††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Tuesday, November 2, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: † We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this House to ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing Diabetes Awareness Month across this country. More than two million Canadians currently live with diabetes, and that number is expected to increase by 72 percent within the next 12 years. Diabetes is a chronic disease that has no cure and is one of the leading causes of death in Canada.
The Canadian Diabetes Association has worked very hard for the past 51 years to raise awareness, provide services and support Canadians who are affected by this disease.
In the Yukon we support their belief that all people with diabetes can attain an optimal quality of life, and that diabetes is recognized as a major health issue.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health and Social Services has long supported the Diabetes Education Centre in the Yukon and other groups and organizations that promote the health of Yukon residents. Health professionals believe that lifestyle is one area where individuals can help prevent, delay or manage diabetes. We support the Recreation and Parks Association of Yukon and their active-living strategies that in turn support individuals attaining and maintaining health. The health promotion unit has been working diligently on a smoking cessation campaign, which is very relevant to individuals with diabetes. We continue to explore other ways to help.
Diabetes is a serious disease and can result in a variety of other health issues including heart disease, kidney disease, eye disease and nerve damage.
The Yukon is not exempt from diabetes. There is no such thing as a day off from diabetes. Once an individual has it, they have it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Itís a fact of life. It is incumbent upon us to recognize those living with this disease and fighting it, and those who support them.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the membership of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, as established by Motion No. 21 on March 25, 2003 and amended by Motion No. 301 on May 17, 2004, be further amended by rescinding the appointment of Eric Fairclough and appointing Steve Cardiff to the committee.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the government, as soon as the results of the U.S federal election are final, to send a public message to the new Alaska Senator clearly stating the Yukon position on opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Speaker: During Question Period on October 26, the Member for Lake Laberge rose on a point of order under Standing Order 19(g). The Member for Lake Laberge argued that the Member for Kluane had imputed false or unavowed motives to him by claiming that a notice of motion tabled by the Member for Lake Laberge on October 25, 2004 expressed a desire to abolish the land application process.
The Chair notes that the notice of motion standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge urges the government to ďstreamlineĒ the land application process. The Member for Kluane described the term ďstreamlineĒ, in the context of the notice of motion, as a code word for abolition.
The Member for Kluaneís suggestion that the Member for Lake Laberge was speaking in code presents a quandary for the Chair. It does not appear that the Member for Kluane questioned the motives of the Member for Lake Laberge. A suggestion that a member is speaking in code is not a direct accusation that a member attempted to deliberately mislead the House; however, it appears to the Chair that the Member for Kluane suggested that the Member for Lake Laberge meant something different from what he said in putting forward the motion in question. This, however inadvertently, implies some form of deception.
Members are free to express their opinions about the possible consequences of a given course of action. The Member for Kluane may state that the outcome of a streamlined land application process will be different from that imagined by the Member for Lake Laberge. That is a matter for debate; however, members should keep in mind that all members are to be treated as honourable in this House. They should be taken at their word without suggestion that they mean something other than they say.
This now brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† †Tantalus School, Yukon College campus at
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Education. On May 18 of this year, a letter was presented to the chair of the school planning committee in Carmacks that degrades and insults First Nationís customs and their administration building. This letter is inflammatory, so much so that the committee decided to keep it confidential.
The Yukon government released this letter to the media without any concern for the impact it could have. The ministerís senior officials had the letter back in May so the minister must have seen it. Did the minister base his decision about the College on this letter or on other lobbying he received?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to correct the record on the member oppositeís comment. This government didnít release anything.
I want to start out by saying that the difference between that side of the House and this side is that this side has to listen to every citizenís concerns. It doesnít appear to be so for the other side of the House.
And I do respect the opinions of everyone. When someone decides to write their concerns in letter form, I applaud them for that. Because itís no longer talking behind closed doors thatís taking place; this is a letter that was written and produced.
I want to remind the member opposite that that letter was not sent to me as minister.
There were a lot of issues around making a decision on the Carmacks College campus. It goes from the responsibilities of the First Nation government, the responsibilities of the municipal government and the responsibilities of this Yukon territorial government.
I think it has to be noted that all of the privileges that happen in the community of Mayo are not donated. The town municipal government has a responsibility to ensure there is recreation, water and sewer, all of those things.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is doing a poor job of avoiding the question, Mr. Speaker. Letís continue.
The government did release it through ATIPP, Mr. Speaker. The ministerís reason for including the College campus onto the new school sounds a lot like what is in the letter. A list of schools in the Yukon that have College campuses attached are in the letter. The letter says that the present campus is inconvenient, itís uncomfortable, students are distracted, courses are shortened due to closures, the janitorial services are unacceptable and the coordinator has to clean the toilet. It sounds so bad that we wonder how anyone could learn or even work under those circumstances.
When this letter came to the ministerís attention, what steps did he take to have his advanced education officials work with Yukon College to address the situation? Can he lay that out ó what steps?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, Mr. Speaker, my first action was to show the utmost respect to another form of government.
Mr. Speaker, this was not brought out in the floor of this Legislature or put out in the public newspapers because it was an issue that was dealing with Carmacks. Itís not appropriate for this government to bring those issues out on to the floor.
Mr. Speaker, I respect the First Nation government; I respect the municipal government; I respect the citizens of Carmacks; and this would be the last thing this minister would ever do ó try to bring out issues that would cause embarrassment to anyone. Mr. Speaker, I felt that this issue could be dealt with within the community of Carmacks. And, again, this letter was not addressed to me as minister. It was addressed to the advisory committee, and I believe that they had some responsibility to take this letter seriously and it was their responsibility to deal with those concerns, Mr. Speaker. At the end of the day, everything and every issue will be taken into account for the new campus.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the kind of respect this minister showed to the community was a slap in the face, a decision made without any consultation with the First Nation or any advice from the advisory committee.
The Premier heard it all when he was at the meeting in Carmacks. The minister is avoiding the question because he wants to hide something, in my view.
The letter writer shows a distinct ability to analyze the architecture of the new school. This is a skill thatís impressive in someone who has nothing to do with building construction at all. The letter reveals that by May some people already knew where the school would be built. That decision was not made by the advisory committee until much later, after the date on the letter.
Will the minister confirm that the decision for the location of the school was made without input from the whole community?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite is wrong again ó always making criticisms that arenít accurate. This minister and this government have absolutely nothing to hide with regard to the building of this infrastructure.
Why would we want to hide anything? This is such a positive initiative; I canít help but try to seek understanding of why it is so wrong to build this facility.
Mr. Speaker, everything adds up in support of doing exactly what this government is doing ó shared instructors in the College, shared facilities, such as the woodworking shop, the welding shop ó everything is right at the fingertips of people going to the College.
There is absolutely nothing that I can understand that should be an issue with this project. However, there is, so at the end of the day I applaud the NDP and the Liberal government for starting this process to begin with.
Question re: Tantalus School, Yukon College campus at
Mr. Fairclough: I have another question for the Minister of Education. Iím going to table some information that Iím sure the minister already has. One piece is a news release issued this morning by the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation that addresses allegations in the letter I spoke about earlier.
The second piece is a letter dated June 25, 2004, from the president of Yukon College, apologizing for the hurt caused by this letter and stating that it does not represent the Collegeís position.
The third piece is a letter with yesterdayís date from the acting president of the Yukon College saying that the College would respect the decision rendered from the community consultative process.
So will the minister make that same commitment and respect the decisions that came from a well-established community consultative process? In other words, will the minister do the right thing and change his mind?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This whole process has taken many, many months. Letís talk about what was involved here. First, there was great difficulty of all three being able to decide on the chair. It took months to do that, Mr. Speaker. Finally we had a chair; then the chair didnít attend meetings and then quit; so, again, back to the drawing board.
This process has been going on for many, many months.
At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, I think, at that rate of speed, there wouldnít even be a school in Carmacks in the four-year term that this government is in, because there would be no decision made. Mr. Speaker, this government is responsible for providing public infrastructure, and we will do so.
Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of issues involved with this. Itís not as clear cut as that member opposite would like the public at large to believe. Itís not a clear-cut case, Mr. Speaker. There has been a lot of discussion, a lot of issues raised and dealt with. This has been one very difficult road to keep afloat on, but this government will succeed.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, that government will succeed? The process was going well until the minister made a decision on his own, Mr. Speaker. Thatís shameful and not respectful of an intergovernmental agreement that he himself signed. At noon, the Grand Chief of Council of Yukon First Nations expressed a strong disapproval of the letter that we have already talked about. Whatever the minister wants to say about his reasons for locating the Yukon College campus at the site of the new Tantalus School, he has to admit one thing: the decision and how the decision was made and communicated had a very damaging effect on the community. The minister has an obligation to help heal the hurt this whole situation has created in Carmacks. So will the minister now admit responsibility for his role in this mess and make a commitment to work with the community and undo the damage that he has caused?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I stated on the floor of this House before that the member opposite needs only to look in the mirror to understand where some of the dissension is coming from, and I stand by that comment, Mr. Speaker. Again, the member is entitled to his own opinions, and thatís all it is, his own opinion.
This government has gone far beyond trying to work in consultation with everyone in Carmacks. One of the options that the member opposite probably gave notice to his First Nation on was that they can build a school anywhere they want in the country. Such a request came, one to be built about three to four kilometres out in the bush where we would have to build a road and a bridge and you name it.
Did this government do the right thing by building where there is already infrastructure in place and where that government already bought the property? This government is not about throwing money down the sink. There was $360,000 paid for by that government for the purposes of an education building to be constructed there. Now the member opposite would like the public at large to believe that theyíre totally innocent.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, thatís a bad attempt to avoid the question again. Heís not willing to go down into Carmacks and undo the damage that he has caused. By not answering the question, thatís what he said.
The Premier has made government-to-government relations a priority for his government, but we have watched minister after minister diminish those relationships. The buck stops at the Premierís desk and he must do something to restore confidence in his government. He canít use his chequebook to buy his way out of this one.
So let me ask the Premier bluntly: what will the Premier do immediately to bring this disgraceful episode to a positive conclusion for the whole community of Carmacks and especially for the students and their parents?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Once again I would like to correct the member opposite. This minister is not responsible for the issues that have arisen in Carmacks. This didnít happen two years ago. According to the history and the research, this issue has been there for many years.
Iím almost totally convinced now that that is probably why there hasnít been a school to date. Those governments ran from this issue because it was controversial. This government is not going to. This government is willing to work with the community. Weíre even prepared to look at all the social issues; weíre prepared to work with the community to try to find a good solution to this issue.
Mr. Speaker, itís not about whoís in charge of what or whoís the boss of what; weíre talking about a whole group of people whom I think we all have responsibilities for. The people of Carmacks have the responsibility for each other.
This is such a good initiative. This is a good project, and I think there is absolutely nothing negative about building a beautiful infrastructure thatís going to increase the education opportunities for every citizen for years to come.
Question re: Land applications, policy
Ms. Duncan: Almost a month ago I warned the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to take action to correct a major mistake this government made over the summer. Iím talking about the ministerís secretive decision to tweak the rules for land applications around Whitehorse.
The Yukon Party made that decision without talking to anyone. There was no consultation with the City of Whitehorse, no consultation with the Kwanlin Dun and no notice to the general public, just more of the father-knows-best attitude that Yukoners have come to expect from this government.
The governmentís unilateral decision now has them in trouble with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. The Chief of the Kwanlin Dun wants these applications rejected until a fair process is put in place. Thatís the same solution I recommended almost a month ago.
Is the Premier now prepared to admit his ministerís mistakes and ensure these land applications are rejected?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: On behalf of the minister, I will respond. I think itís important to note that the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, under the leadership of the minister, has taken on the majority of federal programs and services that were being delivered in the territory, and he has done a masterful job of ensuring a smooth transition.
I think, if we talk about any significant change at all, Mr. Speaker, itís about going from two offices for land applications to one, and a clarity of process that didnít exist before. Beyond that, weíve absorbed and inherited all existing policies and programs that were in place.
This is not a distribution of land at all; itís an application process. All the documentation was forwarded to the First Nation under our obligation to consult. Furthermore, there are many processes yet to be gone through before any decision is going to be made on whether or not land will be distributed.
So I would point out to the member of the third party, the leader of the former government, that, when in office and negotiating the devolution transfer agreement, this would have been a good opportunity to bring up this so-called problem.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, with each new day, this governmentís in a fight with a different First Nation. The TríondŽk HwŽchíin has taken the government to court over the Tombstone Park. The Carmacks-Little Salmon First Nation was here on opening day to show their displeasure with this governmentís handling of the Carmacks school. Today, itís the Kwanlin Dun. And the timing couldnít be worse, with the ratification vote for its land claim scheduled for this weekend. I warned the minister last week in Question Period and Chief Mike Smith said this morning the timing of the staking rush is suspect for a government that says it wants to resolve land claims.
The Premier can clean up after this minister if he stands up and says the land applications will be rejected until such time as there is a fair, full, public process that includes consultation with all the affected parties, including the First Nation.
Will he stand up and clean up after this minister and reject the land applications?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member pointed out, rightly so, that there needs to be a process, and the member says that we should reject the applications because there is no process.
Iím not sure which point she was trying to make; however, let us look at the facts. These applications now must go through a full environmental screening under the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Act. Itís also a requirement that they go through the Land Application Review Committee, and we are obligated in that process to involve the First Nation at the outset, as I believe they are members on the committee.
This committee and these processes may recommend a protracted land planning process. There is much to be done here in accordance with all the existing policies and programs that were in place under that memberís government, under the former NDP government, under the federal government. We have inherited these processes. Our government now is doing the work necessary to improve access to land and how it is done. I think it is time to look at what the department has done, and the minister, and start commending them for the smooth transition that was undertaken under their leadership.
Ms. Duncan: The Premier is not recognizing the seriousness of this situation. The Kwanlin Dun ratification vote is four days away and the stakes couldnít be higher. The government should be doing everything it can to ensure that that deal passes. Instead the government is part of the problem.
The Yukon Party this summer made a unilateral decision to accept land applications around Whitehorse. This decision has infuriated the leadership of the Kwanlin Dun, the City of Whitehorse, existing land holders and other applicants. It is not a fair and open public process because of the tweaking of the land policy by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
There is a solution. It is a solution that has been recommended by a number of parties: reject the land applications until a proper public process can be outlined and agreed upon. Is the Premier prepared to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the member opposite that there is a proper public process. What does the member think the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Act is? Itís a very proper, public process. What does the member think the Land Application Review Committee is? Itís a very proper, public process. What does the member think a proactive land use planning exercise would be? Well, Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the member opposite that itís a very proper, public process, no matter what the steps may be. Every step along the way, the First Nation ó and I assure the First Nation that they will be involved in a meaningful way, as governments should be. There is no reason to be concerned here. We are a long way away from even making one decision on one square inch of land being allocated because of the very proper, public processes in conjunction with our obligation to consult and work with First Nations in a meaningful relationship.
Question re: Emergency medical services transfer
†Mr. McRobb: The Minister of Health and Social Services needs to clear away some of the smoke and mirrors clouding his proposed transfer of emergency medical services to the Whitehorse General Hospital. Can he now inform this House of his intentions with respect to this transfer, and why hasnít he consulted with the Yukon Employees Union or the public on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this government is engaged in a process of providing the highest consistent level of service to Yukoners from any of the areas that we are involved in. Health and Social Services is involved in the service delivery in a whole series of areas that Yukoners have come to rely on, and the exercise weíre engaged in is to maintain that system and improve it and make sure it is a hand-in-glove arrangement. What the member opposite is probably suggesting is that we have forced the right-hand glove onto the left hand. Weíre not prepared to do that.
We want a system that Yukoners know will work and know they can rely upon, and we are going to do exactly that.
Mr. McRobb: Unfortunately, the minister failed to remove any of those smoke and mirrors I asked him to clear away. This is cause for concern and it has created confusion within the public service, but this minister has quite a reputation for creating confusion and concern. Just look at his flip-flop on the Macaulay Lodge issue or the purchasing of the ambulances recently, as well as a host of other issues.
Now, in discussions with the former deputy minister, the union was told the whole concept had died. Was the deputy minister right or was he simply out of the ministerís loop as he was during the purchase of the white elephant ambulances?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Was there a question there? Iím just simply amazed at the content of these white elephants that the member is marching in. I think heís running some sort of a zoo. Thereís probably an opportunity for the member opposite for employment opportunities on the Yukon game preserve.
The issue is that our government is going to provide the highest consistent level of services to Yukoners that we can possibly provide.
Question re: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
†Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Environment. Today the people of the United States vote in their federal election. By all counts, the country is deeply divided and results from across the United States could go either way. This is true in our border state of Alaska. However, in the Alaska Senate race on an issue of great importance to the Yukon, both national party candidates are in agreement. Both candidates are strongly in favour of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Tomorrow morning, what position is this minister going to convey to the new U.S. administration on behalf of the Yukon on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím sure tomorrow morning, when the new president is elected, I wonít be called upon for my opinion, nor will the Yukon, but with respect to the Porcupine caribou herd, our position as a government has not changed one iota.
Mrs. Peter: The Premier and this government have always paid lip service in the past to the notion of protection of the Porcupine caribou herd. He has never come flat out and stated that he is in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and he has failed to take the necessary concrete steps to make the Yukon governmentís position crystal clear.
Will the Premier now make a clear public commitment that this government is totally opposed to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and send a copy of that commitment to the new U.S. government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the critical habitat area occupied by the Porcupine caribou herd, our governmentís position has not changed one iota. It has been the subject of debate that was unanimously agreed upon by all parties in this House on two separate occasions that I can recall, and I was involved in the debate on both of them and supported it without reservation or hesitation. That was a position taken in the 1990s and again reaffirmed, and we are not going to back down from our position as to where we stand with respect to development and drilling on the 1002 lands. Itís on the record; it has been stated time and time again; our position has not changed. I donít know how I can make that more abundantly clear.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre repairs
Mr. Cardiff: My question is for the Minister of Justice today, Mr. Speaker.
The taxpayers of the Yukon have spent millions on corrections in the past few years. The previous NDP government did an extensive consultation on restorative justice. The previous Liberal government actually began site preparation for a new facility. Unfortunately that was more money thrown into the wind when the Premier single-handedly scrapped the project because he knew better. The Yukon Party government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last year on renovations to the present jail. This year theyíre spending nearly another $1 million on the same questionable exercise.
My question for the minister is: does he really believe that all of the money thatís being spent on patching up the problems at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre addresses the issues?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to start by saying that this government is concerned, and maybe thatís what was lacking with the other people who did all the consultation. I donít know.
But, Mr. Speaker, nothing is ever a waste of time.
I acknowledge the work that was done by the NDP and I certainly acknowledge the work that was done by the Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, the Justice portfolio is more than just building a jail. There are a lot of issues at play here ó major concerns in the communities, major concerns in the Yukon. All of the issues that come around Justice are not just a jail. This government has embarked on a process to try to identify what needs to be changed in the justice system, other than building a jail, and I want to make it perfectly clear that the correctional facility is a must. It has to happen, because thatís the way it is in society. There must be a correctional facility.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister just admitted that a correctional facility is necessary. It would be nice if this government would address the issue at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre before it crumbles around the people who are working there and the people who live there on a daily basis.†
Last fall the previous minister announced a half a million dollars to address the fire marshalís recommendations. She announced that in the fall for what should have been a winter works project. Fast forward to the first day of summer, and this government announces that they are actually going to do something, and now it going to cost a million dollars. Meanwhile, we still have inmates who are escaping and the minister has yet to actually communicate with the public around what happened in this last escape and explain it to the public. Again, this government knows best.
My question is this: how will the millions of dollars that are being spent on renovations to the jail give the Yukon public the security it is paying for?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to state for the record, Mr. Speaker, that it is my opinion that the member opposite is really exaggerating the condition of the correctional facility. Nothing is crumbling around anybodyís necks.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rest my case, Mr. Speaker. This government is taking more steps toward ensuring that there are things happening at the facility. This government has done more programming in two years than has been done in that facility for a number of years; for example, small engine repairs, fire suppression programs, and this winter the facility will be conducting log building programs.
Things are going quite well at the facility at the present time, and this government is working toward providing training to the staff and ensuring that the staff are well looked after.
Speaker: Before the final supplementary, the Chair is uncomfortable with some of the terminology being used today. I am concerned that it will lead to discord, so I would ask all members to just focus a little bit more on the questions and the answers.
Member for Mount Lorne, your question.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Weíll do our best.
For the past two years, we have heard the same refrain from this government. Unfortunately, I think that theyíre the ones who are exaggerating the work that theyíre doing, and they want to research the problems once again, redo the work that has already been done, and the jail is still crumbling, and it is still full of safety and security problems, both for the staff, the inmates and the public. In the latest budget we have another $700,000 being spent on correctional reform ó another year and a half before there are any results. And the public isnít fooled by this. They know when the next election is due, Mr. Speaker. Itís due in 2006. Well, surprise ó thatís when the Premier is going to have to call an election. So letís ask the Premier ó the Premier wanted to wade into this previously ó if this is part of his hidden agenda to drag out this process so that he can finally announce a new jail as part of a vote buyer in 2006.
Speaker: Before the minister answers, obviously you misinterpreted my earlier interruption. The term ďexaggeratingĒ is, in effect, intimating that the members are not telling the truth. That will not be allowed any more, on either side.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wonít use that word any more.
I would like to begin by addressing the previous comments the member opposite made about inmates escaping. I need to remind the member opposite that it happens all the time, right across the country. Inmates escape. In fact, it even happened in the escape-proof Alcatraz. So letís not be too hard on this little facility in Whitehorse.
This government has embarked upon a process to review the correctional reform. This is a very positive initiative.
Once again, I attended the opening across the road. I might add that I didnít see any of the opposition there, probably because they have their own agenda and theyíre working on that now for the next election.
Trying to accuse this government of doing things just for their own purposes is just a bunch of ideas that are coming from across the floor again.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Mr. McRobb: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, November 3, 2004. It is Bill No. 107, Democratic Reform Act, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Center.
Ms. Duncan: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, November 3, 2004. It is Motion No. 209, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South.
Withdrawal of motions
Speaker: The Chair wishes to inform the House of changes that have been made to the Order Paper. Motion No. 183 and Motion No. 307, both standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South, have been removed from the Order Paper as they are outdated.
We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 12: Second Reading ó adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 12, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie; adjourned debate, the Hon. Mr. Edzerza.
Speaker: The member has 15 minutes.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There has been a lot of very interesting discussion over the last couple of days. I must say that there has been a lot of controversy around the issue in Carmacks. My sincere hope is that, at the end of the day, things will work out in a positive manner. We must not start criticizing and making people feel as though they cannot speak or say anything without being ostracized or condemned. I do commend people who do write their concerns.
Itís our job as a government to listen to everyone and we have to acknowledge anyone who wants to write letters. Again, I think thereís an awful lot of work to do and this government is up to that task. We will work with all citizens in Carmacks and try to come out on a very positive note.
I ended yesterday talking about the late French immersion program. The Yukon government committed to implementing a late French immersion program this past fall. Heritage Canada has increased their funding contribution by $121,000, of which $115,000 has been allocated for the late French immersion program this year.
The Yukon government took the lead in the creation of the late French immersion pilot project that was implemented at Whitehorse Elementary. With the Yukon governmentís guarantee of support, the program will go ahead while we continue to negotiate funding from the federal government.
There are 14 students enrolled for the late immersion and many parents have indicated an interest in enrolling their children if the program is offered next year. We are very pleased with the positive uptake on this program as we continue to do our work and to provide the kind of education opportunities the Yukon wants.
An additional $42,000 has been allocated for Canada study grants. This funding is 100-percent cost-recoverable from the federal government. Mr. Speaker, more Yukon students are pursuing post-secondary education opportunities so, in addition to indexing the Yukon grant, we have allocated an additional $200,000 for this fiscal year to meet their needs.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Education is also requesting a new capital budget increase of $494,000. This is made up of a number of projects, including the Teslin school renovations at $146,000 for the design of the gym, the Watson Lake school technology wing upgrade at $91,000, the building of an addition and the upgrading of the heating system for Eliza Van Bibber School at $85,000, the Mayo community school improvements at $61,000 to finalize completion of a cold-storage shed, PA system upgrades and mezzanine guardrail modifications.
And I am pleased to say that we have allocated an additional $500,000 to the community training fund. This funding will be used to meet increased demands for more training in trades and literacy.
With the revote of $44,000 for projects that carried over into the year, the total increase is $544,000. The funds will help ensure that we have a skilled workforce that enables individuals to participate in the Yukonís economy.
Our government wants to provide Yukoners with the best opportunities to adapt to the changing world of work. Continuing education and training plays an important role in keeping Yukoners engaged in the workforce. Some people need to learn basic life skills to acquire and maintain employment. Some people need training to start new businesses. Some people need training so they can fill labour shortages in crucial sectors such as the trades. Thanks to the opportunities provided by the community training funds, Yukoners from every walk of life are finding their role in part of a skilled workforce. Community training funds are an important investment in our people, in our workforce and in our communities.
Projects funded with the new money to community training funds are as follows: the Teslin Carcross carpentry pre-employment program will receive $180,000; the literacy action committee had a shortfall of $48,000 on the last round of proposals. There were many worthy projects that went unfunded, so we are requesting $60,000 to meet the need.
Skills Yukon will receive $50,000 to continue its work with employers, educators, labour groups and governments to reposition trade and technology careers as a first-choice option for youth. $50,000 is designated toward the workplace literacy pilot; $50,000 will be provided to the community training fund in Haines Junction, which has identified some outstanding training initiatives that require funding.
These capital supplementary budget increases are reduced by unexpected and other capital projects, including the Tantalus School replacement project funding, which was deferred by $325,000 to 2005-06. This building project is on schedule, and we plan to have the school completed by August of 2006.
This money is not being used because construction cannot begin until the summer of 2005.
The Porter Creek Secondary cafeteria project funding was deferred by $150,000 to 2005-06. Again, this money is not being used because construction cannot begin until the summer of 2005. Over the course of the project planning, changes to the scope and delivery of the building project meant that the building designs have not yet been finalized. I can assure the House that these projects are still proceeding and will be delivered on schedule.
Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to providing the best possible educational opportunities for Yukoners. This supplementary budget continues commitment to lifelong learning and providing Yukoners with the skills they need to take advantage of the economy.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to just make mention of some of the expenditures that are being put into the operation and maintenance. For example, $840,000 to the Yukon government collective agreement, $667,000 to the Yukon College collective agreement, $1,704,000 to the Yukon Teachers Association collective agreement, $261,000 toward FASD initiatives, $119,000 toward the Association of the Yukon School Councils, Boards and Committees, $100,000 for student grant indexing and $111,000 toward aboriginal language trainees. Mr. Speaker, the aboriginal language trainees positions have been sought after for many years, and this government embarked upon it because itís very important to ensure that the First Nation languages do not become extinct. $500,000 was put to First Nation languages and cultural materials development.
$335,000 toward the alternative pathways to education ó again, this is a very important initiative because it targets the youth who have dropped out of school and who may be able to proceed with just a little bit of a different environment; $375,000 toward the home tutor program ó again, this is a very important initiative because there has been a lot of criticism of students not doing as well in the achievement tests as they could. Well, this government recognizes that and developed this home tutor program; so, again, a very positive initiative.
The Yukon College has been seeking increases to their base grant for many years. This government increased that base grant by $1 million. We have put $107,000 toward student training and employment, STEP, which adds 32 new jobs for students. We put $100,000 toward literacy initiatives, $74,000 toward a Yukon government apprenticeship program, and $468,000 toward education reform. Again, this education reform is to mirror the process of the Childrenís Act review, a very positive step in ensuring that all the stakeholders in the Yukon are going to be involved with the education process and how it will best serve all citizens in the territory.
We have put $200,000 toward an increase to the Yukon grant to meet demands, and $115,000, as I mentioned earlier, toward the late French immersion. This government took that step without the federal government. It was done because it was a necessity and this government will deal with the federal government in the future.
We put $42,000 toward the Canada study grant; $25,000 toward the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, which enables a student, upon request, to get into the veterinary college.
I also hold the portfolio of Justice, and it does give me great pleasure to introduce the 2004-05 supplementary budget for the Department of Justice. I would like to acknowledge all the hard work the Premier and my fellow Cabinet ministers put into this supplementary budget. This budget shows how this government can adapt to the changing situations that our departments present us after the regular budget is tabled. The hardworking staff at the Department of Justice has been busy over the many months since we last sat in the House working on preparing for the consultation on corrections.
In addition to moving into their new offices on Lambert Street here in Whitehorse, the project team has begun work on background materials for the consultation and has been preparing for the active part of the consultation. This consultation will take place over the next year and a half and will look at all aspects of corrections in the Yukon.
It is our expectation that out of this consultation we will have a corrections model that will better serve our citizens well into the future. This consultation will be much broader than the building-centred consultation that had been carried out in the past.
Mr. Speaker, Justice staff has also been working with Property Management to bring the Whitehorse Correctional Centre up to standards acceptable to the fire marshal.
I would like to talk just a bit about the criticisms we have had about not working with First Nations. Hereís an example: aboriginal language teachers, $2,280,000; YNTEP, $540,000; First Nation curriculum materials and resources, $500,000; Native Language Centre, $352,000; department staff who work directly on First Nations curriculum and programming, $200,000; aboriginal language teacher trainees, $111,000, and this will rise to $200,000 on an ongoing basis when all six trainees are in place.
And the list goes on, for a grand total of $4,143,000 thatís put directly into First Nation funding. Mr. Speaker, I hardly believe that this is not working to the interest of First Nations. I applaud this government for being responsible for doing a good job.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to respond to this supplementary budget and also to the words that came from the previous speaker, Mr. Speaker.
When it comes to consultation, this government said they would do it. But in reality, consultation doesnít take place as well as it should. This has been conveyed over and over again.
When it comes to the Carmacks school, an agreement that this minister signed and then broke immediately, the community voiced themselves. And how did they do it? By a demonstration outside of this House. The minister ought to be ashamed of that consultation process that he is so proud of. Itís wrong; the minister knows that.
When it comes to consultation in communities, it seems like a quick trip in and out. If they talk to someone in the community and the First Nation, thatís consultation. I donít believe that that government knows the definition of what that word really means. Over and over, we bring it up in this House, and over and over again we see the relationships between government and First Nations diminishing. Itís sad, because weíre going backwards, all because of the actions of some of the ministers in this House. And the sad part of it is they all work for the Premier and the Premier allows it to happen. Itís unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that communities have to go to the point of challenging things in this House with the government in the Yukon courts.
Speaker: Order please. I allowed the minister to carry on for a brief period of time after Question Period with regard to the issues that arose during the day. I have allowed the Member for Mayo-Tatchun the same privilege, but now I would ask that you go on to your supplementary budget debate, please. 032a
Mr. Fairclough:††† Okay, Mr. Speaker, but it is related to the budget because everything that the members opposite say here in this supplementary budget should be about consultation with the public. So we bring up issues, examples, over and over again, and we will continue to do that. I believe itís right in line with how a debate should take place on budgets and in response to the Premierís remarks and the ministerís remarks of what they believe their government is doing with this supplementary budget.
So, Mr. Speaker, we have to draw their attention back to their commitments. We have to do that.
The public does not forget, Mr. Speaker. Just think about when the Yukon Party first got elected. What did they do? The first thing they did was to cry poverty to the public: ďThere are no monies there for you, for your little projects. There isnít any. The Liberals spent it all.Ē Thatís what they did ó they cried poverty.
And then they were going to do something about it, Mr. Speaker. Itís well known. The budget they presented to this House was all about government spending and the trajectory. The word was used over and over again by the ministers and the backbenchers in response to the Premierís budget speech and so on. It was listed right there. It was in big bold letters ó that their budget was about government spending trajectory. It was going up, it was too high, it was not sustainable, and the Yukon Party was not going to deficit finance. They werenít going to do that.
That was a promise and a commitment right here in this House. What have we seen since? Did this government follow what they said they were going to do in this House? No, they didnít. They went the other way; spending got bigger. Of course more monies are coming in. We have devolution; we have to take that into consideration.
There are people who do not forget about this government pleading poverty and so on. This government went into negotiations with Yukon teachers: ďWe have no money; we canít give you what you are asking for.Ē Basically thatís the message that was given.† They took the government at its word. They settled an agreement and all of a sudden there was a big pot of money ó a big pot of surplus money, which we said existed all along. We just had to wait for the Auditor Generalís report to see it and prove it to the public again. Even though the members opposite all said there was nothing, the Auditor General said it and they wouldnít even believe it. It was tabled in this House. They couldnít believe that there was a surplus.
Then they went into negotiations with the public service and made a settlement with them and the teachers were not happy with the messages that were given to them by this government. Today they are still not happy.
Then something else happened. Weíre talking about finances here. The Yukon Party decided ó I think they put the Member for Klondike in charge of this one ó that government should have a bigger surplus, so they moved the numbers around, looked at what their assets were. Here we have a building; letís throw it in as a surplus.
All of a sudden the surplus grew to over $300 million. The government had a $300 million-plus surplus. What kind of message is that sending to Yukoners? Is it saying that this government has the ability to spend that kind of money on community priorities and priorities of the territory? Is that really the message? After all, we do have a surplus and itís big money. Itís listed in the books today.
I think maybe the Yukon Party thought a lot about that. They couldnít reverse their decision. Theyíd never do that. It takes a lot to get those members opposite to admit mistakes in this House, mistakes theyíve made that we and the public feel are mistakes. They wouldnít admit to that. I think that they realize perhaps that $300 million could not just be spent like that.
They looked at other options, threatened things, we feel, across the territory like entering into public-private partnerships on things they didnít really campaign for at all. The bridge was one of them. People were upset about how this government conducted business. They couldnít deal with their own ministers ó out-of-control ministers in my view, rogue ministers. The Premier has to constantly clean up after his ministers, and Iím sure thatís really weighing heavily on him right now. Iím sure they had many meetings in making sure the ministers are following proper process and protocol as required of them by the public.
So we have a government that says there is all kinds of money out there and projects will get built ó whether you like it or not, is almost the way they do things. They make a decision and then they ask the public, ďHow do you like us so far?Ē In other words, they make a decision and then they go out and consult.
That is backwards from what they promised. Didnít we hear those big-C words, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier said over and over? They would compromise, they would consult, and that didnít happen. First Nations and municipalities all came forward and expressed their concerns. And I think that this Yukon Party government likes to feel the power that they have. Theyíve gone to the point of disrupting our democratic system, in my view.
Letís have a look at Dawson City, the mayor and council. The people elected them. The Yukon Party government threw them out and then they decided to spend money however they want in bringing people forward ó big money too. It is not forgotten. This is a big topic up in Dawson City. It scares the heck out of the Member for Klondike to know that people are not happy with that member, especially given that this government promised to deal with the loans issue. He promised to deal with his ministers. He said he had a permanent solution and will have a permanent solution by June of this year. Well, months have gone by since then and, guess what? Nothing has happened. Itís unfortunate, because the Premier allows his ministers not to deal with the matter.
One of the big discussions thatís taking place in communities is on elections. Of course, people canít wait for an election. Thatís for sure, here. But for municipalities, when people owe money to municipalities, they canít run in elections. Itís okay for the Premier here to allow his ministers to walk away with public money. And I say that because there are no payments being made. I know the Member for Klondike did admit that he is fully part of it, and he did it by putting a $10,000 payment on his loan in 1996 before he ran in the election, to put him in the good books, Mr. Speaker. That heís in the good books now is what he wanted to portray to the public.
Then, in 1997, he proceeded to negotiate, tried to negotiate with the Yukon government to find a better way to deal with this matter. It didnít go anywhere. The member hasnít made a payment since and the public is not happy. They are not happy with this government and the way in which they handled it. It is the Premier allowing his ministers ó two of his ministers, I should say, I shouldnít say all of them ó to continue to take the public money without paying any of it back. This is unfortunate because businesses that have received loans attempted to pay them back. Years and years of paying the money back. He treats his ministers differently than he does other businesses.
Take a look at Carmacks school, for example. They got a business development loan from the Yukon government for their administration building. They have almost paid it off now. How did they get treated? Wow, thatís incredible: $750,000, worked with the College and government to design this building ó a really nice building, by the way, Mr. Speaker. Iíd invite you to take a tour of that. I believe that you would be impressed with it. And theyíre paying back their loan. Itís just about done, and thereís no mention of that through this Yukon Party government.
In the meantime, this Yukon Party government gives good contracts to some of their friends, puts money in their pockets, says it was money well spent. Weíve questioned some of that in this House, Mr. Speaker ó about where the money is going, what the results are of where the money went ó and many times really there isnít any. The money has gone. Itís just incredible because it happens one after another after another, and these are big monies. When an organization gets turned down for $5,000 to put on a program in their community and they look at this government putting $120,000 into someoneís pocket for a 12-page photocopy, it doesnít make sense to me.
Is that building healthier communities? Is that what this supplementary budget is all about ó carrying on that line that the Yukon Party has tried their best to tell the public what they are doing? We know that perhaps not all the members on that side of the House have control of the spending. We know that. Itís done through Management Board. I know that backbenchers basically have little say on the matter ó little say at all. It is up to those on Management Board who approves monies.
I heard the Minister of Education say that he is committed to better learning facilities in the community of Carmacks. Letís pick that one for instance. He said that we voted against the budget that had the school in it. I thought, did this government already write another budget? Because itís not in there. Itís not in the budget, so how can you vote against something thatís not in there?
I have four minutes.
I think the minister finally realized ó he just said it today ó that they are reducing the amount of money for the design of the school. It will be in next yearís budget. The Yukon Party ó what did they do where they were in opposition? Now that they are in government, do they bring this up? The fact that they voted against Mayo school, and they voted against the school in Ross River and the one in Old Crow; they voted against the building of Yukon College ó all the programming that has been put in place through the community development fund. How come they didnít say that?† They conveniently left it out.
There are certainly a lot of issues in my riding. Iíve said it to the members opposite over and over again in this House. It was never reflected in the budget, so I am wondering why the heck I should even bring them up in this House?
Is it going to go on deaf ears? Are the minister and people in Management Board, in putting together a budget, actually going to hear this? I think not. I certainly hope that members opposite do a lot better in their jobs than they are doing right now when it comes to government-to-government relationships and respecting the final agreements as they were written and signed by the Yukon government. Thatís what is needed here and itís lacking. Weíre in the position of going to court. Itís very bad timing. We have other First Nations who still want to finalize their agreements. Weíre going to court. We have the minister who overrules a board on their suggestion. Look at the renewable resource council with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. That is wrong, and the minister knows that. Thatís wrong. Thatís not building better relations with communities; itís going the opposite way. I think that this government really realized right now that theyíd better do stuff for themselves because in four yearsí time they know theyíre going to be out.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It gives me great pleasure to make general comments on the budget thatís on the floor. I would certainly like to thank the member opposite for his speech, which was obviously very much to the point and covered, Iím sure, a couple of points somewhere in there, although they were difficult to find at times. What bothers me about this, just to make a couple of comments to lead into this, is that the member opposite criticizes this side of the House for including assets in the budget. Itís called full accrual accounting, but the member opposite doesnít understand full accrual accounting. He doesnít understand that we did it at the request of the Auditor General. He doesnít understand accounting and budgetary processes. He asks the question, ďWhat are they trying to accomplish?Ē Well, what we wanted to accomplish was accuracy, and thatís something that this side of the House takes very seriously.
He mentions Dawson City; but again he doesnít understand budgeting, he doesnít understand accounting and he certainly doesnít understand the municipality thatís going virtually bankrupt. He also canít read the Municipal Act, because all of this is covered under the Municipal Act, if he would take the time to read it.
Iím further concerned about the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who made the comment that there are no mines right now. Well, Mr. Speaker, the whole process of the mining community requires exploration, requires the process of locating and identifying mines that can be proofed and mines that can be opened over a period of time. It was that very process that had died an ignominious death over a number of years, and so therefore very few properties could be developed into a mine. We have gone from around $6 million to, I believe, over $30 million in mining exploration. So in that short period of time I suggest that there are a number of mines on the verge of opening, and it has taken two years to do that. It has been a long process.
The other thing that bothers me in the whole process, Mr. Speaker, is ó maybe thereís a reason, and Iíve tried now for six months to get my head around this, but I do have difficulty with the Liberal philosophy that the way to stimulate the economy is to kill the Department of Economic Development. There may be some reason for this. I would love to have that discussion someday.
Our government recreated the Department of Economic Development. We need specialists. We need business analysts. We need strategic investment counsellors. We need regional development. That is what we heard at the door, over and over and over again. Single mothers whose husbands were working outside of the territory, families moving out, one fellow in Porter Creek North fixing his truck so he could drive out ó that was his way of solving the economic problems here. But weíve tackled that, Mr. Speaker, and in the past year weíve developed a whole new strategic direction, with constant and continuing input from our business community, our First Nations and from labour and industry.
The new strategic direction was put to use right away, and weíre reaping the benefits of this new economic strategy now. Exploration is up; jobs are up; the economy is up; most businesses are doing well. Are all? Probably not, but more and more every day, and thatís what this is about. It has taken this much time to try to recover from what I suggest is a very disappointing choice by the previous government to kill the very department that our economy depends on.
Our key focus was to improve the Yukon economy and get Yukoners back to work. I think the numbers speak for themselves. I hear from the side opposite that nothing is happening. Well, letís see whatís not happening in this territory.
The Yukonís labour force increased by 500 new workers entering the workforce between September 2003 and September 2004. The number of people employed in the territory increased by 1,100 from a year ago to 14,100. I believe that doesnít include 100 more part-time workers. Employment rate ó 73.6 percent of our total population aged 15 and over.
I remember reading the front page of one of our newspapers some time ago where a former government leader made the comment that nothing was happening; we werenít accomplishing anything by what we were doing. But I do notice that, in that very newspaper, five pages of want ads for jobs, and good jobs too ó some careers, some long-term, some very high-paying, the whole spectrum. Perhaps the reporter who wrote that article didnít bother looking at the back pages of his own newspaper.
The average weekly earning for Yukoners as of August was $790.84; the average in Canada, $697.94 ó $100 a week more in the Yukon. There are good jobs available here, Mr. Speaker.
The Yukon number of employment insurance recipients has decreased by 11.7 percent; Canada as a nation saw a 6.2-percent reduction ó almost twice as good as the rest of the country.
Mr. Speaker, if this is accomplishing nothing, I look forward to accomplishing nothing in the remaining two years of this mandate.
The unemployment rate in the Yukon right now is about six percent, in Canada 7.1 percent. The high in Canada, in Newfoundland and Labrador, where I had the good fortune of being a few weeks ago, is 15.9 percent. Theyíve got some major problems there. The Canada low is Alberta ó 4.8 percent.
The interesting thing about Yukon being six percent is that many economists and many statisticians consider roughly 6.5 as full employment, and what we have seen now is really a difficulty in getting tradespeople to work and filling the jobs that we have. Itís a problem that weíre glad to have. What Iíve seen already is a number of people moving in. Personally I know a number of families that have moved back or have seen the opportunities here and moved up from British Columbia and up from Alberta. I talked to a good friend who is in Alberta, moved down a number of years ago, and heís returning because he can see the opportunities that are developing here.
Weíre seeing the increased optimism. I had a business owner the other day complain to me that his biggest problem is he canít keep product on the shelf. He had a truckload sale, sold out in a couple of days and had to bring in another truck. Again, problems like this we can work with.
Yukoners believe in the government now. They believe in the economy and theyíre making investments for their families and for themselves. This is very evident in the real estate market. This is one place where we go to look at this. Itís a very vibrant real estate market. Low interest rates, speculation on the Alaska Highway pipeline project ó all of these things are certainly factors. But overall, the value of real estate transactions in the Yukon for the second quarter of 2004 increased by 26.4 percent from the second quarter of 2003. In Whitehorse, the value of transactions increased by 29.8 percent while in the rest of the Yukon the value for transactions increased 13.9 percent. The average selling price of a home in Whitehorse increased by eight percent, or $13,500, from the second quarter of 2003 to the second quarter of 2004.
We really are doing a poor job here, arenít we?
Commercial property is very active. Investors are coming in. The department is in the process of hiring staff and establishing operating structures and trying to recover from ó I would say ďdecimationĒ, but I would rather say ďcomplete wipe-outĒ by the previous government. Gold, silver, copper, coal, lead, zinc and jade are all drawing increased attention to the Yukonís mineral wealth and opportunities.
Weíve had a number of investors. China is not the only one. Weíve had investors from South America, from Chile, from the United States. Weíve already hosted a number of recent visits by Chinese investors looking at mining properties, but the problem is that because of the lack of increased enthusiasm over the last number of years and with the decrease of exploration, we donít have an awful lot of mines ready to go. So there will be a flurry of activity with those, and we will see exploration take off.
We have a group from Hunan province who are looking at developing jade processing and jade carving. Theyíre also looking at the possibility of educational opportunities, private schools, clothing manufacture. Another group from Jiangsu province is looking at coal prospects and possibly steel in the very long term. Another group from Guangdong is coming in, we hope, in another month or month and a half. Their interest is gold, copper and jade. Orient Mining Limited announced on September 13 that theyíre opening an office in Whitehorse and that theyíre seeking investment opportunities in Yukon-based mineral properties and projects. This is an extremely active group and an extremely well-funded group, and theyíre here for the long haul.
One of things I found most interesting was in my opportunity to spend some time in China and to meet some of the players and see the absolutely explosive growth in China. China has taken an interesting attitude. Are there problems in China? Of course there are. Are there social problems? Are there political problems? Yes, of course there are, but they have come at the highest levels to understand that unless they join with the rest of the world in the 21st century ó unless they really come in, develop their economy, loosen up on human rights and everything else, they have no future. This was very clear when we travelled there. We had no difficulty getting into the Internet anywhere we went. I could get into any site I needed to get into from the Internet. People were well spoken about Internet issues, well spoken about world events.
And I had an opportunity one evening to have a marvellous dinner with Mr. Man Li.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker: Member for Mount Lorne, on a point of order.
Mr. Cardiff: Pursuant to Standing Order 3(2), there doesnít appear to be a quorum.
Speaker: Order please. According to Standing Order 3(2), if, at any time during the sitting of the Assembly, the Speakerís attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker will cause the bells to ring and do a count.
Speaker: There are 11 members present. Quorum is present. We will now continue debate.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for a slight interruption there.
To revisit what I was talking about, Mr. Speaker, I am certainly very glad that we had the opportunity to draw more people into this debate, but I had an opportunity to have dinner with Mr. Man Li. Now, Mr. Man Li is president of MCC, which is the parent company of 70 different corporations, which includes Minmetal, the company that has put the $7 billion bid on Noranda.
In the course of the evening, he told an interesting story of speaking with a Canadian politician, whom I probably shouldnít identify. But he was trying to be polite and made the comment that Canada has socialism too, you know, and Mr. Man Li made the comment to which he appended ó the Canadian politician didnít appreciate it very much. But he made the comment back that in China the whole idea of socialism is to make everyone rich and to work together so that everyone wins. In Canada, Mr. Speaker, socialism seems to want to make everyone poor.
Somewhere in between there has to be some degree of reality, and we look forward to working with the Chinese delegations.
Another group is coming from Chile in South America ó on and on ó of other people who have shown an interest in the development of Yukonís economy.
I noticed that Yukon emeralds are now available commercially. Again, the one member opposite who said there were no producing mines in the Yukon missed that one slightly ó we canít forget that.
Energy, Mines and Resources announced that the Yukon government had issued a licence to Devon Canada for an oil and gas drilling program in the Kotaneelee. Itís the first well to be drilled under the new regime and the first drilling licence authorized in over 20 years. I think we can do better than that. Devon will spend approximately $20 million to establish the new Kotaneelee wells.
We had a fairly high-level delegation from Prince George who came up and wanted to talk about developing things between our two jurisdictions. There are all sorts of things that can be developed there: the use of the medical school at Prince Georgeís University of Northern British Columbia in the training of nurse practitioners, a very rare and valuable breed. We have much more experience than they do with this.
There is also the recruitment of doctors and nurses to train there, who are more likely to stay in the north; to hopefully re-establish an air corridor between Prince George and the Yukon to utilize their MRI unit, shorten waiting times, increase health care and increase their financial position ó all sorts of possibilities on that. Weíre working very actively to bring White Pass & Yukon Route up into the Yukon farther and hopefully eventually into Whitehorse directly.
So all of these things are really good things that weíre working on and again, Mr. Speaker, the employment statistics and such are just staggering. For someone to say that nothing is happening in the territory is beyond reason. Somebody is simply not ó theyíre seeing pink elephants perhaps and not white elephants, but theyíre certainly not dealing with what the real thing is.
The Yukonís economy is growing. The forecast is three-to four-percent increase in GDP, a substantial number. Our economic sectors are showing signs of improvement. Iíve mentioned mining, forestry, tourism ó for all of our problems last summer, Mr. Speaker, tourism is actually up and growing.
Employment opportunities. People are coming home ó 900 new residents. I just came from lunch where the Atco delegation is being hosted to talk about their involvement in the Canada Winter Games. As that gets closer, we are seeing more and more involvement of people outside of the territory. We are approaching the whole issue in a pan-northern way involving all three territories. The optimism is just staggering.
The one thing that does bother me, however, is support and involvement of other levels of government ó particularly the federal government of course. I just had the opportunity ó and one of the members opposite was asking about this ó of a meeting in Chibougamau, Quebec, for the ministers of northern development. They refer to these meetings as FPTs ó federal/provincial/territorial meetings. Interestingly ó and I can understand our federal governmentís problem that they have in the House right now in not allowing people to go out or go very far, I should say ó I can see why a minister might not come. I can understand why a parliamentary secretary might not come. A deputy minister would have been nice. An assistant deputy minister probably would have been acceptable. A director? Well, you know, thatís pushing it, but thatís possible. A manager? Well, weíre getting down there. They sent a policy analyst. One. She sat and took a few notes and avoided any discussion with any of the territories.
I have difficulty when the federal government highlights in the throne speech that their intention is to support the north, to promote the north and to look at not only what the north gets from the federal government, but what we have to give back. Letís face it; everything that is spent up here is taxed. It buys supplies, it buys air transportation, it buys fuel, it buys vehicles, and it buys everything, which also goes back south. So, it is a two-way street here.
For the federal government to not send anyone who could adequately participate in the discussions definitely did not go unnoticed. It was a point of very serious contention. One of the things that came out of that was an opportunity to sit down with my colleagues, the ministers responsible for Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and we are agreed and firm that the territories ó continuing the effort that our government has made and the other governments have made ó will continue to act in concert, will continue to meet independently and will continue to present to our federal government the vision of the northern territories.
We must do this because certainly it was obvious from those meetings that there was simply no support from the federal government at the political level to hear the territories. We got a very nice letter from the minister wishing us a good conference and I do credit the Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories for that, but somehow it would have been nice to actually send someone to talk.
Interestingly, the one comment that I thought was quite funny, from Quebec, was that even if the federal NDP had sent a backbencher, it would have been a nice touch. We didnít even get that.
So with those comments, Iím very happy to present the supplementary budget for the Department of Economic Development and regret that I donít have the opportunity to get into the corporations, but weíll be happy to deal with those in line-by-line. Iím sure there will be the odd question or two, perhaps on point.
Mr. Cardiff: I appreciate the opportunity today to talk about the spending priorities of the Yukon Party government and to give credit where credit is due and, at the same time, to represent my constituents and the concerns they have and to hold the government accountable for the priorities theyíve taken and to point out the flaws we see.
Iíd like to actually take this opportunity publicly in the Legislature to thank the Minister of Community Services for the response south of Whitehorse on the windstorm cleanup, the expanded FireSmart program ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Thatís probably a first, Mr. Speaker, to have the Member for Southern Lakes applauding something I would say.
But I have to say that the residents are very pleased with the announcement and the expanded opportunities to do cleanup work and the assistance thatís being provided. There are even new ideas still coming forward, looking to try to coordinate the cutting of firewood and the provision of that firewood to people in need in the community, in the subdivisions ó people who wouldnít normally be able to get out and cut their own firewood. Thereís an opportunity for residents to assist their neighbours. Some of that work has already been done. Iíd like to thank the minister publicly for that.
There are a couple of other initiatives the Minister of Community Services has also taken up on behalf of my constituents. I had an opportunity to raise these issues with the minister previously. The ministerís officials have indicated that the Mile 9 dump will become a transfer station for one year in the spring, and that is a very welcome announcement to be made in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne.
People are really excited about that. The minister has also given us assurance that there will be an order-in-council. If it isnít in place already, it will be in place shortly providing access to the salary grant for the Lorne Mountain Community Association. I was at the meeting last night, and theyíre looking forward to being able to receive that salary grant any day now. So give credit where credit is due. Those are some of the areas where the government has listened to the concerns that Iíve brought forward and responded in a positive fashion, and Iíd like to express my appreciation for that.
There are some areas that have been issues that Iíve raised and the minister has addressed some of them. Both the Minister of Community Services and the Minister of Health and Social Services have talked about the supply of water and the need for reliable access to drinking water. There are a couple of problems there. There is a problem in municipalities and communities around the Yukon with actually having a supply of clean drinking water available in those communities. Some of the areas around Whitehorse, within my riding, in the riding to the north of Whitehorse and in the Southern Lakes riding, have issues around the cost of water delivery. I donít know if thereís any money in the supplementary budget to address the well-drilling program and its accessibility to people who live within the City of Whitehorse or live within a municipality somewhere else. They donít have access to that well-drilling program.
I hope the minister has taken up his colleagueís urging to work with municipalities. He has indicated that he is willing to do that, and when the opportunity presents itself ó which will be guaranteed shortly ó Iím hoping that he will work with municipalities and the Association of Yukon Communities to find a way to make the well program and clean, reliable sources of drinking water available to all Yukoners.
I think itís very important.
It appears to me, though, Mr. Speaker, that if you look at water and sewer and clean, accessible drinking water, one of the issues is affordability. They havenít totally addressed the issue of affordability. Thereís even a written question on the Order Paper that has appeared every Monday, I think for probably the last year, asking the Minister of Health if heís going to address the issue of affordability in the drinking water consultations. He has yet to respond to that written question, which has been there for over a year.
If you look at the community services infrastructure budget, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to water and sewage issues, and if you look at the capital expenditures side in this budget, what we see is a whole bunch of negatives. We see a total of $9 million being taken away from sewage treatment and disposal, Canada strategic infrastructure fund projects and municipal rural infrastructure projects.
When the Government of Canada announced some of these monies that were available previously, the municipal rural infrastructure fund was to have a green infrastructure focus and would target projects such as water and waste water treatment infrastructure, municipal environmental energy improvements, public transit infrastructure and solid waste treatment infrastructure.
Obviously, when you look at this budget, we mustnít have any problems because weíre taking money away from those projects. The minister hasnít identified the fact that there is an aid and hasnít done the work to identify the projects to allow us to actually recover that money from the federal government and provide this needed infrastructure to communities. Iím sure you can look around or you can go to Dawson, you can go to Carmacks. There is need for affordable, clean drinking water and sewage treatment facilities in lots of communities.
Iíd like to address another issue thatís important to constituents in my riding. That is land development. The land development is actually another one where we have a negative in this supplementary budget, so weíre going to do less land development by the looks of it, or weíre not doing some land development that we had planned to do. Iím not sure. Weíll ask the minister that when we get into general debate in that department, I guess. But land development is a hot topic, actually, these days, Mr. Speaker, as Iím sure youíre aware. Land development in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne and in the Wolf Creek area in particular is a very hot topic, and my constituents are very disappointed with the response that this government has had. The Premier mentioned in a letter to me and my constituents when I raised the issue about an environmental screening, which, by the way, if we listen to the Premier today talk about environmental screening is cold comfort to the residents of my community, and the Premier should recognize that. He made a promise that a full environmental screening would address all of the concerns of residents, that they would be addressed before any development took place. Well, Mr. Speaker, the residents still have concerns. The environmental screening did not allay their concerns.
Yet the Premier today ó heís also the minister responsible for Executive Council Office, which is where the responsibility for the Yukon environmental assessment process lies, so he is responsible ó is citing that this is going to comfort people around this new land development up on Fish Lake Road. It didnít address the concerns of the constituents in my riding around land development. In fact, they consider it was a sham, that it was not even meant to address the concerns that they had. As far as they are concerned, the concerns that they brought forward were ignored and they are finally getting their voices heard at city council.
One other thing I would like to address, in looking at the budget ó yesterday there was a question around the money that is being spent in Dawson for the trustee since the municipal government has been tossed out of office by this government. It is interesting that we can ask questions in this House and sometimes we get answers. Most of the time it is a bunch of bafflegab that doesnít make any sense or it doesnít actually answer the question. They skirt around the question and give us an answer to something that wasnít even asked. And when we ask questions about money issues we think itís important to get answers. I asked the minister yesterday about an expenditure of $120,000 on a CAO for Dawson. Unfortunately, today I had to find out from the press that the City of Dawson actually wasnít paying the CAO $120,000. They are paying him exactly what the CAO of the previous municipal council was getting.
What the minister failed to tell me and the Yukon public was who was topping up his wages. Well, the minister should have been able to tell me and the Yukon public that, but no, he chose to go outside of the Legislature and tell the media. I think that is a disservice to this Legislature. I think itís a disservice to the public to not give answers here but to walk out of the House five minutes later and give answers to the media. Why arenít we all entitled to the same information? I think the minister could have provided that information and it would have answered part of the question yesterday. Unfortunately, it probably raises more questions, which maybe weíll have to ask the minister when we get into general debate in this department.
Iím not sure how much more time I have, but I would like to touch briefly on another area that Iím responsible for as critic and thatís the Department of Justice.
Today there was an announcement ó if you look in the budget, theyíre asking us to vote another half a million dollars for correctional reform. If you look through budgets over past years there has been a lot of money spent on ó you can call it what you want. You can call it correctional reform. You can call it restorative justice. You can call it community justice initiatives. A lot of money been spent in this territory discussing how the correctional system should address the problems that face Yukoners and the justice system. There has been lots of money spent. There has been lots of talk. There has been lots of papers produced. Weíre engaged again in another discussion that basically, in my mind, gets away from one of the things that really needs to happen.
Iím not saying that the programming that has been offered over the years at the Whitehorse Correctional Center or in Teslin or any correctional facility has been perfect. Thereís always room for improvement. We know that. I know that. The Minister of Justice knows that. Members on this side of the House know it. The Premier knows it. The former Minister of Justice knows that we can always improve what it is that weíre doing.
I donít think we should lose sight of that. I think we should. What I think this government has lost sight of is the health and safety of the people who work, day in and day out, in what I consider to be squalid conditions. I donít know if the Minister of Justice has been to the correctional facility ó Iím sure he has ó but he should have taken off his rose-coloured glasses because I did a tour. I spent a couple of hours up there walking around, looking at the doors that are being replaced, looking at the windows that are being replaced, looking at the improvements. The improvements will do nothing to improve the working conditions of the people who work there.
There are some safety issues that will be addressed. The doors will be more fireproof so, when they close, fires will be contained. It will be a safer facility for the people who are there, but if you look closely at the structure ó this is a 37-year-old structure, not something that was built recently and is an unnecessary expense. I think itís important for reasons of health and safety of the inmates and workers.
It was interesting, Mr. Speaker, but the minister actually compared it to Alcatraz. Well, itís far from it. Itís not Alcatraz. If you look at the escapes that have happened, I think the public is worried about it. Iíve been here since 1976; Iíve witnessed through the media many escapes that have happened, and some of them have had tragic consequences. Before we have an escape that has tragic consequences again, I think we need to address those concerns. I donít mean we should put another band-aid on the problem. The facility needs to be replaced and all the issues of health and safety and of public safety with regard to escapes need to be addressed.
So I, too, would like to talk about issues of affordable housing and social housing. Iíd like to talk about lots of other things and I know that weíll have an opportunity soon to do that. I look forward to listening to some of the comments from the members opposite and thank you for this opportunity.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, itís my honour and my pleasure to respond to the Premierís supplementary budget speech today and to recommend to all members of our Assembly that they support this budget.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I recognized a new theme coming from the opposition. They can correct me if Iím wrong but hereís my take on it. It appears that they would like the Yukon people to believe that, when things go right, it isnít a result of the government, but when things go wrong itís all the governmentís fault. I think they want Yukoners to believe that the government doesnít have any role in helping to improve the quality of life for Yukoners ó and I find fault with that ó but, at the same time, they want to put all of the responsibility for every negative thing that happens to any Yukoner squarely on the shoulders of this government. Well, I know that Yukoners know that isnít the case. Yukoners know better than that. But I guess thatís the role of opposition again, to oppose, but again Iím sure Iím not the only one whoís growing tired of the negative, ďjust say noĒ, attitude.
Mr. Speaker, Iím pretty excited about this supplementary budget. It builds upon an excellent budget that was put forward last fall. We put forward a vision, listened openly to input, considered and analyzed information and put forward a budget that responded to the needs and the abilities of the territory.
Now, Mr. Speaker, Iím pleased and proud to report that the Yukon government is building a revitalized, diversified economy that is putting people and communities back to work. The Yukon government is tackling a wide range of social and economic issues, ensuring that Yukoners can live and work in healthy, thriving communities, and the Yukon government is creating meaningful and effective partnerships with First Nations and other governments to the benefit of everyone in the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, thatís progress.
This builds upon the momentum. Goals are being reached, objectives are being accomplished and momentum is building. This supplementary budget continues to move the Yukon in the right direction.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we donít hear a lot of this in this Assembly ó that is, reporting progress on issues. Normally, we discuss an awful lot about what weíre going to do. Now, letís take a look at what we said we were going to do in the last budget and report some progress on it. Iíll start with some of the initiatives that occurred in the beautiful Southern Lakes.
The Premier announced that the Carcross waterfront project would qualify under the federal strategic infrastructure program. Well, Mr. Speaker, that application is well underway. The federal government has the application and weíre waiting for them to live up to their commitment, and we are committed to working with the community on this project. During the budget speech, we heard a desire to see the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad return through Carcross to Whitehorse and that our government would facilitate discussions to see how this could be expedited. Well, Mr. Speaker, Iím pleased to report progress on this. Plans are well underway to bring the train back to Carcross this summer.
We allocated funds to do major work on the Tagish Road to bring the route up to an 80-kilometre/hour standard and to improve safety conditions. Done.
BST has to be done next year but we need the year to let the road settle and do a little bit more compaction. $140,000 has been designated for the planning and design of a community centre at Marsh Lake. Done. Clean water was recognized as a fundamental service and an initiative to create a well-digging program was set in place; $700,000 was budgeted for that.† People are drilling wells as we speak.
There was a commitment to reinstate the community development fund and FireSmart. Done. Our government committed to upgrading the hourly rate for volunteer firefighters from $10/hour to $20/hour. Done. $28,000 was budgeted for that, and I would suggest that that was money very well spent.
Additionally, money was spent this summer to pay volunteer firefighters to be on-site during extreme fire warning days in Marsh Lake, Tagish, Carcross and Mount Lorne. I know a lot of the volunteers who were out in attendance at the fire hall or conducting roving patrols throughout the community, and I personally know that saved fires from spreading. It was money well spent. It helped save and protect our community.
Letís see, another $65,000 was made available to increase the contribution available to communities under the winter activities program for communities like Tagish, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne. Done.
These are some very significant accomplishments of things that have happened in the beautiful Southern Lakes. We committed to doing them ó theyíre done. Cross them off the list.
There are other initiatives that are well underway. At the Premierís recent community tour, we also heard other concerns expressed; things like needing more home care in Tagish; needing assistance with community governance in Carcross; and with an emergency response vehicle in Marsh Lake. Iím proud to say that this government is actively taking steps to address those needs.
Iíve brought to light some of the accomplishments in the beautiful Southern Lakes but there has been an awful lot more that has happened in the territory.
This government has taken steps to build a healthy economy. I am pleased to report that there have been no tax or fee increases, that FireSmart has been reinstated, that the community development fund has been reinstated, that a Department of Economic Development has been established, that there has been the development of the strategic industries development program, that this government has reinstated the stand-alone Department of Tourism, that it has developed the enterprise development fund for business, developed a strategic industries investment fund, developed the tourism cooperative marketing fund, developed a regional development program that will improve economic health in Yukon communities. It has extended the mineral exploration tax credit for three years, negotiated the pan-northern economic development, reinvested in community training funds. In fact there is another $500,000 in this supplementary for community training funds. The Yukon mineral incentive program has been fully subscribed to, another great investment in the Yukon. The government has developed a geoscience database for industry and land use decision making. It has implemented a tourism cooperative marketing fund. It has funded the Old Crow visitor reception exhibit and funded the Tombstone Interpretive Centre. It has implemented improved access to Kluane National Park, which facilitates partnerships with Holland America and Parks Canada, and implemented a craft strategy where over $60,000 was spent for training and marketing. Weíve supported the Yukon First Nations Tourism Association, drafted the Yukon tourism brand strategy, improved Yukon airports by investing close to $1.5 million at the Whitehorse Airport. In Old Crow the new air terminal building will see, I believe, over $4 million in improvements there.†
Weíve worked to improve air access to the Yukon. Condor is now continuing to fly twice a week from Frankfurt to Whitehorse, Air Canada Japan has extended the interline relationship with Air North and we have extended the hours of operation at the Whitehorse Airport. We have enhanced the gateway cities program by providing an additional $100,000, contributed to First Nation cultural centres such as the Carcross-Tagish First Nation cultural centre, and contributed $220,000 in funding to support Dawson, Teslin, Pelly and Carmacks First Nationsí cultural centres. We have invested in water and sewer and used the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, $26 million, for water and sewer in Dawson, Carmacks, Teslin and Burwash. We have invested in highways and public works infrastructure ó $32 million matched from the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund for highways has been spent on projects such as the Teslin bridge, almost $12 million for Alaska Highway upgrades between Champagne and Haines Junction, $200,000 for erosion control on the Dempster Highway, over $2 million for reconstruction of the Klondike Highway, almost half a million dollars for work on the Campbell Highway and work on the Top of the World Highway.
There has been a signed MOU on forestry with the Kaska First Nation. There has been a signed north Yukon economic development partnership agreement. We have helped to form the aboriginal pipeline group. Weíre in the process of implementing the draft Alsek strategy forest management plan. Weíre completing the north Yukon pipeline assessment. Weíve completed a subagreement on oil and gas with the Northwest Territories. We have secured funding for care and maintenance for BYG, Mount Nansen, Clinton Creek and United Keno Hill mines. We have preserved the roundhouse and provided $25,000 to MacBride Museum to develop an interpretive plan. Weíve signed the tourism and sport development accord with B.C. and, Mr. Speaker, weíre working hard on our commitment to building healthy families and communities.
Weíre doing this with increased funding from the federal government. Weíre increasing hospital funding ó over $3 million and more increases in funding in this supplementary. Weíve increased drug program funding. Weíve established a primary health care transition fund. Weíve added continuing care beds. We have recruited internal medicine specialists. Weíve negotiated a Yukon Medical Association physician agreement. Weíve completed a new Health Professions Act. Weíve completed coordinating a strategy for prevention of family violence. Weíve completed skill development training sessions. Weíve established a domestic violence treatment court in Watson Lake.
Weíve improved child support and increased the amount of money in peopleís pockets by excluding child support payments and calculation of tenant rents in Yukon Housing units. Weíve negotiated with Canada the implementation of the municipal rural infrastructure fund.
Weíve expanded alternative education apprenticeship programs. This includes programs such as a carpentry pre-employment program in Dawson, a piping trades program offered at Yukon College, supported efforts to train Yukoners for oil and gas jobs by offering petroleum industry training services certified courses at Yukon College. We have invested $200,000 for youth employment programs, provided $50,000 for access to College programs and trades promotions.
Mr. Speaker, weíve initiated resource exploration training courses. Weíve reinstated the Yukon excellence awards. Weíve indexed the Yukon student grant. Weíve enhanced teacher professional development, improved access to the Yukon native teachers education program, conducted a community needs assessment and community needs project fund. Mr. Speaker, that was a great program in which the Minister of Education went out to visit many of Yukonís schools and student councils. He talked with them about what they needed, found out about it and then invested the money in what they needed.
Mr. Speaker, weíve implemented a five-step fetal alcohol spectrum disorder action plan. There has been an investment in substance abuse programs.
Weíve improved the signage and displays at the Whitehorse fishway and hatchery. Weíve enhanced the Yukon child benefit. Weíve increased the Yukon pioneer utility grant ó increased it by 25 percent, indexed it against inflation ó which is a pretty good marker to index it against ó and again this year announced a further 10-percent increase.
Weíve established a crisis line in partnership with our partners from British Columbia. Weíve improved legal aid. Weíve improved local hire by expanding the definition of local residents to include students who have left the Yukon but still consider themselves residents. Weíve established a decade of sport and culture. Canada Winter Games ó I could spend the whole 20 minutes talking about the Canada Winter Games and how theyíre going to benefit the community. We provided funding for the Canada Senior Games, a very popular event that happened this past summer. We opened Copper Ridge phases 10 and 11. Why? Because more people want to live in the beautiful territory. There is a demand for land out there, so we have opened phases 10 and 11 in Copper Ridge. We released more land in Haines Junction, invested in replacing the Tantalus School in Carmacks, completed an assessment of the gasifier at Yukon College, launched the rural domestic well water program, and increased funding for volunteer firefighters.
Weíve built on building our relations. Weíve signed the consultation protocol. Weíve established priorities for the Kaska economic table. Weíve signed the Kaska MOU on forestry, signed the north Yukon economic partnership agreement, helped to form the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, implemented the draft Alsek strategy forest management plan, signed an MOU on forestry with Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, completed a subagreement on oil and gas with Northwest Territories. This list goes on and on and on. We signed a bilateral accord with Alaska, signed intergovernmental accords with British Columbia, and became a full partner in the Council of Federation.
This is a can-do government. This is a government that is willing to try. This is a government that believes in the Yukon, that wants to invest in the Yukon and wants to see Yukoners prosper.
This is a great supplementary budget. It addresses the need of the territory. Weíve heard from the ministers on how their different departments are affected by it and what will be accomplished.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this is all good stuff. This will help the territory build a revitalized, diversified economy and put people to work and communities to work. It will help to tackle a wide range of social and economic issues, ensuring that Yukoners can live and work in healthy thriving communities. It will help to create meaningful and effective partnerships with First Nations and other governments.
This is a positive budget; itís a step in the right direction. I would encourage all members to build on the momentum because I know they can feel it too. When you talk to Yukoners in the street today and ask them, ďIs life better now than it was two years ago?Ē The answer I get is, ďYou bet.Ē Life is good, life is grand. People are making plans. Letís continue to build on the momentum; letís continue to work toward a better Yukon. I would encourage all members to support this budget and help us accomplish those goals.
Mrs. Peter: Itís my pleasure to speak to the supplementary budget.
Two years ago this government was elected on promises they made to the Yukon public, on commitments that they made to the people of the Yukon. Today we live in very challenging times. We have two levels of government throughout our territory: we have the First Nations governments and we have the territorial government. And we have to have somewhat of a relationship with the federal government.
When I think about government, or a government body, I think about transparency, accountability and trust. I believe that these are key to building any kind of important relationship.
As a result of land claims, the land claims agreements in our territory, the Yukon First Nations are exercising their powers of self-government and responsibilities in many areas. Each community within our territory has visions, long-term visions for their people.† One only has to look in my own riding of Vuntut Gwitchin where families are working very hard to try to make ends meet to keep their families fed and secure.
We appreciate what this government has done for the community of Old Crow. We have come to this government with our plans for projects in Old Crow; weíve come to this government with plans for infrastructure for the community of Old Crow; and the people appreciate that they have come through.
I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of the Chief and Council of Vuntut Gwitchin. I would also like to acknowledge the resource people we have in our community. Theyíre the ones who keep the community going.
Our communities are run by very limited resources. We have a very small pool of resources in Old Crow. At the First Nation administration level, we have about 30 people who are employed to run a government. We talk about building capacity for our community, but that process is slow. However, our people and the leadership of Old Crow have a very solid direction. We know where we want to go and how we want to get there. We do our homework; the plans are put in place before we bring our plans to the Yukon territorial government.
The Premier and some of his colleagues came to the community of Old Crow a couple of weeks ago. They heard from the people what the priorities are; they heard what the issues are. We have a five-year plan, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the people. Some other issues that are important are lack of program delivery, and social concerns are of great importance to our community.
We face many challenges in that area. Over the past two years, violence against women has been in the forefront of issues that we as a society have to deal with. Iím happy to see that the Womenís Directorate is finally reaching out to the communities to build the relationship that needs to address these issues on a united front. Itís a shame that the older womenís program thatís being run at Kausheeís Place can only operate on handouts from the federal government. Their statistics came out only a few months ago, and the statistics show that the need for this service has risen by 500 percent.
Thatís another area we really need to stand back and think about, because the older people of our society deserve much more than that.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the youth of our territory are still facing their own challenges. Within the last two years, I have brought forward in this House many concerns on their behalf. One of the ones that I really am concerned about today is homelessness. There are ways to address that.
Iím sure many of us travel to larger cities across our country and into the United States and we only need to walk the streets of downtown Vancouver, for example, to see the youth of today and where theyíre going. The youth of today, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are our leaders of tomorrow.
Itís evident that environmental issues for this government still have a long way to go. I should actually say itís not even on the radar screen. We spent millions of dollars purchasing a wildlife preserve, yet thereís a whole list of other issues that I hear about on a daily basis from people throughout the Yukon that are not even addressed in this budget or the last.
The numbers and results for our tourism industry prove to be very favourable for this past year. This is my one critic area that Iíve been learning so much about in the last couple of weeks by attending conferences, AGMs, and other meetings that are happening in this area. Again, I acknowledge the department for promoting the Yukon, for marketing the Yukon throughout Canada and the world. Just this past summer, I believe that again ó given the challenges that the Yukon had to face with the fire season ó† we still had a slight increase in tourists. The marketing thatís happening within the tourism industry is addressing not only our summer tourists, but theyíre also encouraging and marketing the winter experiences. I think thatís very exciting. You know, the Yukon has a lot to offer, and I believe ó given that the tourism market is, I would say, the number one economic industry for the Yukon ó it would and can be successful. Much is taking place to make sure people come and visit us here, and that includes our airline industry.
I believe if they all work together then it will happen.
I have listened with great interest to the members opposite and their reply to this supplementary budget we have in front of us. Given that we are in very challenging times, dealing with many, many sensitive issues out there regarding all people of the Yukon, I find it rather funny or amazing that members should be bragging about spending lots of money. I thought it was the responsibility of government, whoever is in government, to be fair with spending the publicís money. When we talk about finances, I believe that, and it was taught to me that one has to be humble in that way because, you know, sometimes itís here today and gone tomorrow. However, thatís what we have to deal with today.
Every community in the Yukon is unique. Iíve said that so many times in this House. We are a rich, rich people.
We live and we have a diverse multicultural population with many languages spoken.
[Member spoke in native language.]
In translation, I just said that when I speak my language, it gives me strength.
Itís pretty scary that when you listen to the news over the airwaves or you read articles in the newspaper or through various media sources, we hear that our language is heading toward extinction. I only can think about the importance of our language, how it is my responsibility to keep my own language because of how I feel when I speak it and more especially for my granddaughter. When I think about our language heading toward extinction, I believe that we as a society, and also on a personal level, have a responsibility not only to ourselves but to our grandchildren.
Itís like our traditional way of life. Today in this House I asked the government what their message is going to be. Given that we have an election in the United States, given that leadership will change in Alaska, our very traditional way of life depends on the decision that those people make. Two weeks ago, Chief Linklater and I were down in Washington delivering that same message. We do that time and time again, and I will go again at the drop of a hat without asking a question because this issue is acknowledged and recognized by the United Nations. They recognize it as a human rights issue and that says a lot.
Those are issues of importance for the people of my riding. My time is limited and I will be asking questions in those areas during general debate.
Mr. Hassard: I am pleased to rise today to support the 2004-05 supplementary budget. It was interesting to listen to the previous speaker talking about not wanting to brag, or how people shouldnít brag, about having the largest budget, and I certainly agree. Itís not something that I would do and I donít think itís what we on this side intend to do. Itís not bragging. Itís merely stating the facts of what weíre doing.
As far as the supplementary, itís very obvious that weíre not bragging about this money, as the largest expenditure is for forest firefighting and I donít think thatís something that we want to brag about. However, it is a necessity to pay the bills that weíve incurred from fighting the forest fires.
I think most Yukoners are well aware of the summer that we had with the extreme heat and lack of precipitation and all the contributing factors to a record season in fires.
I am pleased to see that beyond the firefighting money we have approximately $1.8 million in capital pre-planning initiatives in the Department of Highways and Public Works. I believe that this government has done a tremendous job of putting money into our highway infrastructure, and I know that the people of Faro, Ross River and Teslin certainly appreciate that. A very good example is the Teslin River bridge at Johnsons Crossing. I believe we have in the neighbourhood of $5 million to improve the structure of that to ensure that Yukoners and visitors alike can travel safely across it. I believe that this bridge is 60 years old now; it was built during wartime. To my knowledge, this is the first major upgrade to its structural components. In the past, prior to being an MLA, I worked as a contractor for the Department of Highways in doing some geotechnical investigation around the piers underneath the bridge. It was very obvious ó and thatís getting to be a few years ago ó that there was a need to do some work on that bridge ó work that is long overdue. Iím rather surprised actually that the previous governments didnít do something there, because in talking with the officials at the time, it was something they wanted to do and felt necessary.
Iíve talked to some of the local residents who have lived around Johnsons Crossing for a long time, and they talked about watching the bridge deteriorate and their concern about that. In fact, some of them were quite adamant that, if I were to get elected, that would be a priority ó ensuring that the government did something with that bridge.
Iím proud to say that I think thatís a good expenditure of money. This bridge, without a doubt, is the vital link to our entire transportation system. The Alaska Highway is the main artery for travellers to Yukon and Alaska ó not only tourists but all the construction equipment, all the groceries that come to Yukon, and anything heading to Alaska by truck crosses that bridge. I would hate to think what would happen ó especially to our tourism industry ó if this bridge were to be closed. I donít think it would take long for the message to get down the highway and people would be turning around rather rapidly.
That said, I donít believe this government is putting all of its eggs in one basket. We have planning money in this supplementary budget to upgrade other highways in the territory. First and foremost to me is the Campbell Highway as it is the road most travelled by my constituents in Faro and Ross River. Interestingly enough, this morning I had a telephone call from a Ross River resident who telephoned on another matter, but did add at the end of the conversation to encourage me to get the minister to put more money into improving the Campbell Highway. This past summer saw a marked improvement in the Campbell Highway. There was resurfacing work and the application of BST around Little Salmon, as well as major reconstruction between Faro and Ross River. That is a piece of highway that was treacherous, to say the least. I recall driving over it with the minister the winter before last, and some of the comments regarding how sharp the corner was we wouldnít repeat here. So I was very pleased, as Iím sure a lot of people in Ross River and Faro were, to see that piece of road straightened out.
There was work this summer down around Watson Lake, between Watson and Ross River ó a major reconstruction that a lot of people are also pleased to see.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, many people from Ross River travel to Watson Lake to visit relatives or to visit the doctor or the dentist or for shopping, or whatever theyíre doing, and itís imperative that they can travel safely. With the increase in mineral exploration in that part of the world ó the Finlayson Lake area and Wolverine Lake ó the highway traffic will only continue to increase.
In recent discussions with the leadership of the Ross River Dena Council, it was made very clear that they were happy with the improvements that weíve made. They were impressed with what the government is doing, not only in what we are doing with highways, but in improving the economy in their area. And they are working closely with mineral companies and appear to be poised to reap the benefits of resource development. They definitely see the benefit of improving the highway. I have encouraged the government to do more of it.
In Ross River, theyíre also pleased, as are most residents, to see the beginning of the construction of the new multi-use community hall complex. This community has waited a long time to get this building. The old community hall has long since been torn down and not in use, so they were definitely happy to see that. They will finally be able to have a building they can use to hold meetings and other community events in, as they choose. Right now they have to use the school, and scheduling can be a problem, as you can well imagine. Daytime meetings donít fit well when the students are trying to use the school. And it was something that I was asked for from day one. It was something that was very important to Ross River people when I first travelled there.
I hope that in the future we can see the addition of a curling rink to that building.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, Iím also pleased to see that the Minister of Education has added hundreds of thousands of dollars for the community training trust funds.
I know for a fact the community of Faro will make good use of the $75,000 I believe theyíre getting. This issue was raised at a community meeting the Premier and I attended there a month or so ago and is something they use and something they wanted to have more money put toward. Faro consistently makes good use of all the funding they receive.
Sometimes I get questions from Whitehorse people, or from other communities, about the viability of a golf course in Faro. I will use this time to encourage all members of this Legislature and all Yukoners to come to Faro and play a round of golf, or two or seven. Iím sure that when they get there and see what it does for the community, they wonít be asking those questions for long.
Something that was brought to my attention the last time I was up there was that, over the course of the summer, the golf course found they were hauling about 30 cubic metres, or three dump-truck loads, of grass clippings to the dump. We were talking about what that could be used for. One of the thoughts was it perhaps could be used to help with the mine reclamation. I thought, wouldnít that be an interesting little project ó a composting facility that could take the grass clippings and turn it into something that could be used up at the mine site. Perhaps it could be used to help revegetate around the tailings pond or in areas where theyíve been doing work. I thought that was quite interesting.
It has been interesting to listen to all the membersí comments over the last two days. Iíd just like to add a little bit to some of the comments. This summer I was in Ross River when they received their new ambulance. There has been much talk about how awful these ambulances are, but people should travel to Ross River and talk to some of the people there, because they certainly have a different look up there.
Perhaps they have a different ambulance there. When I was there, the ambulance volunteers, the nurse, the health centre staff and some citizens of Ross River came out to get a first-hand look at the new ambulance. I can assure you that there were smiles all around and nothing but positive comments. We even had a trial run, putting a person on a stretcher and putting the person into the back of the ambulance, and there were no problems. There were no injuries. Iím glad to report that no one got hurt. It worked just as planned and they are very happy to have this new ambulance. They were very happy to know that they would no longer have to put up with the diesel smell of the old ambulance, a comment made very quickly. They were very happy to know that, when theyíre responding to an accident down the Campbell Highway in the middle of winter, January, in the snow, if they have to turn around on a very narrow piece of road, well guess what? Theyíre in a four-wheel drive now, so they feel a little more comfortable. Itís something that theyíve been asking for for a long time. They have asked in previous years prior to my being elected. They just are so pleased to have a new ambulance, so I find it interesting that we hear all of these detrimental comments when, in fact, they appear to work.
I would again like to take this time to thank all volunteer ambulance attendants. They provide a valuable service to our communities and should be thanked regularly for that. I believe this government has taken some steps to improve their situation by helping to provide training. Weíve increased the honoraria, provided clothing and look forward to the day when they will get new, more compact radios, something that Iíve been asked for and am working on getting for them.
On the topic of health and social services, I would also like to thank the minister for increasing the pioneer utility grant. That was something that was talked about regularly in Teslin by seniors and I donít think it will go unnoticed. People appreciate that. When the price of heating fuel is going up, any little bit helps.
Iím getting a little dry in the throat, so perhaps Iíll wrap it up there and sit down and listen to some of the other members go on.
Mr. Arntzen: Iím pleased to rise in this House today to speak to this supplementary budget that has been put forward, and Iíd like to apologize if I end up repeating some of what has been said by my colleagues a little earlier but thatís what happens when youíre one of the last ones to speak.
Iíd like, first of all, to congratulate and thank the hard-working staff in the various departments for a job well done of putting this positive supplementary budget together, and likewise all the ministers who spent time working on it.
First of all, I am pleased to speak a little bit about whatís happening in my riding. Iím very pleased to see dollars put forward for the planning work of the extension of Hamilton Boulevard, something that my constituents living in Granger and Copper Ridge very much appreciate to hear.
Iím sure that all the residents of the area, including McIntyre subdivision, are also very happy to hear that.† Iím looking forward to seeing monies for the extension in the spring budget ó Iím sure they will be there.
The riding of Copperbelt is the fastest growing riding in the Yukon at the moment. With the go-ahead of phases 10 and 11 in Copper Ridge, we will have well over 100 more homes being built there, which of course will add to the traffic congestion and create perhaps more problems getting in and out of the various subdivisions: Copper Ridge, Granger and McIntyre. The sooner we get this built, the better and safer it will be for all of the residents living in the area.
In this supplementary budget there are monies made available in all of the departments and, as my colleagues have said before me, there are very good investments in every department. It makes no sense for me to repeat all of the different positive areas that have been mentioned so eloquently before.
And I should stress that some of my colleagues spoke very, very eloquently of what has been done and what is being done, although some spoke not so eloquently on things done, I might add, on that point.
Mr. Speaker, I will say again that good news is worth repeating, but I guess you can repeat it only so many times and then it becomes boring. So with that in mind, I will just say that I will let others spend some positive time on other positive initiatives, and I will be voting for this supplementary budget.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Cathers: I would like to disagree with the Member for Copperbelt on one point: good news is never boring.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this supplementary budget. A significant portion of this budget, of course, is the $10.5 million to deal with the increased cost of fire suppression, and that is due to the flaw in the devolution transfer agreement negotiated by the previous government, which we pointed out during the election campaign and even previously by members in the House at that point, that it appeared that there was a very serious flaw in the devolution transfer agreement in the under funding of the fire suppression.
Of course, thatís going down on a sliding scale where costs over that fund ó 70 percent was paid by the federal government for this year and that goes down to 60 percent next year, 50 percent the year after, and so on and so forth.
Weíve heard a number of comments in the past couple of days on the debate on the supplementary budget, and one thing that struck me is the comment weíve been hearing from the NDP and the Liberals for weeks now, complaints that this government is not tabling enough legislation this session. Well, I canít speak for everyoneís constituents, but those of mine Iíve talked to ó and as you know very well, I make a lot of effort to talk to my constituents regularly, I hold regular public meetings ó I havenít run into anyone who thinks we need a whole bunch more laws. We already have seven very large volumes of Yukon laws, and among my constituents there doesnít seem to be a very large appetite for more laws just for the sake of laws. Create a law if we need it, but maybe we should even get rid of some of them or simplify them.
I have a lot of notes that I have to sort out here. This supplementary budget, of course, is continuing the good works that our government has put in motion and the money that we voted in the budget in the spring. A lot of the costs in that budget and some of them in this one are related to delivering on our platform commitments.
I would like to commend my colleagues on this side of the floor who have all done very good work in delivering on the commitments that we made in our election platform of 2002, which is what the people of the Yukon elected us to do. In fact, as my colleague, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, jokes, weíve done so many of ours that maybe weíre going to have to start looking at commitments made by previous governments and see if we should tackle some of those too. Again, my thanks and my congratulations to my colleagues for their hard work on those.
In addition to the commitments that we made during the election, weíve moved on past that point to listening to other initiatives that have come forward from our constituents ó their concerns and desires, and improvements that we can make for the good of the Yukon and on behalf of our constituents. In particular something in my riding that Iíve worked hard on and thanked my colleagues for assisting me with is the purchase of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, something that was very popular and requested by many of my constituents. Of course there were 700 members of the Friends of the Wildlife Preserve, large numbers of people, I believe, the last weekend they were officially open under the private owners ó they had 550 people go through there and I received dozens upon dozens of phone calls, e-mails, letters, being stopped in the street, et cetera, et cetera, from constituents. I am very pleased that we were able to do that and purchase what hopefully, under the good work of the operating society in place now, will become a great enhancement to the Yukonís culture and tourism offerings.
In addition, the purchase of a new fire truck for the Hootalinqua fire hall is something that I thank the minister responsible for assisting on. It was something that constituents had requested and we went to bat for them on, and thatís very much appreciated by the people in that area. The hard work of that volunteer fire fighting department is something that is a great asset to the entire community and Iíd like to, at this time, also recognize the other hard-working volunteer fire department in my riding, the Ibex fire department. Both of them are staffed by volunteers who get up in the middle of the night and respond with what I find amazingly quick response times to help defend peopleís property and, in some cases, even their lives.
There have also been road improvements that my ministerial colleagues have assisted in providing the funds for ó brushing of the ditches in the area, which has been much appreciated, and, of course, the rural well-drilling program, or domestic well-drilling program, which is something that Iím very proud of.
Itís an initiative that was brought forward by constituents of mine and Iím very happy for the support received by my colleagues on this side of the floor. Iíd like to actually recognize two members on the other side of the floor who have been supportive of this program as well, since it was announced ó those being the Member for Copperbelt and the Member for Mount Lorne.
This program, as I have previously requested, I believe, in the House and I know Iíve spoken to the minister about this on a number of occasions ó it would be nice to see this program extended so it can be applied within municipalities as well, for constituents of mine in the Hidden Valley area and the MacPherson area, as well as Forestview. I know there are other members of this House whose constituents are within this area. So Iíd urge the minister and urge the City of Whitehorse and other municipalities to work on coming to some arrangement in that regard, or perhaps in some other program.
Mr. Speaker, another area that I would like to comment on that was raised by the leader of the official opposition actually is the agriculture industry. Itís nice to hear support from the opposition for a change for the agriculture industry, something we donít seem to hear a lot of recognition from them on. Itís a very important industry in my riding. A large number of my constituents are themselves farmers, and the Yukon does have, in my opinion, tremendous potential for expansion in that area. I would point to some figures, such as the fact that the Yukon imports the equivalent of approximately 5,000 head of cattle each year to fill our supermarkets, and it would be nice to see this provided by some of our local cattle producers. I know that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and the Yukon Agricultural Association are working toward bringing in mobile slaughter facilities at some point in the hopefully not-to-distant future, and this would be one step forward in furthering the access of producers to getting their products into supermarkets after having undergone a full inspection. The Yukon, of course, does have an abattoir that was placed by a previous government in a location that was near neither the supply nor the demand, and that was unfortunate because it does not serve the needs as adequately as it should.
One segment of the agriculture industry that there has been a fair bit of controversy about, which I think is drastically unwarranted, is the game farm industry ó the elk farmers, the bison and, of course, reindeer, which have been associated but never quite part of that exact classification. This is an industry that has had rough times, largely due to the impact of chronic wasting disease in the industry in Saskatchewan. The Yukon industry, actually, has been a leader in pushing for national disease testing and prevention standards. They have brought the industry up to a standard far higher than other meat industries, such as the beef industry or the pork or poultry industries.
They have a very high standard of disease testing with testing for chronic wasting of every single animal that is slaughtered disease and full tracking of the products from the date it is sold to wherever it goes. As an industry, they have less impact on the environment than just about any other industry out there, including the tourism industry.
Of course thereís risk in any industry. Thereís the risk with any living thing thatís out there of contracting a disease. When we look at the BSE, which has been a problem in the cattle industry due to only a couple of animals, the avian flu in poultry, and even the SARS scare in humans, no one is immune to it. All we can do is apply strong and effective standards, and I would urge everyone to recognize this fact and to stop harassing my constituents. They do a very good job. They work very hard and they are exemplary citizens in an exemplary industry.
As far as concern with wildlife catching disease from these animals, I would like to point out to members on the opposite side and to all Yukoners that the elk along the highway that we see these days, the wild elk ó the other day I drove to Haines Junction to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce AGM, which I attended, and I noted the size of the elk herd immediately in the ditch where anyone travelling through to or from Alaska with sheep, cattle, horses, dogs and stopping along the side of the road ó as we know they do; permits and regulations notwithstanding, it happens ó any disease that they have could very easily be passed along to that herd, which is right on the side of the road and often crossing it. Thatís a situation much like the problems that our placer miners had with the Yukon placer authorization. Concerns about this industry are largely due to ignorance on the part of those criticizing it.
There is a problem faced by those in the game farming industry that is due to the changes to the Wildlife Act made by the previous government ó the Liberal government of the day. Whether through error or intent, the definition of ďwildlifeĒ includes any vertebrate mammal that is wild by nature. This has created some question around the ownership of privately owned elk, bison and reindeer. This is something that has been committed to by my government colleagues, and I thank them for the commitment that we will be addressing those problems in legislation and clarifying that they do own those animals and shall continue to own those animals. Iíve made my commitment to those people very clear since day one, during the election campaign, during my first speech in the House and other speeches since then. The most recent occasion, other than todayís speech, was a motion yesterday on that.
Of course, property rights are a fundamental pillar of a free and democratic society. As far as I see it, itís as simple as this: you owned it when you bought it, you still own it, and itís yours. Thatís the way it has to be or our society has a grave problem because this is one of our fundamental freedoms, and no person is arguing against disease prevention.
However, as I stated, weíre moving forward to address the problems around title to animals in that industry and clarify they do continue to own those animals. There are many other fine people in that industry ó the beef producers, the poultry producers and hay. The Yukon Grain Farm is one particular business that was set up within the last few years and is doing excellent work and is growing some products that have not been around in the Yukon in recent years. As many people have noted, theyíve engaged in a large-scale operation this year to grow potatoes and have them in some of the local supermarkets, and Iíd like to thank the supermarkets for their support of the industry.
There are other areas of the agricultural industry ó market gardening, growers of organic foods. The Yukon Agricultural Association, of course, deals with much of that industry. This is one industry that is often forgotten by many in discussions of industries. We think about mining, tourism, oil and gas, and they are all very valuable industries but agriculture is one that I believe there is a great future in. There is a great potential for people to expand and if not become an exporter to the rest of Canada and to the world, in large order, certainly to satisfy many of our own needs.
An issue that is very critical to my constituents in the agricultural industry and to all Yukoners in the agricultural industry is the availability of agriculture land. In fact, thatís an issue that is something that is very important to many Yukoners ó the simple availability of land. We have a very large territory; there is no one here who wants to see it strip mined or paved all over. We have a tremendous amount of land and I personally believe that we should be able to see every Yukoner get their own little corner of the land to enjoy and be able to further their life and their interests.
We hear a consistent theme from the members opposite. We hear several consistent themes. I note that my colleague, the Member for Southern Lakes, came to the same conclusion that I did on this. The members opposite claim that we are personally responsible for any problem that occurs in the Yukon. Anything that they define as bad thatís out there, they claim that weíre personally responsible for it and there seems to be an implication in many cases that we had some intent of creating a problem. Of course, in their opinion, anything that is right in the Yukon, anything that is going well ó improvements to the economy, improvements to any sector ó is just an accident and we had nothing to do with it.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I donít think thatís in any way close to the vicinity of accurate, and I donít think that many Yukoners will be fooled by that mistaken take on the situation in the territory.
Now, we seem to hear from the members opposite this consistent theme. We also have heard cries in the last few days for moratoriums on a number of things: land, oil and gas. There were at least two other examples that we heard. It seems to be a consistent theme, and we on this side of the House recognize the need for cautious and responsible planning but, unlike the members opposite, we have no interest in locking everything down and just saying no to everything.
I understand that Iím getting rather short of time here. There are a large number of initiatives, things in this budget, a lot of things that have been done that I would like to talk about, things that weíre quite proud of, such as the fact that we have not increased any taxes or fees, that we have allocated money in previous budgets and in this one to areas where we believe it will create benefit to Yukoners. Weíve heard criticism from the members opposite that we seem to be bragging about the size of the budget.
Mr. Speaker, weíre proud of the investments that weíve made in the Yukon economy. We are engaged as a government in activities that are trying to stimulate the Yukon economy and targeted spending in areas that will benefit Yukoners. We are very proud of the work that has been done by the Premier, by the fine officials in the Department of Finance and its statistics branch in achieving more money for the Yukon from the federal government and assisting us in moving forward.
The Minister of Health and Social Services has worked on the Health file. There has been a lot of work put into these areas, and there are many, many people who deserve to be commended for their work on this. We are working to move forward, and we hear a consistent comment from the members opposite that, oh, thereís no more money thatís coming; it was always there. I would urge them to learn to read a balance sheet. Itís very clear in the budget. Itís very clear in the records of spending of what was there and what came in and where it came from.
I would like to commend all of my colleagues on this side of the floor for their hard work on this. I understand that I seem to be on the verge of being out of time, so in conclusion I would like to urge all members of this House to vote for this supplementary budget.
Speaker: If the hon. Premier speaks, he will now close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would like to close the debate on second reading for this supplementary budget by touching on some recent history leading up to how we got here and relate to the House a number of events that transpired that are very important in terms of getting us to where weíre at today in this territory. It begins with the platform for the 2002 election. The Yukon Party platform was a vision and a plan for this territory. We presented that vision and plan to the Yukon public and throughout the election campaign. We worked very hard with a team of people dedicated and committed to impress upon the Yukon public that we, the Yukon Party, would make the best choice for governing the territory. The Yukon public agreed and elected the Yukon Party to govern. We have now been almost two years in implementing that vision and that plan.
I can sum up the vision and the plan by using three specific areas that would cover all the detail and content within the plan that we have presented to the Yukon public. One of the main planks was to put the Yukon economy back on track. Part of that whole process obviously includes another element or another plank of the plan and that is to formalize a government-to-government relationship with Yukon First Nations and make them full partners in the economic development of the Yukon Territory. A third area was to provide a brighter future for our children and a better quality of life. Those three themes cover the broad spectrum of what would comprise good governance in the territory today.
First we have to recognize that it takes investment; it takes financial resources to be able to implement this vision and this plan and, upon taking office, thatís exactly what the government did. It went to work on the fiscal house of the Yukon government and the financial situation for the Yukon Territory. It was clear, back in November 2002 ó two short years ago ó that under the leadership of the former Liberal Party government our financial house was in serious, serious trouble. There was mismanagement. There wasnít a recognition that the public purse was there for government to invest in a way that would benefit Yukoners. That was not happening under the former Liberal government.
Whatís more troubling is that the accounting of liabilities, for example, was not even being presented clearly and openly and transparently to the Yukon public. We have changed all that, and itís evident throughout the pages of the following budgets that this government has brought forward, whether it be the 2003-04 budget or supplementaries that followed it, to where we are this fiscal year with the tabling in this House some months ago of the largest budget in the history of the Yukon Territory, the largest capital investment ever in the history of the Yukon Territory. And that is one of the main components of the plan for how we deliver this vision for the Yukon, using the budgets, using the budget cycle, using the public purse to invest in the appropriate areas, to stimulate the Yukonís economy in the first phase.
Those financial resources are important because thatís the fuel that drives any economic engine: cash flow. I must say, as the minister responsible for the Department of Finance, I am very fortunate to have a team of dedicated, committed officials within the Department of Finance who have done a masterful job in reorganizing and getting our financial house back in order. We as politicians went to work with other governments, other jurisdictions, to ensure that the Yukon was getting its fair share of the distribution of resources across the country. We know factually the examples of how that has occurred, whether it be the increase in health care with the Northern Health Accord that we entered into with Ottawa, whether it be our business case that we presented in dealing with what we call the adequacy gap. We have covered many of those bases resulting in the financial situation we have today.
I will not rebut much of what I heard from the opposite side of the House today, but I think itís important that we focus on one area. The members opposite talk about moving numbers around, and I have to clearly make the point that thatís not possible. The reason itís not possible is that we have a legal mechanism called the Financial Administration Act. It doesnít allow that. Other governments have tried that; it doesnít work. In the least area of problem, you would receive a qualified audit from the Auditor General of Canada, and we can show factually that thatís exactly what was taking place. No longer. We are making every effort as a government to live up to the required accounting practices of government in dealing with the public purse.
Whatís important about that is every government must be a sound fiscal manager, and that was a commitment to the Yukon public, and that is being delivered in todayís Yukon.
We have taken our budgets and our investments to deal with putting the Yukon economy back on track, and it is where we have invested the expenditures that is important, because it is creating jobs and benefit for Yukoners; it is creating optimism; itís attracting more investment; it is showing not only to the Yukon public but to Canada outside of our jurisdiction that the Yukon is a positive place to come and invest and be involved in. And we have so much potential that more and more now the investment community and the private sector are recognizing that; but so too are governments, including our federal government.
Part of the work that we have accomplished over the last number of months is the commitment in the agreement from the federal government to develop a common vision for the north, a common strategy for the north. That has been a long time coming. The last prime minister who had a vision for the north was the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker, and the result of that was the building of the Dempster Highway, our roads to resources, which has benefited the north greatly over the decades. So we are moving in that direction to complement what we are spending on the economic front and investing the public purse in many, many areas. We are complementing that with partnerships with First Nations in other jurisdictions and other governments like the federal government. We are also heavily engaged with the private sector to complement government spending with private sector investment. All these things lead up to putting the Yukon economy back on track. The statistics bear it out. The members opposite may want to criticize, the members opposite want to oppose, but eventually the members opposite are faced with the evidence. And when that happens, the members opposite have only one option but to admit and to recognize that there are changes in the Yukon today that are resulting in economic growth and benefit for the Yukon Territory. I need not quote the numbers; we all know what they are.
But we as a government will say categorically, unequivocally, that there are challenges ahead, difficult challenges, and much work to be done. It would be so much better if the members opposite, the opposition parties in this House and in this territory, instead of criticizing without relaying a vision or a plan of what they would do, would start to offer suggestions on how to meet those challenges. Thatís part of being a good elected representative, not only for their specific constituencies but for the Yukon as a whole, because that is the one fundamental, common obligation that we all have and we all share in this House.
We talk about formalizing a government-to-government relationship and making First Nations full economic partners. I think the best way to expand on that, considering that our budgets have shown that we are investing in these areas, is to point out that there is a new landscape when it comes to governance in the Yukon. It is the treaties, the final agreements, the self-government agreements that have been achieved over 30 long years of negotiations. There are other governments in the territory, other orders of government, and we must formalize our relationship to reduce or remove barriers between us, to make governance more cost-effective, to share in areas of jurisdiction where we can implement common initiatives with common objectives, with common goals, to improve the lives of all our citizens. Thatís the essential part of formalizing our government-to-government relationship.
The examples of what that means ó there is an MOU on governance creating the Yukon forum, ensuring that the consultation aspect of what our requirements are under these agreements are solidified in the document we call the consultation protocol with self-governing First Nations.
There are many other ways a municipality could assist in water access, such as hooking up more people to the water mains or perhaps even providing some assistance with trucked water service, because there is some problem with a lack of capacity among water well drilling companies to handle the large demand that exists out there. But my constituents who have accessed this program are very appreciative of this and Iíd like to thank my colleagues for that.
There are other examples of government partnerships, too many to recite here this afternoon. But a shining example is the Childrenís Act review. The Childrenís Act review is a full partnership of governments in this territory between ourselves, the Yukon government, and First Nation governments. It deals with an area of specific and vital concern to First Nation people: how we deal with children in care. Thatís an example of the partnership.
Mr. Speaker, we move on to the economic development aspect of partnering with our First Nations, and thatís important too because they should share in the economic growth and economic wealth that this territory has now and into the future. But they should also share in the burdens of making those decisions. Thatís what a partnership is all about. Itís a two-way street; itís a partnership built on mutual respect and understanding but itís also a partnership that includes both partners living up to their end of the bargain, doing their fair share of the work, carrying their fair share of the burden. Thatís what we mean by partnerships. Those partnerships are unfolding, whether it be agreements with First Nations in north Yukon, whether it be working with a First Nation like the Vuntut Gwitchin on their capital planning to create jobs in the community of Old Crow, whether it be the Kaska bilateral agreement, which is producing benefits and jobs through partnerships not just with government, but with the corporate sector in the Kaska traditional territory, drilling for gas, searching for minerals, trying to develop a forestry industry ó all examples of the partnership we set out to create.
When it comes to providing a brighter future for our children and a better quality of life for Yukoners, it not only includes the economic side of the ledger, but it also includes the social side of the ledger. This Yukon Party government is proud of its social record and how it has implemented part of its vision and plan that we set out to do in November 2002 ó how it has implemented that part of its plan, our social agenda.
This government has a heightened and sharpened social conscience. Nobody can dispute that. This government will set its social record on the table for all to assess and critique and compare to past governments. Increases in investment in the social fabric of this territory are abundant and they cross the spectrum of need: health care, FASD, alcohol and drug abuse, children in care, daycare, seniors ó the list goes on and on, even to the point of investing in humane services when we deal with animals. The governmentís social record is solid and our social conscience is very heightened.
In recognizing all of these things, we now have to put them into the pages of a budget. I think itís important that we now touch on something else. The members opposite have the propensity to try to say, ďWell, voting against the budget doesnít mean we oppose certain things,Ē but they have to also articulate to the Yukon public how they can rationalize that when, in fact, itís the investment in the budget and throughout the budget that is creating jobs and benefit for Yukoners, that is reaching out to help those in need, that is creating partnerships with First Nations and other jurisdictions, that is dealing with the challenges that we face in this territory. How can they rationalize opposing a budget and then saying, ďOh, but we really didnít mean that we oppose health care, social services, job creation, environmental conservation and protection.Ē It doesnít work.
They have consistently voted against multi-level care facilities for seniors. They have consistently voted against the building of schools and enhancing our education system. They have voted against increased investment in Yukon College. They have voted against the largest capital budget in the history of the Yukon, which is stimulating the Yukon economy through jobs and benefit.
Thereís no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that there is a distinct contrast between both sides of the House. This side of the House is building a future. We are doing it not only with the fiscal budget, the mains, for 2004-05, but this supplementary budget further increases in building that future. The members opposite are opposed to that future. They are opposed to private sector, theyíre opposed to investment, they are opposed to the resource industry, they are opposed to increases in health care, they are opposed to increases in our social fabric, they are, more than anybody can imagine, opposed to a better and brighter future for the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Speaker, I say to you that there is a time for the members opposite to stand up and clearly disseminate to the Yukon public what their vision is. Ours is a bright one, building a future in partnership with all Yukoners and other jurisdictions. Our vision is the vision that the Yukon people have chosen. Our budgets are reflecting our commitment to the Yukon people.
Mr. Speaker, the option and the choices are clear in this House. I would urge the members opposite to recognize that they have a role and a responsibility to contribute, not to dismantle, but to help build a better and brighter future for the Yukon. I commend the supplementary budget to the House. It is another example of our investment in the Yukonís future and investment in our citizens for ensuring that their future is a better one.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, five nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 12 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 12 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I just have some brief comments and then will turn it over to the members opposite. I am very pleased to introduce to the Committee the first supplementary estimates for 2004-05. Just to recap, the total expenditures requested in this supplementary budget are $34,315,000. Of the amount, $29,890,000 is for O&M, and $4,420,000 is an increase in capital expenditures.
Many of the highlights of this supplementary budget were already presented in my second reading speech, but I can review as we go through debate other areas for the members opposite and indeed the House. The most significant increase is the almost $10.5 million required to fund fire suppression costs, which was approved earlier this year by way of special warrant ó in addition, Mr. Chair, $4 million for the same purpose, which is fire suppression and is a revote item carried forward from last year.
Mr. Chair, for your information, of the total budgetary request of just over $19 million in revotes, $5.6 million is O&M and $13.39 million is capital.
I would also like to relay to the House that the balance of the expenditures between the social expenditure envelope and what I consider economic initiatives are a good distribution in both capital and O&M. These increased expenditures and revotes will bring the governmentís total expenditures to $740.4 million for this fiscal year. This amount is double the projected net financial resources that were contained in the main estimates of $17.8 million.
The increase is due to a combination of increased revenue and recoveries forecast of $34 million, which is offset by $34 million in increased expenditures. This in turn is supplemented by an increase in the year-end March 31, 2004, with net financial resources of $16.5 million over the forecast position. For the information of the Committee, the year-end March 31, 2004 financial position is outlined in the financial statements, which were recently released.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I look forward to a constructive general debate on this yearís Supplementary Estimates No. 1.
Mr. Hardy: Well, weíve had a lot of discussions today, specifically, around the supplementary budget. Weíve listened to the members on the government side of course praise every aspect of it, find all the areas that this would benefit their communities or their ridings. And, of course, as all governments do, itís painted in a beautiful light. But those words are often not reflected when applied on the opposition side. Weíve just heard the Premier spend 20 minutes ó it was approximately 20 minutes ó basically condemning anything and everything the opposition says ó we oppose, we oppose, we oppose ó ad nauseum. That became the mantra for him addressing his own supplementary budget and the mains as well, since he rolled it in.
I would like to correct the Premier on that ó we question, we question, we question. Itís part of the job we inherit being in the opposition role. We challenge, we question, we dig on behalf of our constituents and all people of the Yukon. Itís a check and balance. Itís part of our system. Itís absolutely essential that there are avenues available for the public to question a budget and a governmentís spending.
One of the avenues, of course, is us on this side. We are elected based on the vote. This is the role that we play. If we did not do that, we would not be fulfilling the role in our system. Itís the same as the Public Accounts Committee: the role of the Public Accounts Committee is to question the spending, to question the operations of the government, whether itís the entities that exist, the boards, committees, entities, the corporations, or the departments, or a single issue. The Public Accounts Committeeís role is to question. Itís not to stand there and praise. That doesnít serve a purpose. Thereís enough of that already. Thatís not why weíre in that position. Thatís not why we agree to sit on that committee; itís the same as the Auditor General. Now if the Premier has a very difficult time with the role that the opposition plays, then he also has a difficult time with the role that the Auditor General plays.
He also has a difficult time with the role that the Public Accounts Committee plays. Maybe he wants to abolish that. If he cannot accept the fact that we fulfill a role on this side, then maybe heís in the wrong type of parliamentary structure. Maybe a dictatorship would be far better. It seems to be that the Premier has a very difficult time accepting the criticism, the constructive analysis that we may apply to a budget, to the departmental spending, to the way it evolved, to the way it is developed, to the vision that is cast.
Now, we on this side accept the governmentís role to do that, to create the budget. We accept the governmentís role to identify spending and priorities. We accept the governmentís role on the casting of their vision, if they can find it. However, it has to happen on this side as well. This is what our system is about.†
We do know, Mr. Chair, that the Premier is very cognizant of this. He sat on this side for two and a half years. He questioned the government. Iím sure both he and the Minister of Health and Social Services, the Member for Klondike, who both sat on this side and questioned the Liberal government for two and a half years, did a good job, fulfilled the role that the constituents expected but also what the system expects. They questioned, they challenged and they voted.
And voting against a budget is not a condemnation of everything that the government does. From my perspective and from what I see, Mr. Chair, no government has been in place yet that has destroyed the economy, has destroyed the lifestyle in the Yukon. Every one has added something constructive. Every one has also made mistakes. This government is already making mistakes. Thatís to be expected.
There is no such thing as one government or one side having all the answers and creating the perfect world for the Yukon Territory; however, every government is strengthened by the opposition contribution. When youíre drafting a budget, you draft it knowing full well there will be criticism about some of the spending. You may make a decision based upon that; you may recognize that, yes, maybe this is something we would like to do but, you know what? Itís not going to be acceptable. Itís our vision, but itís definitely not that of the people of the Yukon; it wonít hold up under heavy scrutiny; we canít go forward, because we canít defend it. It might not be the greatest idea, but it might be something you want.
Knowing that, you may make a better decision.
Thatís the system we have, one side or the other side.
If the Premier has a great deal of difficulty with it ó and I have no problem with that opinion. He has had the opportunity to sit on both sides. He has seen it from both sides. Heís back on that side now, in the government role. He has been in opposition. He was previously in the government role, as well, with the former NDP government. He has had a fair amount of experience in this now. Maybe ó maybe ó we can see some change happen within this structure that might allow a different way of approaching the design of a supplementary budget.
Maybe we will see some change, if the Premier and his colleagues are so open, on how we work within this Legislature that is more constructive and maybe more reflective of the values of the people of this territory and not just one party, for instance. Maybe those changes can happen within the next couple of years. But if theyíre going to happen, itís going to have to be with the will of the government.
Itís not going to happen from the opposition side. We do not have the numbers to make the change. There are five on the NDP, thereís one lone Liberal. That adds up to six. Also on this side, though I would say he is still connected to the other side, there is an independent Yukon Party member. I heard somebody chuckle. Actually what I was doing was repeating exactly the description: independent Yukon Party member. So there is still the connection to the party over there. Thatís how Iíve seen it written down and described.
So if this side wanted in unity to vote for a change within this structure, and that side didnít, nothing would happen, and you know that. But if the will is over there, if thereís free vote and the backbenchers felt this was a good change, fine. Or else if the whole government as a unit decided with the leadership that, yes, this is something we should pursue or this is the direction we should go in, then it would happen.
It would happen, and I think it would be refreshing within the Chamber. The designing of the supplementary budget does not have to be only from one side. I put that out. There are avenues.
Now, a lot of governments start out their mandate saying that weíre going to do it differently. We are going to have input from the opposition, from all MLAs, in the design of the budget, in the design of the supplementary budget, in our spending. Of course, weíre going to go into the communities and reach out to the people. All the leaders do that.
But it seems it doesnít take long before those words become hollow. What I mean by hollow, Mr. Chair, is you know it may not be intentional, but the system that we work within, in relation to this, doesnít seem to allow the next step to happen.
Thatís a serious concern for me. So here we are on this side and we will ask the questions, and we will oppose some of the spending. We will try to bring forward suggestions, and Iím going to start ó as Iíve done this whole session, picking up from the last one ó by bringing forward constructive changes. But even when I bring them forward, there will be strong comments made.
What I have heard this fall is a concern among a lot of people that they cannot understand the spending of the government. They have a very difficult time reading the financial statements. They do not understand the figures. They donít even know how the budget is arrived at. Every government has tried to explain it better to the people of the territory.
But I have also heard this in committees very recently and I know itís talked about across the country. This is one of the biggest challenges that is repeated time and time again by all governments, whichever one comes in, and that is the communication of the spending and the financial statements to the people of this territory so they have a better grasp of whatís happening with their money and where the money is going and how the government arrives at that kind of spending.
†So what we are faced with, Mr. Chair, is quite a substantial shift in how we do the financial.
Now, anybody who has a laymanís interest, just a surface interest, may finally have grasped the former way the finances were done. What has happened ó and the government has made the necessary move and I applaud the government on this because I think it is a very positive step ó is the accrual accounting shift. I think it is necessary. I know it has been recommended for years. I donít have all the numbers but the majority of the provinces, if not all, are now doing this.
That is a good shift; thatís a good change. Thereís more information. Itís probably more reflective of the actual state of the finances of the territory. But in doing so thereís a step thatís missed, and that is: where are the opportunities for people interested in the finance of the territory ó I would hope a lot of people are ó to learn about this? And not just through the debate that we have in the Legislature here and listening to one side or the other, but an actual opportunity for the government people to sit down and say, ďOkay, this is what this means now. This is the shift that weíve made. This is the type of accounting that we are doing. This is how you read a financial statement; this is how it plugs in.Ē
This is a challenge for any government. This is not a criticism of this government. As I said, I applaud this government for making this move. I think this is good. What I think is that one piece is missing, and maybe itís already planned, but I would recommend it, and that is that we now need to ensure that the opportunity is in place for people to understand these financial statements. Many NGOs ó and Iíve talked to quite a few of them out there ó cannot get their minds around this, and they wouldnít mind. Iím not sure if these are the kind of financial statements that are going to have to be produced by all levels of government ó by NGOs when they produce financial statements now, or by any organizations that receive funding from the government. Has the Premier entertained any thought about putting on some seminars on the changes to the financial statements and how they work for any interested organizations that deal with the government and the general public?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The Department of Finance would be more than willing, should someone come forward and ask, to provide a technical briefing on the budget document and how it works.
But maybe we could just go over something here. There is a difference. Weíve gone to full accrual accounting and itís based on the fact that these are accepted accounting practices or principles, so thereís nothing really confusing about it if you look at the budget document, the financial summary. It begins with net financial resources and it starts with territorial revenue. If we follow through to get to the revised vote ó because we start with the voted to date, which are figures that we began with the mains, the changes in the supplementary and we go across to the revised vote for fiscal year 2004-05 ó we will see territorial revenue has increased $1,749,000 for a total now revised vote of $79,937,000. Recoveries ó and these are net of deferred capital contributions ó have increased by $12.536 million for a total of $123,375,000 million. Transfers from Canada have increased $20 million ó thanks to the hard work of our Finance department and our cooperative approach with the federal government and other jurisdictions ó to $488,787,000, a total of net financial resources of $692,099,000. Thatís number one.
Then we go to the liabilities less expenditures. If we go to the same darkened column, the revised vote, we will see where weíre at with operation and maintenance expenditures of $573,141,000, the capital expenditures $166,928,000, loan interest $360,000, for a total expenditure amount of $740,429,000.
Then we get into net financial resources. Now here is what weíve done that normally ó under a former budget document ó would have been the accumulated surplus deficit, or similar to it. But weíve changed because of full accrual accounting, and weíre now providing full disclosure to the Yukon public. It shows that our net financial position ó once all these calculations are done from net financial resources less expenditures and the calculations of net financial resources at the beginning of the year, estimated lapses and revotes ó† for March 31, 2005 ó projected, mind you, because weíre only at November 2, 2005 ó is $34,336,000.
I donít think it is difficult to get to that point. Then if you follow it through with the financial assets, the tangible capital asset acquisition cost, deferred capital contributions, amortization ó this is something that the member from the third party would have been better served by looking into, because then they would have booked the lease amounts properly. I point that out, because we have to follow the generally accepted accounting principles. The Auditor General tells us to. If we donít, we get qualified audits, like we were getting in the past ó but not any more, although we may have other difficulties in the future. Thatís for the Auditor General to determine, and we allow her to do her work.
But if you go through that, youíll find the net non-financial resources, which is the total of the assets deferred, the capital contributions, the amortization expense, so on and so forth, in the blackened column of $353,058,000. And then we go to accumulated surplus and/or deficit, which is A plus B. Net financial resources A, plus non-financial resources B, gives you the total accumulated surplus.
I would hope that just going through that has helped the member opposite understand the budget. It is actually not that overly complicated ó but through the Department of Finance, if a Yukoner came forward and asked for some technical briefings on the budget document, we would certainly be very accommodating.
So, all in all, it shows that the government has been busy increasing its resources, it has diminished its year-end deficit, it has increased its net financial position considerably, and weíre showing a very healthy accumulated surplus. Itís all about sound fiscal management, and this government is taking care of the public purse here in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Chair, Iím not sure how else we can proceed with this. Itís all there in the pages. There was a very extensive technical briefing on the mains at the beginning of the fiscal year, explaining this new way of conducting the budget, presenting the budget, and I would end by saying that this is being open, accountable, and transparent to the Yukon public. Weíre not putting figures in other places. Theyíre all here on the pages of the budget documents.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, a patronizing speech is not appropriate in the Legislature to advancing any kind of discussion.
I asked on behalf of many people who have asked me to ask this question. I do not need, and neither do the people out there need, to hear the Premier talk down to their request and to me for delivering it. If the Premier has such a difficult time, if he had listened closely, I asked a very simple question and it wasnít to have a Winnie the Pooh breakdown of the budget, Mr. Chair.
The question was, very simply, if the government would entertain hosting or having workshops on the impact from changes under the new system that weíre using ó the accrual accounting system ó how theyíre done, what impact it has, and how to read a financial statement to understand the difference between non-financial assets and cash, for the general public. It was for the general public, for NGOs, because thatís actually where a few of the requests came from.
The other part of the question Iíll get to. Itís a follow-up to it. But would the Premier entertain ó and not just having somebody having to come and knock on their door and say, ďCould you show me how you read this?Ē I do not believe the Finance deputy minister or the Finance minister ó the Premier himself ó would want every day to have somebody knock on the door and say, ďCan you sit down and show me this?Ē Now, thatís the promise that was just made. I do not think thatís a good expenditure of time, nor do I believe that the deputy minister would appreciate being put in that situation daily. Nor does it send a good message out from this governmentís open and accountable policy.
When the changes were made back in the springtime for the mains, when we went to this system, there could have been some workshops for people. And if three people show up or five people show up, well thatís three or five more people who would understand it. I have seen three or five people show up for the budget discussions.
Itís not like youíll get a big crowd, but there might be an interest in this. I donít know. Maybe the Chamber of Commerce would want something like this put on for their members. Maybe the unions of the territory would want this. As Iíve already mentioned, maybe the NGOs would want this. Maybe the First Nation governments would want something like this. Maybe the municipal governments need to be informed. If theyíre going to have to go to this system, they will need to know what kind of impact it has and if there are more expenses in doing this type of accounting. There are a lot of questions out there.
Mine was a pretty simple one. If the Premier says that this is the way it is, any person who comes to the Finance deputy ministerís door will get a detailed briefing on how to read these financial statements and how they work, if thatís the way he wants to do it ó individually, every single person ó then so be it. Thatís what Iíll take back to the people who have asked me. He might find that theyíre going to send one board member or one volunteer at a time, to make a point, because thatís a pretty silly suggestion that thatís the way itís going to work.
So a simple question: would the Premier entertain, with the Finance department, making this available to people or organizations that request it, and maybe host a few? Would he entertain that? Itís a pretty simple question.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, possibly the entity that would want this briefing would be the official opposition ó this technical briefing on how full accrual accounting financial statements work. Iím not sure, but he mentioned a number of other organizations and governments. I can assure the member we need not worry about those organizations ó municipal governments are already on it; First Nation governments are already on it. Members of the Chamber of Commerce are business people and companies and have been using full accrual accounting and reading financial statements forever ó and the list goes on and on.
The list goes on and on. What did we say though is that if there is someone who has a concern or doesnít understand, all they have to do is ask and Iím sure a Finance official will try to help them out with it. But itís pretty clear-cut and I think most people understand full accrual accounting, and we were one of the last jurisdictions to move in this direction. Iím not sure why. Itís certainly the best way to present the financial picture of any company, government, and so on.
So if the member wants to continue with this, thatís fine, but I think itís all there on the pages before us and the offer stands: should someone have difficulty with it, the Department of Finance would certainly sit down and help them out.
Mr. Hardy: I will take that as a no from the Premier that he is not willing to make available in a concise and expedient manner seminars on financial summaries. Thatís pretty typical of the Yukon Party government, unfortunately, at this present time. I will pass that on to the people who have asked me to ask that question because I felt it was a very legitimate question.
I do know for a fact that other provinces have offered these. I do know for a fact that they are trying to find ways to get this information out to the people more readily, faster and in a more accessible manner. Itís a challenge. Itís a challenge for any government, but itís also a criticism of every government. Every single government in this country has been criticized as not ensuring that financial statistics, statements, information is available to the public in laymanís language.
And interestingly enough, part of that are accountability statements that the previous government had brought forward. They were called accountability statements, and that was done with the intention ó and Iíve read it ó of making that information in laymanís language more available, a small step though it might have been, but it was one step in which the government tried to reach out to the people and to have written in a different language, in some ways, a sense of what the departments are doing, a sense of accountability to the people ó not to each other, not to the Legislature, but to the people. And I could stand to be corrected by the leader of the Liberal Party, who was in government at that time, but that was my impression of what they were attempting to do.
Now, we all know what happened to those accountability statements. They were immediately crushed and we went very quickly back to a more formal, more rigid style of communications to the public in regard to the finances as well as the actions of each department and the actions of the government itself and the supposed vision that is supposed to be brought forward.
So what I have seen is this government going in the opposite direction in regard to this. And any time you make a substantial change to financial reporting and accountability such as what happened in the spring, you have to recognize that a lot of people may get left behind. Thatís accepted. Youíre making a substantial change in your reporting, in your accountability. There are people who are going to have a hard time making that shift.
Now, to those who can read a financial statement, maybe itís no big deal. I spent seven years being administrator of pension plans. We read financial statements and we read monthly reports. Any time you create a pension plan and you have two or three that you are managing and youíre dealing with the federal government, youíre dealing with fairly rigorous reporting but also very restrictive guidelines on investment, on spending and accountability. And, of course, that has increased dramatically for any administrators of pension plans because of the ó I shouldnít say a total collapse, but a collapse or dropping in the interest rates and the stress that is put on pension plans, forecasts, liability and futures.
And there has been a lot of scrutiny applied now.
Well, we have financial statements here, and my concern, of course, and my feeling always, is that you try to give people the information in a language that they understand ó not your language and try to push that on them. Weíre not all accountants. Weíre not all bookkeepers. And we donít have a whole Finance department to explain every little word to us so we can say them.
However, I think we have our answer from the Premier, and itís no. I have a simple question ó well, weíll stay on the same page as the Premier. By the way, I think it was S-2 that he was on. He maybe could have pointed that out.
At the bottom there is a sentence, of course, with the accumulated surplus as of March 31, 2004 ó page S-2. And the question is: is the government planning to continue to present this section? Will this be a part of every financial supplementary and mains over the next couple of years?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Could the member just go into a little more detail, please?
Mr. Hardy: Well, thereís that section at the bottom ó after accumulated surplus. Right? Got it? Thereís a section thatís put in there ó section one. Iíll read it to you too. I donít have a problem: ďWith the adoption of full accrual accounting effective April 1, 2004, the government now reports net financial resources (financial assets less liabilities)Ē ó which, of course, has been mentioned.
ďÖ requiring restatement from the 2003-04 public accounts as follows: accumulated surplus, March 31, 2004, $85,644,000; less pre-paid expenses, a reduction of $959,000; less inventories, $3,640,000; less capital leases, $11,111,000; plus restricted funds, $5,772,000, for a net financial resource as of March 31, 2004, of $75,706,000. All Iím asking is, will that continue to be reported in that manner?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím compelled to respond to a number of comments the member made because there were inferences of openness and accountability and I heard a no in there when there was a distinct offer by the government that, if somebody asked or needed assistance in trying to read this, the Department of Finance would certainly accommodate. By the way, weíre not accountants either. Iím not an accountant. Iím the Minister of Finance, but Iím not an accountant. Thatís why we have a Department of Finance. Theyíre the accountants. They work very hard on behalf of the government and do a very good job, and theyíve come up with a very open and transparent financial statement.
So I think the member would want to maybe rethink this approach because we didnít say no to anybody. Weíve made every effort to make this as easy as possible to read, and it is. Thereís no question about that. Most people who have done anything in regard to a financial statement have dealt with full accrual accounting. Thatís a given, especially if theyíve been in any level of business. But of course there are those out there who may not have.
All they need to do is ask and we certainly would accommodate them. But letís talk about open, accountable transparency in presenting the financial picture to the Yukon public.
This method, this new approach to presenting the financial situation or picture to the Yukon public is, indeed, open and accountable and transparent. First I would point out, Mr. Chair, that there was a time when our assets were booked as $1. How can that be open and transparent, because that was certainly not the value of the assets that the government had, which belonged to the public, the taxpayers. By doing it this way, we are now presenting clearly not only where the opening asset base was at the beginning of the year, but we are adding in the fact that the tangible capital asset acquisition costs are factored in. Weíre subtracting the deferred capital contributions ó the deferred numbers, the subtraction numbers, are always in brackets. Weíre adding the amortization of deferred capital contributions and weíre subtracting the amortization expense. Itís all there. Instead of $1, it shows clearly where weíre at.
When you follow through the column, youíll see that we get to a net non-financial resource for March 31, 2005, which is noted at (B) as $353,058,000. Thatís being very open and accountable.
Now, thereís more here, Mr. Chair, in assisting anyone who may pick up this budget document and want to go through it and determine for themselves where the finances of the Yukon Territory are at.
And thereís a glossary that lists a number of things. And let me point out that it has some headings that are very helpful. The first one is accumulated amortization, and it states that the total to date of the periodic amortization charges relating to tangible capital assets since they were placed in use.
So what itís saying is that number, that amount ó accumulated amortization ó is based on that explanation. So we have provided that to the public, an explanation that Iím sure the department would provide anybody who asked, but it is already written in the budget document.
The next item is accumulated surplus. It goes as follows: The combined amount of net financial resources and non-financial assets, which is also expressed as the difference between assets and liabilities. It is the cumulative excess of revenues over expenses. Since non-financial assets, including tangible capital assets, provide resources that the Government of Yukon can use in the future to accomplish its objectives, non-financial assets form part of the accumulated surplus.
So if you take the first statement and go to the page with the numbers on it, you can get an idea of how that number has been created, and here it is in the budget document to help those who would want to go through this.
The next heading is ďAmortizationĒ, and that explanation is as follows: The systematic process of allocating the cost of tangible capital assets to expense for the periods in which they provide benefits. For the purpose of tangible capital asset accounting in the Government of Yukon, amortization is calculated ó and this is important ó using the straight line method, which reflects a constant charge for the service over the assetís estimated useful life. This term is used interchangeably with depreciation and is generally understood to mean the same thing.
So amortization is explained. If you go to the page, you will see that there is amortization expense and deferred amortization capital contributions. Thatís the explanation of what that number is. Deferred capital contribution ó it states: explains a contribution or funding received from a third party for the acquisition.
Development, construction or betterment of a tangible capital asset. A contribution includes tangible capital assets transferred from a third party to the Government of Yukon.
So it explains what is meant by deferred capital contribution.
Disposals ó assets are disposed of from time to time. That doesnít mean we throw them in the garbage. That means we sell them or do something with them that removes them from our overall asset base.
Disposal of tangible capital assets may occur by sale, destruction, loss or abandonment. Upon disposal, the net book value of the asset is removed from the accounts. Yes, and it would reflect that in the financial statement.
For financial assets, the explanation goes as follows: Assets that could be used to discharge existing liabilities or finance future operations and are not for consumption in the normal course of operations. Example: cash, investments, accounts receivable, loans receivable, land held for sale, et cetera ó an explanation of financial assets.
Thatís important because itís part of what makes up the numbers on the financial statement. Liabilities are ó and this is part of a financial statement and itís less the expenditures and/or liabilities ó financial obligations to outside organizations and individuals arising as a result of past transactions and events, e.g. accounts payable, long-term debt, deferred revenues, and post-employment benefits.
I want to highlight post-employment benefits because thatís where the former Liberal government had a bit of a stumbling block in providing an open, transparent and accountable projection of the financial situation of the Yukon. They did not book that, and that is not following what is deemed to be acceptable accounting principles.
Net book value ó another explanation.
I noticed the members opposite are engaged in heavy conversation. I hope that this is helping them, Mr. Chair.
Net book value ó the cost of a tangible capital asset, less both accumulated amortization and the amount of any write-down ó a further explanation on how numbers are derived.
Net financial resources ó and here we have one that shows the leader of the official opposition. On page S-2 we have a line that says ďNet Financial Resources (A)Ē and thatís for the period ending March 31, 2005. The revised vote for 2004-05 shows $34,336,000, and the explanation in the glossary says that itís the difference between financial assets and liabilities.
So that would mean that the financial assets minus the liabilities give us the amount or the value of net financial resources. I hope Iím being helpful here, Mr. Chair.
The next item on the glossary is non-financial assets, and the explanation is as follows: Non-financial assets include tangible capital assets, prepaid expenses and inventories of supplies. These assets are resources that the Government of Yukon can use in the future to deliver government services or can be consumed in the normal course of operations. Another explanation of non-financial assets ó and there is an area in the balance sheet with a lot of big numbers that relate to non-financial assets. They are listed as tangible capital asset acquisition, deferred capital contributions, which weíve explained, amortization of deferred capital contributions, amortization expense. The glossary explains what amortization is.
And then we go to tangible capital assets. Here we have, of course, a column and a dollar value of tangible capital asset acquisition costs. Then we have a net opening balance beginning of the year so that we must take that net opening balance and add and subtract the areas that we discussed earlier.
The tangible capital assets break down as follows: physical assets that are acquired, constructed or developed and are held for use in the production or supply of goods or delivery of services ó thatís a tangible capital asset ó have useful lives extending beyond one fiscal year and are intended to be used on a continuing basis ó thatís a tangible capital asset ó and are not intended for sale in the ordinary course of operations ó another tangible capital asset.
That would include that lease thing, wouldnít it? And hereís another area where the former Liberal government created a qualified audit. They did not book correctly this particular tangible capital asset. The major categories of tangible capital assets are land, buildings, heavy equipment, operating equipment, vehicles, computer hardware and software, transportation infrastructure, including highways, bridges and airstrips. Thereís a list of tangible capital assets.
Now, it even goes further in the glossary to assist the members opposite and those who may be contacting the official opposition office on this to question them. Obviously, they should have called us, but we will attempt to go further here and be helpful. It goes on to say that ďtangible capital assets do not includeĒ ó and I would again reiterate that this is in the budget document itself for anyone to read. It says tangible capital assets do not include assets acquired by right, such as Crown lands, forests, water and mineral resources.
I think we can understand why that wouldnít be a tangible capital asset because the pages would not be big enough to put the number on if that was a tangible capital asset.
Works of art, historical treasures or heritage assets and feasibility studies ó theyíre not tangible capital assets.
So Iíve just gone over a number of areas that would help explain the balance sheet and the financial numbers themselves, but we also have another area of tangible capital assets in service. It has a brief explanation for the member opposite. It is assets currently being used in the production or supply of goods or the delivery of services. Thatís called a tangible capital asset in service.
It explains useful life because we made note of that in the tangible capital asset explanation. Useful life is the estimate of the period over which a tangible capital asset is expected to be used by the government.
The useful life of a tangible capital asset other than land is finite and is normally the shortest of the physical, technological, commercial and legal life ó an explanation of useful life. The life of a tangible capital asset may extend beyond the useful life of the tangible capital asset itself ó another clear and simple explanation. Work in progress write-down ó all these things are in the glossary to help people deal with the budget document.
I think that once you go through that then an understanding of the numbers on the preceding pages becomes very important.
But weíre here to debate the supplementary budget and the investments made by the government, and I would question why the member opposite does not want to ask the fact that there is an increase of homeowner grants of $136,000. Why does the member not want to ask a question about a Dawson City grant increase of $600,000 to cash flow the City of Dawsonís needs when it comes to expenditure.
They donít want to debate that. They want to ask about a workshop on a budget document that most people know how to deal with because most people have done full accrual accounting.
Why would not the members opposite want to talk about and debate education reform? An investment of $468,000 by the Department of Education to reform our education system ó that hasnít happened here in a long time. I think thatís an important initiative that we would really like to engage on with the opposition in the spirit and the context of constructive debate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The House Leader has just ó I think weíd better wait a couple of minutes.
The Yukon grant increase ó $100,000. The Yukon grant for students, an increase for our students ó why would the members opposite not want to debate that?†
Assessment of abandoned mines, fully recoverable, $1,288,000 ó assessing our abandoned mines and thatís a recovery from the federal government. A good item to debate.
Management project permitting Carmacks Copper and Wolverine, et cetera, another $350,000 ó another very constructive area of debate, but the member is not interested in that.
Mental health, Watson Lake youth intervention worker ó a $70,000 investment. Again, an investment in the social fabric ó an increased investment in the social fabric. Thatís not a debatable item for the NDP in this House. They want workshops.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun is implying that my nose is growing. Well, Iím actually presenting factual information to this House.
One would question some of the information coming from the other side. Children in care requirements, $996,000 ó thatís an investment for children in care. Why would the members opposite not want to debate such an investment in such a critical area? Social worker positions, $400,000 ó what an investment. Itís into the social fabric of our territory.
Chair: The time now being 6:00, the Chair shall report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:02 p.m.
The following documents were filed November 2, 2004:
Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation press release (dated November 2, 2004) re: letter from Lizzy Larkin to the Carmacks School Advisory Committee† (Fairclough)
Carmacks Campus (Yukon College), letter (dated June 25, 2004) from Sally Webber, President, Yukon College, to Chief Ed Skookum and Council members, Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation† (Fairclough)
Yukon College, provision of post secondary education and training in Carmacks, letter (dated November 1, 2004) from Shelagh Beairsto, Acting President, Yukon College to Chief Ed Skookum and Council members, Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation† (Fairclough)