††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Tuesday, November 16, 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 the participants and organizers of the 2004 Canada Senior Games
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today to pay tribute to participants and organizers of the 2004 Canada Senior Games that were held in Whitehorse this September 1 to 5, 2004. Thanks to the spirit and dedication of these volunteers and athletes, the many visitors to our territory experienced first-hand the tremendous warmth and hospitality for which we Yukoners are renowned.
This year, Yukon Territory had the honour of hosting the first north of 60 games. It is because of these events that Yukon is developing a reputation of being an excellent forum for hosting national events, and, of course, it is helping to prepare our volunteers for the upcoming 2007 Canada Winter Games.
The Canada Senior Games is a national program that was created to sponsor the spiritual, mental and physical wellness of Canadians 55 years of age and older. The Senior Games are also a celebration of sportsmanship, camaraderie and physical and social achievements. It is an opportunity for elder adults across the country to participate in activities that promote healthy lifestyle choices.
By promoting healthy lifestyle choices, these competitors are showing Canadians the positive contribution they can make to their own state of health despite their age. By competing against other seniors in their home province or territories, these individuals have earned the right to compete nationally. Our own athletes went through the same process, and today I commend them for their effort and their commitment. The 1,000 or so competitors in the games represent over 100,000 Canadian seniors who actively participate in local events leading up to the national games.
In addition to the competitions, which we were taking as seriously as Olympic events, opportunities abounded for socialization. By all accounts, these participants were as lively and friendly at social events as they were in competition. An exciting opening ceremony got everything started, and until the closing ceremonies, dinner and dance, nothing and no one slowed down.
†The host society and all the volunteers worked very hard to ensure that the games would be a success. Their hard work certainly paid off for the participants and the territory as a whole. Every volunteer deserves a heart-felt thank you from this Legislature and this community.
The Canadian Commission for UNESCO, in announcing 2005 as the International Year of Sport and Physical Education, noted our leadership with initiatives such as the Recreation and Parks Association of the Yukon and the Yukon Active Living.
As well, the Yukon active living strategy provided a unique connection for the games among the government, the ElderActive Recreation Association and the host society.
The legacy from these games will go far to promote active living for older adults here and across Canada.
I would also like to pay tribute to Sport Yukon who took on the responsibility of Team Yukon for the games, and they did a wonderful job of organizing and outfitting the team. Our Yukon team did us proud, and they brought home many medals. But more than that, they represented our territory on the national stage with dignity, spirit and sportsmanship. I encourage all Yukoners to come out and show their support for their efforts at the Sport Yukon annual awards night on November 26, and I thank them for that process.
In the meantime, I would like to ask the members of the Legislature to help me welcome the ElderActive Association vice-president Bill Simpson, secretary Lynette King, treasurer Merton Friesen, past president Ruth Thom, director Sylvia McLarnon, director Cookie Morgan, director Dave Brekke, director Marg Baker, the games manager Moira Lassen. I would also like to note Kay Malchow and Ron Pearson for their efforts even though theyíre not in attendance. In addition, I would like to thank Sport Yukonís George Arcand, president, Trevor Twardochcleb, executive director, and Mike Young, student assistant.
Mr. McRobb: We in the official opposition are also very pleased to pay tribute to the wonderful event, the Canada Senior Games 2004, held in Whitehorse early in September. Not only was this a wonderful event, but it was a great opportunity for Yukoners to meet seniors from across the country. It was also a good opportunity for Yukoners to showcase their territory and the character of their people to people from all other provinces and territories.
Many of our visitors also took the time and made the effort to travel to some nearby communities. I know in Haines Junction, for example, I had the opportunity to talk to some seniors who visited there and found out personally how much they enjoyed their trip to the Yukon, and a lot of them vowed they would return on holidays and some even vowed to move to the territory. So obviously the spell of the Yukon knows no age boundaries and itís something we can benefit from. Whenever possible, if we have an opportunity to host this event here again, we would urge the government to take that opportunity.
I caught the parade of the seniors. It was a beautiful day; the weather was very cooperative that day; and if the seniors are willing, Iíd like to invite them to our office after the proceedings and I can show them a slideshow I made of the pictures from the parade to the background music of Stompiní Tom singing Long Gone to the Yukon. †I think the seniors might get some enjoyment from that.
I would also be remiss if I didnít mention that I heard from my colleagues in the chess club that they would like that game to be included in future seniors games activities and events. If that is possible, I know it would make other Yukoners a bit happier.
Finally, I would like to congratulate all Yukoners and the volunteers who helped make this event happen and especially the participants.
Thank you very much.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to join with my colleagues in the House in paying tribute to the Canada Senior Games. From September 1 to 5, the Yukonís ElderActive Recreation Association hosted the 2004 Canada Senior Games. The event, as has been noted, combined fun and fitness, camaraderie and competition and brought more than 800 participants to the Yukon.
Thanks to my constituent, one of the gamesí chairs, Diana Simpson, I was very fortunate to be asked to coordinate the Scrabble tournament. And what a privilege that was. Not only was I able to learn amazing new words that are parliamentary, I met some terrific Canadians. Most especially, I had the honour of volunteering with extraordinary Yukoners, including, of course, Moira Lassen and the volunteer coordinator, my former colleague, Sue Edelman, who has joined us in the gallery today.
I also worked with Mary Melnyk, Brenda Dion and Ella LeGresley right at the tournament. Together we have admired the skill and the warm hospitality of our Yukon competitors, particularly in the event I mentioned, Colleen Turner and Pam Evans. And Scrabble was, of course, only one event in the Canada Senior Games.
The games as a whole were truly a Yukon success ó thanks to everyone involved. It is an honour to pay tribute to the volunteers, the athletes, sponsors, the hostesses, the drivers, everyone involved. Well done, Yukoners. Your commitment and dedication have made everyone very proud of your achievement.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
†Ms. Duncan: I would just like to note that our former colleague, my former colleague Sue Edelman, the former Member for Riverdale South, has joined us in the gallery today.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all the youth who are with us in the gallery today. Itís always very encouraging to have them come and witness this first-hand.
Speaker: 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?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of an itemized record of liquor licence infractions during the fiscal years 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2003-04, including
(1) a record of suspension orders and letters of warning issued, including nature of infraction, location of licensee, and category of licence; and
(2) disposition of all suspension orders (for example, uncontested, successfully appealed, upheld on appeal, modified, expired or other).
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes
(1) that the public expects Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to abide by the highest ethical standards;
(2) that the Yukon Party government promised to be open and accountable; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to provide the Legislative Assembly and the public with a full accounting of the extent of his involvement in discussions surrounding the potential sale of the Caribou Hotel in Carcross, including all phone calls and all meetings.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
Speaker: Prior to Question Period, the Chair will rule on a point of order raised by the government House leader on November 9, 2004. During Question Period on that day, the leader of the official opposition said to the Minister of Education, ďI would like to remind the minister that negotiations arenít all about money and giving money and expecting to buy people off.Ē Shortly thereafter the government House leader rose on a point of order arguing that the phrase ďbuy people offĒ was not in order. In response the official opposition House leader said, ďThe leader of the official opposition accused nobody of doing such a thing. He merely stated a principle. He believed it was wrong to do that.Ē
The Chair accepts that the argument may be made, as it was by the official opposition House leader, that the leader of the official opposition did not intend to make an accusation. However, as members know, context is fundamental to the application of the rules and practices regarding words and phrases that are or are not in order. In the context of that dayís Question Period, the phrase ďbuy people offĒ as used by the leader of the official opposition left the impression of an accusation. Members must remember that Question Period can become confrontational at times, and they should therefore take care to avoid words and phrases that might be taken as an accusation even though that is not their intention.
It is now time for Question Period.
Question re:† Health records, confidentiality
Mr. McRobb: For the second time in less than a year, computers have been stolen from territorial government offices. The RCMP have stated they didnít think records were compromised in the most recent incident, which involved computers stolen from the Social Services building in Whitehorse.
The minister has not yet said anything to assure Yukoners their personal information is not available to anyone who happens to look in a dumpster. Can the minister provide his assurance that sensitive Yukon records have not been compromised in this latest computer theft?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can provide assurances as far as I have been assured by the department that there are potentially some exposures, but to what extent the department has not fully advised me. Thatís the extent of the assurances I can provide the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: We have a greater concern. This government has reciprocal agreements for sharing information with other jurisdictions. One of those jurisdictions is the Province of British Columbia. On Thursday, the B.C. government announced it was contracting out medical plan claims to the private sector in a multi-million dollar deal. Many Yukon patients are treated in B.C.
Has the minister contacted the B.C. government to ensure that any Yukon records in the possession of B.C. health officials are kept separate and confidential?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Absolutely. The records are actually kept here. Theyíre not kept in another jurisdiction. The medical records are forwarded to this jurisdiction as soon as the patient has been dealt with or whatever procedure has been performed outside of the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: The private company that the B.C. government is using is based in Virginia. The minister must be aware that all American companies and citizens are subject to the countryís draconian Patriot Act. The personal information of British Columbians can now be accessed by the FBI, which can get a court order forcing any U.S. company to turn over information in secret or risk stiff penalties. The B.C. Privacy Commissioner has confirmed that the U.S. Patriot Act knows no borders.
This deal is a betrayal of patients who trust their medical records and related private information will be held in the strictest confidence. There is a reasonable risk that the right-wing American agenda for obsessive security will invade the privacy rights of Canadians. Will this minister contact his counterpart in B.C. and insist that the integrity of Yukonersí private records must be maintained?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is fearmongering by the official opposition. There are quite a number of programs here in use in the Yukon that are U.S.-based and U.S.-supported. The information that is contained within the medical fraternity is, to the best of my knowledge, well secured. The member opposite is fearmongering as to the potential ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: The term ďfear-mongeringĒ in the first context was barely skating out of order. The second context was absolutely out of order. Iíd ask the member to retract that and carry on, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I retract the term ďfear-mongeringĒ, but I want to assure the member opposite, all members of this Legislature and the public at large that the confidentiality of health records is of paramount importance to all involved.
Question re:††† CIBC Visa, personal information
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, my concern is similar to that of my colleagues and has to deal with bank records, so it is directed to the Minister of Community Services, who is responsible for the consumer services branch. Mr. Speaker, CIBC Visa records are kept on a U.S.-based computer system. I recently received a small-print notice with my last CIBC Visa bill, stating that in using my card, I was agreeing that the CIBC could release my personal financial information to U.S. authorities under the U.S. Patriot Act, bypassing the Canadian legal system. Is the minister aware of this issue?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, obviously, he has a specific issue that relates to his own CIBC Visa aspect, and the regulations regarding the Visa are handled through the federal government.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the minister that I am probably not the only Yukoner who has a CIBC Visa card. The minister should be concerned about the potential for abuse. Financial records of all Yukoners can contain sensitive, personal information. With the current mood in the U.S. and the way that the Patriot Act has been used in the past, who knows what other private information is being potentially compromised in the same way.
Has the minister raised any concerns with the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce or the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics? And if not, will he agree to do so?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will definitely take that under consideration and take it forward to do.
Mr. Cardiff: I can maybe help the minister out. Earlier this month I sent a letter to the House of Commons committee, and Iíd be happy to provide that to the minister. But perhaps I need to broaden the question a little bit. YTG statistics branch and Statistics Canada work very closely together sharing information. Statistics Canada recently backed down on its plans to outsource census collection to a major U.S. defence contractor, Lockheed Martin. Statistics Canada only changed its plans after receiving thousands of complaints.
Now, Yukoners need a guarantee that their personal and private information is going to remain private. As the minister responsible for the stats branch, will the Premier communicate to his federal and provincial colleagues the urgency of protecting the public and private information of all Canadians and Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Of course the government will always do the utmost to ensure that the private and confidential information of citizens of Yukon is kept in a manner that is as discrete as possible. We will always, in terms of working with the federal government, present that case on behalf of Yukon citizens.
I would like to sit down with the member opposite in regard to the stats branch issue, and if there are areas of concern that the member has, then I think itís very important that we, the government, along with the member opposite and any other members in this House, coordinate our response and presentation to the federal government to ensure the confidentiality of Yukon citizensí information. Thatís the paramount objective.
Question re: Dawson City bridge
†Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development regarding the escalating costs of the Dawson bridge. For the last 18 months, the government has insisted that the bridge would cost between $25 million and $30 million. As recently as last week in the House, the minister claimed that the bridge would cost between $25 million and $30 million. The government has just asked the private sector to help build the bridge.
It sent out a request for qualifications on November 8, asking companies to submit proposals to design, build and finance a bridge. The documents contained a new revised estimate for the cost of the bridge. Would the minister tell the House what the new, higher estimate is?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The arrangement with the B.C. organization Partnerships B.C. is certainly a big win for us to take advantage of such expertise. We have no doubt that we will save a great deal of time and money by partnering with a player of the proven track record and proven background in construction of projects of all sizes. By using the bridge as a pilot project, we can also solidify the policy to deal with the public/private partnerships.
We have issued that request for qualifications, the process is in line, and we will see what numbers come out of that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, after telling Yukoners for 18 months that the bridge would cost between $25 million and $30 million, the government has now admitted, in their request for proposal, that the real cost could be as much as $5 million higher. Weíre now looking at a project that will cost $35 million, according to the governmentís own figures and the governmentís own Web site.
Before weíve even started construction, the project has already gone up by $5 million. So much for money-managing skills of the Yukon Party.
In June of this year, the Yukon Party government announced it was spending $540,000 to have UMA Engineering design the new bridge. However, according to documents released last week, any company bidding to build the bridge is not obliged to use the work done by UMA. In other words, weíre going to pay twice to have the bridge designed.
Why is the minister throwing away $540,000 of taxpayersí money?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: For a small jurisdiction like the Yukon to go it alone in developing a P3 policy or a P3 project, I believe, would be complete folly. By this method, we can gain the experience and assistance of an organization accustomed to dealing with very large projects, like the Sea to Sky Highway for the 2010 Olympics, the floating bridge in Kelowna across Okanagan Lake and the recently constructed road in the Fort Nelson area and a bridge that was part of that project. As a matter of fact, everyone is so happy with the way that bridge turned out that they have actually named it the P3 bridge.
Again, we have to see where this process leads us. To continually throw out figures off the top of oneís head, I think, is very poorly advised and indicates very poor financial management.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, a year ago, the Premier said ó and I quote: ďWe would never enter into a public/private partnership until a clear, transparent policy is developed.Ē A year later, that is exactly what the government has done. What are the results so far to back up this backward way of doing things? First, the cost of the bridge is up $5 million. Second, because there is no policy in place, the taxpayer is now on the hook to pay to design the bridge twice ó $540,000 out the window, because the government is pushing ahead without doing its homework. The government has paid out $540,000 to a company to design a bridge. Six months later, the government is telling companies who want to build the bridge that they can provide their own design. With that kind of money, Mr. Speaker, we could hire a recreation director in Dawson. We could probably hire 10. We probably would not have to fire or lay off any of the staff at the City of Dawson. Looking after people ó
Speaker: Order please. Question please.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. Certainly Mr. Speaker, the minister hasnít answered the question. Why is the government paying to have the Dawson bridge designed twice?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: That was a long list of questions. Iíll try to deal with them in some degree of order. By making use of the experience of Partnership B.C., a B.C. organization, the Yukon stands to potentially save both time and money. Mr. Speaker, Partnership B.C. also serves ó I would remind the member opposite ó as the B.C. governmentís centre for expertise for establishing policies and best practices ó that is out of their mandate ó for successful partnership projects in the province and now in the Yukon.
It is developing the policy. If the member opposite feels that itís good financial management for a small jurisdiction like the Yukon to develop a policy in isolation from the vast majority of the western world, then I suggest this is not a policy that we will follow.
Iím sure at the end of the day weíll have a better project by bringing all of that experience to bear right away. Yukon will benefit as well from the advice of a firm with a proven track record in very large projects. It will give the community of Dawson many options for a future that simply doesnít exist today.
As for the wildly inflated projected cost of the bridge that has been† trotted out in recent weeks by some people, Iíd point out that speculation of that sort, centering on the cost of steel and other matters, is just that ó speculation. Markets go up, markets go down, and who knows what the situation will be down the road. We must wait for the study, the qualifications and the proposals. We are doing the proper thing.
Question re: Parole officers
Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. Last month Yellowknife witnessed the tragic killing of a woman parole officer in carrying out her duties with a dangerous offender. Can the minister tell the House if there are federal parole officers in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe there are, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: Parole is a federal responsibility under Corrections Canada. In the Yukon, probation officers here have been contracted by Corrections Canada to do this service. Corrections Canada has also announced new safety measures for parole officers in light of the murder in Yellowknife. Can the minister tell the House if these measures cover our territorial probation officers?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can assure the member opposite that this government would take all the precautionary measures to ensure the safety of people who work in this area.
Mr. Cardiff: Corrections Canada says that, starting immediately, home visits to offenders with a criminal history involving death or sexual assault will be performed by two parole officers. As well, home visits to remote areas will be reviewed to ensure safety precautions are taken, including notifying police. The family of the deceased parole officer have objected to the new policies. They donít think they go far enough. They say that there is a lack of checking-in protocol when a parole officer is overdue. The parole officer should never have to go to the home of a parolee alone. This is a pretty serious matter of workplace safety, and I think the minister needs to take it seriously. When will the minister implement safety measures for territorial employees in the probation services that are at least equal to that of Corrections Canada?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: If the member opposite is implying that this minister or this government does not take these issues seriously, then I would have to say that the member is out in left field, because this government does take these things seriously. Of course, any government would have to. Whenever anyoneís life is in jeopardy on the job, it is of concern, and it will always be of concern for any government. I can assure you that this government will take these issues very seriously and deal with them appropriately.
Question re: Ambulances
†Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services about those white elephant ambulances he ordered. It seems that the minister isnít satisfied with the controversy he has caused already. Weíve recently learned that his $125,000 big-box ambulances have been parked out behind the Whitehorse General Hospital because paramedics have refused to use it. Instead of using the new unit, the paramedics are using the unit thatís 15 years old. We need to know whether this minister is in touch with his department or has he bailed out on these. Can he confirm now that indeed the unit is parked because paramedics have refused to operate it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government was the first government in a long time to spend a quarter-million dollars on capital acquisitions of two four-wheel-drive ambulances, type I, which is a standard in North America today. Our government was the first government in a long time to increase honoraria for the volunteers. Our government was the first government in a long time to improve training, provide clothing and do a whole series of other initiatives in this area. That is unprecedented.
Mr. Speaker, the type I ambulance is a standard in North America in the four-wheel-drive configuration. That four-wheel drive configuration was requested by a number of individuals across the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: He refused to answer the question. Obviously heís not in touch with his department.
The minister has his own version of the history on this matter. Letís review some of the facts. In January 2004, the minister purchased two dual-wheel, four-wheel-drive, big-box ambulances for use by emergency medical services. The paramedics who operate the vehicles argued against the purchase of these cumbersome units, but the minister thought he knew best, despite expert advice to the contrary.
The minister sole-sourced a contract to a B.C. firm, despite concerns related to the abuse of the contract regulations. The money spent could have purchased three new Suburban-type units instead of two white elephants. It turned out the units were too big to fit in the ambulance bays, which cost taxpayers another $80,000.
Is the minister finally prepared to admit his meddling in this matter was a big mistake, or is he content to have his white elephants collect snow out in the parking lot?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is categorically incorrect in many of the assumptions and assertions heís advancing with respect to the purchase of the ambulances. The ambulances are a type I; that is a North American standard. The four-wheel-drive configuration is higher than the conventional two-wheel drive; yes, thatís a given, but the previous way the department had proceeded was to purchase a conversion kit for the older van-type ambulances and convert them to four-wheel drive, which is an after-market conversion that has quite a lot of difficulties.
And if I was involved in the whole process, Mr. Speaker ó I have owned three Chev products in my entire life; I have probably owned up to 100 Ford products ó I would have purchased Fords, Mr. Speaker. I wasnít involved in this process. This was a department initiative.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, why is this minister continuing to refuse to answer the questions?
Now, the new big-box ambulances are so high off the ground that ambulance workers have great difficulty in putting patients into them. In fact, the unsafe and unhealthy conditions attached to the units have already caused at least six employees to file complaints to the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board. They have suffered back injuries trying to load patients into the high units.
The ministerís solution to this problem is to hide them in the communities, where there are fewer calls, fewer injuries and fewer complaints ó out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. Why does the minister expect rural paramedics and volunteer ambulance attendants to operate these units when Whitehorse paramedics have declared them unsafe?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should go back and review Hansard. The outlying areas have requested four-wheel-drive ambulances in a number of the outlying areas. Our commitment the last cycle was for a four-wheel-drive ambulance for Ross River, and this government took the initiative, budgeted the money, purchased the four-wheel-drive ambulance for Ross River as well as a second four-wheel-drive ambulance. What the member is suggesting is that the ambulance four-wheel-drive configuration is too high. We acknowledge it is higher off the ground than a two-wheel-drive in the same type I ambulance, Mr. Speaker, but there are some areas of the Yukon that do require a four-wheel-drive access to get into and out of, and it is the governmentís responsibility to ensure that that type of vehicle is in place.
Question re: Liquor licence infractions
†Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. Every year the Yukon Liquor Corporation publishes its annual report, including a summary of liquor licence infractions during the previous year. Unfortunately, this summary does not provide much information about how these infractions were dealt with. The report for 2002-03 indicates that seven liquor licence infractions were upheld during that year and 45 letters of warning were issued for offences under the Liquor Act and regulations. Can the minister explain why the corresponding numbers for each type of infraction are not included in the annual report?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I can certainly confirm that there was an ATIPP request in September from the opposition. We are seeking legal advice on whether the letters of warning, for instance, can be released. We will be providing responses within the time limits on that.
The request on the table is for four years of suspension orders and their dispositions, appeals and letters of warning and such. Although the suspensions themselves are public information, itís not clear whether the letters of warning are to be disclosed and we are seeking legal advice on that.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís news to us. Iím quite surprised that a question around what should be public knowledge needs legal advice. Maybe the minister can explain that outside the Legislature.
In order to compile the summary, of course, the corporation must maintain records of individual infractions. Recently a member of my staff, as he has mentioned already, filed a request for records under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. That was for records of licence infractions for the past four years.
After seeking an extension to answer this request, the Liquor Corporation notified us that it would take 56 hours to compile the information that was requested ó 56 hours, Mr. Speaker. Can the minister explain how it could possibly take so long to retrieve straightforward statistical information of this type?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It was good to hear the member opposite complete his sentence ó he recognized a member of his staff had filed an ATIPP request after saying that it was news to him. We are trying to deal with this. Certainly a great deal of time is necessary to go through a lot of the records and such. I will be happy to explain that for the member opposite. The suspensions are public information; however, a summary level information on suspensions and letters of warning ó which is the real problem here ó publishes information on suspensions in the monthly licensee information bulletin, but it doesnít disclose the specifics on letters of warning. Thatís the real matter at hand.
Mr. Hardy: Now perhaps the minister could look at how the Liquor Corporation maintains its records. We consider it a fairly straightforward request. We would expect that this information should be at the fingertips of the corporation. Iím not willing to suggest unwillingness on the part of the corporation to provide the information that has been requested because, as I said earlier, this kind of information should be readily available to the public.
Thereís another aspect to this issue that does disturb me though. The Liquor Corporation wants my office ó the office of the official opposition ó to agree to a fee of $1,326.50 for retrieving and preparing these records with no guarantee that the relevant information will actually be provided. In other words, the taxpayers who pay for the opposition offices have to cough up more than $1,300 to pay the Liquor Corporation, which is owned by the taxpayers, for information that should be readily available. In order to demonstrate this governmentís promised commitment to be open and accountable, will the minister act in the public interest by tabling the information requested before the end of this legislative sitting? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: As I mentioned before, the information on suspensions and such is in the monthly licensee information bulletins, which is readily available from the Liquor Board offices. If the member opposite has a problem getting over there and picking up the copies of them that are publicly available, Iíd be more than happy to have them sent over.
Again, the problem is letters of warning that are used as a tool. Section 24(1) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which I think the member opposite is somewhat familiar with, sets amounts of time and the relative fees for that. Thatís set in law. Thatís not something that I or any other member of this government can control. It is the law.
I find it strange that the member opposite says that heís not going to pay for it, but he expects the taxpayer to pay for it. If it is information that they want, I have no problem with providing it. But again, we are seeking legal information. The letters of warning are used as a tool by our inspectors to promote compliance with the act. They bring to the attention of management situations or trends found within the inspection reports and seek to help them correct them. They are a tool, and the legal question is: do they really fall under the section ó and I quote, ďdisclosure harmful to business interests of a third partyĒ, which is section 24(1).
Question re: Rural domestic water well program
†Mr. Arntzen: † Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Community Services. The rural domestic water well program was developed at the request of Yukoners who are affected by the price increase of water deliveries. Because this program is based on the rural electrification and telephone program, it is only open to those living on properties where YTG is the taxation authority.
Mr. Speaker, I have a number of constituents who would like to apply for this program, but they canít do so at this time. When the rural well program was first proposed, the hope was that this program would at some point be available within municipal boundaries. To do this, an agreement was needed between YTG and municipalities for the municipality to provide ó
Speaker: Order please. Would the member ask the question?
Mr. Arntzen: I would ask the question. Would the minister please advise me of the current status of discussion between the Yukon government and municipalities about this program?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite indicated, municipalities have the authority to tax within their bases, and that is something that we as the government do not want to intrude upon unless weíre asked to on behalf of the municipalities. We have conveyed this to the municipalities. To date, only two have come forth, indicating an interest in the process. Once we are able to go further on that issue, we will advise the member opposite.
Mr. Arntzen: Will the minister please indicate if and when he believes my constituents who live within the City of Whitehorse boundaries will be able to apply for this rural well program? Is there any time available?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Once the City of Whitehorse, in his particular case, comes forth and we can work out an arrangement ó or they can work out an arrangement ó with regard to the program, then I assume his members will be able to apply for the well-drilling program.
However, I do know that there is a small amount of cash available through the Yukon Housing Corporation for a well-drilling program that can be utilized within the City of Whitehorse.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Ms. Duncan: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), Iíd like to identify the item standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, November 17, 2004. It is Motion No. 275, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to identify Bill No. 107, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, to be called on Wednesday, November 17.
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: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 11, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04. Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 11 ó Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04 ó continued
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 11, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In continuing on with general debate ó and frankly we spent a great deal of time yesterday in general debate on many issues that had nothing to do with this very simple supplementary budget closing out fiscal year 2003-04. We ranged in discussion from Dezadeash Trail to grouse to coal-bed methane to all kinds of areas, but nothing other than two questions that would pertain to the existing Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04, which we are here to debate.
Iíd like to point out to the members opposite that we have two departments ó two areas ó for discussion and debate because of overexpenditure; therefore, these two departments require the spending authority of this Legislative Assembly. We know the amounts; we delved into that.
The members were making an issue over lapsed funds, so on and so forth. Well, we responded to those same questions, which were repeated over and over. We responded in a manner that is consistent with what has been done throughout governments ó historically and consistently by all governments, there are lapsed funds.
The concern expressed by the members opposite is that these lapsed funds somehow detracted from programs and service delivery to Yukoners; we as a government side informed the members opposite that that would be incorrect. They did not detract nor compromise in any way, shape or form, programs or service delivery to Yukoners. There are historically lapsed monies, because we do deal with projected figures. There are lapsed monies in the operation and maintenance areas that are going to be set out in the final accounting of any fiscal year and deemed and booked as lapsed funds.
The departments do not expend all the money. I think what we have to look at ó and this is to the credit of the departments, and this is all about sound fiscal management based on what we must do at the beginning of each fiscal year, and that is project over the next 12 months where the finances of the territory will go, where departments must spend money, in what areas they would be spending money, and that is exactly what has transpired here.
Further to that, there has been a final accounting for the fiscal year in question ó 2003-04 ó that has been made public and tabled in this House for any Yukoners, members opposite included, to critique and review and draw their own conclusions ó very detailed, very comprehensive. It is the public accounts for the fiscal year 2003-04, laying out all the information pertinent to the finances of the Yukon Territory for that fiscal year.
Now, Mr. Chair, there seems to be a propensity from the members opposite to want to continue on with general debate on this appropriation act. The government side will be very consistent in its response. The time now has come, considering the hours spent in discussing everything but the appropriation act and the Department of Health and Social Servicesí requirement for an overexpenditure authority and the Public Service Commissionís requirement for an overexpenditure authority. It is time now to move on to the department-by-department, line-by-line debate.
If the members choose not to do so, then frankly, Mr. Chair, itís important that all Yukoners recognize that there is little appetite to constructively debate the business of this House, which is the publicís business.
We have gone on at great length over many areas. We have responded constructively in every area we possibly could. The government will not speculate in responses, the government will not try to create something that is not there, and the members opposite well know that when they ask their questions.
So, as I wrap up here, we have an appropriation act, Bill No. 11, to close out the fiscal year 2003-04. It has increased expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services for such things as childcare, for such things as patients who have to go outside the Yukon for surgery, for example. We ensured that we took care of Yukonersí needs.
In the other areas, which would be the Public Service Commissionís requirements, this has a great deal to do with our employees and we are meeting those areas we are obligated to. Thatís the debate that should be carried out in this House, and the members opposite well know that.
So at the end of the day, the response from now on will be, ďWe are at the juncture where itís time to move on to department-by-department, line-by-line debate for Bill No. 11, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04.Ē
Mr. McRobb: I donít understand why the Premier wants to grouse about what the opposition is doing here. We know what our job is, and itís the Premierís job to set a good example across the way to provide the information requested.
What we saw yesterday afternoon were several examples that indicated that the Premier is not willing to provide the information requested. So the question is: why not?
We could talk about accountability and openness of government and how the Premier and his colleagues are not fulfilling promises made to Yukoners. We covered that in discussion yesterday, but I would like to be more detailed in questions this afternoon. We do have a number of questions to ask related to this supplementary budget.
I recall some criticism levied by the government side toward the opposition ó something to the effect that the opposition didnít spend sufficient time reviewing the Yukon Partyís record budget for the fiscal year 2004-05.† We heard similar concerns about the last fiscal year; however, the Premier should realize that this supplementary adds funds to the fiscal budget year from 2003-04, and it is incumbent upon us in opposition to scrutinize the spending plans of the Yukon Party to a degree that is sufficient to provide us with a reasonable level of comfort that those spending decisions were made prudently and on behalf of Yukoners as a whole.
There are several areas to contest that level of assessment. There are some questionable expenditures. Earlier today in Question Period we heard about the ambulances, for example ó the white elephant ambulances ó where one of them is parked out behind the hospital, because it is gathering snow.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
†Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We do have rules when it comes to Committee of the Whole, contrary to what the Member for Kluane may think. These rules are consistent with the fact that the debate at least must remotely reflect the bill, the appropriation act, the legislation at hand. The member opposite is talking about ambulances that have nothing to do with this bill. The members opposite ó
Chair: Order please. Is there a Standing Order in violation?
Chair: Hearing none, there is no point of order. Please continue on with debate.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would suggest the Premier has got his feathers ruffled again, is grousing about something that doesnít exist.
The ambulances were purchased in the fiscal year of this supplementary budget. Whatís the problem? Obviously he still has a penchant for interrupting, and he should get over that and focus more on governing this territory and responding to the public interest.
Now, Mr. Chair, I was citing some examples that clearly indicate the government is not fulfilling the public trust and how it spends money, and that is a problem to us. As a matter of fact, unless the government is able to convince us otherwise, we may not support this supplementary budget when it comes to a vote.
Furthermore, Mr. Chair, there is a lot to say about the lack of process involved on the governmentís behalf with this bill and the expenditure of funds in the fiscal year.
I cited yesterday a couple of examples about how it ignores the MLAs on the opposition side when it comes to spending money in their ridings. Why doesnít the government at least consult the MLA for Mayo-Tatchun when it comes to spending money on the Carmacks school and the College? Why didnít they even consult him? And there are lots of examples. That is not the type of government the Yukon Party promised to be at election time, yet it has turned out to be a closed government, one that doesnít involve all members of this Assembly.
Yesterday afternoon I reminded the Premier that that goes against one of the promises the Yukon Party made at election time. Yukon people donít care that much about the parties. They want us to work together, all 18 of us to work together in here. And weíre not seeing that happening.
I feel partly responsible. Thatís why this is of importance to me. I think the government needs to take the lead on this matter and do something to correct it.
Now, the information weíre requesting is very important to our examination of the supplementary budget. The Premier indicated that he will make available ministers for all the departments identified in order to respond to our questions. Well, Iím looking forward to that opportunity.
There are a number of departments and agencies identified. Schedule A lists pretty well the whole slate of government agencies and departments that are within the control of the government. Itís my understanding there are about five departments and agencies included in this supplementary budget weíre dealing with now that are not included in the supplementary budget for the 2004-05 fiscal year, Bill No. 11. Those departments and agencies include the Yukon Legislative Assembly Office, the Elections Office, the Office of the Ombudsman, Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Liquor Corporation. So, Mr. Chair, this is our opportunity to ask questions, as the Premier puts it, to the ministers responsible for each of those. This is the only opportunity available to us in the opposition benches to ask those types of questions. There is no other opportunity because those departments and agencies are not identified in this yearís supplementary budget.
So I wish the Premier would take this matter a little more seriously and respect the wishes of the opposition when we say we do want to spend some time debating this bill. We will be putting forward an information request to the Premier this afternoon in general debate, and weíre hoping he will satisfy our request with undertakings to return with information. Weíre open and weíre flexible. If the Premier doesnít have the information at his fingertips, if the officials in the departments and agencies canít provide it, then weíre satisfied with an undertaking or a commitment to return with a legislative return. That is a common tool used in this Legislature to communicate information and yet itís one this government has avoided using.
Yesterday I commented that, in the first two years of this government, they probably set a record for the least number of legislative returns of any government I can recall. As a matter of fact, Iíll even go a step further and say that during one departmental debate involving a former Minister of Government Services, there were more legislative returns undertaken during the discussion ó during that sole opportunity ó than during the whole course of this version of the Yukon Party government.
Why is that, Mr. Chair? Itís not because we havenít asked for information. Itís because the government has refused to provide the information; thatís why. Thereís no way we in the opposition can force the government to provide a legislative return. We canít do it.
The consequences of not providing information become an issue of public accountability. Thatís why you hear us in the opposition talk about accountability so frequently, and thatís why even the government side recognizes the importance of accountability, and thatís why accountability is frequently mentioned in campaign material and so on and so forth, even budget speeches. We may have heard it from the Premier himself on Bill No. 12.
A lot of this will speak to not only the character of government but also to the level the government is willing to go to, to meet the information requirements of the opposition parties. Yesterday I requested a simple procedure from the government but the Premier denied us that request, which was to simply commit to an annual report of travel expenses for members of the Cabinet offices and MLAs and staff upstairs.
He went to great lengths to explain how the information is routinely provided and so on, but he ignored comments already on the record that the information is not provided automatically. Itís only provided when weíre sitting, generally, and if the opposition makes the request. We might then get some of the information.
What we are requesting is a different request, yet the Premier has denied the request. Thatís another matter for accountability. It indicates that this government is not being open to the same level that it promised Yukoners it would be.
We are taking note of this deficiency, Mr. Chair, along with several others, and we will be bringing this to the attention of Yukoners. We hope ó
The Premier is thumping his desk over that, Mr. Chair. You know, that shows that man at the helm of the good ship Yukon Party doesnít care about what the public thinks. He dismisses the importance of public accountability, and I believe that is wrong. I think most Yukoners would also believe that is wrong. If the government would only become regrounded with Yukoners, it would discover that some of the major concerns out there involve the ethics of government and the need for government disclosure and accountability.
I want to wrap up by getting on record the Premierís commitment to the opposition that ministers responsible for all the departments and agencies identified in the budget will be available to answer questions during Committee debate on this bill. I would like the Premier to reaffirm that commitment if he could.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The Premier is not getting up. Why is that? Will he not reaffirm the commitment that he made yesterday on at least two occasions? Whatís the problem? Why wonít he get up? This speaks to the dismal level of openness and accountability by the Yukon Party government.
I would have expected more. I believe it also shows a disrespect to opposition members in this Legislature when the Premier, or any government member for that matter, refuses to stand up ó especially the Premier has not cited a reason for not standing. He just remains sitting. Mr. Chair, is that open and accountable government? Well, I would hardly think so. I think it clearly shows this government puts itself above Yukoners, above the members in the official opposition and above the member of the third party for not standing to answer a question.
Mr. Chair, it makes one wonder what would have happened had the previous government taken such a position when the Premier and his deputy were in opposition during the last term. Well, I was there; I was part of that opposition, and I can tell you that it wouldnít take too much imagination to think about what would have happened under those circumstances. I think there would have been a lot of grousing, if I can use that word, because the Premier and his deputy back in those days used to team together on these types of issues in a united voice whenever it came to any kind of a dismissal of the oppositionís rights in this Legislature. Yet he is the one now who has chosen to remain seated when a question was posed to him.
This, I want to put on record, is a fresh question. On no previous occasion was that question asked. So Iím hoping the Premier has had an opportunity to reflect on this situation and will stand.
So I will ask the question again: will the Premier reaffirm the commitment he made yesterday that all the ministers responsible for the departments and agencies listed in Schedule A of this supplementary will be available to answer our questions and information requests during Committee debate on this bill? Would he reaffirm that for us?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. McRobb: We can keep this going for awhile; thatís fine with me. Let the record again show that the Premier wouldnít stand to answer a question. Weíre talking about $43 million of lapsed funds plus other funds that are being expended through this bill. Thatís shameful. The Premier chooses to not stand up and defend his governmentís bill.
You know, when the weather gets rough, the captain at the helm of the good ship Yukon Party is somewhere down below. Heís down below in this bunk, and thereís nobody at the helm, nobody else prepared to stand up and steer this ship. Itís almost rudderless. I think the Premierís persistence in remaining seated and not responding to questions asked by the opposition clearly indicates that is the case. Well, thatís not good for democracy; itís not good for this Legislature, and itís not good for all MLAs in here to see the Premier engaged in such practice. What is it he wants to avoid by remaining seated? Well, letís think about that. Weíve got lots of time this afternoon. Letís think about that. Does he not want to put on record a commitment to make his ministers available during Committee debate? Could that be it? Maybe it is. You know, yesterday afternoon he was so gung-ho to have the opposition stand down in general debate, which is the process weíre in right now, and bring this bill into Committee where the opposition can ask for specific details.
But he seems to have forgotten all that overnight, Mr. Chair, because yesterday he assured us he would make ministers available to respond to our questions and information requests. Yet today heís not willing to take that same position.
So what is the position of the Premier? He wants us to stand down in general debate, to ask the questions in Committee of the Whole, yet he is obviously not willing to make his ministers available to answer the questions in Committee of the Whole. So what gives?
There are old expressions ó ďI was born at night, but not last nightĒ or ďI didnít just fall off the turnip truckĒ and so on and so forth. Those expressions come to mind in a situation like this because weíre not easily led into a situation in which our rights as opposition members are forfeited. Our rights are very important to us and our rights are essential in fulfilling our duties as opposition MLAs in holding the government accountable. One of our rights is the ability to ask questions of the government and have them answered.
We know what this government is like in Question Period ó it wonít answer questions; it stays within the confines of briefing notes, regardless of the questions. We saw that again today with the Minister of Health and Social Services about the ambulances that are gathering snow out in the back of the parking lot, the big white elephants. I urge the minister to maybe take a look at todayís newspaper, Mr. Chair. Maybe heíll learn from what could be a picture in the paper that it indeed is happening.
Mr. Chair, I would rather spend my time more productively than railing on about this. But the Premier has forced us as an opposition to belabour this opportunity, and instead of focusing ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Committee of the Whole proceedings, section 42(2), speeches in Committee of the Whole shall be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration. ďStrictlyĒ is the qualifier, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Thank you.
The Chair knows full well what the rules regarding Committee of the Whole debate are and I would encourage all members to follow them. Please, letís allow debate to continue.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you. The Health minister should pay a little closer attention because I am speaking about this budget.
Obviously a matter of great concern to us is how the Premier wonít rise to respond to our question, which is very simple and straightforward. We need to know. We need to know if our questions will be answered in the next stage of this process before we stand down the general debate process.
The Premier assured us yesterday that that would happen. He said the ministers would be available to respond.
I want to point out the reason I am asking, and that is that Iíve discovered that only two departments are available for questioning. Those are the two departments with the appropriations. That means that all the other departments and agencies that are identified with lapses are not subject to responding by the ministers responsible.
†I would imagine that constraint that lies somewhere within House rules or accepted parliamentary practice can be circumnavigated with the consent of the government to respond to our questions of those departments and agencies. I am assuming that is possible. Iím not wanting to ask the Premier to break the rules. I am assuming that is possible. So if the Premier would only go on record, as he did yesterday, to say the ministers will be up and be prepared to respond to our questions and information requests, then we can stand down in general debate and move into Committee and deal with these matters on this bill, but he hasnít done that. I would like to invite the Premier to just send over a signal that he is willing to establish that undertaking today with a little more clarity, and Iíll sit down and give him the opportunity to speak to it. If he is able to reconcile this matter, we might be willing to move directly into Committee on this bill.
In the absence of any action from the Premier, then weíre going to have a long afternoon. The debate will be fairly one-sided without the governmentís participation. Weíre not willing to stand down in general debate on this bill. What weíre going to get is probably a series of 20-minute speeches about this bill and about how the government wonít hold itself to the level of accountability it indicated, even yesterday, it would provide.
So recognizing the House rules or parliamentary practice really donít provide any mechanism to ensure progress is made, even though the Speaker does request at the end of the day what is called ďa report on progressĒ. I recall from my own experience as a past chair of having to give a report on progress when in fact there was very little progress. I think, Mr. Chair, if and when you give the report this afternoon ó unless the Premier is ready to take the bull by the horns ó your experience will be very similar to the one Iím referring to. And thatís too bad, but all is not lost, because we do have the time available in this fall sitting to deal with such matters. The sitting last spring was entirely different. There is the same period of time ó 30 sitting days ó and a record budget and other matters to deal with ó supplementary budgets, and I think there was some legislation. It was a pretty busy agenda. We saw the government ministers really dragging their feet when it came to responding to our questions, and the clock was working against us, and the government side knew it. That is why it deployed that type of a strategy. When the end date came, the budget hadnít been reviewed, so that is why weíre wanting to spend more time on this supplementary budget at this opportunity, because we do believe Yukoners care about the prudence of expenditures by this Yukon Party government.
You know, Mr. Chair, there are lots of areas to be concerned about. There are lots of areas where this government has spent money that havenít been identified or scrutinized. There are expenditures such as the White Pass train car, which have come out through our questioning in this House, but should have come out before. Thatís just one recent example. So it is beneficial for Yukoners to have a discussion in here regarding the expenditures of government, and there are lots of areas that need the light of day shone down on them. That is what we are attempting to do.
So our role in here is very important, and I think every one of us in the official opposition and the third party take our roles very seriously. This supplementary budget contains significant lapses and expenditures, and itís not something weíre willing to give up on just because the Premier chooses to remain sitting when heís asked a direct and new question.
Itís our role and our responsibility to ensure that our questions are asked. We do have some information requests pertaining to the departments and agencies identified in this supplementary budget, and unless the Premier can give us the reassurance that he will put up his ministers to respond to our requests during the Committee stage of this review, then we are forced to ask for that information during this stage of the review, which is general debate.
So hopefully the Premier will have had a little more time to think about it and remember back to when he was on the opposition benches and understand the importance of the opposition and our need for information. So I would like to ask him again if heís willing to put on record the fact the ministers will be up to answer our questions and to respond to our information requests during Committee debate on this budget. Would he do that?
If he isnít willing to do that, then I suppose we could either continue with what weíre doing now or we can pose the questions in request to the Premier. The Premier should think about that because thatís what he has his ministers there for ó to deal with the details of their departments. The Premier shouldnít be micromanaging in departments ó and itís not just this Premier Iím talking about, itís anyone. He should delegate the responsible authority to those charged with the responsibility.
Unless we can be assured those with the responsibility will be available to respond, then of course we must redirect our questions to the Premier at this opportunity. So I would like him to respond, in the interest of Yukoners. Would he assure us the ministers will be available in Committee debate?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. McRobb: Well, here we go again, Mr. Chair. Obviously by default we can assume the Premier prefers to respond to our questions and information requests in person rather than delegating them to his ministers. Weíre going to get to that.
There are a number of requests weíll be asking for. In the spirit of cooperation, I would invite the Premier, the Minister of Finance, to satisfy our requests, and if we on this side of the House are satisfied, then perhaps this is something we can vote for when it comes to that stage of review. Failing that assurance, why should we vote for his bill? Thatís what it comes down to.
The onus is on the government to satisfy the opposition that its bills meet the public interest. How could it be otherwise? How could the onus be on the opposition to ensure that public interest is served by money bills from the government? How can the onus possibly be on the opposition, especially if the government doesnít respond to our requests? How can that possibly be?
Well, the government seems to think thatís the way it should be.
Maybe the day will come when some of those members are on this side of the House ó and only then will the reality of this situation be driven home, and they will understand the importance of this situation to the opposition parties.
Obviously the Premier considers it a step down to deal with us in the official opposition. Maybe, you know, hobnobbing with the Ralphs and Gordons and Franks and Pauls out there has lifted his spirits. Maybe we are not good enough any more. Maybe he is too far above the opposition members to respond to our requests. Is that it? Is that it, Mr. Chair? Well, it seems to be it. It seems to be it.
Maybe we should change our names on this side. Maybe that would work. I donít know what would work, but the Premier ought to recognize that Yukoners do consider this to be a matter of importance. They do support the role and presence of an opposition in their Legislature, and they do believe that government should respond to questions and requests. I think that has been proven out through a variety of polls and talk shows and interviews in the streets over the years and maybe some reports on this subject matter in the newspapers as well.
Yukoners do support a legislature that is based on accountability and functions. What we are seeing here is a failure of that functionality. The failure can only be attributed to the government side because they fail to respond to a relatively simple question.
I donít know why the Premier wonít give the assurance today. It was good enough for him yesterday. I donít know what happened overnight.
There really is a need for the government to respond. We do have a list of questions.
Maybe we ought to move to some of the questions at this opportunity. The questions, of course, would be posed to the Premier because he is not making available his ministers to respond and weíre forced to do it in general debate because he is not assuring us that we will have that opportunity in Committee.
I would like to ask the Premier a question about the Yukon Development Corporation. The question pertains to the audit of the Mayo transmission line and the cost overruns.† In the fiscal year covered by this budget this matter became an issue of importance to Yukoners. Weíve been assured on previous occasions that the Auditor Generalís report would be made available. I seem to recall that a date of June 2004 was mentioned as a date that the auditorís report would become available.
Can the Premier indicate to us when we might expect that report?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Although the Auditor Generalís report on the audit being done on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line is not yet concluded by the Auditor Generalís office, the Auditor General, as is customary, will make that report public upon its completion. The relevance to supplementary, Bill No. 11, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04, for that particular question certainly is reflected in our Standing Orders but I will not waste any time going there.
Furthermore, the Auditor General makes other reports available to the public. Itís called the public accounts. And consistent with what the government has said all along, the appropriation for this supplementary is reflected in the public accounts, which was tabled very early in this sitting.
Now, if the Member for Kluane wants to glean more information, itís all here, as produced by the Auditor General. The bill in question is a reflection of what the Auditor General has produced. As far as ministers available, yes. The Minister of Health and Social Services and the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission will be available, if we ever get to department-by-department debate.
I am not even going to respond to a lot of the things that the member has put on record, because the beauty of what he has put on record reads as crazy as it sounds.
Mr. Chair, thank you.
Chair: Order please. The Premierís comments were clearly insulting, and I would ask the member not to make insulting comments or characterize membersí comments in that nature.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, there are many adjectives that could be used for how the memberís comments read in comparison to how they sound, but all of them would be unparliamentary, so I will not relay them here.
Mr. Chair, we have responded countless times over the last few days in regard to this supplementary, and the responses will not change. If the member is willing to or has any interest in the context of conducting the publicís business and moving forward with this bill, that is a choice they make. We have reiterated constantly, over and over, what the information is in the supplementary bill. It is clear what it is. It is reflected in the public accounts, and I would hope ó before coming into this House and attempting to debate the supplementary bill ó the member had apprised himself of the information in this document, the public accounts for 2003-04.
The member has also talked at great lengths about accountability. I think we went into that yesterday ó the difference between accountability by government and how the opposition views legislation and indeed the budgeting for this territory that has been ongoing now for two years, budgeting that shows investments in the Yukon in stimulating our economy is working. Thatís a fact. It shows that our budgets are consistent with historical lapses, the projections by departments ó to their credit. These are the departmentsí efforts to bring forward projected figures for budgeting so that Management Board and government can put together a budget that will fit for the fiscal year that will be ongoing ahead of us, and there will always be lapsed funds. Iíve pointed out consistently, over and over, that those lapsed funds do not reduce any program or service delivery to Yukoners. They are merely monies that were not expended in that fiscal year. The information for all this is in the public accounts for 2003-04 ó not produced by the government, produced by the Auditor Generalís office.
Now, when it comes to accountability, if you follow the logic of the memberís argument, the member is saying that the Auditor General is not accountable because the information in the supplementary budget is a reflection of the public accounts as produced by the Auditor General.
Now, there are two items for debate with this supplementary budget. They are items that are within the purview of the Department of Health and Social Services in an increased expenditure that is required to receive spending authority as dictated and directed by the Auditor General and the Public Service Commission, which is an overexpenditure in the fiscal year 2003-04, which is required to receive spending authority in this Legislature.
It brings to mind this question: is the Member for Kluane interested in those areas, and if so, of course the government will respond. If the Member for Kluane is not interested, then he can go on day after day and weíll allow the pages of Hansard to be filled with that type of debate, and the adjectives that would reflect that type of debate cannot be used in this House because they would be unparliamentary.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, at least the Premier was able to respond, and thatís a good sign. Thereís very little I would agree with, however.
First of all, the Auditor General only looks at a certain part of the situation. The Auditor General does not scrutinize the ministerís policies and actions with respect to his corporation. Thatís our job in here, so whatever the minister was referring to obviously didnít pertain to our area of responsibility, which is outside the purview of the Auditor General.
The Premier indicated that the audit was not yet concluded, that it wasnít made public yet. We know that. He pointed to the public accounts report, saying that information within that report is tabled in this Legislature. Well, sure, by the end of every October ó I believe the rule reads ó a public accounts report must be tabled.
Is the Premier suggesting we need to wait for more than 11 months for next yearís information? I would submit that is a very unreasonable proposition. Furthermore, the information we seek is never provided in the public accounts report ó never. So I want to follow up.
There are a few other issues I take exception to, but not at this time. Letís see if we can make progress.
I want to ask the Premier if the draft Auditor Generalís report has in fact been made available to his government. Can he respond to that?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †It has been a very interesting debate listening to the discussion that has been transpiring over the last couple of days. I am not sure where we are heading, but it has been very intriguing, to say the least.
I have been sitting here and listening with great, avid interest to some of the questions coming from the side opposite. Some of them are good questions. I think the point to be made here is the fact that we as ministers are ready to debate the budget ó the 2004-05 supplementary budget.
Right now, however, we are closing out 2003-04. We have two line items before us. Before we actually get to those line items, we are discussing general debate. I think that the Premier has made it unequivocally clear that we are here as a government. We are here waiting for debate, for questions, relating to our specific departments.
In this specific bill, we have two line departments: Public Service Commission and the Department of Health and Social Services. We are both prepared to move on to those two departments, but we also need to clear general debate.
Just to put on the record: we are here, and we look forward to questions coming forward from the members opposite.
With respect to the Public Service Commission, just in general terms, I think the members are fairly clear on what this $403,000 request in supplementary is for. Itís required to cover the overexpenditures in the areas of the employer portion of retirees extended health care, recruitments, workersí compensation premiums, employee leave and termination benefits.
Certainly, I would be very happy to go into specifics, if that is where members opposite wish to proceed to next. As my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, has also reiterated, he is prepared to proceed on his particular item as well.
So, just to put that on the record: we are here; we are waiting for those questions, and we look forward to the constructive debate coming forward, and we will do our best to provide answers accordingly. We would certainly look forward to hearing from members opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: I do have a few questions. By the answer that we are getting from the minister, it appears that the Premier has abandoned his team. I would like to ask some questions in this supplementary budget. It has been brought forward again and again that there are two line items in this budget, but there are a number of different departments listed where there are lapses and monies going back into general revenue. We are interested in projects that the department said they were going to do last year. Weíve asked questions on them over the spring and the previous year. Some of those questions have not been answered and weíre wrapping up the fiscal year. This is it.
The Premier is asking the House to approve over $800,000 and we are wondering about projects that have been put on the shelf, put on hold, cancelled or whatnot. It is significant because what weíre talking about here is $43 million in lapsed funding. Some of them are pretty major. For example, when you look at Environment in capital, 50 percent of the funding that we voted on in this House is going back into general revenue. Doesnít that require an explanation by the Minister of Environment?† Which projects, for example, have been cancelled? Even if the government says they were practising good fiscal management, these are capital dollars not O&M. I think it needs an explanation.
What we would like to do is to go through some of those. Thatís why weíre asking the Premier to either answer the questions or let the ministers answer them, because they are more knowledgeable in their departments than the Premier is, I believe.
We can track it from that year to this year and to the following year. Some of them go on throughout the whole term of this Yukon Party government ó the five-point plan, for example, for FASD. Is it in O&M? Is a portion of it in capital? Is it in Education or Health and Social Services? For example, I think that could be explained by the minister more appropriately. I donít see a problem with that. We donít want to go into any detail on this budget. Itís only $819,000. There is $43 million going back into general revenues. That is after saying that it was the biggest budget at the time, and now it appears that it has fallen a bit short. I think it is only appropriate that we get answers from government on this matter.
This is general debate, so we can go into a number of different areas. I donít know which member on that side of the House can answer this question, but letís use an example here: Education has a decrease of close to $1 million in operation and maintenance. Education has a decrease of $1.5 million plus in capital. So can the minister or the Premier give us a list of why that money is going back into general revenues? Is it that some projects have been delayed, put on the shelf? For example, the Education Act review? Can that question be answered, and maybe the minister who had been listening to the question can answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Weíre going to go around this forever. The facts are, as relayed yesterday and in two responses today and weíre not going to respond much longer ó the issue here is debating what is in the supplementary budget in terms of the Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04. For the information the members seek, all they have to do is pick up the public accounts and go through it.
As far as capital lapses, obviously capital lapses would reflect the fact that there are projects that are either not going ahead in this fiscal year or are extending into another fiscal year. If the member opposite wants to engage in a debate on where weíre at with capital lapses, itís completely consistent with historical figures going back as far as 1993. Governments have debated supplementary budgets all through that period and life goes on and the universe unfolds as it should.
Iím going to be blunt. The official opposition is trying to waste time in this Legislature. In doing so, they are wasting the taxpayersí money because the Auditor General has already provided in great detail the full accounting of the fiscal year 2003-04 and the appropriation act merely closes out what the Auditor General has ensured we do for that fiscal year.
There is much to be discussed and debated in the new fiscal year. Again, Mr. Chair, here we have an example of the government side building a future while the official opposition is trying to reconstruct the past. The members opposite, especially the NDP, are a year behind here. There is much to be discussed and debated for 2004-05. That is the fiscal year weíre in. If the members followed the public accounts as they should ó thatís why we table that information ó and if they choose to, they will find all the information they require. In the meantime, all we need to do is discuss the total of $819,000. That is what closes out the fiscal year of 2003-04.
I think if the members opposite read the appropriation act, the piece of legislation weíre dealing with, itís quite explicit and it lays it all out. If I may, I will proceed in a manner that reflects exactly that. This whole appropriation of a total of $819,000 is for defraying the several charges and expenses of the public service of Yukon payable in the period of 12 months ending March 31, 2004, as set forth in Schedule A of this act, which includes all sums previously appropriated for any part of the same period ó and thatís important, ďpreviously appropriatedĒ. In other words, much of this was debated already when we debated the mains. That sum shall not be paid or applied except in accordance with Schedule A and B, the Financial Administration Act, and subject to that act the estimates accompanying the message from the Commissioner.
This is what weíre talking about. The official opposition is looking into areas where they have the information already. Itís in their hands. They have tried all kinds of angles on how to deal with that particular area, including wanting us to direct officials who are busy and charged with the responsibility of delivering programs and services to Yukoners to spend countless hours of time and taxpayersí resources producing reports for travel already made public. The list goes on and on. There are areas of accountability in this House, and itís high time the official opposition was accountable to the Yukon public in this Legislature by conducting themselves in an accountable manner in debate.
Chair: Before debate continues, the Chair is becoming uncomfortable with the trend that I have recognized. Members on both sides of the Legislature today, and in recent debate, have questioned the motivation behind several actions, questioned motive, questioned intent. The Chair has heard the phrase ďthe member is trying toĒ on several occasions, and I would like to remind members of our Standing Order 19(g), which states that it is out of order to impute false or unavowed motives to another member. I ask members to respect the Standing Orders and not to impute motives on others.
Mr. Fairclough: When the Premier was on this side of the House he had no problem wanting to get information from government in regard to lapsed funding. Take a look at the Blues. What has changed now? Does the Premier feel that members on this side of the House have to be shut down in giving out information?
There is nothing wrong with the questions that weíre asking. I gave an example of the Department of Environment where 50 percent of their capital funding has not been spent ó 50 percent.
What is wrong with knowing ó because this is final, right here. I donít believe we are going to come back and say we are going to tweak it for another $5,000. Weíre asking for additional spending. We are put on notice in this House that government will be lapsing some $43 million. There is nothing wrong with the opposition asking what projects have been put on hold by the looks of the monies going back into general revenue. There is nothing wrong with that.
We fully understand how monies and projects continue on the next year and they are being funded and recognized. That goes on forever. We recognize that.
There are some big expenditures here that are in departments that are just not being spent. For example, Mr. Deputy Chair, Community Services has over $6 million being sent back to general revenues. Highways and Public Works is over $6 million.
Which projects did not get completed, did not get funded by other organizations, which are reflected in the present fiscal year? I think people are asking about that.
Back in 2003-04, the Yukon Party said, ďThis is our budget.Ē It reflects their priorities ó thatís what they said. So their priority ó it just so happens that there are monies going back into general revenues.
The Premier constantly refers back to public accounts. If we want our questions answered, ďGo back to the public accounts.Ē Thatís what weíve been told. I believe the Premier is quite familiar with the public accounts, so maybe he can point out what page we can find, for example, letís say the Department of Education ó which was a promise the Yukon Party made ó to review the Education Act. I think the decision not to do it started that year. We couldnít find that expenditure in the public accounts. Can he direct us to the correct page? Then maybe we can clear this whole thing up and go through it ourselves.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The information for fiscal year 2003-04 in the public accounts begins on page 1 and it ends on page 250. The members opposite have a responsibility and duty to familiarize themselves with the information in the public accounts. We ó the Legislative Assembly and the government ó have a responsibility to provide spending authority for money spent. We donít have a responsibility to provide authority to departments for not spending money. We have a responsibility to deal with spending or inventing each and every dollar for the departments. There are going to be lapsed funds, as there always have been. If the members opposite have any interest in fast-forwarding to the time and place we are ó 2004-05 fiscal year ó they could debate at great length how much were the revotes. How many projects came forward?
To make a point for the member opposite, we had no commitment to conduct an Education Act review. We have a commitment to conclude what the third party, when in government, politicized and ended in limited success. Our approach has been educational reform, and if the members opposite want to deal with that, itís in the fiscal budget 2004-05.
Much of this is revolving around accountability. I want to go back to accountability. The members opposite have to be accountable for what they do, what they say. I think the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has a lot to be accountable to the Yukon public for. Itís a well-known fact that in the issue around the Carmacks school, itís the MLA ó the member himself ó informing people such as the First Nation, ďWhy take $8 million or $9 million for a school? Get $12 million or $15 million; build it over here; build it over there.Ē Thatís being accountable.
If the member wants that type of debate, letís put it on the record.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Fairclough, on a point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Premierís totally out of order on this, and I direct you to the Standing Orders ó impute false or unavowed motives on members on this side of the House. The member opposite is on a fishing trip. He has given incorrect information, and Iím hoping that the Premier is not spreading out in public what he is saying in this House, because it is incorrect.
Deputy Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Deputy Chair, the member cites 19(g), but there are no unavowed motives being imputed by the Premier. The member opposite is suggesting a whole bunch of other motives that are totally irrelevant. This is simply a dispute between members.
Deputy Chairís ruling
Deputy Chair: Order please. The Chair has no knowledge as to the facts around what goes on in Carmacks, and it would be hard to know whether in fact what is being said is imputing false or unavowed motives. However, I would encourage all members to refrain from speculating about membersí motives.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I am very glad the Deputy Chair made that point because thatís exactly what debate for the last two days has been all about ó speculation: speculation by the opposition on what might be in the supplementary that has been created through the conclusion of the Auditor General. Thereís nothing speculative about the supplementary budget. Itís consisting of $819,000, a requirement for spending authority by this Legislative Assembly.
If the members want to talk about lapsed funds, revotes, projects that are ongoing into subsequent years, we had better start debating the supplementary budget, and they should have debated the mains for 2004-05 in the appropriate manner. They would have gleaned that information. Instead they asked questions that were ill-advised and had nothing to do with the investment being made in this territory by the government side, which is the largest budget in the history of the Yukon.
We are prepared to debate $819,000 in this supplementary budget. It includes an amount for the Department of Health and Social Services and it includes an amount for the Public Service Commission.
It also includes information that reflects what is in the public accounts, page 1 to page 250. There is a duty here and an obligation by the opposition to take the public accounts document and go through it and take the information out of it that they seek. We need not spend our time in this House going around and around and around on issues and questions that are not relevant to why we are here debating Bill No. 11, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Furthermore, disguised in much of the debate is the issue of accountability but the government can stand under the light of accountability and not flinch. The members opposite are going to have a great deal of difficulty in standing under the light of accountability because they are not being accountable to this House, they are not being accountable to the Yukon public, they are not being accountable to anything that this institution is about. They are ragging the puck; they are wasting time.
Iím going to be blunt again. If the members want to waste time, thatís their business. Itís taxpayersí dollars that they are wasting. If the members want to constructively debate $819,000 of spending authority requirement, the government is here to do so. Ministers are prepared to debate and follow through with any information that the members opposite think is necessary, within reason. What weíve done here for the last two days is certainly not within the context of reason. In fact itís ridiculous. If the members opposite want to continue, itís their business, their choice. The government side is not going to engage in this kind of wasted effort.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, itís interesting how the Premier put that. He feels that $43 million isnít relevant. I wonder if he repeats that same message out in public. The commitments, for example, that they made to the general public in a number of different departments, all of sudden are irrelevant.
This is general debate. How could the Premier forget that? How could the Premier forget that itís general debate? How could the Premier forget that when there are monies being identified ó whether they are being spent or put back into general revenues, or even if it is revenue ó how can we not debate that?
I went through the Blues, and I looked through the Premierís comments. He went on and on. If the public would like to see the conduct of this government, go take a look at the last session. Weíve seen the Premier go on and on to try to waste time in this House. We have seen debates in this House on motions that went on and on. It was to waste time. Thatís what the Premier wants his side of the House to do. Well, guess what? The general public understands, and they realize what is going on.
Yesterday the Premier said that the departments are more than willing to debate these line items in regard to lapsed funding. Letís take some of the big expenditures that are there ó the Department of Highways, for example.
The Premier didnít answer the last question either, Mr. Chair. I asked him to point out where in the public accounts it said where monies were given back into general revenues as a result of this government not doing the Education Act review.
Well, he pointed out page 1 to page 250, but he couldnít specifically say what page it was, because the Premier doesnít know it, in our view. He has not read the public accounts, and I think it is a disservice to Yukoners to say, ďJust go look in the public accounts.Ē Well, we can, and the information that weíre looking for isnít there. So where do we ask it? In general debate? That sounds like the appropriate place. As a matter of fact, Mr. Chair, we have gone through the Legislative Assembly Office to see how questions can be asked in this House in Committee of the Whole on this specific bill. When you go into general debate, youíre going into two departments, two line items. That is it. No other concerns or questions can be asked in other departments, because we donít go through that, so our opportunity is here, right here in general debate, to ask those questions.
So, Mr. Chair, the Department of Highways and Public Works lapsed over $6 million. It doesnít show what projects have been put on hold or anything, so what does the Premier suggest we do? And itís not reflected in public accounts that we have before us. Itís not reflected in there in any clear manner, and I think the Premier knows that. He knows that, because he cannot flip to a page and say this is where it is. If only he can do that, weíd clear up our questions fairly quickly.
Really, when it comes to Question Period, we ask questions of the Minister of Education; he doesnít know his department. Heís stuck to the information box that he had. He popped out of it a few times and got into trouble. I can see when he does get into trouble, because of the expressions on the ministerís face and the backbenchers when he does do that. It is quite amazing to hear what the public has to say when the minister does do that.
The member opposite has called points of order in this House for some amazing things and it has been ruled, over and over again, that they are not points of order. What do you call that, Mr. Chair? A waste of time?
Then we have the Member for Lake Laberge, who went on and on during motion debate. It was even mentioned by the Speaker how many times he used the word ďPost-itĒ. Is that a waste of time in this House? It was all to fill time, I believe. The members opposite know that we do have time to debate the supplementary budget for 2004-05. We have that time. We know it. Weíre managing our time. The minister may not want us to go in there, but we will and we will debate the departments. I hope that every one of them is well aware of their departments in the supplementary budget and is willing to answer questions that are in this supplementary budget that reflects some pretty important things.
I want to hear the minister say it. We donít want to just come right out and say it.
Why canít the Minister of Environment, for example, tell us why 50 percent of his budget is being sent back into general revenues? Some of them are one-third, and thatís high.
I know the members opposite wasted the time for the opposition in the last session, and thereís plenty of time during this session for them to answer the questions.
If the Premier cannot point out where in the public accounts we can find that information, then maybe he has a suggestion on how we can go about finding out this information, because the ministers opposite arenít giving that information to us.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I can tell you why the member is having a problem with finding this stuff in the public accounts, because the question the member is asking isnít even factual. We didnít invest a nickel in the Education Act review in 2003-04, so how is it going to show up in the public accounts? Thatís the problem.
Secondly, if the members had been debating the 2004-05 budget, they would have found out or at least discussed what happened with the Department of Environment and that had to do with the game farm, and it had to do with the fact that the deal was not concluded at the end of the fiscal year 2003-04, and it had to be revoted. But that was all information that was in the 2004-05 budget.
They had all that time 30 days. They chose 30 days in the spring sitting to debate the 2004-05 budget. Here we are ó what are we in, period 8? ó period 8 of the fiscal year 2004-05, and the official opposition is asking questions about 2003-04 on information that was already in the financial documents in this fiscal year.
Well, I point out the fact that itís impossible to respond to the members opposite if the questions and the information they seek isnít even real. What do they expect the government side to do? I pointed that out yesterday. Are they expecting that we put officials and departments and resources to work inventing responses for the members opposite? I think not. Itís certainly not something the government side is going to do.
Now, letís go back over this again for the benefit of the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, who likes to interfere in things. The debate that we should be having, and will be having eventually, is to do with two departments: the Department of Health and Social Services and the Public Service Commission.
The spending authority required is $819,000. That is what we are here to debate in this supplementary, Bill No. 11, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04. If the members opposite have any desire to do so, the government side will respond and reciprocate accordingly. If the members opposite want to continue on asking questions that arenít based on fact, it is impossible for the government side to respond. Itís impossible for us to find the information, and we are certainly not going to invent it to assist the much confused view of the members opposite about what is going on with the finances of the territory. Thatís something the government is not going to do.
As the members opposite continue on in that fog of confusion, the government will continually try to bring clarity to the debate and bring them back to where we should be, the real facts of what we are here to discuss. That is what we are doing, Mr. Chair, and that is being accountable on behalf of the Yukon taxpayer. Bringing the opposition back to reality ó what a noble thought.
Mr. Fairclough: I believe the minister likes to throw insults over to this side of the House constantly. He doesnít seem to get called on a point of order on it ó talking about everything that I as a member elected in Mayo-Tatchun may or may not have said, and making things up as we go.
Letís review a little bit with the government. Letís look at their campaign commitment, their budget speeches in this House. First of all, what did they say, Mr. Chair? They said, ďGovernment spending has to be looked at. We have to really, really look at it in a serious way.Ē Every one of the members on that side of the House talked about the trajectory. That was the word that was being used ó trajectory.
Over and over we hear the Premier say that itís all about good fiscal management. We have seen where there were commitments by the Premier to take care of the loans issue. That all fell apart and heís letting his buddies, the Member for Klondike and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, not pay their bills back.
Letís have a look at one loan that was given out. That was to the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation. Theyíre paying their bill; itís just about paid off. What kind of treatment do they get from this government? One thatís way less than satisfactory, thatís for sure ó especially from the Minister of Education, who doesnít even have the respect to go back to that community and talk with them on this matter.
I donít believe the minister realizes what kind of a mess he made in that community. Heís trying to wipe his eyes, thinking that heís really sorry right now, Mr. Chair, but itís a sad case. What happened as a result of that? Other communities came forward in support of the First Nation. That was incredible. Maybe the minister didnít realize what he did and the support he got from the Premier in allowing his ministers to act in that manner. It wasnít to build relationships with First Nations; it was to destroy them, and thatís exactly what happened here, Mr. Chair. Thatís what the Premier and the minister has done with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation. Is that something to be proud of? I think not.
Yet there are no commitments to heal or mend the hurts they have caused in that community. It was the Minister of Education who did that, and him alone, by refusing to talk it over with the First Nation after signing an agreement. Is that being open and accountable, saying they want to work and collaborate and compromise and consult, all those fancy words the members opposite said they were going to do? In one little project, it all went just like that, because the member opposite didnít do his job ó and the Premier allowed it.
The minister works for the Premier, and he allowed that to happen. The sad thing is that it still happens today. We on this side of the House and the community of Carmacks gave the minister the opportunity to correct the matter. Did he? No, he made it worse.
He made accusations to the First Nations; just read it in the Blues, in Hansard. †It was incredible, the kind of things that were said to them, thinking that it was all about money and thatís all First Nations are about, is money, and so on. Man, that was incredible. Whatís more incredible than that is how the Premier allowed his ministers to say it instead of putting a lid on it and taking care of it.
The First Nation decided they had better have a public meeting with the Premier on this matter ó a public meeting so the Premier can straighten this mess out. Guess what happened? Nothing. Some bone has been thrown out to the First Nation: the Yukon River cleanup is one of them; the river ranger program. That kind of stuff should already happen. It doesnít need to be attached or be a condition or anything like that on whether or not that community gets a school. It shouldnít be that.
We have every right to question line items, monies that are not being spent by governments. We have every right, and itís very valid to ask those questions ó contrary to what the Premier is saying. I know the Premier wants to get the heck out of this department and have it passed through. I know he doesnít like being in here, and perhaps it really bothers him to hear questions coming forward from this side of the House, but itís going to happen. The Premier is not going to skate around this one. We have simply asked the questions. The Premier says, ďGo look in the public accounts. Thereís your answer right there.Ē When asked the question, ďWell, where is it in the public accounts?Ē, the Premier doesnít know. Somebody must have written it, and he hasnít really, in our view, looked into the public accounts at all. Take the Education Act review, for example.
When it comes to the Education Act review, for example, the minister acknowledged that there was work done by previous governments. We know that in this House. Weíve heard it over and over again. They acknowledge there was work done by the New Democrats and by the Liberal government.
Then when it all came down to, ďWell, are you going to do anything or not?Ē, what did the Minister of Education say? Well, a review is just ó you know, having a look at doesnít mean that we have to look at it in any detail or revamp the whole act. I think he was way off mark when he made those remarks, and I think it kind of surprised the members opposite when he said that because we could see that by the look in their eyes.
How many promises had the Yukon Party made and then broken? Should we go on for weeks and in detail on some of those commitments? Yes, weíre going to go on. Government has to do something. After all, we do get to spend some $600 million a year so governments have to do certain things. You cannot do nothing. But it is hard to get information out of the members opposite ó very difficult.
When do we get the information? When do we get it? The media has been asking questions of the ministers. Some have hidden from them and refused to talk; others have. Then there is information that just isnít forthcoming. For example, who released the letter that was written in Carmacks? All of a sudden the minister said the department did, and then he said it was by ATIPP, and in fact it wasnít even ATIPPíd at all. It wasnít ATIPPíd at all. It was released freely. That is the kind of information that certain ministers have kept from the rest of the team, and it is creating problems across the territory.
When it comes to First Nation final agreements, how do they get treated anyway by this government? With respect? Is that a good word to use? Well, itís one that should have demanded respect because those agreements change the way things will happen in the Yukon forever.
Iíve heard the Minister of Education talk about the bandwagon and so on. That goes back 30 years. Heís stuck in the Indian Act. I couldnít believe it when that was being said. You know, people hear those types of comments out there. Itís not as if people do not listen to the debates that take place in the Legislature. They do, and they are being watched on TV and they phone us up constantly. Weíve been getting calls, for example, from the Premierís riding ó the Minister of Education said from my sister. You know what? My sister happens to be on the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation council. Do they have good communications with me? I would say pretty good.
It might bug the member opposite, but letís talk about a contract. Does the minister want to talk about a contract? I donít think so. Iím a little bit ashamed of that. Man, we get photocopies in this House that cost $120,000, yet the Minister of Education wouldnít even grade roads for a school bus in the community of Mayo. Isnít that shocking? I mean, weíre talking about a $350-million surplus and the Minister of Community Services couldnít even grade roads for the school bus to go on. So what happens? Itís not like itís 10 miles out of town; itís right in town. What happens? Well, the parents have to drive them to school, and that seems okay for the Minister of Education. You know what his reason was? ďWell, itís not our roadĒ ó I read the letter, the response from the minister ó ďItís not our road. You grade your own roadĒ ó even though theyíre responsible for education, picking up children from certain places, bus stops, and so on, and taking them to school.
Itís these little things that this Yukon Party government does that people are concerned about. They are also concerned about the big things. We talk about lapsed funding ó there wasnít a streetlight put in the community of Mayo when they asked for one for safety reasons, for where a school bus should stop and pick up the children. I canít see why the Yukon Party would shy away from those types of questions, and even offered some way to give that information out. We waited months for letters to be answered by the ministers ó months. Just before this sitting ó I mean, itís such a long time since the last sitting ó we were finally getting responses back to questions that were being asked in the House here. Donít you think thatís a long time, especially when it was committed to before the end of the last sitting? Man, talk about putting a hold on information. Is that improving a working relationship with the opposition?
Weíve made good suggestions to the members opposite. Weíve put motions on the floor, and guess what happened when weíve put good motions on the floor? The government got up and moved to adjourn debate on motions, and then they say we are not constructive in this House.
Well, people are watching and people are listening. We on this side of the House are definitely disappointed in the deterioration of government conduct in this House and in the general public and urge that the Premier do something about it. He promised that, after all, so do something about it.
If the Premier wonít do something about it, then the minister should. If thatís not happening, then the backbenchers should maybe say a few things to the ministers because theyíre not right and theyíre inaccurate when I hear things like the Premier saying that Iím telling the community to spend $12 million on a school. Thatís government funding. Really, that information probably came from the Minister of Education who often brings to the floor of this House information thatís contrary to the facts.
Chair: Order. The member just stated that a certain minister often brings forward information that is contrary to the facts. This is entirely out of order and the member is well aware of that.
Mr. Fairclough: All I was doing was following past practice, and that was used in this House before. The Chair allowed it so ó
Chair: Order please. Does the member wish to dispute this ruling?
Mr. Fairclough: No.
Chair: Then please continue debate.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Everybodyís on edge. I know the Minister of Education is and the Premier is for their conduct, and I think the heat is being felt by the Chair too because he is part of the team.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Mr. Kenyon, if you would please wait until I recognize you.
Mr. Kenyon, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It would appear that the member opposite stated before this House that the Chair is partisan. I believe that is just completely out of order, and itís totally inappropriate.
Chair: Mr. Fairclough, on the point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: All I said was, ďfeeling the heatĒ? How do the members opposite interpret that?
Chair: If the member has an issue with the impartiality of the Chair, the member is well within his rights to raise that issue with the Speaker. Letís continue debate.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís interesting from the members opposite. I know that members opposite wonít have much to say when it comes to their departments. Thank God weíre going to have officials in here, because we have all kinds of problems trying to get information out of the ministers in Question Period. Itís difficult.
The Premier said, ďStick to the bill.Ē There are only two line items: $43 million ó $819,000 weíd like government to spend additionally and the rest goes back into general revenues. I donít see why questions cannot be answered in regard to departments such as Environment ó in capital ó why 50 percent of their capital funding is going back into revenue.
I know the Premier probably wants to ramble on for awhile and do his best to feel that he is the leader. Iíll give him that opportunity.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, just for clarity, again I will point out to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun in regard to the Department of Environment that the response was given very, very clearly.
The fact is that if the official opposition had spent the time debating the 2004-05 budget mains, all this information would have been gleaned. They didnít debate the budget. And I also responded by saying if the members had done that, they would have quickly come to the realization that the monies that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is alluding to had to do with the game farm and the final arrangements on the purchase of the wilderness preserve had not been concluded by the end of the fiscal year 2003-04. So monies set aside for that purchase were revoted into the next fiscal year.
That is, by the way, on the pages of Hansard and can be certainly passed on to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun for his critique, and hopefully he will come to the realization that what has been done here in this House over the last two days does not bode well for the official opposition whatsoever.
Mr. Chair, we have gone on at great length on this appropriation bill, a supplementary budget to close out fiscal year 2003-04. And the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has gone even farther back now to 2002-03. Imagine that.
So here we are, discussing, based on the memberís position, issues that reflect all the way back to fiscal year 2002-03. Letís try and clear this up for the member, because these are questions that the member has been asking and, again, the government side will respond when the questions are based on something factual.
We canít respond in areas such as the Education Act review, whether it be the public accounts or any document that the government has that reflect 2003-04 budgeting, because there was no money allocated to the Education Act review in 2003-04. Itís an impossibility.
But letís go back to 2002-03. It is true that the government presented to the public the financial position of the Yukon Territory. It showed an approximately $1.9-million accumulated surplus at the end of that period. It is also factual that from that period to now, period 8, fiscal year 2004-05, much has transpired. That effort that has been put forward was to improve the financial situation of the Yukon Territory. Thatís all factual information thatís easily accessed by the members opposite.
It includes not building the Grey Mountain School. It includes dissolving funds in a total of approximately $11 million. It includes doing census and pension adjustment work. It includes negotiating the northern health care fund. It includes allowing the mechanisms within the formula to do their work throughout a fiscal year to help further build up our financial position. Itís all about financial or fiscal management.
So, too, is how we have conducted debate in this House, and that would include the 2003-04 fiscal year. Letís go back to the debate on the mains. It was all there. Information could have been gleaned. Itís up to the members to ask the questions for the information that they wanted at that time. Now the members are asking for information from a year prior, and they had the opportunity in this House to delve into these areas. Lapsed funding is not a reflection of bad fiscal management. Itís not a reflection of reduction of programs and services. Itís an accounting reflection. It has not, as the official opposition would try and make the case for, reduced expenditures in areas important to Yukoners ó not whatsoever.
Itís accounting. Itís appropriately providing the Yukon public with disclosure on what is going on with their financial situation.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun also went on about the accumulated surplus and, in a very offhanded manner made the comment that well, there is $350 million in accumulated surplus, which, by the way, is not factual ó itís actually $387 million. Thatís the problem we get into here in dealing with speculative numbers. It is $380 million plus accumulated surplus.
The offhanded comment was that well, you should be able to go blade a road. Well, what the member isnít understanding is that the accumulated surplus includes tangible assets. We canít spend the Alaska Highway. We canít spend this building. Is the member suggesting that we sell tangible assets to go ahead and invest in other areas?
The members have to come to some grip with the issue of financing the territory and how those fiscal arrangements must work. I think what we are showing here today in this debate, which is very important, is that the official opposition is presenting itself as a political party in this House that would not be deemed a reasonable alternative in any way, shape or form to governing the territory or to managing its finances. That is clearly evidenced in their debate and what has gone on here for the last few days.
We are prepared to be here until the 30th day of this sitting because that is all we are required to be here for ó 30 days. Thatís by arrangement in the Standing Orders and the House rules and any addendums attached to the rules of this House. So we are prepared to be here all that time.
If the members opposite, especially the official opposition, have no appetite to move along and debate what is really important to Yukoners ó where we are at in period 8 for 2004-05, the fiscal year we are in ó well, itís to their detriment.
Yukoners arenít out there pounding down our doors, demanding from every possible area of government to know what happened in 2002-03 or 2003-04, and Iíll tell you why: theyíre very astute at picking up the public accounts and budget documents and gleaning out the information they feel is important to them, and away they go. Itís not a difficult situation at all.
This is not the public demanding these answers; this is the official opposition, in some misguided way, trying to present themselves as fiscal managers. The opposite is happening here. Theyíre clearly showing that this is not the case and that the only choice in this House for managing the finances of the Yukon Territory is the government side.
Mr. Chair, there are requirements for the opposition and that is to debate the need for spending authority when it comes to an appropriation bill or act. Again I point out that is why weíre here. If the members opposite wish to do that, the government will respond. If the members opposite want to continue on with this line of discussion, which is clearly showing they would not be a good choice for managing the finances of the Yukon Territory, again thatís their choice, their decision, but the government side is going to be here for 30 days and thatís it. At the end of 30 days, we move on to building a future for the Yukon Territory. The facts and evidence speak for themselves.
Even in the face of all that evidence, the official opposition is still mired in their negative approach to the Yukon and trying to reconstruct the past. Yukoners have moved on. Thereís optimism in this territory that wasnít present under past governments. Itís here today. Thereís optimism about whatís taking place. There is a reason why the government has invested heavily in the Yukon to stimulate the economy. Itís producing results. In fact, there are indications now that more and more financial institutions are putting money into the Yukon economy, and thatís the sign we look for.
This supplementary budget ó even though the members opposite try to bring all that into the discourse here ó has nothing to do with those areas. It has to do with the Department of Health and Social Services and the need to give spending authority to areas that we as a government made sure were taken care of: children in care and the need for out-of-territory medical services. Itís also a fact that the Public Service Commission required money for retirement allowances and other areas for our employees. Thatís something that we ensured as a government we would take care of.
I find it interesting that the official opposition has no interest in this House to discuss those areas of overexpenditure. Thatís holding the government accountable. The Auditor General did. The Auditor General clearly held the government accountable in two departments. Thatís why weíre here with the supplementary.
Itís pretty evident what the official opposition is up to and what theyíre trying to do. They can continue on. Weíre here for 30 days. Whether we pass this supplementary for 2003-04 or not, whether we pass the supplementary for 2004-05 or not, whether we pass ó and Iím talking Committee here of all of these areas ó the legislation before us ó weíre here for 30 days. At the end of 30 days, all the information, all the bills, all the budgets that are on this legislative docket will proceed because that follows the rules of this House. Itís up to the members opposite to conduct themselves accordingly, but at the end of 30 days this supplementary budget, along with the 2004-05 supplementary budget and every piece of legislation here, will proceed. That is how we conduct business. Unfortunately the members opposite are showing the Yukon public that they are not prepared to advance the publicís business.
Mr. McRobb: I want to take the opportunity to respond to some of the comments made by the Premier, because it is evident what this government is up to, and I want to respond to some of the accusations made. I am certainly not impressed with the position taken by the Premier. He went on at length to criticize us for wanting to examine last yearís expenditures. Well, this is the only opportunity we have to scrutinize these expenditures. These expenditures comprise changes to the mains budget that were debated on a prior occasion. So everything provided for in this bill we have seen now for the first time, and it is our opportunity to ask questions. As mentioned previously, some of the departments and agencies are not identified in other bills during this sitting and therefore are not eligible for debate. So that brings us back to the need for the Premier to satisfy our information requests. He refuses to do that and instead chooses to criticize the opposition for its curious nature about these expenditures contained in the bill. Well, Mr. Chair, letís cut to the chase and just simply say that if the Premier would agree to satisfy our information requests, we could get through them and move on. That is the bottom line. So putting all rhetoric aside, if the Premier wanted to move on, he would just acknowledge and commit to provide information as requested.
Thatís the bottom line. I think thatís a position Yukoners support.
Now, I asked a question about an hour ago on the Auditor Generalís report on the cost overruns of the Mayo transmission line and whether this government has received a draft copy of that report. I want to re-ask that question because the government still hasnít answered it. I want to ask another question. Can they provide a date when that draft report was received?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What we have before us today is a supplementary budget to close out the 2003-04 year. A large portion of the requests are for the Department of Health and Social Services. I believe itís very important that we recognize where the Department of Health and Social Services is at. The total budget for that period of 2003-04 stands at $154,114,000 in O&M costs. And the additional amount thatís being requested here is to focus on two cost centres: children in care, and out-of-territory medical procedures.
When we look at the overall budget for Health and Social Services, our government raised the bar in a number of areas.
Let me share some of those with you, Mr. Chair. If we look at the overall budget, we see an $8.5-million increase for primary health services. We see an additional increase of $1,537,000 for family and childrenís services. This only came about through efficient fiscal management and the infusion of new funding. With that additional funding, we were able to significantly expand the scope of services provided by the family and childrenís services branch in the department.
We also had some other very good developments. The department increased our contract with the Child Development Centre, and they moved forward on developing the FAS diagnostic team. It doesnít complete, but it follows through on one of our other platform commitments.
Mr. Chair, weíre very proud of the initiatives weíve undertaken as a government, but they could only have been undertaken with our fiscal house in order. For that we have to pay a debt of gratitude to the Premier, the hard-working officials in the Department of Finance and the stats branch, along with Yukon government officials based in Ottawa, who were successful in coming to new arrangements with Canada that provided the funding increases that a great number of Yukoners ó indeed, overall all Yukoners ó are seeing the benefit of today.
Also as a government, in Health and Social Services, we have substantially increased our complement of social workers and family support workers. There are a total of 10 new staff in that fiscal budget. That is another requirement to implement our FASD action plan and to respond to the ever-increasing caseload demands of our social workers.
One of the other areas where weíve identified and provided funding for is the autistic members in our society, the children. These families took upon themselves the initiative to contact health care providers and develop the programs. It was through the auspices of the Department of Health and Social Services that we were able to increase funding in this area.
One of the other high-cost centres is for the children in care. This supplementary identifies a large component to close out the additional costs that we have incurred as a department in this area.
Mr. Chair, the Minister of Health and Social Services is responsible for signing off on sole-sourced contracts for a number of these children. Those contracts for these children range from about $40,000 a year to a high of about $250,000 a year. That is the cost that government incurs for a child that needs a high level of care that cannot be provided here in the Yukon, and it must be contracted for in an Outside jurisdiction. It is a highly specialized area; it is a high-cost area. One of the other areas that weíre very proud of that is contained in this budget, Mr. Chair, was the commitment to childcare. I will save that for later, because I am given to understand we will probably be in debate for a long time on this supplementary. I want to go over in great detail the tremendous enthusiasm with which our government approached childcare, the tremendous efforts that were put in by the Child Care Association and various representative groups. A four-year plan was developed, but I will speak to that later.
The cost of that four-year plan was an additional $675,000 at that stage. The Member for Kluane goes on at great length about ambulances and areas that are not even relevant, because our government has done its utmost to ensure that we have directed our attention to the areas that need attention. We have examined so many areas across the Department of Health and Social Services. The department has done an exemplary job of identifying areas that need additional resources, and we have done what we can do to provide those additional resources.
Weíve completed our commitments on the last cycle to the pioneer utility grant ó another commitment of this Yukon Party government, Mr. Chair. That raised the base amount by some 25 percent and indexed it against inflation. The next period of time in this heating season we will see a further increase of an additional 10 percent on the base amount. That is significant in itself because we recognize as a government the tremendous efforts that long-time Yukoners have put into this territory and the dedication and devotion that they have. It is in the best interests of government to retain these people and allow them to remain here in the Yukon with the best support that we as a government provide.
††††††† †I would reckon that itís probably one of the best systems in Canada. When we look at some of the other areas ó childcare, daycare ó they have a level of funding currently provided by this government that is second in Canada only to Quebec, which has invested billions based on their population. Weíve come a long way here in the Yukon and weíre moving further because our government in concert with the daycare and day home providers have put together a four-year plan and weíre proceeding in implementing that plan.
††††††† I guess it probably may hurt the official opposition that they havenít identified and been able to do anything in this area. Theyíre throwing out the suggestion that weíre just a hard-nosed, old-time, business-oriented party. Well, Mr. Chair, this is the new Yukon Party, this is the Yukon Party that identifies with the social agenda, identifies with the need to have a strong economy, identifies with the need to restore investor confidence that was destroyed by the previous two administrations here in the Yukon and move forward after weíve recreated investor confidence, especially in the resource industry.
Weíve done what is needed, but thereís more to go and we will continue the good fight on behalf of all Yukoners. Weíll even represent the Member for Kluane, who I know is sitting there taking this all in and wondering where heís going to go next in debate on this supplementary given that heís void of ideas. There are quite a number of areas that we could deal with, but the issue is that this supplementary is to close out the 2003-04 fiscal year. Two areas in Health and Social Services have been identified as being attributed to higher costs, and thatís the children in care and out-of-territory medical procedures.
Mr. Chair, traditionally, Health and Social Services has been overbudgeted, and a lot of it is volume and price driven. A lot of it is costs that we have no control over. We donít know the number of medical procedures that are going to be required or how frequently we are going to be sending someone out for medical procedures that canít be performed here in the Yukon. During the last fiscal period there were 184 medical procedures that could not be performed here in the Yukon, so individuals were sent to our neighbouring jurisdictions for these procedures.
The Yukon Hospital Corporation Board is probably one of the best functioning boards operating one of the best smallest hospitals in Canada. We as a government, as Yukoners, owe a debt of gratitude to the board, the CEO, the officials and the medical health care providers who are in that facility.
In some respects we donít recognize how good we have it. One only has to go to a neighbouring jurisdiction to find out how well off we are in many, many respects.
I can understand the official opposition having very little to chew on and finding no meat on the bone, but thatís because we as a government on this side are doing a very good job in all aspects of health care delivery.
Mr. Chair, it is of importance to us that this supplementary budget be passed to close out the fiscal year. Itís money that is needed and earmarked and has been spent.
Chair: Weíve reached our normal time for a recess. 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 is Bill No. 11, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04, in general debate.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, unfortunately, the Deputy Premier didnít answer the question posed by the Member for Kluane. I wonder what that was all about. It doesnít say much about being open and accountable.
The Premier stated earlier something about the 2004-05 mains and how we thought 30 days was sufficient to deal with the spring sitting, and I would like to remind the Premier that it was the government House leader who could not come to an agreement with the House leaders on this side, and that is how we ended up with a 30-day sitting.
It wasnít by our choice. It was the government House leader who couldnít make up his mind and come to an agreement. Therefore, it defaulted to the 30 days.
On the 2004-05 mains, Iím sure we could look at the record ó read Hansard ó and look at all the questions that were asked by members on this side of House and all the 20-minute answers that were given by the ministers on that side of the House. If anybody should be accused of ďragging the puckĒ in the spring sitting, it would have been the members on the government side.
Basically, it was because they had an unwillingness to share the information, so thatís one of the reasons weíre here now asking questions about this.
I have some questions that Iíd like to ask the Premier and some requests for information with regard to some of the departments in Schedule A. Iíd like to start out with the Department of Community Services. Iíd like to request that the Premier obtain ó weíd like to get the information and Iím sure the leader of the third party would also be interested in the information. Iíd like the Premier to provide all the correspondence between the government and any other level of government ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: ó that would be going a little too far, probably ó around the environmental screening process for the Whitehorse Copper land development project. Iíd like the Premier to commit at this time to providing that information. I think it would shed a lot of light on the environmental screening process and the process that was used and why it is at the stage that it is at this time.
One more time, just for clarity, Iíd like all the information and all the correspondence between the Department of Community Services or the Premierís office ó heís responsible through ECO for the environmental review process ó and any other level of government around the Whitehorse Copper land development environmental screening process.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Committee of the Whole shall be strictly dealing with items relevant to the clauses under consideration.
We are on the floor here debating the closing out supplementary for 2003-04 fiscal year. There are two items contained therein: Health and Social Services and the Public Service Commission. That is where weíre at. If we want to move out of general debate and get into line-by-line, weíd be happy, as a government, to deal with the areas under consideration.
But I was concerned with an accurate reflection being put on how we as House leaders determined the sitting days in the spring and fall. Given the large budget that this government had tabled, the largest ever in the history of the Yukon ó it was put forward to put Yukoners back to work, restore investor confidence and get this economy rolling again ó this side wished to see 40 sitting days in the spring session.
The official opposition and the third party wanted 28 sitting days. We could not reach an agreement and we ended up defaulting to 30 days for spring and 30 days for fall. That is where we ended up at. Thatís rather telling, given the amount of time that the official opposition and the third party spent clearing millions of dollars in minutes in the spring session.
Letís get back to the subject matter that we have before us. The subject of debate here today is the closeout supplementary for 2003-04 and it deals with two specific areas: the Public Service Commission and the Department of Health and Social Services. If the members opposite are not adequately briefed I would encourage them to go back to their offices and read the material that they have there for their consideration.
Mr. Chair, there has also been a request for some courses in basic accounting, and I would be happy to chat with my colleague, the Minister of Education, and see if we can get the calendar for the various institutes of learning here in the Yukon and we can send that specifically over to the official opposition so they might be able to sign up and take some courses in basic accounting so that they may understand in more depth and provide a greater insight into the workings of the budget, how they deal with the various areas, and how the Auditor General determines at the end of the fiscal period what is needed to close out that fiscal period.
Mr. Chair, that is where weíre at today with this supplementary, and it deals with two matters: Health and Social Services and the Public Service Commission.
It also reflects the movement of funds between the various line items and programs. That is basic accounting.
We can probably find a course. Iím sure they would qualify as mature students for some of these areas and some of these courses. So Iíd encourage them to take up the challenge and move forward on developing an understanding of basic accounting principles.
Mr. Cardiff: Now that the pinch-hitter has stood up and said his piece there ó and he has totally missed the mark. He wasnít even in the strike zone.
When he talks about accounting ó there is someone who should talk about accounting. He canít even find $300,000 to pay his debt.
If you look, this is the book weíve got. This is the supplementary estimates. I would like to direct the pinch-hitter to page S-6. It says, ďCommunity ServicesĒ. Itís in here. This is our opportunity to ask questions about Community Services in this supplementary.
Some of the activities around the environmental assessment took place during 2003-04. Under this Deputy Premierís watch a lot of this stuff transpired. Now what Iím asking for is a simple request for information, for some correspondence that transpired between the government and any other level of government ó it can be a municipal government, it can be a First Nation government, it can be the federal government ó around the environmental screening process that took place for the Whitehorse Copper development.
This is an important issue to my constituents. Itís an important issue to the constituents of other ridings, to people who live adjacent. Iím sure the Deputy Premier is aware ó Iím sure he reads the newspaper occasionally. He puts his glasses on. Iím sure heís reading something. Maybe heís reading the newspaper.
So he must be aware of this issue. I have raised it in the House several times. I even recall trying to amend the budget that weíre talking about right now ó the supplementary budget. I tried to amend the mains. What Iím asking for now is that correspondence.
Itís a simple question and it doesnít require a long answer. He can either say yes or no. Does he want to be accountable? Does he want to provide that information to the public? We know he doesnít want to provide the information about all the concerns that he has in his mind about the occupational health and safety regulations. We know he doesnít want to share that with the public.
But letís ask about this ó this is another subject. This is the environmental screening report that the government did. I donít know where they got the money to do it; they lapsed all this money. That shows you the commitment to the process they had that this government supported.
Itís pretty much a simple yes-or-no answer: will he provide the correspondence or not? Yes or no? I donít need a 20-minute answer like we got in the spring.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I will be brief. This appropriation act does not encompass or cover that area. This area would be more identified with and would be contained in the 2004-05 mains and supplementary. That is where we are at.
This appropriation bill that is before us deals with closing out the fiscal year-end for the 2003-04 year and pertains to two areas. It pertains to Health and Social Services and Public Service Commission.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister and the government opposite on the other side donít want to be accountable. They donít want to provide information to this side of the House; they donít want to provide information to the public. This is information that my constituents are entitled to. And we are entitled to ask questions about lapses. Obviously the Deputy Premier doesnít know whatís going on in the Department of Community Services or ECO. He doesnít have a clue whatís happening there. Maybe weíll move on to something else. Weíll ask them questions for information about other items, other monies that have been lapsed.
In Schedule A, itís pretty clear that there is a lot of money that is being lapsed.
Iíd like to actually refute some of the statements made earlier about the lapses being consistent. The lapses arenít consistent. You donít have the information at your fingertips but if you look over past years ó itís my belief anyhow. Looking back, I havenít found a year yet where weíve lapsed $43 million total ó in the documents that Iíve found in my office anyhow. I think that went back three years. I didnít find anywhere where weíve ever lapsed this sum of money.
Letís pick the Yukon Housing Corporation. There is $5.5 million in capital lapsed. There is a new report out on the state of social housing in the Yukon. While the report seems to indicate that most of the social housing stock is in adequate shape ó I donít know what the definition of ďadequateĒ is.
It also identifies that there is no comprehensive tracking system or ability to flag preventive maintenance and upgrades that are required based on age and condition of the units. But Iím sure if you talk to the people who live in those units, they would have some serious issues with the condition of the housing stock. The report itself states that due to the age of a significant proportion of the housing units, the projected costs for renovation and rehabilitation for the next five years are anticipated to increase to approximately $400,000 a year.
Now, when I look at this ó I mean, these things ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, pursuant to section 42(2), speeches in Committee of the Whole shall be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration. Weíre into Yukon Housing Corporation, the social housing agenda. Can I bring the members opposite back to the issue that we have, and it is the 2003-04 supplementary, closing out that fiscal period, Mr. Chair?
Chair: Iím prepared to rule on this. There is no point of order. However, I look forward to hearing the member relate his comments to Bill No. 11, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Chair, I am relating it to the fact that in the 2003-04 supplementary the Yukon Housing Corporation lapsed $5.5 million. It is right on page 3 of this document right here ó Schedule A, right at the bottom, item 18. But then we would be into line-by-line, but we canít debate this in line-by-line and the minister is trying to avoid answering the question.
What we have is social housing stock in the Yukon that needs to be upgraded, to the tune of $400,000 per year, and that doesnít even go to the units that need to be replaced. Iíd encourage the minister to talk to his colleague down the way and maybe even get a copy of this report, because some of these social housing units are in his riding. And I think some of them may not even be eligible for renovations. Some of them may have to be replaced.
What Iím asking is: why would the government lapse $5.5 million when itís pretty obvious that weíve had this problem for a number of years? Weíre faced with all these costs to renovate and rehabilitate housing units for Yukon Housing, to the tune of $400,000 per year. It even says that itís $100,000 more than is budgeted in the current fiscal year.
So, if the government had not lapsed $5.5 million if the government had been doing its job and not lapsing this huge amount of money, maybe some of the social housing stock could have been renovated, rehabilitated, and some of it could have even been replaced. What would that have done for the economy? Maybe we could have employed some skilled tradespeople in the ministerís community ó in anybodyís community. We could have employed skilled tradespeople, instead of lapsing this money.
Iím talking about the capital. Not only would it have invigorated the economy by employing people, just think what it would have done for the building supply stores.
All the things ó the construction materials ó that would have been bought, would have been good for the economy. The people working in the stores would have had more employment. That would have been good for business. But this minister is not concerned with that. So maybe the minister could tell us what the government policy is with regard to social housing and why it would appear ó in this budget anyhow, in this supplementary budget ó that theyíre lapsing $1.6 million in operation and maintenance and $5.5 million in capital. If the minister would get a copy of the report from his colleague down the way, he could see that it would have been a good idea to have actually spent some of that money. Maybe the Deputy Premier can enlighten us on why weíre faced with this situation.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would have thought that, after two years, the members opposite would have had an understanding of how Yukon Housing works. I would encourage them to read the annual report for Yukon Housing and go and look at the various areas that Yukon Housing gets involved in.
That information is all presented in a format thatís easily understood, and hopefully theyíll come to the conclusion that Yukon Housing has a budget, has an envelope of money, for the various programs they offer. Itís a large sum of money but, because of the dismal state of the Yukon economy under the previous administrations ó the past two administrations, which basically destroyed the Yukon economy ó the uptake on these loans was not what it could have been.
This goes back to 2003-04, and these are for upgrading to private residential homes and everything.
Today I am sure youíll see an upward trend in the housing stock and people confident in the state of the Yukon economy, and that restored vigour in our new economy will manifest itself in a number of individuals borrowing from this fund to improve in their own housing stock.
There was no uptake of these loan portfolios to speak of, and that money subsequently lapses. It is revoted the next fiscal period. It doesnít have anything to do with social housing stock. The explanation hasnít changed for as long as I have been in this Legislature. I would be sure that the members opposite would have a very clear understanding.
This 2003-04 supplementary closes out the fiscal period. It deals primarily with two areas: Health and Social Services and the Public Service Commission. I would encourage the members opposite to concentrate on the areas after they get an understanding, or perhaps a briefing from their own officials, as to basic government accounting. It would be appreciated by all listening in to this debate here, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister didnít answer the question. He thinks itís funny but I fail to see the humour for the people who are living in some of these social housing units.
Maybe the minister would like to get Schedule A out and actually look at it. These are capital dollars. If itís not for upgrading social housing ó I know that the Minister of Community Services wants people inside the City of Whitehorse to apply to Yukon Housing to a loan program for wells, but itís not the same program that the Minister of Community Services has in his department.
Iím asking about social housing and the need to upgrade. I know that the Housing Corporation has control over some of these monies, but the government policy has to influence what it does to some extent. Now, $5.5 million ó the minister says it is going to get revoted later ó but $5.5 million that hasnít been used is a substantial amount of money, and itís important to Yukoners to know that the money is being spent in an appropriate manner on things that are important to them. I think that social housing is something that is important to the citizens of the Yukon.
Now the minister, the Deputy Premier, doesnít want to share the information. Heís saying that this money is lapsing, but it is going to be revoted. Maybe he can answer a question. This money is lapsing; itís going to be revoted; so weíre going to revote $5,428,000 into this budget. Is that money there in perpetuity, and this is going to be a fund that grows, and maybe weíll be lapsing $20 million some year? Or is this money going back to the government unspent and not being used for the purpose that it was allotted for originally?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, once again, I would encourage the member to take up an offer on an accounting course, because this is basic accounting. What has happened is that money has actually been revoted in this springís budget session, and the member opposite voted against it.
Mr. Cardiff: I wonít take the minister up on his offer of creative accounting because we all know how the Deputy Premier does his accounting. Itís public knowledge; itís out there in the public.
It seems to me that this money was originally intended to be used for some good purposes but itís being rolled back into consolidated revenues. So therefore itís not being used for what it was originally intended.
But the minister doesnít want to talk about that, so letís move on to something else in this supplementary. This Deputy Premier knows about this because he has got some responsibility and it is actually in the supplementary; but, again, itís about lapses.
Letís look on page 6, Schedule B, vote 15, social assistance, Whitehorse: $154,000 lapsed. Turn the page: social assistance, region, $43,000 lapsed. Letís cast our minds back to the previous summer when the minister was ó I donít know what the word is, but ďcomplainingĒ would be one ó about single white males from B.C. driving up social assistance costs by over $1 million. Maybe the minister can explain why we are lapsing money in social assistance payments.† He said social assistance payments were way out of whack. To me heís lapsing money. Where was the added cost?
Can he explain that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member should have asked that when we brought the mains forward and the last supplementary forward. If the member goes back and will recall in the supplementary previously, there was an increase in SA by some $1.1 million. What that means is we were off on our estimate by $154,000, so we increased it by I believe $1.1 million or $1.2 million in the supplementary previously, which was brought before the House, and we didnít expend all that was in the supplementary. We lapsed $154,000. Furthermore, it must be pointed out that this area wasnít debated by the members opposite, and furthermore they voted against it.
Mr. Fairclough: The member opposite is trying to make a big deal about voting against budgets. I think thatís kind of silly. When that member was on this side of the House, for six years he voted against every budget there was and voted against schools, except for one.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It would appear that the member opposite is going to finally correct the record.
Chair: Thereís no point of order here.
Mr. Fairclough: Except for one, and the member was not present at that vote; even though he did commit to voting for a Liberal budget, but he walked out of the House at the time the vote came.
The minister said this ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: I just heard the Member for Mayo-Tatchun refer to a budget vote when he claims that the Member for Klondike was absent from that vote. I believe itís out of order to refer to a memberís absence from the House.
Chair: The member is correct. As the member well knows, it is inappropriate to mention that a member is not present in the Assembly.
Mr. Fairclough: The Member for Klondike just wasnít available to vote, Mr. Chair.
The minister said heís filling in for the Premier right now. Stress levels are high, I suppose. Some can and some cannot handle this House, and itís evident from day to day as we debate things in this House. So, the Deputy Premier is going to have to take over and answer questions for his government.
Letís go back to one of them that my colleague here asked about Yukon Housing. The member said, ďJust look at the present budget weíre in for 2004-05. Youíll see that the money was revoted.Ē Thatís what he said ó capital money too, which is a little different when it comes to O&M and capital.
Well, in Schedule A, under Yukon Housing, there is $15 million, of which 34 percent is going back into general revenue. The minister just said that it was revoted. Thatís what he said. It was revoted into this budget. So, is that the case? If so, why then, in the present 2004-05 budget we have, did Yukon Housingís capital budget drop so drastically?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is forgetting that weíve already voted on the main estimates and that is done.
Mr. Fairclough: I would just ask the minister to answer the question. He gave an answer to my colleague here in response to his question. Just answer the question.
We had a drastic drop and the member said that it was a revote. If in fact it was a revote and there was only $5 million left in Yukon Housing ó I donít think thatís right, $5 million, Mr. Chair.
The $5,428,000 that is in this supplementary budget we are debating today and is going back into revenue ó the minister said to just look at the budget; it was a revote; itís projects. Thatís what I asked him: is it a revote or did it actually go into general funds? Are these projects or are we no longer seeing a portion of responsibilities that Yukon Housing once had?
I say that because the difference in the two budgets is $5 million. It is $5 million less that the final tally comes out to. Itís $5 million less than last year in this yearís budget. We are simply comparing the two.
So can the minister answer the question?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would hope that the Member for Mount Lorne and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun could grasp a better understanding of the accounting procedures employed over at Yukon Housing.
Yukon Housing has a number of loan funds and this Legislature votes to contribute to that pot of money. If there is no uptake on those various programs and no one borrows from it, the part remaining will lapse. It is shown here clearly, and it is revoted for the next fiscal year, usually at its original amount or, depending on what the department has requested, it could be more, it could be less, depending on the uptake, or there could be new programs or new initiatives.
I am hopeful that the members opposite can get their heads around this but, at the end, the mains the members opposite voted against ó now theyíre concerned with the lapses, which are basically monies earmarked for the loan portfolio for Yukon Housing Corporation, and the lapses reflect what there was no uptake on. Itís very simple, and it hasnít changed for as long as Iíve been sitting in this Legislature.
I would just encourage the official opposition to sit down with some of their officials in-house and get a better understanding of basic accounting practices and principles and/or take a course at perhaps Yukon College. I donít know where they start there, maybe Accounting 101, or maybe itís basically arithmetic, but the concepts are very, very simple here. I canít understand why the members opposite canít ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, it is clear the Member for Klondike has stooped to the use of insulting language in the House once again. I think it is something he needs to be called to order on, Mr. Chair. If he would just simply answer the questions, we would be able to move on in this debate.
Chair: The Chair concurs and would ask the member to refrain from making such insulting comments.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I will endeavour to ask my colleague, the Minister of Education, to outline the courses that are available in this area for the members opposite. I am convinced, after listening to the debate here, that there is a lack of understanding. No slight: it took me awhile to get my head around it in the first six months I was in the Legislature, and Iím hopeful that they can do the same, Mr. Chair.
It would expedite debate considerably. Iím sure that that fulfils the question with a very capable response on this sideís part outlining what transpired, how the money flows and that this is a pool of money used for loan portfolios. When thereís no uptake on certain parts of the loan portfolio, that money lapses. And, as I clearly identified at the beginning of the next fiscal cycle, itís revoted for a new pool of money or a new pot of money for this loan portfolio. The members opposite continue to vote against it.
Mr. Fairclough: There are reasons we ask these questions. How could the minister and government be so far out of touch in calculating what programs the public would access? Itís $5 million. Itís a third of the budget. Yet in the following year, itís that much less thatís in the mains. Itís that much less in the mains right here. So thatís what weíre getting at.
Now I understand what the member is saying about Yukon Housing Corporation, but there are others. For example, loan capital: these are the final numbers. This is general debate. These are the final numbers coming in. Itís what I think this government is asking: we only want the spending authority for another $819,000 because all that money is already spent. Thatís what it is. We just need to do the proper paperwork. But they couldnít answer the questions.
Look at the loan capital thatís in Schedule A. Thereís $5 million put into that pot, $4.8 million back into general revenue.
I could remember one word that the Premier used to say when he was on this side of the House to the Liberal government. He said that they were squirreling away money. He kept that: ďsquirreling away moneyĒ. I think it got to some of the members opposite because we heard some news about squirrels in the House from members opposite there.
Anyway, what we see here is a lot of money going back into general revenues. All we want are some simple explanations for that. The minister actually gave one. Believe it or not, weíve been talking all afternoon and the minister gave an explanation about Yukon Housing. Whoa, weíre making progress now. I think perhaps the minister would be able to answer the next question.
Hereís one that has a dramatic decrease in dollars, going back into general revenue. It is in Environment. Fifty percent of that money is going into capital ó weíre just talking about capital now ó is going back into general revenues. It is not the same type of department as Yukon Housing. It looks like the minister has an explanation for that. Iíll just sit down and let him answer that question.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That question has already been answered by the Premier. It deals with the game farm; it was the subject of much debate because it was dealt with by way of a special warrant that there was a lot of, shall we say, disrespect for.
Mr. Fairclough: That shows the decrease in money? Was it because of the deal not being put together? That was the decrease. Special warrants usually ask for more money.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The arrangements werenít concluded and the sale wasnít finalized before the end of the fiscal year.
Mr. Cardiff: Maybe the minister, now that heís in the mood to answer questions, can answer this question: in the supplementary budget, there is money in the Public Service Commission. Can the Deputy Premier tell us how much of the funds that are allotted in the Public Service Commission are for conducting the Internet investigation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That question could be answered in line-by-line debate with the officials from the department. This is general debate. It is a letís-get-into-the-specifics question. Iíd encourage the members to clear this, and weíll move forward.
Mr. Cardiff: This is something that is important. It was an action this government undertook. The Deputy Premier stood up earlier and suggested that the public isnít going to forget whatís going on here today. I would suggest to the Premier that the actions of the members on that side of the Legislature around the Internet investigation and how it was conducted is something that will live on in history for many, many years. They will long be remembered for what transpired.
Now, all Iím asking ó Iíd like to have that information now, and I think we should be entitled to that. I asked a simple question: how much of the money in the Public Service Commission budget was for the Internet investigation and for the settlements that ensued afterward? The Deputy Premier should be able to answer that question. Iím sure the officials have that information.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are only two items in this 2003-04 supplementary. One is the Public Service Commission, the other one is Health and Social Services. I would encourage the member, after general debate, that we get into the line-by-line discussion in the Public Service Commission where we can deal with the detailed analysis that the members opposite want when scrutinizing this department. Thatís what opposition is all about ó holding the government accountable ó and we do not have a quarrel with that. But at what point do we get into the minute details of various areas? Now it has become abundantly clear that the official oppositionís understanding of the movement of money needs clarifying, and Iím hoping that weíll see some uptake on some courses of study in general accounting practices and procedures. That being said, the area under scrutiny here is an important one. Those details can be relayed to the House by the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission when we get into the two departments. Thatís where weíre at, and Iím encouraging the members to move forward on meaningful debate today.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the Deputy Premier is wrong. There are two appropriations, and if the minister would look at the next page or two, he would see all the other departments listed with the lapses. I could stand here and list them. Thereís the Legislative Assembly, the Elections Office, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Executive Council, Community Services, Economic Development, Education, Energy, Mines and Resources, Environment, Finance, Health and Social Services, Department of Highways and Public Works, Justice, the Public Service Commission, Tourism and Culture, Womenís Directorate, Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Housing Corporation, Yukon Liquor Corporation, Loan Amortization and Loan Capital. Thatís just operation and maintenance.
That is just in the O&M; I wonít read the capital. The Member for Klondike is putting his glasses on now and he will read it for himself. I asked about something that was in the appropriation and the minister doesnít even have the courtesy to say that he will give it to us in a legislative return. If we had that information before we get into the lines maybe we would have some other questions to ask the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
I am sure that the Deputy Premier could participate in that as he did earlier. I am sure there is a spot on the floor for him where he could advise the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. Itís actually even closer; he doesnít even have to go to the end of the row. The minister is now even closer. He might be able to do it from sitting in his chair and advise the current minister responsible for the Public Service Commission of all the answers.
Could the Deputy Premier please at least undertake to provide the information I have requested around the cost related to conducting the Internet investigation and the cost of settlements ensuing? The money is in the 2003-04 budget.
Would the Deputy Premier please undertake to provide that information? If he doesnít have it at his fingertips he could send a legislative return over tomorrow with that information. I would look forward to the Deputy Premierís answer.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this 2003-04 supplementary does not contain any money for the purpose that the member opposite is suggesting. It primarily deals with a number of other areas, the details of which we donít need to get into a complete briefing on, but Iím sure the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission would be happy to provide the details.
The funding addition is required by the Public Service Commission for the employerís portion of retireesí extended health care, recruitments, workersí compensation premiums, actuarial adjustments to employeesí leave, and termination benefits. That is the specific answer to the area. It is none of the areas that the member opposite is referring to. Once again, it would appear that they have been out fishing and come up with those red herrings, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Chair, the minister canít even provide an undertaking. He canít commit to a legislative return. That shows how much this Deputy Premier is committed to being open and accountable and providing information to this Legislature.
Iím sure that the listening public is aghast at this Deputy Premierís ó either itís his inability or his unwillingness to share information. I think the Deputy Premier is unwilling. I think he knows the answers and it is shameful that he canít stand up, have the courage to share that information with Yukoners and with the members on this side of the House.
There are other questions. I mean, weíve tried asking questions about the appropriations and the Deputy Premier canít even see the ball, let alone get in the strike zone. Maybe weíll go back and weíll ask some other questions about some of the other lapses that have taken place.
If you look at the lapses, you can look at two departments here; theyíre responsible for almost half of the lapses in capital. These are areas of importance to Yukoners. Look in Highways and Public Works: $6,177,000; look at Community Services: $6,362,000. Thatís a lot of dough.
I know the explanation is that there are projects that are ongoing and that havenít been completed, but there are also projects that were planned that havenít even been started.
Now, that doesnít say much for this governmentís ability to plan and be fiscally responsible. There are lots of highway projects out there, lots of highways that could be improved.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: And thatís a good point.
I had the opportunity this past weekend to travel out toward the Takhini River to support the local agriculture industry and pick up some locally grown beef, and the highway was in terrible shape ó letís put it that way. The frost heaves are horrendous. That would have been a good expenditure of the Department of Highways and Public Works, which is lapsing $6.1 million, almost $6.2 million. But in the meantime, the people, the travelling public, the tourists, the people who travel on a regular basis in from the communities on the north highway, whether itís from Beaver Creek, Burwash, Destruction Bay, Haines Junction, Champagne, Mendenhall or Takhini, or our neighbours to the south and west in Alaska, the people from Haines, come over to Whitehorse to do their shopping sometimes and support the local economy and we canít even provide them with a decent highway.
Thatís just one thing that $6.1 million could have gone toward in Highways and Public Works. It would have made the highway safer for both the Yukon travelling public and for those who are visiting.
Community Services ó $6.3 million. What would $6.3 million have done in Dawson City, put toward the sewage treatment plant? Then maybe this government wouldnít have been in the situation itís in.
I wonder how much money there is in here for Community Services. Theyíre lapsing a lot of money, but we know they are spending money on the trustee. We couldnít find out in the Legislature when we asked a question about the chief administrative officer for the City of Dawson. We asked the question: ďDo you think itís worth $120,000 per year for somebody who works four days a week and gets 50 long weekends a year?Ē
I am sure that the Member for Klondike would love to have that gig. Then, if he had that gig, he could get a part-time job the other three days.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: †† Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would ask the member opposite not to cast aspersions on officials.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am sure that if the Member for Klondike takes offence at the word ďgigĒ, he obviously isnít familiar with the arts and cultural community and musicians. I am sure that he would like to have a job like that, where he got long weekends and he could actually take a second job and be able to afford to pay back his loan.
We asked those questions. Is it worth $120,000 to hire a chief administrative officer in Dawson City, someone who only works four days a week and gets all those long weekends? We couldnít get an answer in Question Period, and the minister stepped outside the House and said that the City of Dawson wasnít on the hook for the whole $120,000, and that the department is actually topping it up. The City of Dawson is only paying for what they used to pay before in Community Services for the CAO.
But I would even question that. I wouldnít be surprised but what the taxpayers of the Yukon are on the hook for the whole $120,000. These are questions that the people of the Yukon want answered.
I asked the Deputy Premier earlier to provide information; some of that information would have been found in Community Services and it would have been found in ECO about the environmental screening project and the correspondence. There are dollars related to conducting the environmental screening project, yet weíre lapsing money again.
The environmental screening project for that land development out in Whitehorse Copper, the process that this government used and supported ó
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order. The Chair is having some difficulty hearing Mr. Cardiff, who has the floor.
Mr. Cardiff: As I was saying, the environmental screening process was very troublesome to my constituents and constituents who live in Pineridge and MacRae, and they felt that the government didnít listen to their concerns, despite the Premierís assurance in a letter to me ó I donít have it in front of me but I believe it was April 18 of this year. He assured me and I assured my constituents that the Premier was going to make sure that all their concerns were addressed before there was any determination to go ahead on that project.
Now, despite asking the Premier several times during Question Period in this legislative sitting for answers about why those concerns werenít heard, the Premier has refused to answer those questions. He has made the Minister of Community Services very uncomfortable by pawning that question off and not providing an answer and being accountable for his words. Itís the Premier who made the statement and said in that letter to me, and through me to my constituents, that he would make sure that all their concerns were addressed.
Now, the Premier hasnít done that. The Premier is not accountable. He keeps pawning that one off on the Minister of Community Services, and he wonít answer for his own actions. But we have the money in Community Services to do appropriate land planning. We have money in capital. There was $6.2 million lapsed in capital and $1,114,000 lapsed in operations and maintenance where we could have had a good process. We could have actually spent some of that money on a process that would have worked, where people would have had their concerns addressed, and they could have come away feeling a lot better about the process.
How about this: why donít we give the Premier an opportunity to reflect on his governmentís inability to satisfy both my constituents and the requests that weíve made for information. The Deputy Premier can brief him on any of the requests that he may have missed.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Some Hon. Member: Disagreed.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Cardiff that we report progress. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: I believe that the motion has been defeated.
Mr. Cardiff: The government doesnít want to cooperate here. Weíve asked several questions and the government has been not willing to answer the questions.
They have made statements that tried to belittle the work that weíre doing on behalf of our constituents.
Now, the Deputy Premier once again finds it humorous. I donít find it humorous, and neither do my constituents. Their concerns have not been addressed with regard to the environmental screening project, or theyíre not impressed with the inability of the government to satisfy reasonable requests.
Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress now.
Chair: As there has been no intermediate process, however that word is defined, that motion is not in order. Iíll refer members to Standing Order 43(2) where such motion, if rejected, shall not be moved again until after some intermediate proceeding has taken place.
As debate does not constitute an intermediate process ó in fact, I would look to find a definition of ďintermediate proceedingĒ in the Standing Order.
However, seeing the time is now 6:00 p.m., 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. 11, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.