††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Tuesday, December 7, 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.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
†Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to have the House help me to welcome the grade 5 students from Selkirk Elementary.† Welcome.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to welcome Ms. Kristen Innes-Taylor and the grade 5 class from Selkirk Elementary.
Speaker: Are there other introductions of visitors?
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon provide advance notice to the opposition parties setting out the details and rationale for ministerial travel when such travel results in the absence of ministers from this House during a legislative sitting.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that older women in the territory are being abused; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to honour its election platform to support families by funding the Outreach liaison for older women program so that it can continue its valuable work with abused older women.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† ††Childcare workers, wage increases for
†Mr. McRobb: This Health minister has some explaining to do with respect to verifying his promise to increase wages for childcare workers in the territory. Iíve requested him to provide the validating information on three occasions in the past week. Letís recount them, Mr. Speaker.
On December 2, he said that the information was contained in the mains budget for this fiscal year. He repeated that claim when asked for the information the next day, on December 3. When it was pointed out to him yesterday that his assertions were wrong, he then indicated the information could be found within an annual report that he had just tabled that we hadnít yet seen.
I am troubled to report to this House that once again the Minister of Health is wrong. This minister needs to demonstrate some principles. Iím not talking about the Peter Principle. When will this minister provide us with the necessary information to verify his promise?
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my name associated with the Peter Principle is a derogatory remark, and I would ask the Speaker to rule on its implications and the context it was used in here today.
Speaker: I will review the Blues, and we will discuss it at a later date.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our governmentís commitment to childcare here in the Yukon has been very specific and very direct. Shortly after coming into office, this area was identified by our government as a very high priority. We convened a meeting of the day home and daycare operators, and we put together a working team. That working team developed a four-year plan. The initial amount of money increase was done through a supplementary budget two fiscal periods ago. The last amount budgeted was debated very briefly by the opposition and the third party in this House because of the lack of budgeting of their time. It is contained in the main estimates that were tabled this spring. Our commitment to childcare in the Yukon was very specific, and weíre moving forward on the implementation of our four-year plan.
Mr. McRobb: The minister didnít answer the question; instead he gave us his version of events. Now, weíre still waiting for the information to validate his promise. Obviously, his government was eager to take credit for its announcement, but itís not so willing to withstand the test of scrutiny. This ministerís announcement was merely a sham, intended to create a good-news announcement out of nothing. Furthermore, weíve learned from other sources something else about the promise he made so proudly. They werenít new funds. That was old money already spent. The funds provided nothing to workers in terms of wage increases. Can he tell us this: when will he finally be getting around to increasing the wages for childcare workers in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is categorically wrong. The money for childcare was contained in the main estimates for the fiscal period that we are currently in.
Mr. Speaker, when more money flows from the federal Liberal government under the newly announced programs, it is our governmentís intention to reconvene this working group and flow that money into childcare. Mr. Speaker, currently the Yukon has the second best funded childcare system in Canada, after the Province of Quebec, Mr. Speaker, and that bodes well for the tremendous effort that our government put into this initiative.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister is confusing the issue. He still has not answered the question. Now, the minister mentioned the possibility of federal funds coming next year, but childcare operators and workers fear this minister is only stalling and finger-pointing instead of assuming his own responsibility. The federal deal will apparently be apportioned on a per capita basis, leaving the territory with a paltry $20,000 or so. Clearly, that is not much to look forward to. The federal government has contributed millions of extra health care dollars to the territory this year alone. Will the minister now assume his responsibility as Health minister and live up to his promise to the childcare workers and providers by putting real money toward wages and training? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our commitment to childcare is $5.65 million. Our government put the money where the money was needed before there was any federal government announcement, before there were any initiatives on the part of the federal government, save and except a small amount that flowed to the Yukon. Our government worked very hard with the working group on the four-year plan. Next year weíll be into the next phase of the implementation, and that will call for more money. And Iím sure when the budget next spring is tabled, the member opposite will vote against it, as he did this last cycle. That bodes well for how the opposition members view childcare.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, I believe itís against the Standing Orders of this Assembly, according to part 19(e), that a member shall be called to order by the Speaker if that member reflects upon any vote of the Assembly unless it is that memberís intention to move that it be rescinded. Now if that were the case, the Minister of Health is trying to rescind his own governmentís mains budget for this fiscal year.
Speaker: Although eloquent, the Chair feels that this is a dispute among members; however, Iím going to reserve the right to review this because the member may have a point. New question, Member for Kluane.
Question re: Emergency medical services transfer
†Mr. McRobb: Well, Iím hoping for an answer this time. About nine months ago, the Health minister announced he was negotiating a transfer of emergency medical services to the Yukon Hospital Corporation. In typical fashion, the minister acted alone without consulting the Public Service Alliance, the affected workers or the public. Thereís a lot at stake here. Thereís taxpayersí money, thereís the rights of valued employees, and thereís the future of emergency medical services across the territory. We deserve more from this minister. Can he now provide us with a progress report on changes to emergency medical services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíd be happy to provide the member opposite in the House a progress report on where we are at with emergency medical services.
Our government is the first government since the 1970s that has increased honoraria for the volunteer EMS workers. Over $200,000 was earmarked and budgeted for that area. In addition to that, on the capital side, Mr. Speaker, a quarter of a million dollars was invested in two new ambulances. In addition to that, there has been about a $200,000 increase in additional clothing and training. There is a full-time training officer who is now in place. He is revolving around the outlying communities and providing that training.
This government ó our government ó has done more for emergency medical services in the Yukon than the previous four or five governments combined, as far as improving the quality of service, improving the overall level of morale and improving training. We have done our level best to provide the highest consistent level of care from emergency medical services that Yukoners deserve. We are doing just that.
Mr. McRobb: Why is the minister avoiding the question? What is he hiding, Mr. Speaker? Earlier this year, he promised this House that management of emergency medical services in the territory would be taken over by the Yukon Hospital Corporation. Now weíve heard something completely different from concerned parties. Apparently the minister has proceeded on his own to accommodate the government takeover of Yukon emergency services.
Can he tell us more about what he is doing with respect to this transfer or takeover?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We are improving emergency medical services and the service delivery. Itís our commitment as a government to provide the highest consistent level of service in this area that we possibly can. We have demonstrated that with more money in that budget envelope than ever before, and we will continue to look at innovative ways to deliver services to Yukoners in the best possible manner that we ever can.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister continues to avoid answering the question. What is he hiding? Is the question too complicated? Maybe we should narrow it down to a very simple level, Mr. Speaker. Can the minister tell us who he has been consulting with on this proposed transfer?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, our government is committed to providing the highest possible level of service to Yukoners through emergency medical services and, to that end, we increased the budget envelope significantly. We increased the honoraria to our volunteers ó the first time it has been done since the early 1970s, I believe. In addition to that, there has been $200,000 earmarked for that category. Another approximately $200,000 has been put into the envelope for clothing allowances and training and discretionary funds for the various volunteer organizations around the Yukon. In addition to that, on the capital side, we have invested in two new ambulances for about $125,000. Hopefully, in the next budget cycle, we will again be purchasing new ambulances. And I am sure, once again, the members opposite will once again determine that itís not in the public interest to go along with this side and the tremendous job weíre doing in this area and will vote against it.
Question re: Oil and gas land sale in southeast Yukon
†Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. This is the minister who is responsible for collecting revenues from oil and gas and land sales in the Yukon, and this year that amount is about $4 million from these sales. In his speech last week in Texas, the Premier revealed that the Yukon Party government met with the Kaska and the Acho Dene Koe and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers to ó and I quote: ďput together a business deal that would see a transboundary oil and gas disposition, including southeast Yukon and the N.W.T.Ē
†It sounds like the Yukon Party is going ahead with the land sale in southeast Yukon ó typical, however, of the Yukon Party and the Premier to announce a major initiative like this outside of the Yukon.
When is this secret land sale going ahead?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to remind the member opposite that through the YOGA agreement ó the legislation thatís put in place to manage oil and gas in the Yukon ó we canít put out dispositions in unsettled land claim areas that have some traditional claim to them without the consent of the affected First Nation.
Ms. Duncan: Iím quite well aware of that. This past summer, the former leader of the Yukon Party said that this government doesnít understand the Umbrella Final Agreement or the land claim agreements. He also said the government has set land claims back by making side deals with First Nations, and thatís going to come back to haunt us. Unfortunately, the former leader is absolutely right. Under this Yukon Party government, the Kaska are getting all the benefits of a land claim and none of the responsibilities. Thatís a great deal. The Premier is having secret negotiations on another side deal with the Kaska. He wants an oil and gas land sale in southeast Yukon. Will the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources commit unequivocally that resource royalties from the land sale will go to Yukoners, not to the B.C. First Nations? Itís a yes-or-no question.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to remind the member opposite that the Kaska havenít benefited from any oil revenue from their traditional territory to date. The money that has been garnered from the existing well has gone to settled First Nations and the territorial government, so the Kaska have not garnered any money from the disposition over the last 20 years.
Ms. Duncan: Unfortunately, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is categorically wrong. Liard First Nation and Ross River First Nation did receive their benefits in the Kotaneelee fund under the former NDP government when the current Premier was a member of that party. Yukoners quite rightly want to know whatís on the table in these negotiations. The Premier can tell an audience in Texas that heís putting together a deal in order to have an oil and gas land sale in southeast Yukon ó why canít he tell Yukoners? Why canít the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, who has responsibility in this area, tell Yukoners whatís on the table? I would like a very clear and unequivocal answer from the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources today. Are resource royalty revenues ó the money ó from the oil and gas land sale flowing to Yukoners, or are they going to B.C. First Nations? Which is it? Are they on the table?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to remind the member opposite that the Kaska have not garnered any royalty from their traditional territory to date. I would like to say to the member opposite that certainly weíre looking at all avenues for economic development in the Yukon and certainly the southeast Yukon is very rich in resources. We are living within a memorandum of understanding that was signed by her government on how weíre managing the forests in southeast Yukon ó very successfully, by the way. So oil and gas are on the table. Oil and gas are part of the resources that the Kaska have in their traditional territory, and of course ADK has an overlapping claim, so that claim has to be addressed. The Kaska donít have a signed final agreement with the federal government, and we certainly are working in partnership with the Kaska. But as far as a deal on a disposition in southeast Yukon is concerned at the moment, itís only conversation at this point. When and if we go ahead with the disposition in southeast Yukon, it will certainly benefit all Yukoners.
Question re: Violence against women, prevention of
†Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. We continue to hear that family violence is increasing in the territory. Christmas is the time of year when family violence doubles. Transition homes have no vacancies. Crisis calls about violence to one transition home are up 300 percent. The numbers tell the reality. Frontline workers are telling us that the number of women suffering from violence is alarming. This minister canít hide behind the Yukon Partyís claim of a help line in B.C. and awareness campaigns. It is his responsibility to provide safety to the women of the territory. What is the minister doing about this crisis in the Yukon today?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the delivery of services to women in need across the Yukon is delivered in a multitude of ways: the Help and Hope in Watson Lake, the Dawson womenís shelter, and Kausheeís and Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre in Whitehorse.
Let me just cite an example. Kausheeís is a very excellent service delivery NGO, as the rest of them also are, but letís just use that as an example. When our government came to power, $480,000 was the level of funding provided to Kausheeís. The 2004-05 budget is currently $675,121, and members opposite opposed that increase for Kausheeís. We went forward. I have recently met with officials from Kausheeís, and we are looking at enhancing further and meeting the demands head-on. As we committed to, a demonstrated need that is identified to our government will be dealt with.
Mrs. Peter: Abused women over 50 are reluctant to use services that they see as being for younger women with children, but violence against women can come to any women, any age, any time. Many abused older women are isolated. They can be abused not only by their spouses but also by their adult children. They are usually financially dependent on the person abusing them. Kausheeís Place has an Outreach liaison worker for older women. They report a 500-percent increase in contacts with older women over the last four months. This program is ending if they canít find funding soon. Will the minister commit to funding this program?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What the member opposite did not identify on the floor of this House is that this funding that is provided to Kausheeís and these other initiatives is federal money. This expires at the end of March next year.
Now, the question should be, ďHas the member opposite or her caucus and colleagues written to our Member of Parliament and to the federal minister responsible for this area,Ē as we on this side have?
Question re: Social housing
Mr. Cardiff: In 2002, the Yukon signed the Canada-Yukon affordable housing agreement with the federal government. This agreement was for $5.5 million over five years, to be matched by the Yukon. It was to create or upgrade 400 affordable housing units. Could the minister tell us how much of the $5.5 million has been accessed and used to provide affordable housing for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The $5.5 million is still outstanding within Yukon; however, we are planning to utilize the services of that money in the upcoming year.
Mr. Cardiff: Shame ó $5.5 million, 2 years, and theyíve done absolutely nothing for affordable housing.
Affordable social housing is proven to be an effective way to reduce cost pressures on the health care system, social services and the criminal justice system. This government has shown a complete lack of commitment.
There is only $98,000 in the supplementary budget. They havenít put their money where their mouth is. They have just recently signed a new framework guide to housing initiatives that lets them off the hook to cost share the initiatives with the federal government. So in light of the inaction over the last two years, what guarantee do Yukoners have that this new agreement is going to translate into real, new, affordable housing?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, itís not like we have been sitting back on our hands on these particular monies from the federal government, as he indicates. In fact, the criteria for this money is so restricting it has been impossible for us to utilize this money from the federal government other than for such things as senior housing, which is a possibility that we may be able to use in the upcoming year, and I anticipate we will be getting into that particular venue.
Affordable housing has a structure on it and a limit, which is good for southern communities but not for the north. It has been very difficult for us to obtain this money and utilize it under the criteria that the federal government has put forth. However, we have negotiated with the federal government on a couple of issues, and Yukon Housing is now in a position where theyíll be able to submit a recommendation to the federal government and bring forth an application that we have accepted under this formula.
Mr. Cardiff: Shame again. All theyíve negotiated is the fact that they donít have to put their money where their mouth is. Theyíre off the hook for having to cost share on affordable housing. And he just said that theyíre not even going to do affordable housing. Theyíre talking about something completely different.
Currently there are 30 families on the social housing waitlist. Transition homes, as my colleague was saying earlier, are stretched to the maximum. Women leaving abusive relationships have only a few options when their time at a transition home ends. They have the free-market housing that they usually canít afford, they can go out on the street, they can return to the abusive relationship, or they can go into social housing that currently doesnít exist. Will the minister consider establishing a separate waitlist that gives priority to women leaving abusive relationships?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yukon Housing is currently looking at just that exact situation under their affordable housing program and assessing the availability of this type of housing within all areas of the Yukon.
Question re: AIDS and hepatitis C funding
Mr. McRobb: Funding for AIDS and hepatitis C has long been a matter of dispute in the Yukon. Throughout 2001, AIDS Yukon Alliance and the hepatitis C support group, Positive Lives, had issues with the $139,000 the government gave to the alliance. Funding came through the federal government for hepatitis C support. The Liberal government wanted the alliance to take on the hepatitis C problem and their hundreds of clients. The hepatitis C group wanted their own organization. The Minister of Health in the federal government at the time threw up his hands and recommended mediation for the two groups so he wouldnít have to decide.
Can the Health minister update us on the present situation for hepatitis C with the new organization called Blood Ties Four Directions?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Again, these are all federal initiatives in which our governmentís role is to ensure that Yukoners are treated fairly and as well as they possibly can be. To that end, I was advised during a recent meeting with the federal Minister of Health that there is a tremendous surplus in this fund and they are looking at ways of determining who else could receive money that contracted this dreaded blood-borne disease during that time.
So thereís a window of opportunity at the insistence of the federal government. The member opposite once again, and the official opposition, should be directing a lot of these questions to the federal government, whose clear responsibility exists in this area.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the Health minister shouldnít be too quick to absolve his own responsibility in this area. Now the Liberal minister promised more funding for the extra 300 or 400 hepatitis C clients, but that minister was fired before any additional funding was secured. The new Liberal minister refused to increase funding and the alliance was told to take on the hepatitis C clients. Blood Ties Four Directions operates with only a slightly larger budget than the alliance. They provide support to hepatitis C clients, as well as programs for AIDS and HIV-affected persons. How much of the present funding arrangement for Blood Ties is earmarked for the support of hepatitis C clients, or is the minister waiting for the federal government to come along and pick up the tab for our own patients?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As to how this NGO distributes its funding, I donít have the details of that. Perhaps the member opposite could get a hold of this NGO and ask them directly. Our governmentís commitment is firm, definitive and succinct. We will assist Yukoners where thereís an assistance requirement. Also, the area that the member is exploring is clearly a federal purview and the federal government made the determination as to who was to receive funding under this initiative. That has since been broadened at the insistence of the new federal Minister of Health, and as to how it will finally flow through I am not aware of the details. I know it is work in progress, and Iíd encourage the members opposite to get a hold of the federal government, our Member of Parliament, and ask him the specific questions, and ask those ministers.
Mr. McRobb: Well, he is the minister and he should know. Now Blood Ties has cut back on its services due to a lack of funding. It isnít able to get out into the communities where we heard yesterday First Nation HIV infection is a very serious matter. Blood Ties has lost most of the nursing support it had for testing. For instance, the Outreach van, which they helped sponsor, no longer has financial help and is operating only two days a week, not on weekends when itís needed most.
What does this minister plan to do about the HIV and AIDS epidemic and about providing proper funds to Blood Ties so it can help support hepatitis C clients?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what I wish to make abundantly clear to this member opposite and to this House is that our governmentís commitment in this area for funding has not decreased. It has actually, in fact, increased. The program initiatives that the member opposite is referring to are federal programs that are timed, and they will expire at the end of March this year, unless there are new initiatives and new programs brought forward and new funding from the federal government. So like me and like my department, I would encourage the members opposite to write to our Member of Parliament, to write to the respective minister, and encourage them to put the restorative funding to a lot of these programs that are well-meaning and well-deserved and required here in the Yukon. But at the end of the day, that is the only way we are going to be able to maintain the funding in these areas ó by ensuring that the federal government steps up to the plate and continues funding these initiatives that they began.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private membersí business
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of government private members to be called on Wednesday, December 8, 2004: Motion No. 391, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge, and Motion No. 322, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
†Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
†Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 54, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act.
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. 54 ó Act to Amend the Income Tax Act
Chair: The Committee will now examine Bill No. 54, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, in general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: † Weíve already gone through this bill in some detail during second reading, and I will now continue with some remarks here in Committee.
The bill does provide businesses in the Yukon with tax incentives to promote economic growth. We made this commitment to Yukoners that we as a government would provide tax incentives to our business community to help promote economic growth and put more money back in the pockets of Yukoners. We all know that our tax regime must be both competitive and attractive to businesses in order to have a vibrant economy. This legislation will go some way to achieving that very goal.
The bill reduces the corporate small business tax rate from six percent to four percent effective January 1, 2005. Since its inception in 1983, this is the first time that the small business tax rate has been reduced.
The two-point rate change represents a 33-percent reduction in the small business tax rate. What this means in practical terms is that many corporations in the Yukon will see a reduction of their Yukon taxes by at least one third. This is something to be proud of, Mr. Chair, as a government. It is another example of our attention to and focus on our business community to get them much more involved in the building of Yukonís economic future.
This bill also increases the small business tax deduction limit to $400,000 effective January 1, 2007. The small business tax deduction limit represents the amount of business income that is eligible for the reduced small business tax rate. The current limit of $250,000 is slated to increase by $25,000 a year until it reaches $300,000 on January 1, 2006. This bill also increases the limit a further $100,000 to the $400,000 level effective January 1, 2007.
Mr. Chair, as I stated in second reading, these two initiatives will reduce taxes for many of the corporations operating in the Yukon. Lower taxes are a necessary ingredient, required to stimulate growth in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Chair, that is what we are delivering on as a government. When both these tax reduction measures are fully implemented, some $885,000 will go back into the pockets of Yukoners through their small businesses. In a similar vein, this is the reduction in the governmentís revenues that we will see each year. However, itís an affordable reduction, considering that those monies are now back in Yukonersí hands. This is an investment that all Yukoners will indeed benefit from. These tax changes are a reflection of our commitment to economic growth and partnering with our private sector, which will lead to a much more prosperous Yukon future. I expect all members of the House to support the goal encompassed by this bill and look forward to the debate.
I also will answer any questions that may be coming from the other side of the House on this matter, but I also want to point out that it is a well-known fact, after due diligence, that the reduction in small business tax rates is clearly one of the best vehicles to increase investment in any economy in any jurisdiction.
It works because small businesses tend to take that extra money and reinvest it into the region or jurisdiction theyíre in, thereby creating jobs and benefits for the citizens in that particular area.
This is something the Department of Finance has put together in very short order. This is not the end of what the department will be doing in researching and looking at our tax regimes to further develop and grow our economy in partnership with our business and private sectors. We know that across the country respective governments are looking at their tax regimes, including the federal government. Our purpose here is to try to engage with the small business community in a way that they become more involved and are able to invest more in the future growth of our economy.
Mr. Chair, I think this is a measure that all members in this House can support. Thereís great merit and value in what these amendments will do for Yukoners. Our small business community is one of the most important pieces of our economic fabric. They are here; they are our mainstay through thick and thin, through whatever cycle we are in. Our small business communityís diversity, dedication and commitment to the Yukon economy is constant and absolute, and we as a government are looking in every area possible to assist our small business community ó be it tax measures, be it training Yukoners so they have the skill sets to work within our small business community or looking at areas of investment by government spending that will also assist our small business community and its future growth.
With that, I will turn it over to the members opposite.
Mr. Hardy: Well, itís no surprise that the Yukon Party government has moved in this direction in regard to tax cuts, and obviously itís no surprise also that the Yukon Party government has decided to target this one area. We already have some of the lowest taxes in the country, and I have heard the Finance minister say previously that this is putting it in line with some of the other jurisdictions across Canada; however, I have a few issues around this. Part of those issues, of course, is that it seems that this government does not know what one hand is doing. When one hand is doing an action on this side, whatís the other hand doing? Iíll tell you why this arises. Itís called the Taxpayer Protection Act.
When we looked at this, Mr. Chair, we found that by lowering this tax, under the Taxpayer Protection Act thereís a very good possibility that no way in the world could this government or any other government down the road be able to make that adjustment back up ó up to five percent, or six percent or whatever ó without going back to the polls or making substantial changes to the Taxpayer Protection Act.
Now Iím quite willing to have the minister on the other side try to explain this to me, because he seems to avoid this issue or to address this concern that weíve raised in the past. Thereís a very serious concern about this, of course. Number one, if the government were finding it difficult to meet its obligations ó the social obligations, the economic obligations, the expectations of the people of this territory ó it may have to make a slight adjustment to some taxes. In this case they would not be able to do this unless they addressed the concerns under the Taxpayer Protection Act.
Thatís a serious concern. Thatís tying the hands of future governments. Thatís also tying their own hands in that regard. What is more distressing about that issue is the fact that the minister has not flagged that; he has not raised that point. He has not addressed it, yet he has been aware of it. He has been aware of it because I addressed it earlier on, Mr. Chair. He stands up today and once again totally avoids it, when he could have addressed it immediately, if there was something that we were missing here. He could have said, in response to some of the concerns that were raised by the official opposition, this is what would happen, no need to worry, future governments can raise taxes or lower taxes as they see fit, as is their legislative right. In this case, I donít have that assurance and the Finance minister did not address it. I find that a shame.
The minister also talked about evidence of benefits in making these adjustments. Well, there has been nothing put on the table to prove that these adjustments would flow into the hands of the working people, nor would be a benefit throughout the Yukon. No evidence has been brought forward; it is just words. Has the minister indicated if there is going to be any kind of tracking to see how that money flows, if this benefit, this adjustment downward, does trickle through the system and goes into the hands of working people?
I know that the minister on that side avoids those words, ďworking peopleĒ, because I never heard him mention it once in his address. All I heard was, ďbusiness benefits,Ē ďbusiness benefits,Ē ďbusiness benefits.Ē We do not oppose that on this side. We support that and we recognize that small business is the backbone of the economy, but small business is made up of working people as well, and they have to be part and parcel of any address, in my perspective. They go hand in hand: business and working people. Theyíre not separate.
If youíre going to give tax breaks, are you also going to apply those tax breaks to other groups, to other people? Is it going to be across the board? Or is it just singling out individual organizations or businesses that will get this tax break? We are only talking about small business here ó are we going to go broader?
The Finance minister has indicated that maybe there is going to be more tax breaks coming. I would like to see the Finance minister put that out to the public and out to us so that we can know where this government is going in regard to tax breaks.
But once again, itís left in the void. We really donít know what theyíre doing or where theyíre going. We have no idea what the vision is around taxes. Now, Iím very concerned about that. There are many people in our society who are struggling, and there are a lot of statistics out there. But I want to tell you about statistics.
Yesterday, I heard very clearly where statistics do not prove the reality. That was around the social aspect ó itís around abuse and the crisis line and the front-line workers. Statistics show that there has been a drop in charges of abuse within the territory. But the front-line workers gave us figures of a 300-percent increase, a 57-percent increase, a 500-percent increase. Theyíre the front-line workers. Thatís what they see on their doorstep. So statistics are a concern if theyíre not fine-tuned enough and if they do not connect with the reality on the streets and in the departments and in the NGOs and in our communities.
I am very concerned that there is no proof that this tax reduction is going to have the benefits that we want in stimulating the economy and being spread throughout our society, and I would be much happier if there were some concrete evidence. If the minister wishes to table studies done in other jurisdictions, because I donít think there has been one done in the Yukon ó I could be wrong, but I canít remember one being done ó but in other provinces in which they have studied tax reductions and the benefits of how it has impacted economies, if he is willing to table those or direct me even where to look for those, I am quite happy to look at that and see it but, at face value, I have to question it.
We have indicated that we do not oppose this reduction from six percent to four percent, but we have raised concerns, and I think theyíre very legitimate concerns, and they need to be answered. A government has to have the ability to not only lower taxes but to also raise taxes, to do either one of those or to hold steady where taxes presently are. We may have huge economic activity happening in the Yukon in the future. It could be the pipeline, and it looks more and more like it will be the pipeline; it could be the railroad. That may be a while off still. They will have a tremendous impact on our culture and our societies up here.
There may be a desire by this government to tax that economic activity to ensure more money stays within the Yukon that can be spread out through all the communities. It may be a tax to address some of the social concerns that will arise from pipeline activity. It may be a tax for training. The government may make that choice. The government has to have the authority to do that for the betterment of our society and the betterment of the Yukon when you see a major activity like a pipeline coming through.
We all know the building of a pipeline is not a long project. Itís not 10 or 15 years long, or 20 years long. Itís not like a mine. Historically, a mine would open up and, 30 years later, theyíre still running and still employing people. The building of the pipeline will happen; it will be extremely fast; it will surprise people how quickly it goes through the regions; it will be quite astounding. The impact will be very fast; the flow of money will be huge; the opportunities for the Yukon to benefit from that must be realized. One area where it may be realized is in some type of tax to ensure ó whether itís training or money directed to social issues, or possibly a green tax for environmental concerns, in order to recoup, restore and create more employment after the pipeline has gone through and to re-establish certain areas that may have been affected. The government has to have that authority.
When we make changes around taxes, we have to be aware of that. If economic benefit is going to be coming into the Yukon, if our economy is improving, then we have to have a way to ensure that as much money as possible stays in the Yukon.
Now the minister mentioned that the tendency of small businesses is to spend the money within their area, within where their business is actually set up, and I agree with him. That is the general tendency, and thatís one of the reasons we support the reduction from six to four percent; however, studies have to be done, or there are studies that have been done in the past. Thereís proof that has to be laid before us that is essential, and we do have committees and boards that we should utilize in looking at these changes. An example would be the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. They havenít been that active in the last while. This is exactly the kind of area that we could have directed them to take a look at, and they would have embraced it and Iím sure brought forward a report that would have been quite beneficial for this kind of debate.
We had a tax round table. The NDP put together a tax round table. That was to get input from businesses, from labour, from communities in regard to the future direction of the taxation system ó what is good, what isnít, what we should be looking at. Now that was quite a few years ago. Who has this government consulted with in this regard?
How broad is their basis of consultation? When they made this decision, was it only to reflect what some of the other provinces are doing, to get in line with what their tax base is, or did they go out and consult small business? Did they consult the chambers? Did they consult other organizations around this? We donít know. It hasnít been said to us yet. So we have serious concerns about that as well.
So as members on the other side like to say in regard to us, the official opposition, and the bills we bring forward, there are a lot of holes in this. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered.
Once again, Mr. Chair, the minister did not address what we asked for earlier on. So I look forward to hearing his responses to this. I look forward to the debate in regard to this Bill No. 54. I also look forward to the minister explaining who he consulted in this regard and where it came from. I look forward to his explaining how this works with the Taxpayer Protection Act, what effect it has, and if we are able to adjust the taxes back up without having to go to a referendum or an election or a massive change with the Taxpayer Protection Act? Is that affected? What are the other proposals? He alluded to some other changes to taxes. Maybe the minister on the floor today can explain what those changes are going to be. Iím very curious. What direction are we going in, in regard to taxes? I know many lower income people would love to see an adjustment, and maybe those who are in that tax bracket need to see an adjustment as well. Is that a consideration? I know other organizations and groups would love to see some tax forgiveness, as well ó and individuals.
There are a lot of forms of taxes out there. Workersí compensation ó what about that, Mr. Chair? On one hand this is a tax reduction, but it seems that we are witnessing a tax increase in workersí compensation. The taxes are being reduced in the small business area, but if you look at workersí compensation, which every business that has employees is supposed to be paying into, you are seeing an increase being applied. Is that going to stimulate the economy? Is that going to help?
The argument from the Yukon Party government, from the minister, is not making sense. If tax reduction stimulates the economy, why would you increase workersí compensation on this other side? Maybe the minister can explain how one stimulates the economy by lowering the amounts, but on the other side it is not affecting the economy by raising the amounts. That needs to be answered as well. If you are going to make the argument, apply it to what else is happening within government, within the corporations.
Again, it comes down to one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing. Those are serious considerations that the official opposition has. Again, in the end, a lot of it comes right back down to it being not really that well thought out. Itís similar to, ďLetís do this. Weíll win some favour out there, and hopefully it will distract from the other stuff that weíre doing, such as the concerns around workersí compensation.Ē Iíve heard a lot of businessesí concern around that. Iíve had a lot phone calls about what is happening in that area.
I look forward to the responses on this.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I did hear faintly coming from the leader of the official opposition that they might support this bill and the tax measures in it for our small business community, but what came out loud and clear is the official oppositionís ó the NDPís ó real position when it comes to taxation in the Yukon. Itís obvious, based on the memberís response, that the NDP ó the official opposition in this territory ó is more interested in increasing taxes than in providing incentive to our business community by decreasing taxes.
So, on that note, I would like to just point out for the Yukon public that the government side of the House is interested in looking at our taxation regime to find ways to provide incentive to our business community through lowering taxes. The official opposition has clearly stated their position in this House: that they are more interested in raising taxes, and thatís very important, Yukoners, that you all understand those two very contrasting positions.
Furthermore, there is clear evidence within the bill itself of how this will benefit Yukoners, and it begins by the fact that this puts $885,000 back into the pockets of Yukoners through small businesses. Letís also make the point ó and again this is something the member should know if the member is interested in what our small business community is all about ó that this reduction in taxes in the small business tax rate for the Yukon will affect 98 percent of the corporations in the Yukon Territory. In other words, 98 percent of our corporate community has an annual gross revenue of $400,000 or less. Therefore, the tax amendment and the measures weíve brought forward will benefit 98 percent of our small business community.
Thatís something that the member opposite should have known already. So the comments that the members opposite wonít know if this affects a few businesses or just a couple of businesses are of extremely concern, because the member should know the fabric of our business community and the role it plays in the Yukon economy. Furthermore, Mr. Chair, I have to point out that the member opposite has actually criticized our Finance officials who worked on this measure, who researched it, who did the calculations, who looked into all facets of this and brought it forward.
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, I just want to put it on record that we in official opposition did not criticize any officials. And if we were critical, itís about the policy of this Yukon government, and we should not be characterized as a party attacking members of the public service.
Chair: Order please. There is no point of order here. There is a dispute between members.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think we have to recognize that beginning with what was a very extensive consultation with Yukoners ó the election ó we clearly committed to provide tax incentives to businesses in order to promote economic growth.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member is calling out ďWCBĒ. Again, itís a concern. The leader of the official opposition does not understand that the workersí compensation rates and the issues that go with it are dealt with by a board, not by the government ó a board. And furthermore, the correlation the member is making doesnít even make sense. In fact, I fail to see the relevance of arguing that Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board has some connection to reduction in small business tax, because it simply doesnít. Our consultation began with the election and our commitment. Since then, the Department of Finance and its officials have been working diligently on this matter.
Itís also a known fact, through research ó which the member opposite could have or should have done in preparation for this debate ó that there is a direct link between corporate tax reduction and personal tax reduction. Here is the net value to the increase of economic output. If you reduce personal taxes you get a net increase in economic output of 56 cents. If you decrease corporate taxes you get a net economic increase in output of $1.55. That is information that is available to any member in this House.
Furthermore, there has been other work done. The Mintz report, for example, states that economic growth and job creation are influenced greatly by the business tax structure, even more so than by changes in the personal tax system.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: On a point of order, itís customary in the House that, if the minister is reading from a document or quoting from a document ó I heard him reference the Mintz report ó copies of that information be provided. So I would respectfully request that the Premier would provide that information he is reading from to the opposition parties, please. Thank you.
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is customary from time to time to quote passages from Hansard and other documentation in this House. It happens all the time. I have further information to relay to the members opposite. They asked.
Chair: Order please.
If this is a document that currently exists in the public domain, there is no requirement that it be tabled; however, if this is a private document, then it would be appropriate ó if itís going to be quoted from extensively ó to table the document and to provide it to all members.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís a very public document available on the Internet across the country, probably worldwide. The CD Howe Institute points out that Canada cannot wait several years to review business taxation. ďAlthough it is important and politically popular to reduce personal taxes, it is the business tax system that creates the greatest leverage in improving productivity and the growth of incomes in Canada as other countries, such as Ireland, have found out.Ē That is just another example. The member asked for examples; Iím providing examples.
Again, this kind of information is available on the Internet. By turning on a computer, you can dial in on taxation and find all kinds of information. The point is that the government has come forward with an initiative to reduce the small business tax rate in the Yukon Territory. This reduction will affect 98 percent of our corporate community. The members opposite have found a way to show, once again, their adversity to our private sector and our business community, and Iím going to make sure that our business community knows what the official oppositionís real agenda is, and that is to raise taxes.
Now no one can dispute the benefits that would accrue from putting back into the Yukon economy through our small businesses another $885,000 annually. Thatís what this means ó $885,000 back into Yukonersí pockets to be used, to reinvest in small business terms that may even mean creating more jobs for Yukoners. I think if we look at what the members opposite donít like to look at ó the statistics ó the stimulus and the investment in the Yukon Territory is showing trends that the territory is changing its direction, and those are very important trends. The members opposite may not like them; the members may take exception and dispute those numbers, but the facts are that the Yukonís unemployment rate is now one of the lowest in the country while we are experiencing a growth in our population.
The member also brought up the fact that governments need to raise taxes. Well, that could be true in some cases. Our government, though, is more interested in reducing taxes, as I have said. But we have found other ways to address issues like the social fabric. Does the member not recognize or is the member not willing to recognize the $20-million northern health accord? Thatís extra money ó new money for the Yukon. The Yukonís share of the new $150-million territorial health access fund ó is the member not willing to recognize that? The Yukonís share, thatís new money. Is the member not willing to recognize our share, the Yukonís share, of $30 million of the northern economic development fund ó $30 million of new money? Adding this up, itís getting quite significant.
There are other ways to ensure that Yukoners are getting a standard and quality of life that all Canadians enjoy. What about the millions of dollars in infrastructure monies that are coming to this territory? By the way, Mr. Chair, what about the renegotiated increases in our territorial funding grant ó this year, $47 million; next year, $51 million. What weíre talking about here is a government that, on one hand ó and the member states the government doesnít know what one hand is doing in relation to the other. Mr. Chair, the government, on one hand, is reducing taxes to 98 percent of our business community, providing an extra $885,000 of additional monies for that business community to reinvest back in the Yukon. And on the other hand, we are increasing the overall fiscal position of the Yukon Territory in all the areas that I have just listed.
I say to you, Mr. Chair, that not only do both hands know what they are doing, they are in lockstep.
Now, I did hear the members say they are going to support this bill. So given that fact, and the information I have relayed that shows clearly that the business community is very much involved in this ó it goes all the way back to the election and we have all kinds of research that can be pulled off the Internet. The members opposite all have computers. Iíve pointed out this is 98 percent of our business community. The difference between personal reduction in taxes and corporate is economic increased output on the personal side only 56 cents; on the corporate side, itís $1.55. Iím not sure what else we can do for the membersí benefit, other than to just close by saying, if the members support this bill, then maybe the members should talk further about what they think our small business community can do with the extra $885,000 they will receive annually.
Ms. Duncan: There was a question that was asked of the Finance minister that was not answered in the last few minutes of remarks, and that is: when was the last time the tax round table was convened, and has the Finance minister met with individuals from the financial community? Iím thinking of BDO Dunwoody, and McKay and Partners. There are a number of small accounting firms that are represented and enjoyed meetings with previous Finance ministers on a regular basis. So when was the last time the Finance minister had a meeting of this round table or of a similar group?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The tax round table was created by a former NDP government in the 1990s. As far as I understand, at the election of 2000, the NDP government was voted out of office and I donít think the round table has met since then.
Therefore, I would respond to the member opposite by saying that the minister has had constant discussions with our business community. We promote to the greatest degree possible the involvement of our business community, specifically our small business community, in the economy of the Yukon. The other tax measures that weíve dealt with are the increase and the extension of the mining exploration tax credit. Well, one can certainly argue that we are starting to experience some benefit from that, and we are sure, based on knowing and understanding intimately the fabric of our small business community in the territory, that $885,000 more in their hands will do good for Yukon and its people.
So we have ongoing discussions with our business community, with the members opposite in this House, with the media on what weíre doing, and of course we intend to keep informing the public on a daily basis. When I say that there are other measures, the point was that the Department of Finance is merely looking at our tax regime to see where there are some possibilities. This is one that certainly appears to be a tremendous initiative that the officials of our Finance department have brought forward, and what this means is not lost on Yukon small business.
I think that what Yukon small business is clearly hearing ó and Iím not sure about the third partyís position because the question is technical in nature, but we know that the NDP and the official opposition are more interested in raising taxes. The discussions are ongoing and always will be by this government. We are without a doubt a government that recognizes and fully supports our small business community. This reduction in the small business corporate tax rate is just an example of that very commitment.
Ms. Duncan: The bill that is before us and is under general debate is word for word from the Liberal Party platform and the member opposite well knows it. Itís a clear commitment, and I would be happy to send him over the platform page so he can re-read it for himself.
I would join with him in agreeing that the Department of Finance officials have done very good work for Yukon governments ó they have done and they continue to do so. This is an initiative that is a good initiative. Itís one that we committed to, one that was well-prepared. It just took the former member of the NDP and the current government two years to bring it forward.
With respect to the tax round table, which is what I referred to, the fact is that I had a member of the small business community who works in this area indicate that they certainly missed the opportunity of speaking with the Finance minister on a regular basis, so that is why I raised the issue.
The Finance minister has brought forward this initiative, which was part of the Liberal Party platform that I supported. I support it now, as I said I did on November 4, 2004, and as I said to Yukon voters in November 2002.
I would like to ask if the minister is giving any consideration to another suggestion that has been brought forward that is again a minimal cost to the government in net revenues, and that is a teacher supply tax credit. Itís in place in Prince Edward Island. It is one that I brought forward as a motion and discussed. The Member for Klondike has repeatedly laughed and referred to it as ďbunkĒ; however, a significant number of teachers in the teaching community in the Yukon have asked me if I will continue to lobby for it. I had several conversations with the current president of the Canadian Teachers Federation about this when I brought it forward. It is a good initiative. It would be of tremendous benefit to teachers and recognize a very strong professional group: the educators in our territory. I am interested to know whether or not the Finance minister has given or will be giving any consideration to that suggestion.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, we are dealing with a taxation measure that has to do with our small business community. That said, I understand that in relation to supplies for our schools, the Yukon government buys them. And we do have a collective bargaining agreement with our teachers. We have not given consideration to the teacher supply tax credit. I know the member opposite has brought it forward in the past, and thatís the position the member opposite obviously can take. But the government of the day, under our watch ó we have not given consideration to this area. To date, the measures that we brought forward in this particular amendment are specific to our small business community.
Mr. Chair, I thank the leader of the third party. Itís obvious that the third party shares some of the views of the government of today in how we deal with our business community and our economy. There are some commonalities, I think itís fair to say, and we are going to increase our efforts when it comes to economic growth in the Yukon, and I look forward to the third partyís continued support of the government side in our efforts to turn the Yukon economy around. And I think itís fair to say that the member opposite, from time to time, alludes to a point of missed opportunity in the past. Today though, the government of the day, under our watch, is not missing the opportunities. We are delivering on them.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate that the minister did answer the question. He said they have not to date given consideration to the teacher supply tax credit. Iím asking if they will give consideration to this initiative. There are two years left in their mandate. Granted, I fully understand the Department of Education receives an allotment, and we do spend a significant sum on schools and supplying schools; however, individual teachers spend a significant amount of money in buying supplies for their classrooms. Itís the extras. A small business ó an electrical business for example ó can deduct certain entertainment expenses, certain education journals, certain magazines, et cetera. There is nothing for a teacher who buys books for her or his classroom, who puts different things up on the wall, or when they have projects such as a castle-building exercise or some of the other initiatives that teachers do to assist students and to ensure that a concept is learned. For example, to develop math concepts, many teachers will have the students doing different dice games. Quilting is another way that math concepts have been reinforced. All the supplies involved in that are bought by the teacher.
There is no way at present under our Yukon tax system to recognize that kind of professional expense, so will the Finance minister, in the spirit of the consensus-building and collaboration he promised Yukoners, ask his officials to give consideration to this idea? I realize they havenít done it to date; Iím asking if they will consider doing that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím not aware of any significant expenses incurred by teachers, and if there are I really commend those teachers for taking the initiative themselves. If they are expending their own money out of pocket to buy supplies in schools, Iím sure the minister would like to find out about that because the government is committing to ensure that our schools have the supplies necessary for our teachers to teach our children. That being said, our focus with the tax measures that weíre looking at is economic specific, and thatís a full stop. To date we have not reviewed this issue and the chances are in the rest of this mandate we will probably not review this issue. But if there are situations that we can address through the department and the minister, we will do that. Iím sure that the teachers who have experienced this will find the minister very understanding and accommodating.
So the member opposite has an issue that the member wants to support. I find value in that and I urge the member to continue supporting that particular position. We do have what I call an acceptable collective bargaining agreement with our teachers, and we continue to strive to improve our relationship, not only with teachers but all employees. That responsibility rests with the government to some degree. So, that being said, I go back to the bill itself. It is specific to our small business community. It is providing benefit to our small business community, thereby providing benefit to all Yukoners.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I can just put on record a couple things that the minister has alluded to and misrepresented.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Sorry, sorry.
Chair: Would the member like an opportunity to rephrase that?
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Hardy: Absolutely. Actually, Iím sorry. That was just a lapse there. I didnít mean to say that.
He gave his opinion of what the NDP stands for and what the NDP believes in. I can tell you right now that that minister has the least amount of knowledge of what the NDP stands for and definitely does not exemplify anything that we have stood for.
If you look at the history of Yukon and political parties, the NDP has been the most progressive in tax changes, has offered the most tax incentives and tax benefits for businesses, small businesses, mining, oil and gas. It has always been a leader in this area. Tourism. Our record speaks for itself, and it is very easily proven. Whether itís the film industry, Iíve already said tourism, mining incentives that have been brought forward ó almost all of it has been brought forward by the NDP. That is on record. Itís not just rhetoric. Itís not just an opinion. Itís actually on record; however, thatís not what weíre debating today. We are actually talking about another initiative thatís being brought forward that will stimulate small business to a tune of $885,000, as the minister has indicated. As I said, I always view changes like this with a small amount of scepticism. I believe thatís healthy. But hopefully that will flow out into our communities, into the hands of workers as well as benefit the small businesses to expand their operations ó maybe even be able to employ more people. So weíre willing to give that an opportunity, and thatís why we will be supporting this.
I did raise some concerns, and one of the more predominant ones, of course, was the one around the Taxpayer Protection Act, and I had looked forward to an explanation of that from the minister, but that doesnít seem to be coming forward.
Another one was consultation. I had mentioned the tax round table that was implemented by the former NDP government, and that was to look at more progressive changes to the tax regime. Obviously that has fallen off the table; it doesnít exist any more. Thatís a shame, because it was a consultative process that allowed businesses to be involved, as well as others, in this area where they are so deeply affected. So consultation, of course, seems to be something thatís on the back burner as well in this regard.
Now there are other groups that are looking for tax changes. If the minister is so willing ó and he doesnít have to, of course, if he doesnít want to ó maybe he can indicate what other areas they would consider for tax reform within the Income Tax Act. The leader of the third party of course mentioned the situation around the teachers, and we as the official opposition feel itís well merited and something to be considered. Weíre a little disappointed to hear that minister suggest that itís not going to be in this mandate, but Iíd like to thank him for his candour, because by saying that, hopefully itís put to rest for this period. We know itís not part of the mandate and part of the wishes of this government, and we can move forward from there and look at other stuff. If the minister is so willing to give us some insight on some of the other areas, weíd appreciate that, and that will probably conclude my remarks.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As I pointed out earlier, the work that is being done is based on our commitment to provide business ó I repeat ó to provide business with tax incentives to promote economic growth. Thatís what the department is focused on. I find with interest, though, how both parties on the opposite benches are now clamouring to take credit for these tax measures. You know, the government side has consistently pointed out where credit is due and have offered that credit.
I will say that the New Democrats did create the tax round table and discuss taxation issues and came forward with a suggestion on mining taxation, which the third party, when in government, kept going and which we are keeping going. However, this gets back to the one hand not knowing what the other is doing.
Here we have the two parties opposite, when in government, promoting taxation measures to attract investment in industry, like the mining industry but, by the same token, chasing the mining industry out of the territory with the much-flawed Yukon protected areas strategy. So here we have a government now that not only promotes tax incentives for economic growth, but also the cessation of a very flawed process that chased the mining industry out of the territory.
The long and the short of this, Mr. Chair, is that not only did we implement the tax measures, extend them and increase them, but we also got rid of an impediment. I think the evidence will bear out the comments being made. We have gone from under the third partyís last year in office of $7.6 million in investment and exploration for mining to $22 million this year and, by the way, we are drilling for natural gas in the southeast Yukon, we have application for a drilling program now in the Eagle Plains area, tourism is increasing, population is increasing, unemployment rate is falling, and investment in the territory is certainly starting to improve. Our relationship with the business community in that area is important because we want the private sector to complement government spending or government investment, thereby increasing economic growth.
So all the indicators are starting to show the Yukon changing direction. I think the members opposite should recognize that there is another way to approach this, and that is to do as the government side does: where credit is due, we provide that credit; we acknowledge it. We arenít just a government that will busily go on its way criticizing for no reason other than to criticize. We will point out the facts and the members opposite could do great justice to this territory and its future if their criticism addressed what their real position is, like taxation and the increase of taxes that the NDP have pointed out quite consistently.
And itís not unusual for the New Democrats to promote tax increases because they are essentially a political entity that likes to tax the populace right to the max, and then spend it right to the max. Thatís certainly not what is happening in todayís Yukon. This is a strange way to support a tax bill and a measure of reducing small business tax credit for this territory. The government has tabled a bill, the amendments are clear, the benefits are there. I did sense though, from both parties, that they would be supporting the bill, and we thank them for that.
Chair: Is there any more general debate? Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line examination.
Ms. Duncan: I would request the unanimous consent of the House to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 54, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, read and agreed to.
Unanimous consent re deeming clauses and the title of Bill No. 54 read and agreed to
Chair: Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 54, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, as read and agreed to. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
†Chair: I believe the ayes have it. There is unanimous consent.
Clauses 1 to 6 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 54, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that Bill No. 54, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Duncan: I request that we have a five-minute recess while we switch departments, or is that required by the minister?
Chair: Ms. Duncan has requested a five-minute recess. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: We require unanimous consent to take a recess.
Committee of the Whole will now continue with Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and general debate.
Bill No. 12 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources ó continued
Mr. McRobb: When we left off yesterday, I was spelling out some of the pros and cons of the Alaska Highway pipeline that is presumed to be coming to the territory within the next few years, possibly even sooner. There is no denying the benefits to the territory in terms of economic development and short-term jobs and possibly long-term jobs. However, I did outline several negative impacts that this government doesnít seem to be addressing to the level that would satisfy many Yukoners, and one of the impacts was the fallout to the business community with labour shortage. I presume the minister, given his background as a businessman employing several dozen people in a rather transient industry, would be totally familiar with what Iím talking about.
Of course, one of the other issues is the prevalence of abuse and of alcohol and drug use in the territory and, simply put, thereís not enough being done ahead of time to prepare for that. There are a number of other social consequences as well. So, Mr. Chair, yesterday the minister indicated that he has an action plan. He identified five steps. None of those steps address this area of social concern so I want to ask him what he, as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, is doing to help address those concerns. This could be an area that requires a substantial answer. If the minister wants to get back to us on it with some written information, thatís fine.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Going on with the conversation from yesterday and this afternoon from the member opposite, Iíd like to remind the member opposite that in Energy, Mines and Resources we certainly are working with the components on the Alaska Highway pipeline and weíre working with it on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. As we all know in this room, the pipeline is coming to our area probably sooner than later. This of course will be driven by decisions made by the producers and we will work with those producers as the pipeline unfolds.
As far as the social problems and the labour problems with the pipeline, as the memberís colleague reminded us today, the pipeline will come through our jurisdiction probably very fast. We are a government that has compassion and certainly weíre going to work with the social issues as they arise. I remind the member opposite that as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I have to work with the minister in the government to make sure that we cover our bases as this pipeline goes through our jurisdiction.
As far as the opportunities to work on the pipeline and the training programs, we certainly have put resources toward that and we will be moving ahead in that region as the pipeline becomes a reality.
As far as opportunities for Yukon, I look forward to some of the people who are working in minimum-paying jobs to have the opportunity to get out there, earn a living, learn a trade and move on with their lives so that the economics of the pipeline benefit the whole family. So I think for the member opposite to say that weíre not doing our job on the social end is incorrect. We certainly are working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition ó all nine First Nations that are going to be affected directly in their traditional territories as the pipeline moves through their jurisdiction. We are moving ahead with funding that. We are working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to make sure that the federal government comes to the mark and puts their money in place so that we have as many of our citizens as possible ready for the pipeline when it comes.
The social issue is going to be an impact of the pipeline, so we as a government are going to minimize the social impact on the whole community. As you see this thing unfold, Mr. Chair, looking back on it, I think we will be able to say we did our homework before the pipeline came; we put all the checkers in place; we came up with a minimum impact on the general public, maximized the benefits from the pipeline; and in the end, we have a group of people in the Yukon who are prepared to go to work and also training programs in place to make sure theyíre competent to go to work, and in the long run weíll benefit from a pipeline if and when it comes through our jurisdiction.
Mr. McRobb: In that speech, I didnít really hear an answer to the question about what precisely heís doing to ameliorate the social consequences of the pipeline. We heard some general statements, and all that is fine and dandy, but when it comes to the crunch, there is really nothing in those general statements to provide relief and support in the areas of need in terms of social fallout from what would be a major project in the Yukon.
I want to go back to my request for some information for the minister. Can he possibly return with a written document ó after he has had time to reflect on the issues at hand ó that clearly delineates the actions his department is taking and considering with respect to this matter?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly try to get the information out to the general public on issues that are going to pertain to the Alaska Highway pipeline, when and if it comes out. I appreciate the member oppositeís concern. I certainly agree with him that some work has to be done on the social impacts of any large project like this. You have to understand, Mr. Chair, that this is a $20-billion project. The $20 billion is not totally spent in our jurisdiction, but it is spent in the overall project from Prudhoe Bay to Chicago if that decision is made.
As far as our government not being prepared for the pipeline, I think all the departments in this territorial government are very aware of the impact on every level of our society when and if it comes through our jurisdiction. Whether itís the Department of Education, Health and Social Services, whether itís Energy, Mines and Resources, Highways, transportation branch, Justice ó all these departments have this on their radar screen, so at the end of the day we can say to the member opposite that weíre going to do our homework; weíre going to move ahead with this pipeline if and when it comes through our jurisdiction, and we will be prepared to cover the bases as they need to be covered.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister says that heís doing his best to inform the public and make them aware of the issues. Well, I beg to disagree. We have heard from the public and the public is concerned. There has been a noticeable lack of information and awareness campaign from this government with respect to the fallout on the social issues from any such megaproject. Furthermore, we agree with the public ó there has been an absence ó and that is why we in the official opposition are currently requesting this information from the minister. And the minister seems to be ignoring our right in this Legislature to ask for information, so once again I will ask him if he will provide us with that information.
Hon. Mr. Lang: † We certainly will make public all information as it unfolds pertaining to any aspect of the potential Alaska Highway pipeline. Weíre not in the habit of creating paperwork for the sake of creating paperwork. Certainly the pipeline is on our radar screen. The pipeline is closer than it has ever been, but remember that it was announced in 1977-78, so this pipeline has been on the radar screen of all the territorial governments from the late Ď70s to now, 2004. As soon as we know and as we move ahead into a pipeline situation where we actually know that a pipeline is going to materialize, then certainly a lot of these things will unfold. At that time we certainly will inform the general population and the members of the opposition on what process is taking place to make sure that we minimize the social end and, for all Yukoners, to make sure that we maximize our benefits from any pipeline that comes through our jurisdiction so that, at the end of the day, we have this pipeline in our jurisdiction and we benefit in the future. So there is a social issue out there and our government has to address that if we are in this situation when the pipeline is announced ó and thatís a factor in this.
Weíre moving along. We are working with the producers. Weíre working with the State of Alaska. Weíre working with the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Alberta. We took the step two years ago: the Yukon territorial government was in a race at that point with Northwest Territories, which created the animosity we had between our two jurisdictions. We solved that by going into partnership with them, realizing that at the end of the day there are going to be two pipelines and that Yukoners can benefit from both pipelines, whether itís working in the Northwest Territories or in the Yukon. Plus our businesses can work in the Northwest Territories to move ahead so we can have a training program there. In essence, we can take our workforce and, when the pipeline in the Yukon is announced and up and running, at that point weíll have a workforce or skeleton crew here that can go to work.
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, weíre doing our job on this side of the House pertaining to the Alaska Highway pipeline. Weíre working toward the pipeline. Weíre waiting for the producers to make their minds up. Weíve got to go with Alaska and work with them, so there are many issues to cover before we get into a pipeline mode that builds up expectations that we canít deliver as a government.
The last government in the Yukon two years ago had this pipeline hysteria going on, and at the end of the day they didnít deliver a pipeline. Weíre not going to put ourselves into a position where weíre creating any kind of hype on something that might not happen, so weíre doing our homework. Weíre working very positively on the pipeline. Weíre moving forward with it, in conjunction with other jurisdictions, the producers and the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, but at the end of the day, until such a time as we know, in fact, that the trigger has been pulled on the Alaska Highway pipeline, weíre going to move along in a very constructive way to make sure at that point we can escalate the oil and gas division of the territorial government into a position to answer some of those questions the members opposite have on the social end, the economic benefits and all the things that will arrive when the pipeline arrives.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister has been given two opportunities now to accommodate the requests of the official opposition with respect to the information, and he has denied both requests. This is a disturbing matter, because this Legislature cannot function if there is a roadblock of information from the government side. After all, our job on this side of the House is to test the case of the government, hold it accountable and so on. Thatís what makes democracy work. There is no requirement, however. There is no mechanism for us in the opposition to force the government to provide the information ó and maybe there should be ó because in cases where that request for information is abused, such as in this case, when the minister refuses to provide simple information, then it threatens democracy as a whole and casts into doubt the whole purpose of this Yukon Legislature.
Mr. Chair, this is really troubling. I want to ask the minister what he thinks gives him the right to deny requests specifically made by the official opposition?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the member opposite, and I think having good opposition makes the democratic system work. I appreciate the questions the member opposite puts to us as government, and they keep us on the mark. Thatís why we have this form of government.
As far as us holding back information, we certainly are not holding back information. Weíre working very positively with the opposition and giving all the information we have on hand to make sure they can make informed decisions and can also get involved in asking the questions that have to be asked.
What I say to the member opposite pertaining to the social end of the pipeline is that weíre as concerned as he is. The social impact on the Yukon, when and if the pipeline comes, will be a very large thing and will have to be handled in a way thatís appropriate to make sure we maximize the benefits we get from a pipeline and minimize the social impact that will come with the pipeline.
As far as the paperwork that the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources has done on the social impact of the pipeline, we on this side of the House, as I said to all the members here ó† the social impact will impact every department in this government. Itís not just going to be Energy, Mines and Resources. We have Environment; we have Education, Justice, Highways and Public Works ó all those issues will be taxed if and when this pipeline comes through our jurisdiction.
For the member opposite to say that weíre not addressing the social end of it ó we certainly recognize the impact the pipeline will have on society. This will be the largest contract ever let in the history of the world. This is a large, large contract. As a small community and as a small jurisdiction in Canada, I donít think we realize the impact this pipeline will have on our economics and on the society in our communities.
We certainly are very concerned about that and thatís why weíre working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. Thatís why weíre working with all the departments to make sure ó if and when the pipeline is triggered and the decisions are made ó that, at the end of the day, we can minimize the impacts on Yukon from a social point of view, maximize the economic opportunities for Yukoners when the pipeline comes through, so at the end of the day we have a contract or a project ó a large project ó coming through our jurisdiction that is beneficial to all Yukoners.
So for the member opposite to insinuate that weíre not doing our homework and weíre not worried about the social aspect ó heís wrong on that issue. We are working very positively ahead. We donít have lists of issues we can give out to the member opposite, a checkpoint of ticks and tacks of how weíre going to do this. Weíre conscious of this. Thatís why weíre doing our homework before the pipeline is triggered. Thatís why Energy, Mines and Resources is working with other departments trying to minimize this social impact.
But donít get me wrong: there is going to be an impact, and this impact is a large impact, whether itís economic, social or education. As far as the workforce is concerned, the member opposite was concerned about our workforce, about people moving away and getting higher paid jobs in the Yukon so that people working in lower paid jobs would have to come from somewhere else. I say to you that the general population, if they and their families can benefit work-wise and training-wise from this contract or project and go on with their lives in a higher paid job, I say more power to them.
I say to you that at the end of the day youíre going to see an influx of people come into the Yukon and youíre going to see tradesmen. Youíre also going to see a lot of our general population who have been in minimum-wage jobs up until now getting higher paying jobs on the pipeline contract. I say to you that I look forward to the day when I can see these people working in the trades and living in the Yukon with their families, and being trained to do a job and make a higher wage.
So I think, on one side of the table, we have social impacts that will happen, but I say to you that, on the other side, we have economic opportunities and economic pluses, so hopefully at the end of the day, if and when this pipeline is announced and if and when this pipeline is finished, Yukon can look back and say we minimized our social impacts and maximized our economic opportunities for Yukon.
So I look forward to seeing those people out in the trades working, going to our universities, working in our colleges, minimizing our problems in the Justice department, putting trained people to work, and thatís what our government is all about ó getting people to work in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, itís quite clear that this minister is willing to say anything. Heís in a state of denial. Heís not passing any information to us in the opposition, as he claims he is. Let the record speak for itself.
I do want to move on. I want to ask the minister how much he is spending in the area of promoting the oil and gas industry. I want the number in total.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I could give that to him. I havenít got it off the top of my head, because Iíll have to consolidate a few figures, so I could commit to give him a figure. Whenever itís convenient and the department has time to do it, weíll give him a breakdown.
Mr. McRobb: When you receive the breakdown, Iíd appreciate it if youíd pass it on to us in the opposition parties.
Can the minister provide that number in terms of a breakdown as well ó for instance, so much in terms of consulting, so much in terms of staff resources, in terms of expenses and promotion ó all the components that make up this governmentís spending on the oil and gas industry ó that would even include regulations and so on? Iím very interested to know what that figure is. So would the minister oblige us by providing it in a breakdown form when he does get around to it, and when might we expect to receive that information?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís why we have a main budget. Those figures ó no, Mr. Chair. Donít make light of the budget. Thatís why we have a budget ó Iím talking to the member opposite ó so we can debate this, and we do this on a yearly basis. This is a supplementary. If you look back at your mains, there was a point where we could have debated all these figures with that breakdown. I think that itís redundant to make my department go through these things and bring up figures that we have already brought to this House and were passed by this House. We look forward to a new main budget in March, so weíre only three or four months away from a whole new year. And at that point, we will be debating exactly what these figures are and a breakdown of where that money is going to go, because we on this side of the House as government have to answer to all Yukoners on the economics of the territory. This department, Energy, Mines and Resources, will be debated, and it will be in the main estimates, and I look forward to the member opposite standing up and budgeting his time so that at the end of those days we can have a debate about Energy, Mines and Resources. I look forward to it, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, this is rather unbelievable. For the minister responsible for this department to stand up and shun his responsibilities and blockade the information flow to those who test his case is rather unbelievable. The information I am requesting is something the ministerís office should willingly and readily provide. Somehow the minister has it in his mind that it creates additional work for the department. This is something previous ministers have provided off the top of their head. This is not something that will cause his department to endeavour on for an extended period of time. I think what we are seeing here is really disturbing to the bigger picture of democracy, Mr. Chair.
Obviously this minister is not prepared to be held to account when he cannot satisfy simple information requests such as the one I have just made. The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin behind me agrees emphatically with what Iím saying, Mr. Chair, and for good reason. There are plenty of Yukoners who want to know what this government is spending in this area.
I have a feeling, from looking at some of the contracts that we will be getting to shortly, that this is no small amount, and we need to examine the millions of dollars this government is spending to promote this industry. We need to have a sober moment to take stock of what might be out-of-control spending. This minister laughs at that. Well, itís not funny.
Unless this minister can satisfy this session of accountability on this matter, he has no right to laugh about it. If he is willing to provide the information requested and if it meets our requirement and level of satisfaction, he can laugh then.
But he should not laugh at us whose job it is to examine his spending. Now Iím not going to let this one drop. We need to have a breakdown of the total he is spending on oil and gas. That information is not contained in the mains budget, as he would like us to believe. This is similar to what the Health minister said about childcare spending. We have proven that to be false as well. The money is all over the place in all kinds of different financial vehicles, and the breakdown is not located anywhere. We want the minister to give us the information. Heís welcome to come back to us at a later date, possibly in a monthís time even, with some written information that provides this breakdown. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I find it amazing that he would say that the Auditor Generalís report on Energy, Mines and Resources ó our budgets, our forecasts ó are incorrect. This government is not running amok with money. This government is accountable to the Auditor General of Canada who goes over our books on a yearly basis. Now if the member opposite canít read the mains, then I will commit to do this: when we have time ó Iím not going to be committed to a timeline ó I will get Energy, Mines and Resources for the sake of the member opposite ó because he didnít budget his time, he didnít go through the mains when they were available and when we had this discussion last year ó somewhere in the near future to put together a breakdown for the member opposite so that he can read the mains again, and we can repeat what he should have done in the last sitting.
Letís move on with the supplementary here; letís move on with the future of the Yukon; letís not look back.
It amazes me that we would have to regenerate the mains from last spring for the member opposite ó who didnít take the time nor effort to bear down on the subject and ask the pertinent questions at that time ó and redo this thing at this time. This is work that is redundant.
I will say to the member opposite in a very partnership way that I will get my department to break this down, and he can relive what he should have done last spring.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, what you just heard was an argument that is completely nonsensical. We on this side of the House did examine the mains budget at length last spring. Thatís where this minister is wrong. We spent dozens and dozens of hours to that end. The records will prove what Iím saying.
Besides, Mr. Chair, this is an argument that only the government House leader has repeated. He apparently likes to write the mantra, also vociferated by this minister. We have heard it repeated by this minister on several occasions ó the same mantra ó and thereís no point. Whatís the point heís making with the mains budget? It doesnít make any sense.
Weíre on the supplementary budget, not the ďsubĒ, as the minister said. I wish he would at least get on the same page. Iím not asking the department to compile this information; this is something the ministerís office ó upstairs in the Yukon Party office ó should have at hand.
Anyway, Iím glad he has finally come around to agreeing to provide us with the information, which is not provided in the mains budget.
I would also like him to provide the other side of the ledger, which spells out in the same level of detail, with a breakdown, the benefits from our investment in oil and gas.
Iím looking specifically at revenues from oil and gas, Mr. Chair. Can you spell out what the benefits are? For example, how much was accrued to the territory from oil and gas leases last year and anything else? Now, Iím well aware that in the southeast Yukon there has been revenue accruing for years. Well, that, I believe, should be excluded from the figures, because even if this government or any government for that matter spent money toward oil and gas promotion, it wouldnít affect the situation in the southeast Yukon ó the royalties being produced.
So I think itís high time that the Government of Yukon be put to the test on the true value of the millions of dollars it spends on oil and gas promotion in the territory. And the information he provides should allow us to analyze that issue. So I would like to ask the minister if he is willing to provide us with the other side of the ledger.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís amazing from the member opposite ó his statements. But to eliminate the $25 million that is being spent in southeast Yukon this year on the oil and gas side of the ledger would be a big jump in reality. There is $25 million being spent in southeast Yukon. There is $5 million being spent in north Yukon. All of this will create revenues for Yukoners.
As far as income, weíve been very lucky with the southeast Yukon ó the Kotaneelee gas fields. Theyíve been the most productive wells in North America. This $20 million that is being spent there today will enhance that revenue for all Yukoners.
So when the member opposite talks about eliminating the Kotaneelee gas fields to make his books look good, it shows you what he knows about bookkeeping. We have to put all the revenue in to get a figure at the end of the day. We certainly are investing in the oil and gas in the Yukon. Thatís our responsibility in Energy, Mines and Resources. We are doing it in a very positive way, and the $20 million that is being spent in southeast Yukon will enhance that figure for all Yukoners. So we are not doing anything else that any other government wouldnít do with Energy, Mines and Resources, except weíre a little bit more aggressive, Mr. Speaker.
We use our imagination, we move forward, we work with corporations; we donít shut down oil and gas in the Yukon ó we open it up.
So, in two years, we have taken this oil and gas file to the point where we have a $25-million investment in southeast Yukon. That is a fact. They are drilling there today and 40 percent of the crew are Yukoners. The rig is a quarter owned by the Kaska First Nation and a quarter owned by ADK. Itís a very, very profitable partnership between the First Nations of that area, working today to find gas reserves in southeast Yukon that didnít exist there with the revenue we have.†
We have taken that same corporation to north Yukon. Theyíve made an economic partnership with the Gwichíin people. They are looking at the Eagle Plains operation and will employ northern Yukoners to benefit them in the oil and gas industry. That gas field will enhance our opportunity at the end of the day to get access to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline because, at the end of the day, you have to have a product to put in the Mackenzie Valley pipeline before you can access it.
We are working in that way. We are looking at other dispositions. We are working with CAPP in southeast Yukon to see what future there is in the oil and gas industry in that area. We are working with ADK, Kaska and the Northwest Territories, forming partnerships. We are not a divide-and-rule government. We are looking at Northwest Territories as a partner ó ADK, Kaska, the Yukon territorial government ó so at the end of the day we have a cohesive partnership that can look at the southeast Yukon as an economic tool to benefit all Yukoners.
As far as the member opposite talking about oil and gas and the pros and cons of it, talk to this government about oil and gas. This government has moved out in front in the oil and gas industry. We are not pushing the cart, we are pulling it.
As far as the data for the member opposite, it will unfold as it unfolds, and it has been very positive up until now. So, letís list what we did, Mr. Chair. We got the southeast Yukon, Kaska and ADK, with Akita Drilling, drilling for natural gas in southeast Yukon ó $25 million. Forty percent of the people working on that rig are Yukoners. Yukoners are going to work in the oil and gas business.
Devon has put their application in north Yukon ó an economic partnership with the Gwichíin. They are going to drill this January. Again, itís another economic tool in the Yukon, training Yukoners for the oil and gas industry.
So, are we asleep at the switch? No. Are we moving forward in the oil and gas industry? Yes, and we will proceed to move forward in the oil and gas industry.
Mr. McRobb: Well, from the accounts I got, what you just heard is basically a repeat of the ministerís keynote address at the conference or symposium ó whatever the correct name was ó held in Vancouver about a week or two ago. You just heard a repeat of the ministerís speech.
And what do we think about it, now that weíve heard it live? Well, I say itís rather embarrassing. Itís rather embarrassing to know itís the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources who gave the speech we just heard. There are other words to describe it too, but Iím going to restrain myself for fear of being ruled out of order.
Now, the Kotaneelee is ó my apologies if I didnít pronounce it correctly ó an area of the Yukon that has been producing revenues for the government for a number of years, totally independent of any promotion done by the Yukon government. That is the reason why I asked for that generator to be spliced out of the numbers. Now, if the minister is upset by that request, then fine ó he can include it in the numbers, as long as itís specifically identified so that we can subtract it to really determine a true analysis of the benefit from this governmentís promotion of this industry.
There should be no need for the government to hide. We merely want to examine the books. Obviously the minister is hiding something and doesnít want us to see what it is.
Now I do have some contracts I want to ask him specifically about, but first I want to shift topics to the area of power generation for new mines. Now the minister yesterday identified several major mining projects that could be on the near-term horizon in the territory. Iíll just list them: we have Western Silver, Expatriate, Tagish Gold, Minto, United Keno Hill, to name a few. Some of those possibilities are located in areas beyond the electrical grid that is currently in place. Furthermore, some of those prospects would require an amount of energy currently in excess of what is available on the Yukon grid. So I would like to ask the minister what his plans are with respect to supplying power to those mines.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think probably youíd talk to Yukon Energy or Yukon Development Corporation at that level, but as far as the governmentís concern about the mining thing, there are certainly a couple of those mines that could be serviced by I guess the hydro, which would be of benefit to us as hydro producers. The hydro right now isnít maxed out, but of course those decisions on the economics would have to be made by the Yukon Development Corporation. We certainly work with all mining companies to look at avenues of how they can make their corporations more viable, and we certainly would entertain ideas from industry on how we could work with them, but at this point Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation I imagine would be better able to answer the question about some of the mines that would be in the radius that they could service. As far as the other mines are concerned, we havenít been approached to address that issue, but we certainly are open to discussion when the time arises.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I think once again the minister is really absolving himself of the responsibility that he holds. He is the minister responsible for the energy branch within the Yukon government. The energy branch in the Yukon government sets the energy policy for the territory. The minister is also the minister responsible for the corporation he is trying to refer me to. So we have a situation where I think he can contribute more to this discussion today than what we have heard. He is also quite vague in his answer in terms of identifying which mines are located where. My question was specific to the mines that are located away from the Yukon grid and which could require new transmission lines. Secondly, the question pertained also to mines that might require new sources of power. Mr. Chair, surely the minister is up to speed on this issue. Canít he tell us about these mines that he likes to rattle off? Canít he tell us what their needs are and how those needs will be met?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly are working with the corporations to address a lot of issues that the industry has coming back into the Yukon, and power is one of them. Certainly, I havenít been broached as the minister on any requests for power up until now. It certainly would take a feasibility study, whatever corporation came forward, to make sure that we were doing the right thing for Yukoners. As far as Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation, I oversee that as the minister; I certainly donít run it. I know governments in the past have run it. We have left it independent, and they will make decisions on their own with the expertise they have at hand as a Crown corporation.
We believe that the corporation is mature enough to make decisions, and Iím sure they will be the right decisions at the end of the day. So any issues pertaining to the Yukon Development Corporation or Yukon Energy Corporation, I would go to the chair and address those issues and work with them to make sure that they answer the questions that have to be answered, and they can do that in-house. We certainly will work with the corporations as these decisions come forward, hopefully in a positive way.
Mr. McRobb: I am willing to accept that answer on one proviso: that the minister clarify that all such issues are clearly out of his hands and in the hands of the Yukon Development Corporation, either by formal directive such as an OIC or verbal communication, written correspondence, e-mail, what have you. If the minister is telling us that this is completely a corporate decision then I am willing to accept it and move on. Otherwise, I would like him to explain what any exceptions really are.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I certainly appreciate the member oppositeís thing on the Yukon Development Corporation and we certainly work with them positively. But understand that I am the minister overseeing the Crown corporation and I cannot say to the member opposite that I am going to retreat from any of my responsibilities. My responsibilities are, as government, to work with the Yukon Energy Corporation/Yukon Development Corporation to make sure that it is run smoothly and profitably for Yukoners.
As far as not being involved in Yukon Energy Corporation/Yukon Development Corporation, I canít tell you that. When issues come up, issues are addressed. I will not back down from my responsibilities as the minister who oversees that Crown corporation. I canít do that. I am elected to do that. I swore an oath that I would oversee the Yukon Energy Corporation/Yukon Development Corporation and I will do just that. But they are run independently of me. They work with us as government and at the end of the day we are responsible for making sure the corporation is run in a profitable and manageable way.
Mr. McRobb: Now the minister is arguing with himself. Compare what you just heard to his previous statement. The minister cannot have it both ways: either he has some control on these issues or he doesnít.
I asked him questions about the supply of power to new mines. He directed my questions to the Yukon Development Corporation. He absolved himself of that responsibility. When I put it to him in terms accepting that premise, the minister skated back to my point that he is the minister and he canít avoid responsibilities in that area.
Mr. Chair, this is a ridiculous display from this minister ó totally ridiculous. My question was rather specific. It wasnít general. It didnít somehow isolate him from his responsibilities as minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation. The question pertained to his responsibilities with respect to the provision of the supply of power to new mining prospects. I want to ask him one more time and give him an opportunity to clarify: will he at any time have any say on how power is supplied to new mines in the territory and how such power is generated? Will he have the right to direct the board ó the corporation ó in any way, or wonít he?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To remind the member opposite, it will be the corporation that makes the decision on how the power will be generated on-site. We will work site-specific with all the mines. We will also work with the Energy Corporation to see if they can complement these decisions, but at the end of the day the corporation is going to make the decision on how they generate power or how they buy power. So I think weíre putting the cart before the horse, and those are issues that we have to address as we move on. So Iíll not only be working with the corporations that will be making these decisions, I will be working with the Energy Corporation to make sure we move forward in lockstep so that these mines become a reality in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: The minister avoided the question, and he is also not completely right in what he said. Iíd like to correct him. The corporation doesnít exclusively make such decisions and only does if itís not interested in recovering its capital investment, because capital investment must be given regulatory approval before the costs can be recovered from the electrical customers.
Now, I want to go back to the issue at hand and the ministerís ability to provide direction, because that part of the question was avoided. I could speculate why, but itís the same old story. Itís the culture of secrecy from this Yukon Party government and its desire to avoid accountability in this Legislature. Thatís no secret. Now, the part ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: The Member for Kluane just made an accusation that this government and ministers are trying to avoid accountability. That is contrary to Standing Order 19(g), by imputing false or unavowed motives to another member.
Chair: Order please. There is no point of order here, but I would caution the member to be careful and cognizant about imputing or implying motives to others who have not expressly stated them on the floor of our Assembly.
Mr. McRobb: As everybody in here knows, I am very cognizant of what the rules are and make a tremendous effort to stay on the good side of the line.
Mr. Chair, we are not getting very far with this minister on this issue. This is a really important issue to Yukoners because it could result in major decisions being made in the territory, and the minister needs to be accountable. I want to ask the minister whether he will or will not provide any direction to the corporation when it comes to how the corporation handles issues like the supply of power to new mining developments. I would like to know the ministerís answer to that.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Going on again with how we deal with mining companies as they come forward, we certainly will work with the mining company, because the mining company will make the final decision on how theyíre going to generate power. Yukon Development Corporation is certainly an option for some of these operations, and I will work with them. Yukon Development Corporation has a board of directors, they have a chair, they have competent people in place, and I will work with them to move forward on any opportunity Yukon Development Corporation sees for Yukoners to generate power to sell power to mine sites. So as far as my not working with Yukon Development Corporation ó I was elected to do that. So at the end of the day, I will be working with the corporation. I will remind the member opposite that they will be making the final decision. Iíll work with Yukon Development Corporation ó if, in fact, theyíre involved ó to make sure that, at the end of the day, we have a successful mine in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we donít know what to make of that.
I would like to follow up on another statement he made yesterday. He said his department is intervening in the hearings in regard to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and weíll be making specific representation on tolls and tariff models affecting the north Yukon. I would like to ask him to provide the submissions and arguments made at those hearings. Can they do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would have to get back to him, if I was even allowed to do that. There is a lot of legal stuff involved in that, and I would have to get back to the member opposite on whether, in fact, we could bring that out. So we would have to wait for a future date for that.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I will assume the ministerís intentions are good and he will forward anything that is available, followed by anything else within the scope of the request as it becomes available. I would just like to ask for the ministerís confirmation on that.
Hon. Mr. Lang: As we determine what information we can give out, we will work with the member opposite, but at this point I canít say categorically that we could give any information to him because of the legality and what is happening in the hearings. So, I would take that under advisement.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Chair. Under advisement ó what kind of a commitment is that? We would like that information within the next month for sure in order to analyze it before the start of the spring sitting of this Legislature, so we can once again make the best case in analyzing the governmentís mains budget.
I would like to ask the minister about some of the consulting contracts that he has sole sourced in his department ó and there are several, ranging up to almost a third of a million dollars ó and these contracts are unexplained. I will give the minister a choice: either we can go through them one by one and he will have the opportunity to give us some detail and explanation on what each one is about, or I can send him over a list of what they are and he can undertake to get back to us in the near future, providing us some detail on the contracts. Which way would the minister prefer to have it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd rather him not send me documentation. I will send him documentation from this side of the House ó the government side. Itís public information, and itís available.
Mr. McRobb: Whatís public information? How does the minister know which contracts Iím referring to? His department let what might be more than a hundred contracts. I have a list that I have personally selected of about nine or 10 contracts. How does he know?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I misunderstood his question. Certainly if he sends over his list of nine contracts, weíll answer the nine contracts, but if he wants a list of all the sole-source contracts, in Energy, Mines and Resources, we have that available too.
Mr. McRobb: The ministerís latter offer is readily available and as a matter of fact it is that list of the total contracts that I have reviewed in order to filter out the ones Iíve identified, so what Iíll do is e-mail him a list of the contracts Iíd like further information on, because there is very little information on the Web site. Just for example, Iíll read what is publicly available on the Web site, but I wonít identify who the contractor is. Iíll just say that on the government Web site we have the department identified, which we know what it is; we have the type of contract, in which case the example I have in my hand says ďgeneral consulting contractĒ. The third item is the contractor. It has the name of a company. In some cases itís a numbered company. We have a description. The descriptions are always vague. This one says: ďYukon oil and gas consulting services.Ē Thatís pretty vague. We have a contract number that really provides us with nothing. And we have a contract date and a completion date. Usually those dates are within the fiscal year. We have a tender type, and most of them are sole-source contracts, which means they are totally the ministerís responsibility. We have the total contract value, and then we have the contracting authority, and quite often the minister is the contracting authority.
So if you review what Iíve just put on the record, itís easy to determine that very little in the way of a description of the contract is provided. What we would like is some detailed breakdown ó for instance, a description of what the contract is for, what it achieved. In cases where the identification of the contractor is rather obscure, we would appreciate some detail about that. Thatís all weíre asking.
I just want to wrap this, Mr. Chair, by asking the minister for his confirmation that he will provide information that is suitable to us, as I have described.
Hon. Mr. Lang: To clarify it a bit from the government side ó Energy, Mines and Resources ó Iíd like the member opposite, in his correspondence, to give us the contract number ó thatís very important ó and also specific questions and information that he requests. And also we have to make sure that itís not protected information. So we need the contract number, we need the specific information that heís requesting, and we can proceed with that information as long as itís not protected information. So I want to make that very clear on the floor.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to follow up, actually, on a contract issue with the minister opposite. The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources has issued a contract. It is contract number GN0453310300162. Itís a sole-source contract for womenís program coordination and facilitation issued by Energy, Mines and Resources. Now we have in the supplementary budget significantly increased programming and operation and maintenance money in the Womenís Directorate. What is the explanation for why Energy, Mines and Resources is issuing a sole-source contract for womenís program coordination and facilitation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think what weíre looking at is probably some kind of training program, but what Iíd like to do is ó I donít have those off the top of my head, so I could answer that at a future date ó on the contract.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that this involves some work, and I appreciate the effort on the part of the officials. If I could get an explanation of the details of that contract, I would appreciate it. The minister, were he sitting on this side of the House ó and he may be one day ó would appreciate that it seems odd to see an increase in funding in the Womenís Directorate and have his department doing programming as well. So, what is the explanation for that particular contract?
There is another contract Iíd like to ask about, and that is for facilitation/conflict investigation. Again, it is a sole-source contract. Itís not a large amount. Iím curious as to what was being resolved. The contract number is GN0453302400041 ó if the minister could advise what that is about. And given that itís facilitation and conflict investigation, it may be that this was a mediation or alternative dispute resolution process around ó could be one of the issues in the department. But perhaps the minister has a greater explanation for me.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Can you give that number back and we can give you that information? We didnít quite catch the number of the contract.
Ms. Duncan: The number will be in the Blues, but I would be happy to send that information over to the officials by e-mail, as well as the two contracts Iím interested in. I would like the detailed information as soon as itís possibly available.
I just have a few questions in the departmental budget. Over the summer there was an intergovernmental agreement with British Columbia and that agreement was on raw logs ó basically ó being shipped to British Columbia. I had a discussion with other members about the availability of timber thatís technically in B.C. but is available to come north. So when will raw logs come north?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre talking about the B.C.-Yukon border, and of course weíre working with the authorization board in southeast Yukon to move forward with a logging plan for that area. We certainly hope that logs from the southeast Yukon with a mix of the B.C. logs could make a sawmill very beneficial to the Watson Lake area. The forest department is working on that light. B.C. logs are not going to be flowing this season. Hopefully next season theyíll be flowing. As far as the logs that are available to B.C. from the Yukon, those logs are not flowing at the moment either. So until we get our plans together, and a policy, itís sort of an agreement that weíve signed, weíre working on, moving forward with, and how we manage it in the future will depend on the authorization group in Watson Lake and of course working with the B.C. government.
Ms. Duncan: If I understand what the minister said, the agreement that was signed ó and I think it was late this summer ó is basically an agreement to talk to one another and if the opportunity arises, our raw logs will go south to British Columbia and the raw timber that is just over the border in some cases in the Yukon would be available to be milled in the Yukon. I wonder if my understanding is correct.
Could the minister just explain in geographic terms where we are talking about here? For example, the Alaska Highway dips into B.C. around Swift River ó is he talking about that area or where are we talking about the B.C. logs coming from?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To answer that question: certainly Teslin would be involved because of their location. The Atlin area would be affected by the Yukon. You have Teslin; you have Watson Lake, which is going to be involved, and, of course, Lower Post down there. So as far as the communities that are going to be affected by this accord, probably it will be Atlin, Teslin and the Watson Lake area.
This is a commitment by us ó the territorial government and the B.C. government ó to work on this exchange in a positive way. Itís more than just an agreement to talk about something. We have actually signed the accord, and we are moving ahead with planning on how this thing is going to unfold with us and the B.C. government. So itís more than just a handshake and ďwe are going to discuss itĒ; weíve actually gone to work. The next step is to put the policies together to have an understanding on how much wood is coming from each area.
Certainly, from the Yukon you have your southeast Yukon wood, which would be a natural to flow down to the production end of things in Fort Nelson, and of course you have everything south of the Yukon border ó French Creek and Blue River ó all those areas would be flowing to us in Watson Lake.
So itís a partnership. Itís an understanding of how weíre going to manage the forest in northern B.C. and the Yukon, and itís a very positive thing for the forest industry in southeast Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Did the minister simply forget to mention Carcross, or is it not included?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iím sorry. Carcross will be involved because of their location too.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the ministerís eagerness to answer the questions. The Carcross-Tagish First Nation would presumably be involved in discussions as well. The minister did say that there have been discussions and some work has begun. When will we actually see timber permits issued and wood cut? When will that happen? Does the minister have an approximate date?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have timber in southeast Yukon, and there is hopefully going to be some production this season, so we are moving ahead with forest disposition or wood disposition in the southeast Yukon, in the Kaska traditional territory, and also weíre working on a disposition in the Frances Lake area where weíve had the forest fire to harvest that wood before it dies. So we are working, and hopefully there will be some production in southeast Yukon this year.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister anticipate wood actually being cut, or are we talking about shipping those raw logs south, or are we looking at production? Itís the ministerís use of the word ďproductionĒ that Iím following up on. What does he mean by that? Does he mean timber being harvested, or does he mean a producing sawmill, or are these logs being shipped south?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly have the interim logs available and certainly are looking forward to production. I canít say in the House here today that in this winter season we will have the production we would like to see in the Watson Lake area. They are working toward that. Certainly, the commission is working toward getting their house in order in southeast Yukon to roll out how weíre going to manage the forest there. We have timber out, and hopefully with any luck there will be some production in southeast Yukon.
I donít think from a ministerís point of view that youíre going to see a lot of export of raw logs out of southeast Yukon now, because we would like to see more of that production in a finished product. But on the other side of the ledger, because of the pine beetle kill, the timber situation in B.C. is sort of flooding the market, and statistically they say that situation is going to be for five years, because they are doing such a massive harvest in the B.C. area with the beetle kill.
Because of the beetle kill, that market is absolutely saturated with wood. So, what weíre looking at ó if weíre looking at a production end, weíre looking at the Yukon and Alaska end of things, a smaller operation. But they are working toward that, so I say to the member opposite that weíll probably do some production this year, but weíll definitely be doing some production next season.
Ms. Duncan: Iím just seeking clarification from the minister ó production next season. So, ďnext seasonĒ being next winter season? I appreciate his frank answer in terms of the situation with the British Columbia market. What is the department contributing financially to any production initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Lang: What are we doing from a monetary point of view for production in southeast Yukon? All weíre doing is putting timber out, not money out.
Ms. Duncan: So, in other words, there is no financial commitment by that ministerís department to any production facilities in southeast Yukon. What about the rest of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We do engineering in the costs of putting the wood out. That is a cost to government, but that is recoverable when we sell the wood. To say that weíre not putting money out would be wrong, but itís in the sense that we just do the engineering and the overview of the actual disposition and we collect that money back.
Ms. Duncan: Let me be crystal clear: is the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources or any other government department putting any money into any sawmills in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: At the moment, thereís no money out there for any sawmill that I know of as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Ms. Duncan: The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is focusing their energies on getting the wood out and the wood permits out, and the minister has nodded in response to that. Could I have a letter from the minister that outlines the current status of the Elijah Smith fund? Itís the forestry fees and the stumpage fees that were set aside. Itís federal in part and it was transferred in devolution. So could I just have a note from the minister as to what the current status is of that fund, and also the status of stumpage fees in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In devolution, we acquired approximately $30,000 through the transfer on the Elijah Smith fund. I think that was a silviculture reforestation fund. It was between $29,000 and $30,000, in that ballpark. It wasnít much.
Ms. Duncan: In the year since weíve had devolution, has there been any money put into that fund, or have there been any expenditures made from it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: † We havenít put any money in because we really havenít had any harvesting at this point because it has only been 18 months. Certainly the money is available.
Ms. Duncan: Could I have an indication from the minister of when we might see forestry legislation before the House?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think weíre committed to late 2005 for that, as we move ahead ó by the latest, early 2006.
Ms. Duncan: Is there currently work being undertaken on that in terms of consultation work and development work for that legislation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To answer the member opposite, the policy is finished, so that sets out the framework. And we have the committee for the successor legislation. So we are working toward getting it, and it is required under the devolution transfer agreement.
Ms. Duncan: The policy work that has been done and the minister has indicated is completed, is that public information, and I wonder if it could be sent over?
Hon. Mr. Lang: All that information, I think, is on the Internet, so itís available to the general public.
Ms. Duncan: I donít spend all my time surfing the Government of Yukon Web site, so I just wanted to verify ó I really donít ó so I wanted to verify that that information was out there.
I had omitted a couple of contracts. They were consulting contracts, and they name an individual, so Iíll just send those over to the minister and ask him if I can have explanations on them.
The contract to the Kaska First Nation was originally sole sourced for $24,000 for the Faro mine closure. However, that has now increased to $185,000, and it is sole sourced. Exactly what has been completed for this contract?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Considering the time, what I will do is give a breakdown to the member opposite on that $185,000.
Ms. Duncan: If he has it with him, I could just listen attentively to the minister ó if he has that information with him. It has gone from $24,000 to $185,000, so what has been done for that work? Itís a sole-source contract as well, so Iíd like to know what has been accomplished for that funding.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, I donít have the information at my fingertips, so I will agree to get it to the member opposite as soon as possible.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you very much. I look forward to receiving that information.
The Kaska First Nation ó there is also the economic round table that has been traditionally funded under this department. There is this particular sole-source contract. Is the minister contemplating any funding arrangements with the Kaska for their participation in the purchase of North American Tungsten?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Energy, Mines and Resources has no intention of funding the Kaska for acquiring assets like that. No.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the ministerís frank response. When he sends me the information as to how the $185,000 sole-source contract breaks down, could he send a detailed listing of the different funding arrangements with the Kaska? Thereís the economic round table, thereís this sole-source contract ó there is a variety of different initiatives that are funded with the Kaska. Could I have a listing of those, please?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís all public information and Iíll send that across.
Ms. Duncan: I look forward to receiving that information from the minister.
With respect to the North American tungsten mining industry in general, has the minister received yet the estimates for this seasonís mineral exploration? Theyíre usually a bit delayed coming out. Could I have the date when the minister expects them and what the early numbers are? Given mineral prices as well as the continuation of the tax credit, I anticipate that the season was very good, but does the minister have the actual figures yet?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly are looking forward to those figures, understanding that the fire season in the Dawson area had some impacts on those figures. As soon as I receive those figures, theyíll become public information but, at the moment, I donít have the exact figure.
Ms. Duncan: I wonder if the minister could provide two pieces of information. Itís fairly standard when we get this information finalized. Iíve just forgotten the ballpark date. And itís a preliminary estimate. Does he have a ballpark figure that weíre looking at?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre looking at probably anywhere between $25 million and $30 million for exploration this year, understanding that the forest fire did have an impact on it. We also have exploration going on right now, so itís a continual thing and the figure keeps moving up.
Ms. Duncan: And when would the minister anticipate the figure would be finalized?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would have to take that under advisement with my staff and I would have to get that date back to the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís fine. Thank you. I hope we are not unduly burdening the officials. We donít require a letter for each specific answer but one that just outlines all of these would be very useful. I am sure that the information is readily available.
I would like to speak briefly about the oil and gas industry in the Yukon. Can the minister update the House as to the current status of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition? What is our funding arrangement with them and what is a sort of outline of their current activities?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the question opposite, the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition was put together to incorporate the nine First Nations that will be directly affected by the pipeline, if and when it comes through our jurisdiction.
As far as the funding is concerned, we are working with the federal government now. They have put budgets together, and we are working with the federal government to get some resources to make sure that the group can do the job that they need to do over the next couple of years, in expectation of the pipeline. We funded it last year; I think the figure was $130,000, and I think we budgeted over $200,000 this year.
So, the territorial government will be in partnership with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and the federal government to move this organization ahead so that they can answer some of the questions they have pertaining to the pipeline with the aboriginal people of the Yukon.
So as far as the funding is concerned, weíre moving ahead. Theyíve hired a coordinator, an individual who is going to be the lead hand for the coalition, and theyíre working to make sure that the aboriginal people benefit from any pipeline that comes through our jurisdiction. So the organization is just starting, and itís moving ahead. Optimistically, weíre looking at the federal government coming to the mark with their resources, because, as we all know in the Yukon, they did fund the Northwest Territories Aboriginal Pipeline Group, and weíre looking for the same kind of support.
Ms. Duncan: And the minister is optimistic that theyíll receive it, by the sound of his response.
The group has hired a coordinator. Does the minister have an outline? After all, the government is making a contribution of $200,000. Do they have a sense of the workplan that the group is undertaking? What is the workplan? What is their intention? Is it specific lobbying activities? Is it building the coalition? What is the workplan?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you to the member opposite. The Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition is independent of the territorial government. Certainly, we are there to work with them. The coordinator was hired by the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, and they are working with that coordinator to define what their job is and what the go-forward plan is.
It isnít a Yukon territorial government thing so much as an aboriginal group that has gotten together to form a coalition to answer the questions the aboriginal community will have on the pipeline and how they will get involved. The member opposite was talking about the social end of things; I think they have a lot of work ahead of them. I look forward to working with them, but I want to make it very clear that this is an aboriginal group, addressing aboriginal issues pertaining to a pipeline.
Ms. Duncan: Iím well aware of that; however, I would also remind the minister that there is a contribution being made of $200,000, and thereís a responsibility of the minister for accountability for the expenditure in this session. My question is this: does he have any greater sense of the workplan of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think we want to maximize the Yukon coordination and efficiency of operations for the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. We certainly are contributing some resources to it, and that shows our governmentís commitment to make sure that the aboriginal groups in the Yukon are involved 100 percent with any pipeline that comes through our jurisdiction.
And the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition was set up to do just that, to coordinate that issue when and if it arrives in our jurisdiction. So as far as me, as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, dictating to the coalition on how this is going to unfold, we certainly are going to keep abreast of whatís happening. We will give them whatever help they desire from our government, but I think we are going to leave managing the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition in the hands of the people who are involved.
Chair: Order please. We have reached our normal time for a recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. McRobb: No, not yet. There is another matter I would like the minister to clarify first. About two weeks ago, I sent him a letter regarding the Haines Junction ski loops ó the forestry ski loops, theyíre called. I asked the minister for an urgent reply. Mr. Chair, there are dozens of people in the Haines Junction area who were quite concerned about the prospects of their ski loops being harvested by equipment that is parked at the site. Iíd like the minister to provide us with an explanation of whatís going on and, furthermore, is he prepared to assure us that no harvesting will take place prior to some full public involvement?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Pertaining to the Haines Junction situation, I appreciate the letter from the member opposite. There was an application for a small volume, 1,000 cubic metres, timber permit in the area described. This area had been identified for fuel abatement, fire risk reduction in the Haines Junction area, one development plan. There has been no permit issued on this request. Understanding that we all in this House, and certainly the member opposite, have to be very conscious of the fire threat in the Haines Junction area, we have to work with the citizens of the area, so what weíve done as a government ó now that the member opposite has brought this forward ó is ask our office in Haines Junction to delay issuing this permit until consultation occurs with the Village of Haines Junction and the First Nation.
Weíve answered that question; we are moving forward with it. We understand the member opposite being the MLA for the area and also having to answer to issues like this, but I remind everybody in this House that we as a government have a responsibility to look at the whole picture. The whole picture is the fire abatement in the Haines Junction area. To answer that question, no permit has been issued. We have asked our office in Haines Junction to move ahead with some consultation to make sure the Village of Haines Junction and the First Nation are involved with this issue.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you to the minister for that reply. There is just one missing ingredient that I would like him to clarify. He said the consultation would involve the two local orders of government. Will the consultation also provide an opportunity for public input such as from the members of the ski society?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I donít want to commit to that. I donít want to commit to the Haines Junction and First Nation governments and how they are going to handle this consultation. I recommend to the member opposite that the people who have issues with this should certainly get hold of their government ó whether itís a First Nation government or the town council, to make sure their voice is heard in any consultation we have with Haines Junction and the First Nation pertaining to this permit.
Mr. McRobb: Itís my belief we can probably clear the lines relatively quickly. I would suggest that we proceed to do so, and look at a short break after we clear the lines, if thatís acceptable.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible) †
Chair: Order please. General debate is still continuing. I will ask again: do members wish a recess now?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. We will now continue on with Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and general debate.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to follow up ó and I appreciate the opportunity to have a short break. Iíd like to follow up with the minister on a couple of questions. We were talking about the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, and I note from the ministerís remarks at the Resource Expo that the minister said in his address this group is comprised of eight First Nations from the Yukon and British Columbia. So when the minister was responding to me, I was certain he had said nine, so Iím sure there has been an additional group join. Could he outline what that was? And presumably the British Columbia First Nations are the Kaska First Nations. Is the British Columbia government giving any money toward this initiative?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To be very clear, what I said in my remarks is that there were nine First Nations whose traditional territory will encompass the pipeline as it goes through this jurisdiction. As far as northern B.C. ó of course, the Kaska have an overlapping claim in British Columbia, and the B.C. government is not funding any part of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. I think there are six First Nations that have signed on and there are three observing First Nations. I couldnít tell you which ones they are, but there are six or seven that are actually members of it, and part of the coordinatorís job is to get all the First Nations that will be involved in the corridor, and then of course it has to expand on how itís going to involve all the First Nations in the Yukon.
So, there is a lot of work to be done. Of course, I look forward to that work getting done in a very speedy process, because I think itís very necessary, if and when this pipeline is announced, that we have something in place to move forward.
Ms. Duncan: There are substantial benefits to British Columbia, should the pipeline proceed down the Alaska Highway, and there is substantial benefit to the British Columbia government of the work of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, and members of B.C. First Nations are part of this. The B.C. government is not making any financial contribution, although the Yukon government is. Have we even asked the British Columbia government?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíve been working with the Government of British Columbia and theyíre certainly moving forward with some concept on how their aboriginal groups will be involved. Thatís not to say that, in the future, they might not fund the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, but at this moment theyíre not, but they are aware of what weíre doing. Weíre keeping them abreast of it and they are working internally on how theyíre going to address their First Nation issue in northern B.C.
Ms. Duncan: Given that there are B.C. First Nations participating, perhaps they will consider funding it.
I asked the minister prior to the break whether or not the Government of Yukon was funding Kaksa participation in the purchase of the North American Tungsten property and the minister had said, ďNoĒ. However, in his speech at the Resource Expo, he said this: ďOfficials from two Yukon government departments are working cooperatively to identify options that may assist North American Tungsten to reach a decision to reopen the mine, including proposals to secure federal aboriginal funding for mine training and a scoping study for development of Tungsten properties at Cantung and Mactung.Ē
So, what exactly is the governmentís Department of Energy, Mines and Resources funding? What is the extent of the scoping study? Who are they funding in this scoping study? This is a new initiative in terms of the mining industry. We donít fund scoping studies for any other properties that I am aware of.
Our job as government is to build the roads to the mines, to supply the power and to make sure the infrastructure is there; itís not to scope out the profitability of the mine. What exactly is the ministerís department doing?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To make it very clear, we are not funding the Kaska on any investments that they have in the Canadian Tungsten mine. As far as internally working with the Kaska to see if there is federal funding available, we certainly will facilitate those kinds of things. But weíre not specifically funding anybody independent to do that job.
As far as scoping the mine sites out, like Mac Pass and that, weíre just scoping it out on a potential, because if, in fact, Mac Pass can be mined on the Yukon side, that would be a benefit to the Yukon government and that is part of the scoping. But as far as our government, again, the member opposite is correct. We are here to build roads to get access to it and, with the Cantung mine, we understand that the Cantung mine is in the Northwest Territories.
So there is only a minimum of things we can do to help that facility, understanding that 90 percent of all the supplies come in through the Yukon, and that probably 50 to 60 percent of the people who work there will come from the Yukon. So we do have some responsibility to the employee but, as far as investing in a mine in the Northwest Territories, our government is not prepared to do that. As far as our department working with the Kaska to see what money is available out there and give them some capacity within our departments to make those requests, thatís just working with the Kaska, government to government, and helping where we can to make sure, at the end of the day, that the Kaska are involved in economic development in their traditional territory.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister tell us exactly what the scoping study is doing, whoís doing it, and how much it will cost?
Hon. Mr. Lang: What Iím prepared to do for the member opposite is to provide her an oversight of the scoping in writing, and youíll know exactly what weíre doing.
Ms. Duncan: And presumably that answer will tell us whoís doing it, if itís being done internally, and at what cost. Iíll look for that information from the minister.
Also, just to follow up on a few other key points on oil and gas ó we had this discussion, in part, today in Question Period. Weíve heard and read the speech by the Premier in Texas, and the speech by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources in Vancouver. Both speeches would lead one to surmise that the Government of Yukon had reached an agreement with the Acho Dene Koe, the Kaska Tribal Council, and CAPP with regard to expediting the opening up of economic opportunities in the Liard area of southeast Yukon with respect to a land sale.
The way the speeches are written, it sounds like an agreement has been reached, but the answer I got today in Question Period sounded like it was just conversations. So, which is it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Work in progress.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that the minister is very eager to answer the question and would like to move this along quite quickly; however, Iíd like a little more detail. A work in progress ó so there has been one meeting? Two meetings? We anticipate a land sale in southeast Yukon in six months? One month? Four months? What exactly has happened?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We, the Yukon territorial government, have been working with ADK, the Kaska First Nation and the Government of the Northwest Territories. We all understand in the House the overlapping claims that ADK has that we have to recognize, and also the Kaska traditional territory. We also understand in this House, under YOGA, that we as a government cannot put a disposition out in any traditional territory that hasnít been settled.
So, at the end of the day, in the Kaska traditional territory, we have to get their consent. So, what weíre working with is their consent. ADK has an overlapping claim that hasnít been settled. Also, in the Northwest Territories and here, the ADK has a claim in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories. Now weíre going to work between the four governments and then go to the federal government and work with them.
As far as when the dispositions would be put out, that is, at this point, just conversation. We havenít got every government around the table to agree with how weíre going to proceed.
So again I say itís work in progress. Iím very optimistic that we can come to some kind of arrangement with the federal government and the four levels of government weíre working with, but we all understand government and things can change as we move along, so again, to be fair to the question, weíve had discussions, weíve had meetings, we have talked to the parties involved, we have some agreement, but again, itís work in progress and we certainly will keep Yukoners involved in how it proceeds. At this point itís just that. Again, this government doesnít want to build up expectations that we canít meet, but certainly as we get closer to a finale for these dispositions, it would serve us well to keep the opposition informed and also Yukoners and I certainly look forward to a positive resolution to this work in progress.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the ministerís answer and I understand under the Yukon Oil and Gas Act that the land sale cannot proceed in an unsettled First Nations area without consent. I understand full well the provisions of the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. I understand that this is a work in progress and theyíre just meeting at the table. Thereís no optimistic time frame of six months or a year from now when there would be a land sale. The minister has said ďa work in progressĒ and I can accept that.
In these discussions around a land disposition, is the topic of resource royalty revenue sharing on the table?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre a long way from those discussions. Again, itís work in progress and we just go one step at a time. As far as whatís on the table, thereís nothing on the table at the moment except discussion.
Ms. Duncan: And that issue has not been raised, resource royalty revenue sharing? Has it been raised by any party at the table? Itís a straightforward yes or no.
Hon. Mr. Lang: † At this point, no. It will be an issue that weíre going to have to address down the road, but at this moment all weíre doing is getting the governments together, moving ahead on a plan. As far as those other issues, I imagine theyíll be addressed as we move on.
Ms. Duncan: Itís not those other issues; itís this issue, and itís a very, very, very significant issue. What is the ministerís position on it? Should the resource royalty revenue from a land disposition in southeast Yukon be shared with those from outside the Yukon ó non-Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To correct the member opposite, the Kaska First Nation is involved in Ross River, Upper Liard, and they are a Yukon First Nation. Certainly some of their membership is in northern B.C. Acho Dene Koe is a Northwest Territories First Nation. It has an overlapping claim that has been recognized, and weíre going to have to recognize their claim.
As far as my position on it, itís a little premature to ask for any positions on it. As we move ahead, it will be our responsibility to keep the general public aware of where weíre moving with these dispositions, and if we are moving, weíre a long way from making that decision. Itís work in progress, as I have said, and we are taking very, very small steps at the moment, and hopefully there will be a positive outcome ó understanding that both First Nations have no settled land claim, either in Yukon or in Northwest Territories. So weíre working with them government to government; weíre working with them in partnerships in the forest industry in southeast Yukon, and certainly I look forward to working with them when they have a settled land claim and move forward with them in lockstep as we manage southeast Yukon and all the resources.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the minister delving into other areas, but this is not too early to have this discussion with the member opposite. I want to know the ministerís position on it. I am well aware that Acho Dene Koe is a Northwest Territories First Nation. I am well aware that Liard and Ross River are Yukon First Nations and are also part of the Kaska Tribal Council. I am very well aware of that.
I am specifically asking what the ministerís position is on this subject. Is it the ministerís view that royalties from Yukon resources should be shared with non-Yukoners? That is my question. What is his position on that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: At this point, no royalties are shared with non-Yukon First Nations. In fact, in our term in office, which is the last two years, the Kaska people have not benefited from their share of the royalties coming from southeast Yukon, which is their traditional territory. Because of the unsettled land claim, at no point in the YOGA agreement ó which sets out how we are going to manage oil and gas in the Yukon ó is there any sharing with non-Yukon First Nations.
As far as ADK is concerned, we have to move ahead with them; they have a claim; it has been registered; it has been recognized, and that is an issue that, I guess, at the end of the day, the federal government will have to resolve. Of course we will be part of that, but it is up to the federal government to go back to work on both those land claims, whether itís a Kaska land claim or the ADK land claim. They both have issues with the federal government that will have to be resolved.
And when theyíre resolved, weíre going to have to work with whatever agreement our three governments come up with, to make sure that all people of the Yukon will benefit from the resources in southeast Yukon. At this moment, itís very clear in YOGA how it works. If you donít have a settled land claim, you donít benefit from the gas resources in southeast Yukon. The Kaska hasnít during our term in office. I understand that, during the NDPís term in office, they gave the Kaska their share of the resources. That was a decision made by that government of the day. Iím not going to debate that decision because that decision was made three or four years ago, and that was their decision. But we have not varied from YOGA. YOGA is very clear on how the resources are shared in the Yukon. I donít think this government sees that weíre going to vary much from YOGA.
So remember: this is an unsettled land claim area, and we have to get consent from the First Nation, which is the Kaska, and we have to work with ADK. They are both unsettled land claims. They have registered claims in that area, and weíre working with them to try to move ahead on some economic opportunities for all Yukoners in southeast Yukon.
So, as far as giving anything away, we havenít given anything away. On my side of the table, weíre not contemplating giving anything away. Weíre entering into this thing in a government-to-government relationship. At the end of the day, we hope to have some dispositions in southeast Yukon. At that time, and before that time, the public will be very aware of any deals this government makes that will impact them as citizens of the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Just for the benefit of
the minister, I fully understand, as does everyone, how the Yukon Oil and
Gas Act works and the fact that weíre dealing with unsettled First Nations. This issue of resource royalty revenues is very, very important. It is not one to be taken lightly, and it is not something to be used in a manner that isnít of benefit to all Yukoners. Thatís the whole principle: that the Kotaneelee fund is shared between all Yukoners. Tetlit Gwitchíin have a settled claim. We have to talk to them about oil and gas dispositions in mid-Yukon, and we do, but they donít get royalties from any development in that area. And thatís an important point, because itís the Yukon First Nation governments and the Yukon government who, with those resource royalties, are going to be paying for education, paying for new ambulances, dealing with health care and building the future. Those royalty revenues are incredibly important. So the minister reassuring me that they are not on the table in these discussions is incredibly important, and I appreciate that reassurance this afternoon.
When is the next oil and gas land disposition contemplated? What time frame? Where are we in the consultation process and where is it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre just in the beginning stages of the next disposition. Weíve just gotten over the last one, so weíre putting our work together to put out another disposition.
Ms. Duncan: There were no bids on the last parcel, unfortunately, as I understand it. Just a last couple of questions of the minister: I would like to clear up the issues around land and the Fish Lake Road in particular, as well as some of the other land areas around the periphery of Whitehorse. Land outside of municipalities is dealt with by this minister, and that includes Fish Lake and Vista Road and a couple of other areas around Whitehorse.
I understand that the applications are to be reviewed by LARC and to be reviewed in a group sometime this month or to be put off for some time. The problem that I ó and many Yukoners who have called my office and with whom Iíve spoken to about this ó have with this is that thereís a perception of unfairness in the process. Itís a perception, and in politics perception is reality. There is a perception of unfairness. Not everybody knew about the availability of land. So how is the minister dealing with that issue with his department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Talking about the land around Whitehorse, which this ministry certainly is in charge of, we took over the policies of the federal government, and those policies covered how this land was to be managed outside the City of Whitehorse. In the period of time that the policy was in place, from 1984 to 2003, there were over 60 parcels of land put out completely against the policy of the department. They went through the process, and some were titled, I guess, and some werenít, but the issue of fairness and perception was that these 62 people got preferential treatment inside the federal governmentís policy. We in the land office realized that it was going on anyway on the 30 kilometre issue and of course with the Fish Lake issue and the number of lots that was requested, we certainly had an issue of how we were going to handle it instead of having an individual application like these 62 other applications were. Fish Lake alone had five applications over the last period of time that were brought through the system.
So the system was there, I guess, but the system was not enforced. So these lots now will go through LARC. The community will have access to LARC to make sure that any kind of questions will be addressed at those meetings. There has to be a whole environmental study because we all understand where those lots are. The necessity of water drainage for the City of Whitehorse ó all of those questions have to be answered. There is also a question of game and other animals that live in that area that has to be addressed.
So I think, at the end of the day, as the process unfolds, youíll find that the lands office will cover all its bases and will move forward with these applications and, in due time, it will either be a process where they will be turned down or they will be accepted. But we will certainly involve the whole community with the LARC program. It is set up for exactly that. Itís set up so First Nations, if they have issues, are involved, and of course all the groups out there that are either proponents for these applications or against them will have time ó they will have their day in court.
But I think what we are doing now is the right thing. We are letting the system work. I think the first LARC meeting is sometime this month. I know that there is no LARC meeting in January. The next LARC meeting will be in February, so if it is postponed, the soonest they will get in front of LARC will be in February.
Ms. Duncan: There are a couple of problems with it. The minister said that we will just let the process work. The problem is that the process is not working. The process is not working for everyone.
Last spring in this debate I raised this issue with the minister. I had specific complaints at that time from constituents of the Member for Lake Laberge. Then we had this Fish Lake Road issue, and the minister said outside the Legislature, ďWell, we tweaked the policy a bit, and there was a change made to the policy.Ē
So, whether it was working or not for the previous number of years, since the minister has had control, and since a post-devolution world, we have, as residents of this territory, a problem on our hands. Itís not fair to the people who applied in good faith, and itís not fair to the people who have had applications outstanding for years, who have been told, ďWell, just wait because weíre getting the process in land sorted out,Ē and they have recreational property. And itís not fair to those who would have applied, had they known it was going to go to LARC.
The minister just sent this off to LARC and said, ďWell, theyíll do the right thing.Ē No, the right thing hasnít happened from day one. The public hasnít been advised, there isnít a clear, consistent policy in place that can be applied, and itís unfair to those involved on all sides of this issue, including the people who sit on LARC.
Now, in the spring I suggested to the minister that these land issues were going to keep coming to his plate and desk. At that time I asked if he would consider putting almost like an ombudsman-type person in place ó an independent alternative dispute resolution ó an independent person who could look at these issues. The minister said that was a good idea, and that he would look at it. Did the minister pursue that constructive suggestion? Is there a person in place who could work with the communities, the City of Whitehorse, the land applicants, and the land process from an independent perspective and resolve some of these issues?
Hon. Mr. Lang: As far as LARC not working, that is an opinion that the member from the third party has. The member understands that we inherited the land policy from the last government, and certainly through devolution weíve been working very solidly trying to get land out to Yukoners and trying to make it more user-friendly. These are challenges that this government took on, and these challenges will be addressed as they move on.
I certainly appreciate the member oppositeís willingness to give advice and certainly consider the advice important. But I as the minister have to make decisions at the end of the day, and itís easier to give advice than it is to take that advice and put it to work.
In a perfect world, we would like to have another ombudsman on land, who would address all these issues. We have site-specific problems that we do hire individuals to oversee and mediate and try to resolve. As you can see in the budget, from some of the questions youíve asked in our budget, these people have been hired to do specific jobs. I say to you that LARC does work. And I say to you as a minister I have my full trust in LARC, and I am going to let LARC work.
As far as the Fish Lake land is concerned, itís not a land grab; itís some people who went to work. They did nothing illegal by staking that land. That land was available. I give them full marks for doing their homework, going into the land office, doing their research and coming out with the prospect of owning land in the Yukon.
Now, the City of Whitehorse certainly is involved in LARC. The First Nation is and, of course, all the other individuals who have problems. So I say LARC does work, and LARC will work on this process, but we have to give it time. We canít overreact and have a knee-jerk operation where the challenge is there; we donít trust LARC, so we eliminate LARC, so we eliminate LARC by saying no, as the minister, that this is not available to you. I say to you the 30 people who staked land up on the Fish Lake Road ó talk to them about it. Ask them if they donít want to go in front of LARC. That would be a good question. Instead of asking the minister here about it, ask the 30 people who actually staked the land and have an optimistic outlook that they might have land available. I say to them theyíre pioneers in the Yukon. Thatís how the Yukon was built ó land accessibility. And theyíre willing to go to an area, stake the land and take their chances with LARC. I give them full marks.
Thatís how the process works. Iím going to leave it alone. LARC will do their job. I have full confidence in that process. At the end of the day, they will come up with whether these people will get their land or not get their land.† But they will decide it. Thatís what LARC is in place to do. Itís not up to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to pick and choose who gets land in the Yukon. My job is to make land available in the Yukon for all Yukoners so that, at the end of the day, land is available.
We have a huge territory here, a huge territory. All we have is land. Have you flown across this great country of ours? Itís full of land. Iím sure that the people who stake the land on the Fish Lake Road, 30 individuals who put their name on the line and are now putting themselves in front of LARC, will hopefully at the end of the day be rewarded with land. I say the more land we get in the hands of Yukoners, the better off the Yukon will be.
Now the member opposite doesnít want Yukoners to have land. She doesnít want Yukoners to have land. They donít want Yukoners to have a mining industry. We can go through a list of things that we canít do in the Yukon. This government was elected to face the challenges of the day. One of the challenges is land and we are addressing that challenge and weíre moving ahead with it.
Chair: Before debate continues, the Chair would just like to remind members that it is out of order to impute false or unavowed motives to others.
Ms. Duncan: I would ask the member, with all due respect, to just listen with both ears for two minutes to the pleas of Yukoners and the constituents who have been in my office on this issue. No one, no one in this great territory would hesitate if they knew they could apply for land and get land. All of us have wanted land forever. Thatís what the Yukon is all about. The 1978 Yukon Party slogan was ďLand for all YukonersĒ. Our government did the devolution deal precisely so we could do this. The problem is the minister opposite is not going about it in a fair manner. Thatís the problem and he wonít accept that.
What about the constituent who has a recreational lot on Fish Lake Road, which theyíve had in their family for 40 years and they were told ďWait to applyĒ? And now there are 30 people who have staked residential land because they happened to hear about it. Itís not fair.
Iím not blaming the people who went out and staked it ó absolutely not. The issue is that it has to be publicly available ó public notice. Thatís the problem. The minister took an oath, and that oath included fairness to Yukoners and consideration of their views.
There was no consultation with the City of Whitehorse, and Fish Lake Road is not the only situation. There is Vista Road as well. Some of those land applicants have received hate mail from Yukoners.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes, nasty letters sent to them. Nasty letters, saying, ďHow dare you apply for that land?Ē Itís not their fault. Theyíre just like every other Yukoner. They want land, but it has to be fair. The minister is saying, ďWell, weíll let LARC deal with it.Ē Heís not doing his job. Thatís the problem.
And the Minister of Education, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, finds this very funny. The Kwanlin Dun First Nation was not consulted about this. They have land selections in this specific area. That is not a respectful government-to-government relationship, no matter how the member opposite tries to portray it. This is a visceral issue with Yukoners. And itís not the fault of the people who applied for it, and itís not the fault of the people who are trying to administer a policy. The buck stops on the ministerís desk. He has to make sure the policy is fair, he has to make sure that itís public, and that there is public notice given.
The minister has been here as long as I have and can recall the line-ups ó people camped on the doorsteps here to get lots in what is his riding now. Yukoners want land, but they want it available fairly, and this was not a fair process.
Thatís the point Iím trying to make to the minister. The minister canít just say that we will let LARC deal with it. He has a duty and an obligation to ensure that if the government is going to do their work and make land available, that it is fair and open in a public process and that there is consultation with other governments, respectful consultation with First Nation governments and with hamlets and with the City of Whitehorse. That was not done in this case, and itís not the fault of the people who applied. Itís the ministerís fault, and the minister has to take responsibility. Is the minister going to do that?†
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess that in answering to the third partyís directions on how this minister should run the lands office, I think the people in the Yukon made it very clear two years ago when they voted our government in. I guess the way we run the government will be judged again when we go to the people.
I say, as the minister responsible for lands in the Yukon, the process is working. When this thing is done and when our term in office is done and we go before the people, they will make that judgement.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Letís not second-guess what will happen in an election. We are moving ahead with managing the resources of the Yukon. We are moving ahead with putting people to work. The unemployment is the lowest it has been in the history of unemployment in the Yukon. There are more people working today in the Yukon with real jobs than in the last five years. Mr. Chair, we are on the right track.
But as far as micromanaging the land department from the ministerís office, that is not going to happen under my watch. The system does work and it will work. It will involve the City of Whitehorse; it will involve the First Nation governments. Let it work.
I am not, as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, going to micromanage the land office to address the member oppositeís questions. Certainly, in her term in office, I guess that was the norm. The norm of this government is to let the government do the job it does best. The land office is moving ahead with these applications. All the concerns will be addressed, and at the end of the day they will either have the land or the land application will be turned down.
We are moving ahead in the land department, but I am not micromanaging it.
LARC does work.
Ms. Duncan: So the minister is content to do absolutely nothing and to perpetuate an unfairness? Thatís exactly what he just stood up and said. He will perpetuate the unfairness of this specific situation that happened, in spite of the fact that last May I asked him, and he stood on the floor of the House and said thatís a good idea, weíll look into it. Unfortunately, now the minister wonít. Iím not going to belabour this point with the minister. He quite clearly has stood on the floor and said he does not ó will neither accept nor pay credence to any of the points that Iím raising on behalf of my constituents. The minister is simply not going to do his job in this respect and take responsibility for it, and thatís a shame, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, then, we will proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Corporate Services underexpenditure of $52,000 cleared
On Sustainable Resources
Mr. McRobb: Can we get a breakdown on that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Sustainable resources: the forestry agreement in principle signed with the Kaska Tribal Council on March 17, 2004, is 100-percent recoverable under the Tough funding, $193,000; the Kaska forest plan, forest economic benefit agreement, signed on January 22, 2004, is 100-percent recoverable under the Tough funding, $30,000; agricultural industry transition program agreement signed with Agriculture Canada to flow funds to the Yukon Agricultural Association of farmers, 100-percent recoverable, $190,000; total revotes, $413,000; the Canadian Council of Resource Ministers conference, NRCan funding, 100-percent recoverable, $40,000; transferred funds to oil and gas and mineral resources, $80,000; for the total of $373,000.
Mr. McRobb: Have all of those reports and agreements been provided before? If they have, thatís fine. If they havenít, can the minister undertake to send them over?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Those are all public ó yes.
Sustainable Resources in the amount of $373,000 agreed to
On Energy and Corporate Policy
Hon. Mr. Lang: Energy and corporate policy revotes for the Kaska Tribal Council bilateral agreement for resource management: the commitment is part of a bilateral agreement with the Kaska Tribal Council. Contribution of $150,000 lapsed in full. Transfer of funds to the oil and gas and mineral resources, $40,000; for a total of $110,000.
Energy and Corporate Policy in the amount of $110,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Mr. McRobb, if you wish to be recognized, please rise in your place, and the Chair shall recognize you.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I donít wish to be recognized. I think itís common practice if we just make an indication to the minister. Then the proceedings are expedited. The minister knows the routine. Iím simply conveying a message to the Chair. I donít wish to stand up and be recognized and put on the record each and every time I make the simple request of ďCan we get a breakdown?Ē Iím merely just conveying a simple request for a breakdown to the minister and it helps to speed up debate.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Oil and gas and mineral resources: the mine training fund, an agreement was signed with the Yukon Chamber of Mines on March 29, 2004, to coordinate the training and recruiting of Yukoners to work in the mining resource sector; that was $500,000; mine training fund balance, relegated to the 2005-06 fiscal year, $400,000; northern geo-science agreement, 100-percent recoverable, $179,000; assessment and abandoned mine type II mine sites, increased agreement with DIAND, 100-percent recoverable, $1,288,000; placer authorization, regime development, $100,000; major project management for Western Silver, Wolverine, and others, $350,000; transfer funds from other program areas, $422,000; the total is $2,439,000.
Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources in the amount of $2,439,000 agreed to
On Client Services and Inspections
Client Services and Inspections underexpenditure of $250,000 cleared
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $2,620,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Lang: Oil and gas resource revenue royalties is an estimate increase in the production for the new well of $2,025,000.
On Capital Expenditures
On Sustainable Resources
On Forest Inventory
Forest Inventory underexpenditure of $147,000 cleared
On Forest Renewal
Hon. Mr. Lang: Not all contracts or agreements were fully completed by year-end due to the late start of this project. Funds required to complete work being done to initiate forest renewal in southwest Yukon beetle-kill area, $130,000.
Forest Renewal in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources
On Oil and Gas Development and Pipeline
On Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition
Hon. Mr. Lang: Approved a revote to continue support of the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, $155,000.
Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition in the amount of $155,000 agreed to
On Minerals Development
On Geological Surveys
Geological Surveys in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
On Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP)
Yukon Mining Incentives Program underexpenditure of $16,000 cleared
On Resource Assessments Ė Minerals
Resource Assessment Ė Minerals in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
Total of Other Capital Expenditures in the amount of nil agreed to
Total Capital Expenditures in the amount of $208,000 agreed to
On Capital Recoveries
Capital Recoveries cleared
Chair: That concludes the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Vote 53.
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources agreed to
Department of Tourism and Culture
Chair: I understand that weíre proceeding with Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Chair, it is indeed my pleasure to introduce the supplementary estimates for the Department of Tourism and Culture. It is hard to believe that weíre back here in the Legislature talking about yet another budget. How time flies when weíre doing good things.
Mr. Chair, it certainly has been a very interesting summer over the last few months, and, of course, now that weíre well into winter, many of our operators are gearing up for the winter season. I would have to say that, by and large, over the last several months our operators have done an outstanding job again providing our visitors with the great experiences and providing many products.
That makes us one of the most reputable places to visit on the face of the earth.
Despite the forest fires that we experienced here in the Yukon, I believe that our Department of Tourism and Culture and industry ó not to mention all the emergency fire crews, the wildland fire management and all those associated with managing the fires ó did an exceptional job of continuing to provide information on a routine basis, up to date and accurate. I think that statistics really show what in fact happened over the last summer. Despite all these challenges, as well as that of the Parks Canada strike, we were still able to see a rise in our visitation this year ó about six percent from May through to the end of September, which are very good numbers indeed.
With respect to this supplementary that we are here to debate, our Department of Tourism and Culture is requesting an increase of $221,000 to its operation and maintenance budget and $988,000 for its capital budget.
The operation and maintenance supplementary budget supports the cultural, economic and social values of the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture. As members opposite are fully aware, the overall vision of KIAC is credited post-secondary art education for Yukon and visiting students. They have approached government for long-term investment, and we are examining their business plan as we speak, and governmentís role with respect to $75,000, as is identified in this budget.
Other requested project funding under operation and maintenance includes: $27,000 for the Canadian heritage properties incentive fund; the departmentís historic sites coordinator and the historic sites technician have received training to assess heritage buildings under the federal program. This funding item is for staff time and travel to assist in the pre-accreditation of two heritage buildings in Vancouver. †This item is 100-percent recoverable from Canadian Heritage.
There is $33,000 in transfers from the Department of Community Services for one-half of an FTE for the native reference assistantís position. This position was divided between the Department of Tourism and Culture and Community Services under the renewal initiative. So transferring the half-position to the Department of Tourism and Culture will allow the Yukon Archives, which is also administered under our department, the ability to administer an outreach program to communities to help administer the Yukon Archives mandate in respect to First Nation archival materials under the Umbrella Final Agreement.
The Department of Tourism and Culture also requests that several projects be revoted, due to a number of factors that prevented the projects from moving forward. The revotes include $31,000 for a devolution support position in Archives. The department had been unsuccessful in filling this position until just recently this year.
There is $35,000 for the Sourdough Rendezvous; the funds for this event were intended for the 2003-04 festival, but because the planning was already underway, the organization requested that the funds be used for the 2005 festival.
There is $20,000 to design and develop a database to improve the capacity to access and analyze requests from potential visitors for tourist information. A tender was issued, but technical requirements of the project caused a delay. The tender has now been awarded and the work is underway.
The capital expenditures in this supplementary budget indeed meet the priorities of government and the mandate of this department. To begin with, I am pleased to announce $350,000 in capital funding toward a marketing program designed to attract additional rubber-tire visitors to the Yukon.
†This fiscal year we will be concentrating on the Alaska Highway scenic drive. As I have mentioned earlier on other occasions, the scenic drives initiative will enhance existing programming and will also provide a long-range plan of action for developing Yukonís transportation and cultural corridors. The government will be taking immediate steps to stimulate market interests in both long-haul North American and fly-drive European vacations during the slower shoulder seasons of May and September. In future years, we hope to highlight other scenic drives in the Yukon beyond the Alaska Highway.
Mr. Chair, we have also identified $20,000 among capital expenditures to provide equipment to the new First Nations heritage officer position, who is assisting First Nations cultural centres as well as two First Nation training positions in our cultural services branch. The majority of the funding is transferred from the Department of Highways and Public Works for computers and other office equipment.
Another new project is very exciting, and that is Libraries and Archives Canada has approved funding of $26,000 for a new virtual exhibit based on the photographic collection of Claude and Mary Tidd. RCMP Sergeant Tidd and his wife, Mary, lived and worked in various communities throughout the Yukon from 1915 to 1947. His photographic collection contains valuable images of home life, RCMP activities in the communities of Fortymile, Dawson, Old Crow and Ross River. Making this collection accessible is certainly important for school projects, communities, researchers and historians.
It will be very interesting to see how life has changed in our communities and our homes over the years. The collection contains one-of-a-kind images of people, places and industrial development in Yukon. We are very proud to make these images available. This project is fully recoverable from the federal government. There has also been a slight change to the agreement with the federal government regarding funding to the historic places initiative. The 2004-05 budget for this program is now $390,000, up from $338,000, and this project is also fully recoverable from the federal government. The historic places initiative, as I have elaborated to members opposite over the last couple of years, aims to foster a greater appreciation of historic places in our country. It also provides financial incentives that will make conservation more viable. This initiative was fully endorsed by all ministers of culture at a recent meeting in Halifax to urge the federal government to continue this funding.
The capital supplementary budget for Tourism and Culture also includes a number of revotes from projects. These include $135,000 for heritage attraction site support for funding for landscaping and paving at the Transportation Museum. The project was delayed due to the time required for federal mitigation of contaminated soils on the property. Paving is underway and will be finished soon. Landscaping will also be completed next season.
The department requests a revote of $30,000 for the telegraph office in Dawson. The project was delayed due to fire damages. The funds will be used to complete work on the interior for occupancy. The intent is to eventually provide the heritage building as a residence for staff of the Dawson City Museum. This building is significant because it is one of three buildings in Dawson, along with the post office and the Old Territorial Administration Building, that were designed by federal architect, T.W. Fuller. Completed in 1900, it is an important illustration of our communications history.
Also, under heritage attraction site support, the department is lapsing $485,000 for the development of the Hootalinqua heritage site. The department is committed under land claims to this project and we certainly will bring this item back at a future time when both parties are prepared to move forward on this initiative.
The department requests a revote of $9,000 for heritage trails. This funding is for trail identification and development in cooperation with the Kluane First Nation. The First Nation is now prepared to move this forward in this fiscal year, and we are pleased to assist in this regard.
The department is requesting $22,000 for walking trails, benches, and other landscaping between the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre and the Yukon Transportation Museum. This project was also postponed this season due to soil contamination delays, as I outlined earlier.
Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre and the Transportation Museum are important to the tourism and heritage community in Whitehorse. They are the first attractions a visitor sees when arriving in the Yukon from the south, due to their location on the Alaska Highway. They are an important first impression and a showcase for the rich heritage and culture of the territory.
A revote of $14,000 will also complete a craft display at the Old Crow Airport, in which the Vuntut Gwitchin are key participants. This is also part of our crafts strategy.
The department requests $52,000 to complete the architectural and design plans for the Kluane Museum of Natural History. As well, funds will be used to complete the final stages of the museum strategy.
The department also wishes to revote $132,000 allocated to the decade of sport and culture program. The department has asked the Yukon Arts Centre to deliver this program under the name ďCulture QuestĒ. The Culture Quest program is in anticipation of the Canada Winter Games coming up in 2007, and our government wants to ensure that the cultural community has every opportunity to contribute to the games. Through this initiative we are investing in Yukon youth, artists and communities right across the territory.
There is also a revote of $60,000 for the Carcross-Tagish First Nation cultural centre; a revote of $32,000 for the North American potentials traveller study in the United States; and there is also a revote of $99,000 for the Yukon arts fund. This concludes my comments on the supplementary budget, and I certainly welcome any questions.
Mrs. Peter: Itís my pleasure to speak to the supplementary budget for Tourism and Culture. For me this is a very interesting department. When I think about tourism and culture, I think about the richness that we have in this area in the Yukon, and especially in my community of Old Crow. We have several heritage sites in the surrounding area and one of them is at Rampart House, which is a couple of hours down the river by boat in the summertime. This village was created before Old Crow became a village on its own. Thereís a lot of history in that area. Our ancestors lived in that area for many years, and the way that they chose these areas to live is because they can harvest their food supplies in different seasons. Rampart House was definitely an area where there was some great fishing and there was also the caribou that migrated through the area. Many of our relatives traveled from Alaska to Rampart House, as we call it.
So there is a lot of history in that area, and I am grateful that that area became a heritage site for our people. Another area that was designated as a heritage site was Johnsons Village. That village was created again for its plentiful animals.
That was their only source of income. Along with these heritage sites, today we recognize these places on the maps within our traditional territories. What is very, very important to us in our First Nation communities is having the place names in our language. That is being done, and that will help the younger generation in the future to identify with these areas and to identify where their families came from. It will help within our education programs in our communities. Weíll be able to teach the young people of our communities about these specific areas.
People used to travel to Johnsons Village in the wintertime. It was a great place for trapping and a lot of our grandparents lived in that area for that reason.
We are definitely in support of that.
Another area of tourism thatís important is in the area of arts and crafts. I was happy to hear the minister refer to some of the funding that will be allocated to address the area that was chosen within the airport terminal. In Old Crow we have Air North that flies to our community six times a week, and during the summer season, in the height of the tourist season, we have many people from all over the world who stop at the airport. Many times when we are at the terminal, we answer questions for the tourists passing through and theyíre very much interested in the history of Old Crow and about the community and its people. So weíre very grateful for that financial assistance in that regard.
Tourism is one of the highest economic drivers in the Yukon, the summer being the most popular months to travel throughout the Yukon. We know that we had to deal with the fires this past summer. Unfortunately, the number of tours that travelled through the Yukon this past summer were down. Hopefully, this coming season will be a lot better for those operators out there who had to take a loss.
Given the time, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that we report progress.
Chair: Mrs. Peter has moved that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has directed me to report progress on it. Also, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 54, †Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, and has directed me to report it without amendment.
Speaker: Youíve heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.