††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Wednesday, October 27, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: † We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Elly Porsild
Ms. Duncan: ďLives LivedĒ is a column in one of our national newspapers, the Globe and Mail, and today I rise on behalf of all Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly in tribute to a Yukon life well lived, that of the late Elly Porsild.
Elly was born in Denmark on January 25, 1903. A young woman who had never travelled more than 100 miles from home journeyed to Aklavik to join her about-to-be husband where they spent the first four years of married life on the Mackenzie Delta staffing the reindeer station.
The stories of Ellyís life there are amazing. Her first child was born two weeks after their small home in Aklavik had burned to the ground. It must have been very lonely for a young woman with a new baby and no other woman to turn to for help or advice, especially when their second child was born without an esophagus two years later and died within four days. The medical services in a small hospital in Aklavik were unable to cope with such an emergency.
A brief period in Delta, B.C. preceded the young coupleís move to the Yukon ó Sixtymile to be precise. Their trapping and mining life prospered with the arrival of more children: Aksel, Ellen and Johanne. From Sixtymile, Bob and Elly moved, built and ran a tourist lodge at Johnsons Crossing for 17 years before they retired and moved into Whitehorse.
These brief notes do not begin to tell the story of this incredible woman as it should be told, nor as it was so eloquently shared by her daughter Ellen Davignon.
Words cannot convey the spirit of Elly ó this tiny diminutive woman with bright blue eyes, who made such a difference throughout our community, throughout her hundred years.
If I had asked Ellie I suspect she would have been very humble about her contribution, although she might have spoken with pride of her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and undoubtedly with a sparkle and frankness that was uniquely hers. She might not think to mention her volunteerism with the Yukon Council on Aging, the Golden Age Society and many other Yukon organizations. She likely wouldnít take credit for contribution through her church of handmade blankets ó her kindness and warm spirit handcrafted into each one.
Few of us probably knew of Elly and her husband Bobís contribution to the botanical collections of the Natural Museum in Ottawa. Yukoners throughout the territory do remember Bob and Ellyís warm hospitality at Johnsons Crossing and Ellyís kindness was known especially by the staff, residents and visitors at Macaulay Lodge where she spent her last years.
Elly Porsild, a loving mother, a leader, a teacher by word and example, was a Yukoner who will be missed. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, the best way to remember her is to simply say, ďThank you for a life well lived, Elly. You made such a difference, and we are grateful to have shared part of your journey.Ē
Mr. Speaker, sharing the stories of Ellyís life, and joining us in the gallery today to pay tribute to her are her children, Ellen Davignon and Jo Brown, and grandchildren, Joanne Davignon, Lisa Schoneville and Keeley Davignon. I would ask all members to join me in welcoming them to our gallery today as we pay tribute to their mother and grandmother, Elly Porsild.
Speaker: Any further tributes?
In recognition of Elijah Smith Elementary School
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the House to help me welcome some guests in the gallery today: the principal, John Wright, some of his staff and some of the students from the Elijah Smith Elementary School.
Iím pleased today to rise to pay tribute to the staff and students at Elijah Smith Elementary School. This school recently received very favourable attention in Sharing Our Success, a publication highlighting 10 case studies in aboriginal schooling. Elijah Smith Elementary was featured in the publication because of their success in providing the best possible learning environment for our students. Sharing Our Success celebrated studentsí participation in the bison hunt, strong parental involvement, the breakfast program and cultural awareness, among other things.
I would like to commend John Wright, the principal, and Jan Wallace, the vice-principal, as well as the staff at Elijah Smith Elementary for their hard work and their smart and sensitive approach to schooling our First Nations students.
This government is committed to student success and lifelong learning, and Yukon schools play an integral role in enabling our students.
Keep up the excellent work you do.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 3 ó response
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today to speak to Petition No. 3, a petition duly prepared for and accepted by this Legislature in relation to the ongoing Dawson financial situation.
First, I want to commend the signatories to this petition. I believe their willingness to sign this petition is a clear indication of the strong character of Dawson residents. Any time Yukoners engage the public democratic process in this way, they are to be commended.
If I may, I would like to address the points raised in the petition. In particular I would like to state my agreement with the first point raised by petitioners that they did elect a mayor and council with the expectation that their votes would provide for responsible representative leadership. A Yukon government has never and would never dispute that fact.
The second point in the petition refers to the decision to remove the council. As the minister in charge I am keenly aware of the gravity of the decision, and I would state once again that it was a decision made only after a great deal of careful consideration.
These first two points are really two facets of one issue: the power of the people to elect a council and the responsibility of the council to serve their constituents. When an election is held, it is the publicís opportunity to express their views on who they believe can best represent their interests. And whenever anyone puts their name forward for election, I believe they do it out of a sincere desire to serve the public.
However, the state of Dawsonís finances is dire and required intervention. It is clear according to the Municipal Act that it was incumbent upon the Yukon government to step in and provide Dawsonites with a plan of action to deal with their financial problems.
The Municipal Act gives clear direction to do this for the good of the residents and all Yukon taxpayers. So thatís what we did, Mr. Speaker. We stepped in to provide the necessary support.
Finally, I wish to speak to the petitionís expectation of a full accounting of how Dawson arrived at the situation it finds itself in. This government agrees. Thatís why we contracted a well-recognized, independent auditing firm to conduct a full audit of Dawsonís financial situation. All Yukoners have a vested interest in the future of Dawson City, and all Yukoners deserve to know that their government is protecting their own interests. Thatís what this government is doing.
As I said, I commend the petitioners for coming forward. I concur that all Yukoners want and deserve a full accounting of the situation in Dawson City. I believe this government is taking appropriate steps to ensure that happens.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 106: Introduction and First Reading
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I move that a bill entitled Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that a bill entitled Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 106 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Premier to maximize recovery of taxpayersí money by streamlining the governmentís contract with the senior advisor on electoral reform out of existence at the earliest possible opportunity.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the minister responsible for the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board to replace the current chair of the Workersí Compensation Act review, who has allowed the process to fall almost a year behind its timeline, with someone more capable of completing the review.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† †Johneís disease
Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Minister of Environment about the governmentís Wildlife Preserve.
Earlier this week the president of the non-profit society that is managing the preserve announced that most of the animals arenít being allowed to breed this season. The reason he gave was concerns over the existence of Johneís disease at the facility. I realize the minister isnít a wildlife biologist or a veterinarian, but can he explain in laymanís terms how widespread Johneís disease is at the reserve?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I cannot explain the extent of Johneís disease. I cannot explain the involvement. It is a very high priority to identify disease in not only captive wildlife but our complete wildlife population. It is an issue that the department has been working on but Iíll endeavour to get back to the member opposite with a complete ó if the member so wishes we could provide the member opposite with a briefing on this issue.
Mrs. Peter: It was quite refreshing to hear the president of the society speak so frankly about the situation at the Wildlife Preserve and why they decided not to breed the animals this year.
I hope the minister is taking lessons from that, because his predecessor was not always so forthcoming. Did the minister and his colleagues know the extent of Johneís disease at the Wildlife Preserve before they bought it? If they did, what effect did that have on the decision to buy out the previous owners?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: These are internal working details that Iím not at all familiar with. I know the issue of disease, disease identification and control is a high priority for the Department of Environment. Itís an area that we are concentrating on, not only in the captive wildlife but in the wildlife as the game is harvested. Itís an ongoing process to collect blood samples. As I outlined for the member opposite, they are very capable individuals operating the game preserve, along with the proper health authorities overseeing health in this area. I can endeavour to provide a full and complete briefing for the member opposite on this very important area.
Mrs. Peter: This minister had all summer to familiarize himself with this department. Several studies over the past two decades have suggested a possible relationship between Johneís disease in animals and Crohnís disease in humans. Last month the British Medical Associationís journal, The Lancet, reported on a recent study about the bacterium that causes Johneís disease being found in the blood of Crohnís disease patients.
If the minister isnít aware of this report, Iíd be happy to send him a copy. Iím sure heíll find it very interesting. In the meantime, Iíd like to follow up on a concern we hear quite often throughout the Yukon.
What steps is the ministerís department taking to ensure that domestic and wild animals in the Yukon wonít be exposed to Johneís disease from the animals at the Wildlife Preserve?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The area the game preserve is on ó in fact, if the member just waits a little bit for the next budget cycle, the member opposite will clearly see thereís a double fencing in the capital budget ó† which Iím sure the member opposite will not approve ó that will contain the animals. There are quite a number of veterinarians and biologists within the Department of Environment, and this is an area the department has identified and is concentrating on.
Iím sure the department has a copy of the report the member opposite referred to in-house. That is not my field of expertise.
We have some very capable staff in-house who address these issues. It has been identified as a high priority for the department and it is something that is constantly monitored and being dealt with.
Question re: Tombstone Territorial Park
†Mrs. Peter: My question is again to the Minister of Environment. The government issued the orders-in-council establishing the Tombstone Territorial Park last Friday. Section 1(3) of Schedule A in chapter 10 of the TríondŽk HwŽchíin Final Agreement requires Yukon to establish the Tombstone Territorial Park as a natural environment park as soon as practical following the determination of the boundaries of the park. Those boundaries were determined and publicly announced in December 1999. Why did it take so long for this government to establish that park?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would say the park was proceeded with at the most rapid of paces. If you want a comparison to another park that was established under a previous administration and finally concluded under our administration, that is Fishing Branch, which took seven years. Tombstone Park took four years from the time the process was started by government to the time the order-in-council was passed. It was dealt with at a Cabinet meeting last Thursday and I believe the Commissioner signed the order-in-council on Friday establishing Tombstone Park. It is our governmentís intention ó and it always has been ó to establish Tombstone Park in full compliance with the TríondŽk HwŽchíin Final Agreement, and that has been done by our government.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, on Monday, the minister said that the orders-in-council were developed in-house. He said he tried to call the TríondŽk HwŽchíin chief but failed. Can the minister table the details of the consultations and meetings he had had, and that the previous minister did hold with the TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation on the establishment of the park?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, there were many meetings over a number of years leading up to the creation of Tombstone Park. The final order-in-council creating Tombstone Park was created in-house by the Government of Yukon. Itís an internal document. It is in full compliance with the TríondŽk HwŽchíin Final Agreement. The next step is the creation of the management plan, and some work has been done on the management plan to date. Iím hopeful that that will come to fruition in short order also.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, in order to establish a park, there are many environmental issues that need to be addressed. First Nations need to feel that their concerns have been met within their traditional territories. The TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation has been very vocal that their concerns have not been met by the establishment of this park. Again I ask the minister: can he table the meetings that he had with TríondŽk HwŽchíin, and what steps does the minister plan to take to address any remaining issues?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The park has been established by order-in-council. That fulfills part of our governmentís agreement to the †† , which is to establish a park. The next step that we will be taking as a government is to create the management plan. And there has been work underway with the department and TríondŽk HwŽchíin to establish the management plan. That is the next step in this undertaking. As far as I am concerned ó and I am sure a great many Yukoners are concerned ó we as a government have fulfilled our obligation under the TríondŽk HwŽchíin Self-Government Agreement to create Tombstone Park.
It is a park ó a live, living park. It has been created. It is there.
Question re: Education Act review
Ms. Duncan: †I have some questions for the Minister of Education. For two years the government has glided along with a legislation-light agenda. Weíve seen work on major pieces of legislation grind to a halt under the Yukon Party government ó a government that simply refuses to do the hard work of governing. The Workersí Compensation Act review stalled, the new Liquor Act stalled, and in the ministerís department, the Education Act stalled. There are just three examples.
Section 205 of the Education Act requires in law that the act be reviewed every 10 years. That review began in 1999 under an NDP government and continued under our government. As soon as the Yukon Party took office the work ended.
That review is mandatory. It is required by law. The minister is not living up to the laws that we pass in this Legislature by not living up to section 205 of the act. When will Yukoners see the new Education Act in this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite was right when she stated that there was supposed to be an Education Act review. Thatís true, but thatís all it states, Mr. Speaker. It doesnít say that it has to be revised or rewritten. It just says it has to be reviewed.
Ms. Duncan: So the minister has just stood on his feet and proved my point. The Yukon Party isnít prepared to do the hard work of governing.
The Education Act, section 205, was put there for a reason by the Legislature that said this act shall be reviewed with the intent that any legislative needs that arenít being met would be and would be dealt with.
Last Thursday, the Premier claimed that the government is making progress on educational reform. Thatís not the case either. There has been no reform of our education system under this government. For two years the Yukon Party has refused to work on the Education Act, and the government is ducking the issue because it requires a lot of hard work and it requires listening, two things the Yukon Party isnít prepared to do.
Why is the Yukon Party stalling on the Education Act and on education reform? Why is that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I mean no disrespect to the member opposite; however, the member is wrong again. This party does work hard; this party does listen. The member opposite did have the opportunity to fulfill the commitments to the Education Act but didnít. This government seems to be in the process of cleaning up a lot of things from previous governments, and I must say they left a lot of work for us to do.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the legislative cupboard for this fall sitting is completely bare. The only real piece of legislation is the cover-your-act changes to the Motor Vehicles Act to stop the Minister of Justice from interfering with tow trucks.
The Yukon Party election platform made this commitment: seek a consensus from all stakeholders about the Education Act review. The partners in education are waiting for that review to begin. Parents, teachers, school councils, First Nations ó we all want this work to go ahead. The only thing stopping it is the government and its fear of hard work. It has been two years. When is the minister going to start the much-needed and promised and legislated review of the Education Act and the education reform talked about by the Premier? When is that going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again I want to confirm in the House that this government is not afraid of hard work, and itís clearly demonstrated in the amount of progress that has been made on the education front and the economic development front, First Nation relationships ó everything is going along fairly well, Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact. This government believes that good legislation is better than poor legislation. If youíre going to produce legislation, it has to be good. I think it is a credit to any government that they donít produce legislation just for the sake of producing legislation. And I commend this government for really looking at the legislation and being selective about what they bring forward.
Question re: Ambulance contracts
Mr. McRobb: The Health minister has a lot of explaining to do regarding his role in the purchase of two box ambulances. Instead of allowing experts within the department to order three new Suburban ambulances, the minister interfered and sole-sourced a contract for two box ambulances. Not only is the ministerís choice more difficult for paramedics to use, these dual-wheel four-wheel-drive units cost a whole lot more. And among other concerns, they canít fit into all ambulance bays in the territory.
How can this minister possibly believe the public received good value for its money, and will he commit to never interfering like this again?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís obvious that the member opposite knows not of what he speaks. The issue of the type I ambulance is a standard across North America today. The issue of four-wheel drive is of paramount importance in some of our rural areas.
But the question should have been: what has our government done for the emergency medical services? We have spent $250,000 on capital, providing new ambulances. Weíve provided another $200,000 for clothing. Weíve provided additional training. Thereís a full-time trainer now on staff. In addition to that, honorariums have been increased for our rural EMS. So there is a whole series of initiatives that this government has undertaken to address the emergency medical services. We are very proud of our accomplishments in this area. One only has to look across the Yukon to see the effect of this infusion of money into the capital and O&M of this very important area.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to add that the minister neglected to mention the $80,000 he spent to modify the ambulance bay in Ross River so the new box ambulance would even fit into the building.
Now, as stated, this minister has a lot of explaining to do. He refused to answer written questions on this matter. In fact, he pompously brushed off the eight questions ó
Speaker: Order. Accusing a member of being pompous is not parliamentary, and I would ask the member not to do that.
Mr. McRobb: He brushed off the eight questions asked of him in a July 28 public letter. Itís high time this minister shed some light on how he sole-sourced the contract. Contrary to normal practice, he circumvented the governmentís own procedures and awarded the contract to a Surrey, B.C. company. The limit for sole sourcing is $50,000. In this case it was five times that amount. Why did the minister interfere in the tendering process, and will he commit to never doing that again?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The minister did not interfere. Sole-source contracts have a role and a place. If the member opposite would like to check the government Web site, the member opposite will find that the Minister of Health probably signs off on more sole-source contracts than any other minister in the Government of Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: This minister interfered with a tendering process that was working just fine. In fact, just a few months earlier an ambulance was tendered through normal channels quite successfully. One of the problems caused by the ministerís interference was sole-sourcing an open-ended contract without specifying a deadline for delivery. This resulted in a delivery time of seven months. According to the contract, the minister was satisfied with ďas soon as possibleĒ instead of insisting on a set delivery deadline. Giving contractors such indefinite parameters is unheard of.
Why would the minister give an open-ended delivery date to this contractor? This goes against normal practice and smacks of favouritism. Why did he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I pointed out the member opposite in my letter to him, to the best of my knowledge, all government contracting regulations were adhered to with respect to the purchase of these ambulances. I stand on our record and there is a complete audit on all government contracts. This was a much-needed piece of equipment that we committed to purchasing and this was done. So I donít know if I should be apologizing to the Member for Kluane for undertaking my role and fulfilling my obligations to the people of the Yukon by providing new ambulances, but I doubt not.
Question re: Ambulances
Mr. Cardiff: I have a follow-up question for the Minister of Health and Social Services about ambulances. Now that these ambulances are in use, some concerns have been raised about the actual ambulances. Due to the size of the ambulance, lifting a stretcher into one of these huge ambulances is much more difficult and takes considerably more effort on the part of the attendants.
Itís my understanding there have been at least six injuries and WCB claims related to lifting stretchers into the ambulances. How many injury claims related to the use of the new ambulances is the minister aware of?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The four-wheel-drive ambulances are higher off the ground than a standard ambulance ó thatís a given. The request was for four-wheel-drive ambulances from a number of areas. There will probably be a need for more four-wheel-drive ambulances that are higher off the ground than standard ambulances but the standard for ambulances across the country is directed toward a type 1 type of ambulance.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister should be concerned about this in his other role as minister responsible for the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board because itís going to affect how they operate.
The minister personally meddled in the purchasing of the ambulances and he doesnít appear to be concerned about the rights of the workers. Workers in any occupation have a right, under the Workersí Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, to refuse unsafe work.
Can the minister tell us how many ambulance workers have refused to use the new ambulances for fear of injury and unsafe work?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Public Service Commission is the agency that hires and looks after ó and unless something comes to my desk separate and distinct, we do not interfere with the operations of the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Cardiff: This minister isnít responsible for anything any more. Heís not responsible for the ambulances, heís not responsible for the injuries to the workers and heís not responsible for the act review.
The minister has got to be aware of these problems because theyíre in both of his portfolios. Heís responsible for the ambulances; heís responsible for the Workersí Compensation Act.
My understanding of the ministerís solution is that heís going to pawn these ambulances off on the communities, on communities outside of Whitehorse. I donít know what heís hoping. Maybe he thinks itís a case of out of sight, out of mind. So does the minister really believe that sending ambulances to outlying communities is going to fix this problem, and in which communities can ambulance workers expect to face the choice of whether or not to work with these white-and-orange elephants?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government will stand on its record of what we have done for emergency medical services here in the Yukon. In one budget cycle we have put $250,000 into capital acquisitions: two type 1, four-wheel-drive ambulances. There is a demonstrated need for four-wheel-drive ambulances in many, many parts of the Yukon. In addition, we have put $200,000 into clothing. In addition to that, we have increased honorariums, the first time that honorariums have been increased for volunteer EMS staff.
And that has not been done since the 1970s. So when you add it all up, we have put over half a million dollars into this area ó very, very important ó and we acknowledge, recognize and respect the efforts and initiatives of our volunteers in the emergency medical services across the Yukon.
Question re: Tantalus School, Yukon College campus at
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Education.
This ministerís attitude toward the work and the time spent by his own school planning committee in good faith in Carmacks is appalling. This minister has unilaterally made his own decision, prompted by who knows. He told us yesterday that the decision on the school is final. The uncertainty he has created for all future consultation is obvious.
This minister has breached the agreement he made with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation a year ago. The agreement states that the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and the Government of Yukon agreed to: ďwork together in a spirit of cooperation and partnership in connection with planning toward the establishment of a new school facility to be located in Carmacks.Ē And I have that for tabling, Mr. Speaker.
Why did the minister go out of his way to breach the agreement?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again I will start by correcting the member opposite. This minister didnít go out of his way to breach anything. As a matter of fact, this minister went to great lengths to understand the situation in Carmacks.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would like to have the public believe that every citizen in Carmacks is in agreement with not having the campus attached to the school. I say today that thatís not true. The fact is that I have had members from Carmacks who could not get an appointment with the member opposite and drove all the way from Carmacks to sit in my office and talk about their approval of the campus being attached to the school.
So, Mr. Speaker, itís not unanimous in the community, and this is something this government has been grappling with since day one.
Now, thereís a big picture here, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite appears to have tunnel vision and only wants to see through that tunnel. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, his colleagues cheer for him once again, but Iím talking about an intergovernmental agreement that minister signed off on, and he breached it. So what good are government agreements with First Nations? Not the paper itís written on, obviously, Mr. Speaker. Letís go on.
In this agreement, there is a workplan for the committee. Section 4.2 of the agreement states that the committee may ó I stress the word ďmayĒ ó also consider specific recommendations regarding the possible incorporation of the College campus in the school facility or adjacent to the school facility. So why did the minister choose to ignore this section of the agreement?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, Mr. Speaker, this minister did not ignore anything. Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of controversy from day one about this very positive project. The safety of the children is paramount to this government, and I believe I stated from day one on this project that this government will not allow this to be a political football. It has been a very, very hard struggle to keep it from becoming that. Mr. Speaker, as the minister, I will continue to do my job, which is to provide public infrastructure for education.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: It was this minister who broke his word. He broke his word to the First Nation. After signing off an agreement and then announcing it in the House that he made an agreement with the First Nation, he broke his word over and over again. Itís quite obvious that the First Nation is upset about it. They demonstrated outside of this House ó some 50 to 60 people along with support from other First Nations around the territory. So the member opposite needs to take those types of things seriously. Just think about what the signs out there said.
The agreement mentions chapter 22 of the First Nationís final agreement and it commits the government to maximize benefits during construction of the school. It also promises pre-construction training. The minister hasnít said anything about that yet. Itís only a matter of seven months away. Will there be training for the First Nations, or is this just another broken promise?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to state for the record that in my opinion this whole agreement with the First Nation was to focus specifically on the training issues, and it will happen. Unlike previous governments, Carmacks will see a school. There are no broken promises here. The promise was that this government will produce a school, and we will. To the citizens in Carmacks, I think I show the utmost respect to them. And the demonstration that was mentioned is merely democracy in action. They have that right to do that, and I applaud them for doing it.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 332
Clerk: Motion No. 332, standing in the name of Mr. Hassard.
Speaker:† It has been moved by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to work with the Royal Canadian Legion to design and develop a veterans licence plate in recognition of Yukon veterans and their efforts to protect our country and preserve peace around the world.
Mr. Hassard: It is an honour to bring forward this motion today as I feel this is a very important matter. I will tell the Member for Mayo-Tatchun just how I feel about that.
I feel it is important for us to give recognition to the very people who fought for our right to the freedom and democracy that we have today, which allows us to be here in the Legislature. Whether they are veterans of the World Wars or peacekeepers of today, they put their lives on the line for us and they put the good of all others ahead of their own well-being.
This licence plate, in my mind, is only a small token of the appreciation and it is the least that we can do for this remarkable group of people.
We have the opportunity to be the eighth jurisdiction in Canada to take this step. The Northwest Territories, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland already have a veterans plate available. Other provinces are looking at doing the same in the very near future.
I would like to thank our Tourism and Culture minister for doing a lot of the legwork that has gotten us to this point. I believe that she has been working with a constituent to bring this matter to light, and I thank her for that. My hope is that, with the Royal Canadian Legion at our side, we can develop a plate that is appealing to all Yukoners and that also easily identifies our veterans.
I would like this plate to be something that all Yukoners can be proud of. Iím sure that over the course of the next hour or two or four ó whatever it may be ó we will hear many suggestions as to what this plate can look like, and I look forward to that discussion.
I believe that the Royal Canadian Legion can play a large role in this licence plate, not only by giving us the advice, as they were obviously some of the people involved, but perhaps by being involved in the authorizing of any of the application forms according to their records. If by chance there are veterans who are not in their records, then I hope that we can find a way to get them in that process as well.
Given the small jurisdiction by population that we are, itís fairly obvious that weíre not going to have a large number of veterans here. It is my understanding that there are approximately 100 at this time. So it would be my desire to see this plate offered to those people at no charge. What I see is that this is a possible process for acquiring a licence plate that is fairly simple. If a veteran wishes to acquire a plate, the vet would get the application and the eligibility certification form from the Legion for the motor vehicle branch. The veteran would then fill out the form and attach the proof of service. The form could be sent to the Legion with a small processing fee. The Legion would verify the info and stamp the form as acknowledging that the applicant is eligible. This signed and stamped form is then returned to the applicant and the applicant then acquires the veteran plate through the motor vehicle branch.
November 11 will soon be upon us again, and November 11 is a day that all Canadians remember those who served in Canadaís armed forces. We honour the memory of the fallen and those left behind.
As a child growing up in Teslin, I remember every year the assembly of students in the gymnasium, and many times we would have veterans come in and speak to us about their experiences. I remember being taught the importance of the poppy, and I remember how proud we were as kids to go and pay for those poppies, dropping the quarters in, or whatever money we had, to pay for the poppy. We were told to be very proud of this, and to this day I still make a point of getting a poppy on that occasion.
Mr. Speaker, with the ever-decreasing number of veterans as time goes by, it becomes more important for those of us who have heard the stories first-hand to teach the younger people what November 11 and our veterans really mean to us. I was fortunate enough to grow up with a close family friend who is a World War II veteran, a fellow by the name of Mike Warren, who still lives in Teslin at the ripe young age of 81. And over the years he has made sure that I and other members of my family are very aware of the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers ó whether it was the stories of going to England in a ship and all the struggles of being on the ship, how crowded and uncomfortable it was and how sick they were. He mentions that regularly. And I can just imagine being a young man at that time and leaving your home near the Rocky Mountains and being stuck on a ship, headed across the ocean with probably very little understanding of where you were even going. It must have been quite a time. And these people gave up years of their lives over there fighting to protect the very reason that we are here today.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Hassard: Mr. Speaker, if I could just bring your attention to the corner of the gallery for a moment. With us is my wife and my son, Ty ó if I could ask all members to join me in welcoming them.
I see in the press gallery my other son, Simon.
Mr. Hassard: Mr. Speaker, moving right along, I know for a fact that those children will grow up with the same respect for veterans and November 11 that I have. I feel it is my duty to do that, to make sure they understand it. For generations to come, we must make sure they understand what was sacrificed. One could only wonder where we would be without that sacrifice. I wonder if we would enjoy the same freedoms we have today and all the opportunities that are afforded to us.
In my mind, we are quite lucky. We have the luxury of living and working anywhere in Canada, we can travel from province to province and territory to territory without having to get permission. We have essentially unguarded borders with another country, and weíre free to roam about as we please. We can attend schools anywhere in the country, we can take jobs in any province or territory we choose, and we have that right because weíre a free country.
Mr. Speaker, I remember vividly the images of the falling of the Berlin Wall and the celebration of the people getting their first taste of freedom. I was living in Oshawa, Ontario, at the time and was learning to fly an airplane. Imagine that, being 23 years old, living freely on my own, thousands of miles from where I was born and grew up, and basically free, and on TV we saw people who were 50 and 60 years old being able to leave their country for the first time ever. To me, itís amazing that we do have what we have.
Iím certainly thankful for what we do have.
Mr. Speaker, we hear much talk in the Yukon about tourism and the beautiful place we have around us, but I canít imagine if this wasnít a free country how many tourists we would have. I canít imagine anyone going on vacation to a place such as Iraq. I donít think it would matter what the scenery or the climate was, we wouldnít be going there. We live in a great place and we owe an awful lot of it to our veterans.
And I donít believe it makes any difference whether youíre an environmentalist or a hard-core, two-stroke, cold-smoke person such as myself. I believe weíve all benefited from what weíve seen sacrificed.
The Member for Lake Laberge finds humour in my reference.
Iím sure weíll have our disagreements over how we should take care of our country, how we should use it, and how we should govern it, but the bottom line is that we all benefited from the sacrifice of other people.
One of the things I commonly hear from friends and relatives is how good it is to be a Canadian when youíre travelling. Iím sure everyone in this Legislature has heard that. Itís common knowledge that Canadians are accepted and thought highly of, for the most part, all over the world. And I truly believe that part of that is due to our record as peacekeepers and liberators. When you talk to people from Europe who witnessed what our soldiers did over there, you soon learn how grateful they are to our Canadian soldiers.
And Canadians are recognized as playing a huge role in the World Wars. Our peacekeepers are asked to help out around the world on a regular basis. Quite often, they are sent to countries that are trying to have elections, and those people are in need of help to ensure that they are carried out in a fair and safe manner.
Perhaps at this time I could make mention of a young man from Teslin by the name of Roscoe Wiseman, who is currently a member of our military. I have had several occasions to talk to him about his travels and while a lot of it is fun, Iím sure, there are times when heís in situations that Iím sure a lot of us donít want to be in. He has shown me many pictures and told lots of stories of what itís like to be there. I certainly commend him and thank him for being devoted to do that. Iím sure itís not the easiest thing to do. I get the impression from him that Canadian soldiers are considered to be perhaps more fair and sincere in their work than peacekeepers from other nations who are doing the same type of work. Canadians are held in a very high regard, and I think, as Canadians, we should all be proud of that.
While most of us donít necessarily consider peacekeeping the most dangerous activity for a soldier, there are many dangers just the same. One only has to think back a few short weeks ago to the fire on the HMCS Chicoutami, a fire that resulted in the death of one of the crew members. Even though they were not in the midst of battle or in combat, the nature of the job is such that a life can be lost at any time. Itís unfortunate that we had to see the wife and children of that submariner having to deal with that sacrifice. That is, in my mind, the ultimate sacrifice.
We cannot forget Canadian soldiers killed by friendly fire. A number of years back, a bomb dropped accidentally from a U.S. plane taking the lives of more Canadian soldiers. And those people, Iím sure, thought they were in a safe and secure environment.
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian military has also played a large role in developing the Yukon Territory. Whitehorse was home to a large number of Canadian soldiers after the Second World War. There were many things that they did; among those, Iím sure, was maintaining and upgrading the Alaska Highway and taking care of our airports and improving them.
Mr. Speaker, there is so much that could be said, and Iím sure weíll have lots of discussion about it today as to all the good reasons for having this veterans plate. So Iíll basically wrap things up by saying that I believe that by working with the Royal Canadian Legion we can ensure that all Canadian veterans, peacekeepers and other Canadians who served in the Allied forces will be able to receive this licence plate. The Royal Canadian Legion has over 400,000 members and affiliates. It has 1,600 branches in Canada, 21 in the United States and four in Germany. So I believe they are positioned very well to play a large role in this endeavour.
So with that, Mr. Speaker, I will open the floor, and I look forward to hearing unanimous support for this worthwhile cause.
Mr. McRobb: I am also very proud to stand on behalf of the official opposition and speak in favour of this motion this afternoon. Certainly all Canadian veterans deserve our respect and support always.
Mr. Speaker, in the territory today, we still have a number of veterans. There are two First Nations veterans in the Kluane riding. They are rather distinguished and have been in this Legislature before as part of tributes and certain notable events.
They are Alex Van Bibber and John Adamson.† They also have the case with the federal government about outstanding compensation for their role in World War II, which was never officially recognized until recently.
My father also served in World War II and went over in one of those rusty boats the previous speaker mentioned and came back on the Queen Elizabeth I. He was part of the second wave that landed in Holland and advanced into France and Germany. One thing of note I can recall from listening to my fatherís recollections is that on VE Day he was in Trafalgar Square, and I would imagine the party at that location on that day was something to behold.
Dedicating a licence plate to the veterans is a small measure that we in this House can do to show our appreciation, and I believe it will go a long way to delivering that message to our veterans and other people in the territory that the respect toward our veterans continues for all they accomplished some 60 years ago in World War II and in other wars previously and in other terms of service this country has been part of.
Rather than get into suggestions for the design of the licence plates, I would submit that that is something that we should wait to hear about from veterans themselves, and possibly look at their suggestions and decide what to do.
Iím also a bit inquisitive as to the motion today and its purpose, when in fact itís something that was doable by the Yukon Party government both in terms of the budget for this main year and the supplementary budget that will be tabled here tomorrow. This government could easily have identified funds for this purpose and could have done it rather than having us just talk about it today. So Iím a little puzzled about that. This is something that, if everybody is supportive, perhaps we can amend the budget to provide for such funds for this purpose. Certainly we would consider being a part of a united effort to do that.
I can go on but, out of respect for my colleagues, I think everybody should have an opportunity to get up and have their say today and possibly identify their constituents of note who have served in battle for our country.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †It is indeed my honour and privilege to stand before members of this Legislature to speak to this very important motion before us put forward by my colleague. I have to say that one of the great things about serving office as a member of the Legislative Assembly is to be able to act upon initiatives that are raised by constituents ó initiatives that are great ideas, that are recommendations for improving how we deliver services and programs in the territory on behalf of Yukoners, and initiatives that certainly recognize the significant contributions of our own Yukon people.
As such, with that said, I have to say that Iím very pleased to be able to stand here before Members of the Legislative Assembly not to pay recognition to our government for bringing forward this motion, but really to thank my constituent Wayne Wannamker for raising this very important initiative with me a few months ago.
It was actually back in June, as I recall, when Wayne had given me a call and, I believe, members of the opposition as well. He was seeking the support of all Members of the Legislative Assembly to perhaps have our consideration to go forward with this very important initiative. With that said, I immediately thought, ďThis is a great idea.Ē I was not as familiar with this initiative as I perhaps could have been, but immediately after taking the phone call, I did a bit of research myself. Also, thanks to Mr. Wannamker for forwarding additional information to my office.
I really became familiar that this is certainly not a new initiative, as my colleague to the right had mentioned this initiative. The veterans licence plate program has actually been in effect in a number of jurisdictions across Canada and across the United States. As the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin mentioned, the veterans-recognition licence plates are certainly commonplace.
There are a number of provinces and territories that already have this initiative in place, including the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. I also understand that Saskatchewan, as well as Alberta, are in the process of adopting such a plate as well. In fact, Alberta made that announcement back in August of this year. I am also familiar that the State of Alaska has also progressed with this initiative.
So I think the reason for bringing forward this motion is two-fold. For one, itís a very important initiative. As the Member for Kluane just said, it is a small token of appreciation, but I believe it really brings significant symbolism ó certainly our recognition. And thanks to the many veterans, men and women around the world, especially here in Canada, who have served in times of war as well as in times of peace.
So I am very supportive of this initiative, and I am very happy to be a part of a government that is taking steps to look at the development of a licence plate program here in the Yukon.
Now, we all know veterans, Iím sure, in each of our ridings, certainly among family and friends. Well, my grandfather was a merchant marine. My cousinís husband is also a long-time peacekeeper who has served throughout the world ó many, many years over the last 20 years. So I think that we are all very familiar with the many contributions that are brought forward by Canadians, both men and women, on a day-to-day basis. We are forever in their debt for their contributions, again in times of peace and in war.
Mr. Speaker, on June 6, 1944, 15,000 Canadian soldiers landed at Juno Beach as part of the Allied invasion of Normandy, which eventually led to the end of World War II in Europe. On June 6, 2004, the 60th anniversary of what has become known as D-Day was remembered and was celebrated by all Yukoners here and across the territory. I was very pleased and proud to take part in that particular anniversary, remembrance, celebration of D-Day here in the City of Whitehorse. It really was a very special time. There was a huge gathering of Yukoners outside of the City Hall and it was an opportunity for all of us to honour our veterans and the sacrifices they made on our behalf.
I think itís very fitting that we do certainly look at providing all our support from all parties to proceed with this very important initiative, and itís very timely that it is the 60th anniversary of D-Day. We also have Remembrance Day coming up on November 11.
We are certainly looking forward to soliciting all-party support on this initiative. Again I thank my colleague, the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, for bringing forward this motion.
As I expressed earlier, an official plate sends a clear signal that the Government of Yukon recognizes the contribution of veterans and is very willing to commemorate their efforts, and that is exactly what this initiative is intended to be.
As has been mentioned earlier, currently all other jurisdictions leave the veterans designation to local veterans organizations like the Royal Canadian Legion. I suppose if the territory adopted a similar approach, Yukoners who want this plate would pick up an application at the motor vehicles branch or the Legion, would complete the form and would return it to the Legion for certification. Therefore, the completed application could then be brought forward to motor vehicles branch and the plate could be issued.
This is but one idea and is a form of communication that is used by other provinces that previously adopted this initiative.
As I understand it, to implement this initiative there would need to be an amendment to the regulations proscribing licence plates and validation tabs, so it certainly is not a very lengthy process. Itís not a cumbersome process. I also do not think it would require a lot of resources to complete.
As I mentioned, other provinces ó Nova Scotia and British Columbia ó and just recently on June 1 the Northwest Territories government announced that it would also honour veterans by introducing this very program. Certainly in all of my research I have found some very similar attributes among all programs offered in the provinces and territories right now. Some of those are that, under the programs, a veteran is defined as a person who has honourably served in the Armed Forces of Canada, the Commonwealth or its wartime allies for a minimum of three years, may still be serving, or served in the merchant navy or a ferry command in war time, or served in a theatre of war with the Armed Forces of Canada, the Commonwealth or its wartime allies, or performed NATO service on peacekeeping missions within the Armed Forces of Canada.
Again, as the MLA for Kluane had mentioned earlier, it certainly isnít for myself or any of us to dictate who would be eligible and who would not be eligible under this program, but rather, as the motion indicates, I think what is very clearly important is that collaboration take place in the respective department as well as the Royal Canadian Legion, the Yukon branch, in defining who should be eligible or not eligible.
But certainly, as with previous provinces in adopting this initiative, there seems to be some very similar characteristics in their eligibility criteria.
There is also a whole variety of ways of administering the plate when it comes to costs. Some jurisdictions have been able to offer, free of charge, an exchange of the plate for their previous current plate, or in other jurisdictions such as Ontario, I understand there is a $5 administration fee that is charged by the Legion to verify eligibility for administration costs.
It certainly seems to be a pretty minor cost, if at all, if there is to be a cost incurred. I think that clearly the message is that we want to proceed further with this very important initiative. It is very symbolic and it certainly shows the respect and appreciation to the veterans who have served or continue to serve our country. Whether they have served in times of war or in times of peace, men and women of this country have worked hard to maintain a sense of peace in our country as well as maintain that sense of peace outside of our borders, for which we are very grateful to them.† We are here to remember soldiers, sailors, aircrews ó you name it.
As has been mentioned before, I think itís really important that this motion be brought forward to the Legislature for all-party support because I think it is a very important initiative that does deserve all of our recognition.
And certainly this will raise the awareness of the licence plate program, as well. I think it is really important for all of us as members to have the opportunity to say a few words. I believe that we should go forward with this initiative, and we should move accordingly. We should continue to work with the Royal Canadian Legion. Again I think it is very important, given the importance of this initiative, that we give all members of this Legislature the opportunity to say a few words.
With respect to the design, the licence plate here in the Yukon has certainly been anything but an easy process. It has served to divide Yukoners at times, but I think we have a great licence plate currently in place. I think with a bit of creativity, perhaps this new veterans plate could incorporate most attributes of our current plate, but by giving some recognition to the veterans, either in the name itself or through a symbol of the veterans. Again, I would defer that matter, and I would certainly recommend that the respective department work very closely with the Royal Canadian Legion and our veterans to determine what design fits well for all Yukoners.
Here in the Yukon, as we all know, veterans and soldiers have all played a very important role in the development of the Yukon. Just looking to my hometown of Watson Lake, the construction of the Alaska Highway, the incredible international historical landmark, which was a feat in itself ó an engineering feat, I should add ó is indicative of the very importance that the army did serve here in the Yukon in providing an access corridor, a transportation corridor, an access of security and safety. It also helped develop further some of our communities.
Today it now has actually progressed from being a transportation corridor to a very popular visitor attraction among people from all over the world. So, for that, we say thank you as well.
I donít have much more to add. I think this is a pretty straightforward motion. I am very supportive of this initiative, and I would urge the government to move forward expeditiously, I would encourage all members on the opposite side of the House to join us in supporting this program, and I look forward to hearing further comments in support.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to recognize and express my appreciation to the members opposite who brought the motion forward, the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin for tabling the motion and the Minister of Tourism and Culture for not only speaking in support of the motion but also presenting today some significant homework that was done on the background. We donít see a lot of this kind of cooperation in the Legislature and this kind of cooperation and ó as others said earlier ó to be able to act and make a difference with an issue brought forward by a constituent, thatís what makes the job worthwhile. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the motion.
I believe that this motion was brought forward and brought forward in this way in the Legislature, rather than just passing regulations, to give us all an opportunity to speak in favour of it and also to be able to express as a House our unanimous support for this motion, and I hope it will receive unanimous support.
I would also like to recognize the efforts of Wayne Wannamker, who has been tireless in his efforts to help us to recognize veterans, not only in this manner but in other initiatives that have been brought forward before the House. It is an honour to serve such constituents as they have served us.
The Member for Pelly-Nisutlin mentioned the challenge of conveying to our children the depth and the breadth of the sacrifice ó the ďwhyĒ we will remember them and the significance of the poppy. I would also like to note for all members the new Canadian quarter this year: the coin with the poppy on it. Itís another way weíve recognized, as Canadians, the service of our veterans. And it helps us to convey to our children how important it is and what the significance of the poppy is.
Iíd also like to recognize the people who help us to teach our children to remember the ďwhyĒ. I would specifically like to mention the principals, teachers and staff at two of the schools in my riding: principal Jim Tredger at Jack Hulland School and principal Kerry Huff at Porter Creek Secondary School, and their staffs. Iíd especially like to remind members about the service ó if they ever have an opportunity to attend it ó at Porter Creek Secondary School. Itís held on November 10 so itís not competing with, if you will, the November 11 ceremonies that I have attended for years in my Brownie uniform, and in other capacities, at F.H. Collins.
The service, prepared by the high school students at Porter Creek Secondary School, is very, very well done and itís an honour to attend.
Another way that I have tried to encourage my children to understand, and another additional source of support in teaching and explaining the sacrifice, has been my childrenís grandparents. My mother-in-law and my mother both served in the Canadian Armed Forces. My fatherís service I would also like to recognize today, as we are recognizing veterans. Flight Lieutenant Thomas Faulkner Duncan served in the Royal Air Force and his service record, including teaching Canadian pilots in Ontario, is quite lengthy. We are reminded of that service with his squadron crests hanging in our family home, as well as the commendation from the king.
Itís my fatherís service that really struck me when Mr. Wannamker and I spoke about this because my concern is that the Allied forces also be able to be recognized. My concern with that is that I know that certainly my father is not the only individual. The Yukon is such a multicultural and unique society in all of Canada. We have many, many Americans who live in our communities. In my riding I can think of several who may also have had service ó Yukon driverís licence and Yukon vehicles. I would like to see this opportunity extended to them as well.
I also fully respect that itís the Royal Canadian Legion that we should work with and they should determine the criteria. I would just ask that these individuals be given consideration as well in our recommendation and that we not leave these individuals out.
I donít in any way downplay the contribution of Canadian citizens in this respect either. I mean no disrespect to anyone. I am trying to convey a desire to the Legion to work with them and to be open and to encourage the recognition of Yukon veterans.
I just would like to close my comments with a couple of suggestions. I certainly fully support the motion, and as it is worded. I am not suggesting these as amendments to the motion, just simply as suggestions that I would like to put forward as the government works with the Legion in the preparation of this initiative. I believe it is very, very important that we do this. It is very timely that we do this. ďJust do itĒ is my comment to the Cabinet in dealing with the regulations. That being said, I would strongly encourage working with the Legion on the criteria, and I would not venture into discussions about the design of the licence plate. There have been enough political careers founder on that, and mine is not going to be one of them.
I would like to suggest that this service and this initiative not be a cost to the veterans. We should be able to exchange these licence plates, and if the Legion has a cost in administering the search for service records and so on, we have many agreements with non-government organizations, and I am certain that we could assist in some way with that and not make it an onerous cost to veterans or a cost at all to veterans. We should be able to do this.
The other point I would like to make about the licence plates ó as the government moves forward with the motion ó and on this action in the regulations is that I think it will do more than recognize the veterans driving these vehicles. I think it will also encourage every one of us to provide the courtesy to them that we might not otherwise, and it will help us all to stop and think and to perhaps, in a friendly manner, acknowledge them and recognize their service to all of us and their contribution to the world we live in today.
Thank you very much. I commend the motion and encourage all members to support it.
Mr. Cathers: Itís a pleasure and really an honour to stand here today to address this motion. I would like to thank the other members who have spoken so far for their words regarding this motion. I would urge all members of this House to support the motion. I think itís very important that we recognize the contribution of our veterans.
Too often in this society we get caught up in the fast pace and we forget to stop and remember where all the freedoms in our society come from, why we have them and why weíre all standing here today instead of living in a much different and much less free society than we do. We forget about the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom. When we do talk, when we do remember those who have risked so much and sacrificed so much for us, we are usually standing inside heated rooms in our nice clean clothes and very comfortable in our nice peaceful society.
As we stand there, it is easy to focus on the pomp and the ceremony and think of lofty terms like ďgloryĒ and ďhonourĒ, and itís easy to forget that our freedoms were not defended in a nice, clean, comfy room or on a parade square, they were defended out in the battlefield. We do not know ó we cannot even really begin to comprehend ó the hours that our soldiers spent lying in the cold wet mud of battlefields, probably scared and far from home. They did it for us; they did it for their country as it was then; they did it for the future ó and we are the future. We have an obligation to remember that.
When we look at the faces of the veterans, particularly of the two World Wars, we see senior citizens. We donít see them as the young boys or young women they were when they went off to war, when they marched into battle, forcing down their fear to fight for their country, to fight for their families and for everything that they hold dear. We donít see the faces of those who never came home.
I remember looking at my grandfather, who served in the military during the Second World War. I remember the look on his face and the tears in his eyes on Remembrance Day. He wasnít someone who was really given to that type of display of emotion. It chokes me up a bit to think of that and to realize that I canít even begin to comprehend what they faced, but I thank them for it. I could not thank them more sincerely for what they did to protect everything that we hold dear.
Those of us who sit in this Legislative Assembly should remember the words of the poem In Flanders Field, and not forget that we have duty to not break faith with those who died. Those of us in this House certainly do not face the dangers as our soldiers did. We too have a duty to defend the freedoms in our society.
People think that we live in a peaceful world. And they forget that we live in a peaceful country, in a world that, in many cases, is filled with chaos. Our country remains peaceful to this day only because of men and women who stand between us and those who would tear it down for their own gain.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to those who have served in our nationís armed forces, both past and present, and we can never repay that debt of gratitude. But I believe that establishing a special licence plate for veterans is one small way ó one very small way, in comparison to what theyíve given ó in which we can recognize their service and recognize them for the risks they have taken for us.
I urge all members of this House to support this motion, and I thank the members who have spoken on this. I also thank the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin for bringing this motion forward, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, and the Member for Whitehorse West for bringing this forward on behalf of her constituents and for doing work on her constituentsí behalf.
I believe this is something that will be well supported by people across the Yukon. I believe it should be supported.
I think this motion is timely, coming before Remembrance Day. I would urge the department whose responsibility this is to move forward with this, together with the Royal Canadian Legion, and work to develop a plate as quickly as possible, recognizing that many of the people who served in the two World Wars, in particular, are not getting any younger. Itís important that we give them the recognition while we still can. I would urge them to move forward with that quickly, and ensure that this plate is done at no cost to our veterans.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would finally, one last time, like to express my gratitude and my thanks to all of our veterans.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Arntzen: It is a great pleasure to speak to this motion today. Because of these veterans and their efforts around the world, my parents were able to return to their home from a previously occupied homeland where my mother was able to give birth to her second child. I am today very thankful that I have been able to grow up in a free land. And 58 years later, my family is also able to bear fruits of the freedoms that were fought for. And for that, I am grateful and thankful.
Mr. Speaker, we all know that we owe a great debt to our veterans who fought in all wars for our freedom that we today enjoy so much in Canada and the Yukon in particular. I would also like to acknowledge our peacekeepers who have served all over the world since 1947. The Blue Berets, as they were called, have been worn by over 100,000 Canadians. And I had that privilege to wear a Blue Beret for a short time at a very young age. And I must say, I have the utmost respect for our peacekeepers all around the world, and in particular Canadians, for all the work they have done and continue to do.
Many of the provinces and the Northwest Territories are already going forward with this initiative or project, so I simply say, letís join them, and Iíll be voting for this motion.
Mr. Fairclough: I will be short in my response to this motion also. I do not have a problem with this motion. We do support recognition of our veterans and having the Royal Canadian Legion head up the design of a licence plate in recognition of our veterans; although I would like to mention the fact that, for a long time now, aboriginal people have been trying to get Canada to recognize and compensate aboriginal veterans and that process is still ongoing. We havenít come to an end yet. We are losing a lot of our aboriginal veterans, and I hope that the people who go forward in designing this licence plate take into consideration the fact that Canada had aboriginal people fighting on their behalf to defend this country. They did so by knowingly giving up their aboriginal rights and that is a big move. I donít think they even realized, years down the road, the impacts this would have on their children and their grandchildren in trying to get recognition for being aboriginal people again. That and many other things ó marriage, for example, and losing your aboriginal rights ó those were tough battles from an aboriginal point of view ó in just getting the rights recognized back.
I think that this could be part of the design of a plate. And in doing so, even if weíre the only region that has that recognition on the plate, thatís a great accomplishment on Yukonís behalf, and perhaps the Legion or whoever is designing this licence plate could really look at that seriously.
I do have some concerns. I donít know if the licence plate is the best thing to do for our veterans. I know that even the Yukon government is trying to get away from having their vehicles identified as government vehicles with the licence plates. Others are trying to get away and go to normal plates so that there isnít vandalism, for example, to the vehicles and even for safety concerns, knowing that most of our veterans now are a lot older.
There are a good number of aboriginal veterans in my riding ó or from my riding, the Selkirk First Nation, for example ó who are not living there any more. I have noticed, and it is quite noticeable, in the community of Carmacks during Remembrance Day that we donít have any veterans left in the community. Now, I might be wrong today about others coming to live in the community, but there isnít that celebration there that there used to be. I know the last person who passed away in Carmacks had lived there for so many years and had family there and had chosen the community of Carmacks to be their home. I think it is recognized throughout Canada and the rest of the world that we are losing a lot of our veterans. The numbers are going down rapidly. In this day and age, the whole issue of war is on our minds constantly. We see it every day on television. We see death. We see the peacekeepers we send overseas dying. We see it on television but we donít really see the impact because Canada is such a peaceful place still.
We donít have the threats in this country that others do. I think we are thankful and fortunate to be able to live in such a peaceful place today. So, in designing the licence plates, I do believe that if there was one done, there should not be a cost to our veterans at all. We should use whatever organizations and departments we have in government to assist them in designing this licence plate.
I guess that was a big concern we had. I know that there was so much controversy over the designing of a licence plate. This one is specific, and I donít think we would go through any of the complications that we had in the past.
I donít know ó is this for a year or is this an ongoing thing? That hasnít really been clarified by government. Is this a one-time recognition? Those are questions that could be answered or maybe even direction given to the Royal Canadian Legion when they do design these licence plates.
We support this initiative, and I thank the member for bringing it forward. We all need to be thankful for our veterans and the fact that they put their lives on the line for us.
Mr. Rouble: It is my honour and my pleasure to speak in support of this motion today.
The last Friday in October is the start of the remembrance period. It is traditionally the first day that one can start wearing a poppy in preparing for the upcoming Remembrance Day on November 11. So, I think that itís appropriate that we have this debate at the beginning of this celebratory period. Itís a time to remember, a time to reflect, a time to consider the actions of our veterans and our peacekeepers.
November 11 is typically a cold, rainy, snowy day. Again itís a day for contemplation, remembrance, for thanks and, to a degree, for celebration to celebrate the lives we have and that weíre able to have because of the people who fought for our rights and our way of life.
Itís a day when people like Mr. Floyd Buchanan, Mr. Gary Henry, or Mr. Drew Dunn, and other veterans get together. We usually have a celebration in the Carcross school where veterans, family members, members of the services, such as the RCMP or the Canadian Rangers, and the school kids get together to commemorate the actions of our veterans. Typically we only do that once a year on that one day, but I think we need to do more. We need to do more to say thank you. We have a responsibility and a debt to these people and they deserve our honour.
I am pleased to support this motion that calls for the Yukon government to work with the Royal Canadian Legion to design and develop a veterans licence plate in recognition of Yukon veterans and their efforts to protect our country and preserve peace around the world.
Now this is a small gesture, but it is another way of thanking them, acknowledging them and honouring those people. I am pleased to hear the support for this motion today, the support coming from the opposition benches, and Iím proud that weíre working together to go forward with this. I am also very happy to hear that this hasnít been treated as a political football and that it hasnít been used for making points.†
This motion came about because of a request from veterans, and I am pleased to see that government is responding to that request. I know that the Department of Highways and Public Works, the department that is responsible for issuing licence plates, has been working on this, as well as the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin who brought the motion forward and the Minister of Tourism and Culture who has championed this in our caucus. Iíd like to thank those members and the department for all their hard work so far.
Once we approve this and get the ball rolling, I know theyíll have more work to do and more consultation to do. I am confident that in working with the Royal Canadian Legion weíll be able to accomplish this objective and find a reasonable and appropriate way of coming up with this plate and a process. Also, I would like to share with my colleagues and put forward the concept that this not cost the veterans a penny out of their own pockets. I think this is another way that we can honour them, and Iím sure that we can find the funds somewhere in our budget.
It was also brought up earlier that there might be safety concerns about this and the problem with identifying a vehicle in a specific manner. I would just like to remind members that this would be an option for people, and if they felt it wasnít appropriate or that they didnít want it, there would be no obligation on them to have to have this type of licence plate, but that it is another way of celebrating their history and their commitment.
Earlier in my speech I mentioned a couple of specific veterans by name. I am quite certain that in the beautiful Southern Lakes there are other members and other veterans, and I wish to apologize to them for not including them. Their efforts have not been forgotten.
Again Iíd like to thank the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin for bringing this forward, and I would urge all members of our Assembly to support this motion.
Mr. Cardiff: It gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak in support of this motion. I think that the members previously talked about this and have made many good comments, comments that are relevant.
If we look around the world today, there are many conflicts going on, and we need to be thankful for where we live. This is the time of year when we do that.
I know that on November 11, Remembrance Day, we always think about those who have been on the battlefield, who have put their lives ahead of others, served their country and worked toward achieving a solution ó basically, to stop wars so that people can live in peace.
There are many other people during conflicts and wars who arenít often recognized. I feel that they do deserve to be recognized, maybe not with a licence plate but I think they need to be mentioned as well. Often when men and women go off to the battlefield, their families are left at home ó wives, children, parents, grandparents ó and many of those people make their contributions as well through working, raising families, working in factories. We need to remember those people as well.
There are other people who served in the merchant marine and other areas who made large contributions to the war efforts. I feel this licence plate is going to serve as a reminder every day of the dedication of those people who served on the battlefield. Year-round weíll be able to walk down the street, watch a car drive by, or when weíre driving home from work weíll see that, and it wonít matter if itís November 11. It can be any time of the year. We need to remember those things year-round. We need to remember the commitment and the dedication of those who fought for us so we could live in a free country and, at the same time, remind us of the conflicts that go on around the world to this day, so we can all work together to try to achieve a more peaceful world, and we can live in a more peaceful world.
I support this. Iíd like to thank the members for bringing this forward and for the work theyíve done on it. I would encourage them to work with the Royal Canadian Legion on the design and administration to ensure that people who would like one of these plates, and are veterans, can have one. I agree there should be no cost to veterans. They paid the price long ago so we could live in the country we live in, and we should be thankful for that.
I look forward to seeing these licence plates so we have that reminder, and that it reminds us that we all have to work hard in our lives and in the jobs we do, representing our constituents and working toward a more peaceful world, country and community.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I stand in support of this. I would like to compliment the member who brought it forward as well as Wayne Wannamker, who brought it to our attention. I think that sometimes in our busy lives we forget to look backward because we are so busy looking forward. I think these kinds of issues are very, very important.
In the past, in Canada, we presented ourselves as a nation ó first of all, as a growing nation, by identifying ourselves with many conflicts that were off our shores: the First World War, of course, the Second World War and the Korean War and, of course, we canít forget about the representation we have in many countries today; for example, in the Cypress situation that went on for years ó we had representation in the UN there. Today we have fellow Canadians in Afghanistan doing the job of helping these countries get back on track and move forward.
So, in recognizing the military or the vets in our country ó not only the ones who were my father and my childrenís grandfathers who fought in the Second World War and the Korean War, but itís also to remind people that there are still people out there fighting for our way of life. Fighting for our way of life means that we have sacrifices. We have people who are willing to sacrifice their lives for what we stand for in the world.
So, this licence plate is recognizing a sign on a vehicle that these people are vets, have put a little bit of their time in to defend Canada and our way of life. So, at the end of the day, when we see these on vehicles, it will remind us ó I think that maybe you can see this going across Canada, as the other eight provinces and jurisdictions have done.
I think itís important for us to remember that we do have a military and that military is very important to our way of life, and to remind us that there are people working every day in the military world to defend what we believe in and to defend our borders. I think that by not recognizing the fact that that part of our society or our country is necessary, we tend to ignore that, and we ignore it to our peril.
As we see federally, they utilize the budgets and all these things that are important to a military that they donít receive because Joe Blow citizen doesnít have the recognition of how important this part of our society is. So by having these licence plates on vehicles, I think it will give everybody who drives by ó a light will go on and youíll say, ďOh, by the way, thatís a veteran.Ē And thatís a good sign. I, for one, notice ranger licence plates. The rangers have a licence plate, so when I drive by one of the vehicles and it has got a Ranger plate, I automatically associate that with the Rangers, understanding that there are 5,000 Rangers working in northern Canada to serve the military needs of this region. A very important part of our north-of-60 defences is involved with the training of local people, Rangers who are equipped by the military to do the job if in fact theyíre called on. So that licence plate is very recognizable when you see it on the road.
I think this vets plate will do the same thing. It will remind us of that part of us that fought in wars past and fought in peacekeeping in the present, and that we do have a military thatís alive and well in Canada and also overseas.
I can understand the members opposite when one questioned the security of licence plates on, letís say, seniorsí vehicles, which, in a sense, could make them a target for vandalism or whatever, and another member said that of course itís a choice that people make. Itís not by law that you have to have the plate if youíre a veteran. Some people arenít comfortable with that. In my generation, there were people who werenít comfortable talking about the war. They were uncomfortable. They spent four or five years in the war and they spent it in many parts of Europe, north Africa or in Asia, but they didnít want to be reminded of it. It was a very private experience and sometimes not a very good experience.
Again, those kinds of decisions will be made by the individual. I think this plate will recognize the fact that we do have a military in the country; we do have people who have served us not only in the past but serve us today. It will remind all of us when we see that plate, just what it is. It will be amazing for us, once we see the plates out there, how many people have served our country, whether itís in peacekeeping or in wars in the past.
I think working with the Legion is very important because the Legion was formed in the 1920s ó I think about 1926. It was actually formed for the military people to get some recognition from the government for certain pensions, so there was a reason for the Legion when it started. It grew into the numbers that it had in the 1950s, and of course now it doesnít have the same membership because we havenít had the situation we had in either Korea or in the Second World War where we had hundreds of thousands of people in the military who did a very, very fine job of the job at hand.
We cannot forget that our military in the Second World War was one of the top notch militaries in the world. Our merchant fleet was the largest fleet in the world. We serviced all of Europe from the North American borders. Our sailors, our merchant marine were the top in the world. Those people were all young people. In the military in Canada, when the statistics on a bomber in the Second World War ó† for a five-man crew, their ages might not add up to 100. I mean, weíre talking about the young and the cream of the crop who volunteered and went forward to fight for our country. In three wars, whether itís the First World War, Second World War or Korean, we in Canada lost 117,000 individuals with an average age of probably 20 or 25 ó young people who were just starting out in their careers or their lives, took time out of their lives to fight for what we stood for.
I think to have this licence place, recognizing itís a very small token of our respect and our admiration for those individuals, I think by working with the Legion, it recognizes the importance of the Legion in this effort. I hope we can make this as simple as possible for the vets, so itís not a complicated thing to get recognized. I think that by going through the Legion, they could be a big part of that recognition and the verification to make sure that these people are eligible for the vets plate.
But as far as having the plate, I think itís important that we talk about it in the House, that we recognize the fact that November 11 is coming up, and November 11 is a very important date for all Canadians. I think that over the years it hasnít had the same input as it had in the 1950s or the 1960s when there were a great many people who had actually experienced war. I think we can talk about war, we can talk about battles and we can talk about confrontational situations that these young people met up with, but thatís all we can do, is discuss it. These people lived it. When we talk about our young men who are in Afghanistan today, theyíre living it. I mean, they might be on a peacekeeping mission, but itís not peacekeeping if people are shooting at you. And they always are under the stress of the fact that at any time they could be in a very, very military situation that will demand training and would demand the high amount of training that our troops get.
In the last couple of weeks, weíve had discussions about our submarine fleet. One of the subs we bought from the United Kingdom had some problems in the Atlantic. Well, itís not the first Canadian ship that had some problems in the Atlantic. It is a very sad situation when anybody dies in those kinds of situations, but itís the nature of the business.
Iím not saying that I canít tell you or tell this House that what happened on that submarine was our fault, their fault or whose fault, but it did happen. Of course we have to address those issues when they arise. But again, those are the kinds of things our military does on a day-to-day basis. They have issues all the time. They have modernization problems, they have money problems ó all of these things go hand in hand with being in the military and actually operating the military in any country.
So we have to prioritize the money we give to the military, and the management of the military is the militaryís job. And going back to the submarines, they make these hard decisions: what can we buy for our military that will be sufficient to cover our needs in the next 10 years? They plan 10 or 15 years ahead. So, as far as the military is concerned, at the end of the day I think we get a good bang for our buck. I think they do an exceptional job, and by putting this vet plate in front of our vehicles, I think weíll remember what they do as we drive by them and weíll also remember the issue about military ó that it is part of our society. Itís a part of our society that in Canada today and in the capacity we have ó understanding we have only 30 million people in Canada. Thatís not a lot of people when you talk about other nations around the world. 30 million people is a very small population for a very massive piece of real estate. We have the largest coastline in the world. The military has the responsibility to defend that coastline. Those people are out there on a daily basis, and I imagine thatís partially what the military was thinking when they bought those five submarines from the U.K. ó the need to defend those coastlines.
So I think that as we go through and readjust our thought pattern about why we have a military, what necessity it is, and as we put our young people in harmís way, such as in Afghanistan, under the auspices of peace, I think what we have to do is recognize that theyíre there. And by putting this plate in front of the people who come back from these experiences in the military, it not only recognizes the individual but it recognizes the task at hand.
At the end of the day, those individuals went across wherever they went and joined up for the military, spent their two to four years in uniform under very, very ó the payscale is not large. Your heart has to be in it or you wouldnít be in it. We have a totally volunteer armed forces. All of those individuals have volunteered to serve their country and I take my hat off to them. I think itís very important for the House here on this decision ó itís a unanimous decision. I hope it turns out to be that. But I think itís important to recognize the fact that we have people out there; they have a job to defend us and defend our borders. I think they do a tremendous job. I donít think we get enough time to recognize that on a daily basis. We do on November 11. But again, thatís one day a year.
This will remind us, like the Ranger licence plate, that there are people out there committed to work with us to defend our way of life.
So I, as a member of the House here, recommend that we unanimously make a decision and recognize the vets and also the licence plate that will go on their vehicles, and I recommend that we work with the Royal Canadian Legion. I think the design is a question that can be decided by other people. All I would like to do is have something that can recognize the hard work that our forefathers did and that the people who are in the field today are doing as we sit in this House.
So, Mr. Speaker, I am in total support of this motion to recognize the vets with a licence plate.
Mrs. Peter: I stand in support of this motion before us. I feel very grateful to have a homeland like Canada. In this homeland weíre able to enjoy some freedom. Weíre able to enjoy some sense of security. Weíre able to enjoy some sense of peace. This motion before us, I feel, acknowledges all people who participated so that we can have some kind of a peaceful life today. When we talk about the wars throughout history, I think about the families that had to make huge sacrifices. Sometimes their sons, their husbands, their daughters didnít come back home, and yet they were proud that they were able to stand up for their country.
On one of my visits to Fairbanks in Alaska, where my husbandís home is, I witnessed a ceremony on November 11. That ceremony was to celebrate with and to acknowledge the First Nation veterans throughout Alaska. I felt so very honoured and so very humbled to be there.
I believe we can all learn from this. Our military in Canada participates throughout the world in peacekeeping missions, and in the north we have our Rangers who help in so many areas of our life in the communities.
When I think about the war in Afghanistan, one of our Gwichíin relatives was participating in a peaceful mission and was able to come back to Canada and Old Crow and share his experiences in Old Crow. I know of a few Gwichíin men from Alaska who are participating in that war in Iraq.
The people of Old Crow, Mr. Speaker, are very much aware of what goes on throughout the world. They know the events that are happening out there. Every time I listen to an elder praying at a gathering in our language, they always pray for the people who donít live in a peaceful place. They pray for the people who are involved in the war; they pray for the women and children who live in those areas and, at the end of their prayer, they always give thanks for our peaceful community.
So today as we speak, in my community there is a search being undertaken by the Rangers, and weíre hoping for a good outcome, that one of our community members is safe. That is what this is all about ó acknowledgement of people who make a difference in our lives, of people who care enough to stand up for what they believe in, and they stand up for their values. This licence plate is an idea, and it is only a small token of our appreciation. I am in support of that, like all the speakers before me. It will be a reminder, and we need that. We need to remember where we came from, who our people are, and where our roots are.
†Hon. Mr. Hart: Itís a great honour to rise today in the Legislature and support my colleagueís motion.
This motion speaks to the respect for veterans. It speaks to the value of the Royal Canadian Legion as a representative of the veterans here in the Yukon and across Canada. This motion offers this Legislature a rare opportunity to send a clear message to all Yukoners that our veterans are held in high regard. At the heart of this motion is a message that this government is looking for ways to recognize our veterans and to pay homage for their sacrifices on our behalf.
Creating a new licence plate is in no way paying off a debt owed to veterans. Nothing we could do can ever repay that debt. That has been mentioned here by many of my colleagues on this side as well as the other.
However, it is incumbent upon the governments to find ways to at least acknowledge this debt. Just last week, the federal government introduced the worldís first coloured circulation coin. As the member from the third party indicated, itís a quarter emblazoned with a red poppy. Itís a gesture of respect and, most importantly, remembrance.
By combining remembrance with common elements of everyday life, governments are able to send a clear message to a wide audience about our debt load to veterans. Thatís what the creation of a special veteran plate would do. As the member opposite indicated, by seeing it on a vehicle in the middle of July, it will remind us of the fact that it is a veteran ó not just on November 11. I think itís a small, significant issue, but I think itís an important one for many Yukon veterans.
Given the wide availability elsewhere, I believe that itís time for the Yukon to join with other jurisdictions and give veterans the opportunity to proclaim their status through their plates.
Once again the government is aware that it is a small gesture, as has been previously mentioned, but it is a gesture that is easily made and it affords the veterans official recognition. In Yukon where our licence plates are so distinctive and valued, it would be an especially appropriate gesture.
I will state that we will be working with the Royal Canadian Legion on this design and makeup to ensure that the respective licence plate is maintained, still giving the veterans distinction on that plate itself.
I see the motion as an opportunity to make a small, simple gesture to our veterans in recognition of their service. I see it as one way that a government can recognize the elevated position of veterans in our community. I see it as an initiative that provides those eligible with the opportunity to proudly proclaim their status as veterans.
But this motion goes beyond simple recognition and respect for those individuals. My colleagues introduced a motion that calls on the government to recognize the important role that the Royal Canadian Legion plays as a community organization and, just as importantly, the role it plays in representing the interests and values of individual Yukon veterans.
Given the Legionís status, any time a gesture like this one is considered, it is incumbent upon us to go to the organization and get input from its membership. Locally, we can look at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 254. The members of our local branch, like all Legion members across Canada, represent the bravery and sacrifice of all Yukon armed service personnel. More than that, they represent the collective memory of our territoryís contribution to Canadaís efforts on a national stage. We must include them at any time we undertake a commemorative project.
Governments can take steps to recognize veterans. They can commemorate veteran contributions to our society. They can even develop plans to create a new plate, but they cannot match the Legionís ability to represent the interests of Yukon veterans.
It is an organization that represents and understands the sensibilities and wishes of the veterans, because it shares those sensibilities and those wishes.
When my colleague put forward the motion calling on the government to work with the Legion, I take that as an indication of his recognition of the Legionís role. We can join my colleague in demonstrating our respect for the Legion by approving this motion unanimously.
Mr. Speaker, my grandfather served in the British infantry and he told me many stories of going to war in France. Iíve passed those stories on to my family, and I hope they will pass those ventures on to their family to ensure the veteransí cause of the Second World War and subsequent wars is not lost.
We are in conversation with the local Legion and their process to look at the prospect of dealing with the allied forces that make up the peacekeeping corps and looking at their eligibility for the plate also. We are working on that criterion with them to help them move along those lines and hopefully recognize those people and satisfy a couple of the questions presented by the members opposite.
Mr. Speaker, the fact that we can even debate the motion in a free and elected legislature is a testament to the sacrifice and efforts of our countryís veterans. As politicians in a democratic society, our every decision and act was made possible by the veterans serving on behalf of all Canadians in environments and situations that most of us canít even imagine or donít even want to imagine.
The benefits we all reap as a direct result of the lives lost and shattered in war is something we commemorate far less often than we should. One day a year, on November 11, we stand as a nation and as a world and commemorate those who died in wars that have marred the past century.
And as mentioned earlier, we have ongoing situations in the rest of the world even as we speak today, such as Afghanistan and those processes.
We pay our respects to those veterans who live with the memories of war. But November 11 isnít enough. If there is some other way we can provide year-round recognition, then we must do that. As I said, other jurisdictions already commemorate veterans with a special recognition plate. In those jurisdictions, the Legion plays a significant role, not only in the plate design but in the ongoing delivery of the program.
Applications for veteran status are handled through the Legion on behalf of the governments. That way, veterans are deciding who qualifies based on a clear set of standards for designating who is and who isnít a veteran. Governments need not get involved in that kind of work, especially when there is an organization so closely tied to that issue. Of course, governments must administer any plate and, hopefully, pay for all forms and costs of that particular aspect. But designating veteran status is a very important task, and one that the Legion is best able to fulfill.
This year is an especially auspicious year to undertake the creation of a veterans plate. This past summer, we all commemorated the 60th anniversary of D-Day. And just this week, veterans from the Italian Campaign returned to Europe to commemorate the 60th anniversary of a long battle waged on Italian soil. Canadian and Italian officials gathered with veterans to remember the 855 Canadians who died during 22 months of fighting at the gates of Rome.
Those kinds of sacrifices are beyond repayment. It falls to us, at the least ó at the very least ó to remember and to go beyond remembrance and provide official recognition where possible. Thatís what a veterans plate would do, and thatís what the plate would allow any veteran who wanted it ó to declare their status.
It would send a clear signal that the government acknowledges the contribution of our veterans. It will serve as a constant reminder to all who see the plates that the Yukon is built on the backs of those who served on our behalf. Mr. Speaker, any government that is given an opportunity to undertake such a project should embrace the opportunity. And as my colleague suggests, the project should be undertaken hand in hand with the Royal Canadian Legion. I commend him for putting forward the motion and I look forward to unanimous support from this Legislature.
Mr. Hardy: I rise in support of this motion, as I believe all my colleagues do and I would suspect all members of the Legislature do. It is not a difficult motion to find support for. It is in recognition of those who have fought for the quality of life that we are fortunate to experience today. And I hope it recognizes not just those who fought but those who contributed to the struggle for peace in the world, throughout the world.
So when I see acknowledgement of veterans or take part in ceremonies such as on Remembrance Day, I often think of those who are closest to me and who have been affected by the war. All I have to do is think of my father and think of my uncles and think of my aunts who contributed to the work and struggle during the Second World War.
I look at that not with a lot of happiness and not a lot of pride, in that sense, but with a lot of sadness because I see my father as a victim of the war. I see my uncles and aunts, but mostly my uncles, as victims as well. Victims of a situation, victims of a fault in the character of human beings that we cannot get along, that we cannot strive to improve the quality of life for all people, that we cannot put other people ahead of ourselves, ahead of our countries, that we cannot look globally at the world. So much conflict happens because of a fault within our character, and it seems to be inherent in our character. We continually repeat history and a tragic style of history. We donít have to look very far today to see atrocities happening around the world. We can look at Iraq. One of the things that shamed me about Iraq ó besides what happened there, and I still totally disagree with the United States and Britain going there and basically creating a conflict when there was no proof ó was the tremendous loss of life that we donít hear about and the disruption and destruction of families and children and the future.
That is war. That is pure and simple war. That was a war brought about not by defending anything.
Our veterans defended, and Canada is a very proud country to be peacekeepers, but war happens because we cannot resolve issues; we cannot resolve positions without conflict. We see it happen time and time and time again, and we are living it today. Rwanda ó 800,000 people dead. We never hear of the Iraqi losses ó itís tens of thousands. I donít have any idea. We only hear of a few losses of people who live in North America ó and there are the injured ó and the hundreds of years that it is going to take to resolve this issue.
So, war is not something to be proud of. Thatís why I struggle with ó I am very proud of Canadians and what theyíve done, fighting for peace, but Iím not proud to be engaged in war. I am not proud that human nature seems to resort to conflict to resolve issues or problems.
There are so many casualties and so many families affected by war. As I said at the beginning, I only have to think of my family. My father was a casualty of war, because he was never able to move beyond it. He was never able to deal with what he saw in the trenches and what he experienced. Nor were my uncles, nor many other people I met and know. But it meant a lot to him to know that the country he fought for did not forget him, did not forget the struggle, did not pretend it didnít happen and try to move on.
Now, I think of the many discussions we had before he passed away. He was not proud of the governments that ignored all veterans or did not recognize all veterans.
We have, unfortunately, history with the federal government not recognizing many veterans equally. Thatís a shame within this country. The motion that has been brought forward is a small token of recognition self-directed and initiated by the veterans themselves. Of course Wayne Wannamker did a lot of work on lobbying for this, and many other people that he worked with. If this is just one more tool to remind us of what our veterans have given up, whether it is loss of friends, loss of family, loss of limb, or even the mental damage that war does to people, then itís well worth it. Thatís why I could never find fault with any recognition to our veterans. I support anybody who stands up and speaks on their behalf or assists them when they need assistance, or fights for their rights alongside them, or shows a small token of appreciation. If licence plates are just another piece of that, thatís wonderful. Ultimately, it is only a small piece of that recognition.
One member on the other side mentioned that seeing the licence plate would remind him of veterans, it would remind him of that, and I think thatís true.
And, unfortunately, we have Remembrance Day once a year. I have attended just about every one since I could remember, and Iíve always found them very moving and very powerful, and a very beautiful reminder of my family, my father, and the sacrifices that were made by many people. It allows us to keep it closer to our heart and to our memory so we donít repeat that. I feel we are repeating it, but maybe to a lesser degree, and I hope that we never again find ourselves in huge conflicts that have such a major impact on the future of countries.
As I said, I support this and I hope, and expect, everybody in this Legislature supports it as well.
Speaker: If the member now speaks he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Hassard: I thank all members for their kind words and their thoughts and their support on this motion. I look forward to the day when we can have this plate in front of us and I look forward to hearing from the Minister of Highways and Public Works on the progress being made and hope that it happens in the very near future. I would also like to pass on my thoughts to the people of Old Crow at this time.
††††††† Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Clerk: The results are 15 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 332 agreed to
Motion No. 328
Clerk: Motion No. 328, standing in the name of Mr. Cathers.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT this House urges the federal government to eliminate the goods and services tax on heating fuels and electricity sold north of the 60th parallel in recognition of the colder climate faced in this region and, in the spirit of the 1993 Liberal election promise, to ďscrap and abolish the GSTĒ.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me great pleasure today to rise and speak to this motion, which, of course, I am urging all members of this House to support.
For the sake of accuracy, I would like to note before beginning that the Liberal commitment made by many members of the Liberal Party and by their leader of the day, Mr. Chrťtien, in the 1993 election campaign, referred to another adjective between ďscrap and abolishĒ; however, as the word is an aggressive adjective related to removal, it would be contrary to Standing Order 19(i), so it has been removed from this wording. However, it was the Liberal campaign commitment to scrap, blank, and abolish the GST in 1993. As we all know, that has not been done.
Now, Mr. Speaker, of course where this motion today is arising from is the rising cost of heating fuels and the rising cost of living that is being faced by all Yukoners today, but particularly this cost does impact on senior citizens and young families, single parents, and those others who are living on fixed or limited incomes. It is no news to members of this House or to Yukoners listening to these proceedings today that, in the north, we face an increased cost of living compared to what Canadians living in southern parts of this country face. In particular, we do face a much higher bill for our heating needs due to our colder climate.
These rising costs, of fuels in particular, are creating an increased burden on Yukoners. As I stated, these costs, of course, impact especially those who can least afford it, and I think it would be very timely and appropriate if the federal government took a step in coming forward to the table and providing some assistance to them. Certainly we donít blame the rising petroleum and energy prices on the federal government, but there are ways they can assist with this.
In addition to fuel, many Yukoners rely on electricity for either their primary or secondary heating, so that is why this motion refers to both heating fuels and electricity in requesting that the federal Liberal government remove the GST on those items sold north of the 60th parallel.
Last year our government increased the pioneer utility grant by 25 percent to assist senior citizens in paying these increased heating costs. We have recently increased the pioneer utility grant by an additional 10 percent due to the further increases of heating fuels, which have occurred over the last year. Our government has taken steps to assist these people, particularly senior citizens, but we do have limited resources. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this motion is to ask the federal government to come to the table and do their part.
I suggest that the removal of GST from heating fuels and electricity north of 60 would be both a simple and effective way for the federal government to take part and do their part on this. And it would also be in keeping with the promise that the Liberal Party made during the 1993 federal election campaign to scrap and abolish the GST.
I heard from one of the members opposite the phrase ďaxe the taxĒ. That was another phrase that was used by a number of those campaigning for the Liberal Party in the 1993 election. We all know that they have not fulfilled their promise to eliminate the GST, but perhaps the federal Liberal government and their Prime Minister, Mr. Martin, could partially redeem themselves in the eyes of Canadians and of Yukoners by removing the GST on, at the very least, heating fuels and electricity north of the 60th parallel.
This is an opportunity for the Liberals to at least partly do what they said they would do in 1993, albeit 11 years later than they said they would. However, I would encourage them to move forward from their past mistakes and the promises that were not kept.
The revenue received by the federal government from GST on heating fuels and electricity sold north of 60 is a pittance in federal coffers, but the cost of paying that tax is significant when it comes out of the pockets of Yukoners. It is very significant to them. It is a very significant cost to them, and that makes it difficult in some cases for them to make ends meet.
It also has that same effect, of course, for our neighbours in the N.W.T. and Nunavut. I would suggest that it does not make any sense as a public policy for people to be having difficulty affording to pay to heat their houses and for the federal government to be taking that opportunity to just take one more tax off it as they currently do.
So I urge all members of this House to support this motion for the good of their constituents. We all know that removal of the GST from heating fuels and from electricity north of 60 would be something that would be appreciated by all Yukoners, and I would urge all members of this House to consider this, to vote in favour of this motion and to ask the federal Liberal government to remove the GST on heating fuels and on electricity north of 60.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
††††††† Speaker: The Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís beautiful Kluane, Mr. Speaker.
Iím somewhat surprised that the previous speaker was so brief in the introduction to this motion because ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Yes, he does have a reputation for going on at length about various issues but, as well, there are so many aspects that havenít been touched on yet and I hope to allude to some of them in the time I have available. Saying that, I would also like to advise the other members that I donít plan on speaking to this at great length and do want to hear from other members about their opinion on this motion.
First of all, calling upon the federal government to revoke the GST according to an election promise some 11 years ago is not a new undertaking. Lots of people have called on the government to uphold that promise. It has been an issue raised in many forums, including our Canadian Parliament and many legislatures across the country. It has been raised in this Legislature. I recall back in the previous NDP government, I believe we had a motion to this effect that was debated at length. So, really, this is nothing new.
I suppose the reason why it crops up again is because of the recent spike in fuel prices and the hardship it imposes upon Yukon consumers, either directly or through secondary means.
Now, on the issue of campaign promises, one can make an argument that there has been a lot of water under the bridge in the last 11 years ó going back 11 years is a little far-fetched. Itís difficult enough holding this Yukon Party government accountable for promises it made two years ago. There are plenty of examples about promises it made but hasnít kept and has already reversed and redefined.
One example of a promise being redefined came up in this Legislature just yesterday. Itís when we heard the members declare they promised a bridge for Dawson City. In fact, Mr. Speaker, if you examine the Yukon Party election campaign platform, you will discover itís qualified with a word that says ďplan.Ē It says it would plan for a bridge. It didnít say we would build a bridge. By using a qualifier, of course, it avoided a public debate on the pros and cons of actually building a bridge. I suppose the public would be comforted in knowing that the party, if elected to government, would only plan and there would be lots of time for a debate. Instead, the Yukon Party is marching full steam ahead and, according to some recent stories, the people in Dawson City havenít even been asked if they want a bridge.
So there is an example of what Iím talking about.
Certainly there could also be an argument made. Currently there are efforts to increase the transfer payment to the territory. There have been other efforts in recent years, such as increasing the health transfer from the federal government. Really, trying to extract something out of this ďabolish the GSTĒ promise from several governments ago seems to really pale in comparison. The Yukon today, with an apparent increase in transfer payments and increases in the health transfer payment and I believe in other areas that escape me at the moment, is in a better position than ever before to take its own initiative and reduce fuel taxes to make fuel more affordable to Yukon consumers.
The issue of abolishing the Yukonís fuel tax has been raised several times in this Legislature. In fact, I have before me some record of the now Deputy Premier from the last term, under the Liberal government, when he questioned the Premier at the time about that very issue, about scrapping the fuel tax. Of course, this relates directly to the motion at hand to make fuels more affordable to Yukoners and so on. There is a direct relevance.
On June 7, 2000, the now Deputy Premier proposed the Yukon Partyís position to the Liberal government of the day: that it eliminate its tax on fuel so the government could become part of the solution rather than continue to be part of the problem.
Well, this Yukon Party government has had an opportunity now for the past two years to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. What has it done about eliminating this fuel tax? The answer is nothing. I think Iíve asked the question in the past two years and received no undertaking whatsoever from the Yukon Party government. Weíve heard nothing at all in this area, so one would assume nothing is happening.
Well, why was it good enough for them in opposition but not good enough for them now? Letís examine some of the other statements made by the now Deputy Premier, who is also the Member for Klondike. He indicated that the Hon. Paul Martin, who was federal Finance minister at the time and of course is now Prime Minister, offered to eliminate the federal tax provided the Yukon government did the same. Well, what a bargain. So, of course, the now Deputy Premier went along that line in his questioning and pursued this with the former Premier about why she wasnít taking Mr. Martin up on his offer. And he blamed the government for only wanting to study, review, and study and review instead of actually doing anything. I can recall that debate. At the time, it was a rather gruelling debate because the member really pressured the government to the best of his ability on this matter.
That really contrasts with the inaction we see today after two years of Yukon Party rule. Why is that? Letís examine what the now Deputy Premier said on July 4, 2000, and he reiterated the federal Finance ministerís proposal to eliminate federal tax on fuel, provided the territory does the same. He put that in terms of a reduction in fuel price in the territory. That equates to approximately a 16-cent or 17-cent reduction in fuel prices. Of course that is dependent on the price of fuel, but I think we can assume the price now is similar to what it was then. So thatís a significant amount ó a reduction of 16 or 17 cents per litre.† Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party has full control of whether to cut the fuel tax. It would be consistent with its past position, yet it has done nothing. The now Premier went on to say the federal government portion of the tax ó which it is prepared to forego provided the territory was to do the same ó is much more substantial than the Yukon portion in terms of revenue. So there is a leveraging effect. It is not only a partnering effect, there is a leveraging effect, Mr. Speaker. That emphasizes the question I put: why hasnít this Yukon Party government followed through on its position?
In another instance, from November 20, 2001, he called on the government again to scrap the fuel tax. There are plenty of references to this effect, Mr. Speaker. If I had an opportunity to research my files, Iím sure I could have pulled out a Yukon Party caucus news release or two on this very issue. In addition, there were media articles and radio transcripts reiterating the same message of how the now Deputy Premier† called upon the Government of Yukon of the day to scrap the fuel tax, each time mentioning how the federal government was prepared to do the same.
Well, itís somewhat ironic that the Yukon Party would bring in a motion like this, that calls upon another government thousands of miles away to uphold a position it took many, many years ago on a matter that affects what Yukoners pay for fuel when, in its own case, its record is just as bad as that of the federal Liberals.
Now, we donít have to go back more than a decade. We only have to go back to the last term when the Yukon Party was in opposition ó thatís all.
So I think there is quite a contradiction in what we see out of this government and what some Yukoners would have expected. Maybe this is a question that should be put to the Premier ó why he doesnít axe this tax and uphold his partyís position.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this motion today also relates to the price of electricity. Well, we know the price of electricity in the Yukon isnít set by the market. Itís not adjusted by market conditions. The bills to consumers of electricity are regulated by an independent board by the name of the Yukon Utilities Board. We have a subsidy program that is applied to most bills, in the form of the rate stabilization program. The rate stabilization program, or RSF, pegs bills at rates from about five years ago. I believe it was the December 1997 rates that were pegged under the RSF.
If that is the case, then our bills have approximately remained the same for seven years. I recall seeing comparison charts that utilities put out at about that time comparing the cost of electricity in the Yukon with other jurisdictions and, of course, in most cases our costs were higher than metropolitan areas. But compared to some remote areas, our costs were quite favourable when the RSF was factored into account. I havenít seen comparison charts for maybe four or five years, but because our rates havenít gone up, one would assume weíd even have a more favourable comparison.
I believe the GST is part of the bill thatís under the umbrella of the RSF, so I would wonder, if the GST were to be scrapped, if in fact consumers would see the benefit, or would the benefit simply reduce the cost of the program, which is currently paid by the Yukon Development Corporation, and Yukon Development Corporation profits arenít flowed into the Yukon governmentís consolidated revenue; itís a separate pool of money. So itís hard to say if we would see an advantage on the power bills if the GST were scrapped. Itís possible we might, but I havenít heard any evidence to that point. Maybe the Energy minister, when he stands, can elaborate.
I want to mention a very important aspect and that is the high price of fuel recently.
The price of a barrel of oil is in the neighbourhood of $50 to $55 USD. I think this is an unprecedented level, record-high price. It is significantly higher than the price only a couple of years ago when I recall it sat around the $18 USD level. Itís almost triple what it was at that point.
In the territory it affects us in many ways. First, it affects us at the gas pumps when purchasing gasoline or diesel fuel for vehicles. We see much higher prices these days. One can check the Government of Yukon Web site; I think it is still in existence, unless the Yukon Party streamlined it. That Web site did indicate a good cross-section of fuel prices across the territory and I note that it is common for prices in more remote areas like Dawson City, Beaver Creek and Ross River to be quite a bit higher than Whitehorse prices. While we complain in Whitehorse, just think what it must be like in some of the other smaller, more remote communities where people pay even more.
The high price of oil also affects the cost to heat a home that is heated by fuel. I havenít seen my recent fuel bill lately. I donít think I care to. Iíll just probably pay it and not look at the price because it is bound to be scary.
But, Mr. Speaker, at least I have a steady paycheque where I can pay it. Think about those who are really scraping by, whose lives and disposable income are to the point where they have to do without in order to stay warm this winter, and doing without could mean doing without on their plates, doing without on their feet, their kids doing without on their bodies in the cold winter climate. It could come in a number of forms, Mr. Speaker. So we do have to have some feeling and understanding for those who are hit harder than us here when it comes to higher fuel prices.
There is a large component of fuel prices that would fall into a secondary category, and that is the cost of retail items and services that are influenced by the price of fuel. This affects everything from petroleum-based manufacturing products to services that depend on vehicles and perhaps heating large spaces, and so on. The cost of freight is one of the areas affected, so if the cost to ship something to the Yukon is increased, then it follows that the price of the retail item also increases. It has been said many times before, Mr. Speaker, that a price increase in fuel increases everything from the cost of a loaf of bread right to the price we pay at the pumps, and thatís very true.
I am sure if you have consumers resurveyed, that point would be borne out rather well.
So, we have an obligation in here as legislators of the Yukon Territory to consider all aspects from the impact of high fuel prices on the people of the territory and on the territoryís economy and businesses, especially those who simply canít afford it, who are on fixed incomes and low incomes, such as seniors and the unemployed, the working poor, et cetera.
So what are we going to do about it? Are we going to just pile on this motion and slag the federal government for something it promised 11 years ago? Because thatís what it really is: slagging a government that once was. The prime minister at the time is now retired. I donít really see a point in that. I think we should be more realistic in here about what is doable and what isnít doable. Why should we waste our time on something that isnít doable?
Now, if the Yukon Party would have floated the concept that we in here should be discussing axing the fuel tax, which was consistent with its own position, then one would assume the debate today would be a little livelier and interesting, and relevant and practical, and doable.
Instead we have the MLA for Lake Laberge, who must have received endorsement from his colleagues to call this motion, which really isnít doable.
As a matter of fact, this motion really is ó it almost falls into the category of political slander. It really doesnít have a positive aspect to it at all. If one wanted to slag this former federal government ó that probably wonít even be aware of this afternoonís debate, letís face it ó maybe one of the backbenchers could have emailed around a transcript of a former motion debate on this very subject, instead of calling it for discussion this afternoon.
Itís not as if we have a lack of more important issues to discuss in here. Mr. Speaker, there are all kinds of topical issues of import to Yukoners that could have been discussed this afternoon. I believe the previous motion was important, but what about some other motions? What about calling on the Deputy Premier to pay his loan back to the government? What about that one? Why didnít the government call that motion for discussion? Itís on the minds of plenty of Yukoners; I think we all know that. Maybe no one over there thought of that. I donít know. Maybe some of them did but thought better of mentioning it to the Deputy Premier as a motion they would call and bring forward today. Iím not quite sure how it works over there.
But there are plenty of issues of importance to Yukoners. Think about the economy. Think about the tourism industry. There are all kinds of issues there. Just yesterday, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin tabled a motion urging the federal government to do something about the law that it wants to constrain the aircraft industry so it canít transport boats and canoes. Well, what about that one? Is the Yukon Party saying that it doesnít care about the transport of boats and canoes in the Yukon? Well, there is a connection. This is the Yukon Territory. There are lots of people and businesses and tourists who think itís important to be able to transport boats and canoes to remote locations with the use of aircraft, but we havenít heard this government say a peep about that issue. Instead it wants to slag a federal government of yesteryear about an old promise it made way back when, to try to appear good in the eyes of some Yukoners for championing the need to decrease the price of fuel. Thatís what it amounts to.
Iíve already pointed out one way this government could have done something about the price of fuel, but it didnít do it. I pointed out some of the other important issues it could have raised for this discussion this afternoon, but it didnít do that either.
†And there are plenty more important issues. What about this electoral reform weíve heard about in the media the last day or so ó this report that cost Yukoners more than $100,000? The information within it could be downloaded from various sources in under one minute. We paid more than $100,000 for that, Mr. Speaker. Each one of the members over there support that, but they donít support bringing in a motion to talk about it. They donít support decreasing the fuel tax, consistent with the Yukon Party position. There are a lot of things they donít support.
I suppose that one could say that this motion today says a lot about this government, and it also says a lot about what this government doesnít say. I think itís rather telling on both counts.
What about a motion on the environment? We know there are several environmental issues that are important to the territory ó Tombstone Park; there is the situation at the game farm; there are new regulations; the territoryís various boards and committees dealing with the environment have been modified recently as part of devolution, as part of the Environmental Assessment (Yukon) Act transposition. There is a lot to talk about there that Yukoners arenít hearing about.
I think that would have made an excellent motion for today. It would have been productive and informative to Yukoners.
What about motions to promote the culture of the territory? I think that would have been more relevant than slagging the government of yesteryear on what is clearly a broken promise. Letís make that clear: this is a broken promise. They failed to abolish the GST and I think there is little chance the Yukon government will ever pressure the federal Liberal government to revive that promise and fulfill it. As a matter of fact, the odds of that would be about zero. Instead there are plenty of things this government could have done, taking its own initiative.
The outcome of this is that Yukoners will have to continue to pay high prices at the pump to heat their homes with heating fuel and through secondary purchases of everything from bread to soup to nuts ó you name it ó to practically every type of service there is. Weíll all have to pay more because what we are doing today is clearly not a doable. Itís a waste of time.
The Member for Lake Laberge also took credit for something his government did that we want to challenge. That is the pioneer utility grant increase that was just announced a couple of weeks ago. The amount it increased was only a portion of the increase that consumers of fuels are forced to pay.
Thatís only a partial solution. We called upon the government to index the pioneer utility grant to the price of fuel. Under that type of a model, Mr. Speaker, consumers would be protected from spikes in fuel because the program benefit would be adjusted annually with the price of those fuels. So why didnít the government do that? We saw only a partial solution. Why didnít it bring in a motion today to maybe look at a complete solution, such as the one we suggested, to find out how members in here felt about it? It would have established a forum for discussion, and who knows? It may even have been possible to improve upon our suggestion. That could have been done. That would have been a doable. Was it done? No, it wasnít done ó another doable down the drain. Instead weíre here, trying to address something that isnít doable.
Now, back to the price of electricity ó the price of electricity in the territory is not influenced very greatly by the price of fuel. Letís make that clear. I think that prior to the transmission line to Dawson, in the absence of a big industrial customer like the Faro mine, really the only diesel consumed for electrical generation in the territory was in some communities that are isolated from the main grid.
The biggest ones are Watson Lake and Dawson City. As mentioned, Dawson is now connected to hydro at the Mayo plant. So remaining are Watson Lake ó letís see if I can name a few: Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Destruction Bay. That might be about it. If there are more, I donít think itís too significant.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Swift River, the minister says. He might be right ó Swift River ó because basically anything between Teslin and Watson Lake is beyond the transmission line, but we know that the load in Swift River is quite small, especially if the Yukon Party proceeds with a plan to streamline the highway maintenance camps. We know it might even be a lot less.
Anyway, the amount of diesel fuel burnt in the communities identified is relatively small and the cost, therefore, is relatively small. In terms of having a bearing on the overall cost of electricity, itís virtually nonexistent.
I think the mover of the motion is asleep. Oh, I see some movement. Itís all right.
So the impact on fuel of electricity ó
Speaker: Order please. It is inappropriate, as we have pointed out in the past, for a member to mention how another member is concentrating on your eloquent words, so I would ask that you not make reference to any other member and just carry on, please.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thought I heard snoring, and I found it distracting.
Now, the price of electricity doesnít really have a bearing on the cost of fuel to consumers in the territory. There is also the RSF, identified earlier, which protects consumers in that regard. The current status of the electrical grid in the Yukon is such that the main grid, which extends from Haines Junction to Whitehorse to Teslin to Carmacks to Faro and then to Ross River, which comprises about 80 or 90 percent of the customers in the territory, currently only uses diesel for electrical generation at certain times of the year. Those times are generally when itís about 40-below, during peak loads, which is maybe dinner time.
So, how often is that? Well, maybe there are 10 or 20 days in a winter when that might happen, for a couple of hours each time. Thatís not a lot. Thatís rather insignificant in terms of the overall revenue requirement, cost and maintenance of the system.
So, what Iím getting is: really, what is the relevance of the motion, in terms of including electricity as one of the energy sources mentioned? It calls that into question, I believe, because the price of diesel doesnít really affect the price of electricity in the Yukon.
We also have an equalization formula across the territory, which levels costs. How that works is that for the basic 1,000 kilowatt hours per month for, say, residential consumers, the price paid in Old Crow is the same as the price paid in Whitehorse, so that is equalized across the territory. So one could also say that there really arenít any regional impacts associated with what the motion calls for.
So let me try to think of something good to say about the motion, Mr. Speaker. Let me take a closer look at it because, as members know, I do strive to find the positive in things that even the members across the way come up with.
ďThis House urges the federal Liberal government to eliminate the GST on heating fuelsĒ ó well, weíve dealt with that ó ďand electricityĒ ó weíve dealt with that too ó ďsold north of the 60th parallelĒ ó I wonder about people in Atlin and why we didnít include them ó ďin recognition of the colder climate faced in this regionĒ ó certainly the climate is colder, generally speaking ó ďand in the spirit of the 1993 Liberal election promise to scrap and abolish the GSTĒ ó weíve dealt with that too.
Well, I guess, about all that I can agree with is that generally our climate is colder than other places in the country, so that would be the positive aspect of this motion that I would like to agree with.
Now, if the government can do something about that, maybe it would like to introduce that by way of motion for discussion. Although, in terms of being doable, it would probably rate about the same as this motion that weíre dealing with today.
I think my comments are on record and I look forward to hearing what other members have to say.
Mr. Rouble: Itís again my honour and my pleasure to address this Assembly. I must start off by saying, though, that I am dismayed and disappointed that members opposite wouldnít support a motion to leave more money in the pockets of Yukoners. Iím having a problem wrapping my head around that. I trust that all members of the opposition donít share that same opinion.
Letís take a look at some of the facts of this case. Because of our geographic location and our climate, we are typically forced to spend more on power and more on electricity than people in the south. We all know that costs are going up. In the circles Iím travelling in, the cost of fuel is certainly an issue. Itís top of mind with many people. But, I guess, if you are so well off that you donít even need to look at a bill before you pay it, I guess you donít care how much fuel costs. But I think the average Yukoner cares how much fuel costs. They want to see their bills go down. Letís see what we can do to make that happen.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Rouble: Again the member opposite is more fixated on the cost of ice cream than the cost of fuel. I know the Yukoners out there are more concerned about how much their electrical bill is and how much their fuel oil bill is than what they paid the ice cream guy.
Letís start off ó letís take a look at what Yukoners pay for fuel. On average, the annual Yukon household spends about $1,500 on fuel. The average Yukon household pays about $1,400 on electricity. Weíve seen fuel go up for household heating. Itís gone from 62.8 cents to about 75 cents a litre, almost a 20-percent increase in cost.
Almost a 20-percent increase in cost ó thatís a substantial hit in the old pocketbook. Taking the GST off of this would leave about $200 in the pockets of Yukoners. Thatís $200 more in every household in the territory. Thatís $200 more from each household to go round and round and round in our economy and stimulate more and more economic growth and development. I want to see $200 more in Yukonersí pockets.
Now, I know that this is a big problem and big problems require multiple solutions. Thereís no one magic wand that can be waved to resolve this, but what we can do is take some steps in the right direction. For example, increasing the pioneer utility grant, which was done for last year and for this year ó thatís a step in the right direction. Increasing it again ó thatís a step in the right direction. Supporting energy conservation programs ó thatís a step in the right direction. Having Yukon Housing support initiatives to retrofit houses so they use less energy and encourage people to build energy-efficient homes so that again it reduces energy costs ó thatís a step in the right direction. I think this motion is another step in the right direction.
Now, the member opposite said that this promise of eliminating the GST was made a long time ago, so why even bother? Well, I know itís the oppositionís role to oppose but Iíve got to say that if you donít even try, youíre guaranteed to fail. Iím getting very frustrated with this just-say-no attitude. Should we explore for oil and gas? Just say no. Should we build a school in Carmacks? Just say no. Should we allow new residential lots? Just say no. Should we approve budgetary considerations for our communities? Just say no. Well, the Yukon people didnít elect us to just say no.
They elected us to do something, and this is another step in that right direction. So letís see what we can do. Letís build the case here to get this to happen. Letís take a look at the GST. We all know ó seven percent harmonized in other jurisdictions, but GST doesnít cover everything. Some of the goods and services are excluded from GST; the federal government has done that. They have said that there are certain products out there and certain services and certain people and certain situations that shouldnít pay the GST. Letís take a look at some of those: basic groceries, what you need for maintaining life, things like milk, bread and vegetables ó those donít have the GST applied to them. Prescription drugs and drug dispensing fees ó those donít have GST charged on them. Medical devices such as hearing aids and artificial teeth ó those things donít come with GST on them. GST isnít a universally applied tax. There are exceptions. Letís make the case and lobby that we should have an exception here.
Some of the services that donít have GST applied: long-term residential accommodation of one month or more and residential condominium fees ó thatís a really interesting one. Iíll come back to that one in a moment. Child care services óthey donít pay GST. Music lessons ó the music lesson industry lobbied government not to have music lessons included in the GST. I think that the Yukon territorial government should carry as much or, I would argue, more weight than the music lesson industry lobby. Letís take this message to Ottawa and have them remove the GST on fuel and electricity north of 60. Most goods and services provided by non-profit organizations, governments and other public service bodies such as municipal transit services and standard residential services such as water distribution ó those donít have the GST on them.
So letís take a look at long-term residential accommodation. When you pay rent on a residence, GST isnít charged on that. So, if your electrical and heat is included in that, you donít pay the GST on that. So, theyíre saying that, for some people, they can get all of their heat and electricity without paying GST on it. Now, on the other hand, if in your rental agreement you provide your own heat and electricity, then you are dinged for the GST.
But we do have a case where, for many people in rental situations, they donít have to pay the GST for their home heating or electrical. So, we know the government has made exceptions to this. Letís build the case for that.
The federal government also said, in their election promises ó albeit from a few years ago, but itís still the same party and I expect with the same philosophy ó that they vowed to get rid of the dreaded GST. Letís hold them to that commitment.
Also the government, in recent days, has been in conversations with municipalities over applying the gasoline tax ó to give that to the communities. So weíre in a situation where the government is negotiating these things. Letís take advantage of it. Letís send a clear message from this Assembly that the Yukon Legislative Assembly believes that the federal government should eliminate the goods and services tax on heating fuels and electricity sold north of the 60th parallel.
I think we can all agree to that. We all want the cost of heating to Yukoners to be reduced. This is another step in doing that. What are the benefits of this? Well, we donít have to argue too hard about leaving more money in the pockets of Yukoners. I think we can all agree that thatís a good thing.
More money in the pockets of Yukoners is a good thing. What does it work out to? About $200. Itíll be more this year because, again, heating oil is more expensive. Is it the magic bullet thatís going to resolve all the issues around the high cost of oil, gas and electricity these days? No, but itís one more step, one more movement in the right direction, and I think itís one step we can all agree to in this Assembly.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would encourage all members of this Assembly to agree with this motion to send a message to Ottawa that we donít think the GST should be applied to oil and gas for heating purposes and electricity north of 60, that weíre different up here and it costs us more. They have made concessions to other people and other industries in other parts of Canada; letís make them make a concession for Yukoners, because I think Yukoners deserve to have more money in their pocket.
Ms. Duncan: Wednesdays are sometimes referred to by members as less than productive. However, I would suggest that today in many respects has been an exception to that rule. Earlier this afternoon we saw a too-rarely witnessed display of working on behalf of our constituents. We all worked together, did what we should do and what this Legislature should do. We need to see more of that.
Iím not going to launch into a criticism of the motion, whether it should be brought forward, whether this was a 1993 commitment, or whether it wasnít, or whether or not the Yukon Legislature speaking out on a particular issue can have a major impact in Ottawa or not. Weíve certainly seen that it can and weíve certainly seen that we can be very effective in doing things that are within our purview ó very effective.
The other point that was certainly reinforced for me today also with respect to this motion ó and newer members will recognize that another valuable lesson weíve learned today is that your words will come back to haunt you because, as the Member for Kluane has pointed out, this particular issue has been discussed several times by the Member for Klondike, and there have been several commitments made by the Member for Klondike. In fact, I can recall vividly being on that side of the House when the now Prime Minister was in the gallery and the Member for Klondike chose that opportunity to ask me what the federal government was going to do about the GST on home heating fuel. I indicated to him then, and I would indicate to him now, that there are other issues that are within the purview of the Yukon government that could be done and should be done.
I can also recall the Member for Klondike, for example ó it was almost four years ago to the day ó saying, and I quote from Hansard: ďThis Liberal government can help Yukoners with high fuel prices by removing the territorial gas and diesel road tax. Will the Premier commit to doing that, Mr. Speaker?Ē Thatís a quote and end quote from the Member for Klondike, and it was a question addressed to me.
My response was that we have the lowest fuel taxes in the country. We also offer millions of dollars in rebate to industry for their fuel costs, and the Yukon Party government has introduced a fuel tax rebate as well. We extended it to the wilderness tourism operating industry; they have extended it to golf courses. The Government of Yukon has made effort with respect to fuel taxes. The Member for Klondike went on, on July 4, 2000, to say, ďThat is a very valid solution: eliminate the tax on diesel and highway gas.Ē
This motion that was read into the record on Tuesday, March 6, 2001, says: point 6 ó this was back when we were doing all the ďwhereasesĒ and had lengthy motions ó eliminating the federal and territorial taxes on gasoline and diesel, as well as the GST on home heating fuels on electricity. So this is not a new issue for this Legislature. Itís not new that the Government of Yukon can, should and has taken action on these issues; however, the current Premier, when I asked him if he and the Yukon Party intended to live up to the Member for Klondikeís suggestions in motions in the Legislature, in response to me on March 5, 2003, the now Premier said, and I quote: ďOur government has not committed to eliminating the fuel tax. Ö We realize though, Mr. Speaker, that there is a problem with the cost of fuel. We want to see the federal government take the lead ÖĒ This is his suggestion: ďÖ address the issue, most importantly at the refinery gate and rack pricing. That has the biggest impact on fuel cost across this country.Ē
So what I heard the Premier say is ďoffer a Canadian solutionĒ to this issue, not just a northern solution and also to pass the buck and suggest the federal government should deal with it. The point is that the Yukon Party members, when in opposition and in government previous to the ones now seated in the Legislature, have been all over the map on this particular issue, have not done what theyíve suggested other governments do and have not done everything they can do within their authority to take action on what is a very serious issue. Mr. Deputy Speaker, youíve mentioned it and I believe others have as well. Yukoners cope with high fuel costs as we cope with other significant issues. This is certainly not the only one that is before Yukoners.
I would like to suggest that the motion as put forward by the Member for Lake Laberge be amended in recognition of the Member for Klondikeís suggestion.
Ms. Duncan: I move
THAT Motion No. 328 be amended by adding after the word ďGSTĒ the following:
and THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to make good on a commitment made by the MLA for Klondike to eliminate territorial taxes on gasoline and diesel.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Porter Creek South
THAT Motion No. 328 be amended by adding after the word ďGSTĒ the following:
and THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to make good on a commitment made by the MLA for Klondike to eliminate territorial taxes on gasoline and diesel.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to have the House help me welcome my granddaughter, Settea, and my brother-in-law, Dennis, to the gallery.
Ms. Duncan: What the original motion did was suggest that the federal government make good on an election campaign commitment they made in 1993. The Member for Klondike put forward these words and these motions well since that date, and the point of seeking to serve and putting forward such motions is that your word is good, you do what you say youíll do. The Member for Klondike suggested that the previous government should do it, and I am suggesting by the motion that if we are going to say that itís good for the federal government, which has since changed leadership and since won two elections, to make good on a previous campaign commitment, itís perfectly acceptable to demand that the Member for Klondike and the party of which he is a member make good on their commitment that was made in this Legislature and their statements. Iím sure that the Member for Lake Laberge introduced this motion, wanting to make sure that the federal government lived up to a ó quite aged by this point ó campaign commitment.
I am simply saying what is good for the federal candidates in 1993, only some of whom are still now serving ó the same rules should apply. It should be fair. The Member for Klondike seemed to think it was perfectly appropriate back when he introduced it, and I would suggest very strongly that, particularly in light of the financial resources available to the now Yukon Party government, they make good on their commitment. And I would urge all members to support the amendment.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd just like to speak in favour of this amendment, actually. I listened to the previous speakers: the mover of the motion ó the Member for Kluane ó enlightened us a lot on what this motion stood for.
The original motion basically called on the federal government to do something. The amendment to the motion enables the existing government on the other side of this House to actually do something positive too. There are a number of positive things that could be done. The amendment to the motion makes some suggestions. Iím not necessarily saying that they are the right suggestions, but there are a lot of suggestions out there that the government needs to listen to.
I remember some of our first days here in the Legislature and how we debated several things.
One of the things we debated was the ó I canít remember the exact wording of the motion, but it was urging the Government of Canada to not participate in the war in Iraq. I remember distinctly the Member for Lake Laberge questioning whether or not something we said could actually make a change. What I see in the amendment is that we here in this Legislature could actually effect some change, that we could make some positive steps forward with regard to the high cost of heating fuel. This enables the government to actually take some action of its own instead of calling on the federal government to do it all.
We know that the Premier has a pretty good relationship with the Prime Minister and weíve already heard that the Deputy Premier had an arrangement previously with the now Prime Minister when he was the Finance minister about what could be done about high fuel prices in the Yukon. This amendment to the motion would enable the government to actually take the now Prime Minister up on that offer.
I think that what the Member for Klondike said in the House was that he had written to the then Finance minister, now Prime Minister, and suggested that the federal government eliminate its tax.
He also said that the Yukon Party was the only political party that was prepared to deal with high fuel prices, that they had a solution and that if the then Finance minister would eliminate the tax, they would too. So thereís an opportunity here for this government in its relationship with the federal government and their ability to bring back money from Ottawa to work in a positive manner with the federal government and make things better for all Yukoners.
The Member for Southern Lakes cited maybe one of the good ideas that didnít go quite far enough, and that was the increase in the pioneer utility grant. The Minister of Health and Social Services had indexed the pioneer utility grant to inflation and, as the Member for Kluane said, we thought it should be indexed to the price of heating fuel. That would make sense. I mean, I think thatís another positive idea. The Premier has asked us to come up with some positive ideas. I think that was a positive idea, and itís something that could be done, something thatís within the purview of this government. The facts of the matter are that heating fuel over the past year has gone up probably 20 to 25 percent. I have looked at my heating bill.
If you look at the criterion thatís attached to the pioneer utility grant, it doesnít treat all seniors fairly.
Seniors who live in a subsidized housing situation, whether it be here in Whitehorse or in Haines Junction, Dawson, Old Crow, Watson Lake, donít get the pioneer utility grant. This government could change that. That would be a positive thing. Itís another example of something positive that this amendment would allow the government to do.
We could add a whole list of things to this amendment that would be positive ideas and would be in the purview of the government to do. So I do not think that it is fair that seniors, whether they live in their own homes or in subsidized homes ó I donít see the difference. The cost of heating is still the same. The price of fuel doesnít go down ó when the fuel company pulls up to your house, they donít check to see whether or not youíre in subsidized housing. When the fuel truck comes to my house, he doesnít ask me whether Iím on subsidized housing, he doesnít ask to see my paycheque. He doesnít want to know how many kids I have or whether Iím a senior citizen. That doesnít affect the bill that gets left in my mailbox once a month. The price is the same.
So I think that there are some positive things that this government could do and this amendment only outlines a couple of them. We could amend this motion several times, and I think that the government should stop pointing the finger at the federal government and blaming them for the situation.
As opposed to that, the government across the way could work cooperatively with the federal government and come to some arrangement that would be good for all Yukoners.
The government has also tabled legislation that is good for small business. Is that good for all Yukoners? Itís decreasing the small business corporate income tax rate from six to four percent. Does that help seniors and people who have a hard time putting fuel on the table with their heating bills? No, it doesnít.
Why donít we work together with the federal government? Iím not saying that the motion is a bad idea ó that we should try to reduce the tax on heating fuel. Itís the people who have a hard time putting food on the table and have to pay the heating fuel whom we should be worried about. Instead of pointing fingers at the federal government and saying, you know, they promised to do this 11 years ago, why donít we do something positive? Why doesnít the government go to the Prime Minister ó actually, there is a good question right there. The Premier has just finished meeting with the Prime Minister and the premiers. We are talking about this motion today, and Iíd like to know ó maybe when the Deputy Premier gets up and speaks to this motion a little later, he can enlighten us. Maybe this was on the agenda in Ottawa. I certainly hope so. I hope that the Premier was in Ottawa talking about this because itís important enough to talk about here and we can have this discussion, but the Premier is the one who has the ear of the Prime Minister at this point, and he is the one who should be taking this message to the Prime Minister and saying what weíre willing to do. But the government hasnít said what they are willing to do when it comes to assisting Yukoners with the high cost of heating their homes.
So, I think this is just one of many possible amendments to this motion. There are lots of questions. We could ask: why just eliminate the GST on the price of fuel and electricity? Why not eliminate it on other things that cost people money and that are necessities?
Iíd like to give other members of the Legislature an opportunity to speak to this. I think that going into winter, this is a timely opportunity to be speaking about this. Itís unfortunate that something couldnít have been done about this before the fuel tanks started to be filled and people started to see what itís going to cost them to heat their homes this winter. And we donít know where the price of fuel is going.
The Member for Klondike had lots of good ideas. He talked about actually regulating the price of fuel. Here it is. These are the Deputy Premierís words back in 2001 about the price of fuel: ďÖ itís very clear that Yukoners are taking a hosing at the pumps. Some jurisdictions in Canada, such as PEI, have successfully regulated fuel costs for quite some time now.Ē So, the Member for Klondike seemed to think that might be a solution, but I donít see that in the amendment or in the motion. So, it was a good idea then, but he obviously hasnít had the ability to convince his colleagues that it may be a good idea.
Something else the Deputy Premier across the way said back in that time as well was that one of the ways the Premier could contribute something to this would be to stop flying around the country. What made me think about that was the fact that our Premier is going to go to P.E.I. one of these days soon too.
You know ó is that a good use of taxpayersí money? How much could we save and put toward heating costs, saving money for Yukoners? Is that a good use of taxpayersí money, travelling to Prince Edward Island to pay tribute to somebody who probably never even came here?
I can see that the Member for Klondike is just itching to get up and throw his two cents in on this, but we have to remind him that itís more than two cents; I think itís about $300,000 he needs to throw in, and that would actually do a lot to improve the pioneer utility grant as well. I think that this amendment allows for the government to do something positive, to take the Member for Klondike up on some of the good ideas he has had in the past, bring them forward now and come up with a solution; work with Ottawa, get our Premier on the phone, get him on the hotline to Mr. Martin and come up with a solution thatís going to be good for all Yukoners and, in the spirit of the original motion, good for all people who live north of 60.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to speak to the amendment that the third party put forward on this motion. Iím really surprised that the Yukon Party has nothing to say on this matter. What happened?
They had lots to say before. They made all kinds of promises to Yukoners, and when we bring their promises forward to the floor of this Legislature they have nothing to say on them. Isnít that interesting, Mr. Speaker?
Simply put, this amendment really puts the onus back onto the Yukon Party government, who made a promise to Yukoners. The MLA for Klondike has made this part of his vote gathering. Now they donít have enough in them to even speak on this matter. But they had no problem in their original motion to urge the federal Liberal government to eliminate the goods and services tax on heating fuel and electricity. I donít know if that would apply to all heating fuels around the territory. Does it apply to wood that people burn in their stoves, wood that is bought by businesses? There is just a straight money transaction that takes place. That doesnít reduce the cost of cordwood. Maybe it would a little bit in fuel for them to go out and get it, but I know a lot of Yukoners who love the feel of wood heat in their home and who would have nothing other than wood heat in their home. I, for one, like that.
The amendment urges the Yukon Party to make good on their commitment. Thatís what it does. Doesnít the mover of the motion have anything to say on this? Itís their commitment. Make good on it. Itís as simple as that. That could be done by agreeing to the amendments to the motion. Other than that, I would think that the Yukon Party hasnít thought out this motion clearly, or perhaps their lack of speaking out on this amendment to the motion is clearly an embarrassment to them because one of their members made a commitment to Yukoners. Itís unfortunate that we donít hear from the members on the government side.†
Whatís to it? Whatís the harm? I know from body language from this side of the House that maybe some of the members opposite are a little embarrassed about this coming forward. After all, itís one of their Cabinet ministers who made this commitment, and now they donít want it. This was brought forward by a backbencher, so now they donít even want to speak to it because, my goodness, maybe there would be more splits and fights going on in caucus than there are already, and thatís not needed, I donít believe, on the government side. They have too much to deal with, in our view.
Can it be done? Can the Yukon Party find it in itself to say they will vote for their own commitment? Can they vote for their own commitment in this House? Thatís what the amendment says. Letís see, maybe theyíre going to do it. I see the members opposite motioning that we sit down and vote on this amendment. I donít believe any one of them on that side of the House has it in them to vote on their own commitment that they made to Yukoners, but weíll see.
They want to do more? I heard the mover of the motion stress the importance of rising fuel prices around the world that are going to affect the Yukon because weíre in a colder climate, weíre north of 60, and so on. Well, if thatís the case and theyíre really true to their word, then theyíll vote for this amendment.
Letís see one of them get up. Iíll sit down and give the opportunity for one of the Yukon Party members to get up and speak to this amendment.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the first thing I want to make clear is Iím not one of them.
Now, I said a lot when I spoke to the motion and a lot of what I said back then really applies now. So rather than repeat it all, as has been the practice by some of the government private members in the past, Iím just going to refer everybody to Hansard, a few pages back from this point, and they could see the points I raised then that could be repeated now.
But I do want to follow up on what my colleague from Mayo-Tatchun just said about wondering whether this Yukon Party government has the courage of their convictions. Thatís an interesting term, because we know there are lots of convictions over there, and we are wondering if there is much courage to go with those convictions.
When we look at the motion, we see that it talks about fuel and electricity. We can think about some specific convictions in that area, especially in terms of the Deputy Premier, the Member for Klondike, and some of his past activity, and comments in this House.
So, it will be interesting to see how those members vote on this amendment. By the way, Mr. Speaker, I feel compelled to put on the record that I actually had a very similar amendment that I was going to table earlier, and it slipped my attention. I was just caught up in the debate and I simply overlooked tabling the amendment. So, the leader of the third party was given that opportunity and her amendment is very close to the wording of mine. Certainly her amendment looks like something that deserves the support of all members in this House.
So, with that, I do want this matter to get to a vote. Those are my comments.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise to speak to this amendment. Itís an amendment that I understand is provided and it addresses an issue, but it really is not connected in the way that it should be connected to the motion that we have before us on the floor. The issue that we have before us is one of heating oil and electricity use and the impact that the GST has on these two, which are much used and have a higher per capita consumption use in the north than in any other jurisdiction. Itís a percentage. Itís a percentage of the total amount. That is the essence of the situation that weíre faced with.
Much was made by the official opposition and the third party about commitments, and our government is firmly committed to implementing our party platform. Weíve made great strides in many, many areas. One only has to listen to the news today as to where the unemployment rate is at. One only has to listen to the news today as to how many more workers are here in the Yukon, how much our population has increased.
What our government committed to doing was restoring investor confidence here in the Yukon and rebuilding the Yukon economy. We are on a firm, definitive road to accomplishing those goals. At the same time, we are addressing the social side and the social issues. One of those social issues is to ensure that the cost of electricity and heating oil remains in an area so that we can see our way clear to consuming in the same manner as weíve consumed before. Weíve all gone through the energy conservation initiatives, and there are many about ó from replacing light bulbs to fluorescent light bulbs, from new energy-efficient windows ó and the government, through its various agencies, has many plans and many support systems in place to assist homeowners to that end.
But at the same time, the cost of heating oil constantly rises, and itís a commodity ó $55 USD a barrel currently. I donít know what the close market was today, but that translates into very high costs, especially in an area where our average annual Yukon household fuel costs, published from Stats Canada for 2001, was $1,480. I would be of the opinion that that number is probably closer to $2,000 today.
The average annual electricity cost from Statistics Canada for 2001 statistics was 1,384 and that number is probably closer to about $1,500 or $1,600. When you see the price of electricity going up and the price of heating oils ó and itís not just heating oils: propane comes into the equation also ó and you tag on a seven percent tax, which a former prime minister of Canada campaigned on ó I believe his exact words were, ďCanadians, weíre going to scrap the GSTĒ. Well, that didnít happen. I believe that it would be an important initiative for Canada to identify with the high cost of living north of 60, as they have done with the northern allowance, to afford northerners the same opportunity with respect to removing GST from electricity and from heating products, because there is more than just heating oil ó there is oil, propane, there is wood ó and allow us the opportunity to recreate the economy, which we are on a definitive road to doing so here in the Yukon once again, and allowing Yukoners and other northerners ó because this doesnít apply just to Yukon: the request will be made to Canada for everyone north of 60 to be exempt from this GST on heating fuels and electricity.
The third party has connected this with an amendment to the motion to removing the road tax on gasoline and diesel.
Mr. Speaker, that tax currently in the Yukon, as a consequence of a previous Yukon Party government, is now the lowest, or parallel to the lowest, in Canada. Thatís where weíre at today ó the lowest tax on gasoline per litre. Alberta, I believe, is similar to, or the same as, Yukon ó 6.2 for gasoline and 7.2 for diesel for highway use.
When you look at the connection between these two products, I guess thereís an association. But when you take a percentage on top of everything, which the GST is, and every time the price of heating oil goes up, the percentage for GST increases also, itís not similar to so many cents per litre. And thatís on top of the federal excise tax, which is 10 cents a litre. But weíre not asking that that be removed. Perhaps that could be the subject of a motion for another day, a motion we could debate, and Iím sure weíd find common ground, because I believe the exercise of good government is to provide the highest, consistent level of service to our population ó to Yukoners ó at the best possible cost.
We as a government have clearly demonstrated that ability time and time and time again. Thereís a new, invigorating atmosphere here in the Yukon, in case the members opposite havenít noticed. Thereís a new sense that, wow, the Yukon is now open for business again. There is renewed mining activity. There is renewed resource-extraction activity in a number of areas, in oil and gas and forestry and in mining.
All of these activities are taking place because of the more friendly approach being put forward by this Yukon government. And it all ties back to making things easier and more cost-effective for Yukoners to remain here and live here. And that would mean, would entail, scrapping the GST on heating fuels and electricity.
Mr. Speaker, we only have to look at the efforts that our government went to and another campaign commitment that our government moved forward on immediately after achieving office, and that was to amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act and its regulations and to increase it by 25 percent. And, Mr. Speaker, this government has recognized the needs of our seniors, and that has been increased again for this heating season by a further 10 percent. And that compounds. The 10 percent is on the 25 percent, so this is a significant increase. I guess the question that begs the answer ó weíre hearing from the official opposition that it doesnít go far enough. I guess the question that needs an answer: when they were in government, why did they not increase it? When the third party was in government, why did they not increase the pioneer utility grant? There wasnít the attention to the social agenda by either one of the previous two governments that there should have been, and that our government recognized, and we have paid specific attention to these areas, and we have increased a number of these programs significantly.
Mr. Speaker, this motion that is before us to amend the existing motion probably should best be contained on a stand-alone motion. I would encourage the leader of the third party to bring a motion for debate to the floor of this House, which says to remove the road tax, or the 6.2-cents-a-litre tax on gasoline. I would encourage the member opposite to do that, rather than tie it on to the shirttails of a very, very important motion that is connected to the federal Government of Canada. This other motion and this other amendment applies to the Yukon government, and there is a disconnect there. There are two separate levels of government and two separate initiatives. Perhaps the motion should be amended to read, ďencourage the federal government to remove the excise tax on highway gasoline and diesel fuelĒ, which is 10 cents a litre. Then we have a clear connection to the federal government in this area also.
But I would see it as more advantageous to remove the GST on highway products rather than to engage the Yukon government in this area, Mr. Speaker. We are talking apples to oranges. I donít believe thatís where we want to be.
We want to send a clear, succinct message to the federal Liberal government that north of 60, heating oils and electricity should be exempt from the GST. I think itís very, very important that we have a unanimous message to the federal Liberals on this very important issue.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot support the amendment to this motion. It breaks it down into an unworkable arrangement. It does not send a clear message to Ottawa, which I believe we have to do. And given the tremendous increase in the cost of heating oil, I think the opposition would be remiss in their responsibilities to Yukoners if they did not look at this in a serious way so as to move forward with the unanimous support of this House to request that the federal government remove the GST or eliminate GST charges on heating oils and electricity north of 60 ó for the Yukon, for Nunavut and for the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Hardy: Well, that was a little weak slapping on the desk there after your fearless Deputy Premier gave such a rousing speech. I would have assumed that you would have all leaped up, thumping the tables and jumping up and down ó
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Hardy: Sorry ó
Speaker: I presume youíre directing your comments through the Chair.
Mr. Hardy: I apologize.
Speaker: Carry on.
Mr. Hardy: I definitely retract that. Heís definitely not your Deputy Premier at this moment.
However, it was interesting listening to the Deputy Premier speak about this motion. Anyone who reads this motion recognizes what itís for and what it means and why the amendment was brought in.
This is a motion basically brought forward, I believe, to embarrass the one lone Liberal in here, but also ó itís in the motion ó to remind everyone about the 1993 Liberal election promise to scrap and abolish the GST. We all know the Liberals broke their word. We all know that. They continue to break their word daily. Thatís not something that we donít know about. However, what I find utterly baffling is the fact ó the impression I get is that the Premier has not been down in Ottawa lobbying for this already. The message being sent from the Yukon Party government seems to be that they need a motion from the floor before theyíll talk to the Liberals about a very serious issue facing the people of this territory, and thatís the rising cost of fuel.
Now thatís not leadership. Thatís an excuse to do nothing. My understanding is that the Premier hasnít spoken about this because ó obviously the Member for Lake Laberge has to bring a motion forward, feels itís necessary to bring it up in the House, and then maybe the Premier will get the idea and go down there and talk about it. Maybe heíll be listened to; maybe he wonít. But he has to bring this motion forward to stimulate his own leader to talk to the Liberals.
Talk to Paul Martin down there, who holds the purse strings for the whole Yukon obviously. Well, thatís silly; thatís utterly silly, especially when we can make a change now. We can do something very positive. We can make the change within this Legislature right now. We can accept this amendment and move forward.
Since when are we sheep and weíre going to wait around for the Liberals to tell us what we can and canít have? Thatís what this motion is all about. Letís go to the doorstep of Parliament and beg ó beg that they will drop the GST on heating fuels. Thatís the best that the Yukon Party can do. Well, Iím sorry; itís not acceptable for the opposition on this side.
The amendment that has been brought forward by a Liberal member is a legitimate amendment to this because it is concrete. It is similar ó as the Member for Kluane stated ó to the one that we were going to bring forward, so we endorse it totally. It would have a direct impact tomorrow if we catch that Premier when heís coming off that plane and say, ďHold it here now ó guess what? When you were gone again, we were able to make a decision within the Legislature that we were going to cut the cost of fuel.Ē How are we going to do it? Well, eliminate the territorial tax on gasoline and diesel as the Member for Klondike had suggested and lobbied for when he was on the opposition side. Iím just supporting the Liberal member in her request for the Deputy Premier to honour what he felt was necessary a few years ago.
The chance to do it is now. Then we would have a change immediately. People would feel the benefits immediately and we wouldnít wait around and see if the Liberals in Ottawa deem it necessary to make adjustments to the GST for the Yukon and possibly some other northern territories.†
It probably wonít happen, and thatís the reality of it. If this is the best that the Member for Lake Laberge can come up with, then ó guess what? ó those people are going to be paying the GST because this is empty. Itís shallow and all itís meant to do is poke the stick at a Liberal member in here. Shame, shame, shame. I thought we were going to do better politics. Motions like this donít amount to much.
Now, here we are today. Fuel prices continue to go up. What has this government done? Almost nothing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The Member for Lake Laberge just told me to sit down and heíll tell us what theyíve done. Weíve been waiting for two years to see some action and we still havenít seen any ó very little action from this government that is positive. What we do have every week is a new scandal ó bills not being paid, loans not being honoured. It just never ends. When it comes to financial issues, this is a government that lacks integrity.
However, this amendment could have an impact. Two or three weeks ago, I made a request of this government to make some adjustments to the pioneer utility grant, which would be a direct benefit to the seniors, most of whom, if not all, are on a fixed income and living in their own houses. Generally those houses have a poor insulation quality and therefore the seniors spend a fair amount of their fixed income on heating fuel and costs to get through a winter.
We have witnessed a 70-percent increase in fuel costs in the last year. What response do I get from the government? Thatís the big question. I request that this government index a cost increase to the pioneer utility grant to the rising cost of fuel so there would be no hardship. That would be absorbed within the pioneer utility grant, and that way the seniors on a fixed income would not feel that hit.
Whatís the best that the Yukon Party government can do for the seniors of this territory?
They say they add 10 percent. Fuel prices increased 70 percent. They say they add 10 percent, and thatís supposed to be a good benefit. Thatís the best they can do. Does anybody think that the seniors are not paying more out of their pocket this year than last year? Pardon me. I will correct something, because theyíre all chitter-chattering to each other over there ó 70 cents, not 70 percent; a 70-cent increase in the last year in the fuel cost per gallon ó per gallon, 70 cents, roughly 15 cents a litre fuel cost increase. Check ó the members across the way are kibitzing to me. Obviously they havenít done their homework; they havenít looked at the increase. It was in the papers a month ago. It has been reported daily. There has been approximately a 15 cent per litre increase since last year. Turn it into a gallon, which most seniors are used to working with, just in case they donít understand that. Most seniors still work in imperial; theyíre more comfortable in that. That was the type of measurement they were raised with. Turn it into gallons so they feel comfortable with that, and you end up with approximately a 70-cent increase: fairly substantial.
Now, frankly, obviously, the members on the other side, with their kibitzing and the shaking of their heads, do not agree with that. Maybe they should go out and talk to some of the seniors. I know itís a novel idea, but they might go and ask the seniors what exactly theyíre paying on their fuel bills today, right now, compared to last year. But I ask them to do that, because I talk to my seniors. I ask them what theyíre paying. I try to find out whatís happening, and I can tell you right now that the increase in the pioneer utility grant will not be enough, especially when theyíre on a fixed income. And that is a problem. This government had an opportunity to do the right thing and they did not do it. They fell short with a 10-percent increase, only after it was brought to their attention that they had to do something.
We are continuing to see the cost increase. From what I understand and from what I hear, the predictions are the fuel costs will continue to increase over the next few years. That is something that seniors on fixed income are going to have to face.
So they fell short. They totally fell short. Whatís the best thing they can do, Mr. Speaker? Itís that they come forward with a motion that will not do a single thing. It wonít do a single thing. Asking the federal government ó urge, pardon me ó urge the federal Liberal government to eliminate the goods and services tax on heating fuels and electricity sold north of the 60th parallel. Well, if youíre on the 59th, Iím not sure what that means. I guess you would have to keep paying it. Maybe they havenít thought this out very well. But, anyway, that is their language here ó in recognition of the colder climate facing this region and in the spirit of the 1993 Liberal election promise to scrap and abolish the GST.
Well, here we are. They want to urge the federal Liberal government. That is hard hitting. That is going to have a big impact. I am sure that Mr. Martin is sitting on his ivory throne in the Parliament Building thinking, ďMy gosh, when this motion comes down from the Yukon, I donít know what I am going to do. I guess I am just going to scrap the whole GST across the country because, holy cow, the Yukon Legislature has deemed it necessary.Ē I donít think so. I think somebody is living in fairyland here. Itís not going to happen.
So why is the Yukon Party government having such a difficult time with the amendment, Mr. Speaker? Why do they feel ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, did I hear the Member for Lake Laberge and the Member for Porter Creek Centre say that they will vote in favour of this amendment? Is that what I am hearing on the floor today?
Well, if thatís the case, Mr. Speaker, I am quite happy to sit down. If I know they are going to support this amendment, I would be quite happy to sit down and put it to the floor. I would love to see this. But I had the impression that their Deputy Premier had indicated that there was no way in the world that they were going to support this amendment. Now, maybe ó maybe ó there is a revolt happening behind him, and he should turn around and see what is happening; maybe pull the knife out of his back. I donít know, Mr. Speaker. Maybe. But knowing how this group over there works and how they have supported so many actions by the Deputy Premier to date, I would assume that theyíre going to follow him again and vote against the amendment.
Actually I would say that the motion that was brought forward was a joke, honestly. The amendment has more teeth to it, and I think the people of this territory would actually have a more realistic chance of seeing a benefit immediately upon their home-heating costs. So, saying that, Iím quite happy to sit down, put it to the vote. I would love to see the Yukon Party support this amendment. I support it. I believe most people on this side support it. With that, letís try it.
Some Hon. Members: Question.
Speaker: Question has been called. Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Disagree.
Mr. Cathers: Disagree.
Mr. Rouble: Disagree.
Mr. Hassard: Disagree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are five yea, nine nay.
Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the amendment negatived.
Amendment to Motion No. 328 negatived
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion?
Mr. Hardy: Since I havenít had a chance to talk about the main motion yet, Iím quite excited to once again stand up and speak to it because I believe ó I truly believe ó that the Member for Lake Laberge had a grain of thought, and he took that little grain and he ran with it. What he came up with was astounding.
Itís known throughout the Yukon that he is a man of action. He is quite well known as somebody who moves this government, shakes this government. I believe his position ó I could be totally wrong on the title ó but I believe he is the official watchdog of everything that everybody else does. Isnít that the correct title?
However, Mr. Speaker, this is a motion that he did bring forward, and once again we see within this motion the future dreams of this Member for Lake Laberge, because it speaks about federal politics and it speaks about the Liberal government. We all know that the background of the Member for Lake Laberge was historically very much around federal politics and, of course, a defunct party now that at one time had a little bit of prominence, but has become defunct. I believe they were called the Reform Party, and then they became the Canadian Alliance Party, and now theyíve morphed into a Conservative Party of Canada. So, anyway, he attached himself to a party that doesnít seem to know what they really are.
But what they did truly want was power in Ottawa, and I think that what has happened is that this member ran territorially but it hasnít really dawned on him that he got elected territorially and heís not a Member of Parliament; heís not down in Ottawa. He really doesnít have much pull any more, if he ever did have any, and thatís questionable still.
However, what we have here is the request for the House to vote unanimously ó obviously, Iím assuming thatís what he wants ó to urge the federal Liberal government to eliminate the goods and service tax on heating fuel. Well, you know what. Thatís probably a good idea. Thereís nothing wrong with that idea at all. People in the north do struggle to make ends meet, and removing the GST on this one category is probably a very good idea. I think it would have a seven-percent savings right there. Now, how much seven percent would compute into how many dollars would be saved per family or individual is questionable, but every little bit helps when people are trying to get by in the Yukon, especially during the winter when many people, of course, become unemployed ó the cyclical nature of work in the Yukon. Many people, of course, are on fixed incomes. And often there are other increases of costs, not just with heating fuels, during the winter. So something like this would be something that I think would have a good step forward that the Liberal government definitely could do.
So I donít have a problem in the sense ó I donít really have a problem with that request. But the problem around it, as I said earlier, is the intent of this motion or the underlying reasons to bring it in and the fact that it really isnít going to happen.
We have been accused of not talking on Wednesdays about substantive motions, motions that can really have some kind of impact. This is one of those motions that donít serve much purpose other than to take a shot at the Liberals. Definitely we know that the Liberals are not going to listen to the people of the north in this regard.
I could not imagine in any way, shape or form that a letter sent down from the Legislative Assembly to Mr. Martinís office is going to have him make that change. I just donít think itís going to happen. That is one of the big problems of the whole motion. Why isnít there something more substantive in this? Why isnít there something that we could actually see some results from, instead of just talking about it?
So the Yukon Party just voted down an amendment that is within our control, and itís something that we all could have voted for and enacted within a matter of a couple of weeks, probably, and the benefits would have been immediate.
However, there are other ways to do this. If this is truly what the Yukon Party government believes is a partial solution ó because I donít believe that this would solve all the problems; I donít think they believe that either, considering the amount that fuel has gone up. But there are other ways to do this. The government could quite easily, if they were so inclined and if they truly believe this, set up a fund so that people pay their fuel taxes, pay the GST on it, bring in their receipts with the GST marked on it ó because itís always marked on your receipts ó to the government and the government will write a cheque to pay back the GST.
†Down the road, the government can fight with the Liberal government all they want to see if they can get that money back, but that would be immediate. Thereís nothing wrong with that. I wouldnít mind seeing an amendment like that. Is there anything wrong with that idea, because at least thatís within our control.
Speaker: ††††† The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 328 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following document was filed October 27, 2004:
Intergovernmental agreement between Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and the Government of Yukon regarding a new school facility† (Fairclough)