Thursday, March 31, 2005 — 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.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a letter from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board addressed to me, dated February 8.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 56: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 56, entitled Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Community Services that Bill No. 56, entitled Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 56 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
Dawson City governance restoration
Hon. Mr. Hart: Any time a senior level of government is faced with a decision on whether to become involved in another government’s area of responsibility to investigate its financial situation and to assume control of its jurisdiction, it cannot be taken lightly. I assure this Legislature this decision was a difficult one to make.
After this government was elected to office, and once I assumed the responsibility as Minister of Community Services, it was evident to me that Dawson’s finances were off-track and that decisive action was required to guide Dawson back to a place of financial stability and sound financial management.
In October 2003, acting under the authority of the Municipal Act, I revoked the appointment of the first financial supervisor and appointed a second. The second supervisor was put in place to work with the city council to develop a financial plan to ensure that mayor and council followed proper financial procedures.
Despite the second supervisor’s best efforts to get a handle on the city’s finances, the financial situation was already too far gone. Essentially, the City of Dawson was bankrupt. The second supervisor stepped into a very tough and severe financial situation and did the job he was asked to do.
Early in 2004, he submitted a final report and a financial plan for the municipality, a plan agreed to by the former mayor and council. However, it quickly became evident that given Dawson’s financial situation, the only option was to dismiss mayor and council and install a trustee.
In April 2004, the report of the Dawson City’s auditors showed that Dawson’s financial situation was much worse than we anticipated.
This preliminary audit reinforced the reality that Dawson went from a position of good standing under the Municipal Act in the late 1990s to an estimated $1.14-million shortage in revenue by 2003. This deficit situation did not even include the future costs associated with the arbitration of the Dawson recreation centre.
Even today, there are still significant issues on the long-term solution of fix for the recreation facility that will potentially have a substantial financial impact on the town’s financial position. The severity of Dawson’s financial situation cannot be overstated. In 1998, Dawson had $2.2 million in reserve, $2 million in cash, and $1 million in debt. Since then, the town has spent $10.4 million on projects and initiatives including relocation of the fire hall, improvements to the swimming pool, recreation centre and the secondary sewage treatment plant, which never got off the ground.
The town has already exceeded its limit for borrowing under the Municipal Act, a limit that was twice extended — once for $1.2 million to install cable television and a second time, in October 2000, when the former government authorized the city to borrow $4.46 million to refinance an earlier debt owed to the Yukon government and to construct a recreation centre. The Yukon government had already financially assisted the City of Dawson with a $10.4 million capital funding agreement, which included $5.6 million toward the recreation centre and $4.8 million toward the sewage treatment project.
Acting on recommendations from the second supervisor, and taking action to address the financial crisis that faced Dawson, in April of 2004 I appointed a trustee, replacing the Dawson City Council, to take control of the situation before it could get any worse.
On April 14, 2004, the trustee, the new CAO, the second supervisor and I attended a public meeting in Dawson to personally introduce the new trustee and hear questions and concerns from the community. We wanted to ensure the residents that day that the day-to-day operations and business of the city would continue under the trustee and to inform them that the City of Dawson was essentially bankrupt.
A trustee was appointed to find a way to turn the financial situation around and to get a handle on the city’s spending for the benefit of all Yukon taxpayers.
On April 19, 2004, the trustee recommended that a forensic audit be considered, in order to take a more in-depth look at Dawson’s financial situation. With a trustee in place over the last year and the forensic audit now complete, we are now in a better position to make decisions on how to proceed from here. I want to stress that the actions and decisions taken by this government over the course of our term in office has simply been to determine how taxpayers’ money was managed and find ways to prevent similar situations from happening in the Yukon.
Future candidates for the city council in Dawson, and the citizens of Dawson, need assurance that measures are in place to ensure long-term financial stability and the establishment of a solid foundation for good governance in the municipality. The findings of the forensic audit, a financial plan for the municipality and the introduction of a new piece of legislation, entitled the Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, will all assist in this matter.
Mr. Cardiff: I rise to respond to the ministerial statement by the Minister of Community Services with regard to governance in Dawson City. I’m sure that the citizens of Dawson will welcome the chance to return to a democratic elected government.
I have some comments to make about the minister’s statements. The minister stated several things, and they raise a lot of questions. Unfortunately, the minister hasn’t provided answers to a lot of those questions. He states that he revoked the appointment of the first financial supervisor, but he never once in public stated why he did that or why that was necessary. He says that the second supervisor was put in place to work with the city, when in fact the supervisor actually created the case and the circumstances so that this government could actually act in such a heavy-handed manner with the municipality of Dawson and in the way they treated the residents.
The evidence about Dawson City’s financial situation was not helped by the actions of the second supervisor, or the minister. In fact, if anything, it created more questions and more serious financial circumstances, resulting in legal actions around waste management contracts. We have yet to see what’s going to transpire with the forensic audit, which the minister promised to table today — and he hasn’t. He’s going to hide behind a motion that’s going to be rammed down the throat of the Legislature later today, which there’s no need to do.
The minister doesn’t need the authority of the Legislature to table that document. He promised to table it today, and he didn’t do it when he had the opportunity. The minister made a statement that on April 19 the trustee recommended that a forensic audit be conducted, but we need to talk about the facts.
The facts of the matter are that on April 13, the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin made a motion in this Legislature urging the government to do a forensic audit. And on April 15, the minister himself announced in the Legislature in Question Period that they had commenced a forensic audit. Yet on April 19, he claims that the trustee requested a forensic audit. So there are some serious questions about the actions of the minister in this regard and about where the forensic audit idea even came from and why it was done, which calls into question why there was a need for a forensic audit. Why didn’t he pay attention to what the residents of Dawson were requesting — instead of conducting a closed process, a behind-closed-doors process of a forensic audit — which was a full, independent, open process like a public inquiry?
I guess the minister didn’t get that far in the Municipal Act. It’s in the same section as the appointment of a trustee. The minister also hasn’t proposed any solutions to Dawson’s financial problems in his statement other than restoring democracy in Dawson. He has provided no indication of what this government is prepared to do to deal with Dawson’s long-term debt and financial solution. They’ve investigated it. They’ve got the paper trail, and that’s all they have. They have the information that the forensic auditor gathered under the minister’s direction, and that’s what we’re going to get.
We’re not going to find out the true causes in a fair and open manner. It’s a sad day. It’s a happy day for the residents of Dawson because democracy will be restored, but it is a sad day when this minister can’t stand up and give the proper answers.
Ms. Duncan: What we heard in the ministerial statement today from the Minister of Community Services was a Yukon Party version of the financial history of the past seven years in Dawson City. Hearing financial stories from a government that has failed to take to task one of their own members for their financial failings is at the very least a good yarn.
What we didn’t hear was a full introduction of new policy. If the new Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act is truly going to ensure long-term financial stability and good governance in Dawson, then the minister could have and should have used his time wisely to tell the public exactly how the new legislation addresses these issues. Perhaps the minister was silent on exactly how the government proposes good governance and financial stability because the government truly doesn’t know how to set an example for good governance and long-term financial stability.
I take issue with the statement that the government has had to make some very difficult decisions over the past year. Every single government has been faced with difficult decisions, such as what to do when a community has torn down their recreation centre and started on a new one. Do you immediately revoke a duly elected council and take over the town as their MLA continually lobbied to be done? Or do you take one step at a time and try to work respectfully and reasonably in a manner of trust with others engaged in public service, and duly elected to do so? Yes, these are difficult decisions, but by no means is the minister opposite unique in his experience in government.
The public knows that this government does not have a strong record on establishing or following processes that ensure financial stability for Yukon. Today, the minister did more to fuel that perception, because he doesn’t provide us with a new policy or description of how the new legislation or financial plan would in fact ensure the long-term financial stability for Dawson.
One of the functions of a ministerial statement is to introduce new government policy. The minister said nothing about new policy and talked only about the past and his woes as a minister.
Hon. Mr. Hart: This government has always been committed to bringing things back to normal for the people of Dawson, to having an accountable, responsible and democratic governing body that will have long-term financial stability for the benefit of all Yukoners.
Through the work of the trustee and this government, we now have a number of key items and decisions that will form a strategy for getting us there. The forensic audit is complete, we have introduced the Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, and a long-term financial plan is being developed so that we can be able to attract a full slate of good candidates for the next Dawson City municipal election.
The forensic audit is only one of a number of key items and decisions that will assist us to form a strategy for restoring financial stability and accountability for Dawson. We will also be reviewing a financial plan for the municipality and are putting forward a new piece of legislation, entitled Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, for the consideration of the Legislature.
We owe it to the people of Dawson to ensure that a responsible financial plan is put into place to help the municipality return to an accountable, responsible and democratic governing body that will have long-term stability for the benefit of all Yukoners.
The goal in commissioning the forensic audit was to find out what went wrong in Dawson. As for the details of the auditor’s report, I will let the audit speak for itself.
We believe that the residents of Dawson deserve to have a governance model for their community that is fair, responsible and democratic. The Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act will help to provide a solid foundation and will assist in dealing with responsibility toward their long-term debt.
This act requires procedures that will ensure fiscal accountability and provide the Yukon with the authority to consolidate Dawson’s debt in order to reduce its overall debt load. Future candidates for the city council in Dawson, and the citizens of Dawson, need the assurance that the measures are in place to ensure long-term financial stability and establish a solid foundation for good governance in the municipality.
A trustee will remain in place until the responsibility of the municipal government can be transferred by a municipal election. We are committed to guiding the City of Dawson toward good governance.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Agricultural Association, fairground location
Mr. McRobb: I have a few questions for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources now that he’s finally available to answer questions about the Yukon Agricultural Association’s fairground proposal. Yukoners will remember this proposal as a controversial application for land within the Gunnar Nilsson and Mickey Lammers’ research forest on the Mayo Road.
The YAA minutes show the minister and the backbencher to his left were deeply involved in the fairground project. The minister assured the association that the project would get the go-ahead. In fact, he generously urged them to apply for 200 acres instead of their original choice of only 40 acres. The YAA was so gung-ho that its January newsletter indicated that construction would start this spring. Will the minister now clear the air and tell this House exactly what he advised the Yukon Agricultural Association to do?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answer to the member opposite, certainly we work with the Yukon Agricultural Association in a very positive way. They certainly put a process together to pick an area that they could utilize as fairground. As the minister responsible for agriculture in the Yukon, I certainly worked with them. As far as any guarantees in place for any of the land, those are not the facts. The fact is we have a process. The process was followed and we’re moving on.
So, in answering the member opposite — and I’m glad that I have the time here to clear the facts up. The facts are that there is a process. The Agricultural Association applied for a piece of land. He is correct in the location. They went through a process that’s laid out by the government. They weren’t successful. I wish them all the luck in the world on another application. I will work with them in the future to solve the challenges they have in finding a location for a fairground.
Mr. McRobb: Did the minister respond to the question and tell this House exactly what he advised the YAA to do?
The answer is no, Mr. Speaker. He avoided the question again. Now, the minister’s backroom deals have certainly caused an uproar in the both the Agricultural Association and the general public. His approach on this matter strangely contradicts how he hid behind the board in the Fish Lake lot fiasco last fall, especially when it appears he was more than willing to override the board process for his close friends in the Agricultural Association. There’s something rotten about this and we need to get to the bottom of it. Now we’ve heard that both the president and the vice-president of the association resigned at the last board meeting in March. Could the minister confirm these resignations, and can he assure this House that those resignations are not part of any attempt to cover up the government’s role in this fiasco?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, we have a process in place for when you apply for land in the Yukon, and that process was followed. Whatever the member opposite insinuates, whatever was done in the back rooms, and guarantees, is not factual. As far as the membership or the executive of the Agricultural Association, that’s independent of me. I have nothing to do with resignations or elections of those officials. They did resign. Eventually they will go forward, and I’m sure they’ll have an executive in place to move forward with the agricultural industry in Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Again the minister is avoiding the question. He’s making excuses that don’t line up with minutes from the association itself. The minister’s political meddling in this matter created a big mess that is obviously still unravelling. Part of that mess was the lucrative $250,000 contract that went to a board member to oversee the project. We’ve also heard that that person has resigned from the contract after defending it vigorously in the public. All this has raised suspicions about what this Yukon Party government is really doing behind the scenes.
Will the minister finally disclose to Yukoners what involvement this Yukon Party government had behind the scenes in the development or financing of this controversial proposal?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government didn’t have anything to do with any contract that was issued by the Agricultural Association. I was never at a meeting where the Yukon Agricultural Association was discussing the fairground. What they have in their minutes is just that. I was not at the meetings, so I will not verify that. Whatever they said, they said. We as a government do not meddle with associations that are put in place to do just what the member opposite is talking about — running the Yukon Agricultural Association on a daily basis.
Question re: Dawson City bridge, contractor qualifications
Mr. Fairclough: Last month, the government reduced the pool of potential Dawson bridge builders by a third, and the qualifications of the Epcom consortium were rejected. Mr. Speaker, it was rejected in part for lack of experience with in-stream concrete piers. Can the minister tell us why this was a factor in the request for qualifications, when the government didn’t even know what design it wanted or what materials would be used in the bridge?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I think it’s important that a number of ministers engage in this issue, because public/private partnerships are a mechanism this government intends to proceed with to help revitalize and grow the Yukon economy. However, it is also important that we recognize that governments are bound by contracting and procurement procedures and policies and legislation, and that’s exactly what the government has done in this case. We have abided by those processes, those procedures, those policies and that legislation that governs them. But we’ve also addressed the issue of First Nation involvement. The bridge in this case — the Dawson City bridge — will be built in the traditional territory of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.
Before the member stands up and starts beating his drum on First Nation relationships, this government, for the first time ever in the procurement process, has involved the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in in a number of areas that are committing to them involvement and participation in a meaningful way in the construction of the Dawson City bridge — another example of this government’s commitment to building a partnership with First Nations.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, in his long answer, the minister, the Premier, avoided the question. Isn’t that interesting. How many times is this going to happen today?
Yesterday, the Minister of Community Services indicated that this project has already gone to the request for proposal stage. Presumably this means that there are only two players eligible to bid. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that fewer bidders will almost inevitably increase the cost of the project to Yukon people.
The Yukon consortium involving several First Nations and one of the world’s largest engineering firms has stated that it is looking at potential legal remedies, which could drive the cost of this project even further up, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister tell us whether the decision to exclude Epcom at the qualifications stage is still under appeal or whether legal action has commenced?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This government has made no decision to disqualify anybody. There are processes, though, available to any corporation involved in the government contracting and procurement process. In this case, we would urge any corporation entity, should they feel that they have not been given due process, to avail themselves of those procedures.
Also, Mr. Speaker, I would caution all Yukoners and this House not to buy into speculation when it comes to New Democratic mathematics. We all know that it does not, at the end of the day, add up to include the sum total as it should. Two and two does not always equal four when it comes to New Democratic math.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, another broken promise about improving decorum in this House, Mr. Speaker.
The Premier said that they are following processes and policies that are in place. Well, this is a P3 project. There is no policy in place according to them. It is a design/build project. The potential problems with this kind of project were pointed out in the Mayo-Dawson transmission line audit.
The Epcom consortium is 51 percent owned by Yukon First Nations and 85 percent owned by Yukoners. Yesterday the Minister of Community Services talked at some length about First Nation involvement in this project, but there still is a major unresolved issue for the minister or the Premier to address.
Now that a significant direct involvement by Yukon First Nations has been ruled out, how does this Yukon Party government intend to fulfill its campaign promise to involve First Nations as full economic partners without interfering politically in the bid process of this project?
Speaker: Before the Premier gives his answer, the Chair is not entirely comfortable, Hon. Premier, with your last response. Although not unparliamentary, it could lead to dissent, and I’d ask the Hon. Premier just to pull himself back a little.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There was obviously no intent to create disruption in this Legislative Assembly.
The member opposite has now raised the issue of the First Nation participation in this project. First, let me say that, as a government, under all contracting and procurement processes, the government cannot and will not simply directly hand public capital projects to any corporate entity. We cannot and we will not. However, when it comes to First Nations, on this particular project, in terms of our government-to-government relationship with the First Nation in whose traditional territory this project will be constructed, this government has made the following commitments to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation: the construction of temporary ferry landings, production of rip-rap, construction of bridge approach and roads, supply and production of concrete for the project, provision of office and other accommodations, land lease and other rental opportunities, opportunities related to concrete placement and formwork, job training and job shadowing, equipment rental, environmental monitoring, maintenance and operation of the bridge, camp supply and building construction.
This is the first time ever that any Yukon government in a procurement process has made these commitments directly to a First Nation, and we stand proud on our commitment to building relationships and partnerships with Yukon First Nations.
Question re: Public/private partnerships
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Highways and Public Works about his work on replacing the government’s mobile radio system. This is a project that the minister has said will cost about $15 million.
A couple of months ago, the Yukon Party, very quietly, turned this project into another public/private partnership, or P3. This week, the minister reconfirmed this. That decision has only enhanced the Yukon Party government’s public reputation for breaking their word and commitments to Yukoners.
On November 27, 2003, the Premier said, in this Legislature: “We would never, never enter into a public/private partnership until a clear, transparent policy is developed.” The Premier just stood on his feet in this House and said, “We will follow policy.”
The problem is, Mr. Speaker, there is no policy in place. There is no clear, transparent policy on P3s, and yet the government is barging ahead with the Dawson bridge —
Speaker: Order please. Ask the question, please.
Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. Why is the minister and this government breaking the Premier’s word, a commitment he made to Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I’ve stated previously, we are looking to get the best bang for the taxpayers’ buck in the Yukon, and the possibility of a P3 is just another option that we’re looking at to assess that particular aspect. We are working toward that process, and that is the way we’re going to look at it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it is clear, transparent public policy that safeguards the taxpayer. Nobody trusts this government, and with good reason. It makes commitments and then it breaks them. Eighteen months ago, the Premier said on the floor of this Legislature we would never enter into a public/private partnership unless the clear, transparent policy is developed, and it hasn’t been. There is no policy. There is absolutely no policy in place by this government on public/private partnerships. We are now adding a mobile phone project in addition to barging ahead with the bridge. We’ve seen how badly the bridge has gone. Why is the minister embarking upon a P3 without a policy?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned previously, we’re looking at the option of what this will provide the Yukon government. We haven’t embarked on anything specifically — until we know what comes back from this. We’re just looking at it as an option. It does not dictate the fact that if it comes back as a negative option we will look at the traditional method of purchasing this item.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the problem is the Premier made a commitment to never enter into a P3 without a policy. There is no policy in place. The government is barging ahead with a bridge, dialling up a new communications system, all under the P3 with no policy. That is the problem.
We have seen how badly embarking upon a P3 without a policy has gone. For example, the request for qualifications on the bridge — the Member for Mayo-Tatchun just pointed out how badly that has gone. There are new estimates every single day on the bridge, and we have paid for the design of the bridge twice because we have no policy to guide us in embarking upon the P3s.
Why is the minister now adding the mobile communication system as a P3? Again, there’s no policy in place. We’re seeing how badly these projects are going. Why is the government breaking the Premier’s commitment?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I am compelled to enter into the discussion. There have been a lot of insinuations of the Premier’s involvement. Firstly, the important point is that we haven’t entered into any P3 projects in the territory — that’s an important point to make here — nor have we committed to. Secondly, we are in processes that will help determine the overall policy for the Yukon Territory when it comes to using public/private partnerships.
When it comes to estimates, the only estimates that we are concerned about are the factual, real estimates of the cost of the bridge. We are not going to enter into a discussion with the members opposite on their estimates, because they come from malfunctioning adding machines. We are doing our work to create policy and make sure our P3 procurement process will work.
Speaker: Regardless of how the Hon. Premier phrases it, the Chair is not comfortable with that line of thought and asks the Premier not to do that again.
Question re: Carmacks Copper, project champion
Mr. McRobb: I have a simple question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Hopefully he can respond to this question. He’s also the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation. Will the minister explain, in layman’s terms, the duty of a project champion, and specifically what the duties of the project champion for the Carmacks Copper project are?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The project coordinator is a new individual we work with and with the corporation to simplify, in the mining portfolios, working with government, between government and industry, to stickhandle the components through the process to make sure that we have a timely process to get the component up and running. So we have two of those individuals now working with us. One is working with Western Silver and one is working with Yukon Zinc and, by the way, in a very positive way.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously, the NHL lockout is having quite an effect on the terms used by this minister, but he did not respond to that simple question specifying the duties of the project champion.
On December 1, 2004, the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources issued a sole-source contract to a well-known Yukon individual to act as project champion for the Carmacks Copper project. If I am correct, that is now known as the Carmacks silver project, but most of us refer to it as the Minto mine.
For the sake of clarification, will the minister tell us why the Yukon government is paying to have someone act as the champion for this project? How is the public interest served by this role?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I’d like to correct the member opposite. It is not Minto mine, it is Western Silver, which some people call Carmacks Copper. As far as our government is concerned, we work with industry in a very positive way. These champions have, so far, proved to be very valuable for us as government and also for the components. It has been a very positive experience, and I look forward to this footprint working with all the prospective mines that are coming forward in the Yukon.
We understand, Mr. Speaker, that we have United Keno Hill coming on line, we have the Minto mine — which the member opposite got mixed up. I will remind him, again, that Minto mine is an independent mine and it is not Western Silver, nor is it Carmacks Copper. Those are one and the same, but they are two different mines. Of course, we have Yukon Zinc, which is going to spend $7 million to $12 million in exploration this year. It has been a very good investment. At the end of the day, I guess the proof will be in the pudding.
Last year, we had an exploration dollar figure of $22 million. We are looking at $50 million. A lot of these Yukoners who are working with these industries to get them up and running are very well qualified and looking forward to the results. The results are probably going to be $50 million in exploration next year.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the reason I’m asking the minister these questions is that one of the major issues regarding this development is the need for supply of electricity. My understanding is that the mine’s proponents intend to use diesel generation to start with and eventually connect to the hydro grid. That’s all very well and good, except that the project champion, the government, has sole-sourced this contract to — it also happens to be the man this minister appointed last year as the chair of the Yukon Development Corporation. Surely to goodness the taxpayers aren’t paying this individual to negotiate with himself about the best way to supply energy to the mine that he is championing, not that anything this government does would surprise me.
Would the minister tell this House why this individual was hired as project champion for this mine and what steps the minister has taken to ensure that the appointment does not conflict with the contractor’s role as chair of the Yukon Development Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member opposite understands that as far as generating power is concerned, there is the Yukon Utilities Board, there are checks and balances in place, so the insinuation that somebody is going to get a better deal than the guy next door is not factual. The man in place there is very qualified. The individual is certainly working with us to get Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy, up and in the financial position where it was previous to the last government. Certainly I look forward to working with him in the future. The individual is very qualified in both the energy portfolio and the mining community and very well-accepted. So we’re looking forward to the results.
Western Silver now is going to proceed through the regulatory process to get themselves up and in a position to open the mine. That’s a very positive thing. It has one of the richest copper deposits in the Yukon, and I look forward to the day when it is producing copper. So it takes people to do things like that. It takes qualified people, and I think we have the right people in place to get the product out at the end of the day. So I’m looking forward to other questions on the mining portfolio.
Question re: Rate stabilization fund
Mr. McRobb: I’ll give the minister another question; let’s hope we get an answer this time.
Now, the Yukon government’s rate stabilization fund expires today, yet we’ve heard nothing from this minister about the program being extended. I asked him whether he’d extend the program on the last day of the fall sitting, but he had no answers.
The issue has been raised in the current hearing before the Yukon Utilities Board, and all parties are waiting anxiously for some direction from this government. For the program to continue, a decision would have been made weeks ago.
Can the minister now shed the veil of secrecy and tell Yukoners whether this program has been, or will be, extended?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I’m very happy to stand in the House today and announce that it has been extended for a 24-month period.
Mr. McRobb: One has to ask why this government is so secretive. Why isn’t the Yukon Party open, like it promised Yukoners it would be?
This announcement should have been made a long time ago. This minister has set a bad example when it comes to not being open and accountable. Either he won’t answer questions directly, he’s unavailable for comment, or he just doesn’t tell Yukoners about issues. It’s no wonder that people are suspicious.
Now, people need to be reassured that the rate stabilization fund will continue unchanged. Will the minister assure this House the RSF will continue in the same form it is now, or will he be making changes?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I’d like to remind the member opposite that this government had a lot of work to do with the corporation to get a foundation to work from and find out where we stood in the energy portfolio. We are certainly going to extend it exactly as it is now for a 24-month period, which is two years, at which time the government of the day will look at it again, but that extension is for a two-year period.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, appointments to
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Environment. The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board is supposed to be a 12-person board. As of February, only eight members are on the board. The board and the public are waiting to find out when this minister plans to approve appointments that are his responsibility. When will the minister be making the necessary appointments to bring the board up to strength?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, of the four appointments, two are First Nation appointments. I have recently just received a letter from the council, and they advised the names for reappointment, and that will be dealt with expeditiously. The two other appointments — one is done with the concurrence of Canada, and the other one is a government appointment. Those two appointments have been made and letters have gone out accordingly.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, we have now waited one year since the last appointments to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board were made. The board is trying to fulfill its mandate under the Umbrella Final Agreement with only two-thirds of its membership. One of those appointments is to be selected in consultation with the federal government. Not surprisingly, the minister has his own definition of consultation and refused to accept the recommendations he received from federal officials.
Is this dispute with the federal government the reason the minister hasn’t made these important appointments yet, or is the whole appointment process another one of those secrets his government loves to keep from the Yukon public?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite must be reading from something other than the applicable legislation and regulations and the implementation plan. The expiry of the two Yukon positions and the two First Nation positions on the board was, I believe, in February. The consultation with Canada and the agreement and concurrence with Canada was sought before that and it took Canada a little time to respond, but those two appointments that Yukon is responsible for have been done.
The other two appointments expired at the same time and it has only just been recently that my office has received a letter advising us of the reappointment of those two individuals to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. That will bring it up to a full complement. We can’t just go ahead and make appointments without the concurrence of Canada in one case, or without the recommendations of the First Nations in the other. We have to follow the law, and the law has been followed. The appointments have been made; two are in the process of being made.
Mrs. Peter: We have only to look at the budget to see how low this government’s regard is for environmental issues. The minister has tried with very little success to make a case that he couldn’t do what the federal officials requested because this would mean he would be breaking the Umbrella Final Agreement. I don’t know what Umbrella Final Agreement the minister is reading, but it’s certainly not the one everyone else seems to understand.
When will the minister stop dragging his feet and bring the public up to speed on the appointments that were to be made by this government? The deadline was February 14.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is the same question three times, Mr. Speaker, and it has been answered. The question has been asked and answered. The two appointments have been made. The other two appointments are pending, and before they could proceed, we have to receive a letter from the First Nations advising the government of the names that they wanted for appointment or reappointment.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 14: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 14, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 14, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2005-06, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 14, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2005-06, be now read a third time and do pass.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief in my comments. First, I’d like to extend to the members opposite our appreciation from the government side for their expeditious debate and passage and support of the interim supply bill, as it should be. This also will allow us, then, to stand down on the special warrant, which will be null and void upon assent being given here today of the interim supply bill. I think that is a good demonstration of the cooperative nature that we can implement in this House when it comes to dealing with issues and programs and services to be delivered to Yukoners.
So we have now taken a step toward our ability to get into much more detail on the budget as we go forward in the days ahead during this sitting, and I look forward to the debate with the members opposite on what their vision would be for the Yukon’s future, not only its financial situation but also the building of its economy, the strengthening of its social fabric, the protection of its environment, and the improvement of its education system and, of course, always, building a better and brighter future for Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: I’ll also be brief in my comments. We, on this side of the House, will not be voting against an interim supply bill. It is to keep the government and departments going throughout the territory, when the sitting goes beyond the end of the fiscal year. Obviously, the government needs to keep going and we on this side of the House will not be voting against it.
What we do have problems with is the fact that this government — the Premier, when in opposition, and the Member for Klondike — spoke loud and clear against the use of special warrants. What happens when the Yukon Party gets into power? They use special warrants. I would say that special warrants should only be used in unique circumstances, when there is no other way to have government spending proceed without being debated. Special warrants do not get debated.
It is unfortunate that the government has to take that route. There were no discussions with the opposition, even though the Premier and Yukon Party said they wanted to improve decorum in this House and involve the opposition. There was no discussion about that whatsoever. That is a problem, and I think the Yukon Party should look at it in a little clearer light, if they want to involve the opposition more in discussions about government spending and so on. It’s not a big deal.
We had told the Yukon Party in the past that we would not be voting against an interim supply bill. The only party I’ve ever seen block an interim supply bill was the Yukon Party. It was the Yukon Party. They averted passage of an interim supply bill, which meant that the Yukon government didn’t have any spending power, so everything was put on hold.
I think that because the Yukon Party did that when they were in opposition, they are now scared of the fact that it could happen again, so they use special warrants. It’s an abuse of special warrants, and I think the Yukon Party ought to look at how they spend the taxpayers’ dollars and have monies, which they are going to spend out there in the general public, debated here in the House.
Ms. Duncan: I have previously indicated that I’m prepared to support the interim supply bill. It’s standard procedure and it is in order — as the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has pointed out — to ensure that the government continues to operate.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun also pointed out that the only time that an interim supply bill has been held up is when it was voted against by the Yukon Party, which is quite a factual recount of that particular day in March, which I have the good fortune to remember quite vividly. The problem that was outlined at that point in time, the reason for the vote against it, was the arrogance and lack of common courtesy displayed by the House leader at the time in reaching an agreement, including consensus and collaboration with all members of the House. It’s fascinating to me that this government felt it necessary to pass a special warrant — this government, this Yukon Party, which promised Yukoners consensus and collaboration. Maybe they should have promised common courtesy and, what’s more, they should have delivered on it.
Had they asked, had they had the common courtesy to pick up the phone — nay, have a conversation with members of the opposition party, I have indicated quite clearly to members that I’m prepared to support an interim supply. I am quite willing to do so and was quite prepared to come into the House and debate fully the matters that need to be done for the Yukon public before this government deigned to tell us all when we were going to reconvene. Common courtesy goes a long way. It would have been appreciated. Nonetheless, it’s a responsible thing, as a member of this Legislature, to ensure the interim supply bill is passed and I’m prepared to do that. A special warrant wasn’t necessary, Mr. Premier.
Speaker: When the Hon. Premier speaks he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I do appreciate the members’ support of an interim supply bill. It is not unique or unusual. As long as I’ve been in this Legislative Assembly, every budget year, for every budget that is tabled, there is also an interim supply bill tabled.
However, it is also prudent for any government to be prepared for any and all eventualities. It is true that there was one occasion that I recall where an interim supply bill did not get passed in this House or was not given assent. That certainly wasn’t due to a vote. The process, as it evolved, was a filibuster by the Yukon Party opposition at that time.
Again, being prepared for any and all eventualities is the prudent course to take. The item of discussion that was brought up by the official opposition — I would point out that the construction of this budget as we see it here today tabled in this House was to the greatest degree due to the discussions that the Yukon Party government has had throughout the Yukon public. That is something that I think speaks volumes about how we go about budgeting, how we ensure that we address the demonstrated needs of Yukoners in all communities across the territory.
The interim supply bill is a necessary tool. The comments around the special warrant are somewhat incorrect, because there is no need for the special warrant. With the assent of the interim supply bill, it will be null and void. The important point to be made there is that contrary to comments made by the opposition benches, this government has not spent one thin dime before debate in this Legislative Assembly — not one dime.
So, it is incorrect to imply that this government has been spending taxpayers’ money without the debate of this Legislative Assembly taking place, and we are going to have a lot more debate in this sitting. What is factual, though, is that in past sittings, when budgets were tabled, we have spent an inordinate amount of time discussing everything but the budget. Then the opposition were faced with their problem of passing hundreds of millions of dollars with no debate. It is not the government that is impeding debate on any budget. It is the opposition impeding debate themselves by not managing and conducting their time for debate in this House in the appropriate manner.
That said, we are very pleased that they support us today.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are thirteen yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 14 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 14 has passed this House.
We are now prepared to receive the Administrator of the Yukon to grant assent to the bill which has passed this House.
Administrator enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILL
Administrator: Please be seated.
Speaker: Hon. Administrator, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed a certain bill to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Administrator: I hereby assent to the bill as enumerated by the Clerk.
Administrator leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Motion No. 404
Clerk: Motion No. 404, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Hart.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community Services
THAT this House orders that the March 9, 2005 Report of Forensic Audit and Financial Review of the Town of the City of Dawson, Yukon, commissioned by Ray Hayes, the Trustee of the Town of the City of Dawson, appointed pursuant to section 336 of the Municipal Act, and prepared by Ian Doddington, C.A. of Doddington Advisors Inc., Certified Management Consultants, be tabled in the Assembly pursuant to section 38(1) of the Standing Orders of this Assembly and that the report be published under the authority of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Hon. Mr. Hart: When honourable members read the report when tabled, they will note that the author of the report, Mr. Doddington, states that he has attempted to draw the most appropriate conclusions from the information he found in the documents of Dawson but that he has not sought nor obtained explanations from individuals about the issues raised by the documentary evidence.
I am pleased to advise the Assembly of the process whereby persons who may feel that they are personally affected by the report may, within a specified period, send to me for consideration for tabling in the Legislative Assembly a statement containing the principal responses of persons who have had issues raised about them in the report.
By “principal responses”, it is meant that the responses raise factual matters or address conclusions set forth in the report. I will not table statements of a political nature, nor personal attacks on individuals. Any person who is personally affected by the report and who wishes to make a principal response to be considered by me for tabling in the Legislative Assembly should submit the response to me by Wednesday, April 20, 2005, and send it to my address: Hon. Glenn Hart, Minister of Community Services, Government of Yukon, Box 2703, 2071-2nd Avenue, Whitehorse, Yukon.
The Government of Yukon believes it owes the duty of fairness to these persons and therefore instructs independent legal counsel to send notice letters to them, outlining comments in the report about each individual, which may reflect adversely on their personal reputation. Each of these individuals will also be provided a copy of the full report and will be entitled to avail themselves of the response process I’ve just announced.
The response process was put into place to provide fairness to the persons referred to in the report, in accordance with the duty to act fairly — principles of Canadian administrative law.
Mr. Speaker, should the House approve Motion No. 404, I will accept that it is the intent of the Assembly that I table this document immediately.
Mr. McRobb: I’m pleased to rise and reply to this motion on behalf of the official opposition. Our position is that the sponsor of this government motion has failed completely to provide any good reason why this motion is necessary or why this House should take ownership of the minister’s decision to commission a forensic audit or to allow the costs of that audit to spiral out of control to almost half a million dollars.
This motion was read into the record a week ago. Since that time, neither the minister nor the government House leader has made any attempt to explain to the opposition or to the Yukon people why this motion is necessary. They had a perfect opportunity to do that earlier this week, after they failed to get unanimous support to bring the motion forward, before it had sat on the Order Paper for the normal period of time.
The Yukon Party didn’t do that, and they still have not convinced us that this motion is needed. Of course we recognize that members on the government side of the House can and will use their majority to pass this questionable motion, but they will be doing it without our support.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to address Motion No. 404 today. This motion is all about parliamentary privilege and the notion of parliamentary privilege, and I’d like to take a few moments to elaborate on that. My knowledge is based as a member of this Legislature and not as a lawyer, which I’m not. My knowledge also comes from studies in journalism. I stand to be corrected on some of the finer points; however, I would like to elaborate on my understanding of parliamentary privilege.
When someone says something or prints something in a newspaper — or even causes it to be printed in a newspaper — that affects that personal business, they can be sued for libel. The exact definition of “libel”, according to one of the dictionaries I’ve consulted, is “a written statement or graphic representation, especially in published form, that damages a person’s reputation or exposes him or her to public ridicule.” My understanding is that there are three defences that can protect you, if you will, against being sued for libel. They are truth, fair comment and this notion of privilege. Privilege is the notion that what is said in this Legislature, or the House of Commons, can be said and you can’t be sued for it. That’s why you will sometimes hear members say “take it outside”. If a member utters something outside of these precincts, outside of this Legislature, then the protection of privilege, so to speak, does not extend.
Also — although it’s a very old textbook — the Canadian Political System does point out and discuss this notion of privilege in a far better way than I have today.
In discussing parliamentary privilege, it notes the protection from libel actions for the content of speeches in the House — they are referring to the House of Commons — and publications of the House.
The question is: does privilege apply to publications of the House? It would appear so from the definitions from political science textbooks. That understanding is further supported by a very recent document that all of us in this House received, the Canadian Parliamentary Review, Spring 2005. In discussing the ethics act in the House of Commons, it notes that clause 21 of the ethics act states that the Ethics Commissioner enjoys the privileges and immunities of the House of Commons, enjoys the same privileges as proceedings of the House, and cannot be quoted, ordered for, or used in court proceedings. This provision is clearly designed to protect parliamentary privilege and members and the House from intrusion by the courts.
The essence of this motion is asking this House, this Legislature, to extend the protection of parliamentary privilege to the audit document. That’s what the motion does, because the motion asks us to have the minister table this document as a document of the Legislative Assembly. As a House proceeding, it then offers them the protection of privilege. That’s my understanding. In reading the motion, that is my understanding of the concept of privilege and my understanding of why the government has brought this forward as this type of a motion.
Rather than simply tabling the document, as the government could do with many documents — we saw some today — he has asked that the audit become a document of the Legislative Assembly so that the concept of privilege, or the inability to sue over the document, might apply. I use the word “might” because it’s not absolutely crystal clear that privilege applies to such documents. From what I’ve read, it appears so; however, there may be a legal debate about it, and I would leave that to people more learned than I.
We have seen privilege used in this Assembly before. There’s a very well-known example in recent memory, when an anonymous document became part of the publications of this Legislature by being read into Hansard. That e-mail that was read into this House, and became part of the publication of this House, was subsequently deemed by a justice to be both — and I quote, which allows me the use of these words — “false and malicious”.
That document was governed by privilege, and that document was anonymous. In this case, the government has given the courtesy of naming the authors of the report. The author of the report is named and cited as an individual with a very well-respected professional designation. The individual who commissioned the report, and who is also named in the motion, is a very, very well-respected and highly trusted former public servant. I have absolute faith and trust in both of those individuals.
They, however, are not the individuals asking for my trust in this matter, as a member of this Legislature. It is the Yukon Party government that has given me absolutely no reason to extend that trust, having broken their word on many occasions in this Legislature. A perfect example was witnessed in Question Period today. They are asking me, as a member of this Legislature, to “just trust us”. These people you trust gave you this report, and it has to be released in this way in order to be covered by privilege.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, none of us on this side — certainly I — have not been given the courtesy of seeing that report. I have no knowledge of the terms of reference given to the auditor, and I have no idea what action may or may not result as a consequence of this report. Asking us — or asking me as a member of this Legislature — to extend privilege to a report I haven’t seen, with terms of reference that I have no knowledge of, and the details and what consequences may result I have no knowledge of, is akin to asking me to sign a blank cheque. I cannot, in all good conscience, do that.
It has to be clear, and I want to make this fundamental point: I do not object to the release of the report. Had the minister, had the government side, handled this matter with common courtesy and approached me and said, “We have to release this report in this way,” as opposed to allowing me to deduce it from the motion — had they given me the courtesy of showing me the report, the terms of reference under which it was commissioned, I certainly, as a responsible member of the Legislature, would have examined that and been prepared to vote in support. However, in all good conscience, I cannot. Had the matter been handled with common courtesy, had the consensus and collaboration the Premier promised in the election campaign been extended, perhaps the result would have been different.
It would have been dealt with expeditiously on Tuesday or earlier this week. Unfortunately it has not. The Yukon Party wants to drag the whole Legislature into this mess with “just trust us” and have us extend privilege. I have every reason to trust the authors of the report. Examples of past behaviour, including that witnessed today, give me no reason to trust the Yukon Party government. I wouldn’t sign a document without an understanding of it. I will not support the extension of parliamentary privilege to a document I haven’t seen and I have no knowledge of.
The Yukon Party doesn’t need my support to pass this motion. They have a majority in the House. They can pass it on their own. I would suggest that they do so. It’s their report. It’s their actions. Let them take full responsibility for it.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are nine yea, five nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 404 agreed to
Unanimous consent to return to Daily Routine
Speaker: The Chair understands from the comments made by the Minister of Community Services during debate on Motion No. 404 that he is now prepared to table the document ordered by the House. To allow that to happen, Standing Order 38(1) requires that the House return to tabling of documents. To return to an order of business in the Daily Routine requires unanimous consent. Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent. The Chair recognizes the Minister of Community Services for the purposes of tabling the document ordered by the House in Motion No. 404.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart: In response to an order of this House, as found in Motion No. 404, I have for tabling the March 9, 2005 Report of Forensic Audit and Financial Review of the Town of the City of Dawson, Yukon, commissioned by Ray Hayes, the Trustee of the Town of the City of Dawson, appointed pursuant to section 336 of the Municipal Act, and prepared by Ian Doddington, C.A. of Doddington Advisors Inc., Certified Management Consultants.
Bill No. 15: Second Reading — continued
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 15, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie; adjourned debate, Mr. Hardy.
Unanimous consent re continuation of second reading debate of Bill No. 15 by Mr. Hardy
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, at this time, I would request unanimous consent of the House to allow the leader of the official opposition to continue with debate on this bill at the earliest time after he returns.
Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise very much in support of this bill. This operation and maintenance budget for 2005-06 is $784 million — three-quarters of a billion dollars, going into the economy of the Yukon. The operation and maintenance budget of $577 million is in itself significant. This will continue to keep our schools operating. The additional money for programs, the additional money for Yukon College, the additional money for KIAC, the additional money for a multitude of educational programs that are in place has been enhanced significantly by our government.
A demonstrated need has been identified in many areas, and our government rose to the task, and we have done what we set out to do. We’ve put the financial house of the Yukon in order. A tremendous amount of hard work has been done by the officials and the Department of Finance and the statistics branch and our Ottawa office to achieve what we have done today.
The Premier of the Yukon stands proud, as he should, of his efforts on behalf of northerners because it was through his efforts and his colleagues, the premiers of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, that a great deal of the enhanced money flowed to the Yukon and will continue to flow.
I mentioned the education right at the onset because that is one of the areas where we have done what we set out to do. The other area where we’ve played a significant role is in the Health and Social Services envelope. That improvement in the delivery of our programs in itself is very significant.
One of the areas that we have identified with and recognized the importance of is our non-governmental organizations, and in the Department of Health and Social Services the budget envelope for virtually all the NGOs has been increased by three percent this year. There are some exceptions to that. Kaushee’s will be the recipient of an additional $100,000 as a consequence of the demonstrated needs arising out of the services they provide to Yukoners.
Our ability to fund this initiative, as I said earlier, is a result of getting our financial house in order: the new territorial funding agreement; the $150-million health access fund; the $60 million the territories received under the Canada health and social transfer arising from the First Ministers accord. These are significant amounts of money and they will go a long way to help us achieve and meet the needs and expectations of Yukoners, Yukoners who require the social safety net and Yukoners who require health care.
These are the areas where we have placed a great deal of effort and emphasis.
In addition to that, we have identified the capital budget as being the engine that will drive development for the next little while. That engine and its capital spending will put road builders to work and will put a lot of new structures in place here in the Yukon. At the same time, we are concentrating our efforts and focusing a great deal to undertake these initiatives in a socially and environmentally reasonable framework that will see these projects come to fruition and see these enhance the lives of Yukoners.
Let’s just focus on the area of economic development. Traditionally, the Yukon has been a resource extraction area of Canada — indeed, of the world. The world’s greatest gold rush took place in my community. Contrary to my appearance, I wasn’t there at that time; I am not quite that old. It was certainly the catalyst that started the engine that saw the Yukon established as a distinct territory of Canada. It was the mining industry, through capable leadership being shown, that put in place reasonable, environmentally sensitive regimes, which recognize that resource extraction can take place while maintaining the environment and not jeopardizing our environment.
We have moved forward, and I believe this year we’ll see a significant increase in mining exploration and the permitting of mines that hopefully can go into production in the not too distant future. The base metal market is up significantly. The precious metal market is also up.
We only have to look at what we can do and what we are doing in this area when we look at mining. The one mine that has come into production and is going through the complete reclamation process in the recent time is the Brewery Creek mine, and I believe at the end of the day, this mine site and the permitting it went through, and the reclamation programs that are in place and the security that is held by Yukon to ensure reclamation takes place as outlined, will show this mine site to be a mine site that we can put forward as an example that resource extraction can take place and be done, recognizing all aspects of the environment and the trust and enthusiasm that many Yukoners have for our wilderness, that that wilderness be maintained.
One of the other mine sites that is being closed under a federal program with Yukon doing the work through a First Nation government is Clinton Creek. Having been there in its production days and going there now, it’s most interesting to see the contrast.
We have other challenges ahead of us with some of the other mine sites, Mr. Speaker, but we won’t let that deter us from putting in place a regulatory regime that is reasonable and recognizes our environment and how well we hold our environment as a very, very integral part of the Yukon. The environmentally sustainable framework is an important initiative of our government.
Mr. Speaker, we have many initiatives underway in many departments. On this side of the House, the ministers responsible for the various areas have taken their responsibilities very seriously. Mr. Speaker, it has been quite a collective initiative to address restoring investor confidence here in the Yukon, rebuilding the Yukon economy, taking the finances of the government and making them healthy, lobbying our federal government and, at the same time, where there is a need identified by user groups, meeting that challenge and meeting that challenge head on.
Mr. Speaker, we’ve done that without hesitation or reservation, and I believe we’ve done it extremely well. The entire issue of having to address numerous problems that were inherited when we came to pass that, given the magnitude of the difficulties and the costs, are in themselves significant.
We have the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. During debate in this House under previous administrations, we were assured by officials of the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation that when it was built it would actually lower electrical rates. We’ll see what happens. We’re best if we can hold our own because there has been a tremendous cost overrun on that line, and I don’t believe the final cheque has yet to be written.
We have the Energy Solutions Centre and its audit. The Auditor General reported on both these initiatives. It doesn’t really matter if it’s the ratepayer or the taxpayer that pays. They are, in fact, both the same people. So we move something from the ratepayer to the taxpayer and from the taxpayer to the ratepayer, but we’re digging into the pockets of the same people. That has been a challenge because I don’t believe the impact of those two audits has been fully transmitted to the people of the Yukon and the impact that it may have on electrical rates.
Then we have the Dawson situation. It has been gut-wrenching for me, not to be able to come out swinging many times on this issue, Mr. Speaker, having been involved in municipal politics in my community for some 14 years and seeing an opportunity and thanking the then government of the day for putting the money into Dawson City for new facilities. But at the end of the period of time, some $20 million odd have been spent in my community of Dawson; the sad part is that it did not produce $20-million worth of assets, and in some cases we have gone backwards.
The heart and spirit of my community has been severely hurt. It was a major initiative of the Minister of Community Services to put together a program that will restore an elected council and mayor to the community of Dawson and allow them the tools to move forward, because the closest government to the people is usually the municipal government, and they can usually react the fastest. They can usually react the quickest after due consideration of all the information, but when the community is left burdened with the ongoing O&M costs of facilities that are deficient in many ways, as well as a staggering debt load, the government has done what it had to do. I’m sure we’ll all see the effects of that with this piece of legislation restoring the municipal council, restoring municipal government to Dawson and addressing some of the issues.
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Dawson is not a community that is going to be falling off the map. It’s a living historical community, yes, but it has great potential, and a lot of that potential will be realized as a consequence of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Final Agreement and their determination to see a number of initiatives occur. One of the initiatives our government is very proud of is the new Tombstone Interpretive Centre that will be constructed by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in this summer.
It’s in a choice location in the new Tombstone Park. It is a very excellent opportunity for a partnership agreement and arrangement on a government-to-government basis between the Yukon government and a First Nation government. It’s occurring as I speak, Mr. Speaker. At the same time, one of the major tour operators has identified a new opportunity for both Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and themselves to take people into Tombstone Park. That will also be taking place this summer.
As well, there is a resurgence in the mining industry. There are drilling programs underway in the Dawson mining district as well as other mining districts here in the Yukon. I am hoping that the backbone, the placer industry, will have a lot greater certainty with a new placer authorization. A lot of effort has gone into that authorization by a number of Yukoners and officials.
Mr. Speaker, we have the land, we have the resources, and we have some of the most capable people to put this all together to continue to allow the Yukon to be one of the best places, in my opinion, in Canada. I am sure that a lot of others will share that opinion with me. It’s one of the best places in Canada to live, to raise your children, and to enjoy a standard of living that is very, very giving to all of us.
We also have one of the best social safety nets, with social assistance rates that are very much in the forefront, because they’re the best in Canada in many categories. Our government will be taking steps to further enhance the one category with an increase, and that is for those who are handicapped, because there is a demonstrated need there. When we put it all together, you see a great number of initiatives in many areas. We see a great number of initiatives that I am pleased to recommend to this House, and I am hopeful that the opposition will share with us the enthusiasm for this budget and the good work that it will do for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, we still have challenges ahead of us. We still have a number of initiatives that require some work or a great deal of work. This government is equal to the challenge of addressing those issues and moving forward.
Mr. Speaker, we have another year and three-quarters to go in our current mandate before we go into our next five-year mandate.
Those are some of the challenges that we have in front of us. I’m sure at that time that the good government we have established and our ability as a government to address the full range of issues will stand us in very good stead in the eyes of the electors.
The kibitzing from the Member for Kluane is such that if he happens to trip and fall into, let’s say, a manhole, there will be the adequate and proper medical facilities there to assist him in his dilemma. That is part of the health programs that we currently enjoy, when needed. But it’s not something we want to have on a standby basis, tracking the Member for Kluane to where he walks, but if it’s needed, it’s there. That is the responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Services. We hope we don’t have to call upon it, but it’s there. It’s well-trained, well-funded and has the necessary ability to address any harm that may come in the member opposite’s way.
If we look at the environment part of my portfolio, there are 23 million reasons as to how we are addressing the environment — 23 million reasons.
Look at the significant contributions we are undertaking. Look at lands and the parks we have established: Fishing Branch, Tombstone and the soon-to-be-announced Kusawa Park. We’re looking at a lot of habitat protection areas under the special management area process. And we’re looking at land use planning in a number of areas of the Yukon.
Some of the new initiatives that have begun between the Department of Environment and Energy, Mines and Resources are integrated resource planning and harmonizing inspections under the Environment Act, post-devolution. We’ve come a long way, and we’re assisting where we can, because we do have a very, very significant system in place and one of the best controls over our environment for any proponent seeking to undertake any initiative.
So, we can’t take these great initiatives lightly. If we look at our programs in fish and wildlife, they in themselves are very significant. When you add it all up, the Yukon has come a long way under the watch of this government and an excellent job is currently being done by this government. We will move forward, and where a demonstrated need exists, we will do our level best to address it.
Mr. Speaker, I could go on for probably much longer than my allotted time, but I know the official opposition members want an opportunity to shed their praise on this budget, and I believe it is an opportune time because soon we will be in line-by-line in the various departments, and we would like that opportunity to point out the many areas where we have improved service delivery, improved management and are doing the job in an improved manner in so many areas in line-by-line in the various departments. We can explore those. It is all about accountability, as the member opposite cites, and we are very much accountable.
Mr. Speaker, I’d like to recommend this budget, the operation and maintenance and capital for 2005-06 to this House and ask the opposition members to take a serious look at this budget, because I am sure that when they examine it in the detail that I hope they can generate in this budget cycle — not just a quick shuffle of the money and an okay in the total department — we can share with Yukoners how this is going to help us all.
Probably at the end of the day, the official opposition will end up voting for this budget, Mr. Speaker. In all probability, that is not going to happen. But if common understanding of a budget and the effects and impacts were analyzed, that is what should happen, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I would also like to reply to the budget and the budget speech that the Premier gave for a couple of hours in this House.
I guess there are a lot of things. First of all, I am surprised that the previous speaker said what he said in this House on the budget and the kind of things they have been doing. Being open and accountable, fair and respectful of First Nations and communities and all that — we will explore those types of things in detail when it comes to the departments, and we are hoping that the ministers are prepared for general debate in the departments. That is where a lot of the issues, including money issues, are being raised and they shouldn’t feel so pressured that they ask us to go into line-by-line, saying: “Let’s go into line-by-line,” as the Minister of Education is so famous for saying. General debate is important. It’s there as a process for a reason.
What is the Yukon Party trying to tell Yukoners? Well, when they first got elected, they screamed poverty. Did they forget that? Did the members opposite forget that? They said it loud and clear in their budget speech — controlling the trajectory of spending. Remember that?
I can remember the members opposite — every one of them — talking about how broke the government was and the fact that small projects around the territory, and funding of events and so on, were not on the books of the Yukon Party. In the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin’s riding, many of them were cited here. But guess what. There was no money in the budget. “Government is broke,” is basically what they said. “We had no ability to spend money.” Well, I haven’t seen a new government come in that replaced a different party that didn’t have a surplus in place. It’s all about messaging, I suppose, to the public, and the Yukon Party chose to say to the public that the government was broke and that it didn’t have a surplus.
I’d like to refer to one particular project in my riding. It was the project in Mayo. There’s money in place for it that the Liberals identified. The project still hasn’t gone ahead. It has been two and a half years in the making by the Yukon Party and there is no commitment in a capital budget. It has been over two years, and the Minister of Education can’t count yet. Two and a half years, and this government still is not able to identify this project in their capital budget. Now, what’s wrong with that picture?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Acting Speaker: The Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Earlier today, the Speaker ruled comments out of order suggesting that members opposite had a problem with adding. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun just suggested that the Minister of Education has difficulty counting. I believe that is of a similar vein and is similarly out of order.
Mr. Fairclough: On the point of order, if you recall earlier comments made in this House by the Premier about the New Democrat math, that was let go, and now the members opposite feel just a little warm on this issue, I guess, because the fact of the matter is that it’s true.
Acting Speaker’s ruling
Acting Speaker: I’d like all members to refrain from making comments they would not like to have made about themselves. I believe the comments were edging on being unparliamentary, so I would ask you to just rein yourselves in a bit.
Mr. Fairclough: Good job, Mr. Acting Speaker. Well, there was definitely no point of order, and I thank you for that ruling.
Two and a half years have gone by, and the Yukon Party has failed to recognize the community’s desire to have a recreation centre in the community of Mayo. Isn’t that interesting? I guess they’re sticking to their guns because they were saying that it’s all about controlling government spending.
If we went to the long-term plans — if you just look at the long-term plans from 2003-04 — the deficit for this year would be just about $3 million. But in the first three years, it was all in a deficit. I guess it got a little bit better in the final year, but even this year, when you look at the long-term plans — and government is spending heavily now. All of a sudden they discovered there is a surplus. I know that you can never go back to the point of spending less than what it was in 2003-04. It’s obvious. We had the devolution of federal programs, with 250 employees coming over to the Government of Yukon. Obviously, there is a lot more money coming from the federal government to the territorial government.
In this year’s information, which includes the Budget Address, Mr. Speaker, in 2006-07 we’re looking at a surplus in the territory of $1 million — $1 million. So that is how far this Yukon Party government wants to take this spending. In the time that they said that they had to curb the Yukon government spending, one of the things they did not want to do was to violate the Taxpayer Protection Act. Now, it’s a big thing; they did not want to violate the Taxpayer Protection Act. Since that time, the Yukon Party decided to show the public something a bit different. We have a building here, we have a school here, we have equipment here and there. It’s all worth a little bit of money. Those are assets. They are worth money. It becomes a surplus. They’ve changed the way in which the finances of the Yukon look. So all of a sudden, the Yukon looks like it has between $300 million and $400 million in surplus, which, if the Yukon Party government ever wanted to spend more than what they did this year, and what they’re doing is deficit finance — that we would never violate the Taxpayer Protection Act, because all of a sudden it is ballooned to look like we have more money than we do.
The other unfortunate thing is that I don’t believe the Yukon Party thought through this in a lot of detail. What they want to do is spend even more money and let the future take care of whatever debt we may be exposed to.
They would like to do this without the public being aware of what it really means — for example, going into public/private partnerships. I don’t believe that any one of the members on that side of the House, the government side, could say that the members of the public are very well aware of what P3s really mean and what it means for them down the road. I think it’s only right that the Yukon Party government take it back to the people and get their input into this matter. It hasn’t happened yet. The policy hasn’t been developed, even though the Premier stood up in Question Period today and said that processes and policies that are in place are being followed. Well, how can you follow a policy on P3s when there is none and they haven’t been developed?
The Yukon Party has been all over the board on this matter — that it is going to be developed while the bridge project is going ahead. Yet the Yukon public has not seen it. They want to table an audit with all-party support without even showing what the audit is. It is finally being tabled now, after us asking for it for awhile.
So, Mr. Speaker, from the Speech from the Throne to the Budget Address in 2003-04, to the lengthy speech that the Premier gave this year, they don’t follow a consistent manner of government processes from the past, and from the beginning of their mandate until today. I believe that many Yukoners are looking at this in a lot more detail and will not be fooled by the direction in which this government would like to take the Yukon.
I heard the Member for Klondike talk about how well they’re doing in regard to the environment. He didn’t have much to say about it — nothing really new. They really are following issues, programs and directions that were developed by past governments.
As a matter of fact, if any department is on the minds of Yukoners, it’s the Department of Environment, but all the Yukon Party did was dedicate a page and a half to it making some motherhood statements about a balance between the economy and the environment. Yet they have no proof of it or any examples that they can give Yukoners to show that they have a balance between the environment and the economy of the development community.
Many of their initiatives are taken behind closed doors without the input of Yukoners. It’s unfortunate that we’ve gone down that route. For example, we asked the Premier to step up to the plate and make the Yukon government’s position loud and clear on the Porcupine caribou herd. A demonstration takes place outside. He says he’s having lunch with the Alaskans. The Alaskans are outside during lunch at the demonstration taking part in that and talking with people, but the Premier couldn’t do it. He didn’t have it in him at the time. It’s so difficult to get them to even recognize this. It’s “Oh, it’s in Alaska.” The lead is taken by the Vuntut Gwitchin, but when it comes to habitat protection here in the territory, it is the same thing — two and a half years have gone by and this government has done very little, if anything, in regard to habitat protection.
I’ll give you one example in the Mayo area with Devil’s Elbow. Nothing is being done. The Yukon Party doesn’t want to see it. It’s a moose calving ground and if they really showed support and wanted to say that this Yukon Party government is really concerned about that, they would have had at least habitat protection on the moose calving ground at Devil’s Elbow. They could have at least had a little bit of backup in their discussions with the Alaskans or Canadian government in support of the calving grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd.
But no, we haven’t seen that yet. What we have seen is cutbacks in the renewable resource councils, a concentrated effort to not see the involvement of communities.
I heard the Member for Klondike say that those municipal governments are closer to the people than ever. Well, he said they’re the closest government, and I have to disagree with them. I think First Nation people are closer — their governments are closer to the people than municipalities are. The final agreements dictate certain procedures be followed, but they are not being followed by this government. Their promises in their platform are something else. They were nice words at the time to get elected, but Yukoners will not forget when they go to the polls next time that they promised to consult. I have read in the opening remarks of the Premier, and he said this before, “Our government will consult with Yukoners and partner with First Nation governments to establish goals and objectives to achieve this vision.” The vision was the northern strategy. Well, have they? Have they consulted?
I’ll talk about one issue, for example: education. I can remember the Yukon Party, when in opposition and the Liberals were in government, talk about how there is a need for an Education Act review. They need to get out there and consult. Do any of the members opposite even know that was said, Mr. Speaker?
Now, we’ve come to the point where the Yukon Party government has been in place for over two years. With respect to education and the Education Act — well, that has disappeared. What they’ve now promised is educational reform — another delay of an issue that could be controversial, because First Nations may want to have a lot more input into education than they have in the past. Their final agreements are at the point where they want to, and have, the ability to implement.
I wanted to read something else from the budget speech given by the Premier. Now, it would probably take several days just to go through the budget speech itself and comment on every single line that the Premier said. He said that — and the Yukon Party has said this in the past too — that they have a protocol on consultation with self-governing First Nations. Well, how well are they following that protocol? Didn’t they breach it already, like they’ve breached so many other agreements and memorandums of understanding that they sign with First Nations?
Let’s look at one of them. I’m going to use the Carmacks school as an example. Just over 90 percent of the students at the Tantalus School are First Nations. The issue was the building of a new school. It wasn’t because the Yukon Party said, “Carmacks needs a new school.” It was because the chairs of school councils in the past put together a priority list and had a list of five schools on that. That was done through work of the New Democrats at the time. They put together this priority list for capital projects and school replacements.
Old Crow, Ross River, Mayo, the completion of the school in Pelly Crossing, and the replacement of the Tantalus School in Carmacks were on that list. So it’s not something new that the Yukon Party thought up. I have to say that the process did start off very smoothly until the minister interfered with it, and then it was derailed very quickly. It was so unfortunate. Maybe it’s because the Yukon Party has never built a school in the territory — that I could think of, anyway — and it’s new. Consulting with the community is new. This was a prime example of how the Yukon Party could have said that, yes, indeed, we did consult. But they did not. As a matter of fact — what were the words used in their platform? I have it here somewhere. “This new, inclusive style of governing will be based on consensus building.” That’s what they said. That was part of it — consensus building, consultation, collaboration and compromise, not on confrontation and unilateral action.
Well, they did not consult on the Carmacks school. They started to with the design. The community took it in their hands and really worked together as a community with departmental people on the design of the school. Guess what? All parties involved compromised, not government. The minister decided he would like to see a school built a certain way and there was absolutely no compromise — nothing, no compromise at all. As a matter of fact, when it comes to confrontation, they said no confrontation, but it was all about that. There were heated meetings in the community of Carmacks. The Minister of Education didn’t bother coming to those meetings. Instead the Premier showed up and the message was given loud and clear, but any direction that came out of that meeting that was given to the Premier was not reflected in the final result.
And then there were meetings scheduled by the Minister of Education. Three of them were cancelled. There was too much snow on the road, I believe, one time. It was okay for others to make it to the meeting. But here we are. I was at a meeting in the community of Carmacks. The First Nation invited me. The minister was there and because I was there, it upset him. He decided to call it a government-to-government meeting. I don’t know why the minister doesn’t want to see me as the MLA being fully informed. Of course I will be and I always was after the meetings, because I was updated. It’s not as if the minister in his actions can hide the information from me.
What they did afterward was unilateral action. Well, that’s a broken promise. There were good words at the beginning, and I’m sure that a lot of people said, “Right, they’ve put it in words and it is in their platform,” and then they proceeded to break it. And this is one example that I’m giving. The Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation took a step that was very unusual. I’m never seen them ever do this in the past. They took their voice to the outside of this Legislature and protested, wanting to get the attention of the minister, the Premier, the government. There was lots of support, and there were lots of people there. What does the minister do? Zips out the back door, jumps in his vehicle and off he goes. He would not face the people. Isn’t that interesting?
Despite all the efforts by the community, the government isn’t moving. A second protest takes place. The minister runs out the back door, jumps into the vehicle and drives off. He didn’t face the people. So what does that mean? It’s just confirming how bad things are with this Yukon Party and its relations with First Nations. It is in a very desperate mode right now to build relations and partnerships — very desperate. It’s not working so well for the Yukon Party, and it could be because First Nations want to move ahead. They do. It could be, but it’s how they’re being treated by the Yukon Party that is so bad.
How are they being treated? The Minister of Education and I have had all kinds of phone calls and e-mails after the radio noon hour show. The Minister of Education doesn’t have the willingness to sit down and work things out with the First Nation. He doesn’t. It’s so unfortunate that we’ve gone down this road. It could have been simply resolved, but no, what the Minister of Education understands is that municipalities have unbelievable responsibilities. I couldn’t believe it when I heard the minister say this over the radio, that they have responsibility for the people in the municipality on a number of different fronts, whether it’s education, justice or health. No wonder things turned out the way they did, and this is what you call, I would say, the Yukon Party dictating to the First Nation how things are to be done.
Now, the Member for Klondike says that we are moving ahead. With this kind of action by the minister, we have gone backward 20 years or more. It was reinforced, I guess, by his comments about a band council resolution. I couldn’t believe that one, when the minister said that the band gave us a BCR, that a band gave him a BCR. Can you believe that? That minister is so far into the Indian Act that he couldn’t find his way out. Maybe he needs a few rights to feel that he is treaty.
When it comes to their relationships with First Nations, they don’t even understand them. I couldn’t believe that the Minister of Education has so little understanding about a self-governing First Nation, First Nations and communities — so little understanding. My goodness, the comments on that coming in from all parts of the territory are just incredible. If I were the Premier and that government, I would be ashamed. But this government has no shame, no shame at all.
I would also like to get into the wording in the budget speech in regard to the minister and his wording on what he had to say about First Nations’ ability to draw down education.
I’d like to leave that one for now. Carmacks, for a long time, has spoken about the school — the need for a school, the need for a sewage system and for a water system. They’ve talked about that for a long time. It was a top priority. The Village of Carmacks, along with the First Nation, has done a lot of work in looking at the design of a sewage system in that community. They’ve moved ahead in wanting to get this done. I can tell you that the people in that community are very anxious.
For the longest time the municipality has avoided even digging up the road just because when they’re going to do it, they may as well do it once and put in the necessary sewage line. If the waterline is going in, it should go in also at the same time. I know these are two different projects. The one, I believe, for water — the low pressure system that the First Nation is looking at — they’ve been working on for years. It’s not reflected in the budget, but I know it could be funded through the infrastructure fund from the federal government. The First Nation is not working alone on this. They’re working with the Selkirk First Nation and their designs are similar. That’s one issue that I will be following up on and ensuring that this project goes ahead.
I have not seen this government respond to the issues raised by Na Cho Nyäk Dun in regard to education. I would like to see more effort put into that, because there’s actually next to none, if any at all.
Maybe I’ll ask the minister that question, so he can clarify that when he gets up to speak.
There are issues like the bus route in Mayo. I’ve raised this by letter to the minister about having basic maintenance snow removal so that the bus can take its normal route and not make the decisions to exclude that route and force parents to drive their kids to school. We have a bus system for a reason.
Also, Mr. Speaker, this is a huge budget. I know that Yukon Party members are going to get up and say, “This is a huge budget. It’s the biggest one we’ve ever had.” There’s lots of money coming in from the federal government. I also noticed throughout the budget speech how much the Premier is announcing federal money.
Larry Bagnell, our MP, is announcing this money, and the Yukon Party decides to do the same thing. These are good things that I can see coming down from the federal government. Communities definitely want to access some of this infrastructure money, for example.
Well, here we have $206 million, almost $207 million. The Yukon Party wants to improve their tourism industry. Well, with all the planning they had, they can only muster up $55,000 for Keno. They can brag about it and put it in brochures, but only $55,000 is going to Keno out of a $207-million budget — a $207-million capital budget.
This has a huge impact on the community of Mayo, because those who visit Keno often go through the community of Mayo. The communities of Mayo and Keno have made tremendous efforts to attract tourists. They know it’s difficult because they’re at the end of the line. Probably most of the people in this House have been to Keno and have noticed the beauty that’s there. The community has only about 15 people, but at one time it had over 20,000 people. There were more than five hotels. It certainly doesn’t look like that now, but there is potential out there for United Keno Hill to get started. It’s a matter of people investing and so on.
There’s a $207-million budget, and Mayo gets $378,000. I think they’re going to ask why. Why aren’t they listed, when they mentioned a number of different projects to the Premier? He said he went around to the communities, so why aren’t they listed? And another one that’s not even on here is the community of Stewart Crossing. They’re not a hamlet or anything. They don’t have the status, but there are about 50 people there. They do have children who go to school in Mayo; they’re bused to Mayo every day. They have a list of things that they would like to see. These are small communities. I’ve raised this in the House before, hoping that the members opposite would look at those issues and have them reflected in a capital budget. There were small things. One was a sliding hill that they wanted to have for their children, and there was a building there that was used in the past for a recreation centre/youth centre, and they wanted that to be fixed up and used.
The other was to look at some of the safety concerns, and I asked the Minister of Highways and Public Works in the past to address this issue and, if possible, implement it. That’s as simple as putting streetlights on the highway, particularly on the curve side where it comes down to the community.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: I have two minutes. Mr. Speaker, I don’t even know what I am going to do in two minutes here, there is so much to talk about.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: Four minutes. Okay, maybe there is some time.
I would like to see some of the big issues addressed. I am going to be bringing this up again in the departments. I am going to ask the minister about the computer use investigation. This had a huge impact on our public service. I am also going to ask questions again about First Nation hire, because when I asked the acting minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, he didn’t have any answers at the time. I was really surprised, Mr. Speaker.
There is so much out there that government can do that would not cost a whole lot of money. It could be as simple as policy development or okaying things like the habitat protection areas in the territory. Look at Na Cho Nyäk Dun and how many years they have put into designing and developing a plan and so on, but it still hasn’t been signed off by this government — and it is a moose calving ground.
I am hoping that the Minister of Highways and Public Works takes that bump out just about four miles on the other side of Pelly Crossing because that is a big one, Mr. Speaker. It sticks up about a foot out of the road there and many have been airborne when hitting that, including myself on the way to Mayo.
That’s going at highway speeds. Any speed that the ministers will travel, I’d like them to experience that road. Hopefully the Minister of Highways and Public Works would also see it and give some direction to the department to have some maintenance take place on the Signpost Road. I bring this up every time.
During May, I believe, is when they would like to see the majority of the snow taken off the road, and then the road would be in much better condition than when the melt happens and digs big grooves into the roads. I do have a lot that I would like to bring up with the members opposite. I’ll bring it up during the departments — things like the renewable resource councils, and so on, I will leave to that time to bring it up. I understand that my time has expired now. Thank you for giving me some opportunity to say just a few words on the Budget Address.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I’d like to rise in support of this very positive budget that has been put forward by this very positive government.
In reply to the member opposite, I can understand the predicament the opposition finds itself in. This is a very balanced budget. I can understand the reaction by the members opposite. They take the avenue of attacks on either individual ministers or situations, instead of talking figures. I can understand that. This budget is a Yukon budget made by Yukoners to put Yukon first and Yukon forward.
We looked at the whole picture as a government. We certainly have spent our resources balanced between the communities. The member opposite, the last speaker, was talking about different situations, about building schools in his riding. I noticed that children were not mentioned in any of the conversation with the member opposite.
We have a commitment to public education and, in turn, to the safety of our children in all our communities. We prioritize the money we spend in those communities to maximize the benefit for those communities.
I’d like to take a moment to look at the Yukon map from the Energy, Mines and Resources portfolio. In two and a half years, we’ve taken the territory forward. We’ve gone through devolution and worked at it very positively. As the member opposite was saying, we did absorb some employees. By absorbing the employees from DIAND, there was work to be done to make sure that they felt comfortable in our system. We’ve done that.
In turn, we can look at the oil and gas end of the Energy, Mines and Resources portfolio. We have a project going on right now in north Yukon. We’re employing Yukoners — not only Yukoners individually, but renting equipment, and the lodge at Eagle Plains is totally full of individuals working on that disposition.
We’re looking forward to next winter, with the prospects of Hunt Oil going back in and spending $8 million on their disposition in north Yukon. That will again involve Yukoners working on the ground and doing the job that Hunt will do on an exploration basis.
Devon will probably spend $7 million in north Yukon. It’s the first time in 30 years that there has been an interest in drilling in the Yukon. This well, if it is productive, will build our arguments with the National Energy Board on access to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, which in turn is very, very important to us. You understand, Mr. Speaker, that having Canadian gas stranded was what the Mackenzie pipeline was to do — unstrand northern Canadian gas. We are part of northern Canada.
We are spending resources to make sure that the NEB recognizes that and we have access to that pipeline. As you move down into the Yukon, placer development, placer authorization, is going forward. You understand, Mr. Speaker, that when we took over the government two and a half years ago, the federal government had, through DFO, put an unreasonable wait on industry. We, of course, worked in conjunction with the CYFN, the senator and Ottawa to make sure that we could come up with a reasonable working plan that DFO could live with and that placer miners could live with. Hopefully, that will be in front of the minister this summer. We are committed to having it implemented by the year 2007, so that is a commitment we made. We are working very positively on that.
Then, if you want to look over to United Keno Hill, it was in receivership for a very, very long time. We as a government moved very positively to get it to a situation out of receivership so that it could be put back on the market. We all understand that the value of silver has gone up. When we talk about the mining community in the Yukon — when we took over the government, the exploration was approximately $6 million a year. When the members opposite insinuate that it would come regardless of who was in government, I want to remind the members opposite and the House that when we were having $6 million exploration years, Northwest Territories was having over $100 million, Alaska was having over $200 million worth of money expended — by the way, Mr. Speaker, a big chunk of that is Canadians investing in Alaska — and, of course, B.C. was having a $100-million year.
So does it make any sense? Does that not tell you a story about industry and how they invest their money on the merits of the government in power? I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that speaks volumes for what the Yukon was doing at the time when we took over.
Then if we move down the map in Energy, Mines and Resources and we look at Minto, Minto has been sold. Minto is permitted at the moment, as we all know. Minto has been purchased by a very credible firm that is very positive on opening the mine — good news for the Yukon, good news for the Selkirk First Nation. It’s good news for everybody in the Yukon to see that mine move forward — again, another copper-zinc cropping that has been very, very well-explored. The corporation in the past has spent a lot of money there, so it is just a matter of putting together the process on how they’re going to extract the mineralization and move forward. Then, when you go a little further down from there, you have Western Silver, which is Carmacks Copper, which is now in the permitting stages. It is a very interesting deposit. The company is very aggressively looking at getting the permitting in place so they can move ahead with a program. They have taken advantage of the technology that they used at Brewery Creek and they’re looking at that concept to move forward in extracting the ore.
Going back to Brewery Creek, we were very, very lucky when we took office to have a company as professional as Viceroy, and the responsibility that they took on to clean up that mine site and take it from opening to closing — I think I recommend to anybody who is in the Yukon to drive up and take a look at what they’ve done. It is amazing.
They’ve done exactly what they’ve said they were going to do. I think probably north of 60 — that has never been done before. They spent their money. They put their money where their mouth was. They did the honourable thing and they closed the mine.
Now, do we benefit from that? Certainly we benefit from that. But certainly we benefit in a lot of ways with respect to the template on how we’re going to work with other mining companies to make sure we don’t have an environmental problem when the time comes to close the mine. We in this room all understand that the life of a mine is just the life of the mine. Some last 40 years, some last 10 years, some in different locations could last 100 years. But one day they have to face the environmental issues, and we want to make sure that the environmental issues are addressed on a daily, monthly, yearly basis so we don’t get into a position where we have this environmental question hanging over Yukoners’ heads.
So by having the example of Viceroy and Brewery Creek, we can go forward with our regulations, put them in place and work with industry to make sure they’re workable for industry and acceptable to Yukoners to make sure we have a balance, again, between economic development in the mining industry and the environment and the responsibility of closing the mine.
As we go down, looking at the Tintina Trench — and as we all know, the Tintina Trench is a very mineral-rich part of the Yukon. We can look at many mines and future mines. We’ve got Teck Cominco. This government, in partnership with the Kaska, went to bat for the Ross River Dena to make sure that they could take advantage of their R15 block and that they could get it and work in partnership with Teck Cominco. The members opposite are forever talking about partnerships. There’s a very positive partnership.
We did that in one move. We made it possible — with Canada. I don’t want to leave Canada out of this scenario. But we made it possible for Ross River to go to work, in partnership with Teck Cominco, to explore the R block. They spent considerable resources last year, and they’re going to extend those investments this year.
But in turn, with the Kaska Minerals Corporation, in 12, or probably more like 18 months, has gone from that endeavour — in other words, the partnership with Teck Cominco — to moving in and looking at a partnership with Canada Tungsten. That has been a positive relationship. So, Kaska Minerals is now a partner with Cantung, which is in the process of getting revitalized and, in turn, an investor in their own traditional territory — Macmillan Pass. So there is a partnership that we, as a government, nurtured and worked positively with. At the end of the day, today, we have probably close to 50 Ross River members working in that area.
Now, we move further south, and we have Yukon Zinc — Expatriate Resources Ltd. This year, Expatriate has already moved in the equipment it will take to do a $10-million adit. What does that mean to Yukon? That means more people going to work in the mining industry. It means that the Kaska have another opportunity for employment. It means that the money we spend on the Campbell Highway will better benefit the mine, and it is reported by Yukon Zinc that they are moving ahead to opening a lead-zinc mine. Again, that’s another positive thing for the Yukon.
These were not happening two and a half years go, Mr. Speaker. They weren’t happening for many reasons. Why was $200 million of mostly Canadian money invested in Alaska, and why only $6 million in the Yukon, and $150 million was being spent in Northwest Territories, and B.C. was $100 million. Why was the investment dollar not here? Now, did they all of a sudden wake up one day and realize the Yukon has an identity, that the Yukon has some mineral wealth? The Yukon has always had mineral wealth.
This is a very rich mineralized area of Canada. It has been since the Klondike. United Keno Hill supplied jobs to Yukoners from 1926 to the 1980s. Now, they had a couple of periods when they were closed down, but at the end of the day there were in fact huge net benefits to the Yukon. Why do we have the Mayo hydro dam? Because of the demand of United Keno Hill. That’s why we have this infrastructure. All of this was built around the potential of the mining community in the Yukon.
So when the members opposite talk about the price of mineralization, certainly it has a bearing on the mineral exploration dollar, but not just that. It’s the political climate of an area that dictates a lot of what mining companies do, and the political climate was not, I guess, from an invested dollar — figures don’t lie. $6 million and $30 million are different figures. Is $30 million enough? No, $30 million is not enough exploration dollars for Yukon. We need $50 million, as a rule of thumb, so that eventually we can get a mine open. But in two and a half years, we took it from $6 million to $30 million. This government did that, Mr. Speaker.
We built partnerships with First Nations that are working today. Kaska Minerals is one of the corporations that now are very, very big in the mineral business, and they’re in full partnership with Canada Tungsten and moving ahead in employing their citizens and moving forward in these partnerships.
Now, if you want to go from Yukon Zinc, we can look closer to town, to Tagish Lake Gold. Tagish Lake Gold has consolidated three large properties — I guess it would be east of Carcross. They are expanding their drilling program. The mine itself has an existing mill and infrastructure. They are expanding their drilling program this year, spending the dollars they have to spend to prove up the duct so that they can move ahead with opening the mine. It’s a very positive thing for the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and also for the citizens of Whitehorse. It is within driving distance of our community, Mr. Speaker.
Freegold Ventures recently announced a resumption in the Grew Creek gold deposit. That is located 35 kilometres west of Ross River. That is in the same area of the Wolverine property where Yukon Zinc is. So, again, I remind the members here how mineral-rich Yukon is. This is a very, very wealthy area. We have to give the industry certainty, and they will come and spend their resources wisely, I imagine, to move forward in the industry because, again, the world is very competitive. It is competitive because the world is opening up — the Eastern bloc is open to exploration; Russia is there; China is creating a bit of a wave, now quite a large wave of demand for minerals. Again, that is dictating prices. But, at the end of the day, we want to encourage that $200 million that Canadian investors are spending in Alaska — 80 percent of that $200 million. I want that money back in Canada, preferably in our jurisdiction.
We’re working toward that. So the mineralization and the oil and gas — the oil and gas is working out. We’re going to have probably the Kotaneelee and, in the north, Devon, so that’s going to be this year probably $25 million to $30 million spent in gas exploration, understanding that the Kotaneelee field was the most productive field in North America for 20 years. We all shared in the wealth through YOGA. All the First Nations and we as citizens all shared in the wealth of those wells. With this drilling program, expanding that field has brought those wells to a point where they’re back up. The issue we had for years was that the wells were watering in and at the end of the day they weren’t as productive. Hopefully, that will reflect on the bottom line of all our governments in the Yukon, all settled First Nations and ourselves.
I’m taking you through sort of an overview of what Energy, Mines and Resources is doing. Again, to be fair I’ll talk again about this in my preamble when we’re opening up for our line-by-line debate — and hopefully we can get to line-by-line as soon as possible.
Another thing that’s very important for resources and also for capacity building, not only for the First Nations but also for our citizenry, is the money that we work with Canada on for the type II mine sites. It’s $11.9 million that flows from the federal government to us and then in turn into the hands of the communities. So this year we’ll be spending $1.9 million on Mount Nansen. Of course, we’re finishing up Clinton Creek so there will be resources of $1 million spent there.
Now, United Keno Hill, until it’s sold, is the responsibility of us and the Government of Canada on the type II site. We expect to spend $3.9 million there. Of course, Faro is always there, and with the size of it, it takes the lion’s share of the money, and we project we’re going to spend $4.9 million in Faro. This again will be working in partnership with the local First Nations. We’ll be working with Selkirk. We’ve put a communications officer in place in Selkirk, and we’re working with the Town of Faro, and we certainly are working with the Kaskas to make sure that we maximize the benefits of this invested dollar.
I guess it does us well to listen to our constituents and to realize that with a budget of $784 million and a budget that is so positive and working toward making a better life for all of us in the Yukon, that we can’t get tied down with the negativity of a lot of the innuendo that we hear here in the House.
The last speaker was talking about who built what and who built a school and who didn’t build a school. What about Keno City? Keno City only got $55,000. All these issues are out there. We certainly travelled to the communities. We travelled to the communities for many reasons. We travelled to the communities to talk to the individuals about the budget and about their needs. But most importantly, Mr. Speaker, we have to go to these communities — it’s very important that we arrive at these communities to get a first-hand view of these communities for ourselves.
Government has a responsibility to go out and look at the communities.
The Member for Kluane certainly has a lot to say in this House — talking about negativity. What happened in Kluane? We had very positive meetings in Kluane. Those positive meetings generated some interest in what we’re going to do. When we as a government took over two and a half years ago, the previous government hadn’t even pressed the button on how we were going to extend the highway programs that the American government funds for us.
The first thing we did was look at how we were going to resource and move ahead — again, another partnership with Alaska and America. They invest their money in the Member for Kluane’s riding — millions of dollars on a yearly basis. But the minister —
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Mr. Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order. I just heard the minister say that the previous government didn’t even push the button on extending the Shakwak contract. Now, far be it from being my top priority to defend the Liberal Party, especially the previous Liberal government; however, shortly after the past election, the officials provided correspondence on Shakwak to us. We saw letters from the previous Liberal government to the Alaskans and the U.S., and those letters were merely repeated, with different names, from this Yukon Party government after the election. There was no difference.
So the minister doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He stands up and tries to make a political point where there isn’t one.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Klondike, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I have never heard so much gobbledegook as this. No Standing Order has been cited as being violated. This is just a disagreement between members, and the member opposite is going on ad infinitum on totally irrelevant material.
Mr. Speaker: There is no point of order. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has the floor.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I’d like to thank the member opposite for giving me that short break from my busy schedule.
I imagine maybe the member opposite is right. They wrote a couple of light letters or they sent out a form letter. But our minister went to bat, picked up the phone, communicated and moved forward to make sure we didn’t lose those opportunities. That’s the kind of government we are. We contact. We do personal contacts. A letter isn’t enough obviously because when we took over government, there was no commitment. We just can’t run on letters, but we’ll leave that alone. The wise man from Kluane can sit on that for awhile. But we were successful, like we were in many challenges we’ve met.
Speaker: Order please. The Member for Kluane is the MLA for Kluane and the House has continuously frowned upon giving additional titles to any individual in this House, so I’d ask the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to refer only to “the Member for Kluane”.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Taking a look at our large Highway and Public Works budget, I’d have to congratulate the Minister of Highways and Public Works on the fine tuning that his department did for the needs in the Yukon. I mean, we’ve got a $72-million commitment for capital projects, $5 million for planning and replacement of mobile radio systems. We’re moving forward with that. There’s $5.8 million for the information and technology sector. We’re not forgetting that. Then we move to $24.45 million for the Shakwak highway project. That again is money we rousted out of our neighbours, and in turn the Congress of United States. It’s very positive.
We have $10.3 million for upgrading the north Alaska Highway — Whitehorse to Haines Junction. Again it involves the member opposite’s riding, but we don’t draw lines on ridings. We invest our dollars where they’re needed. There’s $2.75 million for the Campbell Highway upgrade. No government has spent the resources on the Campbell Highway that we have. The Campbell Highway was built many years ago and was ignored by many governments. We’re putting our money on the Campbell Highway. That, in turn, is going to address some of Yukon Zinc’s questions, the Kaska Minerals Corporation’s questions, Teck Cominco’s questions, the reclamation of Faro — all those things will be addressed as we expand the maintenance and the upgrade of the Campbell Highway.
Again, up north, we have the $1 million for the Dempster Highway. As I said yesterday, we have to address the Dempster Highway because, when and if the pipeline goes forward in the Mackenzie Valley, the Dempster Highway is going to be a big part of that. They’re going to have to use it for a corridor to bring materials, supplies, food and to answer the big demand that Inuvik is going to have on that pipeline.
So not only are we looking at $1 million from our side of the table, we’re looking at the federal government. Again, this is part and parcel of the investment that Canada has to put in the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. We’re going to spend $400,000 on the Top of the World Highway. That, again, has been a highway that has been ignored by other governments. That is an important corridor for us, and as we go forward with the bridge concept, it will be even more important that we have that road to a certain standard so at the end of the day, eventually when warranted, that road can be opened year-round.
And, again, we take a look at the Tagish Road. I was just out there the other day. The Tagish Road, over the last couple of years, has gone leaps and bounds, and we’re going to spend another $320,000 on that to put the top on it and to bring it to a standard that we expect all Yukon roads to be.
There is $300,000 for the Klondike Highway. Again, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was talking about the situation of a bump on the road. We’re going to address that bump. When the Minister of Highways and Public Works has written that down, that will be on our priority list. That speed bump will be taken out.
And, of course, we have another $300,000 for rural road upgrading program. That’s for rural roads, again, bringing these roads up to a certain standard that we expect in the Yukon. We have to spend money on infrastructure if we expect to have infrastructure five years down the road.
Again, we’ve got $100,000 for the Alaska Highway for intersections in Whitehorse. Those are things that we’re always upgrading and working at and seeing if the traffic in our city here can flow a little better. And there is $1.1 million for other roads such as the Dome Road and the Takhini Hot Springs Road. We’re taking a look at the Takhini Hot Springs Road from a point of engineering and putting a three- or four-year plan together so we can work positively. That’s a busy highway that not only has traffic on it; it has individuals on it. It has pets; it has animals. And, really, to be honest with you, Mr. Speaker, I can’t remember the last time there was any money spent on the old, existing Takhini Hot Springs Road. And I have been here a long time, Mr. Speaker.
There’s $2 million for pavement rehabilitation. Again, we’re maintaining our highways, we’re maintaining our grids. We’re going to repair the pavement as demanded so our infrastructure will be in place, and we haven’t stopped at that. It might surprise the member opposite. We’re spending $4 million for the Old Crow Airport terminal. That’s a commitment our government made. It’s not a seat that we hold but it’s a priority for our government to make sure that Old Crow and our partnership with the Vuntut Gwitchin in Old Crow, that they can move along with their economic plan. This is all part and parcel of that partnership.
We’re looking at $2.3 million for the Whitehorse Airport terminal upgrade. When we took over as government there was a question about security and, now that we have international flights in the summer, we have to handle the international flights, and the demand that the federal government and, of course, all governments have on safety for not only the passengers but also for the individuals and the countries that these airplanes fly around to. So, again, I thank the Minister of Highways and Public Works for his aggressive look at these issues and the fight he put up in Cabinet to make sure that all these issues were addressed in a very positive way. It was through his leadership that these kinds of things were done.
The Justice department is again a very positive report. It’s very positive that the Justice minister — the $633,000 for some work on the correctional project, $174,000 for mental health services at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, $120,000 for an elders and First Nation cultural program at Whitehorse Correctional Centre — again in partnership with the First Nations and citizens that are working toward getting citizens into Whitehorse Correctional Centre in a positive way, working with the inmates to make sure that we don’t just store people, that we rehabilitate them. There’s $35,000 to build a shop for a trades program at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We have people in Whitehorse Correctional Centre for different reasons. Why not give them opportunities in there to further their education and also look at trades — a very positive thing. This was a commitment the minister was very adamant about.
There is $100,000 for intensive bail supervision projects. Again, working with justice, we are moving ahead, being proactive instead of negative; we are looking at the future of the Yukon and our justice system, instead of sitting and being comfortable with the status quo. This government isn’t ready to sit at the status quo. We are moving forward and improving things.
The Public Service Commission — the member opposite was asking what we are doing about First Nation employment in the territorial government. Well, this is what we are doing — and it’s very interesting: this government made a commitment of $1.65 million for a workplace diversity employment office and a $400,000 increase for First Nation training corps and a new training/work-experience program for the disabled. In other words, we are setting up an office to address the exact question that member asked. Again, we set it up before the member asks the question — that’s proactive and moving forward.
I’ve heard another thing for many years: how do you get a job in the territorial government? That’s a big question. How it works now is that we have the Public Service Commission. But how do our kids we send out to get special training — whether it’s academic or trades training — how do they get an opportunity to get into the government and the opportunities that the government offers? Well, we addressed it, again, proactively, by taking $1.382 million for implementing a new five-part initiative: invest in public service serving the Yukon people.
As a minister here, a sitting member of this House, I want to see our Yukon children coming back to the Yukon. That’s what that money is there to do. We hear the never-ending story asking how to get a job with the government. My son applied for a job — he’s a qualified teacher, but he doesn’t have the experience. So, we shut that person out, because he doesn’t have the experience. Well, how is he going to get the experience, Mr. Speaker? Well, this program is going to offer that experience. This program is going to enlighten us on how we can absorb our children into the government if they wish to join the government.
Now, the members opposite will talk continually about the lack of resources for tourism and culture and how we’ve shortchanged the Yukon. But I would like to bring a few figures to the floor here today.
We have $500,000 for the tourism cooperative marketing fund. That’s huge for a territory this small. We have $350,000 for the Alaska Highway scenic drive marketing campaign. We’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’re actually partnering with other jurisdictions. We’re moving forward on how we advertise and sell our community, our territory, to the rest of the world. That’s where that $350,000 is going to go.
We have $150,000 for a Yukon tourism brand strategy. In other words, how do we sell our Yukon brand — the name “Yukon”? We notice that General Motors has a Yukon truck. I watch that on national TV all the time. We have a Yukon bike that is very, very popular in the world. We have a great name, and how do we work with that name?
So, as we move through this budget line by line, I know that the discouragement of the members opposite will be seen. I appreciate their position. The dialogue or talk in line-by-line — this is a big budget. There are $784 million being spent in the Yukon — very positive.
Also, Mr. Speaker, I remind the House that at the end of the year, we project to have $29 million in the bank. Are we prudent managers of money? Again, the members opposite will have a weak argument on that, but we will listen to the argument and answer to it accordingly. But, at the end of the day, when our Premier, in conjunction with the other two premiers north of 60, stood up to the Prime Minister and walked out of the room, that was the day that Ottawa realized that we, as one-third of the land mass of Canada, had many issues that had to be addressed.
Health care was one of the issues. Health care has risen in the Yukon by — I think in this budget we’re looking at 20 percent. The environment, which they were going to thrash to death — we raised the budget by four percent. $23 million to $24 million for the Environment department. We’re only spending $15 million a year, approximately, on Economic Development. So where is our balance? Where is the argument?
I look forward to the weak arguments from the members opposite. It is going to be enlightening for the Yukon to watch this debate and see the level that it will either go up to or go down to. That will be dictated by the members opposite.
At the end of the day, the Yukon, I would say, has a very, very positive future. Our government is looking forward to the next two years and, of course, to five years after that, because under good management there should be no reason why a government like this wouldn’t extend its life to work more positively for the Yukon and the Yukoners who live in it. So it’s a positive budget. I certainly support it wholeheartedly, and at the end of the day I look forward to the responses from the members opposite.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has offered many words this afternoon, and before I begin my budget reply, I would just like to thank the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources for his optimism. I’m not confident it’s shared by everyone, however.
I would just like to offer in the way of constructive suggestions to the minister that we have previously in this House cautioned ourselves not to make use of terms that are violent and to tone down our violent language. And I didn’t rise on a point of order, but “thrashing it to death” and the expression “rule of thumb” are phrases that I would suggest to the minister, quite respectfully, that he perhaps reconsider the use of in the future.
I didn’t rise on the point of order, not wishing to interrupt the flow of his speech; I just would like to offer that constructive comment to the minister.
I appreciate the opportunity to rise on behalf of the people of Porter Creek South and on behalf of the Liberal caucus to reply to the budget that was tabled. I have several points I would like to make today, and I’ll begin with how we received the budget.
For the second year in a row, the Yukon Party has shown how little respect it has for our democratic institutions by announcing a good portion of the budget outside the Legislature. Entire departments have been announced well before the legislative sitting even began. This decision to bypass the Legislature makes a mockery of the Yukon Party commitment to provide open and accountable government. This isn’t a government that is announcing one funding initiative very publicly as the Minister of Finance can do, provided it is announced publicly and to everyone. This was whole departments, whole budget speeches, in the foyer of this building as opposed to in this place where the speech belonged. It’s the second year in a row that the government has pulled this stunt, and it demonstrates the contempt they have for the Legislature. Budgets are announced in this building, not willy-nilly over a period of weeks in a series of photo opportunities.
A local editorial in the daily paper, save Saturday and Sunday, the Whitehorse Star, recently put it this way: “Never in recent memory has a regime deliberately gone so far out of its way to isolate elected opposition MLAs and relegate the Legislature to a chamber of rubber-stamping irrelevance. Yukon Party ministers are well-known for scheduling trips, some of definitely dubious value to taxpayers, while the House is in session, conveniently evading opposition scrutiny for days at a time. Notwithstanding former Ontario Premier Ernie Eves, whose Conservatives once presented a provincial budget in an auto parts factory, governments are normally expected to announce their major spending plans in their legislatures.” Not here apparently. “As it did a year ago, the Yukon Party is unwrapping scores of millions of dollars’ worth of programs weeks before MLAs take their seats again on March 24. The government’s obvious intent is to have these plans reported unfiltered without input from the opposition. The rationale it trots out for public consumption is that the timing gives contractors preparation time to bid on certain projects.”
The editorial goes on to say, “That argument is faulty. The government could still keep contractors in the know by simply reconvening the Legislature earlier in the year, say, February, and tabling the budget for everyone to see at once. Even better, it could go back to the pattern of tabling the capital budget each fall,” — and if I might insert, as the Liberal Party government did — “giving contractors all winter to prepare project bids. The unprecedented contempt being shown for the Legislature translates into an unspoken but fundamental disrespect of our democratic system and of the people who sent their MLAs to that lawmaking chamber.”
As members know, I’ve asked you, Mr. Speaker, for a ruling on whether the actions of the government constitute contempt. I believe they do, and I await that ruling. It is bad enough that a good portion of the budget was released outside the Legislature. The arrogance continued with the Yukon Party’s decision to use a special warrant to spend $261 million, once again bypassing the Legislature. If we on this side of the House are so misinformed and so weak and not a challenge to the government, it’s curious why the Premier goes to such great length to avoid being here, to avoid bringing this information to the Legislature.
Speaker: Order please. A couple of points here with the member. Your use of the term “contempt” is unparliamentary. There are options, if one feels that there is contempt, for the member to utilize. Secondly, as you well know, a member cannot do indirectly what they cannot do directly. If a member wishes to quote from a document that contains unparliamentary language or does not adhere to proper form, the member must paraphrase any offending portions so that it will conform to the rules and forms of this Legislative Assembly. So the crux of the matter here is the member’s use of the term “contempt,” and I’d ask the member not to do that.
Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I respect your ruling in that regard and will ensure that I paraphrase, if that word appears again in my notes.
The issue is the presentation of the budget outside the Legislature. I have spoken on it at great length and have indicated that I am waiting on a ruling in that respect.
I believe, and I also believe that the public believes, that the government does not wish to be here. They don’t like answering these tough questions and the travel schedule is presenting a problem for them. If it were not for the Premier’s travel schedule, I think we would have been in here a month ago. The budget was done. Parts of it were being announced.
Now, the Premier has a new favourite expression that he has used quite publicly in the media — “background noise”. Everything the opposition says is just background noise — that somehow our comments are not valid. Anything that doesn’t come from the government is just background noise and not worth listening to.
I would remind all the members opposite that more people voted for other parties than voted for the Yukon Party. No one elected a sole individual to a position of power. It’s not only the opposition parties in this House that disagree with the Premier. Again, I will cautiously quote from another editorial in the Whitehorse Star: “This money represents a third of the entire territorial budget. The wealth of the warrants is unheard of here.”
Again, these vast sums of money didn’t have to be handled this way. The government could easily have had the Legislature reconvened and tabled the interim supply bill. We discussed that earlier today. The bills involving much smaller sums would have enabled the government to meet its daily obligations while the main budget was being debated.
“Unsurprisingly, Cabinet staff refused to make the Premier available to discuss the warrants. A ministerial aide swiftly shut down attempts Wednesday to question the Deputy Premier on warrants after an unrelated news conference. The government’s apparent philosophical problems with the media’s right to ask blunt questions of ministers has been troubling from day one.”
When this Premier and Finance minister did this last year, he described it as effective. It was effective. It was also completely unnecessary. Last year the Yukon Party said the decision to bypass the Legislature was done as a safeguard in case the opposition refused to pass an interim supply bill. If the Yukon Party had not waited until the very end of the fiscal year to reconvene the Legislature, that wouldn’t be an issue. In any event, both opposition parties had told the government they would pass an interim supply bill. If the government knew what they were doing, this short-circuiting of the democratic process wouldn’t be necessary. Perhaps the Premier and the Deputy Premier could take a short break from seeing who can spend the most money in their own riding and get the Legislature reconvened in February instead of March.
A question we all have to ask is: who deserves credit for the enormous amount of money that has been announced. The Yukon Party government once again owes the Yukon Member of Parliament, Larry Bagnell, and the federal Liberal government a big thank you for the 2005-06 territorial budget? Mr. Bagnell has made an enormous contribution to Yukon’s coffers, lobbying in Ottawa endlessly with ministers. Without his effort, the Government of Yukon would not be expending the financial largesse they are today. From the money for the waterfront to expanding infrastructure, such as the multiplex, to increased money for health care, to the northern strategy, it’s our federal Liberal Member of Parliament who deserves the credit.
The Yukon Party has been very quick to try to claim credit. They have suggested in this Legislature that the behaviour of the Premier with our Prime Minister at a First Ministers Conference somehow deserves the credit for this. What the members opposite have done is cash the ever-larger cheques that Ottawa writes. Yukoners can thank the Member of Parliament and the Prime Minister for those larger cheques.
During its first year in office, the government spent a great deal of time talking about how it had to reduce our dependence on Ottawa. Part of the election campaign, under the brave new world of the private sector Yukon Party, was that we would be more self-sufficient. Well, despite bold promises from the Yukon Party to lessen our reliance on Ottawa and become more self-sufficient, this budget proves that the exact opposite has occurred. The Yukon Party’s own numbers show that the territorial revenues make up a larger percentage of the budget than when they took office. So much for the promises of financial independence. If it wasn’t for the Liberal government in Ottawa, we would be awash in red ink.
In 2002, we got 69.5 percent of our revenues from Ottawa, according to budget estimates tabled with that year’s budget. Now we get 70.8. So much for weaning the territory off money from Ottawa.
The Premier has spoken at great length, as have some of the other members, about how this is the largest capital budget in history. It’s equally interesting to me, Mr. Speaker, to see the Premier ignore the fact that he has also tabled the largest operation and maintenance budget in history. The government is spending more on itself than any other government has in the history of the Yukon, and that starts in the Cabinet offices. The government has increased spending on itself by six percent over last year — more money, more staff to follow ministers around. In fact, spending in the Cabinet offices has gone up by more than $470,000 since the Yukon Party took office.
Of course, that increase is not unexpected, because the first thing the Yukon Party did was give senior staff in the Premier’s office a 20-percent pay raise. That compares to a 2.5-percent increase that was given to the Government of Yukon public servants. That speaks volumes about priorities and it speaks volumes about the treatment given to the average public servant.
While the Yukon Party has shown that it’s not good at generating revenues, it is very good at spending money, and the game farm is a very good example. Since purchasing the facility for $2 million, the revenues generated have been abysmal. This is a classic example of the Yukon Party making a political promise and Yukoners having to foot the bill. When last year’s budget was released, the government projected $326,000 in revenue from the farm. What were the actual revenues? $30,000. What are they this year? $26,000. The only thing missing is $300,000 — an interesting sum. It gets better, because this year we are paying the game farm $550,000, according to the budget.
What speaks even louder is the way the government has handled the game farm versus the way it has handled the owners of the reindeer herd. It demonstrates another problem that Yukoners have with this government as it heads into the second half of its mandate. Namely, the government likes to play favourites. Why is there treatment for one that is vastly different from the treatment that is offered to the other?
This situation has unfolded in the last few days, and Yukoners have been subjected daily to the abysmal treatment that has been afforded these Yukoners who deal with the reindeer farm. It has been terrible to watch. It has been terrible to observe this.
It speaks volumes about the government. The Premier promised to negotiate a fair settlement with the owners, and he has once again gone back on his word. He made it even worse with this quote that was on the local media. He said, “Well, I’m not here in Calgary buying reindeer feed.” That kind of arrogance is wrong. That’s no way to treat people and the situation could have and should have been resolved in a far fairer and far more respectful manner, and there was no funding in the budget for feed for the reindeer herd when it was announced.
Unfortunately, this has become the defining characteristic of the government. We’ve had sole-sourced contracts to members of the Yukon Party, raises for the Premier’s advisors, contracts for former candidates, new health care centres only in areas represented by members of the Yukon Party. Yukoners have noticed this completely unfair approach to government and they don’t like it. They don’t like unfairness. Government is not supposed to work this way. There are rules in place that should be applied evenly, they should be applied fairly. There should be one route for everyone. People would appreciate that.
I’d like to talk about a number of items that are missing from the budget, and I’d like to begin with the subject in the Legislature yesterday, the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and the Department of the Environment. Environment groups have expressed their displeasure with the budget and for very good reason. The Department of Environment has practically disappeared since the Yukon Party came to office, and this year’s budget is no different.
You know, Mr. Speaker, I really don’t envy the writer who had to do the environment section of the budget. I can imagine how it went — “Well, we’re not doing anything with this department. The minister has never even been to visit the staff. What would I write?” The reply: “I don’t know. Find something.” And they tried, but there is nothing.
There is something in the budget speech about protecting ANWR, but there is nothing actually in the budget. And that’s how the Yukon Party has dealt with this issue from day one — lots of rhetoric but no substance to back it up. There are lots of trips to Calgary to lobby for oil and gas; no trips to Washington to say no to ANWR. The Premier has refused every invitation to go to Washington.
The recent vote in the Senate was very close. His intervention might have made a difference. We’ll never know. It might have swayed one or two senators. We will never know because he didn’t try. He was asked as recently as yesterday in the Legislature to provide a leadership role, and he refused. Unfortunately for Yukoners, that is the emphasis the Yukon Party places on the environment — none.
The minister only seems to get involved in the department — well, when does he get involved in the department?
What else is missing? There are two very important words: “doctor shortage” or “orphaned patients.” It’s the biggest issue in our health care system, and there is no mention of it in the budget speech. There are no new initiatives to try to deal with this crisis. It must be that the minister is too busy selecting the carpets for the new health care facility in his riding. What else is there in the area of social services? What is there? What new initiative? How about a guaranteed income for persons with disabilities? The government is taking in almost $100 million more per year from Ottawa than it was two years ago. There is certainly room for something, such as a guaranteed income for persons with disabilities. It’s not there because it would take a lot of policy work to get it there.
And we know how the government reacts to having to do policy before they embark upon a project. They’re pretty much allergic to it. We’ve seen that in the legislative-light agenda over the last two years. Also missing from the budget, yet again, is funding for a new correctional facility. The government continues to play Russian roulette with prisoner and staff safety by refusing to build a new facility. Instead it continues to spend money on something called “correctional reform”, which is simply code for “stall construction of a new facility.”
Also missing from the budget is the true cost of the Dawson bridge. There is mention of $1.9 million for development work. There’s no mention of the other $40 million to $50 million that is going to be required. Apparently that money is just off the books.
I’d like to comment briefly on a couple of items in the budget speech that have to do with our economy: mining and the Alaska Highway pipeline. It has been very interesting to watch the government change its position on what’s driving the increase in mineral exploration in the territory. Shortly after coming to office in late 2002, the government introduced a Speech from the Throne. On February 27, 2003, the government said, “At the Cordilleran Roundup, a major mining event in Vancouver, mining companies were expressing a renewed interest in exploration in the Yukon. Obviously, high gold prices and the recent emerald discovery are sparking this interest.” That’s from the throne speech. Two years later, and the increase is all because of the Yukon Party, if you listen to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources — in fact, Mr. Speaker, the government was right the first time. I would recommend that each one of them pick up the Globe and Mail business section. Almost every day there is a story about how mineral prices are up. Gold is at a seven-year high. Gold has gone up from $260 an ounce when the government took office to $430 an ounce. It’s the same for base metals such as lead and zinc. Those huge increases are driving exploration across Canada. It’s not anything the Yukon Party has done.
With respect to the pipeline, which is often discussed in this Legislature, I think the Premier’s comments on Don Newman’s show, Politics, said it all. This government wants to see the Mackenzie Valley pipeline go first. What a sellout. He said, “We encourage the federal government to try and expedite the building of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline because we want to make sure it is completed before the commencement and construction of the Alaska Highway pipeline.” That was Premier Fentie on Don Newman’s show.
The sellout is now complete. The Premier set the Alaska Highway project back considerably with those comments. Ottawa is now free to work full-time on moving the Mackenzie Valley project forward, knowing that there are no consequences if they let the Alaska project slide. We need a champion in Ottawa. Yukon needs a champion to ensure that our interests are being looked after. Instead, our Premier is allowing Yukon priorities to be completely walked all over. He said very clearly that second place is good enough for Yukoners.
There is momentum for this project, especially from the Alaskans and the Congress. Unfortunately, the Premier’s comments will slow that momentum. If this is how the Premier intends to promote the project, it would be better if he just stayed home. He is doing more damage with statements like that.
Why couldn’t the Premier stand up and promote the Northern Pipeline Act regulated projects. The benefits to going this way are enshrined in a treaty with the United States. We have seen other premiers vigorously defend the treaties that Canada has to defend the fair trade agreement when it affects their province. Why couldn’t our Premier stand up and defend the ANGTA treaty?
The benefits are enshrined in the treaty. It includes things like access to gas. Every one of those communities along the Alaska Highway is named in that treaty. Benefits to Yukon are named. You won’t get that in a greenfield project. In fact, there are many politicians who have read that treaty, who have looked at officials — elected and otherwise — and said that you would never get a treaty like that negotiated in today’s society. Not defending the treaty is selling the Yukon short, and it’s acting like a bystander while others make decisions for us. It’s interesting to note that the Premier and the Yukon Party government have now hired a lobbyist in Ottawa to work on a pipeline. After criticizing our government for doing it, the Premier has now done the same thing. There’s a word for that, but it’s unparliamentary and I won’t use it.
There is also $300,000 in the budget to go to Dana Naye Ventures. This is part of the deal the Premier has orchestrated, constructed, to hive off, separate, a very embarrassing political problem. The Premier signed a deal that’s actually worse than the one he rejected last summer. Last summer, taxpayers would have received $325,000. Now we’ve paid out $350,000, with very little chance of seeing any of it come back, all to try to resolve a political problem. Under this deal, taxpayers are losing money at the hands of our own government.
I do have praise in one respect for the Yukon Party government budget. I’d like to offer them my congratulations for implementing the Liberal plan to reduce small business tax rates from six to four percent. This has taken effect this fiscal year. It was a commitment in our 2002 election platform.
It wasn’t part of the Yukon Party’s. I’m glad they took up this very good initiative. Small businesses will benefit as a result and they will become more competitive with our southern and eastern counterparts. The Northwest Territories, British Columbia and Alberta all have a lower tax rate. With the reduction from six to four percent, we’ll be on a level playing field with businesses in those jurisdictions. The Member for Lake Laberge across the way asked, “Well, why didn’t your government do it?” Well, as a matter of fact, our government did reduce taxes.
The budget also contains $2.5 million for the cafeteria expansion and renovations at Porter Creek High School. This is the second time the government has announced this project. It’s still one I support, no matter how many times the government announces it.
I also support continued funding for the Canada Winter Games, which was a project begun by our government. It’s also interesting that during his lengthy budget speech, the Premier took credit for the games. The securing of the Canada Winter Games to the Yukon had nothing to do with the members opposite and everything to do with the work of those who preceded them.
Mr. Speaker, this is the third budget from the Yukon Party government, and I have referred to it by using a phrase from a Beatles song — the can’t-buy-me-love budget. That’s what it is. The Yukon Party has a lot of money. It wants friends, and it wants to get re-elected. The strategy is to spend, spend, spend and spend. Unfortunately for the government, it’s not that simple.
Along the way, the government has developed a well-deserved reputation for arrogance and for treating people differently — playing favourites. It has managed to alienate a very large portion of the public service. The solution is a new $1.3-million public relations work called “Investing in public service: serving Yukon people.” We have yet to see all the details of that project. Unfortunately, public servants found out what the government thinks of them when the Minister of Economic Development made unfortunate comments.
A $1.3-million program won’t buy the government any love.
I’d like to speak for a moment about the government’s relationship with First Nations. What more needs to be said than that for the first time in history a Yukon First Nation is drawing down authority for education, in frustration. The budget speech goes on and on about all the protocols and memoranda of understanding and agreements that the government has signed. They mean nothing unless governments make them work. The Yukon Party doesn’t, and they haven’t.
The Minister of Health and Social Services told delegates to the Council of Yukon First Nations General Assembly, “If you don’t like it, do it yourself.” Unfortunately, they’re taking that advice. Yukoners are poorer for the Yukon Party’s inability to listen to Yukoners.
Another example of this is the ill-conceived notion by the Minister of Education with respect to all-day kindergarten. That notion and initiative has been put forward without adequate resources in this budget, without full and thorough consideration of parents, of childcare providers — and who spends more time with our children than parents and childcare providers? Was their opinion considered in this initiative? No, Mr. Speaker, it was not, and there are no resources in here to attempt to do what the Education minister is proposing. Our professional educators and school councils were left out of the mix in that decision and the additional resources that are going to be required are not contained in this budget.
The government goes on about consensus and collaboration and that it will accept good ideas. Well, I’ve brought forward a motion, lobbied the Minister of Health and Social Services at great length about the kids recreation fund, oversubscribed to every year, well-utilized, and it supports every single group and organization that benefits and works with children that you can name, from Northern Lights School of Dance, Arts Centre programs, to sports groups, to all kinds of organizations that benefit from the kids recreation fund being able to fund children so they can attend programming.
I’ve lobbied, put forward a motion, asked the Minister of Health repeatedly, and yet in spite of this in excess of $700 million, the Yukon Party couldn’t find one dime more for the kids recreation fund. It’s still stuck at the over-subscribed $60,000. So the government that purports to be listening to the Yukon public are not. It speaks overall to the government’s budget.
I will summarize my remarks with this: the fault lies in the way the budget was constructed. The Yukon Party was not listening to Yukoners. It lies in the way the budget was presented. I have made my arguments on that extensively. I cannot commend the budget to the House. The specific details, other than those I have spoken about, we will certainly debate in line-by-line and give them absolute full and thorough scrutiny, and I’ll ask the tough questions. We can hope that the ministers will provide us with thorough answers, and we can provide this budget with the scrutiny it deserves. I don’t support the budget overall and I don’t commend it. As I said, the way it was constructed, the pattern of the government’s behaviour in the way the budget was presented, do not recommend it to me.
Thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the attention of members.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It’s interesting listening to some of the speakers we’ve been listening to. I never knew that there was an entire field of atopic economics, but we seem to have a number of subscribers to that.
It also surprises me that the previous speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party, is spending as much time talking not about what she and her party had accomplished, but about what the feds had accomplished. Again, government is a business. It has many, many products — health care, social services, economy, and everything else. But at the end of the day, anyone in business will tell you that you work off a balance sheet. It’s income and expenses. The members opposite seem to spend more time looking at the expense column and somehow ignore the fact that there is an income side, and there has been a lot of hard work on that.
I want to spend my time today looking at the one comment that the previous speaker made, and that is that our government has not consulted and has not listened to our constituents. The issues raised with me when I was speaking with constituents in Porter Creek North, whom I am very pleased to rise today and represent, were: unemployment, the employment situation and creation of jobs; education and the support we provide to our students, which is a very big issue; education and training to keep our children in the Yukon; wages and support for daycares; and stimulating the economy, getting something going.
I’d like to make this House and Yukoners at large aware of what this government has accomplished. In our term so far, unemployment has dropped to an all-time record low of 5.3 percent. We did this while we were increasing the number of people working. Both sides of the equation have gone up. They’ve gone up by 1,400. That is what we’ve accomplished and we’ve done that without opening a major mine.
Employment and the creation of jobs — the community development fund, reinstated by our government, has 86 projects approved, for a total of $3.8 million in funding. These projects have created 116,000 hours of employment for Yukoners.
Our Yukon mining incentive program last year resulted in 761 claims being staked, and over 1,300 person-days of employment, with 78 percent of the $1.8 million generated all spent in the Yukon.
As a consequence of devolution, our government is also responsible for the management of type II mine sites, and this year our government will receive $11.9 million from Canada to manage four type II mine sites. Our government is utilizing these funds to maximize employment and business opportunities for Yukoners. The fact that the Alaska Highway pipeline will be located within a corridor where more than 80 percent of the Yukon population resides means that its construction will have a significant impact on the lives of most Yukoners and will result in the creation of many jobs.
The same holds true for the proposed Alaska-Yukon rail link, which is another large project looming on Yukon’s horizon. Forestry is another strategic industry with a great potential for creating employment in our communities. Government is looking forward to working with the communities of Whitehorse and Carcross on their waterfront projects, which will provide jobs and enhance the value of the waterfronts as people places for the enjoyment of residents and tourists alike.
The second issue at the doorstep is education, support for our students. I won’t even begin to get into my involvement and support for students, Mr. Speaker. Constituents of Porter Creek deserve an equal education, especially when that education, actually, if you do the math, costs less than a full-time student at Yukon College.
Our government is making a major investment in this budget, both in physical infrastructure and in programming. School construction, expansions and renovations total $11.3 million in the 2005-06 budget: $5.4 million has been allocated for the construction of the Tantalus School in Carmacks; $2.65 million has been allocated for the Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria expansion and renovations; $2.415 million has been designated for the Teslin School renovations and new gymnasium to begin construction in 2005; $800,000 has been assigned to complete the installation of a ground-source heat pump for the Vanier Catholic Secondary School; and $400,000 has been assigned to improve the ventilation system for the Jack Hulland Elementary School.
In keeping with our 2002 platform commitments, $100,000 has been designated to index the student grant to keep it relative to the cost of living. On January 31, 2005, our government announced the opening of the Individual Learning Centre in Whitehorse at 407 Black Street. This is one of the many avenues to assist youth who have dropped out of school to re-engage in learning. This has been a very successful program. The centre is staffed by two full-time teachers and two remedial tutors, and to date 57 individuals between the ages of 15 and 21 are enrolled. Many of these students would not be returning to school if it weren’t for the good work of our Minister of Education. Our government is committed to encouraging students to complete their high school studies. The school offers a flexible, supportive environment to encourage students to continue working toward their high school diploma and ultimately to become lifelong learners.
In addition to following the standard curriculum, students at the centre are also offered work experience opportunities that will count as credit toward high school graduation. Because our government has made literacy a priority and because we want Yukoners to have access to training that they need to succeed in the workforce and in their communities, our government has allocated $100,000 to update and implement a new Yukon literacy strategy.
Another important initiative of our government is the expansion of full-day kindergarten to all Whitehorse schools and some rural schools over a two-year period beginning in September 2005. Full-day kindergarten is an excellent way to help our students build a strong base in literacy, and my understanding of this is that it’s not a mandatory program, leaving the decision up to the parents. Cultural program activities in schools play a key role in our schools and language is at the heart of culture — language of all sorts. Any culture and any cultural minority would tell you that: do not lose your language. Two new native language instructors were budgeted for in the 2004-05 budget, and this government has allocated a further $72,000 in this budget to bring the number of First Nation language instructors to six.
Our government remains committed to the revitalization of Yukon aboriginal languages and has entered into an arrangement with the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation to pilot the First Voices program in Yukon.
The Department of Education and the Executive Council Office allocated $150,000 in 2004-05 to operate the pilot project in three Yukon First Nation communities and two schools. The government and First Nations will evaluate the results of the pilot project before deciding whether to introduce First Voices to other schools.
The Department of Education is also working in partnership with Heritage Canada by budgeting $185,000 to expand late French immersion to grades 6 and 7.
One of the most important initiatives our government and First Nation governments are undertaking is education reform. Discussions are currently underway with the Council of Yukon First Nations to initiate a process to reform the education system to better meet the needs of First Nations and all Yukon students. Our government has allocated $794,999 in the 2005-06 budget to undertake this initiative. And Mr. Speaker, no, I don’t know how we ended up with $999.
While self-governing First Nations have the legislative authority to draw down education to serve their citizens, our government believes that the public government system through education reform can be adapted to meet their needs, as well as serve the needs of all Yukoners.
The third issue that I heard extensively at the doors of Porter Creek North was one of jobs and training to keep our children in the Yukon. Children who were graduating from school didn’t see a future in staying in the Yukon, because there were no jobs. Families were being split up because of no jobs and no training.
Our government has been encouraging Yukoners to enrol in trades and technology training because of the high demand for trades across North America. The Department of Education has allocated $1.5 million for community training funds in this budget. A pre-employment program for the piping trades started in January because of the high demand for this trade. The pre-employment piping trades course will provide training in both the plumbing and steamfitter/pipefitter trades, and students will have the option to challenge the level 1 apprenticeship exam at the end of the course.
Our government is also providing carpentry level 1 training in Carmacks that commenced in February, to help the local residents seize the local and regional job opportunities in construction in the next building season. One of the challenges of our government is to keep that building momentum going. It was very easy for the opposition to say that the increase is due to the multiplex. Well, there is lots more going on than just the multiplex, and that will continue throughout this mandate and the next.
I heard a lot about daycare — wages, support for the workers, support for the children. Access to affordable quality childcare was a major election issue in the territorial election of 2002 and our government made a commitment to address that issue. In March 2003, the Yukon Childcare Association and Society of Yukon Family Day Homes made a presentation to our government stating that childcare was in crisis. A month later, the Minister of Health and Social Services responded by approving an increase of $230,000 to the direct operating grant. Half of the funding went toward supporting wages of childcare providers, with the remainder going to support operation costs based on set-up spaces.
In June 2003, a childcare working group composed of childcare stakeholders was appointed to develop a four-year plan for childcare in the Yukon, which was completed in December this year. The strategic planning document — a four-year plan for Yukon early childhood education and care — made some key recommendations; namely, improved early childhood education and care programs and an enhanced work environment in the Yukon, increased support for families, professional standards, quality and accountability, sustainability and funding of quality programs, and increased communication and public awareness.
In July 2004, our government responded by increasing operating grants by $675,000 in the 2004-05 budget to assist childcare operators — a 30-percent increase targeted specifically to wages and operating costs, with an increase of three percent and a further five percent in subsequent years.
There was a $10,000 increase to the supported childcare budget in 2004-05, with an additional $5,000 to be added in 2005-06 and again in 2006-07. A further $45,000 was budgeted in each of the next two fiscal years to develop and maintain a Web page. Currently, Mr. Speaker, $5.3 million is directed to childcare throughout the direct operating grants, subsidy for parents and other programs, including support for special needs children. Yukon contributions are the second highest in Canada now for the under-six age group, and direct operating grants have increased by more than 30 percent over the past year alone.
Our government has invited three Yukon childcare groups to provide recommendations on how best to direct the new federal funding under the early learning and childcare program. Our government has also asked the working group to come up with a solution to the current impasse regarding the requirement to sign contribution agreements and be accountable for the funds received for the government.
The fifth issue that I heard extensively at the doors of Porter Creek North was “stimulate the economy”, “jobs”, “stimulate the economy”, “get something going”. Well, there are a number of things going, Mr. Speaker. The Department of Highways and Public Works is requesting approval for $72 million for capital projects in the 2005-06 budget that will address our infrastructure needs, provide jobs and safer and better service to all Yukon communities. This not only provides jobs and services but also creates infrastructure for further economic development. I have to admit, Mr. Speaker, for the first time in two years, instead of being criticized for not releasing information, now we’re criticized for releasing information. Perhaps all the members opposite could get together and figure out where they want to come from.
The information technology sector is a key element in promoting economic growth, and once again, as in 2004-05, our government will be providing $5.8 million for departments to upgrade computers, computer networks and applications that support government programs. Most of that money will stay in the Yukon with local businesses.
Yukon’s hosting of the 2007 Canada Winter Games has put the territory and the north on the national stage. The 2007 Canada Winter Games are expected to generate economic benefits in excess of $70 million through the sale of goods and services, and will create 400 to 500 person-years of employment of Yukon people.
Another platform commitment in the 2002 election was the Dawson City bridge, and, interestingly, that was a commitment of the Liberal campaign in 1996, but ultimately it’s more economical for the government to build a bridge than to replace the existing ferry that costs well over a million dollars annually to operate. The bridge will improve access to west Dawson, Sunnydale, Top of the World Highway, for both area residents and our tourists, and it will eliminate the long ferry backlogs on the days when tourist traffic is heavy — a wide range of benefits, not just the traffic load. An obvious benefit to building a bridge is the positive effect it will have on tourism by increasing the length of the tourist season. If we can open it two weeks earlier and keep it open two weeks later, a month of extra tourism, can you imagine what that will do for Dawson? The naysayers, of course, call it the road to nowhere. I assume then that they would have to talk about replacing the ferry to nowhere, but that would also appear to be the inability of the parties from nowhere to understand the atopic economics of the situation.
The Yukon’s developing film and sound industry contributed a total of $2 million into our economy in 2004. The Big White film project alone employed 202 Yukoners while it was here. It’s becoming a very popular industry in the Yukon and with the five funding programs we have in place, contributions of $557,268 were made to 22 beneficiaries, which in turn generated $2.02 million in local spending alone. The overall economic benefits of the Film and Sound Commission show approximately $8 into the economy for every $1 spent.
It has created a problem. I have to admit that we have one definite problem with the Film and Sound Commission. They’re doing too good a job. What they have brought into this territory, and will be bringing into this territory, is quite amazing and I really do have to commend our sound and film commissioner for her incredible work.
The Yukon’s economy, despite the many challenges, has continued to grow in 2004, and it’s expected to grow again this year. The government has brought in more money. The opposition would like to say that the income side doesn’t really matter — that’s an accident — but it’s through the good work of this government that we have been able to bring in more money. We’re in competition with all other jurisdictions in Canada, and we’ve done very well on that front. It allows us to spend more. But the leader of the official opposition says that this doesn’t really matter. Businesses don’t have to look at the income side of the balance sheet. Government is still a business. Its product is economy, social programs, education, health and so on, but anyone in business knows you have to look at both sides of the ledger.
Increased economic activity in the territory contributed to the unemployment rate dropping to historical lows in 2004, and they continue to certainly show great success. The average unemployment rate in 2004 dropped to 5.8 percent with 1,325 more people employed on average than a year earlier, so we’re not only employing people who didn’t have jobs, we’re bringing more people in.
Yukon’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in February 2005 was 5.3 percent compared to Canada’s seasonally adjusted rate of seven percent. Economists tell us that there is a certain point where you have to assume that for a variety of reasons there is a degree of unemployment — injuries, disabilities, et cetera, et cetera — and we’re actually below that number right now. Again, we have a problem: we can’t readily find workers. If you have a problem at your house, don’t think that you’re going to find a plumber or an electrician or a drywaller really fast. We’ve had incredible success with that.
Increased opportunities have enticed more Yukoners to re-enter the workforce. Yukon’s labour force participation increased to an average of 75.9 percent in 2004 from an average of 74.3 in 2003. Yukon’s seasonally adjusted labour force totalled 17,000 as of February 2005. This is an increase of 1,400, or up nine percent from a year previous. Yukon’s seasonally adjusted employment in February was 16,100, an increase of 1,500, or up 10.3 percent from a year ago. We’ve addressed the economy. We’re bringing our residents home. We’re getting people to stimulate the economy. We’re getting people to look at the Yukon as a great place to live.
Mineral exploration in the territory increased to an estimated $22 million in 2004, up from $12.5 million in 2003 and around $6 million in 2002, when we took office. Mr. Speaker, that’s an increase of nearly 400 percent, and that’s just so far. I agree, to a very small degree, with the leader of the third party, who says that mineral prices have an effect on this, but we are in competition with the mining companies and the mining sector worldwide. A 400-percent increase shows the good work of our Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
The value of building permits issued in the territory in 2004 was up over 53 percent compared to 2003. Residential construction in Yukon continued to grow, increasing to over $37 million in 2004. Construction of the Whitehorse multiplex has contributed to a tripling of the value of institutional construction in 2004 to $28.6 million. But, Mr. Speaker, $37 million in residential shows that it’s not just the multiplex.
Indications show that tourism in the Yukon increased in 2004, despite a record forest fire season that forced some travellers to alter their travel routes. Not uninvolved in those decisions were reports in the media that the Yukon was burning down. We do pray for a bit more accuracy in reporting this coming summer.
Non-Yukon resident travellers entered the Yukon by land through Canada Customs, and that increased 3.5 percent in 2004, despite the fire season; and despite higher fuel prices and the appreciation of the Canadian dollar, United States visitation was up 2.5 percent over 2003 figures. Overseas visitation also increased by 12 percent — again, in spite of the fire season.
Now, the opposition has taken a couple of shots, saying that we haven’t opened a mine, yet all of this we’ve done without opening a mine. But let’s take a closer look at the territory’s mining sector.
Mining exploration is expected to top $30 million in 2005. When our government took office in 2002, as I just mentioned, mining exploration was only $6.9 million — again, a 400-percent increase. The Department of Economic Development organized a mining investment tour in September 2004. The tour was comprised of a group of mining journalists, investment analysts and brokers from across Canada interested in Yukon’s mineral potential.
The tour offered an opportunity for individuals to talk face to face and provided the mining analysts and journalists with current information regarding the mineral potential for the Yukon. This will increase the potential for investment in our Yukon mineral properties — again, deal with facts.
As a sidebar on that one, when we talk about these familiarization tours, I had the good chance to talk to an advance crew and the executive producer of a major movie, which looks like it will be shot in Whitehorse this fall, and the very first thing he said after arrival was, “I am here because of the familiarization tour you brought us on last year. I know the lay of the land, and when I saw the script, I knew it fit the Yukon as a location.” We will see major economic benefits, far beyond our expense.
The deputy minister and I also visited a number of mining operations and manufacturing centres in China at the invitation of the Chinese government and Orient Mining Ltd., which subsequently established an office in Whitehorse. During that trip, I had the great honour of delivering the opening session of the first China International Gold Show and getting an appreciation of what is happening in that country.
Orient Mining Ltd. and other Asian mining companies have visited the Yukon in order to explore new opportunities in Yukon-based mining projects. I am pleased to report, Mr. Speaker, that we are progressing very, very well on this front and on these files.
If the prediction for 2005 proves true, mining exploration under our government’s watch will have more than quadrupled in two years. That is very much out of proportion to the raise in mineral prices in most sectors.
Drilling is already underway at many sites, and they are going to see active exploration in the summer. Yukon is expecting a $10-million increase in mining exploration as a result of renewed excitement within the mining community. Devon Canada, Yukon Zinc, Western Silver, Tagish Lake Gold — all these are involved in this.
Forestry is another strategic industry that can create jobs in rural communities. In 2004-05, ninety commercial permits, for a total of 65,900 cubic metres and 590 permits for personal use, totalling 16,700 cubic metres were issued. Four permits were issued through public tender for year 1 wood supply and the remaining potential permits are on hold pending forestry agreement finalization. Again, I understand that that is well advanced and has been coming along nicely.
The area of supply in years 2 and 3 for 186,000 cubic metres in under the environmental review process, and this budget will provide $250,000 for forest silviculture as part of our good forest management stewardship practices.
Two major initiatives of utmost importance to our government are the Alaska-Canada rail link and the proposed pipelines. I think that both projects are likely much closer to becoming a reality than many of us think. On the railway, early in 2002, the U.S. President signed the rails-to-resources bill into law. This bill authorizes U.S. involvement in a joint U.S.-Canada body to conduct a feasibility study for building a rail link from Alaska through the Yukon, to northern British Columbia.
The U.S. Congress set aside $6 million for this purpose and the U.S. State Department sent a formal note to Canada asking them to participate. To date, the Government of Canada has not officially responded to the U.S. government’s request, which has had active support from all affected provincial and territorial governments. The Government of Yukon continues to encourage Canada to respond and to proceed with a bilateral feasibility study on the proposed Alaska-Canada rail project. From a Yukon perspective, we are confident that the study, once completed, will demonstrate a wide spectrum of benefits to Canada and to Yukon. Our preliminary analyses indicate a number of potential benefits when the rail project becomes a reality: further economic diversification to the north; it will be a great boost to key industries, such as oil, gas, mining and tourism; it will promote natural resource development, like having that transportation infrastructure.
As part of a larger transportation corridor, it will contribute significantly to greater synergies with other key projects, including the proposed natural gas pipeline and enhanced telecommunications infrastructure. It will also allow for increased trade flows with North America and with an exceedingly important group of trade partners in the Pacific Rim. It will also reduce transportation costs and ease ongoing and significant congestion issues in the North American transportation network. The advantages of joining with the United States on that binational commission are very significant.
In late February, the Premier, accompanied by Alaska government representatives, met in Ottawa with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, U.S. Ambassador, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and six federal Cabinet ministers and key decision-makers in industry, to promote these two major strategic infrastructure projects: the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and the proposed Alaska-Yukon railway project that would connect railroads in Alaska to railroads in the southern 48.
Their main objectives were to gain support and awareness, and they were very successful in Ottawa in moving that file along. Our government takes the position that both the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and the Mackenzie Valley pipeline are needed. Industry has indicated that the Mackenzie Valley pipeline will be built first, in 2009, while the Alaska Highway pipeline will be constructed in 2012.
But, Mr. Speaker, this is beyond the scope of what our government can do. We’re not building it. It is driven by economy and by the main proponents of those projects. But we’re working to ensure that Yukon must benefit from the construction of both pipelines. Our position is clear: a clear regulatory process, border to border, for the Alaska Highway pipeline project; access for Yukon gas in either northern pipeline; Yukon must benefit fiscally and socially from both pipeline projects; and there must be financial assistance to assist First Nations and other Yukoners to prepare for the northern pipeline development.
The fact that the Alaska Highway pipeline will be located within a corridor where more than 80 percent of Yukon’s population resides means that its construction will have a significant impact on the lives of most Yukoners. We’ve increased our budget to the oil and gas branch by $567,000 in order to help prepare for the construction of both northern pipelines. The benefits are huge, needless to say.
The Yukon is also interested in creating a comprehensive transportation corridor. On February 23, 2005, the Premier and the Governor of Alaska announced the formation of a working group that will be directed to securing Alaskan port access for the Yukon. Independent studies have been conducted in 1999 and 2000 on port options, and the Department of Economic Development is in the process of updating these studies in collaboration with the industry and stakeholders. Securing tidewater access is consistent with Yukon’s strategy of developing a comprehensive transportation corridor in the territory, and one that includes rail, road, pipeline, telecommunications and marine infrastructure.
All these things are necessary. We work with our Alaskan neighbours, friends and partners on a daily basis, but I also had the great opportunity to go to Washington about a month ago with a collection of federal Senators and Members of Parliament, and with my colleagues the Minister of Economic Development from Manitoba and the Minister of Forestry from British Columbia. We spent the U.S.-Canada partnership day in Washington educating the Americans on a variety of Canadian issues. Yes, we talked about caribou. Every single person we talked to, every staff member, and a lot of people we didn’t have a chance to talk to received literature from the Gwich’in people. They received information on how important caribou are to that culture, and we spent a great deal of time educating a wide variety of decision-makers in Washington. We took advantage of that in a good setting.
The Yukon government supports the Alaskan preferred option number 2 to build a road from Skagway to Juneau on the east side of the Lynn Canal. Again, that’s an Alaskan issue. It’s an American issue. But let’s look at it from our perspective. A road from Skagway to Juneau would put 30,000 Juneau residents within a three and a half hour drive of Whitehorse, and the increased interaction would have significant and positive economic effects. For instance, consider the 26 cross-country skiers who came up from Skagway for the Yukon loppet. With a road to Juneau, that could have easily been 126. There are huge benefits. Ninety-five percent of Whitehorse households surveyed in 2003 said they would travel to Juneau at least once a year if a road were built, and 98 percent felt that the Juneau road would benefit Whitehorse. That’s better consensus than I’ve seen on a lot of issues. I had the good opportunity to attend a public meeting in Skagway held by the Alaskan Department of Transport in February, and environmental studies are very impressive and consultation down there is very extensive, so we’re waiting to see what happens with that.
As this government has established a very strong relationship with our Alaskan neighbours in discussing various projects of great interest to both our governments, I am pleased to announce some of the initiatives that this government has undertaken in formalizing our relations with them and formalizing relations with our First Nations.
In the Yukon Forum, the Council of Yukon First Nations, self-governing First Nation chiefs and the Premier all agreed to the memorandum of understanding on cooperation in governance in the Yukon this year. The structure and conduct of the Yukon Forum provides a mechanism to establish cooperation in governance in the Yukon. The memorandum of understanding formalizes the government-to-government relationship between Yukon First Nations and the Yukon government to the benefit of all Yukoners. The Yukon Forum will help to achieve more effective services and program delivery by both orders of government.
Other examples of agreements, protocols, accords and initiatives between our government and the First Nations include the Kaska bilateral agreement, an agreement in principle that establishes an economic partnership and business relationship, enabling the Kaska to be full partners in the development of a small, sustainable forest economy in the southern Yukon. The northern Yukon economic development partnership agreement — this is with the three northern First Nations and was signed on July 26, 2004. The agreement is intended to identify economic opportunities of mutual interest in the traditional territories of the First Nation of Na Cho Nyäk Dun, the Vuntut Gwitchin and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. A memorandum of understanding with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation for the corrections system, including the future replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre — it gives options. There is the Intergovernmental Relations Accord with the Vuntut Gwitchin, implementation agreement for forestry with the Champagne and Aishihik, partnerships established with the Kaska and Selkirk First Nations on the Faro mine site and with the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation on the BYG and Mount Nansen site.
In addition to the above-mentioned projects and agreements, this government has also facilitated and invested in the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. The budget provides a further $200,000 to help the coalition leverage federal funding. This group is critical in continuing our work on the pipeline. That’s what that is going to be doing.
Certainly when we look at all these things, there is, again, so much misinformation and so many missed facts out there. It was recently stated that 55 employees of the Department of Economic Development had been hired. It’s interesting that we only have 42 in the department, so I’m not sure where 55 came from.
It was also claimed that 35 had been hired from out of the territory; our count is seven.
I’d also like to add that our department has provided approximately $1.2 million in support of First Nation economic development initiatives. There are a total of 63 First Nation initiatives supported by different branches of the Department of Economic Development — 63 initiatives, Mr. Speaker.
Some of those initiatives have been things like the Canada Gala in Anchorage, to which we brought First Nation business leaders and government in order to network there. We sponsored a Fort McMurray trip, which included First Nations. The purpose was to examine the success of joint venture enterprises in that community and consider the potential for the application of joint venturing initiatives in the Yukon.
We are participating in a joint initiative with Energy, Mines and Resources in developing a capacity development workshop, which was intended to enhance First Nations’ capacity with respect to natural resource development.
We are working in conjunction with the land claims and implementation secretariat to develop a generic workplan template, which may be used to assist in implementing the economic planning provisions of chapter 22. It’s hoped that this initial work will expedite the onset of regional economic development planning by First Nations and Yukon as a whole.
We have initiatives going up at the airport. The Canada Winter Games athletes village: there’s our commitment to the City of Whitehorse and host society to get directly involved with, and to build, the athletes village and to do it in such a way that it will leave a legacy, not only as a residence for Yukon College, but also in seniors housing, a major initiative of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Whitehorse and Carcross waterfronts — we could go on and on about that. Destination Carcross — the misinformation of completing the trek and providing the funding of a 28-seat train and having people question why we would bring in 28 passengers at a time. We’re going to bring 600 to 800 at a time by train.
Again, I could go on and on at length on all these initiatives, but it gives me great pleasure to commend this budget to this House and to lay out for Yukoners and for residents in Porter Creek what this government has done in response to what I heard at the doors in Porter Creek North.
Mr. Arntzen: I am pleased to respond to another large budget from this government. I also recognize the hard work that the Finance minister, his officials and the other ministers and their staff have done in shaping this budget. Negotiating the Government of Canada contribution of more than $70 million for this year has gone a long way to making the $784.4-million budget another record budget. With the additional money, I am certain that Yukoners will see a continuation of the economic turnaround that this government has produced since its election in 2002, which I was and still am a part of.
We have such things today as the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded in the Yukon Territory’s history. There are 16,100 people employed in the Yukon at this time — close to a record. We also have the fourth lowest unemployment rate in Canada today as well as a population increase of 872 people in 2004.
What this does is indicate how effectively the economic picture for the Yukon has changed over the last two years.
Also, some of the items within this budget, which I believe are of great significance to my constituents, are the $300,000 for the Hamilton Boulevard pumphouse upgrade, which should go a long way to improve the amount of pressure in the water being provided to the residents of Granger and Copper Ridge. It is going to be appreciated very much in the residence.
Also, another $300,000 has been added to the budget to complete improvements on Hamilton Boulevard, which are also very welcomed. In this regard, I understand that the government is in negotiations with Kwanlin Dun and the City of Whitehorse to extend the boulevard to connect to the Alaska Highway and Robert Service Way. That is also something we’ve been pushing for. The second access for traffic flow, and the additional safety of this connection, will greatly improve the quality of life for my constituents. I would like to reiterate that it will also improve the safety in that community.
The $100,000 that has been allocated in the budget for Alaska Highway intersection improvements in the Whitehorse area will greatly improve the safety of my constituents living along the Alaska Highway from the airport south to Carcross Corner. This is also very important for my constituents who travel this portion of the highway several times a day, going to and from work, as well as for school buses bringing the children back and forth to school on a daily basis.
With two schools in my constituency, education is a significant concern to my riding. The opening of the Individual Learning Centre, a school to encourage Yukoners to finish their high school education, is a major achievement. Another of our Yukon Party election commitments has been achieved. I do extend my heartiest congratulations to my colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, the Minister of Education, for this great achievement. I understand that the school already has its first graduates, and it opened on February 1. That’s great. Very well done.
In my life, before getting elected to this House, I provided petroleum products as part of the industry throughout the Yukon Territory. With that background, I can tell you that I am extremely pleased to see the rebound of the placer mining industry and hard rock exploration and tourism industries, because of their use of these products. That will definitely help that part of the business community, the petroleum providers. They’ve been in the doldrums for a few years, and this is definitely going to help them, and it’s perhaps going to mean a few more jobs for some of our drivers who have had to leave the territory to work in the Northwest Territories and northern Alberta and British Columbia for years. I hope that this will give them a chance to come back into the territory and stay busy, and be with their families again.
As a long-time Yukoner, I can also say that I am extremely pleased to see drilling for natural gas occur in two areas of the territory, the first such drilling in — I think it has been 30 to 35 years since we last saw that happen. I give my kudos to whoever worked hard on those issues and look forward to seeing a few more Yukoners come back from that part of the industry to partake in work that is going to be available in the future with these drill rigs, and perhaps the product that flows from them, in the near future.
I’m not going to make a long speech. I’m going to close by congratulating the Premier and my fellow MLAs and all government officials, both here and in Ottawa, for their long and hard work in formulating and producing the largest budget in Yukon’s history.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Today, it is my pleasure to rise and respond to the 2005-06 O&M and capital budget. As was mentioned on several occasions, it is the largest budget in Yukon’s history, a budget that each and every Yukoner should be proud of, which, I might add, is a surplus budget. I am pleased to be part of a government that demonstrates such care and consideration for all Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I have heard many negative criticisms from the members opposite and that’s understandable, because I believe that is a way to combat such positive action that this government is taking. It explains why every member of the opposition who has spoken in response to this budget has said they will not support it. However, life must go on and this government is going to continue enhancing the lives of all Yukoners.
The total capital and operation and maintenance budget for 2005-06 is $784 million, of which $577.6 million is for O&M and $206.4 is for capital. This budget will bring many benefits to Yukoners and will continue to restore optimism in the Yukon. Our government committed to setting an economic course for the territory for the duration of the current mandate, and we are continuing to do so.
This budget is designed to stimulate the economy in the short, mid and long term. Negotiation of a new territorial funding agreement and other fiscal transfers with the Government of Canada remain a critical part of keeping our fiscal house in order. Due to the hard work of my colleagues and department officials, we have increased funding for health care to the tune of $150 million between the three territories. The three territories will also be receiving $60 million under the Canada health and social transfer envelope.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the officials in the Department of Education, Justice and the Public Service Commission who have also assisted us in implementing our 2002 election commitments to Yukoners. Their countless hours of service are appreciated and have not gone unnoticed.
Another important milestone that this government was able to accomplish was to finalize a land claims agreement with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, one of the biggest First Nations in the Yukon Territory and probably one of the most difficult land claim processes to be able to conclude due to the fact that our First Nation is situated right in the heart of the City of Whitehorse. So there are many contributing factors that the First Nation had to overcome in order to be successful in the land claims agreement. But on February 19, 2005, Yukoners celebrated the signing of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation final land claims agreement.
Of the Yukon’s 14 First Nations, 10 now have final and self-government agreements, with an 11th First Nation, the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, currently engaged in a ratification process. Over 30 years ago, Yukon First Nations presented their land claims, entitled Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, to the Government of Canada, and, Mr. Speaker, I would have to say at this time that the Yukon Party took the extra steps that were needed to be able to conclude this agreement.
I can testify to that personally because I was a councillor in the Kwanlin Dun government under four different administrations and I was aware of numerous tries for Kwanlin Dun to make headway under an NDP government and a Liberal government. However, we were unsuccessful, and I applaud the Yukon Party today for having the political will that it took to move this land claim to a final settlement.
There is a growing list of agreements, protocols and initiatives between our government and First Nations. Some examples include — and this is regardless of some of the comments made by the members opposite. This government has been able to have an intergovernmental relations accord with the Vuntut Gwitchin government, a memorandum of understanding with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation for the corrections system, including the future replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, the Kaska bilateral agreement on management and development of resources in southeast Yukon, a protocol on consultation with self-governing First Nations, an implementation agreement for forestry with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, partnerships established with the Kaska and Selkirk First Nations on the Faro mine site, and with Little Salmon-Carmacks on the BYG Mount Nansen site, a north Yukon economic partnership agreement with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and the Na Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation, and also firefighting contracts with 10 Yukon First Nations. This list is not exhaustive, but it does give an indication of the efforts the respective governments have made in forming working relationships to work together to make Yukon a better place for all of us to live.
I have also heard comments about First Nation people in the workplace in government, and I would like to say that our government, through the Public Service Commission, has also made a major investment in encouraging workforce diversity and meeting land claims obligations through funding to the workplace diversity employment office.
The workplace diversity employment office has two major activities. For the first activity, the amount of money for the First Nation Training Corps has been increased by almost two-thirds to provide training opportunities for Yukon First Nation people and help the government meet its obligations under the land claim agreements.
Again, I believe this is a good example of this government’s commitment to honour the Umbrella Final Agreement. The First Nation Training Corps offers term positions in departments, open to people of Yukon First Nation ancestry. During that term position, usually for one or two years, these employees are trained to the full level of the position, and then they are able to apply for positions within the Yukon government or with other governments. Again, Mr. Speaker, this is a very important initiative to recognize, because it is giving First Nation people on-the-job training to be able to work in professional places. In my opinion, it is a very, very important avenue for one to be able to have access to in developing one’s own personal well-being.
The dollars allocated for this First Nation Training Corps has increased from $302,000 in 2004-05 to $502,000 in 2005-06. This allows the training corps to meet the demand for training through the creation of approximately four additional positions and will also help work toward achieving a representative public service. So I do commend the Public Service Commission for being able to put that all into place.
When we talk about training and jobs, we must mention the YNTEP. For example, today there is a total of 78 graduates from YNTEP; 37 are teaching in the Yukon; 21 are teaching in Whitehorse and 16 outside of Whitehorse. Others are teaching outside the Yukon; 15 teachers have found jobs outside the Yukon. Because of this program, 19 people have found employment in other areas of expertise.
So there again, I have to say that this government is doing an awful lot in meeting the needs of First Nation people.
I also want to state for the record that the YNTEP program this term was at full capacity, with 15 people in that program. According to the records I’ve reviewed, this is a first. The program was opened to allow six non-First Nation people to attend that program and nine seats were left for First Nations. It started out full and, to the best of my knowedge, I believe there is only one who has left the program. So it pleases me to no end to know that that program is almost filled to capacity.
Our government is also undertaking three major initiatives with First Nations. Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that two of these fall under my portfolios of Justice and Education, and the three initiatives are the Children’s Act review with Health and Social Services, consultation on corrections with the Department of Justice and the educational reform with the Department of Education.
Mr. Speaker, it is important that we make significant changes to systems that appear to not be working for all Yukoners. Our government is willing to take those initiatives, and to take that extra step we have to take to ensure that people are satisfied with the programs that are being administered and delivered. Our government recognizes that we can no longer just lock people up in jail without providing rehabilitation to help them heal and to become functional members of society. I believe that our government is doing the justice right. The thing that has to be done is to make an impact on the revolving-door syndrome that appears to be repeated on numerous occasions with regard to Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Our education system needs to be more relevant to speak to the cultures that we have here in the Yukon, not focused on other standards of learning and training.
Then we talk about another important initiative, and that’s the Canada Winter Games. The government is very pleased and excited to be able to host the 2007 Canada Winter Games, and this is the first time the Canada Winter Games will be hosted north of 60. This is a very exciting event and we have no doubt that Yukoners will step forward to ensure the games are successful. Again, the government is also doing its part to ensure its success. We have been supporting our partners, the City of Whitehorse and the host society, to ensure the 2007 Canada Winter Games do succeed. I heard the previous comments from the leader of the third party that this government deserves no credit. Well, I think $20 million buys a lot of credit.
I respect the fact that other governments were involved with this, but I don’t believe that our government is grandstanding and saying that we did the whole initiative on our own. We give credit to other governments that were involved. Because this is such an enormous event, it will take all governments to be involved to make it a success.
There are many benefits to hosting the 2007 Canada Winter Games, monetary and others. In addition to showcasing our talented athletes, the games are expected to generate economic benefits in excess of $70 million through the sale of goods and services and create 400 to 500 person-years of employment for Yukon people.
Speaker: Thank you. Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
Debate on second reading of Bill No. 15 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 31, 2005:
Dawson City: Town of the City of Dawson, Yukon, Report of Forensic Audit and Financial Review of (dated March 9, 2005), prepared by Doddington Advisors Inc. (Hart)
The following document was filed March 31, 2005:
Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm: letter (dated February 8, 2005) to Hon. Peter Jenkins, Minister of Environment, from Johanne Koser, Chair, Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board (Jenkins)