Monday, April 4, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: I would ask the members to remain standing for a moment, please. We are all aware, of course, that Pope John Paul II passed away on Saturday. In honour of His Holiness, the Assembly will now observe a moment of silence.
Moment of silence observed
Speaker: † We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Canadian Cancer Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge April as Canadian Cancer Awareness Month and to recognize the men and women in the Yukon who volunteer their time and efforts to support the Canadian Cancer Society.
Each April, Cancer Society volunteers sell daffodils and go door to door raising donations that enable the Canadian Cancer Society to continue the excellent work that it does. This has been a spring tradition since 1948, and in Yukon, it is a real harbinger of spring when the yellow daffodils begin appearing around town.
This month is more than raising funds. It is about increasing awareness of cancer issues and the work the society does across the country to both eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life for people living with cancer.
Cancer is a dreaded disease, but organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society, through special events and recognition months like this one, can and do make a difference. They work toward reducing the fear of cancer with their education programs.
Through their education programs, the Canadian Cancer Society defines its values as quality, caring, integrity, respect, responsiveness, accountability and teamwork. These are all things that Yukoners know a lot about.
We should all be grateful and proud of the role that Yukoners play in fundraising for the national Cancer Society. We should also be proud of the role they play here at the local level. We have hundreds of people who spend Motherís Day walking routes, both in Whitehorse and the outlying communities, to raise money for breast cancer and breast health awareness.
Yukoners take their commitments very seriously. They know that cancer is a very serious disease that takes thousands of lives each year. But it can be beaten.
Iíd like to thank all involved in these worthwhile organizations and events.
Mr. McRobb: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to Canadian Cancer Awareness Month.
It is unfortunate that one in three Canadians will develop cancer. We all know at least one person affected by this terrible disease. In the Yukon, the Canadian Cancer Society predicts 75 deaths from cancer each year.
Many cancers these days are effectively treated thanks to research but, in recognizing April as Cancer Awareness Month, the greatest contribution we can make to fighting cancer is a commitment to our own healthy living. Half of cancers are preventable and it is up to the individual person to take responsibility for his or her own health. Measures that avoid the disease from starting in the first place include early detection and screening programs to increase our chances of surviving cancer. However, it is also vitally important that we eat well, exercise regularly and practise sun protection.
If we smoke, now is the time to seriously consider stopping, particularly if we are affecting those around us. It is well known that second-hand smoke can be as dangerous as smoking itself.
The B.C. and Yukon division of the Canadian Cancer Society established a prevention strategy development team that assigned a percentage weighting to different factors after looking at the relative risk. Tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke has a risk factor of 45 percent ó the highest on the list.
The Canadian Cancer Society has concluded that advocacy, community mobilization and public education are the strongest avenues for achieving an overall decrease in cancer incidence. To this end, the Yukon branch of the society is once again presenting the very successful Relay for Life in early June. Last year, this even produced $65,000 from Yukoners. The Run for Mom event organized by the Whitehorse General Hospital will be held again this year on May 8. I urge everyone to contribute by sponsoring a runner in that event.
Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all volunteers whose energy and time have greatly assisted the ongoing fight against cancer. Without you helping to finance research and treatment, the impact from this terrible disease on our society would be even worse.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to join my colleagues in the Legislature on behalf of the Liberal caucus in tribute to Cancer Awareness Month, and notably the Canadian Cancer Society. The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. The five core priorities of the Canadian Cancer Society are research, advocacy, prevention, information and support. Funds are raised through donations by individual Canadians and by door-to-door campaigning. The purchase of daffodils is the Cancer Societyís single most important drive in the fight against cancer. The bright, cheerful daffodil is the societyís symbol of hope.
We also have such events as the Run for Mom and the Relay for Life, and they all contribute to the fight against cancer. This yearís goal for the Relay for Life is to raise $99,000 in the Yukon and $5 million in British Columbia and the Yukon.
The tireless efforts of the volunteers in raising these funds, in organizing these events, the sale of daffodils, the Run for Mom and the Relay for Life, all must be recognized, and I, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, would like to especially publicly thank and tribute our Yukon Cancer Society volunteers. By working together, we will make cancer history.
In recognition of Yukon Biodiversity Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It has now become a tradition to rise during the first week of April and give thanks to all that makes up the Yukon biodiversity. We refer to April as Yukon Biodiversity Awareness Month and as an opportunity to reflect on the many species that share the land and water. This includes the 1,200 plant species, some of which are just being uncovered, the more than 5,000 insects, the birds, the fish, mammals, and† four amphibians.
The theme for this year is ďWetlands for WildlifeĒ, because wetlands are important for wildlife habitat.
Next week will be another tradition, National Wildlife Week, and its theme of ďExplore and Embrace a Special Wild Place.Ē
The national painting that is used in this yearís campaign is provided by world renowned wildlife artist Robert Bateman. His theme is ďGetting to Know,Ē and his emphasis is for young people to get to know the species that live in their backyards.
For many, the Yukon itself is considered a special wild place, and we are most fortunate to live in a region that has so much to offer.
Swan Haven is back for another year, and everyone is aware that the M'Clintock Bay area is special for the thousands of migratory birds heading north. Make sure you mark your calendars for April 16 to 24 and the variety of events that highlight this yearís Celebration of Swans. Many of the public information programs and lectures being offered this year highlight the partnerships between government and non-government agencies, such as the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Federation, Yukon College, Yukon Energy Corporation, the University of Alberta, the Kluane Museum of Natural History, Yukon Bird Club, Yukon Fish and Game Association, Ducks Unlimited, the Girl Guides, the Yukon Art Society, Kluane National Park, the Faro Crane and Sheep Viewing Festival, which is set for May 6 to 8.
Let us also look at the international cooperation taking place now on the Yukon-Alaska border near Beaver Creek. As of this morning, the crew had placed 34 pregnant caribou in the pen at the Big Boundary Lake and now has the invaluable cooperation of the U.S. Parks Service in helping to restore the Chisana caribou herd.
This project is also an example of exciting partnerships with the World Wildlife Fund, the White River First Nation, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Canadian Wildlife Service and the many schoolchildren who helped pick the lichen for the mamas and their baby caribou. This unique project is being watched by other jurisdictions, as they, too, search for ways to restore caribou herds in their areas.
I encourage everyone to seek out the special events being offered this month and get to know the Yukonís fantastic biodiversity.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to the Yukonís own biodiversity month, April. This initiative draws together various events in the Yukon. It is very important in making Yukoners aware of our greatest resource: our natural world. There are several events on the April calendar, including lectures on birds and sheep, the annual Celebration of Swans and the public biodiversity forum, among many other educational events.
Biodiversity is a concept that expresses the interaction of various species of animal and plant life on our earth. We live in a fragile environment in which this interdependence of species plays a vital part in the survival of all of life on earth, including our own.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great concern that we have read of a report from London, England, that warns that two-thirds of natural processes that support life are being degraded by human pressure. This report is backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries. In effect, one species, human beings, is now considered a danger to the other 10 million species on our planet.
Their report says that human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planetís ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. For instance, humans now use between 40 and 50 percent of all available fresh water, and fish stocks are over-harvested. Deforestation increases the risk of malaria and cholera and opens the way to new diseases. These facts are shocking and they are of extreme importance to us in the Yukon. We are too complacent about our vast wilderness and our many lakes and rivers. We take it for granted that we can shoot our moose every year and go fishing all summer long. We are more horrified about the natural process of wildfires than we are about allowing old and new mine sites to leach toxic chemicals into our waterways. We are living on borrowed time, depleting natural assets as if there were no tomorrow.
We in this House must understand and act upon these devastating facts in our own best interest of conservation and preservation. We have been fighting for two decades to ensure the survival of the Porcupine caribou herd, and we cannot lose this vital part of our natural world. We cannot leave global warming and climate change, the loss of wetlands and selling our precious water overseas to go unheeded.
Biodiversity is not just an interesting concept. Conservation is not just a luxury. We ignore them at our peril.
Ms. Duncan: Today I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus in recognition of April as Biodiversity Awareness Month. In celebration of Biodiversity Awareness Month, we have an opportunity to pay tribute to our environment, the support of life itself, here in the Yukon. There are many unique celebrations planned throughout the Yukon in celebration of Biodiversity Awareness Month. Members have spoken of some of them ó our need for awareness ó and the print media has advertised them very well, so Yukoners can participate and appreciate our unique environment.
One of the events particularly near and dear to my heart being held this month that I would like to recognize is the 11th †anniversary of Swan Haven at Marsh Lake. Swan Haven is a cooperative initiative. Itís a venture between the Girl Guides of Canada-Guides du Canada, Yukon Council, Ducks Unlimited and the Government of Yukon ó at that time, the Department of Renewable Resources.
Swan Haven was officially opened 11 years ago this month. It has offered Yukoners and visitors alike a unique opportunity to share in the true heralding of spring here in the Yukon: the arrival of the trumpeter and tundra swans.
The swans are arriving and travelling throughout Yukon, and I encourage all Yukoners to celebrate, to welcome spring, to take a moment to recognize our fragile and unique environment during Biodiversity Awareness Month.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, the Chair has for tabling two reports of the Auditor General of Canada, both dated February 2005. They are entitled Energy Solutions Centre Inc. and Mayo-Dawson City Transmission System Project.
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. 55: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I move that Bill No. 55, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 55, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 55 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
†Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that Yukoners each year celebrate Flag Day to honour and celebrate our Canadian flag; and
†THAT Government of Yukon buildings, highway camps and offices are proud to fly the Canadian and Yukon flags; and
THAT given the windy nature of the locations of these flags, they often become worn, tattered and dirty; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to ensure that we are always proudly displaying our Yukon and Canadian flags in good form by designating Flag Day as the day to replace our worn flags.
Mr. Cathers: I rise today to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the actions by the present Yukon government to enhance wildlife viewing opportunities through purchasing the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, finalizing two new territorial parks, Tombstone and Fishing Branch, and advancing the Tombstone interpretative program, are benefiting public understanding and appreciation of wildlife and contributing to the Yukonís economic growth.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Premier to rescind the cooperation agreement on oil, gas and pipeline development he recently signed with the Premier of Alberta until he has had an opportunity to persuade the Premier of Alberta to join with the Yukon and the Government of Canada in opposition to drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of all printed or electronic documents and correspondence related to the forensic audit commissioned by the Government of Yukon for the Town of the City of Dawson, including, but not limited to, any instructions or exchange of information related to the forensic audit between any of the following persons: the minister, the deputy minister, the MLA for Klondike, the former Mayor of the Town of the City of Dawson, the trustee for the Town of the City of Dawson, the former treasurer for the Town of the City of Dawson and the former CAO for the Town of the City of Dawson, and the contractor who performed the forensic audit or any employee of that contractor; and
THAT this House do also issue an order for the return of a record of all the costs related to the Yukon government administration of the Town of the City of Dawson since January 1, 2001.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
Speaker: Before we proceed, the Chair would like to rule on a point of order raised Tuesday, March 29, during Question Period by the official opposition House leader.
The official opposition House leader raised the point of order in response to a remark by the Hon. Premier. The Hon. Premier had said, ďLet the record show that the official opposition, the NDP in this House, would support the purchase of tax-exempt fuel in contravention of the laws and policies and procedures that any government must follow.Ē
The Chair finds that there is a point of order in this case. One of the principles of parliamentary democracy is that all members should treat each other as honourable. To suggest that a member or members would support actions in contravention of the law is not consistent with this principle.
Similarly I would draw the Houseís attention to other remarks made last week by other members. Some members have questioned the ethics and morality of other members. The numeracy skills of some members have been drawn into question and there have been some not very subtle suggestions that certain members have not been entirely honest with the House.
I have noticed during my time in the Chair that members do not appreciate it when such remarks are made about them. I would suggest, therefore, that they not make such comments about other members. The Chair has been reluctant to intercede in debate and call members to order. The Chair accepts that members have strongly held views on the issues before this Assembly. The Chair also accepts that it is the duty of the members to express their views and represent the views of their constituents on these matters; however, the public interest is best served when members focus their comments on the issues before the House. The public interest is not served when members express themselves in a way that impugns the character of other members.
The Chair therefore asks all members to resist the temptation, if possible, to personalize debate. I thank you in advance for your adherence to this request.
We will now proceed with Question Period.
Question re:† ††Dawson City forensic audit
†Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, the contents and conclusions of the Dawson City forensic audit finally released last week are very serious and, as such, the audit process must be seen to be above reproach. The government motion by the minister to table the audit and the statements that were made by the minister last week left the impression that the audit was commissioned by the Dawson City trustee. The original contract and the extensions were signed by the deputy minister and the minister. Will the minister now correct the record and admit that it was the minister who was responsible for commissioning the audit?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The forensic audit was ordered at the request of the trustee.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister didnít really answer the question, in my mind. And there are more problems with the forensic audit. The terms of reference of the audit specifically require the auditor to seek clarifications and explanations as may be required. This is pretty standard audit practice. The auditor states in his report that he didnít do that. In fact, meetings that were arranged with people named in the report were actually cancelled by the auditor, and the minister commissioned this report. Why did the minister not ensure that the terms of reference were followed by the auditor?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The forensic auditor is a professional accountant with a specialization in a certain field of accounting. There are very few of these people authorized in Canada. Thatís the job heís doing, and heís following a procedure set out in his professional guidelines.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, he didnít do the job that was laid out in the terms of reference that formed part of the contract. Now, the audit costs ballooned by 200 percent over the initial estimate, to about $500,000, and elections have once again been delayed in Dawson City. Now weíre hearing that there wonít be an election in Dawson until this fall.
The auditor didnít fulfill the terms of reference. Does the minister believe that the Yukon people received full value for their dollar for this audit?
Hon. Mr. Hart: A forensic auditor has a specific job to do ó a specific item. I can refer the member opposite, if he wishes, to get an actual definition of what a forensic auditor does. I would be more than happy to provide him with that.
Did we get our moneyís worth? Yes. I believe ó and we have been advised by independent legal counsel ó that we got more than our moneyís worth. This gentleman did a professional job, and he did it based on his professional guidelines, outlined by his field of profession.
Question re: Dawson City forensic audit
†Mr. Hardy: Last Thursday, the government used its majority to have the report of the Dawson City forensic audit released as a publication of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. Now, curiously enough, the report is dated March 9, 2005, when the Legislative Assembly was not in a position to authorize its publication. It wasnít even sitting.
But even before the audit was tabled in this House, a local radio station published its findings. That station has now reported that the audit had been leaked to one of its reporters. Has the Premier identified the source of that leak and, if not, what steps has he taken to find out how this leak has occurred?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite is assuming lots of things made in the newspaper with regard to the leak. We have taken very close account of where our documentation is and where it has been since it was provided to us, and we donít believe that we have seen a releasing of the audit.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís interesting, Mr. Speaker. Iíd like to know where the radio station got all the information to post it first, or does this minister live in a vacuum? Because itís out there and it was out there before he tabled it.
There are some very serious issues involved here. Apparently the minister had legal advice that something in the audit report might result in a lawsuit against the government or some of the people involved in the reportís preparation. Thatís why he wanted it covered by the legislative privilege, but thereís another point the Premier needs to address here.
Has the Premier sought legal advice about whether the premature release of this document amounts to it being published before it was authorized in this House?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have been advised by independent legal advice on how to proceed with regard to tabling this document within this House and we have followed that procedure as per his outline.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, that begs the question if part of the advice that this minister or Premier got on the side was to release this document beforehand to cause damage so no one could respond.
I hope the Premier isnít taking this issue lightly. If someone within the government actively leaked this document to the media or allowed it to be leaked, that might be interpreted as causing it to be published. In other words, the minister might not have the immunity he thinks he does.
Mr. Speaker, the question of what caused Dawsonís financial meltdown should have been the subject of a public inquiry where everyone involved would have had the opportunity to tell their side of events under oath. Now that the forensic audit has been done, that should be the next step because there are far too many questions out there.
Will the Premier now agree to commission an inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act so the full story of what happened here, including the leak of the audited report, can finally see the light of day?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are going through our steps trying to figure out what happened with the City of Dawsonís financial situation. We appointed a trustee to take over the townís operation. The trustee requested a forensic audit. We went through that process. The forensic audit is now complete. We are reviewing the recommendations in that forensic audit. Weíre also in the midst of developing a long-term financial plan for the City of Dawson in that process. Once we have completed that, we hope to bring good governance and accountability to the citizens of Dawson so that they can elect a new council and have their own governing municipality. We intend to do that as soon as we can.
Question re: Kindergarten expansion
†Ms. Duncan: One of the Yukon Party campaign commitments ó and itís clearly stated in their platform ó was to conduct genuine public consultation on matters of importance to Yukoners. The Minister of Education will most certainly agree that one of the matters of importance to parents, childcare providers and educators is a childís introduction to school in kindergarten. Although he might recognize kindergarten as an important matter, he has completely omitted the genuine public consultation when he fundamentally changed kindergarten to an all-day program phased in this September to all schools.
Will the minister explain why he failed to genuinely consult with parents, school councils and childcare providers, and why he failed to demonstrate any kind of respect for professional educators by genuinely consulting with them about all-day kindergarten?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for that question and the memberís version about all-day kindergarten. The Department of Education is committed to providing the very best learning opportunities for all children and students, and full-day kindergarten is only part of that commitment. I want to state for the record and make it very clear to the member opposite that ó and I hope that the member really understands it ó the full-day kindergarten program is optional. Itís very simple. If a person doesnít want their child to go to the kindergarten, then they donít send them.
Ms. Duncan: Weíll address that particular point. I would like to focus on the fact, though, that the decision itself may or may not have merits. It is an important matter and there was no genuine public consultation on this fundamental change.
The president of the Yukon Teachers Association said publicly, ďWe werenít involved in any conversations. I was invited to the press conference.Ē This is an issue of respect, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Education has not shown any respect for the opinion of professional educators. Childcare providers who spend many, many hours with children and who are frequently invited to work with parents and educators have a distinct opinion on the ministerís change. They can outline a number of children for whom all-day kindergarten is simply not the right choice. Parents in my riding are justifiably angry. Their opinion has not been sought.
Speaker: Order please. Would the member ask the question, please?
Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. Would the minister explain why he failed to exercise any genuine public consultation on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, Mr. Speaker, it is merely an interpretation of the leader of the third party, which would lead us to believe that this was something done on the spur of the moment.
Mr. Speaker, I have personally had requests in my constituency about starting a full-time kindergarten program, which in fact happened at the Elijah Smith Elementary School, and I must add that it had great success. Maybe that sort of troubles the members opposite.
Ms. Duncan: It may be that all-day kindergarten is the right choice for some children. It may be that itís not the right choice for every child. What the minister has done is that he has taken away the options for parents. What real option is available to parents, childcare providers, professional educators? Is it a real choice for parents to not enrol their children in kindergarten? Parents with children with late birthdays, such as November and December, make a choice to have their child start the next year. They still had a choice of a nice introduction with half-days. There used to be the option of all day at some schools and not at others. Now, parents are faced with one way, the ministerís way, and he didnít talk to anybody about it ó no one. There was no genuine public consultation.
Will the minister conduct genuine public consultation with childcare providers, parents and professional educators before he insists that there be all-day kindergarten everywhere?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The answer to the member opposite is no. I think that the request has been made by numerous people. Maybe three or four in the member oppositeís constituency disagree, while there are a lot of people in the territory who have requested this. Mr. Speaker, even some of the school councils have mentioned that it would be a good thing to put in place. The member opposite failed to mention, Mr. Speaker, that there is an option here. The option is to send or not to send your child to half-time or full-time kindergarten. That option remains for both. Mr. Speaker, I, for one, would surely send my child to kindergarten.
Question re: Yukon Agricultural Association, fairground location
†Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, last Thursday, I asked the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources a question about the Yukon Agricultural Associationís proposal for construction of the exhibition and fairgrounds within the Gunnar Nilsson and Mickey Lammersí research forest on the Mayo Road.
Since the minister was finally available to answer questions on this matter, it seemed like a good opportunity to clear up some of the confusion; however, this ministerís response has created more confusion. On Thursday, he refused to tell us what he told the YAA regarding the size of its land application. He also refused to assure the House there was no connection between the resignations of the YAA officials and the governmentís role in this fiasco. Then he said the Yukon government didnít have anything to do with the contract issued by the YAA; however, the YAAís January newsletter states otherwise. Yukoners deserve the truth. Who is wrong ó the YAA newsletter or the minister?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Correcting the member opposite on his take with respect to the Yukon Agricultural Association ó certainly we worked with the Yukon Agricultural Association on the concept of having a fairground. They certainly looked at and went through a process on some government land on the Takhini Hot Springs Road. That was not successful.
As far as looking elsewhere, the Yukon Agricultural Association is actively looking for a place to build a fairground. As the minister overseeing agriculture, I support them wholeheartedly, and eventually we will get a fairground in the Whitehorse area that we can all live with and work with the community to make it a success.
Mr. McRobb: The minister failed to answer the question. Now, the question on Thursday asked the minister to disclose what involvement this Yukon Party government had behind the scenes in the developing or financing of the fairground proposal. The minister said none. However, the newsletter said that the Yukon government provided funding for the study and lawyer fees associated with setting up contracts between the YAA, Dave Loeks, and Kluane Mechanical Contractors Ltd., which was contracted to be the facility development manager of the entire project.
Does the minister still insist that the government had no involvement in this proposal?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Speaker, we as a government work very positively with the agricultural community. We certainly work with requests for funding and manpower for many of our organizations. My job is to work with the Yukon Agricultural Association in a positive way. We have done that and weíre moving ahead.
Certainly there have been issues out there, but thatís what the process is out there to do ó to address those issues. Weíve done that. Weíre moving on.
Mr. McRobb: Yukoners deserve to know what their government did in connection with the fairground proposal. Itís public money weíre dealing with here. The newsletter indicates the Yukon government was intrinsically involved with the whole proposal. It funded the study; it covered the legal fees for setting up the contracts, including the lucrative one-quarter million dollar contract to the YAA board member who has apparently resigned both from the board and from the contract.
Can the minister tell this House if it will extend this generosity to other Yukon non-profit organizations, or does it apply only to this one?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre talking about the Yukon Agricultural Association. Theyíre independent of government. I work with that organization in a positive way. Thatís my responsibility; thatís what Iím going to do in the future.
The insinuation that we or the government has done anything thatís irregular, that we wouldnít have done with any other organization, is just that: itís just conversation. Weíre working with the Agricultural Association, and we will do the same in the future.
Question re: Carmacks Copper, project champion
Mr. McRobb: This minister didnít fare much better with another question asked on Thursday about his project champion for the Carmacks copper mine project. Letís review the facts: the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources let a $20,000 sole-source contract on December 1, 2004, for a project champion of the Carmacks copper project. This same minister, in his role as minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation had, the previous month, appointed the same person to chair that public corporation on November 4. One of the critical issues to the Carmacks copper project is the supply of electricity, but how could the chair of Yukon Development Corporation negotiate the supply of electricity when heís getting paid to be project champion? Does the minister not see this as a potential conflict?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly I imagine if the gentleman did that, there would be a conflict, but heís not doing that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, weíre not getting much information here today. I want to follow up by asking the minister about another contract he let to this same person. On June 1, 2004, he gave the same individual another sole-source contract, this one for more than $24,000 to provide consulting and advisory services. Can the minister tell us whether that contract is still ongoing or has it been cancelled?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Speaker, thatís all public information. We in government certainly go out and hire the best people for the job at the time. So certainly do your homework ó the member opposite. Itís all public information and itís open to all Yukoners. We pick the best man for the job on whatever project we have going before us.
Mr. McRobb: This minister canít even answer a simple question. I asked him if the contract is still ongoing or if it has been cancelled. He says that itís public information. It is not public information. When contracts are cancelled, thereís no advisory or notice put out to anybody. Now, for the sake of the public interest, one must ask why this person is in a position to qualify for all of these lucrative contracts. Can the minister provide the terms of reference for all these contracts so the public can judge whether or not their interests are being properly served?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The people we hire to do specific contract work are qualified. We certainly critique their qualifications when we hire them. As far as the contracts, they are public information. We move forward on contracts all the time. The project champion is a very important cornerstone of how weíre going to address the mining industryís issues with government. Itís very positive and I look forward to seeing a mine in the future.
Question re: Habitat protection areas
†Mrs. Peter: Last week, outside this House, the Environment minister stated that the Yukon government is moving forward with habitat protection areas in the Bonnet Plume, Snake and Turner Lake wetlands. Will the minister tell us exactly what process is being followed to implement these habitat protection areas, who is being consulted and when the government expects to sign off on them?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite knows full well, the Umbrella Final Agreement and its implementation component clearly spell out what procedures have to be adhered to, what the consultation process entails, who would be involved in the consultation process, and to what extent. This is all clearly spelled out in the implementation component of this document.
Mrs. Peter: There was a premature announcement made on the radio a few days ago. In typical Yukon Party fashion, the ministerís announcement caught the environmental community completely by surprise. We have no idea if First Nations have been consulted, or even the governmentís friends in the oil and gas industry. This is unacceptable.
Will the minister assure Yukoners that in future they will be consulted before the minister makes claims such as this?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The majority of the Turner wetlands, the Snake and the Bonnet Plume region, were alienated from a land disposition process quite some time ago. Iím sorry but I donít have the exact date, but it was some time ago. To that end, the department has undertaken a procedure to identify these areas, which is clearly defined, clearly laid out, and it deals with the areas accordingly.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party government has done nothing over the last two and a half years to initiate any new parks or protected areas in the Yukon. Not one of the 54 nominated wetland areas has been formally designated as protected. In the Stewart River area, the proposed Devilís Elbow habitat protection area has been negotiated but the minister hasnít signed it off yet. If and when he does, it will be the first habitat protection area set up outside of any land claims agreements. Will the minister tell us what his plans are for any other habitat protection areas besides the three and what consultation process he plans to use?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: To answer the last question, weíll be using the consultation protocol that we have in place for the First Nation.
Let me just back up a little bit, Mr. Speaker. The Fishing Branch was created by this government. The management plan was implemented by this government. The Tombstone Park was established by this government. The management plan for Tombstone is being worked on and we hope to have some very good news in the not-too-distant future with respect to that management plan and its implementation. Kusawa is another park that will be coming into full force and effect very soon. So to say that our government has done nothing ó the contrary is the reality of the day. We have done a lot. We have probably created more parks under our watch than any previous government, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Kindergarten expansion
Ms. Duncan: I would like to question the Minister of Education once again this afternoon. In February of this year, the minister announced that Yukon schoolchildren would now begin school with a full day of kindergarten. Earlier in Question Period, the minister said that some parents are quite excited about this; others are certainly less so. One thing they all agree on is that they wish to be consulted about it before it happens. Indeed, they wanted the Yukon Party to fulfill their election commitment to Yukoners of genuine public consultation about matters of importance.
However, in this instance, the minister simply announced it without consulting anybody. Why did the minister not talk to any of his partners in education before deciding to go with full-day kindergarten?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess weíre going to have the second round here on this issue. It almost appears that maybe the member opposite has some issues because this government started it, went ahead and initiated the full-time kindergarten program. Mr. Speaker, this was a request, like I said, from numerous members of my constituency and other people Iíve met around town. Iíve heard comments, for example, in line at the bank ó Iím pleased to see weíre having full-time kindergarten.
So I think the options are very clear here. If a parent does not want to send their child to kindergarten, then donít.
Ms. Duncan: It might come as news to the minister opposite, but casual conversation does not constitute general public consultation on matters of public importance. Who was informed or consulted about this major new initiative? Not school councils, not parents, not childcare providers, not the teachers.
Again, I would remind the minister that the president of one of the key partners in education, the president of the Yukon Teachers Association, said, ďWe werenít involved in conversations. I was invited to the press conference.Ē What respect from a government that promised genuine public consultation.
Why is the minister prepared to accept a failing grade in public consultation in proceeding with this announcement? Why will he not conduct genuine public consultation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would question, first and foremost, in whose opinion this minister failed to consult. Itís quite obvious from all the comments that come from the opposite side of this House that this government would never be able to consult enough to please the opposition.
Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Party promised genuine public consultation. The minister has recognized that he didnít conduct any public consultation about this major change to the school system in decades. His other answer today has been, ďItís optional.Ē Well, how optional is the minister really making it? He has said absolutely that there will be full-day kindergarten, without any consultation ó not with educators, not with childcare providers, not with parents.
The minister has made an arbitrary decision. Will he at least conduct some kind of genuine public consultation and offer parents some real options before this program is put in place this fall? Will he offer parents some real options and conduct genuine public consultation, as the Yukon Party committed to do? The minister hasnít done it so far.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There have been several good indicators that this program is very necessary, including members of my own family, including members of my First Nation, including constituencies, including people such as educators.
The member opposite can get their information from wherever they get it. I have never had that member come and talk to me about it, either.
Anyway, when we talk about consultation ó I mean, letís look at some of the things the Yukon Party government does in education: community training trust fund, $1.5 million; education improvements at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, $95,000; youth employment strategy, $200,000; expanding course options for high school students, $50,000; literacy strategy, $100,000; Yukon excellence awards, $166,000. Anybody in their right mind would be ó anyone who would oppose so much money being put into education I would really have to question. What else can we do for the people in education?
And, again, FASD school-based, on-site training, $117,000, which is looking after the interests of every student in the territory, not a selected group. Yukon College training for FASD students ó
Speaker: Order please. Prior to proceeding to Orders of the Day, I just wanted to remind the Minister of Education about that type of terminology, ďin their right mindĒ. I understand that the comments are made in the heat of debate, but those types of comments are inappropriate, and I would ask the members not to use them.
Now, the time for Question Period has elapsed.
Question of privilege
Mr. Fairclough: Pursuant to Standing Order 7(1), I rise on a point of privilege regarding offensive comments the Premier addressed to me during Question Period on Thursday, March 21.
After reviewing the Blues for that day, I informed the Speaker in writing of my intention to raise this point today. During a relatively low-key exchange regarding the issue of Dawson City bridge, the Premier used the following expression: ďBefore the member stands up and starts beating his drum on First Nation relationsÖĒ. The expression ďbeating his drumĒ is a common expression and is not objectionable by itself; however, the way the Premier used this expression placed it directly in the context of First Nation relationships. All members of this House must be aware that the drum is a sacred cultural symbol for First Nation people because it relates to the heartbeat of Mother Earth. To use such a symbol in a careless or derogatory fashion, as the Premier did, is insulting and demeaning to First Nation people.
As one of three First Nation members of this Assembly, I believe the Premierís comment might have the effect of diminishing my right to represent the people of Mayo-Tatchun, both First Nation and non-First Nation.
If comments of this nature are permitted in this House and even applauded by members of the government caucus, this would cause great discomfort for any First Nation MLAs and the people they represent. This would be a clear abuse of our rights and privileges as members of the Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, the kind of language the Premier used has no place in the civilized forum where the public business is conducted. Iím asking you to direct the Premier to withdraw the remarks he made last Thursday and apologize, not just to me but to all Yukon First Nation people who were insulted by those remarks.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: You know, Mr. Speaker, itís unfortunate that weíre even having this discussion today on the floor of this Assembly. I think if we reflect back, we will quickly realize that there was no intent, no motivation, and nothing of what the member opposite is suggesting had anything to do with the debate or the discussion.
I went further in the public domain to respond to the member opposite by clearly stating to the member that if the member found some comment like this or any comment that I have made toward the member offensive in any way, I apologize publicly. Thatís an important fact in this matter, Mr. Speaker.
Further, if we want to deal with the real issues in this Legislative Assembly, like First Nation relations, then let us debate them. Let us debate the Yukon Forum and what weíve committed to do in building a relationship with First Nations. Let us debate the partnership in the Childrenís Act review. Let us debate the partnership in educational reform. Let us debate the partnership in correctional reform. Let us debate the north Yukon economic development agreement that weíve structured with First Nations in north Yukon. Let us discuss and debate our capital funding arrangement with the Vuntut Gwitchin. Let us debate the bilateral. Let us discuss First Nation relations constructively.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the Premier has gone way off the issue of the point of privilege and is expounding some of the accomplishments that he perceives his government has done. That is completely out of line with the matter at hand. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun felt offended. Many other people in the territory contacted our offices about this matter. The Premier takes it too lightly. Heís using this as an opportunity to advertise his government to Yukoners, and that is wrong.
Speaker: Member for Klondike, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 7(2), ďA member may always raise a question of privilege in the Assembly immediately after the words are spoken or the events occur that give rise to the question.Ē And the part 3, is ďThe Speaker may allow such a debate as is necessary to insist on the determination of whether there appears to be a prima facie case of breach of privilege and whether the matter is being raised at the earliest opportunity.Ē Pursuant to the Standing Orders, there was a suggestion of wrongdoing and there was a response made by those who were involved.
Speaker: †The Chair has heard enough for today. I will take this under advisement. I want a chance to review what everybody has said here.
However, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun did meet the notice of requirement found in Standing Order 7(1) by submitting a written notice to the office of the Speaker at 10:00 a.m. on todayís date. The Standing Order 7(4), as you know, states that the Speaker must rule on whether there appears to be, on the face of it, a case of breach of privilege and whether the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity. The normal practice of this House is to meet the earliest opportunity requirement. The question of privilege must be raised at the time the event occurred or on the next sitting day. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun, by raising this matter today, has met that requirement. However, given the remarks of the Premier just now, the Chair feels that this matter has been dealt with and will not be providing a full ruling on this point of privilege.
I will, however, come back on the opposition House leaderís point of order and the government House leaderís perspective as well.
Weíll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 15: Second Reading ó continued
Clerk: Bill No. 15, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie; adjourned debate, the Hon. Mr. Edzerza.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, as other members and I have stated previously, this is the biggest budget in the history of the Yukon, and I might add that it is a budget designed to meet the needs of the Yukon citizens. I am pleased to be a member of a government that demonstrates such care and consideration for all citizens in the Yukon Territory.
I have heard many negative comments from the members opposite, especially from the leader of the official opposition; however, thatís understandable, because I believe that is the only recourse they have to combat the positive actions this government is taking.
I also mentioned Kwanlin Dun First Nationís ratification of their land claims and self-government agreements. As a Kwanlin Dun First Nation member, I would like to publicly thank the Yukon Party government for having the political will to have this settlement become a reality. I can personally testify to complications and barriers put up by the NDP government and the Liberals when they were in government, which created undue hardships for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation negotiators and leadership.
So, once again, thanks to the Yukon Party government and staff for a job well done.
There were numerous comments made by the opposition that should be corrected; however, I will not stoop to that level and waste my time straightening out the record, but I will respond to some made by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun because they were, in my opinion, personal and they involved me as the minister. I will refer to the Blues of March 31, 2005 where the Member for Mayo-Tatchun made the comment: ďThe 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 doesnít have the willingness to sit down and work things out with the First Nation.Ē Well, the fact is that I have never had any phone calls or e-mails with regard to that talk show, so I want to correct the record; it was very incorrect. The only comment that I did get back on behalf of the talk show was that it was very one-sided and it was not in favour of the government.†
I would ask the Member for Mayo-Tatchun to maybe review his morals or the morals of that ≠≠ó
Speaker: No, no, Hon. Minister. Just earlier today, the Speakerís statement: the publicís interest is not served when members express themselves in a way that impugns the characters of other members. Iíd ask the Minister of Education to not do that, please.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. However, I guess Iíll close that topic off by just saying that the issue belongs where it is.
I wonít make any more comments with regard to that; however, I will talk a little bit about that noon-hour show, because there is quite a section in the Blues with regard to the talk show.
This minister received an invitation in advance to go to that talk show. It was supposed to be for a period from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. At approximately three minutes to 1:00, the narrator of that noon show requested that I stay for another hour. Because I had other commitments, I had to decline. The first part of that show was to discuss whether or not First Nations should take down the education program.
What the public doesnít know is that I found the first part of the show quite informative, and I rather enjoyed a lot of the discussion. But when the microphones were turned off is when there were interesting things that happened with regard to some of the comments made in the Blues. That was the fact that this minister was verbally attacked by the two other guests, to the point of where there was actually a threat of physical violence. In fact, another individual in that studio had to intervene and say that there would be none of that in the studio.
After that incident took place, I left the studio, and it became a talk show where everyone got a chance to bash the minister who was not present. I thought that was very unprofessional of the CBC station to even continue with this discussion; however, that was the decision of the narrator and whoever is responsible for running CBC.
Now, I guess that some of the other comments I received and other phone calls I received ó people were very suspicious as to why only members of family and whatnot of ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order, Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I know youíve been listening to the discussions by the Minister of Education very carefully and have called him to order several times on his remarks. One of the things he just said is that he was attacked by the two other guests, which would include me and the Chief of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, on the radio noon show on CBC.
The member opposite must be feeling some pressure on this, and I think itís wrong for him to say he was verbally attacked. I believe that his actions throughout the months prior to this radio announcement are what were being debated. It was the fact the First Nation raised the issue of drawing down education. That was the issue, and maybe some of the actions taken by the Minister of Education were debated, and thatís what the call-in show was all about. I believe the minister is out of order for accusing the chief and me ó the chief cannot defend himself in this House right here. Itís out of order.
Speaker: This is clearly a dispute between members. I have no jurisdiction over what goes on during a radio program. It doesnít happen within the confines of this House. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun said that I had to bring the minister to order several times. In fact I had to bring him to order once. So there is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As I was saying before I was interrupted, there were in fact calls made to me in regard to suspicion around what appeared to be only select people who were able to get through the lines to make responses to all the accusations against our government and me as minister. Well, I was not there to defend myself. I thought the way the show ended was very unprofessional. I was kind of sad, because it was a good show to start with, but it turned into somewhat of just a kind of bashing at the end. However, Iím not going to continue with this part any more because, like I said, as the minister I would be responding to criticism steadily throughout this whole talk on the budget, and I would prefer to continue with some of the good stuff that comes out of the budget.
I know that some of the members opposite also made comments that this government does not hire First Nation in government, for example. The fact is the Public Service Commission and the government have been doing a good job in this area. There has been enormous progress. For example, the dollar allocation for the First Nation Training Corps has increased from $302,000 in 2004-05 to $502,000 to 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.
I would also state for the record that in the year 2000, there were 300 First Nation people employed by YTG. Today in 2005, there are 346, which is an increase of approximately 13 percent. This increase is due, in part, to several initiatives within the public sector. They include ongoing implementation of the employment equity policy, participation by First Nation representatives on some panels, and others. Training for aboriginal employees has occurred through temporary assignments between the Government of Yukon and First Nation governments, plus the First Nation Training Corps program. The implementation of the Yukon-wide representative public service plan is ongoing.
The leader of the third party was up in arms over this government implementing full-day kindergarten. Well, Mr. Speaker, one very important point of interest that the general public should be aware of is that this program is optional. Again, if a parent feels that their child is not ready to attend full-time kindergarten, they donít have to send them. That is at their discretion.
To continue on, our major election commitment to Yukoners in 2002 was to build a sustainable and competitive Yukon economy. The statistics speak to that. According to the statistics released on March 11, the Yukonís seasonally adjusted labour force totalled 17,000 as of February 2005. This figure represents a nine-percent increase over February 2004. Yukonís seasonally adjusted employment in February 2005 was 16,100 ó an increase of 10.3 percent over February 2004.
Mr. Speaker, the optimism is all around us. Yukoners are coming back. They are remaining in Yukon and more are working. This government will continue to work hard to ensure that continues.
Unlike the NDP and the Liberals who appear to oppose development, Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Education, I can stand here today and proudly state that our government is making a major investment in this budget, both in physical infrastructure and programming. I am also proud to say that the Education staff members have done tremendous work to produce all the initiatives and the platform that this government put before them.
Letís talk about the school construction expansions in renovations, which this year will total $11.3 million. Some $5.4 million has been allocated for construction of the Tantalus School in Carmacks; $2.65 million has been allocated for the Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria expansion and renovation; $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 to improve the ventilation system for the Jack Hulland Elementary School. Our government has been encouraging Yukoners to enrol in trades and technology training, again because of high demand for tradespeople across North America. Tradespeople are important and contribute significantly to our economy. I am proud to state that the trades programming at Yukon College is currently at capacity.
And thatís a good sign, Mr. Speaker. It speaks to our economy and to the interest that people are starting to have in the trades.
The Department of Education has allocated $1.5 million for community training funds in this budget. A pre-employment program for the pipe 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 pipefitting 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 local and regional job opportunities in construction for the next building season. This program has nine applicants and will be completed in early April.
Providing training opportunities in the communities is important to our government, as these training programs allow residents to develop the skills they need to take advantage of local work opportunities and provide them with valuable skills they can use for the rest of their lives.
In keeping with our 2002 election commitment, $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. The ILC is staffed by two full-time teachers and two remedial tutors. To date, 61 individuals aged 15 to 21 are enrolled at the ILC, and I am proud to state that we recently had one graduate. Our government sees value in all students. We want to ensure each and every Yukon youth has the opportunity to obtain their grade.
With regard to this school, it gives me a very warm feeling in my heart to know that some of the youth who basically thought they had nowhere to go in education have now found that they can continue. Some of the feedback Iíve been getting about some of the students, is just nothing but positive comments on how excited some young people are about being able to achieve good marks while attending this school.
We are 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 ILC are also offered work experience opportunities that will count as credit toward high school graduation. The cost of this school totals $48,000 plus.
Our government has made literacy a priority because we want Yukoners to have access to the training they need to succeed in the workforce and in their communities. Accordingly, 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. The intent of full-day kindergarten is to ensure that students receive the instruction and development time they need so they can approach grade 1 with a strong set of skills.
Mr. Speaker, the program was piloted in the Elijah Smith School, and students showed a marked improvement in their learning during the year and had a more successful transition to elementary school. Full-time kindergarten will be implemented at the following schools in two phases, based on the 2005-06 budget: phase 1, beginning September of 2005: Selkirk Elementary, Grey Mountain Primary, Christ the King Elementary, Takhini Elementary, Jack Hulland Elementary and Holy Family Elementary.
In phase 2, beginning September of 2006, we will add Hidden Valley Elementary, Robert Service School, Whitehorse Elementary English and French immersion, and Golden Horn Elementary.
The nine Whitehorse schools join l'…cole …milie Tremblay and Elijah Smith Elementary, which currently operate full-time kindergarten programs. Robert Service will join Tantalus and Johnson Elementary as the rural schools with full-day programs. Other rural schools have two years of full-day kindergarten for four- and five-year-olds.
Mr. Speaker, phase 1 will cost approximately $300,000 to implement in the 2005-06 fiscal year, and, again, contrary to what opposition members have stated on the floor of this House, this request was a high demand, and it is not mandatory.
Mr. Speaker, I want to state for the record some of Educationís new initiatives for 2005-06, which include community training funds of $1.5 million; education improvements at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, $90,000 to $95,000; youth employment strategy, $200,000; expanding course options for high school students, $50,000; literacy strategy, $100,000; Yukon excellence awards, $166,000.
The student training and employment program: the salary has increased the wage to $14.40 per hour this year. Student grant indexing, $100,000; FASD school-based, on-site training and support for teachers, $117,000; Yukon College training for FASD students, $133,000; full-day kindergarten, $300,000; Individual Learning Centre, more than $480,000. That is the ILC I was referring to earlier. Aboriginal languages, for two more instructors, $72,000; development of First Nations curriculum, $500,000. This is to ensure that the grades 5 and 11 curriculum will be developed under the Umbrella Final Agreement and other initiatives. Late French immersion, $185,000; education reform, $794,000. Again, this is an initiative involving First Nations to determine what would best suit all Yukoners. Cultural programming activities, $305,000; Tantalus School construction, $5.4 million; Teslin School renovations, $2.4 million.
Mr. Speaker, the list can go on and on, but I think the one thing of importance again was to talk about all the initiatives happening at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Our government realizes that inmates need education as well as anyone else, and we have started a number of programs, which include log building, advanced first aid, fire suppression, small engine repair, welding and carpentry.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís unfortunate we had to get the hook, but these things happen, I guess.
It gives me pleasure today to get up here and respond to some of the comments that have been made. The government has tabled the largest ever budget in the history of the Yukon, again. It was something they told us last year that they were going to do last year and wouldnít do again, but lo and behold, they did it.
I think one of the issues about the budget has to do with accountability for the budget and what the public expectations are about budgets, budget documents, and how that is communicated to the public and how itís communicated to the Legislature. What we witnessed this year was that many of the announcements regarding the budget were made outside the Legislature prior to it being tabled here in the Legislature.
I think that the minister, while his comments about notifying the public about upcoming capital projects is valid ó the government has the opportunity to change that. It was previous practice to actually table the capital estimates in the fall. The other thing available to the government is that if the Premier could have gotten it together, maybe we could have been in the Legislature in February to debate and pass this budget before the funds were necessary on March 31. That way we wouldnít have had to go through the whole process of millions of dollarsí worth of special warrants and the interim supply bill, which the government didnít even trust us to pass.
We did. We didnít have a problem with that. I think the public is concerned about the way that was done and the way the Legislature does its business. They feel we should tone it down a little bit and that we should get along, but itís hard to tone it down and itís hard to work in consensus or collaboration with the side opposite when they donít seem willing to do that, when they begin the Legislative Assembly a short six or seven days before the end of the fiscal year to debate a $784-million budget. Whatís that about? Why couldnít we have been ready?
Iím sure we could have been ready. I recall the Minister of Health and Social Services last fall, toward the end of the sitting, saying that he was making good progress on the upcoming budget and that he was going to be ready, but there we were, the end of March. I think people expect more.
The other thing to do with accountability concerns the responses the ministers give, or the availability of government ministers. I had this raised with me a couple of times, and there have been some announcements, there have been some controversial announcements. I wonít delve into the specifics of them, but I hope that the government, in their $784 million budget, will find somewhere in the budget to get cellphones for the ministers so they can be reached, so they can be available for comment when the media calls and wants to ask them questions about things theyíre involved in, decisions theyíve made.
They make decisions and then they head for Watson Lake, and theyíre unavailable for comment. The public wants to know what thatís about. The government needs to show a bit more willingness, as well, to work with this side of the House. We werenít provided any opportunity ó other than I suppose our conversations in the Legislature last spring and last fall ó to provide input into any of the creation of a budget.
I note that the government provided a one-page summary of community distribution for the capital budget. It wasnít the document we were expecting. Another thing about the way the money is distributed, if you look at the list, there are several small, unincorporated communities listed, and I canít help but notice ó being the Member for Mount Lorne ó that Mount Lorne is not even on the list. There are lots of other small communities, but Mount Lorne is not receiving anything in the 2005-06 capital budget ó according to this document here. Maybe thatís a reflection on the way the government does its consultation.
It was interesting that there were budget consultations in various communities around the Yukon. Some of them were well-attended, I imagine ó I donít know. I also heard some of them werenít very well-attended, but when I talked to residents and representatives of the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, they wondered why there was no budget consultation in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne.
I guess it didnít really make the Premierís radar screen when he was carrying out those consultations, looking for direction from the citizens of the territory on what areas were a priority for them and what areas, overall ó what they had to contribute to the government putting together both the operation and maintenance and the capital budgets.
I have to say, though, that I was pretty pleased when I requested a meeting with the wildland fire review. They held a meeting out in Mount Lorne and, by all reports, it was better attended than the one that they held in Whitehorse. The minister even showed up to the meeting in Mount Lorne, for which I thank him. It was nice to see him there listening to what the people of Mount Lorne had to say about the past wildfire season. We know it was a difficult season for the people who worked on the fires and the people who worked behind the scenes, and I am sure it was difficult for the minister himself. But it was good that he showed up to hear the views of people who live in an area that is really at risk for wildfires.
They have lots of concerns about the area that they live in, with the way that the forests are comprised. They are well overdue for a fire. So we have to be very vigilant in our communities about preventing wildfires and doing the work and making sure that we are continually watching.
Iíd like to make some comments about the previous speaker, as well. He started to list a whole bunch of new initiatives that the government is doing in education, and I couldnít help but question the way that he phrased it or put it. He spoke of them as if they were new initiatives. Iím not familiar with all of those initiatives that he raised, but I am pretty familiar with one in particular, which was the community training trust fund. I believe the figure that he used was $1.5 million, that this is a new initiative of the government this year.
Well, itís not a new initiative of the government. Community training trust funds have been around for several years. They were an initiative of the previous NDP government. They were later reduced substantially by the government that followed, and I encouraged the government, I think, on the first day we sat after the election, the first day we came to this House. I encouraged the minister to boost the funding to those community training trust funds into Yukon College.
That was the first day we sat in the Legislature, and the minister took me up on that. Last spring, he raised the base grant to Yukon College. So this is not a new initiative. As a matter of fact, if you look at the forecast for the previous year, youíll find that they actually are forecasting $2 million in training trust funds so $1.5 million doesnít seem like hardly enough, maybe.
The other thing that the previous speaker said was that we on this side of the House oppose development. Well, I disagree. We donít oppose development. What we oppose is unplanned, irresponsible development. What we want to see is responsible planning. So, whether itís land use planning, or planning for development, we want to ensure that the environment and our communities are not affected in a negative manner by the development.
There are lots of examples we could use for that. There is the example of the Whitehorse Copper land development, and Iím hoping that the minister is going to work with the recommendations of the municipality in that regard. They probably donít go as far as many of my constituents and the constituents in the neighbouring riding would like, but as least it was an attempt to work together with the territorial government. Thatís one area of development where citizens have shown concern, and we on this side of the House respect that.
This government seems to be racing into the boom economy. There is this project and that project, and weíve got pipelines and railroads and all kinds of things that are on the horizon. The unfortunate thing is that all this tied together ó pipelines, railroads, and weíve got the Canada Winter Games coming. There is going to be lots of economic activity.
In case the members on the side opposite havenít noticed, the real estate market is pretty hot right now. What that leads to is that it makes it harder. Low interest rates are great, I suppose, for people getting into the housing market. But in a hot real estate market where there arenít enough units to meet the demand, the price goes up.
What usually follows a boom, Mr. Speaker ó in case they havenít noticed ó is a bust. What we need to do is plan for the future by doing something that is sustainable, and not go up and down, and up and down ó because itís the busts that hurt.
So, weíve got all these projects coming onstream. I seem to recall ó maybe Iím repeating myself from a previous response to a budget speech, but when we get these big projects, we end up with things like increased rents, and we need to make allowances for affordable housing.
When projects like this take place, the rental housing market is really hard on those who are working in minimum-wage jobs. They struggle because the rents traditionally rise when there is not enough housing to meet the demand of those who are in need of rental housing. So, there is going to be an influx of people; there is going to be lots of activity. Weíve got the Canada Winter Games coming, railroads, pipelines, mines. We need to think about the people who arenít going to be able to participate, who will be participating in the other economy here in Whitehorse and in our other communities.
Itís the other communities out there that often suffer, the smaller communities where there isnít a lot of economic activity, and thatís one of the areas where this government could actually make some improvement and do more to contribute to economic growth in those smaller communities.
I just talked about some of the social concerns. The other things, I suppose, are the environmental concerns that some or all these projects are taken into consideration. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is talking about all kinds of mines. Heís talking about Yukon Zinc and Carmacks Copper Thereís a lot of exploration and mining going on, but heís not being upfront about what requirements the government is putting on these new developments, should they go ahead. Hopefully, there will be a requirement to have some sort of a reclamation bond posted, similar to what happened earlier with other mines. I believe at Viceroy there was a bond posted to do the reclamation, to ensure that the taxpayer is not saddled with huge reclamation costs to clean up the mess. We want the development done responsibly, and we want to make sure that the cost of that legacy ó whatís left for our children and our grandchildren to clean up ó is not borne by the taxpayer.
Thatís picked up at the front end with the development, with the production and sale of whatever resources are being produced. I donít think thatís too much to ask. Iím sure the government can understand that. I read today that the projected cost of cleaning up the mine site at Elsa and Keno is in the neighbourhood of $65 million. Well, thatís almost 10 percent of the governmentís total budget for a year. I know that it wouldnít happen in a year but if the taxpayers of the Yukon had to pick up a tab like that, this government would go broke really fast.
I have the other things in the budget that Iíd like to touch on and that the public have raised with me. I talked earlier about the availability of the Premier and his ministers in responding, but people are also wondering what the governmentís game is with regard to the big ad campaign that paints such a rosy picture. It paints a rosy picture of whatís going on in the Yukon, and the Yukon Party itself has started putting little ads in the paper. I donít know, maybe weíre ramping up for an election; Iím not sure. But it tends to paint a picture that the people I talk to on the street and in my community donít always buy into. On the environmental side, I guess, there has been a counter-ad campaign that Iím sure members opposite would think also doesnít paint an accurate picture.
Surely, Mr. Speaker, there has to be a balance somewhere in-between, where we can agree, but that means sitting down and talking. The people I talked to are concerned about the large, full-page ads that the government takes out to promote the actions of the government, and itís taxpayersí dollars that are being used to do that. They donít totally like the idea of seeing all that money being spent. I know itís good for the newspapers, but you have to remember that itís the taxpayersí dollars that are being spent ó itís not to do advertising for the government initiatives. It paints the picture that the government wants it to paint.
We need to think about that when weíre spending taxpayersí money. Weíre using their money to tell them the story, but itís a story they have a hard time believing. They have a hard time believing it, I think, especially in some of the smaller communities around the Yukon. The economic picture in a lot of the small communities isnít as bright, and the real estate market isnít as high in the smaller communities as it is in Whitehorse. Times are a lot tougher. People are having a hard time getting employment.
In that same vein, I also have some other concerns around things to do with the environment. We heard tributes today for Biodiversity Awareness Month, and the minister talked about all the good things he thinks heís doing. He talked about wetlands. The fact of the matter is that the minister has been dragging his hip waders through the swamp and not doing anything to protect wetlands.
Yet there have been numerous requests and proposals in front of the minister ó one in particular that my colleague for Mayo-Tatchun has brought up with the minister on several occasions ó and the minister is not really getting his job done. Heís not paying attention to what people are telling him in that community about what their desires are and what theyíre entitled to.
I have some concerns as well to do with infrastructure dollars coming from the federal government. If you read the budget document, the first little bit of the budget document ó I think the Member for Whitehorse Centre probably put it most aptly in saying that the first 15 or 20 minutes of the budget speech sounded like it should have been delivered by the federal Minister of Finance, Mr. Goodale, because it basically was announcing a lot of federal dollars that were coming to the Yukon and explaining that here in the Legislature.
I have some concerns about the way that this government is distributing some of those federal dollars. First we have the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, and some of the latest money that flowed was set aside for waterfront development in Carcross, and I think that thatís probably a good idea and I hope that it benefits that community. The majority of that infrastructure money is being spent here in Whitehorse.
If you recall, I just briefly mentioned previously that the times in some of the smaller communities are tough as well.
Then we have the municipal rural infrastructure fund, which was announced with great fanfare. It has been announced with great fanfare several times over the years, but just recently it was announced again. They had the federal minister here, I believe it was in January, and I believe the federal government is providing $16 million over four or five years and the territorial government is going to match that with another $16 million. Hopefully, municipalities will also match that if they are able to, and that will benefit communities.
My interpretation of the municipal rural infrastructure fund ó I read the agreement, and I have to admit that it is targeted at communities of less than 120,000, so the Yukon fits the bill. But thatís in a Canadian context ó communities and cities under 120,000. In a Yukon context, I would argue that Whitehorse is urban, that itís not rural. Iím not saying that none of this money should be spent in Whitehorse ó that is the furthest thing from my mind. But what weíve watched recently is the Premier and the minister negotiating a deal for the athletes village for the 2007 Canada Winter Games, and the minister and the Premier have tied up ó I believe itís about $6 million ó to building the athletes village from the municipal rural infrastructure fund.
Thatís a substantial portion of that fund, and itís being spent here in Whitehorse. Now we have another proposal that will be going to the committee that decides whether or not these projects meet the criteria of the municipal rural infrastructure fund, a committee composed of the Yukon government and the federal government. I believe that the Association of Yukon Communities has observer status at those talks.
Thereís another proposal going to this committee to fund a ski chalet at Mount Sima. Iím not saying this project is not worthy; what Iím saying is that there was an expectation that projects from smaller communities would be funded under this program. Itís for green projects, itís for water and sewer infrastructure, itís for a multitude of infrastructure needs in small communities.
Iíll go back to that argument: itís the municipal rural infrastructure fund. Whitehorse is probably the most urbanized city north of 60 in Canada, with all kinds of services. What we need to do is look at the other communities out there and their needs: water and sewer in Carmacks, sewer in Dawson. Some of these projects are proceeding, hopefully, but there are other needs out there as well. I understand the water and sewer in Carmacks will be fine for one side of the river but wonít be available on the other side.
Thatís a travesty, in my mind. That money is in the agreement for municipalities and First Nation governments and, as well, there is also a provision where the federal government will waive the requirement for the matching portion from the municipality to a certain point. I believe I read that they will fund up to 50 percent of the total project where necessary, that it will exceed the one-third in cases where smaller municipalities donít have the money or the base. Itís about improving the quality of life in small communities. This government needs to, once again, show a willingness to take into consideration those smaller communities and their needs. There are lots of projects out there. Another community project that appears to be missing this year, which has been a long-standing request that I havenít found funding for, is recreation facilities in the community of Mayo. I hope Iím wrong about that, but I couldnít find any substantial money for a recreation facility being built in Mayo. There are recreation facilities being built in other communities, and they have had a long-standing request for a new facility in that community. The facilities that they have are getting old, and the community has concerns about that.
Iíd like to thank the Minister of Justice for the briefing we had today on the Justice budget. I have some questions for him, and Iím sure weíll be getting into that when we get into departments. So the minister can get this information ahead of time, I was surprised by his announcement that there is going to be increased mental health services at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and that First Nation and elder activities are going to be taking place there. I know my colleague, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, has been asking this minister and the minister from the previous government to try to get some of these activities happening, and they are happening.
But I really have a concern about $35,000 for a workshop. The minister is a tradesperson and Iím a tradesperson ó there are a few tradespeople here in the Legislature ó and $35,000 isnít going to build a very big workshop for the people who need it. So Iíd be interested to know just what the ministerís plans are in that regard.
I guess one of the other problems I have with the actions of this government is what we talked about last week with respect to P3s. The Premier, in answer to a question about the bridge and the P3s, said he cannot and will not hand out contracts to just any corporation or First Nation ó he canít do that.
I understand that, but the process that they used actually provided for the elimination of a local company, and I donít feel thatís fair. I think the minister needs to be clearer and the Premier needs to be clearer about this governmentís willingness to create these economic opportunities for all Yukoners, not just for the chosen few.
I already touched on some of the environmental issues and I know my colleague will be raising more of them, but itís interesting to note how much text there is about the environment, compared to other items in the budget speech, and how much of it actually talks about the environment. Compared with things like Energy, Mines and Resources or Economic Development, I have to say it looks like the environment got short shrift. Thatís evidenced not only by the amount of text but by some of the content of the text as well, because a lot of it is actually Tourism- and Economic Development-related. We think that we need to spend more with regard to the environment, with protection of the environment, as opposed to just kind of advertising that we have it. If we keep advertising that we have it and they keep coming and we do nothing to protect it, pretty soon weíll be left with nothing.
I look forward to getting into departments. I hope the ministers are well-prepared to answer questions. I look forward to asking those questions. We hope that we will be able to get answers. At this time, I would also like to indicate that it is our hope that the answers will be more precise than they were last year. Last year, what we saw were short questions that required short answers, but were responded to with 20-minute speeches. Hopefully, we wonít change the Standing Orders to allow them 40 minutes, because I am sure they would take up the 40 minutes to respond to some of our questions about the budget. So, I hope they will take that to heart and provide short answers this year.
Hon. Mr. Hart: First of all, I would like to address a few of the comments that the previous speaker made to the House here.
With regard to the MRIF, this is a joint program between the Government of Yukon and the federal government, and it is for municipal rural infrastructure. The process is by application. In other words, you apply to the program to get your programming in place. That is how the program is slated to take off. Our first cut-off is April 15 this year, and we have been working with several small communities outside of Whitehorse on their individual projects, including several of which the member opposite mentioned. We are working closely with them in order to make sure their application goes through in a process that ensures success for them.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be part of this government, which has made such a positive contribution to the Yukonís economy since taking office. Through sound fiscal management, we have increased the resources available to us and, at the same time, held the line on taxes. Our budgets have provided the much-needed stimulus to the economy to enhance a better quality of life for all Yukoners and support the private sector for its improvement in providing the same.
As many people recall, when we came to power the governmentís financial position was tenuous. This government has used the budgets as the tools to improve Yukonersí lives. We all wish to help each other in our communities and throughout the territory, but to achieve a consistent level of support requires resources. When we took office, the financial resources, as I indicated before, were modest. Over the past two years, we have done a lot to improve that situation. I will indicate, as members opposite have highlighted, that in conjunction with the federal government, we have been very successful in achieving additional monies to come to the Yukon. However, I also must reiterate that it is up to the government, this government, to match the funds from the federal government in order for it to take place.
Mr. Speaker, we have taken several steps toward improving our Yukon. We have improved the economy. We have improved how the Yukon governs itself by formalizing the government-to-government relationship with First Nations, by replacing a culture of conflict and adversarial attitude with one of partnership and cooperation. We are building on our combined strengths. Like Taylor and Drury, Batman and Robin, and Sonny and Cher, we can often accomplish more when we work together than on our own.
The list of agreements, protocols, accords and initiatives between our government and First Nations continues to grow. I am pleased with our progress today on working cooperatively and collaboratively with First Nations.
Our collaborative approach to government extends beyond our borders. By working together with the Alaskans, we have been able to meet with several federal ministers to advance our concerns with respect to the pipeline and the railway.
One of the best examples of collaboration, however, is occurring right here at home between the Government of Yukon, the City of Whitehorse and the Canada Winter Games Host Society. Yukonís hosting of the 2007 Canada Winter Games has put the territory, and indeed all three territories, on a national stage. This is the first time the Canada Winter Games will be hosted north of 60. This government is committed to making these games a resounding success, and we have demonstrated that time and time again.
We wanted to help Yukoners by improving their ability to help themselves, which in many cases means providing resources. To generate those resources, we need to have a strong economy. Our major election commitment to Yukoners in 2002 was to build a sustainable and competitive Yukon economy. How are we doing in fulfilling that commitment? Our labour force is up; our population is up; our unemployment rate is down. In statistics released on March 11, Yukonís seasonally adjusted labour force totalled 17,000 as of February 2005. This figure represents an increase of 1,400 people in one year. Yukonís seasonally adjusted employment in February 2005 is 16,100, an increase of 1,500 from last year. Yukonís seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in February 2005 is 5.3 percent, as compared to Canadaís seasonally adjusted rate of seven percent. While these stats clearly show an economic turnaround has been achieved, our government recognizes that many rural Yukon communities have not experienced this turnaround as of yet, and we will be introducing initiatives to address this rural disparity.
Before I talk about that, and what this government is doing through the departments of Community Services and Highways and Public Works, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of my colleague, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, for generating work for Yukoners. Mining exploration is expected to top $30 million in 2005. When our government took office in 2002, mining exploration was $6.9 million.
The Yukon mining incentive program, the extension of the Yukonís mineral exploration tax credit, and the implementation of the integrated resource management have each contributed to a major increase in mining. The placer mining industry has also been the bedrock of mining in the Yukon and good progress is being made on the development of new framework for the Yukon placer authorization.†
Forestry is another strategic industry that can create jobs in rural Yukon communities. In 2004-05, 90 commercial permits, for a total of 65,000 cubic metres, and 590 permits for personal use, totalling 16,700 cubic metres, were issued. The area supply in years 2 and 3 for 186,000 cubic metres is under the environmental review process.
Mr. Speaker, an active mining and forest industry will demand more of Yukonís communication and highway resources. Tourists will also visit our territory and place a demand on our resources. As the minister responsible, I am very pleased with this governmentís commitment to improving both of these aspects.
I am proud of this governmentís commitment to tourism and culture. On behalf of my colleague, the Hon. Elaine Taylor, I would like to extend a very sincere thank you to the officials within all the departments for their hard work. In addition to our constituents and other advisory groups, day in and day out, it is the department officials who assist us elected people by advising of the community needs and challenges that enable us as a government to act.
I would like to say thank you to the public service on behalf of our government and the people of the Yukon for helping to move all of us in the Yukon forward to a more entrepreneurial, independent and brighter future.
Numbers donít lie, Mr. Speaker. More Yukoners are working now than have been since 1993. This fact confirms that our government feels strongly about working with all parties to create regulatory certainty, a strong social fabric, a strategic investment, so as to benefit all Yukoners.
Tourism really is Yukonís major bright economic light. Not only does it account for a large number of private and public sector jobs, it also affords the opportunity for many people to share Yukonís rich culture and lifestyle, beautiful landscape and epic stories with the world. Be it participating in traditional Yukon First Nation cultural activities, visiting historic sites, climbing sweeping mountain ranges and trekking through the valleys with magnificent sweeping vistas, taking a historic train ride, driving the spectacular Alaska Highway ó even with the speed bump at Stewart Crossing ó Yukon is truly a destination of immense proportion.
Our government is proud to work alongside the Yukonís many tourism industry service providers, such as gas, service stations, restaurants, hotels, motels, buses, airlines, taxis and trains, as well as cultural activities, such as dance, theatre and artists.
Do not forget that the tourism industry goes far beyond those I have just mentioned and supports many seemingly unrelated jobs. It includes the grocers, who supply the restaurants; the RVers and car dealers who rent vehicles, service and supply tourists, as well as advertising and creative companies, among others, who help create the vision, write the story and market the product.
To all of you, thank you, for all your hard work. Letís keep building upon our successes and encourage our entrepreneurs, innovators and visionaries to continue building Yukonís tourism industry. By working with the industry, our government is creating the environment that enables entrepreneurs and innovators to create and provide jobs, salaries and a brighter future for Yukoners.
Tourism has helped sustain, diversify and enhance the Yukonís economy while mining and forestry were in decline. Today, the Department of Tourism and Culture works closely with representatives from the tourist industry, who provide critical industry feedback and identification of the industry profiles.
My colleague, Minister Taylor, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, meets frequently with the president of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon to provide an opportunity for dialogue on issues facing the tourism industry and to identify means of industry and government proactively tackling these issues.
As we know, tourism is a highly competitive and dynamic global industry. Throughout our mandate, this government has listened and responded to industry sectors, working in cooperation and collaboration to build a healthy and strong economy for all Yukoners. Cooperative and partnership with industry has been a notable success over the past two and a half years. The 2004 visitor exit stats taken last summer showed 251,000 visitors to the Yukon, an increase of eight percent, compared with results of the 1999 visitor exit survey.
During the same period, total visitor spending increased by 12 percent from $67 million in 1999 to $75 million in 2004. These figures have been adjusted for inflation.
I would like to thank the Yukon Tourism Marketing Partnership senior marketing committee and all their volunteer committee members for their input and hard work aimed at successfully growing our tourism economy.
Tourism in the Yukon is looking forward to another great year, expanding on the successes we have seen over the past years. We hope to continue increased visitation, length of stays and dollars generated for the Yukon economy. The signs of rejuvenation, confidence and growth are continuing.
Much of the Yukon First Nation attention is focused on economic development opportunities, and tourism development is certainly part of that effort. We applaud the First Nations as they develop partnerships to develop economic opportunities for the benefit of their members and for all the Yukon.
We are continuing to sustain funding levels for our contribution to the arts, museums, heritage and archives and marketing. The Yukon brand strategy will identify Yukonís unique northern status as a northern holiday destination, which we know is very different from other jurisdictions in the world.
In addition to these positive steps, Holland America has announced they are increasing their marketing initiatives to the Yukon, in particular with tours in the Tombstone area, which will benefit the territory and generate more dollars into the economy. Through a memorandum of understanding with White Pass & Yukon Route, this summer will see the first tourist trains arriving in Carcross. The tourism cooperative marketing fund initiated last year at the request of industry will again provide $500,000 in direct support to encourage marketing initiatives designed to encourage national and international travel to the Yukon. There was a strong uptake and positive results from this program, with more than 60 applications approved last year for marketing initiatives and trade and consumer shows.
This fiscal year, the government again provided $350,000 for the scenic drives initiative, with $215,000 going toward interpretive signs along the Alaska Highway east and west, and $135,000 going toward the second phase of this program, the Klondike-Kluane parkway scenic drive. Last October, the Yukon government launched the initiative with a $350,000 investment. This initiative is designed to attract more visitors to the Yukon and to encourage them to stay longer, particularly during the summer and shoulder seasons. The first phase of the initiative, the Alaska Highway scenic drive, was launched in early February, with a direct mail-out and an e-mail blitz to approximately 100,000 targeted leads in Canada and the U.S.
These marketing pieces encourage people to visit the newly launched Web site at www.driveyukon.com, one of the scenic drives initiativeís key components. The goal of the Alaska Highway scenic drives is to attract 4,000 new visitors to the Yukon this summer. To date, we have received over 8,000 unique responses to the campaign. People from all the communities and First Nations along the Alaska Highway provided valuable advice and assistance during the development of the scenic drives initiative.
These communities will continue to be key partners in the campaign and will be consulted on an ongoing basis as the program is enhanced and expanded. Communities are pleased with the campaigns so far. A representative from the Village of Haines Junction stated that the Web site has an excellent look and feel. Itís user-friendly, interactive, and I congratulate those involved in creating such a valuable virtual tool to promote the Alaska Highway. Weíve also received similar positive responses from private-sector individuals who, utilizing the Web site, have been able to update and access the Web site to get their information on a quick basis, and it has been very positively received by the private sector and First Nations.
The scenic drives initiative complements discussions held in September 2004 in Dawson Creek at the Alaska Highway international forum. At the forum, government, First Nations, municipalities and business officials joined their counterparts from British Columbia and Alaska in discussions on tourism, resource routes and intergovernmental cooperation. The Alaska Highway forum followed last summerís Alaska Highway legacy tour, which travelled from Dawson Creek, B.C., to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Iím also pleased to announce that we will continue to provide $220,000 in funding to support the First Nations in Dawson, Teslin, Pelly Crossing and Carmacks, which will allow them to continue with the operation of their existing culture centres. These places of discovery offer the opportunity for our visitors to learn more about First Nation tourism, while also providing economic spinoffs for local communities.
In addition, the government is continuing its support for the Yukon Arts Centre, an organization that is integral to the well-being of arts and culture in the Yukon. The centreís operating budget has been increased by $150,000, bringing their overall funding support to just under $650,000 annually.
With the upcoming 2007 Canada Winter Games and the 2010 Olympics, the Department of Tourism and Culture is again budgeting $200,000 toward the decade of sports and culture. We will continue to develop and market events and initiatives with Yukon culture and community groups in celebration of these events.
Of the $200,000 budgeted for the decade of sports and culture, $157,000 will be used to continue Culture Quest, administrated by the Yukon Arts Centre, and $43,000 will go to the Yukon Convention Bureau to develop sport and cultural tourism for the Yukon.
Culture Quest was very successful last year with its array of culture activities that inspired Yukon artists, First Nations, heritage organizations and cultural industries to develop talent and create work that showcases who we are as a community and as a region.
The fourth annual Yukon buyers show, slated for September 2005, is part of this funding. Aspects of the program that allow retail buyers to meet and negotiate orders with arts and craft wholesalers include a new retailer incentive program, booth development programs and marketing initiatives. The governmentís recognition and support of tourism and culture expands well beyond the departmental budget. Our $22 million application to the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund features the development of the waterfronts of Whitehorse and Carcross as key ingredients for the enhancement and sustainability of our tourism initiatives in those communities.
As well, in both Carcross and Whitehorse, the development of culture infrastructure has been identified as a key priority under the fund for both our visitors and our quality of life for the citizens in those communities and throughout the Yukon. Our support for initiatives in tourism and culture has also been extended to the municipal rural infrastructure fund. Our support as a contributing partner to the fund was in part driven by the inclusion of culture and tourism infrastructure as eligible projects under the fund.
Mr. Speaker, I noted a few minutes ago the impact that mining and forestry had on our economy. I just finished speaking about the importance of tourism to our economy. Now Iíd like to make a few points with regard to highways and public works. Many of the previous speakers have covered off several of the issues, but I would like to go over just a few highlights.
The Department of Highways and Public Works is requesting approval for $72 million for capital projects in the 2005-06 budget that will address their infrastructure needs, provide jobs and a safer and better service to all Yukon communities. Our government will be investing $5 million toward developing a replacement mobile radio system throughout the territory, which will improve remote and mobile communications throughout the territory, including the RCMP, as well as the health and safety for all Yukoners.
Our government will provide $5.8 million for departments to upgrade computers, networks and applications that support government programs. There is also a commitment to the local program of Yukon information technology industry sector, or YITIS, ensuring it will be maintaining funding at a certain level to allow them to maintain their staff to grow with the request from government on programming. We are working closely with them, and we hope to continue with that process to ensure that jobs will be provided and help diversify the Yukon economy.
In total, the transportation division of Department of Highways and Public Works is requesting $57 million to maintain, upgrade and further develop the territoryís infrastructure, covering projects such as the Shakwak. We are also looking at funding ó the federal Canadian infrastructure fund is providing $10.3 million for the comprehensive upgrading of the Alaska Highway north of Whitehorse to Haines Junction. We are providing $8 million to be spent on the following roads: $2.75 million on the Campbell Highway; $1.5 million on the highway equipment rental contracts, or HERC, projects; $1 million on the Dempster Highway; $400,000 on the Top of the World Highway, including strengthening the road base there and BST, where it has broken up; $320,000 for the Tagish Road; $300,000 for the Klondike Highway; $300,000 for our rural roads upgrading program; $100,000 for the Alaska Highway intersection improvements in Whitehorse; and $1.1 million for the other rural projects, such as the servicing of the Dome Road in Dawson and other small projects in and out of the Yukon; and $2 million for pavement rehabilitation throughout the territory.
Bridge work totals $4 million, which includes $1.9 million for the development work of the Yukon River bridge project in Dawson and $1.245 million for the rehabilitation work of the Takhini River bridge deck. The construction of the bridge deck across the Yukon River at Dawson is a 2002 election commitment, and Iíll speak more about the bridge project later in this session.
We are requesting approximately $7 million to fund airport capital projects in this yearís project, which will include $4 million for the reconstruction of the Old Crow terminal building, runway and lighting improvements, and $2.3 million to make improvements at the Whitehorse Airport, including a baggage-handling system upgrade and design and construction work on a terminal building to improve customs service processing for international flights.
Our government remains committed to providing the necessary communication and transportation infrastructure to support our growing economy, to keep the Yukonís communities connected to one another and to the outside world. Our election platform committed our government to an ambitious, exciting and progressive social agenda. We have stated previously that a prosperous economy will be of little benefit to Yukoners who are not in a position because of education, training or health or social problems to take advantage of those economic opportunities. The initiatives outlined in this budget and our two previous budgets are helping to build healthy communities, environment, and better quality of life for all Yukoners.
Under Community Services, weíre looking at proper and adequate recreation facilities, and community halls are important to all Yukon communities both big and small. As the member opposite indicated, all the communities in the Yukon meet the ďruralĒ definition as defined by Canada, but in essence I still think that weíre all Yukoners and we should all be treated the same.
They are a focal point of our community ó the halls, especially ó and they provide a real focal point for our rural communities.
Inspiring Yukoners to achieve their potential is important to this government. One of the ways we help Yukoners, especially young Yukoners, is to recognize their potential and provide them with adequate resources and meaningful challenges.
We have a major challenge in the 2007 Canada Winter Games. These 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.
Our government provided $4 million in advance to the host society to allow the society to earn valuable interest revenue to support its capital and operation budgets. In January 2004, our government contributed $8 million to support the Whitehorse multiplex project, bringing our total contribution to the multiplex project to $17 million. When the lowest bid for the multiplex came in at $3.9 million overbudget, our government stepped up to the plate and split the difference with the City of Whitehorse on the cost overrun.
The next challenge was the athletes village. With less than two years left before the start of the games, our government was advised the host societyís cost estimate for the athletes village of $2.7 million was out by $17 million. Once again, our government was called upon to step up to the plate. Rather than see the project fail, and rather than renege on our promise to the Canada Games people, which is what one city councillor had recommended, we put together a $20-million package that will ensure the construction of the athletes village.
As part of this package, the City of Whitehorse, which would otherwise have been on the hook for the whole amount, will provide the Yukon government with a grant equal to all the municipal taxes on the village for 10 years, the sale of two lots on the waterfront valued at $2 million, and a one-third contribution to the Hamilton Boulevard extension. The contribution by the City of Whitehorse to the athletes village is valued at $8.15 million.
Our government has also expanded its employee volunteer policy in order to increase volunteer support for government employees. We made a commitment in our 2002 election platform to help make the 2007 Canada Winter Games a resounding success and a memorable experience for Yukoners and our guests alike. Our government is doing everything in our power to meet that commitment. I would note that unless we had been sound fiscal managers, we would not have had the resources available to meet these challenges. I will speak more about why this government is so committed to improving Yukonersí access to community recreation facilities later.
The Department of Community Services has included $1 million in the 2005-06 budget to assist the Village of Teslin with upgrading their recreation facility. I will let the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin discuss that further. Recreation, especially for youth, is also a priority of this government. In Ross River we are investing in a community hall, which will provide a common meeting place for the community. We are also, at the request of the Ross River round table, budgeting $100,000 for a professional assessment to repair the walking bridge. Funding for the recreation directors is now being provided in Mount Lorne and Upper Liard.
Mayo and Marsh Lake have expressed their concerns about the importance of community facilities. Our government committed at that time to provide funding in the 2005-06 budget for these worthy projects, and we have kept that commitment. Our government is investing in improvements in many other communities, because we place a high priority in developing and maintaining infrastructure to improve the quality of life in rural Yukon.
We have set aside, in the 2005-06 budget, $100,000 to stabilize the Mayo River dike. For Old Crow, the 2005-06 budget includes $300,000 toward stabilization of the Porcupine River bank to prevent the bank from eroding to the point where the roadways, buildings and public safety could be threatened, especially during severe ice breakup conditions.
For Dawson City, the budget includes $500,000 to renovate the old liquor store for the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture. The project is scheduled for completion later this year.
Implementing responsible sewage treatment systems is a priority and our government is responding with funding for water and sewer infrastructure in many Yukon communities to meet the needs in rural Yukon, including Carcross, Carmacks, Dawson, Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay.
For Dawson City, our government is committed to investing $1.5 million to leverage matching funds from Canada through the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund to address the long-standing issue of sewage treatment in Dawson City.
Overall, more investment in infrastructure is possible this year than ever before because our government reached a final agreement with Canada in January for a total of $32 million in the Canada-Yukon matching funds over five years through the municipal rural infrastructure fund.
This year our government has budgeted $8 million to leverage matching funds from the MRIF monies from Canada. All Yukon communities will be eligible to apply and announcements of the approved projects are planned to start later on in June. Categories of MRIF projects include traditional infrastructure such as drinking water supply, waste water, solid waste treatment systems and local roads, but also infrastructure related to public transit, culture, tourism and Internet activity.
With all the great things we are doing as a government, we expect the trend to continue of more Yukoners wanting to stay here. We expect that more Yukoners who left because there were no jobs will want to move back home. More Canadians want to live here. What that means is that we need more room for people to build homes and lives. With that in mind, our government is working with local governments and First Nations to develop land to meet the growing real estate market in the Yukon. We are working together to develop a comprehensive policy for the orderly planning, development and disposition of lots throughout the territory.
We are currently working with the Village of Haines Junction to develop a 14-lot subdivision of larger six-hectare rural residential lots near the airport. Planning, design, environmental assessment and construction started last year. This year, $250,000 is budgeted to complete the road construction, BST road surfacing, overhead phone and power lines for the new subdivision in Haines Junction. The lots will be ready to be sold by lottery later this year.
In Whitehorse, a record 170 lots sold in 2004, compared to 78 in 2003. Based on the strong market demand, our government is committed to developing lots in Whitehorse to meet this demand. Mr. Speaker, our government continues to provide a strong focus on youth in the budget, as in the previous budget. Many of us recognize that young people often need help finding their wings. Iím pleased at how much this government is doing to assist young people as they make the transition from children to adults. To that end, we have committed $110,000 annually each to three groups: Bringing Youth Toward Equality, the Youth of Today Society, and the Whitehorse Youth Centre Boys and Girls Club of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I often discuss with the Member for Riverdale North how to help young people in our riding become contributing members of society. Our young people are very talented and gifted. I am pleased with the kinds of support we as a government are able to offer. Both through providing positive alternatives through the organizations such as the ones Iíve outlined above, or by encouraging them to pursue their athletic educational opportunities, we can all help Yukon youth excel. Both the MLA for Riverdale North and I remain committed to working with youth. I am pleased with the contribution this government has made to our communities. We are working together to help young families in our ridings by providing opportunities for children and youth to develop their skills.
Weíre working together to keep schools and mechanical plants up to date. We are committed to maintaining the schools in our ridings to the standards that meet or exceed those anywhere else in Canada. We are working together with the city to ensure the maintenance of streets and roads. We are committed to the beautification of our neighbourhood. We are pleased to see clean streets and parks within our ridings.
I spoke a few minutes ago about the great lengths to which this government has gone to improve our recreational facilities. We are doing this because we want to show Yukoners that we are committed to helping them achieve their full potential. We want Yukoners to have the ability to develop and maximize their skills and abilities right here in the Yukon. We look forward to Yukoners standing on the podium in 2007 and possibly 2010 by fostering a can-do attitude. We hope all Yukoners, especially young ones, will realize that, though small in population, we each have something to contribute to the greater good. We hope to inspire Yukoners to achieve success. We hope to show that Yukoners are just as talented, capable and valuable as other Canadians. In short, we want Yukoners ó all Yukoners ó to achieve success.
One of the areas in which the Yukon has had considerable success is in developing top-flight students in our grade schools. Unfortunately, due to several factors, when our students leave for university, many of them do not return. Our government is making major investment in this budget, both in physical infrastructure and in programming. Our government has made full-time kindergarten available at, and including, Selkirk Elementary and Grey Mountain Primary this year. Although it is available, it is not mandatory. School construction, expansion and renovations totalling $11.3 million in the 2005-06 budget includes $800,000 to complete the installation of a ground-source heat pump for the Vanier Catholic Secondary School.
Our government has been encouraging Yukoners to enrol in trades and technology training because of the high demand for tradespeople across North America, not just in the Yukon.
The Department of Education has allocated $1.5 million for community training funds in this budget. In keeping with our 2002 election commitment, $100,000 has been designated to index the student grant to keep it relative to the cost of living.
Studies have indicated that improved literacy skills have far-reaching benefits. Our government recently announced the opening of the Individual Learning Centre, which will assist youth who have dropped out of school to re-engage in learning.
Our government has made literacy a priority because we want Yukoners to have access to training they need to succeed in the workforce, in their communities and in their life. Accordingly, our government has allocated $100,000 to update and implement a new Yukon literacy strategy.
Culture programs and activities in schools play a key role in our schools, and language is at the heart of the culture. The Department of Economic Development budgeted $111,000 in 2004-05 to hire two new native language instructors and has allocated a further $72,000 in this budget to bring the number of First Nation language instructor trainees to six.
Our government remains committed to revitalization of the Yukon aboriginal languages and has entered into an arrangement with the First Peoplesí Cultural Foundation to pilot the First Voices program in the Yukon.
The Department of Education is also working in partnership with Heritage Canada by budgeting $185,000 to expand late French immersion for grades 6 and 7.
We are also aware of Yukonersí concerns about safety and security. The MLA for Riverdale North and I sponsored a meeting with seniors to help them stay safe. We also met with young people to discuss their perspectives on justice. Finding effective solutions to the issues surrounding justice takes more than 20 minutes and a double-double.
Simply constructing another building to warehouse offenders is not a solution either. Unless we address the more difficult problem, the root causes, we are never going to make progress on this issue. In just a moment, I will note the efforts we are putting into treating drug and alcohol abuse, which I feel is a major factor in Yukon crime. Research indicates that individuals suffering from mental health problems need to be better supported within the justice system throughout Canada. The Yukon is actively working to address this issue by providing increased counselling, treatment, staff training and by renovating treatment facilities.
Under Health and Social Services, drug and alcohol abuse is an epidemic and is an enduring problem that touches most aspects of life in the Yukon. Substance abuse undermines the health of individuals and the community. It is associated with physical harm to individuals, including death, illness, addiction and the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, and injury caused by drug-related accidents and violence. As I have just noted, many of these individuals end up in jail. We are committed to addressing this need.
FASD is another major issue facing the Yukon. Our government has made it a priority since taking office to deal with this serious, preventable disease. I am pleased that we are finally addressing this very serious issue. Iím also very pleased that this government is helping Yukoners with medical needs to remain closer to their family and friends through the construction of two $5.2 million multi-level care facilities in both Dawson City and Watson Lake.
While our government is working hard to improve the quality of life for all Yukoners, we also want to promote the well-being of our own public servants. I am pleased with the new initiative ďInvesting in public service: serving Yukon peopleĒ. Our government is committed to continue investing in the public service and to developing and sustaining our organization as one that provides top quality programs and services to Yukon people.
We are also committed to developing the public service so it is attractive enough to bring our young people back home to work after graduating from university and college.
In conclusion, the 2005-06 budget is a product of many hands. We want to thank all the department officials and in particular those in the Department of Finance for all their hard work in helping us put it together. The 2005-06 budget builds upon the economic direction set by our 2004-05 budget. With the passage of this budget, the majority of our election commitments should be met. The remaining commitments are either long-term commitments or are works in progress. Our government has met these challenges head-on while implementing our own progressive economic and social agenda. Mr. Speaker, I commend the 2005-06 budget to all members of the House for their consideration.
Mrs. Peter: First of all, I would like to acknowledge and thank the Yukon Party government for the monies that we received in this budget for the community of Old Crow. Weíre receiving $300,000 for the stabilization of the riverbank in Old Crow and $4 million for the construction and surfacing, I believe, of the Old Crow Airport. And we are grateful for that. I am glad that the government was able to listen to the issues I have brought forward on behalf of my constituents within the last four years. These are some of the priorities for their capital projects, and weíre going to finally see some results with that.
We also are receiving some dollars for support for VGFN in protecting the critical habitat for the Porcupine caribou herd, and the dollar amount is not shown. I do have an idea of what the dollar amount is, so we are grateful for that.
Speaking about the Porcupine caribou herd, it has been on the forefront of the news in the last month or so, and never more so than within the last week within the Yukon Territory. On Wednesday we saw a demonstration of up to 300 people outside the Yukon government building. People of the Yukon are very concerned about what is going to happen with part of the Yukon population. The population that Iím speaking about is the Gwichíin people in north Yukon.
Iíve said on many occasions in this House how important it is for the government of the day to be very vocal and very supportive of Vuntut Gwitchin in this area. Weíve been fighting this issue for over 20 years. The political environment changed for the worse for this issue within the last couple of years. There has been more pressure by the United States government and by the oil and gas companies to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The only concern that we have is in the area where the caribou give birth to their young. That area is a sacred place to our people. They call it the sacred place where life begins.
Yes, it is a critical habitat area for the Porcupine caribou herd, but itís also the calving grounds. Iím not sure how come the Premier has such a hard time saying those very words. The people of Old Crow are very worried. I was in Washington on March 16 when the vote took place, and we lost for the very first time in history by only two votes.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the people of Old Crow are very worried. Theyíre very concerned. Before I left for Washington, one of the elders spoke to me and said, ďWhen you go down to Washington, can you pass the message on to those people that if anything ó anything ó happens to the caribou, we will be a poor people.Ē
We had some Alaskans visiting us, and this government said, you know, theyíre our best friends. Yes, theyíre our neighbours. I couldnít believe ó or, I could believe, because I think Iíve heard it all, the arguments on why they need to go into such a sensitive area to drill for oil and gas. The information that we have says that it may only last for six months. Are we willing to sacrifice a group of people, the Gwichíin people, for six monthsí worth of oil and gas, if that?
This is what the world is coming to, and this is the reality for my community. We have a Premier who will not speak up on our behalf. He has travelled throughout Canada and the United States encouraging industry to come to the Yukon to build up our economy, yet he will not speak up on behalf of the Gwichíin people. He is able to make a difference and thatís all weíre asking.
He always says that he has a wonderful relationship with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. I have been hearing comments from people in my riding. Yes, he has a wonderful relationship with chief and council, but what about the rest of the people in the community? Why canít he stand up and say, very clearly, ďYes, I stand up on your behalf so that your life will not be in jeopardy, so that you donít have to worry about your culture dying because industry wants maybe six monthsí worth of oil and gas.Ē He can express that to his best friends, his neighbours and people across Canada.
We canít say enough about this issue because, you know, maybe one day it will be too late.
Our people are strong. Our ancestors have dealt with this issue for years and years. Weíve had good people blaze that trail for us, and this battle is not over. I would encourage the Premier and the Minister of Environment to visit my community of Old Crow and talk specifically to the people about this issue. I guarantee you that they will know, that they will hear loud and clear, the message that I bring here. They will hear the same sentiments.
Our community is also concerned with the quality of life that they lead. We are an isolated community. The cost of living is high, and we try to live a healthy lifestyle. Food costs compared to the rest of the Yukon are incredible, and when you try to live a healthy lifestyle, you want to try to feed your family healthy foods. Most of the time that is a challenge. In order to live a healthy lifestyle, you want to prevent certain diseases or certain challenges that you meet when you donít take care of your health concerns.
One of the very critical services that people take for granted in southern Yukon is in the area of dental care. Mr. Deputy Speaker, this issue is in crisis in my community. Every time I go home to Old Crow, there is always a phone call or someone I meet on the street who is suffering because of the lack of dental services in Old Crow, and theyíre not getting the services that are required ó simple dental checkups, dental hygienists ó and because of this lack of service, the issue becomes worse for each individual. They suffer and theyíre in pain, so they go to their local health centre to try to have this problem addressed, and the only way that they can help them out is to administer medication.
One of the people I received a phone call from asked, ďWhat are we supposed to do? We donít want to take pills; we donít take medication.Ē So at the end of the day, all we can do is suffer, and nobody cares, nobody seems to care whatís going on. In emergency cases, they donít even know if theyíll receive services in Whitehorse when they end up coming down here, and most of them end up paying their own way, even though they canít afford it.
I brought this issue forward to the Minister of Health and Social Services last session and it was passed off as a federal issue. So while weíre going around in circles, blaming each other for whoís going to be responsible for what, people in rural Yukon are suffering, and we say we care about whatís going on out there.
Another area concerns optometrists and a lack of services. Itís the same issue. What about the kids in school? A lot of them canít come down here at their own expense, and thatís why these programs were there in the first place. So what is happening to it? Where can I get an answer for these questions? I canít get them here. So what do I do? Go back to Old Crow and say to go around in more circles between the Yukon territorial government and the federal government. I donít think Old Crow is the only community that has this problem. So if weíre having such a great relationship, whatís happening with all these programs and why canít the people in the communities get an answer or have some service delivered?
Education is always a high priority for my community, for our people. We take great pride every year when we support our graduates from high school or from Yukon College.
And our dream ó when land claims negotiations first started, I can recall the elders of the day saying to the young people ó at that time I was fairly young, so they were speaking to me ó ďGo and get educated because, in this whole process of land claims negotiations, at the end of it, at completion, we will need you back in our communities so that you can administer those programs.Ē And I am here today to say that we have successful stories in our communities. Our people are coming home after they achieve their education goals.
There are other challenges that our very young students have to address today, and some of those challenges have to do with the results of alcohol or drug addiction. We see that in our schools today. Challenges, such as FASD, are those that our teachers, the parents, family supporters, and leadership have to deal with in our small communities.
Sometimes it is not something that is spoken about very publicly. However, that is a reality. The Minister of Education stood on his feet, talking about all the money that he is putting into education. We in our small community, facing all these challenges, would love to have access to some of those dollars to address the challenges that we face on a day-to-day basis with the parents. We have a lot of need for special needs in Old Crow.
Every sitting, I stand here on my feet and I say these same things over and over again, and maybe one day it will become reality. But you have $794,000 to undertake education reform. We can take $794,000, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and place it in special needs. This government says they have listened to people in the Yukon, they have a special relationship with First Nations ó letís put our money where our mouth is. It has been two years, and the needs in the communities out there are getting greater.
We have a huge budget in front of us. Yes, it addresses issues but, at the community level, very few.
Alcohol and drugs in our community have always been a challenge, and more so today, I believe, because my community is supposed to be alcohol and drug free. We call it a ďdry communityĒ. That is another challenge for the young people. In the rest of society, alcohol is sometimes looked upon as social, where you could use alcohol during social events. In our community, we donít have access to alcohol; however, there is definitely alcohol available.
There is also the problem of drugs, which you could look at as a silent issue. People use it, itís illegal, so therefore ó you could get it through your sources, but there is no way you want to jeopardize that because you have that need. How are we going to address these issues within our own communities if we donít even have a facility to address a need that we have in the Yukon?
The people who work within the justice system who come to our community have tried in so many ways to work in conjunction with social services, within the education system, to address these problems because the community tried to take on that responsibility. There are always stumbling blocks. The elders are able to stand up in court and say, ďI would like my grandson or my granddaughter to have alternative choices or options for themĒ. Theyíre willing to take the responsibility, but weíre dealing with a system thatís not going to give any flexibility in those areas.
How much money is going into alcohol and drug in this budget? For so many years Iíve been standing here on my feet and making suggestions, and those suggestions come from the people of Old Crow, to say we know what our problem is, we need to deal with it in the way that might have a better outcome for my grandson, for my niece, for my nephew, so that they can learn to build a healthy family and try to learn and have a healthy lifestyle, but we havenít been listened to. Maybe one day we will be, because this works for our community. We see young men and women come down here to go to the jail, to Whitehorse Correctional Centre, maybe spend two weeks to a month or however long their sentence is. They leave that facility and then they come out and theyíre homeless on the streets of Whitehorse.
So thatís another issue to deal with. And another issue is: what do they learn while theyíre in the facility? I donít think itís all healthy, and itís a vicious circle.
A report came out of a justice community tour some years ago. I suggested to the last Liberal government, and Iím going to suggest it again to this Yukon Party government, that they take that report off the shelf. Have a look at it ó donít worry about who did the report ó and look at the suggestions in that report.
I know when they came to the community of Old Crow, the community centre was full of people from Old Crow because they are concerned ó and they gave direction. They were very clear about what they wanted, and that still stands today. Some of the elders who stood on the floor at those meetings and many court circuits ó many of them have passed on. But that feeling is still strong, and the responsibility on the part of the community is still trying to stay alive, considering the stone walls we have to be up against.
The Childrenís Act review came to Old Crow. What stage itís at right now, Iím not sure. Weíve been dealing with some family and childrenís issues in the community in the last year. I know there is a grave concern about how some of these situations are handled.
Weíre very lucky to have a representative who works in this department out of Dawson and who comes to Old Crow once or twice a month and works very well with the families who are involved. I hope that some of the recommendations that have been coming forward to this panel will be taken into consideration by this government. Again, it is challenging for the families who have to deal with not only taking care of the children but how to address other issues with the parents, whether alcohol and drugs or finding a safe home for mother and children or finding just a place to live, a private home for your family, to name just a very few. The list can just go on and on.
On economic development in the Yukon Territory, Iíve heard from the Yukon Party government speakers that weíre doing very well. The Premier boasts about his north Yukon economic development agreement. There was a Vuntut Gwitchin accord signed a couple years ago. And weíre all having such a wonderful relationship.
I wonder why this winter Iíve been getting many calls from young men and women, and middle-aged men and women, who were struggling and couldnít find a job in our community. Winter months are like that, but this was a year that was different from many other years in regard to weather change. Most of the time when there are no jobs in the communities, a lot of them go out on the land, so if we think that climate change is not affecting all areas of our life in the north, we had better think again. This is a prime example.
I know that when the men in the community canít get a job and can only work seasonally, they have their choices and theyíre not willing to sit back and let life go by. Theyíre more than willing to go out on the land and do what they have to do for their families. That wasnít able to happen for many of them this year. Those are some of the challenges that our people have to face.
We have a huge budget in front of us, a lot of money, and we donít see most of it, not where I come from.
Speaking about climate change, that brings me to the issue of the environment. I look at the budget for Environment and Iím not surprised. Thereís very little within this department thatís addressing a lot of the issues that many Yukoners are concerned about.
In the Yukon Party platform, one of their objectives was protecting the environment, in keeping with the 1992 statement of commitment by the Canadian Parks Ministers Council regarding the establishment of protected areas to establish a process that is the product of negotiation with all Yukon partners and stakeholders, which strikes a balance between environmental protection and responsible development. The only message that I get that comes out of this budget is through the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, with very little coming from the Minister of Environment.
I think it would be fair to say that, if you even say the words ďprotected areaĒ, itís like those words are too scary for this Yukon Party government.
Yet again we can boast about this wonderful relationship that we have with First Nation people. We canít even have a strong voice from the Premier saying directly to the Alaskans, our neighbours, for the Gwichíin people, ďYes, I speak on your behalf. This is where I stand on the Porcupine caribou issue.Ē So why would we expect any more on behalf of the Yukon Territory as a whole?
Weíre inviting every industry out there, and yet the life of the Gwichíin people is on the line. Most of the places within our territory, the traditional territory of many people throughout the Yukon, are unprotected. That is another area that is going to be a challenge.
The previous speaker, the Minister of Community Services, made a statement. He said he likes to live in his riding because they have clean streets and they have neighbourhood parks. Why donít we expand on that? We talk about tourism and culture. Thatís what attracts people to the Yukon Territory, Mr. Speaker. They love our clean environment; they love our wilderness, and we would like to keep it that way. What kind of a legacy is this Yukon Party government going to leave for their children or for their grandchildren?
I know what I would like to leave for my granddaughter. Itís very simple. I would like her to have the same kind of lifestyle that I live today, to experience our values and our culture in our everyday lives, to be able to go out on the land in Old Crow and say, ďYes, this is where my grandmother came from.Ē
Thatís exactly how I feel today, and thatís why I said earlier that those battles are not over. A lot of money is being put into tourism and culture, and itís very exciting, because thatís one of our key economic drivers for the Yukon Territory.
I believe they did very well this winter. One of the challenges was in winter tourism. Thatís something that the north is popular for, with the dog races and ski races. They just had a ski loppet in Old Crow on the weekend. It was very successful. Weíre looking forward to the Canada Winter Games, and weíre hoping that the rural communities can take advantage of that. The First Nation communities out there have so much to offer in the way of culture.
I know my time is getting short.
Within the Womenís Directorate, money is made available for a native liaison worker. And I see that the VictimLINK service is very well advertised throughout the community.
Those are great. Those initiatives are great. However, I havenít heard any initiatives in the area of the older womenís program, and that concerns me because that program is very well used in the community of Whitehorse.
With that, my time has expired, so thank you.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me pleasure to rise today in the House to support the 2005-06 budget. When my colleagues were elected in November 2002, our main election commitment to Yukoners was to work to turn the economy around. It experienced six years of an economic nosedive of the territorial economy. Since that time, we on this side of the House have all worked very hard to fulfill that commitment and to turn the Yukon economy around.
Since that time, we have seen a resurgence in the Yukon economy. When we took office we had the second highest unemployment rate in the country. For I believe the last eight months running, weíve been moving between second lowest and fourth lowest unemployment rate in the country. In the statistics of this year, our seasonally adjusted labour force is 17,000 people now. This is an increase of 1,400, or nine percent, from just one year ago. Our seasonally adjusted employment rate in February 2005 was 16,100, which is an increase of 1,500 people, or 10.3 percent, from just one year previously ó 10.3 percent increase in the number of people who are working in a period of just one year.
I donít have the number in front of me of how much it has increased since we took office, but it has been increasing over the previous year to that, as well.
Our seasonally adjusted unemployment rate as of February was 5.3 percent, and it has been as low as five percent over the winter months here. It has been moving within about a three-point range, I believe.
Mr. Speaker, we hear numerous comments from members of the opposition that this is all coincidence, that it has only to do with mineral prices and has nothing to do with the actions of this government. I would like to point out to them and to members of the public that while the Yukon economy was experiencing its six-year nosedive, while our mining sector had basically shut down, our neighbouring jurisdictions in Alaska and the Northwest Territories were seeing much stronger mineral activity, they were seeing new mines opening up while we had none. They were seeing exploration at sustained levels, while ours was going from $55 million down to about $5 million.
Since we took office, mining exploration has gone up significantly. It was almost triple this year, and it is projected this summer to be somewhere over $30 million, which is an increase of more than five times.
This is a very large budget ó $784 million ó and it has been accurately pointed out by the opposition and by members of the media that we had given the indication that we expected last yearís budget to be the largest of our mandate. However, the finances are in an even better situation than we projected. This is due to sound fiscal management. It is due to hard work.
The projected surplus for 2005-06 is $29.1 million. The capital budget is $206.4 million. This is due not just to luck; it is due to hard work. It is due to the work of officials on a census undercount issue. It is due to the work of the Premier. It is due to his success in cooperating with the premiers of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, in walking away from the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chrťtien, on his health care deal when it did not adequately address our needs, and for the first time gaining recognition at the national level as well as the support of the provinces for the fact that our northern jurisdictions, with our sparsely spread-out population, need more than per capita funding to address the needs of our constituents.
Now, speaking of addressing the needs of constituents, Iíd like to run through a list of some of the things that Iíve been pleased to work on for my constituents and that Iím pleased to see in this yearís budget. Thereís money for planning for upgrades to the Takhini Hot Springs Road. This came forward directly from constituent requests to me. It is something that I sought feedback on in my constituency newsletter, and I received strong support for this item. In fact, I donít believe I actually heard even a single person who was opposed to doing engineering and planning for the Hot Springs Road. One of the elements in which this is to be considered, is construction of a sports lane along the Hot Springs Road for pedestrians, horse riding, cycling and other recreational traffic.
I see that the Member for Kluane is very eager to join the debate, from his comments, and Iíd like to express my relief at seeing him apparently hale and hearty and in good health after the other day when, due to an unfortunate mishap, both he and his career almost literally went down the drain in the parking lot of the YTG building. Itís very good to see him.
Moving on, another item that is continued in this yearís budget is the domestic water well-drilling program. This is continued again at a value of $700,000. This program is one that Iím particularly proud of. Itís an idea that was originally proposed by my constituents. I brought it into my government caucus colleagues, and a program was developed and has been implemented. The structure of the program allows Yukoners facing costs of rising water delivery rates to put in a well, yet spread the cost of it over a period of up to 15 years. Theyíre allowed to borrow this from the government at the Bank of Canada prime rate. Security is provided to the taxpayers through a caveat that is placed on the title of the property. This is structured similar to the way the rural electrification and telephone program is structured. Itís based directly on that, which has been a very successful program over the years and has enjoyed a significant amount of support. Of course that program is also one that is continued within our budget, and Iím pleased to see that.
Phone service is still an issue in parts of my riding. Residents of the Fox Lake and Braeburn areas are still waiting to find out when their phone service will be installed. Theyíve been given a number of target dates from Northwestel and, unfortunately, none of these have been met to this point. Iím not intending to ascribe blame to Northwestel. They have provided reasons for this. Whether those reasons are reasonable or not is a matter of differing opinion, and I certainly hope that phone service is installed shortly. Right now theyíre dealing with the old two-way mobile telephone service, which is something that, from personal experience, having personally grown up with it and having spent a major portion of my life talking over radio telephones, makes transacting business very difficult. There are a number of businesses in the Fox Lake and Braeburn areas. It makes it very difficult to carry on a confidential conversation or even to receive business phone calls because, if someone else is on the radio phone channel, you simply find that people cannot get through.
There is also an issue with people who are not familiar with the two-way mobile system, not even knowing how to dial that number and how to connect to them. To clarify, Mr. Speaker, the intent with this is not to ascribe blame toward Northwestel. I would simply urge them to make their best efforts to install that service as soon as possible.
Another thing that is currently taking place ó constituents of mine may have seen this in the paper. I believe some of them attended the open house held by the Department of Highways and Public Works regarding the plans of the government to do a plan for improving the road between Fox Lake and I forget the exact kilometre point, but basically from the current limit of the good paved highway out to Fox Lake, to improve that section up to a 100-kilometre-per-hour standard and improve that service for my constituents.
I believe we will also be having a presentation of that by Department of Highways and Public Works officials. We are just working out the details on that at my public constituency meeting, which is coming up this Wednesday at the Hootalinqua fire hall, once again.
Another item that is in this budget is money for brushing. Weíve seen, I believe it was, about 15 or 20 years where governments neglected doing the brushing which, in laymanís terms ó I am not sure if everyone is familiar with the term ó is essentially clearing the trees in the ditches. That has been neglected for about 15 or 20 years within the Yukon, when that was not dealt with adequately. We are dealing with a backlog of that. I am very pleased that there is money set aside to deal with the issue of brush along a section of the Mayo Road that has received a number of complaints from my constituents. Itís an area that has a lot of problems with deer in the fall, that travel through there, grazing off the fields or grazing on the sweet clover at the edge of the highway.
In some places, such as at the end of a straight stretch on the Mayo Road by Shallow Bay, where the road turns to the north and west ó at that point, the trees are essentially right up the edge of the shoulder, and if a deer darts out of that area, by the time someone has a chance to see it, there is a good chance they may have hit the animal. There have been a number of incidents where people have hit deer or had close calls.
Last fall, I was keeping track of the number of nights I saw deer while travelling back home to my place out at Lake Laberge. Within a period of about three or four weeks, I believe, I was seeing deer two out of three nights driving home in the evening. On two occasions, I actually saw five deer in one night, in very close proximity to the highway or actually on the highway. So Iím very pleased that is going to be dealt with this summer. It is an issue Iíve received a number of complaints from constituents about.
There was also a very tragic incident this last fall and, to my knowledge, the report on the cause of it has not been done or, if it has, I havenít received a copy. A lady, who was a constituent of mine and resided at Fox Lake, was actually killed in a vehicle accident at about mile 10. There was concern from some that the trees may have been a factor and speculation that an animal may have been involved. Again, at this point, I donít know if that was the case. Last I heard, the investigation was still ongoing, but it was certainly a concern from some people that if this was not the cause in that case, it could be the cause of someone else being injured or even losing their life. Iím very pleased to see that this is going to be dealt with.
Another thing, Mr. Speaker, that is being dealt with is that there is money in the budget for pavement rehabilitation. I believe the total line item is about $2 million. This is to include continuing the asphalt improvement on the Mayo Road from where it ended last summer, north to, I believe, approximately mile 9, and it ended previously just north of mile 5. This is something about which I received positive feedback from constituents. It has certainly improved the road, made it a lot quieter. It has widened the road surface. This is also part of our governmentís commitment that we made in our platform to continue the upgrading and improvement of the Yukonís road system, and the north Klondike Highway was one of the roads that was specifically mentioned in our platform for being upgraded.
There is also $10.3 million in the budget for improving the Alaska Highway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction. This is an area that certainly could use some improvement in certain sections. There is one section out in the Ibex area that has had consistent problems with frost heaves undoing repair work that has been done. I am hopeful that this may be a more permanent fix at this time, but certainly there have been problems with that area, and I donít think we can necessarily control the frost. Hopefully, this will improve the road conditions in that area, at least for the time being.
I believe thatís included in there, yes.
Another thing regarding improving life for the commuting public ó most of my constituents are either business owners or people who commute every day to a job. Some people do not, but the majority do find themselves having to commute daily, or almost daily, into Whitehorse, both from out on the Mayo Road area, Takhini Hot Springs Road, and in the Ibex area, as well as Hidden Valley and MacPherson which, though technically within the borders of the City of Whitehorse, many of my constituents there feel themselves to be largely ignored by the municipality. They do find themselves, everyone in all of those areas, spending quite a bit of time on the highway if they have to commute.
In addition to those improvements that I have spoken about, one thing that is going to be done in this budget, which will be of benefit to them, is that thereís $100,000 in the budget for planning improvements to the Alaska Highway intersections within Whitehorse and this is to include the intersection of the Alaska Highway and the Mayo Road, also known as the north Klondike Highway, and including the intersection at the top of Two Mile Hill. That is, of course, at this point just planning money, but it is certainly the intent to follow up with those planning dollars and deal with the actual improvements that have been planned through that money.
Thereís also money for improving the deck of the Takhini River bridge ó for rehabilitating that. There are structural issues that could be developing with that and it is proactive action to prevent that from occurring. Iíd also like at this time to mention to any constituents who are listening to this or who are reading this that, in my newsletter of January, I had asked for feedback on a project that had been proposed to me by a couple of constituents, who had asked for a pedestrian walkway to be attached to the Takhini River bridge to allow people who are riding horses or cycling or walking to get across that bridge. The Takhini River bridge right now is barely two lanes. There is an issue with the narrowness of it that causesÖ Well, I think probably all of us who live out there have had close calls at some point with someone who is not familiar with the bridge coming around it too fast or hogging the centre of the bridge. Widening the bridge is something that certainly has to be done at some point.
However, at this time we are dealing with a number of bridges that have been neglected in their repair or, at the same time, are simply reaching the end of their lifespan. I understand that widening a bridge costs almost as much as building a bridge in the first place. Thatís something Iím hoping will be addressed in the not-too-distant future, but it certainly is not going to occur this year or in next yearís budget.
However, the suggestion of adding a pedestrian walkway as an interim measure is one that seemed like a reasonable idea when it was proposed by constituents ó that it would allow people who travel across there to do so in a little more safety. At this point, if two vehicles arrive at the same time when youíre walking, it does create a bit of an unsafe situation.
I included that proposed project in my newsletter and asked for feedback. However, the project was supported by only a few people. I received incredibly little feedback regarding that project, particularly in comparison to the other projects I sought feedback on. At this time it seems that only about a half a dozen people are asking for that walkway to be added, which certainly does not justify the rather large price tag for doing that. To any constituents listening, Iíd like to make clear that Iím certainly not opposed to the project. If at some time it becomes obvious that a large number do want this, Iím more than happy to reconsider it, but itís quite obvious at this time that there doesnít seem to be a real demand for it, certainly not enough to justify the price tag.
Another item thatís included in this budget is $5 million for planning the replacement of the governmentís outdated MDMRS mobile radio system, which is used for communication by the RCMP, emergency response personnel and other government employees.
This system, as I understand it, has to initially focus on replacing the emergency response system for the police and for emergency response vehicles, such as the ambulance. So, as a result of that, it is necessary that some of this will have to focus on replacing it within communities and serving those areas currently dealt with by emergency services. However, it is ultimately the intent of this system to extend to 17 Yukon communities, and it is intended to provide better cellular coverage for my constituents in Lake Laberge, and Iím very pleased with that.
That is something that I, along with many of my colleagues in the government caucus, felt very strongly about ó that as we were eyeing the need to replace the MDMRS mobile radio system, if we could include a cellular component in the replacement that would improve access for our constituents, it would be very valuable. Contrary to the suggestion made by the member of the third party, it was not an idea that she alone dreamed up. I do give her credit for supporting what was a sensible idea and for tabling a motion to that effect.
It is something that seems to make sense, I believe, to many Yukoners ó that if the money is being invested to improve the communication service anyway, if we can expand that service to serve the mobile communication needs through, of course, cellular phones of Yukoners and tourists coming through the Yukon, it will benefit our infrastructure and the economy, because small business people will be allowed mobile access to their customers. Thatís something that was certainly an issue when the former NMI Mobility removed the cellular tower that used to provide service to constituents of mine on the Mayo Road. I received a couple of complaints, including a couple from business owners who were finding that this was going to cause them a problem because their cellular phone was their business phone, which they were allowing customers to use to contact them. With no notice, this service was removed. Quite literally, it was done with no notice.
The letters of notification to customers were actually sent out after the discontinuation of the tower service. That tower was moved by the company to Fort Smith, I believe it was. Members of this House may recall me expressing a significant amount of displeasure about this and trying to work with the company on that issue at the time. While that was not successful, I am pleased that as a government we can take the action to put in place a plan that will eventually result in that service being restored to my constituents.
Mr. Speaker, another thing that will result from the budget of this year is the purchase of a mobile slaughter facility to allow the agriculture community, the red-meat producers, to have their meat inspected and to allow them access to restaurants, to supermarkets and to other elements of the retail market that are currently closed to them by the lack of a slaughter facility, allowing them to have the meat inspected. The Yukon, of course, does have an abattoir up at Partridge Creek right now. However, that was not a very good location for it. It was a decision of a previous government, and after taking office, this government assessed this. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, who is responsible for agriculture, did direct steps to be taken to see if that could work as a location with a freight subsidy. However, it was determined very quickly that that was certainly not a sustainable long-term situation.
One thing that has held the agricultural industry back for quite a number of years in the Yukon is the lack of a proper slaughter facility, allowing them to have access to markets and to have their meat certified to be sold locally. The construction of that abattoir at Partridge Creek was something that was the result of years of discussions that had not resulted in a slaughter facility constructed. That, of course, was a poor location. This mobile slaughter facility is a design that is used in some areas of the United States that are actually fairly well-populated ó Washington, Oregon and California, specifically ó because of the unpopularity of locating a slaughterhouse next to residents. A mobile slaughter facility is essentially a feather-light trailer that can be cleaned and can have inspections done through that area. It has a far lesser quantity of waste product at one location and it can move around so it doesnít result in the same amount of opposition from the public.
I am very pleased to see this mobile slaughter facility coming into place. I believe itís an important step to allow the beef and the elk producers within my riding to have access to markets and to also allow the bison producers who are just outside my riding to have access to market for their product. It will also allow pigs to be processed. Certainly in a long-term situation, one mobile slaughter facility may not be sufficient for the needs of the Yukon. At this time, it has more than enough capacity and I am hopeful that this will result in allowing producers to expand the size of their herds and to increase the production.
I believe the Yukon currently imports the equivalent of about 5,000 head of cattle to supermarkets in the year for local consumption.
I donít believe that the Yukon is ever likely to be an exporter of beef products on any scale, but there is the potential for more exotic meats, such as the elk and bison, where that may be done and have a market in other jurisdictions. I donít think we can ever likely compete economically in the beef market with Alberta and other jurisdictions; however, I do believe we have the ability to serve a lot more of our needs. It is a very high quality meat. I know the meat I have had from constituents, in particular the beef from Circle D Ranch and from Rafter A Ranch ó Iíve bought from both of them within the past year, and itís very good meat. Itís leaner than much of the stuff thatís in the stores, and I certainly feel thereís a great potential for that to be expanded locally in the market and for the Yukon to provide more of its own needs.
That is something that not only benefits the economy but, in our changing world with the growing risk of terrorism, including bioterrorism, all it would take is for our link to the south, through the Alaska Highway, to be severed for us to very shortly have a problem with the food supply. I should actually correct that: at certain months of the year, it would be possible to reroute that through Skagway and Haines; however, depending on the weather conditions, there could be problems with that. We are dealing with fragile links and, if there was a problem with the food supply, even if we had a route to transport it here that was clear and unobstructed, if there were ever a problem resulting in shortages in southern Canada, I donít think we would have the chance we would hope to of receiving food supply here. We would be the last ones to receive product in the case of a problem, and the first ones to be cut off.
So taking care of our own needs and producing our own food locally makes tremendous sense. It fuels the economy, and it also provides more security.
Moving on, Mr. Speaker, to other items here, there is also money in the budget for the creation of a late French immersion program. This was something that I also had constituent requests for and I took that up with the Minister of Education, who had heard similar requests, and we have dealt with that issue. I believe that this will benefit Yukoners in creating increased access to bilingualism for their children.
Mr. Speaker, moving on to other areas, the Yukon has, as I said, been able to put forward a budget of this size with the goal of providing stimulus to the economy in the short-, mid- and long-term due to sound fiscal management, due to success of the Premier and of officials in putting forward the argument on the federal level for money both on the health care and on the census undercount issue, and also on negotiating a territorial funding agreement.
We have also been successful in having the federal government commit to a $90-million pan-northern economic development agreement. That is something that fulfills the platform commitment of me and my colleagues. We made a commitment to seek a pan-northern economic development agreement, and we have not only sought it, but we have succeeded in achieving that agreement. Of course, we are still waiting for the federal government to flow the funds, which is consistently an issue in dealing with the federal government. We see a lot of commitments, and we see a shortage of action.
Thereís a lot of talk, but not necessarily the deliveries. Perhaps theyíre too busy worrying about the sponsorship inquiry.
Another major commitment was to work toward and formalize government-to-government relationships with Yukon First Nations. As a result of this, on January 21, 2005, the Council of Yukon First Nations, self-governing First Nations and our government agreed to the memorandum of understanding on cooperation in governance in the Yukon and created the Yukon Forum. The structure and conduct of the Yukon Forum provides the mechanism to establish cooperation in governance that will help achieve more effective services and program delivery by both orders of government to the benefit of all Yukoners.
When we took office just a little over two years ago, the Yukonís economy was the issue. There were many problems and one thing that I spoke to constituents about on the issue of formalizing government-to-government relationships with First Nations was to point out that it was time to stop debating land claims agreements, time to recognize that they are a fact, that they have been dealt with and we need to move forward together, and that if we donít move forward and work together, no one is going to be working at all. This territory needs to be governed and developed in the interests of all Yukoners, and it is important that we work together, that the Yukon government and First Nation governments work together in the interests of all of us collectively.
We have a growing list of agreements of protocols, accords and initiatives between our government and the First Nations, including an intergovernmental relations accord with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, a memorandum of understanding with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation for a corrections system, including future replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, the Kaska bilateral agreement on management and development of resources in southeast Yukon, the protocol on consultation with self-governing First Nations, an implementation agreement for forestry within 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 TríondŽk HwŽchíin and the Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation. We have also moved forward on facilitating an agreement between Teck Cominco and the Kaska.
My time has apparently flown here. I will try to wrap up here, since Mr. Speaker has indicated that I only have a few more minutes left.
We have worked together with neighbouring jurisdictions to cooperate, to collaborate. We have formed alliances with the State of Alaska and our provincial neighbours, Alberta and British Columbia, which is in stark contrast to the adversarial approach of our predecessors, the Liberal government, who did a good job of alienating many of the neighbours, especially the Northwest Territories, on the issue of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. Our government has not seen ourselves to be in a fight with the Government of the Northwest Territories. We have established, instead, an agreement to allow Yukoners and citizens of the Northwest Territories access to work and economic gain from both pipelines.
We have recognized that industry will be the ones making the decision on that pipeline.
Iím trying to shorten my notes here.
Iíd like to note that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin made a comment about the value of living in oneís riding, and I agree with her. I believe it is very important. That is something that was consistently an issue for my constituents. They felt that the two previous MLAs ó one NDP MLA and one Liberal MLA ó had left them, abandoned them and never returned.
Again, Iíve made efforts. Iíve made a commitment to hold a minimum of three public meetings a year, and Iíve held many more than that. I am going to be having one again this Wednesday.
Another issue has been raised here as well. Iíd like to address comments by the member of the third party when she raised the issues of the Wildlife Preserve and the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm. I canít let that go without comment.
There seems to be a problem with the member of the third party accepting responsibility for the actions of her government. Her government passed the Wildlife Act amendments. It was the government in office when the Yukon Act amendments were made with their review, and they were the ones who created the problem for the owners of the reindeer farm.
With respect to the purchase of the wildlife preserve, it was a purchase made at the request of hundreds of Yukoners, including many of my constituents. I had a ratio of about 20:1 of my constituents in favour of it. We were very pleased to represent our constituents. Iím very pleased that we have been able to deal with that.
Since I seem to be running out of time here, in conclusion I urge all members to support this budget. It contains many elements that I could frankly stand here and talk about for several more hours, and I indeed had many notes that I have not been able to talk about here.
I thank the members for their attention this afternoon, and I look forward to hearing debate from other members.
Mr. Hassard: † Itís interesting that weíve gone back and forth all afternoon, taking turns from this side to that side, and everyone has kind of kept their place until, it appears, now. The Member for Kluane I thought was going to speak, but I guess I will take my turn now. Perhaps heís wanting to get on the glorious television. Iím not sure how many of his constituents want to see him on television, but I guess if they so choose they can do that.
Itís certainly my pleasure to rise today to speak in support of this budget, the 2005-06 budget. Iím pleased to also see that we have a projected surplus of approximately $29 million. Some of the members opposite have made comments that perhaps we on this side of the House are referring to the money in question as ďour moneyĒ. Iím not sure how they really worded that, but we on this side of the House know that this is taxpayersí money. Itís not our money; itís money that we are charged with the responsibility of taking care of, and hopefully spending it as the public sees fit.
I generally think of myself as a conservative-minded person. I donít like to see money squandered. We know that the newspapers have been full recently of articles questioning the accountability of spending, and I certainly donít want to be ever painted with that brush.
Travelling around the territory over the last two years and listening to Yukoners, it is pretty obvious that they donít want a government to just waste money. But at the same time, they do want projects to go ahead. They want capital infrastructure. They want roads fixed or built. They want bridges fixed or built. They want schools fixed or built. I am hoping, and I think most taxpayers will agree, that this budget does a lot of that.
Some opposition members might say that theyíve had large capital budgets in the past and feel that theyíve done some good things with that money and with their budget. I guess the biggest difference with this budget, in my mind, is that rural Yukon has been recognized for its importance to the territory ó I think more so than at any other time. Not that I spend a lot of time reading the Yukon News, but the Yukon News did have an article that ďRural Yukon wins big.Ē Being from rural Yukon, I am certainly pleased to read that article, and knowing whatís in the budget, Iím obviously pleased with that, as well.
Actually, talking about rural Yukon, it made me think of a comment I heard a few years ago when the then Premier and leader of the Liberal Party were in Teslin. I was on town council, and the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Village of Teslin Council met with the ó Iím not sure if it was a meeting that we had with the entire Liberal caucus or if it was a meeting that the Premier was at. But the comment by one of the councillors, basically, was that there is more to the Yukon than just Whitehorse.
And not long ago, the city lights, the bright lights of Whitehorse, could be seen in the sky at night from around the Yukon River bridge south of Whitehorse. Over the last couple of years, those lights could now be seen from beyond Marsh Lake and closer to Jakeís Corner. I think his point was to politely say that he hoped that the government would recognize that rural Yukon also wants to benefit from the building of recreation facilities and infrastructure and street lights ó maybe that is what he was getting at; Iím not sure. I really believe that this budget does a lot to bring rural Yukon in line with, I guess, the City of Whitehorse when it comes to infrastructure, specifically recreation.
I think through our community tours ó I know I have gone with the Premier on several occasions to public meetings in all three of the larger communities in my riding, as well as to some of the other communities. Iíve also spent a fair amount of time travelling from community to community in the Yukon, talking to constituents, and it has been made very clear to us what rural Yukoners see as important and what they want. I think that weíve done a reasonable job of putting those words into a budget that will benefit all Yukoners ó not just rural.
In my riding, the government has come through on some large capital projects. In Ross River, if I could start there, we are allocating $450,000 for the completion of the multi-use recreation centre/community hall, or whatever name we want to put on that building. It was started last year. I didnít dig up the numbers, but I believe it was about $1.5 million last year that got that project started. It was interesting to go to Ross River during the election campaign and again immediately following the election, and talk to people and get a feeling for what they felt they were missing by not having a community hall. Iím not sure when the old hall had closed down but, from the looks of it, it had been a substantial amount of time.
The people of Ross River indicated they really needed a place to have meetings. They used the school but, given that many meetings ó especially now that First Nations have their own governments, maybe something they didnít have in the past, thereís a need for ongoing meetings during the day, and thatís pretty difficult to do in a school, when youíre displacing students from a classroom or a gymnasium. Itís hardly fair to the students or to the citizens of Ross River to find themselves in such a situation.
For Ross River, that was probably one of the immediate needs that I faced, and I set about working with the minister responsible to secure funding for that. I was pleased last year when we did get the substantial amount of money required. I hope it is finished this summer some time; the foundation is in right now, and hopefully this summer weíll see the completion of the rest of the building.
I understand the tender has been awarded, so itís just a matter of the weather cooperating, and Iím sure weíll see some action. Iím sure weíll see local Ross River residents working there, which is ultimately something we were striving for.
Another project in Ross River that has received funding of $100,000 is the repair, rebuild and upgrade of the foot bridge across the Pelly River. This is a piece of infrastructure that has been there since the U.S. military was around, and it certainly looks the part. I was there last summer and took some pictures of it. It doesnít look like the safest bridge to walk across, although I know that many people in Ross River use it on a regular basis. Itís certainly handy if you get stuck across the river on an evening when the ferry is done for the day and you want to come back home or get into town. It beats the heck out of swimming the river.
Now, the minister indicated earlier that it had been a wish of the Ross River round table, and they had written in that regard, looking for funding. I know from discussions with the Ross River Dena Council and people on the street there that it was a priority for them. Iím certainly pleased to see the government make it a priority for us, so I look forward to seeing people working on that this summer as well. Iím sure itís a good project for a bunch of carpenters in the middle of summer. They can get out there and fish from it during their coffee break.
The other community near Ross River that I deal with on a regular basis is Faro. Faro is fortunate to have had a lot of the major infrastructure built in the past. Itís not new by any means, but it is in operational state. Some of it is in quite good shape, actually.
I was up there for a skate on the rink a month or so ago, and certainly it was a functioning arena and I think a place around which the community centred a lot of its attention and recreational time. I guess itís difficult to identify a project there that the government needs to get involved in and improve. Iím sure that the sewer and water are functioning, and itís not essential that we look at it right away. However, that said, there is a project that is in the works. Part of the sewer line has exposed itself over time and there is, I believe, an application to MRIF in the works, so I hope that that would come through.
I could go on at length talking about Teslin, Ross River and Faro, but I think that most of it has been said, so at this time I will sit down.
Speaker: If the Hon. Premier speaks he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think this is a very momentous time for Yukon, considering the tremendous investment thatís taking place in this territory, and I think we have to reflect briefly on how we got here.
Mr. Speaker, last year we tabled what was then the largest budget in the history of the Yukon Territory. We did so by prefacing the fact that the type of expenditure we brought forward with the existing financial resources that the Yukon had, as projected at the start of the year, could not be maintained.
During the course of the fiscal year, as we continued to work on our business case with Ottawa, with Canada, and other areas of increase for the territoryís revenue streams, it became evident throughout the course of the year that our financial position was continuing to strengthen. Based on that, we have again brought in what is the largest budget in the history of the Yukon. We have not only increased the capital investment, we have increased investments across the spectrum in the delivery of programs and services for Yukoners.
The total budget of some $784 million is very significant, considering we are investing in strengthening our social fabric, we are investing in making our education system better and more reflective of needs of the First Nation people in this territory, in terms of language and culture and curriculum. But to improve our education system overall, we are investing in an infrastructure and we are certainly creating jobs and opportunities for Yukoners. We are doing all that ó Mr. Speaker, contrary to what we have been hearing from some of the members opposite, in terms of comments like ďspending spreeĒ ó we are doing all that by maintaining a very healthy financial position.
If you go back to the start of last fiscal year, you will see the budget as tabled showed a projected year-end deficit of some $30 million plus, and you will see that our budget as tabled at the start of this fiscal year shows a year-end surplus of some $29 million. That is quite a remarkable turnaround, Mr. Speaker.
Now, I think itís important that we also reflect on the fact that this government has never maintained that it has created this financial situation that Yukon finds itself in on its own. We have always given credit where credit is due. But to achieve what we have today, it took a great deal of effort by many people involved, and it began with the three territories in a pan-northern approach making a stand in Ottawa to make our case and get our fair share. Having accomplished this, we can now go forward with many increased options, and we can do a lot more with the finances of the territory to help stimulate growth in the Yukon. So not only have we shown a surplus for year-end of some $29 million; we also have booked with the tabling of this budget a net financial resources position at the end of the year of some $64 million. I think that speaks volumes for the position the Yukon finds itself in today.
Now, to go further, letís look at the long-term plans, and you will see, as we go forward in years 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, what I deem to be another projection of a very healthy financial position for Yukon.
It continues to show a year-end surplus. It continues to show a healthy net financial resource position at year-end. That is what is allowing us to continue the level of investment that we have today. Itís also done in a manner that is being shared across the Yukon, community by community. Based on extensive consultation with Yukoners in each and every community, we are investing in demonstrated needs in areas of importance for communities, and it covers what I would suggest is the broadest, most balanced approach to investment in this territory. Whether it be in Old Crow, Dawson City, Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Carmacks, Beaver Creek, Whitehorse, Teslin, Ross River or Mayo, the investment is intended to do the same thing. The objective is to create a better quality of life for all Yukoners, create jobs and opportunities, and continue to strengthen our social fabric in each and every community.
It would be of the greatest importance for the opposition to debate the budget in detail because there is lots here. Obviously, given the size of the budget, there is much to discuss. And wouldnít it be a change of approach by the opposition to provide constructive input? In short, we urge the opposition to provide input into this budget, into this largest investment in the history of the Yukon, which will further strengthen the future of the Yukon Territory.
We have made many offers to try to work with the opposition on all fronts, and we have some successful examples, whether it be motion debate or support for the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin in the Dempster Highway celebrations. Our continued support for the Vuntut Gwitchin, for example, when it comes to the Porcupine caribou herd, is that not only are we providing resources for the Vuntut Gwitchin government at their request to continue their efforts in Washington and elsewhere, we have continually and consistently made Yukonís position clear and well known, whether it be with Alaska, Alberta, Washington, Ottawa ó no matter where it is, our position has remained consistent. Our position has been of the greatest support for the Vuntut Gwitchin people in their efforts in protecting the critical habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd.
With respect to this issue, the time has come to further engage our federal government because there is an arrangement and agreement that was struck between Washington and Ottawa that speaks to the issue on what the federal governments should and would do, and itís time to hold both federal governments accountable for what they have committed, and Iím sure that if we continue to focus our efforts in that area, we will be successful.
I would like to add also that weíre a long way away from any drilling taking place in ANWR. There is a great deal of process that must yet be dealt with. Itís clear, if you look at recent releases coming out of Washington, that thereís a tremendous amount of work going on to ensure the protection of the critical habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd.
Our job is to continue our efforts and focus our efforts to allow the First Nation government, in this case, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, to continue to lead with our support. I can tell you this government will not deviate from its commitment to the Vuntut Gwitchin government and its people. We will ensure and make best efforts to ensure the federal governments in both Ottawa and Washington live up to their commitments with respect to the 1987 agreement.
But I must also add, for clarity, that this government will not oppose responsible development or utilize such initiatives that will provide long-term benefit for Yukoners and all Canadians as bargaining chips. We will not oppose responsible development. We will not oppose the Alaska Highway pipeline. We will not oppose the possibility of a rail link for Alaska with the railheads in the south. We will focus our efforts where they will do the most good, and that is on making sure that the federal governments live up to what they committed to live up to in 1987.
Let me briefly touch on some of the highlights of this budget, because they are extensive. Community Services, with its many investments in helping to build better communities and a quality of life in Yukon communities that all Yukoners deserve ó whether it be artificial ice for Teslin, a community centre for Mayo, a community centre for Ross River, or whether it be the extension for Hamilton Boulevard, in terms of safety for the residents of the area, or affordable housing across the board ó we are continuing to invest in Yukonís future through the Department of Community Services.
Of course, as one of the flagship investments of Economic Development, the community development fund continues. The projects are many and the benefits that accrue to Yukoners across this territory will continue under this governmentís watch with the CDF.
Weíre also entering into rural economic development strategy development; we are investing in the enterprise trade fund and we are investing in strategic industries development. We are investing in film and sound; we are investing in technology; we are investing in a diverse economy for this territory and its future, and that is to the credit of our minister and the department.
When it comes to education and demonstrated needs, the community of Carmacks needs a school. The children of Carmacks need a new school. This government recognized that demonstrated need. This government is going to build a new school in Carmacks. We went further, Mr. Speaker. We have committed to the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and the community that we will build a facility, a learning institution of X square feet ó any extra space. The community and the First Nation collectively can decide what goes in it. It may be a cultural component; it may be other items of community involvement and interest and activity. The point is, we are allowing the community to make that decision under the leadership of the Minister of Education. Carmacks will have a brand new learning institution for the benefit of every single citizen in the community.
Mr. Speaker, Energy, Mines and Resources continues to invest in developing our resource sector. Our mining exploration is up. We have applications in today, for the first time in years, to put mines into development and production. The Member for Kluane appears to take exception to this governmentís efforts in promoting the mining industry. Well, we will not back off one little bit. We have changed the paradigm on how things are done in this territory. We have engaged not only departments internally, whether they be the Department of Environment, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources or the Executive Council Office; we have taken an integrated approach and will continue to do that.
Weíve partnered with industry and weíve agreed that we will engage a champion for these projects to shepherd them through the regulatory process so that we can expedite the growth of our mining sector. Under the ministerís leadership, we are today drilling for oil and gas in the Yukon, not only in the southeast but in north Yukon, and to the ministerís credit we have done that in partnership with First Nations.
The Department of the Environment is doing its job and doing its job masterfully. We are conserving and protecting the Yukonís environment. We are the government that established the boundaries for the Fishing Branch Park. We are the government that implemented the management plan. Past governments would not do that. Past governments shied away from doing it because there was land use conflict. This government resolved land use conflict by collaboration, not confrontation, and today Fishing Branch is established and the management plan implemented.
This government also established Tombstone and is now in the process of establishing and implementing the management plan. This government is also proceeding with Kusawa Park, in partnership with First Nations. This government, when it came to a land disposition process in north Yukon, with major consultation with First Nations and Yukoners, alienated the Snake, the Bonnet Plume River valleys. We alienated the majority of the Turner wetlands in that disposition process, protecting more of our environment for future generations. We also have withdrawn access, not only surface but subsurface, for Lewes and †Marsh ó further examples of conserving our environment, and weíre going to continue to do that through land use planning, through special management areas, through the establishment of habitat protection areas. The Yukonís environment is in good hands.
The difference between this government and past governments is that we are taking a balanced approach. It is as important an issue to develop our economy as it is to protect our environment. This is a government that is meeting the challenge of doing both, evidenced throughout this budget and throughout the territory.
Now, let me touch on First Nation relations. We committed to building a better relationship with First Nation people in the Yukon, and that is exactly what is happening. Letís start with our commitment to formalize our government-to-government relationship. There is a new order of governance in the Yukon, and that is the need for public government, Yukon government and First Nation governments to find a way to provide governance in this territory that removes the barriers between us and creates a more cost effective, more efficient form of governance for all Yukoners.
In that regard, we have established what is called the Yukon Forum. It is the mechanism that formalizes our relationship, and weíve gone further. We have committed to enshrine it in legislation. Governments come and governments go. The Yukon Forum and the common regime approach to governance will remain by law ó a significant accomplishment. Letís go further.
In the past, governments have stuck to the definition of consultation, and thatís how they would operate and work with First Nations on issues that were important to Yukon. This government has gone beyond that. We have created partnerships ó partnerships in the Childrenís Act review to amend the Childrenís Act; partnerships under the Minister of Educationís leadership for educational reform; and partnerships for correctional reform. We are not just consulting. The changes in those three areas will be done by ensuring that First Nations are also architects to those changes.
That is another significant step. We have entered into a consultation protocol with all self-governing First Nations. We have overseen the settlement of a challenging land claim, to be sure: the Kwanlin Dun First Nation final agreements. I think what a significant step that is. We applaud the Kwanlin Dun First Nation; we applaud the City of Whitehorse; we applaud Canada; and we applaud our people in the land claims and implementation secretariat for a tremendous accomplishment. All Yukoners should recognize the importance of the settlement of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation land claim.
We continue to work with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, which is now embarking on a second ratification process. We have assisted them in that process, and we are positively looking forward to the settlement and conclusion of the Carcross-Tagish land claim and self-government agreements.
When it comes to our self-governing First Nations and areas in which we cooperate, let us look at an example that is quite unique in how governmentís procurement process has been established. The bridge in Dawson City is a major public infrastructure project. This government has committed to the First Nation ó the TríondŽk HwŽchíin, in this case, in whose traditional territory the bridge will be built ó to a number of areas that would have their direct involvement. This has never happened before in the procurement process for the Yukon government.
I will recite those areas to the House, because they are significant. The commitments are in 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 rental opportunities, opportunities related to concrete placement and form work, job training and job shadowing, equipment rental, environmental monitoring, maintenance and operation of the bridge itself, camp supply, and building construction.
This is the first time in a Yukon government procurement process that directive commitments have been made to a First Nation.
We have also gone further in terms of capital planning with First Nations like the Vuntut Gwitchin. In this budget, thereís a sizable investment, not only for the riverbank stabilization project but also a new airport terminal and runway upgrade ó all examples of building a First Nation relationship, Mr. Speaker.
Now, it is important that we recognize another factor. In our financial situation, Mr. Speaker, we have experienced, to the credit of all those involved, an increase of 5.3 or so percent in our transfer from Canada. I say again that that is merely representing our fair share. Itís a share or a distribution of the countryís wealth as it would be done in any other jurisdiction. Itís a standard of investment from the federal government that all Canadians coast to coast to coast enjoy. That is a significant accomplishment. But in conjunction with that, we are experiencing an approximately eight-percent increase in our own source revenues.
That said, Mr. Speaker, the private sector is growing. There are some initiatives that the government has undertaken, not only in the investments and building public infrastructure and stimulating the economy but also access to capital. A recent example of that is our relationship with Dana Naye Ventures in bringing forward the last part of our addressing the loans file, more access to capital, also our small business tax credit and continuing with our mining exploration tax credit and our Yukon mining incentive program. These are some examples of putting more capital into the hands of Yukoners.
Whatís also important is the investment coming out of the private sector in real estate, in mining, in oil and gas development, in the arts, in the culture community ó and the list goes on. The whole point is we are seeing and experiencing growth of investment in the private sector complementing government investment. That is exactly what this government set out to achieve. Thereís no doubt we have many challenges ahead. There is a lot of work yet to do, but the Yukon is now on the right track. Why do we say that? Because the Yukon no longer experiences an exodus of its population; quite the contrary, our population is growing. The Yukon is now experiencing one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country because job creation in our territory is growing ó more jobs for Yukoners. And we are doing all this in less than three years of a mandate.
To give you an example and put it in perspective, in three budgets this government has more than doubled the capital investment of the territory. That is a significant accomplishment.
I could go on at great length because of the tremendous amount of opportunity that is here and abounds in the Yukon. The potential, the optimism ó itís all there and itís beginning to flourish and grow. Thatís what this government intends to build on. We intend to increase that optimistic outlook by Yukoners. We intend to continue to grow our economy. We intend to continue to protect our environment. We intend to continue to strengthen our social fabric. We intend to continue to improve our education system. We intend to continue to build government-to-government relationships with First Nations that will be something that we can hold up to the rest of the country. We are a model in this country, and itís to the credit of not only First Nations but the efforts of all Yukoners who believe in this approach. This government is strengthening that approach, not only with this budget but with its commitments and its views and its beliefs.
Under the Yukon Party government, we have moved away from the politics of confrontation and conflict. We are now leading through collaboration and cooperation, and thatís important not only internally, but externally ó with the Northwest Territories, with Nunavut, with Alberta, with British Columbia, with Canada and, through the northern strategy, with Alaska. Through our relationships, we are collaborating with all. The results are clear: the Yukon is on the move ó finally.
Letís look at leadership, because thatís what itís all about. This government is leading by example through its commitments and its efforts, and I just outlined our financial position. But let me do a comparison of where we were under a former governmentís leadership. It was not that long ago. It was 2003, to be exact, that this government ó the Yukon government ó was in a position where we had to debt-service our cash flow requirements to deliver programs and services to Yukoners. We had no money in the bank. And that was under the former Liberal governmentís leadership.
I think Yukoners recognize the difference. We are in a financial position today that is light years from the position we were in two and a half short years ago. We arenít debt-servicing our cash flow needs. Not only have we tabled the largest budget here in the Legislature in the history of the territory, but we have cash in the bank.
Now, I know that the members opposite are having trouble finding a way to engage in debate on this budget, but we are certainly ready, willing and able to do everything we can ó to do our part ó to have a constructive debate in the coming days on this budget.
There is a tremendous amount of investment here, Mr. Speaker. There is no need to spend our time in endless discourse and general debate. There is a golden opportunity for input from the opposition benches as we head into department by department, line by line. The challenge is for the opposition to become part of the solution instead of remaining part of the problem. Why do I say that, Mr. Speaker? Because we, the Yukon Party government, promote this territory in a positive light. We market this territory as a place to invest, a place to live, a place to be. It is not the same coming from the members opposite. They promote the territory in a negative light, doom and gloom; all is bad. The leader of the official opposition went as far to say that it is a place of madness and misery. In the face of all the evidence, Mr. Speaker ó and letís look at that evidence ó clearly it is there.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Opposition House leader, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: I am looking at the Standing Order 19(g), about imputing false or unavowed motives. The Premier just made an allegation that the leader of the official opposition refers to the Yukon in a disparaging manner. I do recall the context of that remark, Mr. Speaker, and it had to do with all the negative headlines this Yukon Party has created in the rest of Canada and, in fact, the world. It had nothing to do with the official opposition leaderís view of the Yukon. It had everything to do with what this Yukon Party was doing, about giving those bad headlines to the territory.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order here, but I will concur with the member opposite and say this: I will not continue on in this vein. I merely pointed out something thatís already written in the pages of Hansard. The comment came from the leader of the official opposition, not from us.
†Speaker: †The Chair feels that there is no point of order. However, as the Premier acknowledged, his descriptive adjectives could have been a little better chosen, and I would ask that he continue with that in mind.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, we have not created negative headlines. In fact, this territory is now being looked at not only by other governments ó Canada, for example, in the northern strategy ó but there is also now nationally an interest in us projecting year-end surpluses. It hasnít always been the case here, Mr. Speaker. I think Canada is comfortable with how we are managing the finances. There is a great deal of interest from industry. There is a great deal of interest from the real estate community. There is a great deal of interest from people in the arts and culture community. There is a great deal of interest from the film and sound industry. There is a great deal of interest from the IT sector. In fact, Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal of interest in the Yukon because of this governmentís leadership, its commitments, its vision, its plan. Thatís what itís all about.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to a constructive debate, and I think itís important that we have one. I think itís important that we delve into this budget in great detail. We cannot get into the position that we did last spring, passing hundreds of millions of †dollars in this House without one sentence of discussion. That is not what we are here to do. Mr. Speaker, we are here to engage constructively and productively on behalf of all Yukoners. Thatís what the government has done, thatís what we are doing, and thatís what we will continue to do.
We are here to contribute to a better and brighter future for all Yukoners. We can only hope that the members opposite will reciprocate.
With that, I donít think I need go on much longer. I commend this budget to the House. Itís a good budget. It invests in Yukonís future.
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. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, five nay.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 15 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 4, 2005:
††††††† Auditor General of Canada, Office of the: Report on the Energy Solutions Inc. (dated February 2005) (Speaker Staffen)
††††††† Auditor General of Canada, Office of the: Report on the Mayo-Dawson City Transmission System Project (dated February 2005) (Speaker Staffen)