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again the member opposite has failed to recognize that the question was answered. In fact, I said in regard to this question that we donít keep the stats. Weíve confirmed that. The stats branch does not break down, community by community, the unemployment factor.
But I did say right here on the floor of the Legislature that the unemployment rate in the community of Watson Lake is too high, and thatís why weíre doing what we can to reduce that unemployment rate. But the member has this question. Thatís about all the member has left after that long dissertation ó 99.9 percent of it incorrect again ó and itís obvious that the member opposite doesnít understand what Committee of the Whole is all about.
Committee of the Whole is not a mechanism in this Assembly to listen to incorrect information. Itís about debating the business on behalf of the public that is tabled in this House. In this case, it is a budget.
I know the New Democrats, the official opposition, have a huge problem with this budget because of the major investment on the social side of the ledger. Thatís a problem for them. Itís hard for them to attack this budget, but itís even compounded by the fact that the government, through its budget, is investing in improving the economic situation of the Yukon Territory.
So, Mr. Chair, if the New Democrats in this House, the official opposition, are committed to debating the budget on behalf of Yukoners, there is one simple choice for them to make: move into department-by-department, line-by-line, so that the detail can be debated. That is not what general debate is about. We all know that general debate is not about detailed debate on specific issues in specific departments.
Thatís what department-by-department debate is all about, and every minister in this government is prepared to respond to the members opposite. This constant, constant complaint that the members donít receive any answers again is incorrect. The members receive answers, the correct answers, but they do not like the answer so it sparks them into another level of discourse that has, Mr. Chair, absolutely no relevance to the issues and the concerns of Yukoners. But if they want to debate with some relevance and some substance, letís get into the detail and letís see what the official opposition has to offer the Yukon public.
So, Mr. Chair, I did answer the question. I answered it Thursday of last week and I answered it again today, and if the member opposite asks it again, the response will be clear.
Mr. Hardy: I understand the Premier that, in his own mind, in this world he lives in, he feels he has answered the question ó basically he doesnít know what the unemployment levels are. This is his riding, this is his town and you would think he would have some sense of how bad the unemployment levels are. He now says that there are no statistics there at all pointing toward any kind of breakdown in the regions throughout the territory ó itís just one big, broad statement.
So, we can explore that, of course, but I contend ó I want to bring it back now ó Iím a firm believer that there is a relationship in politics and morality and itís absolutely vital for our future. That is the problem I am seeing with this budget and that is the problem that the people of this territory are seeing with this government, and itís not connected. People want to see how these decisions are being made and where itís going.
Thatís their right, and they have a right to know that. They also have an expectation from the opposition ó whether itís the NDP, the Liberals or the Yukon Party, when they were over here ó to ask these questions. We would not be doing our job if we didnít.
What Iím concerned about, and what a lot of people have said, is theyíve never seen the level of resistance to answering any type of question as they have with this new government. There is nothing in our history, nothing in our past, that points to such a shutdown and lack of information being shared. If we ask for the information to be sent over to our table, we get back a speech, a discourse, whatever you want to call it.
Politics is a discourse of our public life, and thatís something weíre part of. We talk about common good; we talk about values and we try to have those reflected from our different perspective not only in our budget but also in our actions and the decisions we take.
Weíve talked about the very shallow legislation that has been brought forward. We expected a lot more. After 18 months, we expected a substantial amount of legislation. Thereís also some legislation out there thatís waiting to be dealt with. This government doesnít seem to have an appetite to deal with that.
Iím quite willing to move forward into departmental debate and line-by-line debate. So with that, Mr. Chair, Iíll sit down and maybe we can move forward.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, considering the days of general debate on the budget and the enormous amount of incorrect information brought forward by the members opposite to the floor of this Legislature, the government side is compelled to give an example of exactly that.
Now, the leader of the official opposition has stated a number of things this afternoon in regard to an unemployment factor and that the question wasnít answered and that the government side doesnít know. Mr. Chair, with your indulgence, I want to quote from last Thursdayís Blues the exact response to that very question when it comes to the unemployment factor in Watson Lake. Mr. Chair, I quote: Well, I donít have with me a community breakdown of unemployment for the territory; however, factually, based on statistics, Yukon now has the third lowest unemployment rate in the country. The statistics we have do not break down by community the unemployment rate." I went on to say, Mr. Chair, that "Öas an MLA for the community of Watson Lake, I can tell you the unemployment rate is too highÖ."
Now, Mr. Chair, that is evidence that is testimony to what the government side is pointing out to the Yukon public. That answer was given last Thursday. Again, the leader of the official opposition, void of any substance for debate in general debate, empty of any vision, has come forward with the same question ó the same question asked on Thursday. Well, Mr. Chair, the government side provided the same answer. And if we go through Hansard example by example, question by question, answer by answer, we will see the exact same thing.
Now, the members opposite have made much about the fact that the government side does not answer the questions. Mr. Chair, I point out again, at the risk of being repetitive, the opposition side does not like the answers, but I have provided, in quote, from the pages of Hansard the evidence of exactly what the government side is saying. So if the leader of the official opposition is prepared to move on, thatís a good sign that maybe the leader of the official opposition is starting to recognize the folly of their ways.
Mr. Hardy: So the Premier admits that he doesnít have the answer. He doesnít know what the unemployment figures are in Watson Lake. He thinks theyíre too high. Well, whatís the definition of too high? Can the Premier tell me that there have never been any statistical studies on communitiesí breakdown of unemployment levels?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The answer was ó again, I repeat ó the statistics we have do not break down the unemployment rate by community. They donít do it. Now I know that the official opposition will probably invent one or they will bring forward incorrect information about one, but thatís typical.
Chair: Order please. Itís entirely inappropriate to make those comments. Itís unparliamentary language and Iíd ask the Premier to retract his statement.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Fentie:I retract "invent" and replace it with "bringing forward incorrect information", which is something the members opposite are doing continually.
Chair: Order. The comment that the members opposite are continually bringing forward inaccurate information casts upon the opposition the assumption that they knowingly bring forward that information, that they know itís incorrect and theyíre bringing it forward anyway, and that is unparliamentary. The Premier is aware of that and I would ask for an unqualified retraction of that statement.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I retract that statement, but the member is wrong. The member is wrong. Thatís all I can say. The member is wrong.
Chair: Order. The Chair has requested an unqualified retraction of a statement.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: The retraction was certainly qualified.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I retract "wrong" and replace it with "made a mistake".
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the member opposite might have something to say.
Chair: The Chair is waiting for a complete retraction of the statement, without substitution of other qualifiers. The Chair is aware that all members are aware of our Standing Orders. We must abide by them. They are the rules that govern our Assembly and Iíd ask that all members follow them and that the member retract the statement.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I will retract the statement. Itís far for me to be breaking the rules, but I will try and debate with the member opposite information that is very difficult to respond to because of the nature of the information being brought forward.
But let me point out to the member opposite that Canada does the statistics and hereís the picture of how they are done. I will have to read some material here, Mr. Chair, because this is what lays out how the stats are done.
Every month, Statistics Canada surveyors in the Yukon, N.W.T. and each province of Canada interview a representative sample of individuals 15 years of age and older. The surveyors ask these individuals if they were working or if they were looking and available for work during the reference week ó usually the third week of the month. Individuals are counted as employed if they worked for at least one hour during the reference week. Work includes self-employment. Individuals are counted as unemployed if they were without work but had looked for work in the past four weeks, they had been laid off but were not looking for work because they expected to return to their original work, or if they were not looking for work because they had a new job starting within four weeks.
If someone is neither employed nor unemployed, they are then defined as "out of the labour force" and therefore not counted in the unemployment rate; however, they are still considered to be part of the working population.
I donít think I need go on, Mr. Chair. That is how the stats are compiled. There is no community breakdown. The response was exactly that Thursday; the response again was exactly that today. In this particular case, the government side is dumbfounded on where the member is trying to go with this, based on the information being brought forward by the member opposite.
Mr. Hardy: Well, itís pretty simple where Iím going with this. I would like to know if there was any study done on the closure of the mine, the increase in unemployment, what numbers we were looking at in order to have some substantive figures that the government can work with when they sent down the rescue team to deal with, of course, the increase in unemployment we would have witnessed in Watson Lake. I donít think thatís too much to ask for from any government. I would have assumed that the MLA from that riding, and in his role as Premier as well, would have probably had some type of figures of what youíre looking at for unemployment and the impact itís going to have on a community ó where it was at and where it was going to be with the shutdown of the mine. Itís part of knowing what youíre dealing with. Itís not an unusual question. Vague answers, unemployment too high ó well, to some people unemployment too high is anything over six percent. To some people unemployment too high is over 12 percent. What weíre trying to do here is get more concrete numbers and figures to work with.
Now, if the Premier is saying that they did not do that analysis on the shutdown of the mine and they do not know what the figures in Watson Lake are, thatís fine. I will accept that. Iím willing to move into debate in the departments, line by line, so Iím going to move forward on that.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. McRobb: I have just one question, I think, if we can get some cooperation from the other side. The Premier has indicated he has had discussions with the Prime Minister on a number of issues. We know they met at the Grey Cup game in November and since then. And in order for us on this side to make some constructive suggestions on how best this government should proceed on the many, many issues it deals with, it would be very helpful for us to know which issues the Premier has discussed with the Prime Minister. Now, Iím not asking for a big explanation on each issue. Iím not even asking for a summary on each issue. Iím merely asking for a list of the issues broached with the Prime Ministerís office. Would the Premier accommodate that request?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The discussions with the Prime Minister come in a number of venues, Mr. Chair. Predominantly, the largest percentage of any discussions with the Prime Minister happens at the First Ministers Conference, now called the Council of Federation and when all the premiers of the provinces and the territories meet with the Prime Minister as a collective. But we did make very public the private discussions that we have had with the Prime Minister, and they involved such things as joining Washington on a feasibility study for a railway. It involved the economic situation of the Yukon and the need for a federal focus on some sort of economic development initiative or fund, which we have now seen progress through federal Department of Finance to where there is a commitment to do exactly that. It also involved the issues surrounding the commitment by the former Prime Minister on dealing with the inadequacies in the per capita formula.
To that end, federal Finance had requested a business case that the Yukon would present to federal Finance and indeed the PMO. I personally handed the Prime Minister a copy of that business case.
So we did announce this publicly when the meeting and discussion took place. When it came to Regina, the discussion was with all the premiers and, when it came to 24 Sussex Drive and the discussion around health care, it was with all the premiers. Iím sure weíre going to have further discussions. Today on the phone we discussed with the Prime Minister and, again, all the premiers the pending visit with Prime Minister Martin and President Bush and the issues about Canada-U.S. relations. Those things are important. To provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, for example, the issue of the border closure on beef is hugely important and we recognize that. For us, obviously we must make sure the Prime Minister reflects on the fact that our relationship with the State of Alaska is a very good one and a long-standing one. It has much constructive basis to it, and we promote and support the Prime Minister in trying to improve relations with the United States.
We also concur that a focus on energy security is a tremendous initiative for both the United States and Canada to work on at the federal level while we in provinces and territories and states like Alaska do our work.
So thatís where this is all at, Mr. Chair, and there will be many more discussions. When we do these things with the Prime Minister, in terms of discussing specific issues related solely to the Yukon, we make them public, as we did in this case.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to thank the Premier for identifying some of the important issues he has raised with the Prime Ministerís office but I requested a list of all the issues raised. Thereís good reason for that request, Mr. Chair, as I spelled out in the original questions.
So, once again, my request is simple: would the Premier afford us a list of the issues he has discussed with the Prime Minister? Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It has already been answered, about 14 seconds ago.
Mr. McRobb: The Premier did not answer the question. The Premier took part of the question and responded somewhat to that partial question. Once again, weíre looking for a complete list of the issues raised with the Prime Minister by this Premier.
I fully expect the Premier to get up and give a similar answer as his last one, which was very blunt and very unhelpful.
The reason weíre asking for this is so that we can better provide our suggestions on how this government could address many of the issues that deal with the Prime Ministerís office. We know there are several issues in the Yukon of which the federal government plays a part. My question today regarding funding for renewable resource councils is only one of them.
I would like to know, for instance, if that issue was discussed with the Prime Minister. There are many, many other issues.
There is no way, absolutely no possible way, the Premier can stand up and recite from memory which issues he discussed, unless it was a very, very short list.
And we are prepared to wait for a few days for the Premier to compile a list, and we know that information exists up in the Premierís office. There would be a file on each one of these matters and some of his staff probably have this information right at their fingertips and itís not something that would create a bunch of work, but certainly it would lead to more constructive debate in this Legislature. It would lead to more constructive suggestions by the opposition, and perhaps the government side would even find our suggestions helpful. But in order for that to happen we need a degree of cooperation. All weíre asking is for a list of the issues broached with the PMO. So I ask again: can the Premier respectfully provide that information for us?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have answered the question twice now.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, obviously this government doesnít want to cooperate with very simple and legitimate requests, and thatís contradictory to what it has promised Yukoners; itís contradictory to what the Premier himself said in the Yukon media at the end of last year, only a few months ago, when he acknowledged there was a need for better cooperation among the parties.
Mr. Chair, the Premier ó obviously, heís in a bad mood today, Mr. Chair. You had difficulty with him yourself in your rulings, and now weíre having difficulty getting a response to a very simple question. The Premier did not answer it.
Once again, weíre looking for a list of the issues raised with the Prime Ministerís office in the meetings he has had with the Prime Minister and the previous Prime Minister since being Premier, and it would be extremely beneficial to the debate if the Premier would just acknowledge that he will have that information sent over to us.
So, once again, I respectfully request that information.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, respectfully, Mr. Chair, if the member opposite has enough patience to wait for Hansard to be printed, the answer is on the pages of Hansard already.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís absolutely ridiculous, Mr. Chair, and we donít need that type of language in here, that type of approach in here, when every one of us, 18 MLAs in this Legislature, acknowledge the need for greater cooperation. We all acknowledge the desire of the public for more cooperation in this Legislature yet, on occasion, some people in here stoop below that level.
This is a legitimate request and is something the Premier should be willing to provide. The Premier has challenged the opposition to be more constructive and more forward-looking and more relevant. Well, Mr. Chair, we believe we have been all of those things and can even set our sights a little higher, provided the government gives us the information we seek.
Mr. Chair, whatís to be gained by withholding this information? Whatís the government hiding? Is the government too embarrassed to let us know that it didnít raise some issues with the Prime Minister, or is it embarrassed about revealing some of the issues it raised? Which way is it? Maybe itís both. But maybe weíll never know, because the Premier is locking horns again and is refusing to cooperate on a very simple request ó a very simple request.
Well, how quickly things change. It wasnít but for a couple of years ago when, if the previous government had treated that member in the same way, well, weíd all be prepared for a big, lengthy speech from that member about how hard done by he was and how closed and unaccountable the government was. Well, the Premier now has the opportunity to change things, to improve the debate in here, to increase the information flow, but it seems all of those items are getting worse. All of those items are getting worse, and there are plenty of examples to cite. There is the refusal to provide information handouts in the budget briefing sessions we attend. There is refusal to respond to questions, both in Question Period and in Committee of the Whole.
This very matter is a case in point. There are plenty of other ways the government is really going against what the public wants and what it promised the public.
So, Mr. Chair, thereís not much we can do about it. We can go on and on, and I can keep getting up and asking him for the same simple request, but we donít expect any improvement. Yet itís our job to hold the government accountable.
So, rather than belabour this matter, I leave it to members on the other side, especially the Premier as leader, to set a good example of what this government stands for.
If we drop the issue and move on, then the members on the other side must be cognizant of how the record will stand. In this case, the government is not in good stead in regard to how it wants to be open and accountable and improve the information flow and the cooperation and decorum in this Legislature.
I wonít even bother asking the Premier again, because heíll just say to wait until the Hansard is out, but thatís a useless response because the Premier did not answer the question and therefore Hansard wonít reveal any more information. Consequently, the request has been denied.
So let the record stand.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think this is again a clear example of wasting time in the Legislature. There was a response and an answer, in detail, on what discussions we had specific to the Yukon with the Prime Minister.
The answer also included the fact that, in many cases, it includes all the provinces and territories. I even discussed during a conference call this morning in some detail the Prime Ministerís pending visit to Washington to meet the President of the United States and the issue, which obviously is a big one for the Prime Minister, of the relationship between Canada and the United States. That was the answer in detail. This member then stood up on the floor of this Legislature, wasting time in the Legislature, by repeating ó needless repetition, by the way, which is a rule in our Standing Orders, but the government side does not want to go down these roads, but the Member for Kluane is famous for wasting taxpayersí money by doing these types of things. Mr. Chair, all the rhetoric will not change the fact that thatís exactly what is taking place here.
The members are using any ploy, anything they have available to them, to try to make some sort of case because they have a serious problem in debating this budget. Itís obvious, or we wouldnít have spent the last five to six days in general debate listening to the same questions when the evidence, the testimony to exactly whatís happening, is on the pages of Hansard. Anybody who had a burning desire to look into this would see that reflected on the pages of Hansard: the needless repetition and questioning and the same answers coming forward.
However, itís to be expected from the Member for Kluane, who is quite famous on wasting taxpayersí money not only in the Legislature but outside the Legislature ó millions of dollars of extra diesel. That was a cost to the tax-paying public.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the Premierís actions are rather despicable and I would call upon you to uphold the recent ruling by the Speaker, only about a week-and-a-half ago, that pertained to these very issues and yet the Premier was allowed to repeat many of the same allegations warned against by the Speaker. Iím not asking for a ruling now, Mr. Chair, but perhaps you could take it under advisement and revisit that particular ruling.
Mr. Chair, itís rather embarrassing to realize the government is behaving in this manner and subjecting the opposition to this type of abuse when weíre looking for some simple information.
Mr. Chair, the Premier recited a few issues that were raised. Well, thatís grossly inadequate. Itís only a partial and vague response to our question. Weíre looking for a list of the issues. Weíre not looking for an explanation on two or three issues. Weíre looking for a list, and weíre not also looking for a list of issues raised by other premiers on a conference call that arenít specific to the territory. What weíre looking for is a list of Yukon issues, issues specific to the Yukon that have been discussed. And, Mr. Chair, our rationale is simple because weíre aware of lots of issues that are important to our constituents, and perhaps the Premier had overlooked raising those issues of import with the Prime Ministerís office. We would take it upon ourselves to suggest that he undertake raising those issues with the Prime Ministerís office, and perhaps even a course of action could be recommended.
So our intentions are ones that are very helpful and constructive. This is not wasting time in the Legislature. If anything is wasting time, itís the stonewalling we see from the Premier to provide this information and his desire to continue his argument.
Well, when I last stood up, I was prepared to accept no for an answer, in recognition that the record would speak for itself. But obviously the Premier couldnít resist getting up and taking another jab at it. Well, Iím not going to stand in here and lock horns with anybody, because I truly believe we should all be productive and act in accordance with how weíre expected to cooperate for the benefit of Yukoners and specifically to best represent our own constituents. So Iím not going to re-argue. Like I said, I donít expect the information. Let the record stand for itself.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none, we will then proceed with line-by-line. I understand weíre moving into Vote 12, the Department of Finance.
Department of Finance
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In regard to the Department of Finance for the budget 2004-05, I would like to take this opportunity to provide the Committee with a few introductory remarks on the Department of Finance 2004-05 budget. The 2004-05 estimates for the department total $4.798 million. This total consists of $4.784 million for O&M and $14,000 for net capital.
The O&M budget is spread among four program areas as follows. The largest program, and the program to which all departmental FTEs are assigned, is the treasury program of $4.41 million. Salary costs account for approximately 88.5 percent, or $3.83 million of the treasury budget. Banking services, supplies, telephone, et cetera, at $286,000 account for 6.6 percent of the program budget. The public utilities income tax transfer accounts for the remaining program budget of $213,000, or 4.9 percent.
The Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board supplementary benefits program of $382,000 is legislated under an act of a similar name. It provides supplements to benefits paid to workers who were insured by private insurers prior to the Yukon Workersí Compensation Board coming into existence. These supplements bring the benefits these workers receive up to the sums that would be paid had they been covered by the territorial board.
The allowance for bad debts program of $74,000 in 2003-04 covers for the annual provision that it is expected to be required of uncollectible accounts receivable for taxes, third party services, student loans, et cetera. The actual amount charged to this account each year is the result of a formula calculation that takes into account, among other things, the age of our accounts receivable. The prior period adjustments program is carried at $1 to provide line item vote authority to make such adjustments. This item is to cover corrections of previous yearsí accounting errors should they be discovered.
The capital budget of the Department of Finance comprises the following: computer workstations, nil; printers, $14,000; loan guarantee contingency, $250,000; for a total of $264,000. The loan guarantee contingency is voted every year to allow the Department of Finance to reimburse a financial institution in the event they should call a guarantee under the venture loans program. If there is no such guarantee called, there is no expenditure and the vote is allowed to lapse. Hypothetically, if a guarantee is called, our payment to the financial institute would trigger a recovery from the borrower. This accounts for the loan guarantee contingency recovery that also shows in our main estimates.
The department budgets two small recovery items. They are $6,000 for the supply of payroll services for Yukon Workersí Compensation, and $10,000 paid by the Diners/En Route for using their central billing system for charging airfares for employee travel.
This amount is based on a percentage, once a threshold of $3-million worth of buildings has been reached.
Mr. Chair, these are the highlights of the Department of Financeís budget for 2004-05, and we can now move into debate.
Ms. Duncan: Iím please to enter into general debate on the Department of Finance with the Minister of Finance.
One of the key projects of the Department of Finance over the forthcoming year will be the loans policy, as announced by the Premier last December. Will the Premier indicate what the level of interest is in the loans portfolio at this point in time?
And weíre also awaiting information as to the list of loans that the federal government is going to take back.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As previously announced, there is a June timeline that ends the six-month period. As previously announced, there is a tender going out this month and we expect responses for that tender to be moved forward accordingly, so the overall process is ongoing with the same timelines in place as previously announced.
Ms. Duncan: If the Finance minister would care to pay attention to the question, what I asked was: what was the level of interest? I understand the tender is still being developed. There must have been discussions at some point in time. There must have been discussions with the private sector in terms of developing the tender and working with organizations. I mean, thereís no point in preparing a tender if youíre not going to have anybody bid. There must have been some sense from the financial community as to a level of interest in the loans portfolio. What is that level of interest? What discussions and research have been undertaken?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The level of interest, Mr. Chair, is sufficient to proceed with the tender.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the Finance minister previously was a little concerned that weíd spent so long in general debate. Well, thereís lots of time.
Would the Premier elaborate? What is "sufficient level" ó two, three? What are we looking at in terms of a level of interest? And I still donít have an answer to the question and information that was requested of the department during the departmental briefing. What is the list of loans that the federal government is going to take back? They are not going to allow to be sold.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, again, Mr. Chair, the level of interest is sufficient to proceed with the tender. The tender will determine exactly what level of interest obviously by those that respond to the tender. To the best of my knowledge, there has been a package sent to the opposition members regarding the overall portfolio with the list of accounts on it. If not, I will double-check that, but I certainly recall seeing it.
Ms. Duncan: I would appreciate the Finance minister double-checking that. Iím particularly interested in the list of loans that the federal government is going to take back. How does that impact on the portfolio in terms of: is it half a million dollars, is it half the portfolio?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This has already been announced in this legislative sitting, the fact that the total value of the federal portion of the portfolio is $676,000. Sorry, the total value in this area of renewable and economic development agreement, which also includes tourism subagreement, has a total value of $676,000. The Industry Canada component is $504,000. Thatís been read into the record already.
Ms. Duncan: There was to be a list of the loans, not just an amount. The Premier seems quite sensitive about that, so weíll move on. I would like to go back to this level of interest.
The Finance minister says the level of interest in the loans portfolio is sufficient to warrant calling a tender. Is that level of interest from within the territory or is there also a level of interest from financial institutions outside the territory?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís both internal and outside.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. Would the Premier make a commitment that the settlements in terms of the loans will be made public? The tender document will be publicly advertised, one would expect. Perhaps the Finance minister could start by confirming that. Will the tender be publicly advertised or will it be only sent to those who have indicated an interest?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Of course, as tenders are normally dealt with by the government, it will be a publicly advertised tender.
Ms. Duncan: Will the Finance minister commit to making the terms of the settlement public on the loans?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, once we get the tender package complete and we put it out for tender, there will be conditions in relation to that and the financial institutions that are looking at this will have to accept what has transpired over the six-month period in dealing with the delinquencies. Those would be terms and conditions and interest that go forward and the two proponents in government ó their package and their portfolio will go forward in full, as it is today, as we all know. They have no option to renegotiate terms and conditions, nor do they have an option of any interest hiatus.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the specific question was: will the terms, finally concluded with the successful bidder, be made public? For example, if there is an outstanding loan amount of $300,000, will the taxpayer know if the government received $300,000 or got the 10 cents on the dollar? How is the taxpayer going to know?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, as the tender is being structured as we speak, we are looking into that. Of course, this is an important issue. However, when the tender is complete ó the overall structure of it ó then weíll move forward from there. We still have time. June is the target date for this to be closed out and weíll see where weíre at as we get to June.
Ms. Duncan: The tender is being developed. Iím asking the Finance minister a very specific question. Will it be part of a requirement of the tender that the settlement terms be made public on these loans? Is that part of this tender thatís being developed ó the public accountability and reporting? The Finance minister used to love standing on this side of the House and saying, "Itís a straightforward yes-or-no question". So Iím asking him the same question ó itís a straightforward yes or no ó will those settlement terms be made public?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Sometimes "straightforward" is a difficult definition to come to in dealing with the members opposite; however, yes.
Ms. Duncan: When might we expect that public information? Weíre talking the end of April for a tender to be put forward. Two weeks, 30 days, for the tender and then weíre looking at an award period. What time frame past April 30? April 30, speaking of which, is the end of the month, so the tender terms should be made public Friday or thereabouts? Whatís the closing date on that tender, and what sort of time period are we looking at for an award? The previous discussion about loans ó there has been a period of time to June that has been alluded to for some, so perhaps the Finance minister could elaborate on precisely what dates weíre looking forward to over the coming months.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As stated previously in the House, July 1 would be when this goes out to the public. Everybody has until the end of June to deal with their matter as we had brought forward in terms of this solution. So once we get to there, weíll know a little better although weíll try to set some clear timelines on this, but that could change as we go forward depending on the amount of interest. Weíll have to look at it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Finance minister can be very clear on this particular issue. He gave an announcement in this House and outlined the proposal. He said repeatedly in the Legislature the tender documents will be made available at the end of this month. So thatís Friday. He just committed that the response and, once a successful bidder is selected, that yes, the terms of settlement will be made public. He has made that commitment on the floor of the Legislature. So I would just like to date-mark the calendar, as Iím sure all Yukon taxpayers would. April 30 is the tender availability. When will the tender close? Even an approximate ó mid-May ó is fine. Then are we looking at an award within two weeks? Or does it have to go back to Management Board? The Premier could be a little more clear in this respect. I would like to know if the successful tender award decision has to go back to Management Board, for example, or if that can simply be made by the contracting agency.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, it is part of the tender document that the values or the decision is public. The timeline has been stated: July 1 we put it out to the public. There has to be a great deal of assessment, though, by the private sector in looking at this, so we may get beyond a month timeline before a closure and we choose a proponent to take on the portfolio. And, of course, there may be a monetary ramification here for the government, so Management Board will have to get involved in this process, once again.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if the government finds itself in the unfortunate circumstance of having to write off a bad debt ó like an uncollectible rent or an ambulance fee that government has been unable to collect because either the person has moved or theyíre unable to collect it ó those bad debts go to Management Board. Now, we are entering a tender process. We may or may not get bids. Weíre hopeful there will be more than one. A tender may or may not be awarded ó weíre hopeful by July 1.
Now, if that tender package comes back and says youíre going to get 10 cents on the dollar on these loans, then Management Board has to make a decision about each one of those loans. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: So, if the bid package only provides 10 cents on the dollar on these loans, we may not in fact collect all the money, correct?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, weíre not dealing with "if" here. Weíre going to get to the final situation and timeline to see where weíre at. The member opposite is saying "if" and there are a lot of ifs that we can debate in this Legislature, but we donít determine that today. Weíre still constructing the tender package. Once thatís done, by July 1 it will go out to the public. Then weíll know where weíre at and, yes, Management Board will be involved in the whole process when we get to the end.
Ms. Duncan: Have there been any Management Board policy directive changes to deal with this loan package and to deal with this concept of selling off the loans? Have there had to be any changes made to Management Board directives?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: None whatsoever. There was no reason to.
Ms. Duncan: Once the tender process is complete and Management Board is in the position of having to decide on either awarding that tender and accepting the amount, is there a change required for them to make that decision? Is there a change in directives required for Management Board to make a decision on the successful sell-off of the loans?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There shouldnít be any; however, we have to look at what transpires here in terms of the tendering process. Weíre not going to anticipate or preclude that there might be something that takes place that will require a second look, but as it sits today there is no requirement for any change.
Ms. Duncan: The loans issue is by no means over, nor will it be resolved. The Finance minister will be well-advised, as will the public; weíll be watching how this is dealt with on July 1.
Itís very important to the public that the tender documents require that the settlement reached with the government be made public, and also that there are not businesses going to be forced into bankruptcy. Thatís the key issue for the public. Thatís probably why in part the tender documents are so difficult to write ó constructing a tender that takes those two things into account.
On the community budget tours, the Finance minister is normally ó or has in the past, and certainly was under the previous two Finance ministers ó accompanied by a member of the Department of Finance.
Did that happen in the case of this Finance ministerís budget tours?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, Mr. Chair. As normal, budget tours take place. But this government does much more than simply wait for a budget tour. Weíre constantly touring and we will continue to do that. And not only does a specific budget tour have input, so do all other community visits and discussions we have with members of specific communities and Yukoners themselves. It is all part of this very open and accountable approach that this government takes.
Ms. Duncan: Will the Finance minister provide minutes or notes of those community budget tours? Previous Finance ministers have.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, these particular notes that the member is asking for ó there is a tremendous amount of material. There is work being done on that, but Iím certainly not prepared to table it today because we have to compile it all. There was a lot of engagement with the Yukon public, and then we have to determine: does the Yukon public, do specific individuals, want their comments outside the confines of their particular meeting with the government made public through this forum? There are individuals involved here too. But weíre looking at it, working on it. But it is a tremendous amount of material. I suspect it will take some time to compile it all for the member opposite. Besides, Mr. Chair, it has already been ATIPPíd, so weíll go through due process.
Ms. Duncan: The information that has previously been provided is listed by community in general terms. It has not in the past been provided and attributed to specific sources. So it has been in general meeting notes, for example, where communities have requested in the past a new ambulance, a new fire truck. Instead of endless revisions to their community hall and recreation centre, theyíve asked that the blue building be appropriately renovated so that it can actually be used. They donít need to be attributed. Itís just general information that can be broken down by community. And itís to the governmentís advantage to actually release that information, because if theyíve met the community needs, then it shows. We shouldnít have to ATIPP it. It should have been provided as a matter of course, and itís unfortunate that the government chose not to do that.
Iím going to ask my next question with respect to the internal auditor, who is normally assigned, as opposed to under the Department of Finance, under the Executive Council Office. Would the Finance minister like the question to wait until Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Depending on the question, itís probably more appropriate for the Executive Council Office debate.
Ms. Duncan: I was looking to see a list of what the internal auditor was working on, what the current project list is, so the Executive Council Office is ó perhaps the Premier can provide that information then.
There has been a significant amount of money for the north announced in the federal budget and money for health care and so on. I specifically would like some information from the Premier regarding the $150 million for the north. Is it one-third/one-third/one-third ó one-third Nunavut, one-third N.W.T., one-third Yukon ó or is it per capita; is it based on some other complex formula that weíre working on? The $150 million reference in the federal budget.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I canít speak for what the federal government put in their speech but we know what weíre working on. Weíre working on an increase to the TFF, weíre working on a specific allocation for economic development for the north. The commitment has been made to lift the GDP ceiling and a commitment has been made to extend the special health care fund. We havenít got to a final determination yet on where it would be, but I certainly have no idea where the $150 million comes into play here. Itís certainly not any of the figures that we have.
Ms. Duncan: Okay, Mr. Chair, letís start with an increase to the TFF ó an increase to the territorial formula financing agreement. What are we looking at, which factor are we looking at, or are we looking at a number of them? Would the Finance minister state which factors ó an overall increase, a removal of PL factor ó what are the precise increases that are being sought in the territorial formula financing agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We are still concluding the arrangement because we want to ensure that we represent the public interests for the Yukon, and we are working in unison with the other two territories. But if we look at the TFF increase, in a five-year agreement the total specific to the Yukon would be approximately $37.6 million of increased funding. Weíd also be looking at, commencing 2006-07 in the new health care funding arrangement, another $20 million, ending in the fifth year. So that would mean in 2006-07, $6.7 million; 2007-08, $6.7 million; and in 2008-09, $6.7 million. Those are the figures we have, but I would impress upon the member opposite that weíre still negotiating and making sure that we represent the Yukonís interests at the federal level and weíll see exactly where this is concluded. Obviously we have an issue when we reflect back on what took place in 1995 and what that cost the territory in terms of our contribution to paying down the debt.
Ms. Duncan: Iím not going to go back into that discussion with the Finance minister. The specific question I asked is: what factors in the formula are we looking at that merit a $37.6-million increase? Is it the removal of some ceiling? Is it the base grant general increase based on population? Specifically what are we negotiating that merits a $37.6-million increase? Iím not saying we do or donít warrant this increase; Iím asking what factors in the formula under negotiation would yield that increase to the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It begins with the business case we presented to Ottawa subsequent to the Prime Ministerís commitment to addressing the inadequacies in the formula. One of the inadequacies is how much we get. The business case was very thorough. I believe weíve tabled, or at least passed on to members opposite, a copy of the business case.
Ms. Duncan: The Finance minister also used the business case to argue for economic development agreement funding. Iím just asking a simple question. The Premier has said that in our negotiations over the territorial formula financing arrangement, theyíre negotiating factors that would yield a $37.6-million increase. What factors?
For example, it used to be that if southern municipalities spent more on paving the roads, weíd see more of an increase. The formula is a very complex discussion. I understand that. Just in general terms, is it population, is it southern expenditures? What is it that would yield that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís a general increase. The member opposite need not get so exercised. The general increase is a dollar value thatís committed by the federal government over the next five-year agreement, that that amount will be transferred to the Yukon. There need not be any major detailed shifts in factors in the formula. Thatís not what the government is saying. The government is saying weíre still negotiating the overall five-year agreement, which includes the GDP ceiling being lifted so that we get a level playing field with provinces like in Atlantic Canada where the equalization ceiling has been lifted. It includes economic development monies and how thatís set up.
So the detail is, outside of the TFF, how some of these monies will flow. Of course, the health care fund is quite simple. Weíve already got a structure for that and the commitment is to go beyond the three-year term for another three years.
So, Mr. Chair, I donít know how else I can answer the question.
Ms. Duncan: While on the subject of exercise, I applaud the governmentís initiative in the Relay for Life in support of cancer research and encourage us all, as the days get longer and brighter, to join in that and other relays, such as the Run for Mom, which is also in support of cancer research.
Back to the issues around finances, the reason Iím asking these questions is the Finance minister has outlined four different areas where the government anticipates receiving more money from Ottawa. He outlined the economic development agreement ó the special fund for the north ó the territorial formula financing agreement, the health care fund and the removal of the GDP. So in the territorial formula financing agreement, we anticipate receiving an additional $37.6 million ó just on account of "because," for lack of a better explanation; the federal government hasnít broken it down for us ó so a general increase of $37.6 million. The health care fund: precisely how much is that? Does the Finance minister have those figures?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: I believe the Finance minister is answering from his seat. Iíll sit down and let him restate for the record those figures, please.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, it was read into the record: commencing 2006-07, $6.7 million; 2007-08, $6.7 million; 2008-09, $6.7 million. That gets us to the end of the next five-year agreement.
Ms. Duncan: And that health care money is over and above the CHST, Canada health and social transfer? And I understand thatís correct. What figure does the Finance minister anticipate receiving from Ottawa with this removal of the GDP? And although the provinces have had much discussion about the GDP, itís over and above ó the removal of that factor is separate from these formula negotiations. So what amount is anticipated to be received in that respect?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, similar to what equalization issues were all about, we expect no immediate increase with the lifting of the GDP ceiling. However, we anticipate in the next few years that the Yukon may start to realize a benefit from that. But the removal of the ceiling puts us on par with other provinces that had their ceiling on equalization removed by the federal government. It was only fair that they did the same thing in Yukon. But immediate benefits: in all probability, none.
Ms. Duncan: And the special fund for the north in terms of economic development, is it anticipated that that special fund will be divided one-third/one-third/one-third between Nunavut, N.W.T. and Yukon, or will it be based on per capita? What is the current state of the negotiations around this northern development fund?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís one of the areas where the federal government has not brought forward any criteria on how this would flow. Thatís one of the areas that is under negotiation now ó how thatís all going to transpire ó so I canít answer whether itís one-third/one-third/one-third because there has been nothing brought forward by the federal government except the total dollar value of $90 million for economic development in the north.
Ms. Duncan: Could the Finance minister just refresh my memory. Is that $90 million spread over several years or is it anticipated to be one- or two-year funding?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is over the full five-year agreement that weíre now concluding.
Ms. Duncan: That $90 million is for three territories or one?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I did actually answer that. We cannot respond on the one-third issue, but the total value for the north, which would include three territories, is $90 million.
Ms. Duncan: Itís the territoryís business case presented by the current Finance minister that is being used to argue for this economic development fund. What is being anticipated? Is it project or is it ó I understand itís still in negotiation, but what parameters are we talking about? Are we talking about loan programs, an economic development agreement, a proposal-by-proposal basis scrutinized by the federal government? Are we talking about a cost-shared type of economic development? Broadly speaking, what parameters are we looking at for this fund?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I just responded that we are awaiting the federal government to bring something forward. To date, they have only announced the fact that in the north, which would include Nunavut, N.W.T. and Yukon, the federal government is investing $90 million over the next five years, specific to economic development in the north. Iíd say north of 60, Mr. Chair, but Nunavut would object because they have some territory, as I understand it, thatís not quite north of 60.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím sorry that the Finance minister seems to be short on patience today. Has the government submitted anything else to the federal government about this fund, other than the business case? Have we had Finance ministersí discussions on it? Has there been anything submitted to the federal government other than the business case, either at the officials level or at the political level?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The business case was requested by Canada. We brought it forward and now weíre at this threshold where weíre seeing improvements across the board when it comes to the transfer from Ottawa. As far as the economic development fund, thereís nothing more than weíve already presented. Weíre waiting for Ottawa to come forward with how they intend to structure this fund and how it will flow.
Ms. Duncan: Is there any work being done at the officials level between the territorial governments to present a territorial government side? Is there being work done at the officialsí level on the federal governmentís side?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The officials among the three territories have worked collectively on this since the commitment was made by the then Prime Minister, the former Prime Minister. On the economic development fund specifically, economic development officials from Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavut are continuing to work but, as I stated a number of times now, weíre awaiting the federal government beyond just announcing the dollar value to come forward with some structure and intentions on how they flow this fund.
Ms. Duncan: Does the Finance minister have any indication from Ralph Goodale, the federal Finance minister, when there might be some further indication on this money?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We certainly havenít had any indication. Again I repeat: we are awaiting the federal government to bring forward some indication of what they intend to do with this fund and how they intend to flow the money.
Ms. Duncan: In general debate on the budget itself, the Finance minister indicated that the tax table, the tax round table, had not been recalled. Is there work being undertaken by the Finance department currently on tax initiatives, such as the teachers supply tax credit? Is there work being undertaken on any other type of special credits?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As a government weíll always be looking at tax measures as incentive. The area that the member has specifically relayed to the House is not something to date weíve looked at.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís unfortunate as the Finance minister has previously indicated that nobody in this House had a lock on good ideas and they were prepared to give full and fair consideration, so itís unfortunate that theyíre not giving consideration to that initiative, as was put in place by the Province of Prince Edward Island and which I had written to him about some four months ago.
The mineral exploration tax credit costs: the anticipated cost was $2.1 million for 2002. Do we have a figure yet on the 2002-03 costs, and how much are they?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, as was pointed out on many occasions in general debate, we would be dealing with the same questions when we got into departments. I think we spent a considerable amount of time on this issue, on how we determine what we anticipate in the budget would be the cost of this tax credit. And we talked about projections going forward, and we talked about the past update, and I believe we came up with a number that we related to the House of ó now, I would stand corrected, but I believe from memory, from that lengthy debate in this House, Mr. Chair, the value was $3.6 million, as booked. However, we have to see what kind of uptake will take place over the course of this fiscal yearís exploration season.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I really encourage the Finance minister to listen to the question that I asked. I was asking what the most current figures we had were. I believe 2002ís may be in by now. If so, what are they? And 2003 has just ended for some to submit it. We might have an early indication of what the foregone revenues for 2003 are. Iím asking for the final amount for 2002, if the department has it. And Iím asking for an early indication for 2003. Iím not asking the Finance minister for a lecture on projections and estimates going in the budget. I understand what those are. Everyone in the House understands that. Iím asking what figures he has for 2002 and what early figures for 2003.
Early figures, foregone revenue under the mineral exploration tax credit.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: 1999, $1,276,466; 2000, $1,941,878; 2001, $1,950,291; 2002, estimate ó the first three I read out were finals. We went through this in general debate. The 2002 number is still an estimate as weíre still finishing off. Itís $2,105,000. The 2003 estimate is sitting right now at $2 million and weíre still working on the final there based on expenditure activity of whatever it was. But those two years are not final. Then weíve projected based on historical data and projections on a go-forward basis of $3.6 million for 2004-05 ó same numbers we put on the record during general debate.
Ms. Duncan: When does the department anticipate 2002 being finalized ó by September of this year?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Probably sometime in the fall.
Ms. Duncan: Does the Finance minister anticipate bringing forward a supplementary in the fall?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: If we look back historically in the fiscal years for any Yukon government, there is always, in most cases at least ó as long as Iíve been here ó a supplementary budget that has to be dealt with. There are revotes and other things, so in all likelihood we will be bringing forward a supplementary.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would just ask the Finance ministerís indulgence for a moment to walk through, for the House and for the record, the revote process. For example, in the last budget ó the 2003-04 budget ó which has now expired, there was $500,000 budgeted for repairs to the jail. Another example, in the Finance ministerís own portfolios, there was $100,000 for the Liard Aboriginal Womenís Society on violence against women initiatives. That money didnít get spent in 2003-04. It didnít come forward in this budget as a revote. When will that money come forward as a revote? I understand itís the last fiscal year. Iím asking a very specific question for the record, and I do apologize that the Finance minister finds it so tedious to answer the questions, but thatís our job ó to ask the questions. When will that money be coming forward as revotes in the House?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, never would I even remotely suggest that the third partyís questions are tedious. No, Mr. Chair, never; however, itís historical that we bring forward supplementary budgets in the fall.
Now letís consider what the member asked. The member asked specifically about the Womenís Directorate, a $100,000 allocation to address violence against women in aboriginal communities for the Yukon as part of our partnership with Canada and the other provinces and territories. Given the fact that the 2004-05 budget was concluded before the fiscal year-end of 2003-04, it stands to reason that it did not show up in the budget, and itís even more of an issue in terms of standing to reason ó and I repeat "reason" ó logical, those types of adjectives, that it will show up in a supplementary in the fall, given the circumstances.
This is not a very complicated, difficult thing. Obviously, though, the member is fixated on this process of revote and why something didnít show up in the budget. Itís pretty simple ó because the budget was concluded in terms of its structure, front to back, before the fiscal year-end 2003-04.
Ms. Duncan: Departments would have had a very good idea as to whether or not that money was going to be spent, and itís not unheard of for some money to be revoted in a budget, so itís a very reasonable question in spite of the protests from the member opposite. I would anticipate that that $100,000, of which only $93,000 remains unspent and the $500,000, which we just saw tendered on Friday for the correctional facility repairs, will also be included in that. The old system of bookkeeping has not been kept. We just have the new format. Does the Finance minister have the information of what the surplus would look like without the changes to the Taxpayer Protection Act?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The only difference is ó considering this budget versus the last one ó the obvious: weíve gone from cash accounting to full accrual. The financial position in the middle of the budget would be more reflective of the old surplus deficit position, if you will, and then itís followed by the asset values less depreciation amortization to give you in this yearís budget ó 2004-05 ó a total accumulated surplus under a full accrual accounting system.
Mr. Hardy: Just to pick up on that, I would like to say that a lot of the questions that have been asked have been dealt with, but there will be some that I revisit just to get some clarification. So in other words, there are two sets of books being kept, the old and then the new accrual accounting, or is it just an amalgamated set now?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Unlike in the past, weíre not keeping two sets of books, Mr. Chair. One of the objectives of this exercise was to provide full disclosure from the budget documents for the Yukon public, which we have.
Mr. Hardy: So my understanding is that the answer that you gave the leader of the third party was the old system is reflected in the numbers, and then there is the section for the accrual accounting, which gives you the difference, under that system, the difference of the surplus. So in some ways it is a combination of the accounting practices, though we have gone to accrual accounting, which gives us a different result, of course, on the ó the Premierís shaking his head. If the Premier could get up and just explain it, Iím just going to go back to the page I need, just to look at it. Iím just curious from the questions that the leader of the third party asked and the answers we got.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The leader of the third party asked a question related to what it would look like under the old system, you know, where would we be versus now with full accrual accounting? Under the budget document the member has, my answer was: net financial resources end of year would be more reflective of the old system in terms of the accumulated surplus/deficit. It is not in two sets of books. Itís on the one balance sheet.
And then, under the new system, weíve added the asset base, which normally, under the old system, would have been in at $1. Now we have the full value minus amortization, giving us our exact accumulated surplus position for the government. So itís not two sets of books; itís one. But in terms of the question, we were trying to respond to the third party on what number would be more reflective of the old system, and that would be net financial resources, end of fiscal year.
Mr. Hardy: I just needed clarification on that question. I understand the page heís talking about and how it has come together. Itís actually quite plain, and why the government has adopted accrual accounting and the recommendations are theyíre general and more reflective of the values and surpluses and deficits.
I go back to the question of the loans. I have a couple of questions around the permanent solution in regard to the loans. Is there an acceptable figure, or does the Minister of Finance have a figure in mind that he is hoping to achieve in the permanent solution to the loans?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, we will be watching this, monitoring this very closely. We are structuring the tender documents accordingly but weíre not at that juncture yet, so weíll have to determine as we go forward.
Given the time, I move that we now proceed with our normal recess.
Chair: Is that the membersí wishes?
Mr. Hardy: We still have a minute or two. We could squeeze a question in, especially around this. So, is the Minister of Finance saying youíre not obliged to accept any of the offers made for the selling of the loans?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, itís standard that in any tender document the government reserves the right not to accept the lowest bid, not to accept any bid. Thatís just standard tendering procedures.
Mr. Hardy: My concern is that the Minister of Finance has made it very clear in this Legislature that this was going to be it, that no matter what happened the permanent solution was ó that this was going to be settled and they were going to move on. Words like that indicate that if a collection agency comes forward with five percent and that was the best offer, would the Minister of Finance accept something like that? Would they feel that is a just settlement to solve this problem?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís a hypothetical question and Iím not about to give a hypothetical answer. Weíll proceed through a process like any tendering process the government proceeds with. It is now recess time, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, Vote No. 12, Department of Finance, and general debate.
Mr. Hardy: We left off on the discussion of the loans. The Minister of Finance doesnít seem to like hypothetical questions, but you canít get around it. There has to be some thought given to some of the scenarios that may come about. How many companies, collection agencies, or whatever, have expressed an interest in the tenders?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The total interest will be determined once the tender is out. Iíve already expressed in the Legislature to the member of the third party that weíve already had expressed interest, but weíre not going to measure to date the expressed interest weíve received. We will do the measuring once the tender package is out and the response received on the tender package.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, have any banks indicated an interest?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again I say we have had some expressed interest. At this point in time, we are going to conclude the tendering process to see what kind of response we get. That will be the measurement for the government.
Mr. Hardy: Well, we on this side of the House would like to have a little bit more information, of course. I think itís a simple question: have any banks indicated an interest in this? Iím not asking for numbers; Iím just asking generally if there has been any indication from the banking institutes in regard to this ó a very simple question.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, financial institutions come in various forms, but until we have the tender out and the responses in, there is no way to measure this and determine exactly what financial institutions by name have expressed an interest. Therefore, the government will put out the tender on the timelines we have already expressed and relayed in this House. We expect the tender to be completed by sometime in the next week, and as soon as that is concluded, we then are going to finish with the timelines provided to the proponents to come forward. By July 1, in that neighbourhood, we should be putting out the tender, and then weíll see what kind of response comes back.
Mr. Hardy: This is exactly why we have problems in the Legislature. Itís a simple question ó a very simple question. The minister doesnít need to repeat himself over and over, ad nauseum.
Has a bank indicated it is interested in putting forward a proposal on a tender? Thatís pretty simple. Has there been any? Iím not even going to ask what the other groups are ó just one of our recognized banks in Canada. Thatís not too difficult.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The answer is obvious. The banks will wait until they look at the tender document to see if theyíre interested. The expressed interest to date is not something we are measuring at all. We will measure the response and who the responders are based on the tender itself, and that timeline has been expressed already.
Mr. Hardy: We have a difficulty ó the answers just refuse to come from the minister. Now, I believe the minister has indicated in the past that there were three or four expressions of interest in a permanent solution. Could he tell me where those came from? Did they come from banks, collection agencies, or what are we looking at here?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We donít conclude interest at the level we are seeking just from a phone call. We are very conscious of the fact that all financial institutions and interested parties should look at the tender package itself before making a determination on whether or not they want to respond or express any interest regarding the loan portfolio.
So the government is certainly not going to expend any of its time and energy on phone calls. We are proceeding with a tender package. Once the response to the tender package comes forward, we can relay all that to the member opposite on whoís responding.
Mr. Hardy: Will the member make the tender package available to the official opposition?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It has already been relayed to the member of the third party that we would do exactly that. Government tenders are public documents.
Mr. Hardy: I just wanted to make sure it was also inclusive of the official opposition.
I started asking a question earlier on, and that was: what is acceptable ó Iím sure the Finance department has come up with some idea of what they can anticipate in regard to offers made to the tender package. But Iím also sure that caucus or Cabinet ó missing the two Cabinet ministers who are of course involved in it ó might have a figure in mind that they would feel is acceptable for the general public to accept, as well as themselves. Could the minister give us some idea where they are on that and what the amounts are?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, Mr. Chair, why would the government, with all its officials who have so many things to do, expend energy and time on speculating what it might be? Thatís why weíre structuring a tender package. Weíll put the package out, await the response, and then weíll know exactly where weíre at. Thatís the prudent course and, until we get there, the governmentís not going to spend its time speculating. We are going to make our determinations on the facts as weíve received them. In this case, that would be responses to the tender package.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to remind the minister that all tenders have a certain degree of speculation in them. For instance, letís use an example of the multiplex facility. Now the estimates on the cost of building the multiplex, the latest tender, were put out. Now that has a certain degree of speculation in it. It has a certain degree of estimating that has some foundation, but thereís a certain degree of anticipation and speculation on what prices will be when they come in on the closure of the tender. So that is part of it, but thatís part of the process you use to anticipate what you possibly could have so you can plan for the future. I would assume that thereís a certain amount of that kind of anticipation, speculation and estimating what the selling of these loans could possibly bring to the government. Has the Finance department given the minister any figures whatsoever in regard to what they could anticipate receiving from the winning bid?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The Finance officials have not done anything of the sort. Weíre not building a building here. Weíre not building a highway with cross-sections and back slopes and ditches all measured out. We are constructing a tender package that relates to a portfolio within the government of long-standing unpaid loans. The officials have no way of anticipating or speculating what might be the return. Therefore, we are going to follow this process to see exactly what the responses will be bringing forward. Then the member opposite, and everybody else in the public, can get an understanding of this. Thereís no reason for us to try to speculate what it might be. When you havenít collected something in 15 years plus, then considering all the terms and conditions and variances in this portfolio, this is not something you can simply say, "Well, we can project a cost here". Thatís not how this works.
This has been a substantial mess for a long time, and the government is about to clean it up by getting rid of this loans portfolio.
Mr. Hardy: Well, there are a couple questions that I really would like to get an answer to today. One is: what is an acceptable level for the Minister of Finance, where he just says "Itís not good enough, weíre not going to go ahead with this"? I do know for a fact that, if you go to an auction, a lot of times there is a reserve bid on an item, and if it doesnít reach that reserve bid, youíre just not going to go forward. Is there an acceptable amount of return that the Minister of Finance would like to see before he would have to reconsider awarding a tender?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, I did state moments ago that there are so many variances here; this is a complicated mess. We are not going to speculate in this area, because each file of this loan portfolio will be different. We have to wait until the financial institutions or those interested parties that bring forward responses to the tender present their responses so we get a determination on exactly what it may be. But virtually every file will be different.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, I really should correct a statement made by the minister. He had mentioned that for 15 years there hadnít been any collection on this. Actually, itís very obvious that people have been making their payments over the 15 years; 80 percent have paid off what they did borrow and what they owed. So there has been ongoing work on this file, and many, many businesses and individuals have honoured their loans. So I donít think the message out there should make it sound like we have had 15 years of inactivity on this, and nothing has been able to be accomplished.
The majority have been dealt with. To get an understanding of this package, is the minister saying that every single loan is a separate tender or a separate component within the tender that will be bid on, depending on the circumstances, and not so much as a package?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itíll be one package but each loan will be detailed in the package and, obviously, anybody interested in the tender will critique and scrutinize in great detail each one of those loans because they all have variances. Therefore, to come forward with a bid on picking up or buying the portfolio, theyíll have to critique each one separately, but theyíre not going to be put out one at a time. The total will be put out in a package.
To respond to the memberís comments, no one on this side of the House is alluding to anything more than the delinquent loans. Anybody who has been paying on their loan would not be delinquent. The purpose of this exercise is to address the delinquency and thatís exactly what we set out to do.
Mr. Hardy: Okay, so weíre getting a little bit of a picture of how this package will be presented. Iím assuming that there could be different weight put upon each individual loan. The collection agency, or whatever it is, says theyíll pay 20 percent for this one but only 10 percent for that, 30 percent for that one, and then lump it all together in one package and give it back. Is that what weíre anticipating?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís going to be based on what there is for potential of collecting. Now, it may mean personal guarantees, it may mean what assets are there, and it may mean there are no assets attached. Terms and conditions will go forward with each file. This is a highly complex and detailed package that will be put out. Thatís why weíre taking the time. Thatís why weíre not speculating on what may or may not be. We are going to base this on the facts. And the only way to determine that to any level or degree of factual understanding is to get the tender package out, allow the private sector to look at it in great detail and bring forward their bids. That will give us a fairly clear understanding on where we are exactly with this portfolio.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister tell me how many of the outstanding loans are being paid on right now?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím quite positive that the list we sent to the opposition is current. Therefore, it will itemize who has paid what and when.
Mr. Hardy: That was a little while ago, and I think there might have been some changes on the amounts being paid, whoís making the payments and if there have been any lump sum payments. Would the minister be willing to give us a breakdown on that and send it over in the next while?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We can certainly provide the opposition, at some point, with an updated schematic of where the portfolio is as we go through the process. We have provided some to date, and weíll wait for a reasonable amount of time to see if there are any changes. We have until June for people to come forward. That could wind up changing the overall position considerably.
So, right now weíre looking at ó and I believe thatís the most up-to-date information ó we have 14 current loans and we have 63 that are over 90 days. Now, over 90 days is getting into the realm of problems.
Mr. Hardy: So will the 14 current be part of the tender package?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes. The reason that some of the 14 are current is they came in to renegotiate terms and conditions, and those will go forward.
Mr. Hardy: Like agreements that are in place, what part of the tender package ó how is it going to be written to ensure that it wonít be putting any of these businesses into jeopardy, into bankruptcy.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Obviously the tender package is going to be very strict on any financial institution accepting the existing terms and conditions, as weíve relayed to the House now a number of times.
Mr. Hardy: I just have a couple of brief questions. Most of the questions have been addressed around the TFF. So the $37.6 million is for five years. Is that correct? Or what is it for?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, thatís the value that would be consistent with the new five-year agreement, so at the end of the five-year agreement the total would be a $37.6-million increase in the territorial funding formula.
Mr. Hardy: Now, the minister has referenced the business case made to the federal government. He had indicated that had been tabled. Iím not sure if Iíve received it, so would the minister make it available?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, upon the conclusion of the business case and it being presented to Canada, we provided copies to both opposition parties though. Somewhere in the archives of the opposition offices, they will find the business case. It has a blue binding on it, but we can always get them extra copies. But the members must understand that we have provided that documentation to them and talked about it on the floor of this Legislature ó what a detailed, comprehensive business case that we have structured, along with the other territories at the request of Canada ó and we have made that representation. Now weíre moving beyond to where weíre dealing with some of the inadequacies in the formula.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I will definitely check my archives and look for it. I donít have it at my fingertips. If I have it, I donít expect to be given another one. I will once again review it.
Now, weíve had a fair amount of debate around special warrants and the use of special warrants. The minister had taken quite a step at the beginning of this sitting to bring forward a special warrant of a few hundred million dollars to, my understanding is, cover any contingencies that he felt may happen and that we werenít going to move forward. What has happened to that special warrant? Is it now expired?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the special warrant, given the fact that interim supply was passed pre-April 1 when the new fiscal year commences, just simply expires. Itís of no relevance any more. Itís not a warrant, in fact, because interim supply was passed and we did not need the warrant.
Mr. Hardy: What was disturbing was the fact that the minister felt that he needed the special warrant in the first place. There had been no indication whatsoever that we were not going to pass the interim supply. As a matter of fact, I had indicated quite clearly that we would pass the interim supply fully understanding the necessity of it. We on this side felt that the special warrant was unwarranted and kind of heavy-handed. I would hope that this wonít become a general practice of this government in the way it wants to deal with the opposition. If we have another interim supply brought forward to deal with the running of the government, I would hope that the minister would feel comfortable enough to talk to me and get an agreement on that. What is the feeling of the minister about using special warrants in the future and his willingness to talk with me in opposition in regard to interim supplies?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First let me say that the government side is always open and willing to discuss any issue with the opposition benches. Weíve shown that over the last 16 or 17 months. There will always be occasion when special warrants are a fact of life. Letís look at an example: a collective bargaining agreement that requires retroactivity during a period of time when there is no legislative sitting, no way to give spending authority, but yet we must honour that retroactive value owed to our employees. Thatís an example.
As far as the membersí feelings, there was no attempt in any way, shape or form to say that the opposition would not pass the interim supply bill. It was merely a prudent course by the government to ensure that spending authority was available come April 1, and there was much to that given the considerable amount of investment required not only for wages but for the communities, for example, and NGOs where the transfer of those monies was critical come April 1. This was not an attempt to in any way, shape or form leave a perception that the opposition would not do the right thing, the honourable thing. It was simply a prudent course of action by the government to cover all bases.
I canít think of any government worth its mettle that would not take that same approach. And if we were in a similar situation, of course weíd discuss it with the opposition. However, we would still ó even if the opposition said, "We are fully committed to passing a special warrant," we would still ensure that all the bases are covered. That is our duty, obligation and responsibility to the Yukon public. Thatís all the government side did. It had no bearing on what position the opposition may or may not have.
Mr. Hardy: Itís an interesting discussion about special warrants and why they would do it in this manner because I donít believe governments before have ever done it this way. I donít believe there has ever been the necessity to have a special warrant to cover an interim supply. I donít know what the minister is talking about as being prudent, and itís the duty of the government to do it, and itís the obligation of the government to bring in a special warrant of this nature when there is no historical record showing that it has ever been needed.
All interim supplies, to my understanding, have passed. There is an understanding in this House, and itís one that hasnít been violated and one that we all recognize here. The actions of this government are indicative of being very distrustful of the people on this side, even with previous discussions about the passing of interim supplies.
So, I find that a little of concern, when weíre supposed to be working in harmony ó working together on some issues, especially when thereís no record where it has ever happened before that youíve needed a special warrant to bail out the government.
Access to capital ó what are the initiatives of this government to increase access to capital?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, first and foremost, this government is doing a lot of different things. The issue for the member opposite is ó in this particular case, in these circumstances, there never was a special warrant used. Again, that has no relevance to what the government did. The government merely ensured that all the bases were covered.
There are other different things we are doing. For example, the government took the time to go out and inform the public after a considerable consultation with communities and First Nations on what was going to be in the budget. Now, that practice is important because it has provided the public information that allows them to be more judgemental of whatís going on in this Assembly when it comes to debating the budget. The rationale simply is the fact that, with an informed public, they can draw more readily their conclusions, the conclusions of what the debate is all about, and it also challenges all of us in this House to be more constructive, something that we continue to urge the members opposite to be.
There was absolutely no bailout involved here whatsoever. This is the biggest budget in the history of the Yukon. Itís not about spending; itís about investment, and we went out and informed our public in great detail where we were investing their money.
Mr. Chair, I will go on about access to capital. Access to capital is a challenge in the Yukon, as it is in the N.W.T. and Nunavut, Iím sure. We have faced that challenge for a long time. But one of the most critical areas of improvement required to change the situation weíre in with access to capital is, of course, growth in the economy. To do that, first off, there must be some optimism and some positive elements in any respective economy to get financial institutions that invest capital by whatever means interested in any particular or respective jurisdiction.
Thatís something that we are very much focused on. Now we can see by statistics that there is a trend today happening in the Yukon that is showing a positive movement in the direction that would certainly garner more interest from financial institutions to invest capital in the Yukon Territory through the private sector. When there is optimism and growth in the economy, the private sector is much more able to borrow money, for example, from financial institutions. The main ingredient or factor is growth, and we are experiencing some growth today in the Yukon, not only in population and the number of people in the labour force, but weíre also seeing growth in interest in mining, oil and gas, cultural and tourism industries, and the IT sector. Of course, when we look at infrastructure, we are increasing investment there. So weíre doing a number of things already to build that positive optimistic outlook for the Yukon to better able ourselves to access that capital we seek.
Now thatís a distinct contrast to what the members opposite are portraying the Yukon as. The government side promotes and portrays the Yukon in a positive light, presenting an optimistic view and showing clearly sound fiscal management, showing clearly where we are investing to provide immediate stimulus, where we are investing to provide growth in the interim and the long term. The members opposite, the official opposition especially, are promoting and portraying the Yukon in a negative light. I believe the leader of the official opposition termed it a place of madness and misery. Well, thatís not what todayís Yukon is all about, nor does it reflect in any way ó even remotely ó todayís Yukon.
Todayís Yukon is a territory of great potential and opportunity. Todayís Yukon is rich in history and culture. Todayís Yukon is about the magic and the mystery, and todayís Yukon is experiencing a positive trend in our economy. Thatís the contrast in this House, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Hardy: I agree. There is magic and mystery in the Yukon; a lot of it sits in this Legislature, especially when the Premier talks. Itís magic how he tries to spin the figures last year, where the territory was broke and we were in crisis, and his words were that we were heading to a precipice and we were going to fall off, that the trajectory was out of control. That was all magic, and itís a mystery to many people of the Yukon what the heck this government is saying today where, all of a sudden, weíre awash in wealth and thereís more money than we know what to do with and we have to find ways to spend the money.
Yes, I believe there is magic and mystery on the other side. Unfortunately, my comments as they were made ó which the minister took offence at ó were that we had been hitting the national news on a regular basis since this government was elected, and under this government a lot of the news is really madness, it seems, with the way theyíre behaving. There is a lot of misery in trying to deal with that behaviour.
Iíve already listed a lot of the issues that are on the national scene that are reported. It just continues; it doesnít seem to stop.
Unfortunately thatís not exactly the impression the Yukon has had in the past and I donít think itís the impression we want to see in the future, but under this watch and under this government, under this leadership, that unfortunately is the messaging weíre hearing back from the national media. When you hear the national media reports on some of the goings on from the other bench over there, the government side, we are very worried about what kind of impression is being put out there on a national level.
However, the question was around access to capital and going back just a little bit, since the minister did respond to the special warrants and we have a very strong concern about the way the special warrants are being used; weíve made that very clear. Obviously, the minister had very strong concerns about the way the Liberals used special warrants. Heís on record, and yet, since the minister has taken over in government, the use of special warrants has exceeded anything any other government did in previous incarnations. So our concern around that last special warrant in regard to the interim supply, knowing full well that every other legislature has passed interim supplies, is just indicative of the character of the government and the way theyíre treating the other members of the Legislative Assembly: lack of trust and all that stuff. And it raises a lot of concerns for us.
In regard to access to capital, that has often been what we hear from businesses: the ability to access capital in order to expand, in order to go into new markets, and in order to plan for the future. And Iíve heard the minister talk about that being one of the biggest road blocks for the expansion and growth of existing businesses as well as new businesses starting. So, of course, Iím very interested in seeing what ideas have come forward in regard to access to capital.
Now, the minister on the other side knows full well that I am a supporter and have been a supporter of the fireweed fund, which is one form of capital. This was a fund, of course, that was fully supported by business communities and unions in the territory and which the NDP have been working on. Unfortunately, the Liberals didnít follow through with it when they were in government, and I would like to know where the new Premier is on this, because my understanding is that, when it was proposed, he was all for it. So if I can get an answer to that specific issue, Iíd appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First I will begin with the question, and then weíll deal with a little bit of a rebuttal. The Yukon government ó this government ó did go forward with the fireweed fund in conjunction with labour and others, and at this point we await ó hopefully ó a positive response from the federal government. Thatís where the fireweed fund sits today.
Now letís look at the issue of how we promote the Yukon Territory and how weíre envisioned on the national stage. Letís consider what has transpired over the last 16 to 17 months. On the national stage, a special fund of $20 million for health care to better able the Yukon to deliver a standard level of service to its citizens, a commitment on the national stage by the Prime Ministerís Office to address the inadequacies in the per capita formula funding arrangement between the territories, the Yukon and Canada. To that end, what have we achieved? Weíve achieved a commitment from Ottawa in the next five years on a go-forward basis of some $37.6-million increase to the TFF. Weíve got a commitment from Canada on the national stage to remove the GDP ceiling, which gives us a more level playing field with provinces who have had the equalization ceiling lifted by the federal government. We have a commitment on the national stage ó thatís Yukon, by the way, on the national stage ó from the federal government to extend the $20 million special fund on health care. Yukon, on the national stage again, has a commitment by the federal government along with the N.W.T. and Nunavut for a $90-million economic development investment by Canada. Thatís on the national stage.
Letís look at whatís happening right now in todayís Yukon. When it comes to the cultural industries, we have a major, big budget film being shot in the Yukon Territory. We have actors from Hollywood involved. We have the film industry out of Winnipeg involved. We are on the international stage now.
Letís look at more. Our investment in attracting the mining industry: projections this year on the national stage and beyond is some $30 million of exploration investment. Now, on the national stage, we have applications being processed today for oil and gas exploration in the Kotaneelee and land dispositions being put forward in north Yukon for the potential of oil and gas development there ó on the national stage.
We have a direct flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Whitehorse, bringing in German tourists ó on the national stage.
We have an interest, not only from China, Japan and Taiwan, but now Indonesia, through their consuls general to talk to Yukon about the potential for investment in our territory. Thatís on the international stage. I could go on here at great length. No matter what, though, the contrast is very clear. By promoting the Yukon Territory in a positive, optimistic fashion, as we on the government side have, we have achieved results. By continuing to be mired in negativity, as the opposition benches are, in trying to promote the Yukon in a negative light, they have achieved nothing.
I would urge the members opposite to recognize something. There is a positive element evolving in the Yukon, which has been long overdue. Past governments have tried to address many of the issues that we are challenged with today. Today, though, there is a government in place that not only takes a positive outlook ó not a negative one ó but has the political will to make decisions and stick to them. Thatís a distinct difference between this side and the members opposite.
Mr. Hardy: Well, once again, we got the rhetoric from the member opposite. And we have to remember that it was only a year ago that this Premier was saying that the trajectory of spending in the territory was going to bankrupt the territory. It was only a year ago that this Premier was saying, "Weíre heading to a precipice. Weíre going to fall off, and weíre all going to be in chaos and disaster."
It was only a year ago that this Premier painted a terribly bleak picture of this territory. This is how he presented the territory. He accuses us of being negative. Weíre not the ones who are presenting the territory, first as bankrupt, and the next year as awash in riches.
I notice he did not mention or thank the Finance department and all the workers out there ó the workers, we must remember, who were targeted in the computer use investigation. That was a national disgrace.
And this work that has been ongoing by many of these people that were attacked in that computer use investigation are the ones who have allowed this territory to continue to grow. You cannot thank them and then go around the corner and criticize them. That is what this minister has done with the computer use investigation. That was a national disgrace.
What else has been a national disgrace? The fact that there are Cabinet ministers who owe money to the government for years and years and refuse to make payments, and this minister brings forward what he considers a permanent solution. Guess what? That was national news. That wasnít something that looked good for the Yukon Territory.
What about the firing of the municipal government in Dawson City? National news. Did the opposition create that one? Absolutely not. Itís the Yukon Party government that created that disgrace, and that became the national news. We are quite willing to talk about how great this territory is, but we cannot constantly be dealing with the disgrace that is constantly being reported on the national news about this group of people on this side. And I can go on and on and on about what hits the national news. There are a lot of examples, and weíre concerned about that.
There are people on the streets in the territory who call this government the Beverly Hillbillies.
Chair: Order please.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Hardy: Iím sorry, Mr. Chair. I withdraw that remark. I was just repeating something Iíve been hearing out there. Iím sorry. I apologize for that.
But there are impressions out there that this is a government that is struggling to find its ethical balance, the principles that guide us. And, yes, they are trying to find that oil, and maybe they will. Weíre all hoping, but weíre not necessarily impressed with the way theyíre approaching it.
So absolutely, the Premier can stand up and talk about all the good work that they have done. But letís not forget all the messes that they have created and all the future messes that are coming down the pike because every time we are over one of those national disgraces, guess what? Another pops up. We donít need that. Itís not the way the Yukon wants to be seen.
The Yukon has tried to market itself ó the magic and mystery. It has tried many ways of presenting itself to the public Outside, and unfortunately what Iím hearing is that itís starting to get a name ó a name we may not want. Iím hoping the Premier will recognize that there are some problems in this area and they need to be addressed instead of constantly attacking the opposition.
Anyway, the question I asked was a simple one. It was about the fireweed fund. In the election promise 2002, it says, "Öprovide seed money to access federal contributions for the fireweed fund for venture capital funding". Has that seed money been provided?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have answered this question, but possibly the member opposite, in wrapping himself in that thin veil of plastic principle, missed the answer.
I retract the statement. I was caught up in the moment.
Letís look at some of these statements that were put on the floor by the member opposite in his most recent dissertation. The member alluded to the fact that there was a picture painted upon this government taking office. Well, I think we must go to the facts of the matter. The government, upon taking office, inherited a fiscal position of the Yukon Territory ó a fiscal position that was not anywhere near the fiscal situation the Yukon finds itself in today.
When it comes to the officials ó the workers, as the member opposite puts it ó on a number of occasions we have extended our deepest appreciation for their efforts in dealing with this fiscal situation. Now, the members know that the fiscal position weíre in today was not one that was hidden 17 months ago; itís one that has been created over the last 17 months.
It starts with a special $20-million health care fund; it proceeds on with the fact that not only Finance officials work very hard, but so did our stats branch in doing the undercount on the census, which realized a dramatic turnaround for the Yukon in the fiscal situation by some $38 million. So now letís add the two together. We have a $20-million extra fund for health care, a $38-million census adjustment by doing the undercount, and weíre now at $58 million. We dissolved the ill-advised and misguided Yukon permanent fund of $10 million, and now weíve increased the fiscal position by some $68 million.
I donít have to go on about this. The facts speak for themselves. The fiscal position of todayís Yukon was created by hard-working officials, by support from our senator and MP, by understanding that there were a number of areas, as a government, that we could focus on to turn the fiscal situation around.
Our commitment was to get a firm grip on the finances of the territory. Once doing that, we set about creating the budget for 2004-05 and set about not spending money, Mr. Chair, but investing money. Thatís an important differential.
The member then alluded to Dawson City and makes the point that we have fired the mayor and council. Frankly, Mr. Chair, if you take a look at the Municipal Act, when there is insolvency in a municipality, the governmentís responsibility is to appoint a trustee and get those financial affairs of any municipality in order.
Well, letís consider what has happened. And I know when we get into detailed debate on the Department of Community Services the members opposite will probably want to spend a great deal of time on this issue. But just generally, consider the $10.4 million plus of taxpayersí money that has been expended in Dawson City on an arena that we canít use and on a sewage treatment plant ó and we have no plant. Those are just two examples of why, given the insolvency and these issues, those two being two of the most glaring, why the government has appointed a trustee.
We have an obligation to the taxpayers to get to the bottom of this issue, and thatís exactly whatís happening today.
So I wish the member would not be so sensitive about the incorrectness of their assessment of what the government has done and be more reflective of todayís Yukon, because todayís Yukon is improving. I think the public is well aware of that. And if we measure the interest from outside this territory that is now focused on the Yukon, I think we can say with the greatest degree of confidence that the Yukon is heading in the right direction. I thank Yukoners who continue to promote our territory in a positive manner. I thank all the hardworking officials in government who are part of Team Yukon who are promoting the Yukon in the same positive manner.
I expressed to the First Nations of this territory that, as we go forward, they too will experience benefits from economic growth in the Yukon, unlike what they have experienced in the past. Many things in todayís Yukon are actually much more positive than they were a short time ago. Again, it speaks volumes to the contrast from this side of the House, the government side, and the negativity from the opposition benches.
Mr. Hardy: Well, it just so happens that we have a broader picture of the Yukon. We actually believe that weíre here to speak on behalf not of just business, not of just workers, but also people who do not have a job. Weíre also here to speak on behalf of the people who have to use social assistance. We speak on behalf of people in soup lineups. Weíre here to speak on behalf of children. Contrary to the position put forward by the minister that only comes from one angle, one approach, and thatís it. So, yes, sometimes we will ask questions that he dislikes, that he considers negative. How dare we ask a negative question. Well, when I stand here and ask a question about the soup lineups, itís not a positive outlook for those people, is it?
Maybe the Premier should go down and volunteer at the soup kitchen and understand that those lineups have continued to grow. There are more people attending soup kitchens and using the services of the NGOs trying to help them than ever before. That doesnít paint a very good picture for them. They want us to ask questions about whatís happening, whatís down the road, what the future is like. They may not be all rosy, and the poor minister on the other side doesnít like it because it sounds negative to him. Well, you know what? It sounds positive to the people I talk to, because Iím standing up here and asking those questions. I donít want to see anybody left behind in this society.
Iíve asked a question in this House about the SA rates. Well, not the rates, but the number of people who are now on SA. I did not get an answer. Why? Why did the Premier refuse to answer that question? Because the rates are up. More people are going there. But what I have heard is an attack on those people from the Minister of Health and Social Services. Many of them are working poor. Theyíre doing their best. But you know what? Theyíre part of that 6.5 percent of unemployment right now that this minister brags about, but theyíre the working poor, because many of the jobs that used to pay good wages now are the jobs that pay very little and they cannot feed their families.
Sure, the unemployment rates may have gone down, but have we looked at what type of jobs have brought it down? Seven dollars an hour will not feed your family, but people are out there working for that. Theyíre working two jobs, three jobs, and theyíre still having to go and get assistance. So weíre subsidizing wages, and theyíre part of that.
You ask them if itís a better picture. Sure, they got a job at the new stores that have opened up, but theyíre not great-paying jobs, I can tell you that. A lot of times they are part-time. A lot of times they donít get 40 hours. Most of the time theyíre not getting paid over $10 an hour. They have no benefits whatsoever, and they have to be on call. Many of them are single mothers or couples trying to feed their families and trying to get ahead. Yes, theyíre employed, and thatís good. At least there is some employment there. But Iíll tell you: that drop in our unemployment rate is not because we have tons and tons of jobs that have been created, and new mines have opened up in this territory, because under this government, we have witnessed the closure of a mine, not the opening of one. We saw that back in 1992 as well, when the Yukon Party came in.
Now, there is more exploration ó great. Iíll stand here and say thatís good news. And when I see more jobs created from that ó good, because hopefully they will be better-paying jobs. But I have questions. I have questions about the fair wage schedule, about Yukon hire. I would like to know where this government is going on Yukon hire. I have many questions.
But three stores opening up in this territory in the last two years ó of course, they employ 100 and some people. That does have an impact, but what kind of jobs?
So Iím going to go back again and ask the question about the fireweed fund. If we need new business, we need businesses growing. Has this government put seed money down to access funding from the federal government, as they promised in 2002?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, we have committed to the fireweed fund, and as I responded to the member opposite some time ago this afternoon, we are awaiting a positive response, hopefully ó a positive response from the federal government. At this time, we have had no response as yet from the federal government.
So the Yukon government has done its job.
Now, Mr. Chair, the member opposite went on at great length about the situation for those in need. Well, I can tell you that if the members opposite wish to get to the Department of Health and Social Services debate, they will see a dramatic increase in investment in our health and social programs and the delivery.
Just some of them of interest that the members may want to discuss is a $3.1-million increase for O&M at the hospital. That is certainly helping those in need. There is $320,000 invested for an FASD action plan. There is $1.8 million to open up more beds in Macaulay Lodge and 12 new beds in Copper Ridge Place. Now, nobody can dispute the fact that in opening these beds weíre not addressing issues for those in need. There is $1.9 million more in primary health care, and a $675,000 increase for enhanced daycare, addressing that issue. There is a $200,000 increase for honoraria for ambulance attendants, for example. These are just some of the things that this government is investing in with this budget, not to mention multi-level care facilities in both Watson Lake and Dawson City, and in the Member for Kluaneís riding we are expending $100,000 to do a feasibility for such a facility in Haines Junction. Weíre very focused on our seniorsí and eldersí needs in this territory.
And then letís look beyond to consider how we have invested in youth at risk. Two front-line agencies in the City of Whitehorse, for example, are now receiving a base, core-funding allocation of $110,000. And then, Mr. Chair, letís look at the increase in this budget when it comes to youth at risk.
Considering we total up the Youth Directorate investment, Health and Social Services investment, Education investment, weíve increased an investment in our youth at risk by $1 million this year. Weíve also expended $1.4 million more in social assistance in this territory. Iím not sure who the member is talking to, but I would urge him to expand his horizons. Weíve also brought forward a low-income tax credit. We have ensured that Yukon Housing no longer factors in support payments in the rental calculation for single moms. Thatís the government of the day ó this government ó that has made that decision. And of course the child benefit tax credit we will be coming forward with. This is a list of deliverables on the social side of the ledger that the government will stack up against the NDPís delivery on social issues any day.
Now letís look at detoxification. Who closed down Crossroads? Well, it happened to be the New Democratic government of 1996-2000. This government, however, is expending vast amounts of resources on the Thomson Centre for the possibility of creating a new detox centre there. Thatís another example that shows the error of the leader of the official oppositionís ways and assessment of todayís Yukon.
I urge the member opposite to focus on debate based on facts. Letís get into the detailed line-by-line debate. That would be a very interesting debate, Iím sure, for the member opposite and may very well open some eyes on the opposite side of the House, but that means we have to get into the respective departments on what the memberís dealing with. Right now weíre supposed to be debating the Department of Finance, and weíve ventured off into things like social assistance, jobs being created, so on and so forth.
I challenge the member: are the statistics wrong? Are there not, in fact, a thousand more people in the workforce this year than there were this time last year? That is a fact. Is it not the case that the Yukon has more population this year than last year? That means growth; people have moved back in. Is it not the case that today, in the Yukon, we have the third lowest unemployment rate in Canada?
How can the member opposite stand on the floor of this Legislature promoting the Yukon in such a negative light when these facts are before him? In the face of all that evidence, the member continues to present the Yukon negatively. What a shame, not only for the official opposition but for the NDP. That is not the way to present themselves in this House, and I would hope the member opposite sees the error of his ways and changes course, because there is certainly much the opposition benches can contribute, but not in this manner. Theyíre trying to reconstruct the past with absolutely no focus on the future.
The government side is focused on building a future with them or without them.
Chair:Order please. Before we continue, I would just like to take a moment to remind all members that speeches in Committee of the Whole shall be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration.
Weíve concluded general debate and are now on general debate of the Department of Finance. The Chair is not seeing the connection, though, between the department and some of the matters that have come up in debate recently.
I would just encourage all members to focus their energy and their attention on the Department of Finance.
Mr. Hardy: It is always interesting to have a debate in Finance. Finance seems to be connected to every single department, and itís a difficult one for us to debate at times, when we recognize that decisions made in Finance do have an influence in regard to so many, many decisions and directions the government goes in.
I will try to ó weíll talk about Finance and how it impacts throughout all departments and stuff like that.
But going back to my question, which I felt was very relevant for this department, on access to capital, itís not a new subject. I remember debating this back in 1996 when we came in, when I was first elected, and much of the debate ó we heard the questions on this side. We have heard the people, the elected members on this side, discuss the need for the government to work diligently to free up capital, to create an environment or create funding sources or to work closely with the federal government to identify capital that is accessible for new business, existing small business and other businesses that may want to branch into other different areas.
If, Mr. Chair, youíve ever been in business ó and I believe you have, and many people in this Legislature have owned businesses, including myself ó access to capital can often be the roadblock for growth. From my perspective of working, whether in the mines or in construction ó my own company there ó when I wanted to bid on a larger project ó it may have even been out of the territory as Iíve even considered that at times ó I had a crew and wanted to expand the operation, purchase more equipment, maybe hire more people, become a bigger company. The ability to have capital to be able to do that bidding was a roadblock, and thatís pretty common for any business in construction. We call it "bonding" ó thatís one term. Going to banks is not a way to go. Usually the interest rates, the conditions, make it very difficult for any kind of company, whether itís road-building, construction of any type, to be able to expand, keep the cash flow happening and not put themselves and their own personal properties in danger of bankruptcy, of receivership.
So bonding is the way that many businesses operate in the area Iím from. Thatís very difficult to get. Itís not easy to acquire the type of bonding you need to be able to expand.
It takes many, many years. So, of course, many businesses have come before the government to bring suggestions forward on how they could create a pool of capital that they would be able to access that is more open, more accessible and not restrictive or confined to small groups of businesses. Of course, when that happens, it blocks them out of their ability to enter that market.
Now, Iím saying that more from an existing business because often you have a business youíve been running for a bit and you see an opportunity to grow and expand. You canít do it, unless you have that access to capital. Now, a fledgling ó a new business being started ó sometimes their needs are very, very small. That could be $5,000 to buy basic equipment. It could be a self-employment idea, whether itís consulting or some kind of craft recognized ó it could be a cottage market. It could be a subsistence type of existence, or it could be trapping. There are many, many examples of things somebody could want to get into.
Now, interestingly enough, it was the NDP that created that fund that tried to address that area ó the microloan initiative.
Now that was up to a certain amount ó $5,000 to $10,000 ó somewhere around there. I donít have exact figures, but one of those two. But that allows businesses to start up or businesses that need to upgrade a piece of equipment to be able to do that and move forward. Weíve seen that around the world. Some of the most successful stories are those small funds. Iíve studied initiatives in India and Pakistan, in Africa where they have created cooperative banking, which is a model that has often been very successful. I will ask the Premier ó weíre running out of time here, so I suspect it will be tomorrow. Iíll give him a heads-up on it. I will ask about credit unions or alternatives along that line, so maybe heíll have some information for me in regard to that. But my concern, of course, is the fireweed fund and the seed money in regard to that and what discussions have happened. Are we any further ahead than when we initially started this way back when the NDP was in government, or did we go through a stalled period?
Seeing the time is a minute or two before 6:00 p.m., I move that we report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Chair: Mr. Hardy has moved that we report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Hardy: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Hardy 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 the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and instructed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time now being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following documents were filed April 26, 2004:
Highway Camp Operation and Maintenance costs for 2003-04 fiscal year. (Hart)
Dawson City, secondary sewage treatment facility; letter re: from Premier Dennis Fentie to Robert Rosenfeld, Alaska Region Director, Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council (dated April 20, 2004) (Hardy)