††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Thursday, April 7, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: † We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of World Health Day 2005
†Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to World Health Day 2005. The focus and theme this year is ďMake every mother and child count.Ē Each year, World Health Day has a theme; that is the theme for this year. Today, around the globe, hundreds of organizations will host events to help raise awareness of the level of illness, suffering and death among mothers and children. The purpose is to stimulate collective responsibility and action to ensure life and good health among mothers and children. The World Health Organization is planning global, regional and national events to mark world health this year.
At the global level, the World Health Organization will be launching the World Health Report 2005, which focuses on healthy mothers and children. This report indicates that 11 million children under the age of five will die from causes that are largely preventable ó 11 million children.
Among them are four million babies, who will not survive the first month of life. At the same time, more than half a million women will die during pregnancy, at childbirth or soon after. Turning the tide on these dire facts depends largely on every mother and every child having the right to access health care, from pregnancy through childbirth, the neo-natal period and childhood.
There are too many mothers and children living in poverty today, and too many of them are suffering and dying each year. Millions of lives could be saved using the knowledge we have today, and the challenge is to transform this knowledge into action.
In order to make a difference, we must all join forces, and together we can all make a difference.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I rise on behalf of both opposition parties in this Legislature on this World Health Day. This year, the theme chosen by the World Health Organization is ďMake every mother and child count.Ē
Worldwide, mothers and children are the heart of our families and our communities. Elsewhere it is usually a mother who looks after children on a daily basis, caring physically for babies and youngsters and instilling her social values to offspring.
Literacy programs indicate that the motherís level of education directly affects the progress of society. Statistics show that the more education a mother has, the healthier her children will be. Access to information and other supports give her and her children a head start.
In some parts of the world, infant and under-five mortality rates fell between 1960 and 1990. However, progress slowed considerably with the reduction of development assistance from the richer countries since 1990. This has resulted in unsafe water, inadequate immunization, poor access to basic education and the resurgence of malaria and tuberculosis.
These can be rectified with assistance from the developed world. Most of 99 percent of maternal deaths that occur in developing countries are preventable. Poverty is the greatest challenge to health in the international community. Changing the situation would cost only about $3 a person per year in low income countries.
Despite the current crisis in the provision of health care in Canada, we enjoy one of the best and most medically advanced health care systems in the world; however, there are still serious health issues for mothers and children, including reproductive health, breast cancer, nutrition, obesity and physical and emotional injury due to violence.
In some sectors of Canadian society, families live in poverty and consequently suffer ill health. In the long run, we as a society end up paying for this deficiency in medical care, social services and court costs. If Canadians are truly instrumental in making every mother and child count, we need to take measures that realistically reduce child poverty.
In recognition of Girl Guide Cookie Week
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Iím pleased to rise on behalf of all Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to the hundreds of girls and women throughout the Yukon involved in the Girl Guide organization. Guiding is the largest single organization for girls, led by women, in the Yukon and in Canada, and 2005 marks the 91st anniversary of the contribution of the Girl Guide organization here in the Yukon. Guiding began in Dawson City in 1914.
The organization today is active throughout the Yukon, with girl and adult members in Dawson City, Haines Junction, Beaver Creek, Teslin, Watson Lake, and throughout Whitehorse. Atlin, B.C., Mr. Speaker, is also included in the Yukon membership.
Girl Guide Cookie Week will begin this Saturday, on April 9, and will go through to April 16. This is the major fundraising activity for this organization. As Yukoners greet Sparks, Brownies and Guides at their doors this month selling fuel for girl power, I would encourage them to greet them with a smile. I particularly encourage the sale of Girl Guide cookies because itís all about the girls. I would urge you to take a moment and ask these young women what they like most about the guiding program. Youíll be amazed at the self-confidence that it has developed in these young women as they challenge themselves through a modern, active and exciting program.
Now, it is out of order for us to have cookies in the Legislature, Mr. Speaker, so I have ensured with my compliments that a box will be delivered to the members this afternoon and, of course, to our friends in the media gallery, as well. I would encourage everyone as they see the girls at the door to purchase a box of these very tasty cookies. Each $4 box supports girls throughout the Yukon, and all monies that are raised stay here and support unit activities.
On behalf of the Sparks, Brownies, Girl Guides and adult volunteers, a heart-felt thank you to my colleagues in the Legislature for allowing me to do this tribute to the organization and thank all Yukoners for their support.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Hon. Mr. Lang: I have for tabling the Yukon-Northwest Territories Subagreement on Northern Oil and Gas Development under the Yukon-Northwest Territories Inter-government Relations Accord.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
†Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of the terms of reference for the sole-sourced $20,000 general consulting contract to a project champion for the Carmacks Copper project that was let by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources on November 1, 2004.
I also give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of the terms of reference for the sole-sourced $50,000 general consulting contract for Project Management Services that was let by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources on November 1, 2004.
Finally, I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of the study done last year by Options Consulting regarding the seniors facility in the Kluane region.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of the 2005 O&M and capital budget breakdown for community airports.
Mr. Hardy: †I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of the terms of reference for the $60,000 sole-source contract between the Yukon territorial government and Mr. Doug Dryden, dated November 1, 2004, which runs to April 30, 2005.
I also give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of the terms of reference for all sole-source contracts between the Yukon territorial government and Rawson Group Initiatives between June 2001 and the present.
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 the 2005 municipal grant breakdown.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of all correspondence between the Minister of Environment and the federal government regarding the Umbrella Final Agreement-mandated joint appointment to the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, since November 30, 2002.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† †Land claims, outstanding
Mr. Hardy: Iíd like to ask the Premier another question about his stance on land claims. Yesterday the Premier assured us all, once again, that the land claims issue is his governmentís highest priority. Those are the Premierís words, but when it comes to actions we get a different story, Mr. Speaker. The Premierís actions, or lack of actions, suggest that heís willing to settle for only 11 out of 14 Yukon First Nationsí claims being settled. If settling land claims is this governmentís highest priority, why did the Premier fail to get the message through to the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We havenít failed to get the message through at all. However, the federal governmentís then-minister Bob Nault, back in the spring of 2002, clearly announced that the federal government, after 30 years plus of negotiations, had come to the end of its mandate. The Yukon government has managed to work with that.
Under this governmentís watch, we concluded and signed the Kluane First Nation final agreement. Under this governmentís watch, we concluded and signed off the Kwanlin Dun First Nation Final Agreement. Under this governmentís watch, by request from the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, weíve assisted them with another ratification process. I think that clearly shows a demonstration of how much of a priority we place on land claims.
With respect to White River, the decision is the federal governmentís on how to proceed. The White River First Nation has signed an MOU to conclude their land claim. With respect to the Kaska, thatís a First Nation that has not signed an MOU ó both Ross River and the Liard First Nation. With respect to that, we have entered into a bilateral agreement that has seen great progress in the southeast Yukon.
So we have placed a priority on land claims. Our focus now is implementation and growing the Yukon economy and building its future in partnership with First Nations.
Mr. Hardy: This is becoming quite a familiar refrain from this Premier. He seems to like to take a lot of credit for work that has been done by First Nations, by people of this territory and by previous governments, but he seems to like to attach that to himself. I think the people of this territory see through that.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier has told the heavy hitters in the oil and gas industry, over and over, how settling land claims in the Yukon offers certainty to investors. The Premier and the Governor of Alaska have been joined at the hip in promoting pipelines and railroads through the territory. The Premier has signed various accords with Alberta, B.C. and the Northwest Territories that are all aimed at getting investment dollars flowing this way, but investors want a climate of certainty. The Premier has stressed that time and time again in many places.
What message does the Premier plan to give potential investors about certainty in the Yukon after standing quietly by and allowing the federal negotiating mandate to expire without any effort on his part to keep it going?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís a simple response. The government will extend our appreciation to the oil and gas sector, the mining industry and others who have recognized the certainty that this government has brought to the territory and are investing millions in todayís Yukon, whether it be the increase in mining exploration, drilling for gas in both the southeast and northeast Yukon, and many other initiatives, like mine applications that are now in the process toward mine development and production. I will extend to the industry a great big thank you on behalf of Yukoners for recognizing the potential, the opportunity and the certainty in todayís Yukon under this governmentís watch.
Mr. Hardy: Like I say, heís willing to run all over the place to thank industry, but he wonít even recognize the work that Yukon people have done, year after year, to make some of this a reality. Heíll pat himself on the back and heíll pat industry, and weíve just witnessed that in his words.
Now, the Premier seems to be admitting that he doesnít have much clout with Ottawa. Heís perfectly willing to take credit for buckets and buckets of federal money pouring in here for health care and infrastructure. But when it comes to getting the land claims finished up, heís prepared to let Ottawa set the agenda ó or not set the agenda, as it seems.
There is another aspect of this that we havenít heard from the Premier about, and thatís the question of transboundary claims. This affects a number of Yukon First Nations, including some that have final agreements on this side of the B.C. border and some that donít. Will the Premier tell us exactly what measures he is taking with the governments of Canada and British Columbia to get these issues resolved?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the only point the member is trying to make is whether this government has worked in a constructive, collaborative manner with Ottawa to improve the situation of Yukon. To that end, I would say, given the evidence, that the government has done a great deal.
This government along with our sister territories, the N.W.T. and Nunavut, made a stand in Ottawa early in 2003 when we walked out on the Prime Minister so that we could impress upon the national government that they were not treating the north fairly.
There has been a tremendous improvement since that time, thanks to the efforts of our officials in Finance and the pan-northern approach with our other territories and, indeed in this case, Ottawa. Not only have we got the Northern Health Accord, we have the territorial health access fund, the northern strategy, and we have a dramatic increase in our territorial funding formula, ensuring that we get a fair share of the nationís wealth. I think that speaks volumes about the tremendous influence in Ottawa that the three territories have now.
And for transboundary claims, we have an obligation under the Umbrella Final Agreement. Weíre ready, willing and able to negotiate.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, appointments to
†Mrs. Peter: † Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment. Last session, the minister continually accused federal officials of asking him to break the law with regard to an appointment to the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board that requires federal concurrence. Despite repeated questioning, the minister failed to explain what he meant by this very serious allegation. All the minister would say was that the process did not follow the Umbrella Final Agreement. The minister has now had five months to come up with an answer. Will the minister now explain to the House why he made this unsubstantiated accusation and why he could not agree to reappoint the federal governmentís nominee?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, our responsibilities and obligations are spelled out clearly in the Umbrella Final Agreement and the implementation plan, and we adhered to that implementation plan. The appointment that was made to the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board was done with the concurrence of Canada.
Mrs. Peter: After much delay, the minister has finally brought the board back up to its full complement of members, but his appointments continue a very disturbing trend that underlies his declaration of war on the environment. He has now appointed yet another former Yukon Party executive member to the board. In doing so, he rejected a respected board member with 15 yearsí experience, the same person the federal government urged him to reappoint in December. However well-qualified the governmentís candidates may be, it appears that they have a common thread.
My question to the minister: is Yukon Party membership now an absolute requirement to be appointed to the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím extremely uncomfortable with what is being suggested on the floor of this House ó extremely uncomfortable. The concurrence of Canada was sought on the appointment to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. The names were put forward, and the person Canada agreed to was subsequently appointed to that board.
Question re: Thomson Centre, future use
†Ms. Duncan: Yesterday in this House, the Minister of Health and Social Services was asked specifically what public consultation has occurred on the facilities and service plans for the Thomson Centre. The minister did not answer the question. Not only did the minister not answer the question, he significantly erred in his response.
The Liberal plan for Macaulay Lodge was to provide assisted living for seniors. Now, assisted living is the largest gap in the continuum of services of care for seniors across Canada and especially here in the Yukon. The continuum starts with home care and provides the highest level of care at places like Copper Ridge. The minister also erred in that he said there was still capacity at Macaulay Lodge and Copper Ridge. In the ministerís own budget, I can see the average number of people on the waiting list for Macaulay Lodge is 10 patients, waiting on average seven months. In Copper Ridge, the budget informs us there are five high-level palliative care patients ó
Speaker: Order please. Would the member ask the question, please?
Ms. Duncan: Certainly ó waiting on average for four months. Is the ministerís intention to combine palliative care and detox at the Thomson Centre? Is that the ministerís intention?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I stand on what I said yesterday. It was the intention of the previous Liberal administration to gut Macaulay Lodge and convert it into what I was told by a number of individuals were coffin rooms, little dinky rooms. I will admit that there is a need for more supported living for our seniors here in the Yukon, and thatís why we are moving forward on this initiative with multi-level care facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City.
†In Whitehorse, what is required is an apartment complex with assisted help for those people choosing to reside there. We are moving forward on a number of fronts. We are addressing the issue. Itís not all about consultation and process and reorganizing government; it is about delivering programs and product to Yukoners, and thatís what weíre doing.
Ms. Duncan: Isnít it fascinating that the Yukon Party lead minister on health just stood on his feet and said the views and consultation with Yukoners donít matter? He shows a complete lack of understanding about the need for care for seniors when he doesnít even understand the concept of assisted living, which was the plan for Macaulay Lodge.
The minister also, once again, did not answer the question. Is it the ministerís intention to combine palliative care and detox in a combined site at the Thomson Centre? Apparently this decision has been made without any public consultation and the minister has just said on the floor of this House that public consultation doesnít matter.
Is it the ministerís intention to combine palliative care and detox at the Thomson Centre? Will he answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I believe the member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives to me with respect to her line of questioning. I would ask for your ruling.
Speaker: Presumably youíre standing up on a point of order, government House leader? Or was that the answer?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Obviously there is no point of order. Your question ó the leader of the third party has the floor.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Iím asking for a reasonable response from the minister. Is it the ministerís intention to combine palliative care and medical detox at the Thomson Centre? Patients who receive palliative care are experiencing a life-ending illness. These patients require very specific care to maintain their quality of life and it can include pain management in a very peaceful setting. That type of care is provided at Copper Ridge Place.
Is the minister intending to combine palliative care and medical detox at the Thomson Centre? Will he tell us that ó yes or no? Will he tell us ó there has been no public consultation. Will he come clean on his plans ó pardon me, I withdraw that.
Will he indicate to the public if itís also his intention to then transfer this to the hospital? Is that his plan?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Palliative care is being provided and will continue to be provided at Copper Ridge Place. Mental health and medical detox will be provided by the Yukon Hospital Board via the Whitehorse Hospital.
Question re: Medication expenses, government coverage
†Mr. McRobb: Yesterday, in motion debate, we learned a great deal about a rare disease contracted by a Yukon First Nation member now living in Alberta and the extreme costs of treating that disease. The motion urged the federal government to ensure that payment for this expensive medication would continue. In the Yukon, we would normally pay for medication for a First Nation person and then bill the federal government for the cost. Since this young boy is now living in Alberta, it seems reasonable for that province to take the same approach. Will the minister use his close relationship with members of the Alberta government and urge his counterpart there to follow the procedure we would normally take here?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, Iíd urge the member to go back and read the Blues from yesterday, and he would find that there has been contact with the Hon. Iris Evans, the Minister of Health and Wellness from the Province of Alberta, who has written to the Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh, the federal Minister of Health on this matter. As well, I indicated clearly yesterday that I have written to the Hon. Andy Scott, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, on this matter. And at the same time, last Friday, I was on a telephone conference call with my colleagues, the provincial and territorial health ministers from all across Canada, to encourage the federal government to move quicker on reviewing this orphan drug and bringing it into the drug formulary that would see it paid for under the existing programs.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: We did review the Blues from yesterday, but what the minister put on record at that time was clearly inadequate. He pointed the finger exclusively at the federal government without being willing to take any responsibility himself as Minister of Health for the Yukon government. We have a situation where the Province of Alberta is awash in cash due to the oil price bonanza. There is no reason in the world why it should not pick up the cost of medication for this child. Will the minister step up his efforts and call the Minister of Health again and ask the minister to do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thereís an agreement in place as to how the procedure and what procedure is to be followed with how these orphan drugs are to get into the system, and we have encouraged the federal government to move forward as quickly as possible. Now there is a provincial-territorial meeting of the ministers of health scheduled for Toronto on the 16th and 17th of this month, and that is the main agenda item at that time. So hopefully there will be a very speedy resolution of this matter.
Speaker: New question, Member for Kluane.
Question re: Medical travel allowance
†Mr. McRobb: The travel subsidy paid by the Health minister to patients sent outside the Yukon for diagnosis or treatment is a paltry $30 a day, and since that begins only on the fourth day, patients have to pay their own way for the first three days. The cost of accommodation, meals and transportation is several times that amount, must be paid up front and is only reimbursed several weeks later. The minister has boasted that we have one of the best support programs in Canada. Well, thatís not good enough. The Northwest Territories pays its patients three times what this minister does and its subsidy starts on the first day. Will the minister finally commit to providing Yukoners the same allowance as received by patients in our neighbouring territory?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What the member opposite is trying to compare is apples to turnips. The N.W.T. has a serious health problem in finding health care providers. It has closed down the hospital in Inuvik; it is centred more and more out of Edmonton and, as a consequence, theyíre having to move more of their people to Edmonton who require medical attention. They have had to reduce the facilities and the demands on the facilities because theyíre having a difficult time attracting and recruiting health care providers to the territory.
Theyíve taken a different approach. Weíve taken a different approach in that weíve encouraged health care providers to come and reside here in the Yukon and weíve enhanced our programs in our various facilities. Thus the member opposite canít make the case of trying to compare apples to turnips.
Mr. McRobb: While our Health and Social Services minister talks about fruit and vegetables, patients in the N.W.T. are getting a heck of a lot better deal than they are in the Yukon. This minister has said on the record that there isnít anything to preclude us from looking at this area down the road in the next budget.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the time has arrived. This is the next budget. The federal government has done its part by providing $75 million to the three territories to assist with the cost of medical travel over the next five years as part of its 10-year plan to strengthen health care.
Why havenít we heard anything from this minister? He has run out of excuses. Why should Yukoners settle for less than their counterparts in the N.W.T.?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The simple answer is because we provide a lot more facilities and medical attention here in the Yukon than the N.W.T. does, and that continues to grow and be enhanced by our medical providers here in the Yukon. We are probably doing a much better job in many respects here in the Yukon. There are a number of factors that enter into that, and we just do not have the need to send as many people out of the Yukon as we did before.
Yes, we can only provide so many services here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, and we have to buy capacity in British Columbia and Alberta, primarily.
Question re: Northern Spendor Reindeer Farm
†Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. First, Iíd like to thank the minister for responding to my letter of March 3 regarding the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm. In its reply, the minister pointed out that the government has now taken the reindeer into its care and custody, both to ensure their well-being and to prevent them from being released into the wild.
For the record, will the minister confirm for the House the statement he made in this letter that the reindeer have been well cared for by the operators and that there has been no shortage of feed or suffering experienced by the animals.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can confirm what the member opposite said.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you.
Iím sure it means a lot to the operators of the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm to hear the minister acknowledge that they have taken such good care of these animals over the many years that theyíve looked after them. In fact, I understand that the department has actually contracted one of the operators to assist with feeding the reindeer at their new location.
I take both of these things as positive signs that we might soon be able to put this very unfortunate situation behind us. Now, in the letter I received yesterday, the minister referred to the fact that moving the reindeer into government care provides additional time to reach a final settlement with the owners of the reindeer operation.
Can the minister responsible for agriculture or the Minister of Environment ó since he popped up last time ó tell us when serious negotiations toward a final settlement might begin with the operators, because this government has not made an offer of any kind so far?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can assure the House that the member is absolutely correct. The reindeer have been well looked after by their owners and, from all reports, they have provided transfer of ownership to Yukon. Yukon has taken them and fed them. A veterinarian has been engaged to determine how healthy they are and if there are any health problems with the reindeer. Further to that, an outside firm that appraises these animals is being engaged to determine their value. As soon as the independent valuation has been completed, an offer will be made to the owners of these reindeer for that value. If they accept it, fine; if they donít, well, weíre at an impasse. They are still their reindeer, and they appear to have given up ownership to the Yukon.
Mr. Hardy: Well, thatís interesting ó the final comment made by this minister about how negotiation is going to proceed. Before I get to my question, which is around the negotiations, I want to say a few words about some of the other things.
A few days ago, the Minister of Environment seemed to be negotiating on the floor of this House by mentioning a dollar figure he said the operators wanted ó a figure that is quite inaccurate, by the way.
Now, Mr. Speaker, on February 8, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board recommended that the government move the reindeer herd to another jurisdiction to avoid having to amend its captive wildlife or game farm regulations. I understand some inquiries have been made in this regard, but the outcome is still very much in doubt. In the meantime, the Yukon government has an obligation to compensate the operators of the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm for shutting down a legitimate business because of a regulatory gap.
I think it has been admitted on that side that that is actually what has happened. So Iím asking very clearly: will the minister give his assurance that the Yukon government will negotiate ó and I mean negotiate, not what was just described ó in good faith with these people on a fair compensation package and spare Yukon taxpayers the unnecessary cost of a drawn-out legal battle?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, these reindeer used to be valued based on their breeding capacity and breeding stock, and they used to amount to $8,000, $10,000 or $15,000. The borders are closed to the movement of livestock and all ruminants. That is the bottom line. This is a market that has collapsed, through no fault of this government, and there is an initiative underway to obtain an independent evaluation by a professional in this area as to the value of the livestock.
What the owners of this herd of reindeer are seeking is compensation, and they wish to be paid for all their time and efforts over the past 17 years, which is in excess of $1 million, and that doesnít include any land or animals. That is what is on the floor. What our government is prepared to offer the owners of the reindeer is the value determined by an independent appraiser.†
Question re:† Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board Act review
Mr. Cardiff: Phase 2 of the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board Act review fell off the rails about 15 months ago. The chair is late in handing in his assignment. This is a process that was supposed to be complete in January 2004. Nothing has transpired in that time period. Thereís a booklet about an inch and a quarter thick. Those issues were supposed to be analyzed by the act review committee, and nothing has happened. I think the minister disagrees with me; I can hear him shaking his head.
The problem is that the minister has actually hired somebody to complete this review, and he has replaced the chair. What I would like to know is, when is he going to announce that?
Speaker: Before the Hon. Minister answers the question, Iíd just like to caution the Member for Mount Lorne in the use of his terminology. I donít think it was meant to be insulting; Iíd just like the member to gauge his words.
You have the floor, minister responsible for Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can assure all members of this House that the group that has been engaged now with the assistance of a third party is moving forward on the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board Act review.
Mr. Cardiff: Phase 2, which was supposed to be complete in January 2004, told the Yukon public to watch the local newspaper for details about community meetings. So weíve had the Yukon public watching the newspapers for 15 months wanting to attend these public meetings. When is the minister going to take responsibility for this review? He has totally ignored it. We know that he has hired somebody, but when is he going to let the public know? There has been no newspaper announcement; there has been nothing on the radio; there hasnít been a ministerial statement. When is he going to let the public know that the act review is actually back on track and somebody else is in charge?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the record, the act review was never off-track. It was always moving forward. There has been initial work done. It is currently being reviewed by an independent third party who had a lot of involvement with the Province of British Columbia. Iím sure the member will be diligently following the ads as they appear in the local newspapers.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím sure the public is also looking forward to that. There are a lot of people interested in the act review.
I have a simple question for the minister. Maybe he can get the chair, or the former chair, of the act review committee to do one simple task, and that would be to update the Web site and give us a new time frame for the completion of the act. While heís at it, maybe he could tell us when he intends to bring forward the changes to the act.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On one hand, one party is criticizing us for no consultation and no involvement of the public; the other one is saying to speed it up and get on with the consultation. I will take it under advisement and I will assure the member opposite that we will have a look at the Web site. It will be updated.
The bottom line is the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board is functioning very well, probably the best it has functioned in a long, long time in the Yukon. Itís healthy, it can meet its financial commitments, and the review is underway.
Speakerís ruling on question of privilege re pre-budget announcements
Speaker: Before the House proceeds to Orders of the Day, the Chair will rule on the question of privilege raised by the leader of the third party on March 24, 2005.
Before discussing the substance of the question of privilege, the Chair will deal with some procedural matters. The leader of the third party met the notice requirement found in Standing Order 7(1)(b) by submitting a written notice to the Office of the Speaker by 11:00 a.m. on March 24, 2005. Standing Order 7(4) states that the Speaker must rule on: (a) whether there appears, on the face of it, to be a case of breach of privilege; and (b) whether the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity.
The normal practice of this House has been that, to meet the ďearliest opportunityĒ requirement, a question of privilege must be raised at the time the event occurred or on the next sitting day. In this matter, the events in question took place when the House was not sitting. Raising the question of privilege on the first day of the 2005 spring sitting, therefore, meets the ďearliest opportunityĒ requirement of Standing Order 7(4)(b).
In dealing with questions of privilege, or in this case an alleged contempt of the Assembly, it is not the Chairís role to rule that a contempt has, or has not, occurred.
The question for the Chair to decide is whether there appears, on the face of it, to be a contempt. Should the Chair decide that is the case, the leader of the third party will be invited to place before the House a motion that would deal with the issue. All other business before the House, with the exception of the Daily Routine, will be set aside until the issue is dealt with.
Should the Chair decide that there does not appear to be a contempt of the Assembly, the leader of the third party may still bring this issue before the House. This could be done by giving notice of a substantive motion in the usual fashion, which could then be called on a day when opposition private members business has precedence.
The issue before the Chair is whether the governmentís release of budget information outside this Assembly and before the Assembly is sitting constitutes a contempt of the Assembly. As the leader of the third party illustrated, budget information was released to the public in a systematic way through news releases, news conferences and speeches over a number of weeks before the 2005 spring sitting commenced. Some announcements were made before a date had been set for this sitting.
The leader of the third party drew the Chairís attention to a ruling by Speaker Gary Carr of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in May 2003.
In that ruling Speaker Carr found an apparent case of contempt against the Government of Ontario for actions that the leader of the third party argues are similar to those which occurred in Yukon last month. The leader of the third party argues that the actions are so similar that they are deserving of a similar ruling from the Chair.
In this regard the Chair would remind members of Standing Order 1, which says ďIn all cases not provided for in these Standing Orders or by sessional or other orders, the practices and procedures of the House of Commons of Canada, as in force at the time, shall be followed, so far as they may apply to this Assembly.Ē So while the Ontario example is instructive, it is not definitive in ruling on matters in the Yukon.
Nonetheless the Chair did consider the Ontario example because it was the example cited by the leader of the third party. However, the Chair is not obliged to follow Speaker Carrís ruling and in fact may interpret the same evidence differently, given the different contexts of events here and in Ontario.
In her submission the leader of the third party quoted a definition of ďcontemptĒ offered by Joseph Maingot, an acknowledged authority on parliamentary privilege. Maingot defines ďcontemptĒ as ďan offence against the authority and dignity of the House.Ē
The Chair accepts this definition and in ruling on the question will determine if the actions of the government adversely affected the authority of this Assembly and whether those actions adversely affected the dignity of this House.
In order to determine whether the authority of the House has been undermined by the governmentís pre-budget announcements, we must first determine what the Assemblyís authority is with regard to the budget. The Yukon governmentís main appropriation act for any fiscal year is presented to this Assembly by way of a bill. That bill contains information about the gross amounts to be appropriated and the amount to be allocated to each government department. The bill is accompanied by budget books that further detail this information, showing the allocation of monies to programs and activities within departments.
Once the Assembly is presented with the main appropriation bill and the other budget information, the bill is dealt with in the same fashion as any other: it receives introduction and first reading, second reading, is committed to Committee of the Whole, and receives third reading and assent. Through this process the Assemblyís members are able to scrutinize government spending plans and question government ministers as to the uses to which appropriations will be put. Members, through the Committee of the Whole process, have the authority to reduce expenditures on individual line items.
An understanding of the Assemblyís authority with regard to budget bills reveals, therefore, that this authority was not adversely affected by announcements made outside this House. No matter what announcements the government makes outside this House, all appropriations have to be submitted to, and passed by, this Assembly before they become law and the government acquires the lawful authority to spend those appropriations.
The second issue is whether the governmentís actions adversely affected the dignity of this House. This is a more complicated question to deal with because the concept of the dignity of the House is not as clearly defined as the question of its authority. It is here that Speaker Carrís ruling can prove instructive.
In the case ruled upon by Speaker Carr, the Government of Ontario divulged its entire budget outside the Assembly. The announcement, equivalent to our Finance ministerís second reading speech on the main appropriation act, was held in, and televised from, a private facility outside the Assembly. Prior to the announcement the government also conducted a media lock-up and released the budget papers to the media and the public. Members of the Assembly were invited to the budget announcement. All this took place six weeks before the Assembly reconvened.
This, the Chair believes, lies at the heart of Speaker Carrís belief that the dignity of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario had been impugned.
The effect of these actions was to marginalize the Assembly in the budget process. Speaker Carr also noted that this process exposed the Assembly to a large volume of public ridicule. This, to Speaker Carr, added up to an apparent contempt of the Assembly.
There were some significant differences between the situations here and in Ontario. Important information about the governmentís proposed appropriations was made public before the House reconvened. However, most of the spending priorities subsequently announced by the Premier had not been made public. The entire budget speech was delivered for the first time in this House, as it always is, and members of the Assembly were in their places by right of their election, not as the invited guests of the government. Also, the papers that accompany the budget bill were not released to the public in advance of the moving of the motion for second reading of Bill No. 15. The lock-ups for opposition members and the media took place in the usual fashion.
If the Chair follows the view of the leader of the third party correctly, the government should be required to announce its budgetary priorities in this Assembly before any information is released to the public. While this was the practice for years, it is not clear that such a practice is required. Though certain Standing Orders refer to the process for introducing and debating a main appropriation act, none speaks to the issue of the release of budget information outside the House before it is presented here.
So the rules have not changed. What appears to have changed is the view the government has of its own budget. For years, governments in the Yukon and elsewhere insisted on budget secrecy. Today more governments make selected announcements before their budget is tabled in their Assembly. From the research conducted for this ruling it appears that legal and procedural authorities are of the opinion ó though they are not unanimous ó that there is nothing in law or procedure that prevents this from happening.
As a result the Chair finds that the manner and extent of the government actions in Ontario and Yukon are different enough to warrant a different ruling. I find that the present case does not constitute an apparent case of contempt of the Assembly.
Having so ruled, the Chair would advise members that the issue is not settled for all time. The Chair believes that it is the extent and manner of the budget release in Ontario that inspired Speaker Carrís ruling. Should the extent and manner of pre-budget releases in Yukon become more elaborate, the Chair might legitimately be called upon to revisit this issue as a matter of contempt. The Chair might reach a different conclusion at that time.
Should the leader of the third party be unsatisfied by this ruling she may, as mentioned previously, bring this issue to the Houseís attention by way of a substantive motion.
We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 15 ó First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06. We will continue on with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, as is obvious by all that has transpired, the government is attempting in every possible way to assist the opposition in being able to debate what is a very, very large budget ó the largest in the history of the Yukon. We would hope that now we can get on with a constructive debate around the finances of the territory, where the investments on behalf of Yukon taxpayers are going and what we are achieving.
What would be the oppositionís view of the finances of the territory as they exist today and what has transpired over the tenure of this government? What is the oppositionís position on the investments? What would they do with respect to building a future of this territory? What are their priorities? What are their views? Hopefully we could get to that as soon as possible, because that is exactly what we should be doing in this Assembly.
I just want to reiterate something thatís very important. A tremendous amount of detail has been provided to the opposition, not only through the budget documents themselves, and other detailed information that has been sent to them, but also through the budget lock-up and in department-by-department briefings.
The appropriate course of action is to establish in general debate what views the opposition has in a general manner of the overall finances and direction of the territory, and then move into department-by-department, line-by-line debate to ferret out and discuss the details. Thatís the appropriate approach to debating any bill in this Legislature ó of course, more importantly, an appropriation bill.
Itís clear that the Yukon Territoryís finances have come a long way. Under the former leadership of the Liberal government, some two and a half years ago, the Yukon found itself in a position where we had to debt-service cash flow requirements to deliver programs and services to Yukoners, where we were continually showing a deficit at year-end. Here we are, the third budget by this Yukon Party government, and not only are we no longer debt-servicing cash flow requirements, we are not showing a year-end deficit; we are showing a year-end surplus, and we are showing what would formerly be the accumulated surplus, now a net financial position, of over $60 million.
With all that in place, with money in the bank for the future, we have tabled the largest budget in the history of the Yukon Territory, with some $206 million of capital investment creating jobs and opportunities and building infrastructure on behalf of this territory.
Itís important to note that in three budgets, this Yukon Party government has doubled the capital investment here in the Yukon. We have increased investment in our social fabric. We have increased investment in education. We are proceeding with major initiatives in partnership with First Nations, such as the Child Act review, correction reform and education reform. We have established or formalized relationships with First Nations at a government-to-government level with the creation of the Yukon Forum. In fact, we are about to meet on a very important issue, the Alaska rail link, on April 15. A great deal has been accomplished. I think now itís time for the opposition to show their mettle and what it is they would do to build the future of the territory.
The challenge is to move away from the negative approach and view that the opposition has and to stop trying to reconstruct the past ó thatís over. The focus now is on the future. This government has demonstrated it has a vision, a plan, and the financial management skills ó thanks to its officials and the direction and advice they provide. We are heading in the right direction. The Yukon is bound for a better and brighter future.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and welcome back.
I think the people of the territory have heard that little speech a few times already. We on this side of the House have heard it many times before. Just to pick up on one of the last things the Premier said, which I found quite interesting and I feel is a little confusing to a lot of people ó he has accused the opposition of reconstructing the past, and yet on many, many occasions, it is the Premier himself who has tried to reconstruct the past in a manner to suit his own vision. He has tried to reconstruct the past in order to put down any other government work that he has benefited from. It is the Premier who has tried to reconstruct the past to ensure that credit is not given to organizations, to First Nation governments or municipalities, for example, or to past people within the government itself who work daily, year after year, no matter which government comes in or goes, to do that in a manner to suggest that the only time in our history we have all of a sudden seen an improvement is when the Yukon Party was elected.
This is what the Premier seems to be doing on a regular basis now. We heard it in Question Period today. We heard it in Question Period yesterday, and that is a disservice to years and years of work by the people of this territory, by other levels of government. It is a disservice, and it is also something that I find fairly offensive when I hear a new government come in and immediately find fault with the finances, immediately talk about trajectory of spending, immediately talk about containing spending, and then within a year bringing in budgets that are massive, that spend a tremendous amount more than has ever been done in the past ó $230 million more in two and a half years. And to suggest that the territory is in dire shape. How can any person out there believe statements like that and yet they have found 230 million more dollars to spend in two and a half years? It doesnít support the arguments or the position that the Premier makes.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Now the Premier is yelling across the way here and pointing fingers and rocking like mad, because heís very agitated about what Iím saying, but Iím challenging him on his position. That is what happens in this Legislature.
Interestingly enough, heís also given a little speech on what we should ask and how we should behave on the opposition side and how we should put out our position.
Well, the Premier knows darn well that if he wants to see our position immediately, call an election. Weíll put our vision out to the people of the territory at that moment ó right at that moment. Not a problem at all ó just as the Premier will do it, just as the Yukon Party will do it.
But we are the official opposition and we will question the budget thatís before us. And we have concerns about it. Itís our job. We take our job seriously. And we definitely do not take the words of a Premier who obviously does not like being challenged or questioned and does everything to avoid answering. We do not take his position very seriously, Mr. Chair, because ultimately the Premier is responsible for the $784 million of taxpayersí money thatís being spent. We did not have input into it. We would like to have had input into it; that offer was not given to us and hasnít been given to us in two and a half years.
These are decisions that have been made by the Yukon Party, which is the governing party today. This is the budget that we have in front of us. This is what we are going to debate, and this is what we are debating. And we will challenge some of the spending. We will look at it. We will scrutinize it. Thatís what makes it good; thatís what strengthens any spending by government: having the assurances that there is some scrutiny in regard to that. Even when youíre drafting, youíre thinking about, okay, if we spend in this direction, of course, we may be criticized ó what are the weaknesses; what are the strengths ó knowing full that at some point youíre going to come back into the Legislative Assembly and have to defend your budget. But we just heard the Premier. Heís not exactly eager to defend his budget. He wants us to lay out our budget. Well, we could lay out an alternative budget; thatís not a problem.
But thatís not what the Legislative Assembly is about. Itís about talking about the budget thatís right in front of us today, the spending, the decisions that were made by the Premier, and thatís what we are questioning.
I have already asked a question and I have already heard the Premier answer in regard to this one, and I heard him answer a year ago, for instance, when he brought in his flagship budget that was going to be the flagship of the term. In other words, this was the biggest spending the territory was going to see.
Mr. Chair, he assured the people of the territory this. Well, flash-forward 10 or 11 months and what we see in front of us is an $80-million increase on top of that. So I asked the question last year: is that budget sustainable? I asked that question, and the answer I got was, no, itís not sustainable. That was the flagship budget. There were going to be some restraints after that; people should not expect this kind of spending following that.
Well, guess what? You can fool some of the people some of the time ó fine, and thatís whatís happening here.
There was an attempt to say one thing last year, when it was very clearly stated that the spending was not sustainable, that people can expect to not see this type of spending in the future, only to find in the future, 10 months later in the next budget, a substantial increase, the largest increase weíve ever seen in spending. How are we supposed to interpret that?
The public is interpreting it very well, and that is that they are questioning what the Premier is saying in regard to spending.
I ask the same question, a very simple question, and I wonder if Iím going to get the same answer: is this spending sustainable? Is the type of spending weíre witnessing here at $784 million sustainable for the future? Is the $206 million in capital something that we can expect in the next budget?
Is it sustainable? This is a Premier who prides himself on predicting the future, so can he inform the public ó this time correctly: can they anticipate another $206 million in capital being spent next year, or is there going to be a withdrawal or pull-back from that? Or is this considered a second flagship budget?
Maybe we can come up with a new name instead ó last year, ďthe flagship budget,Ē and the year before that, of course, was ďthe trajectory budget.Ē That was, of course, to rein in spending. Then we went to the flagship budget, and this year I think weíre going to have to come up with a new name. Weíll have to look in the Star Trek journals and see if there is a ó maybe the ďSS Enterprise budgetĒ for the Premierís vision of budgets for the future. Weíll be launching a new ship every year thatís bigger, better and spends more money. We have to question the sustainability.
The questions are out there. I know the Premier wrote them down and is very eager to stand up, so letís start with that. Is this budget sustainable? Is the capital of $206 million sustainable, or is he anticipating a reduction in amounts or an increase in the amounts?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I see weíre galloping along in a vigorous, constructive debate.
First, let me begin by saying that the member opened up by talking about vision from this side of the House, and I would respond by saying that at least we have a vision. Itís a vision and plan that we implemented upon being sworn in, in December 2002. It carried forward with getting a firm grip on the finances of this territory, because the financial legacy left to us by the former Liberal government was in very poor shape. We were debt-servicing our cash flow needs in this territory to deliver programs and services to Yukoners.
Nothing more needs to be said on the financial legacy left by the former Yukon Liberal government. But we went to work on it and have improved the situation dramatically.
Iím going to take exception to the member oppositeís implication that this government takes all the credit, because we never have. I challenge the member to go back through the pages of Hansard, to go back through public documents and communiquťs, to go back through transcripts in the media, and the member will then be retracting his statement because he will be provided and will clearly see the evidence that this government has given credit always where credit is due. When it comes to things like the community development fund, this government stood on the floor of this Legislature and handed the credit to the New Democrats of this territory. When it comes to the financial situation we find ourselves in, this government has extended credit to its officials in the Finance department, to our colleagues in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, to our MP, to our senator, to the federal government. We have extended credit, extended our appreciation, to all who were involved in improving the financial situation of the Yukon Territory. So the challenge for the member is to try to debate at a level that reflects the station of this House and this Assembly.†
The member has asked a question that I find somewhat disturbing. If the member is the official oppositionís Finance critic, would it not then seem logical that the member would pick up the budget documents and look for himself on where the finances of the territory are today and where theyíre going in out-years as far ahead as 2008, 2009?
We provided that information on paper, black and white, in writing, in detail. Mr. Chair, we did table a flagship budget, and it was the fiscal year of 2004-05.
So let me briefly recap how weíve got this budget for 2005-06. The 2003-04 budget was based on the efforts put forward to get our fiscal house in order. Weíve done that. The 2004-05 budget laid the foundation for the many commitments that this government made to the Yukon public and the investments required to carry out those commitments. Weíve done that. Through the efforts of our financial officials, based on the tabling with Ottawa, the business case on us, the three territories ó Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut ó receiving our fair share of the wealth of this country, we were successful in increasing the financial position of the Yukon. In general terms, approximate terms, the gross financial position of the Yukon went from approximately $680 million in 2004-05 to $750 million for 2005-06. Those numbers are in the budget documents. When the member asked the question of how we got here, would it not seem reasonable that the member has the information if he was going to look at it and take the time to critique it and understand where we are at?
Mr. Chair, on the long term, the member has asked the question: is it sustainable? Well, not only the budget speech delivered in this House some days ago mentioned clearly that itís not ó an open admission by the government that this level of capital spending is not sustainable. We clearly understand that. Itís part of how we as a government want to maintain a firm grip on the finances of this territory and ensure we are managing our fiscal situation in the best interests of Yukoners.
To that end, the budget document ó again, the member has a copy ó shows clearly where weíre going. It shows that the capital expenditure will be reduced in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09, maintaining not only a year-end surplus for this territory, in terms of its financial position, but a healthy net financial position for each year-end through to 2008-09.
Let me go over the numbers with the member. We show for 2005-06, this budget, a year-end surplus of $29,136,000. If we want to further expand on the difference between last year and this year, if we compare mains to mains, in the budget in 2004-05 the Yukon showed a year-end deficit. This year we have tabled a budget that shows a year-end surplus.
If we follow through, we will see we intend through our projected investments to maintain a year-end surplus, to maintain a year-end net financial position of a very healthy surplus ending in 2008-09 of some $49 million.
I donít know how anyone who is versed in any kind of language, no matter what level of ability, can explain this to the member opposite if the figures and the information laid out in laymanís terms in the budget document does not allow the member to come to an understanding of the financial position of the Yukon.
Thatís why the government continually points out that this type of debate is not why weíre here. Weíre here to debate vision, plan, future ó all those things important to Yukoners.
Weíre here to debate the increased investment and infrastructure, the increased investment in our education system, and the increased investment in our social fabric. Weíre here to debate the different direction that this government has taken the territory in. And we will stand before this House and the members opposite and make the case on why it is the correct direction to lead this territory in.
It appears that continuing with general debate will not result in that kind of discussion here in the Assembly; therefore, it only makes sense that we move on to department-by-department, line-by-line debate with the members opposite, so that we can get to that level of discussion in this House.
You know, I canít answer any clearer than that, other than reciting whatís in the budget document. It shows where weíre at and where weíre going. It shows the level of spending is not sustainable. Whatís the point of the memberís question, Mr. Chair?
Mr. Hardy: Well, I ask the Premier to calm down a little bit and not be so insulting by telling me and other members of the opposition that we canít understand anything if we donít see it in his light. I found that was a very patronizing and insulting little speech to us on this side ó if we dare ask a question, Mr. Chair. You may have a different opinion of it.
Iím not bringing up a point of order on this, because weíve heard this put-down that the Premier loves to get into on a regular basis. If we ask the question, ďIs this budget sustainable?Ē for some reason he gets very upset, and he goes on and lectures us about spending, how we canít read anything, and how we on this side canít understand a single thing. It has become a common response from this Premier.
I hate to think what anybody who disagrees with him has to face in any walk of life because, in here, itís quite insulting.
However, we will continue to ask questions and get some clarifications, because sometimes thatís what weíre after. We really do want the Premier to be able to answer some number questions, some budgetary questions. I know that former premiers and former government leaders could and would answer with detail in general debate. This Premier doesnít like to do that for I donít know what reasons, whether he knows the information in-depth ó I would suspect he should and possibly does. I wouldnít try to put him down in that sense, but I think itís just a matter of choice that he refuses to participate.
A really good example, Mr. Chair, is having to spend a substantial amount of our time asking the Premier for a very simple document that was given out by government leaders and premiers previously, and that is a detailed breakdown of the community distribution of funds. We spent hours asking for that. Every other premier and every other government leader would give it quite happily; this one doesnít; this one doesnít want to do it ó which begs the question of why?
The next day, of course, we do get it, even though we had to spend hours in here asking a simple question because, at that time, the Premier refused to turn it over. It begs the question of why we have to go through such a convoluted exercise and spend so much time asking for a simple document that other government leaders were always very willing to share.
Whatís the difference here? Whatís the different philosophy thatís being applied in working with the opposition now? Iím not sure. I know the Premier, when he was in opposition, always wanted to get hold of that community breakdown. Mr. Chair, heís from a community, and he wanted to see what kind of detailed spending was happening in his riding. It was always supplied, so it does beg the question of maybe an attitude, Iím not sure.
The Premier talked about projections about the future. He talked about admitting, as he did last year, that the spending is not sustainable. This year the spending is not sustainable, but he went ahead and did it. From my perspective, I donít necessarily see anything in the budget particularly that identifies that, and where weíre going, other than the comments about the Government of Yukon projections for 2005-06 mains and then 2006-07 projected estimates, 2007-08 projected estimates, 2008-09 projected estimates. Thatís as far as it is projected at this present time.
I also have the projections, of course, of the previous year ó the 2003-04 Budget Address with the projections ó and if you compare the projections, theyíre substantially different. I know the argument is that they are just projections, and they will change, because the finances will change depending on formula financing with the federal government, with agreements that are signed, whether it is project-specific money coming in for specific investments in certain areas ó health and social areas, for instance. Thatís all understandable.
Thereís not a problem in that, but if you look at the two projections in the two budget addresses ó the ones I have here are the budget addresses ó they are substantially different. So thereís a fair amount of room in those figures. If thatís the case, then itís incumbent upon us to ask the questions why and how we got there, how come they changed so much, what are the factors that are causing that change and those adjustments? I contend that those are adjustments that are happening on a regular basis. As we speak, the projections are changing and can be changing over the course of each month. Thatís the way budgets are. Theyíre not cast in stone and itís pretty difficult for any government or any Finance minister or Finance deputy minister to identify three years from now exactly what the governmentís going to have and what itís going to be spending its money on in the O&M and capital.
Now I did ask the question: is the capital sustainable ó $206 million? The Premier has answered that, no, itís not sustainable, the same as he answered last year ó the same question; the same answer: no, itís not sustainable. But we continue to spend.
So our concern as we go through this budget is, if the Premier continues to say itís not sustainable but continues to increase the amount thatís being spent, then we would like an explanation. I think thatís a reasonable request. Thereís nothing wrong with that. Itís expected by our constituents, including the constituents from Lake Laberge, whom I get calls from all the time to ask these questions.
Now I know the Member for Lake Laberge gets quite nervous when he hears that people from his riding actually talk to the opposition, but Iíd like to assure him that when heís in opposition he will also have calls from other ridings and it will be all right too ó if heís lucky enough to repeat.
I can assure you heís not going to be in the position that he is in. That might make him happy too, Mr. Chair, because we do know there is some frustration on the backbenches there.
Now, another area weíre always concerned about is consultation, and I know it has been explored a little bit, especially around the communities. What consultation has happened in putting this budget together? How many people have been attending these meetings? When did these meetings take place in the communities, and what was brought forward by the communities?
There is a multitude of questions I want to explore, but letís start with devolution. A substantial amount of spending has happened in the last couple of years ó a $230-million increase. The budget is $230 million larger, when you add O&M and capital. A pretty straightforward question: what was the contribution to the increase in the government budget that devolution had?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I wonder if it would be too much to ask to debate the 2005-06 budget. As the member well knows, devolution came into force and effect in April 2003. Thatís two years ago. I donít know if thereís much point in continuing this whole matter, because Iím embarrassed for the member opposite.
Weíve tried everything to help. All we get is an accusation of being insulting, so Iím not sure where we can go with this, Mr. Chair.
If the member asks a question thatís relevant to the 2005-06 budget and is constructive and contributes to debate, as members opposite should be asking, the government is more than willing to engage. If weíre going to carry on with this type of debate, well, I guess we can sit here for the remainder of the afternoon and days ahead, because thereís not much point in the government responding.
The other thing the member should well know in devolution is that the majority of funds that would have come the Yukon governmentís way were to deliver programs and services that the federal government had under their auspices pre-2003 ó April 2003 ó and also to pay wages of the many federal employees the Yukon government has taken on through the devolution transfer.
Whatís of even more of concern about the memberís question is we already debated the overall impacts on the Yukon government from devolution in the fall supplementary in the year 2003 ó almost two full years ago. I make the point clearly that the member is not focused on the 2005-06 budget. Weíre even willing to sit down and allow the members some time to go back into their offices, and weíll provide financial officials for a little assistance in going through the budget document to try to get the member to focus on the fiscal year 2005-06, which weíre in. Itís now April 7, I believe.
We are seven days into our fiscal year, and weíre here to debate that budget. If the member has any questions with respect to the 2005-06 budget, weíre here to debate, discuss and respond. If the member wants to continue down this vein, then maybe we should just adjourn, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Iíll repeat the question. Iím going to be very generous. I believe the Premier has the numbers and has the figures and can contribute to them. If he doesnít wish to do it, thatís his choice. But when you see an increase of $230 million, you see substantial increases in the last couple years, itís kind of nice to know what contributed to that. So what has been the impact of devolution on the increased size of the budget that weíre facing today? Thatís a pretty simple question. Iím hoping that somebody can explain it to the Premier so he can pass along the information in the Legislative Assembly on record to us. Same question.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Same answer. The member opposite has in his office the fall supplementary budget for 2003 clearly putting forward all the monetary factors that resulted from devolution. If the member opposite is suggesting that the financial position that we are in today ó which has allowed us to increase investments in highway infrastructure and other investments in highways and public works by some 30 percent,† and increase jobs and opportunities for Yukoners ó is because of the devolution transfer, I can assure the member heís wrong.
It did not result in the financial position we are in today in terms of the amount of money that the Yukon government can invest in programs and services. The devolution amount the member has debated already in the fall supplementary, unless maybe they were trying to debate 2001ís supplementary at that time ó I canít remember. But all Iím pointing out here is that the member certainly is off the mark when it comes to debating why weíre here this year in this Assembly, April 7, 2005. Itís to debate the 2005-06 budget. The devolution amounts were debated two years ago in a fall supplementary.
Mr. Hardy: I can assure you, Mr. Chair, and Iíd like to assure the Premier, that Iím not suggesting anything of the sort. It didnít even cross my mind that the devolution agreement and the transfer of the responsibilities, financial and otherwise, are contributing to the jobs that are being created to date, for instance the capital. Thatís furthest from my mind.
Here we are today debating the budget before us, 2005-06, and Iím looking to see where that transfer, that devolution agreement, what impact it had over the last couple of years ó of course it happened in 2003 ó what has happened with the budget, and recognizing that.
Today, for instance, we had a briefing with Finance, and I was trying to get a picture of where the money is coming from, what kind of agreements there are ó the one term, one year, two year, three year ó and what kind of impact itís having. I will say this on the floor, and Iím quite willing to admit it: thereís a fair amount of confusion about that kind of stuff. One piece of this picture that would help us on this side ó and if the minister wants to say we know nothing on this side, then I would hope that if heís going to say it, he would also be generous enough to say that heís going to ensure that we get that information to educate us. If thatís what he wants to do, if it makes him feel good, so be it.
I would really like to see the numbers that indicate how the budget has gone from where it was for 2002-03 to this 2005-06 budget, and what impact devolution had on that increase. If the Premier would be so generous as to put that on the floor of the Legislative Assembly, Iíd appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: All the member has to do is pull out the 2003 fall supplementary, and he will see the impact of devolution and then come to the understanding and realization that whatever transpired in the supplementary, as booked in the fall of 2003, is now being carried forward through subsequent years.
The member is asking what impact devolution had on the financial position we have today in this budget, and was it devolution that put us in this position? No, it was not. It was not at all. How we got into this position is through increases to the territorial funding formula, increases in own-source revenues and monies flowing that we also have to invest in through infrastructure funds ó the Northern Health Accord.
Mr. Chair, all these items are here in detail in the budget. If the member wishes to go over that detail ó not something from 2003 ó that is here for the 2005-06 fiscal year, weíre more than willing to debate it. If the member wants to go into further detail that is specific to infrastructure funds, for example, then the member should be debating with the minister responsible for the department where those funds are allocated.
What is wrong with that, Mr. Chair? That is how this House should conduct its business.
So, again, the budget document for the fall supplementary of 2003 will provide the member the information he requires, in detail. Then the member would have to recognize that those values are carried forward through subsequent years, and then maybe we can get to 2005-06.
Mr. Hardy: This is a very reasonable question ó a different perspective, I guess. The Premier on that side wants us to debate the budget exactly as itís presented at this moment and not look at how we got here, not look at the forces changing the budget or projections monthly; donít look down the road; donít look a year back; donít look at forces that are affecting it; only look at exactly what has been presented.
That would be one of the most short-sighted views I think you could possibly have. Thatís how you keep repeating mistakes, Mr. Chair ó if you never look at what you did in the past, if you never pay attention and donít respect it. But this is an approach the Premier has.
I might come back to this, but I wonít stay on it any longer right at the moment. Iíll give him warning and see where he goes on this one. Iím finding the answers quite interesting ó or non-answers.
On the Canada Winter Games ó thereís one that maybe the Premier can get his head around ó has there been an economic study on the impact the Canada Winter Games will have, or is having presently, on the Yukon, as well as on Whitehorse? Iím not sure if there has been a study, and if theyíve actually looked at it in two parts ó Yukon-wide or just Whitehorse area-wide.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again Iím going to point something out for the benefit of the member. He alludes to the fact that we should know what has happened in the past, and all that information is in the memberís hands.
Letís just go back to 2003-04. In the budget document are the actuals for 2003-04, the forecasts for 2004-05, and the estimates for 2005-06. Is there a particular area that the member opposite would like to discuss vis-ŗ-vis the general financial picture of this territory based on whatís in his budget documents?
Now as far as the Canada Winter Games, projections that have been brought forward not by this government solely but by a collective, which includes the host society and the Canada Winter Games agency from Canada itself ó the projections are that some $70 million of cash flow will accrue to this territory during the Canada Winter Games. What the government has done in recognize that the Canada Winter Games is a golden opportunity to showcase the Yukon, the north, its culture, its history, its First Nation people, its opportunity and potential ó we are going to conduct a major marketing campaign in partnership with the Northwest Territories, with Nunavut and with the Government of Canada to showcase the north, to showcase the fact that we are hosting for the first time ever the Canada Winter Games. So there is going to be a long-term economic potential here based on our marketing initiative to represent to the rest of Canada the golden opportunities that are, or that exist, in the Yukon and in the north.
So, Mr. Chair, without having the Canada Winter Games actually come and conclude so we can tally up, the approximations here are quite significant with a $70-million cash flow estimate. The investments in capital are quite significant with, I believe, around $30 million now in multiplex and in that area, and also a $20-million investment in the athletes village. Those types of capital investment create a tremendous amount of opportunity for Yukoners.
A lot of Yukoners are involved, including contractors, and the list goes on.
As far as rural Yukon, the host society is in charge of how the Canada Winter Games events will take place. I would urge the member opposite to engage with the host society and its representatives so they can present to him exactly what their intentions are. We certainly are intending to involve every community in ceremonies and the lead-up to the Canada Winter Games and whatever we can do throughout the Canada Winter Games and post-Canada Winter Games, but I want to go back to one thing that is vital to this overall initiative ó that is our ability to promote the Yukon by using the Canada Winter Games as the impetus to southern Canada and present to them the tremendous opportunity and potential that exists in this territory. So I see the benefits being of a long-term nature.
Now, being of a mind to try to cooperate and assist the member opposite, to the credit of the Member for Lake Laberge, the member went to an office, dug out the fall supplementary for 2003-04, and the transfer from Canada, which is an approximation for the devolution amount, as of that date, which would be carried forward, was $71,086,000.
That was the increase in the fall of 2003 over and above the total transfers from Canada that were tabled in the Legislature in the 2003-04 main estimates.
I could also pass this document over to the member opposite so he can see where the transfer for Canada increased and the amount that relates, for the most part, to devolution.
Mr. Hardy: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair. That wasnít too painful, I hope, for the Premier to actually stand up there and give a figure. Watching it happen was quite an experience. Is that the total transfer? When the Premier indicates $71 million, is that all cash or is that cash and also property? Is it the whole shebang, or are we looking at only one portion?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís just the actual cash that has transferred over to Yukon. Property values are something else.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you to the minister who stood up. Is there a breakdown on the amount of value of property that was transferred over and what properties they were?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That occurred some two years ago. We have before us the budget for the next year. We donít have that information here.
Mr. Hardy: The reason Iím asking the question, of course, is that we own it now; therefore it affects our budget. There would be O&M costs on any transfer of property or buildings, and it does have an effect upon any budget in the future and for any future government.
So, a simple question: if the minister doesnít have the answer, Iím quite willing to have it supplied over the next bit the breakdown of what properties were transferred and the values of them.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: All that information has been tabled in prior years. The asset base that was transferred over under devolution has been tabled here. The budget reflects the increase in O&M costs related to the operation of these capital assets.
So everything that has been done in the past has been accounted for and dealt with. What we have is, on an ongoing basis, the O&M budget, which reflects the operation of those assets, along with everything else that was transferred to Yukon through devolution.
Mr. Hardy: Well, of course there have been some changes in the last couple of years with transfers with devolution, the amount of monies that were transferred over ó which, of course, has an impact on the budget we have in front of us today. To say that it doesnít would be foolish.
There is also moving to full accrual accounting. Itís the method that is now being used by the government, and part of that is the amortization of those properties over the years and how it affects the bottom line. So, of course, that transfer ó devolution and what we received has ó had an impact upon the ability of this government ó the bottom line, first off, as well as the governmentís financial figures.
So even though the transfer may have happened two years ago, we are still experiencing the outcome of that transfer, and they are applicable and are a part of the 2005-06 budget because they are in there.
Anyway, I thank the minister for the information and numbers. I want to go back to the Canada Winter Games once again. A simple question I asked: has the government done an economic survey or study of the impact that the Canada Winter Games will have for the Yukon? If not, are they planning to do one?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Letís put to rest any fears that may have been raised by the leader of the official opposition with respect to there not being enough money in the budget envelope to operate the assets that we received from Canada under devolution, or that this is the major reason why the whole asset base of the Yukon is pumped up.
The total capital asset base has been clearly reflected on the books. The tangible asset listing that was transferred over to Yukon under devolution was clearly identified for all, as well as the resulting O&M that came over from the feds to Yukon through devolution. So Yukon is currently comfortable with the amount of money transferred over, save and except in a few areas, such as fire suppression. That is a major cause for concern, but all these other areas appear to be in reasonable conformity with the values and the expenses being incurred. It reflects the money that was transferred over.
With respect to the Canada Winter Games, I believe the games organization has done some work in this area.
Mr. Hardy: Well, the minister has indicated that fire suppression was a big concern, and we had this debate on the floor last fall about fire suppression. It was mentioned many, many times that the Finance minister had a very, very strong concern about what was negotiated by the previous government in regard to fire suppression. That was something that was put out time and time again. We on this side of the House did not necessarily disagree with that. We didnít necessarily agree with the Premierís interpretation of that; however, the Premier felt quite comfortable mentioning it over and over again.
When we raise a question in a very general sense about the devolution agreement, weíre told we shouldnít be talking about it. But last fall, thatís pretty well all the Premier talked about ó how that agreement fell short. So Iím not sure; it depends. If it suits the Finance ministerís own personal or political agenda, then weíre allowed to talk about something that happened a couple years ago, but if it doesnít, then weíre not allowed to talk about it. So it does raise some concerns with us when we get those very, very mixed messages in regard to that.
Now, I have some concerns and questions about the Canada Winter Games and the territorial governmentís involvement in it. Twice now, Iíve heard it almost sounds like itís passing the buck in that sense, but we donít have a Canada Winter Games staff in here. We have the territorial government. They have made a significant investment into this endeavour, and could the minister tell me what is the total amount, right at this moment, that has been contributed to the Canada Winter Games by the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Various pots of funding have been provided for the Canada Winter Games. Some came from Canada; some came from Yukon; some comes from other independent supporters. The exact amount is a question best left to the Minister of Community Services, under whose portfolio the Yukon government funding flows.
The Minister of Community Services is also tracking those funding sources.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister explain that last little bit? Was the minister saying the Minister of Community Services will give us the complete numbers from all sources, or just the numbers from the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I know he has the actual numbers as to what Yukon is contributing to the games, and I know he has an understanding as to what is coming into the budget envelope overall. There may be some areas he does not have a full detailed briefing and costing on, given that the games are being sponsored and operated by the City of Whitehorse. So there are probably some parts of the equation that the Minister of Community Services is not fully versed on, but he has probably the best overall understanding, and itís through the Department of Community Services that funding is flowing into this initiative.
Mr. Hardy: Can the minister give me a figure of what the territorial government has invested to date? Do they have that figure at hand?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Minister of Community Services has that information. I do not have it.
Mr. Hardy: Would the minister be willing to ensure that we get that figure given to us in the next couple of days?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís probably a line of questioning that is best left for the Minister of Community Services. He has the best understanding of this area, and Iím sure he is more than willing to provide all the details the member opposite is requesting.
Some of the lines of questioning are specific to various departments. Weíre in general budget debate overall, and the specifics on some of these areas are contained within the departments. So perhaps when we get into line-by-line, there will be a wonderful opportunity for the leader of the official opposition to critique the respective areas that I know heís so deeply involved in.
Mr. Hardy: We actually have a critic who will be critiquing Community Services, and I may participate at times. I would suspect that if the government, especially if the Finance minister is signing the cheques ó the most recent one with the athletes village ó the Finance department would at least have the figures for the sum total. I donít think a multitude of cheques have been handed out to date, and I donít think itís a big problem to supply a ballpark figure as to where the territorial government is at in their financial contributions to the Canada Winter Games.
So could we get that information, please?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Just ballpark numbers: the Community Service budget for O&M is $50 million. The Community Services capital budget is $53 million plus. Somewhere contained within those numbers is all the information that the member opposite is seeking, and I would encourage the member opposite to get into the Department of Community Services and get into line-by-line with the minister who is well versed in this area.
Mr. Hardy: I have absolutely no problem with what the minister is saying. Iím not asking for the details or specifics. When our critic gets into the area of Community Services, at that time we will expect more detail and that debate can happen then. But to just get the round figure, I would suspect and hope that the Finance minister, like I say who authorizes the spending, would have an idea of where itís at. Now $50 million, of course, is a substantial amount of money, and I would hope that this government is tracking that money and the spending of it. We know too well when a government enters into agreements how important it is that they stay involved in those agreements to a certain extent. There are some issues presently out in the public in regard to spending.
Could the minister, in place of the Finance minister ó hopefully when he gets back heíll be able to address some of these concerns ó inform us if there have been any more requests, or are there any anticipated requests, still to come forward in regard to the Canada Winter Games to the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: All this line of questioning is best left for the Minister of Community Services. The total budget envelope contains the funds that we have approved for Canada Winter Games to date. It contains capital and O&M money.
The exact breakdown of it in this current fiscal year and what it pertains to are areas best left for the Minister of Community Services. That said, the prior year periods and the aggregate amount are something else, and they are significantly in excess of what is currently here before us. So for the best overall understanding of the total amount of funding that has flowed to Canada Winter Games, I would encourage the member opposite to perhaps contact the City of Whitehorse and ask the City of Whitehorse, who is hosting the games, for a complete breakdown overall. Yukon is just a small component ó yet a major component in the funding initiative, but there is Canada, the city itself, along with Yukon. There are a lot of private sponsors, and there is a host society set up to deal with it, and they also have a budget. For all the pieces to come together ó Yukon is a major player, but we do not have all the information from all sources. The best overall view of the Canada Winter Games can be provided to this House by the Minister of Community Services, and I would encourage the member opposite when we get into line-by-line or we get into the Department of Community Services and general debate to ask these same questions.
Mr. Hardy: I got the message from the Acting Minister of Finance, I think, while the Finance minister is away. Iím not sure how to phrase this, because Iíve been calling him ďministerĒ.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
†Deputy Chair: Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, I believe itís out of order to refer to the absence of a member from the Assembly, and I would ask you to direct the leader of the official opposition to retract that remark.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, I think this matter transcends House rules. There is a valid point that the Yukon government should be putting up the real Finance minister to speak to the budget, not the acting Finance minister.
Deputy Chairís ruling
Deputy Chair: Order please. There is a point of order, in the fact that we do not refer to the absence of another member.
Mr. Hardy: Can I get a clarification of the title by which I should be addressing the person sitting in the Finance ministerís chair?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Acting? Okay, thatís all I needed from the other side, to be told that thatís the acting Finance minister. I was getting tired of calling him ďministerĒ, which could be so general. Itís not good for Hansard. It doesnít clarify who is actually sitting in that place.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Yes, youíre right. The Member for Lake Laberge said I could him ďgeneralĒ if I want. He may think heís a general, but I donít want to give him that title.
My throat is going on me. I have a multitude of questions, going back into Finance, specifically on the budget, but I do have one that kind of jumps out at me. I just want to get it on the record at the present time. Maybe while Iím gone, if the acting Finance minister canít answer it, somebody will think about it and will get an answer down here.
Has the government been splitting their government contracts, as per their election promise, to ensure more bids from Yukon contractors?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † I have a Schipperke as a pet, and Iím starting to compare the line of questioning to my dogís breakfast. Itís just unreasonable.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Order please. Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, I donít think I need to cite which particular clause in the House rules, because there would be several clauses. The acting Finance minister is completely out of line. The Member for Klondike needs to be reined in to uphold the decorum of this Legislature, once again.
Deputy Chairís ruling
Deputy Chair: There is a point of order, and members know they should not use abusive or insulting language. I would ask the minister to please refrain from doing so.
Mr. Hardy: After that insulting comment, I will repeat the question for the acting minister. Has the government, as per their election promises, been splitting their government contracts to encourage bids from Yukon contractors?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The contract regulations have remained consistent from the time the member opposite was first in this House.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the opportunity to enter into the debate with the members opposite. Iíd like to begin with, in terms of general debate on the budget, the reference to the legislation that was passed. The Yukon Party government made changes to the Taxpayer Protection Act, and the changes enabled the government to borrow against assets. What it has the effect of doing is that itís mortgaging our childrenís future, as they clearly are doing that.
How does the government perceive that the Taxpayer Protection Act is serving us now and protecting our children when we in fact now have the ability for the Yukon Party to mortgage our future, to borrow against assets and to embark upon major capital infrastructure projects, the wisdom of which is quite questioned by many members of the public? Iíll start with that general question in reference to the Taxpayer Protection Act.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: One of the first initiatives undertaken by the Yukon Party government was to get a handle on the fiscal affairs of Yukon. That was sadly lacking under the previous Minister of Finance under the previous government.
We only have to look at three recently completed audits to show the amount of expenditure, overexpenditure, and needless expenditures that were incurred and are being carried on the taxpayersí and ratepayersí backs. We look at the recent audit of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, the recent audit of the Energy Solutions Centre, and the fiasco in Dawson and their financial mess.
If you add up all these millions and millions of dollars that were incurred under the watch of the previous Minister of Finance in the Liberal government ó it took our government awhile to put the financial house of Yukon back in order and to get a handle on some of these undertakings that were poorly managed, poorly conceived, poorly planned and overspent.
What we have concentrated on is addressing Yukonersí needs ó the lead on this was the Premier and the Minister of Finance, who put the financial house of Yukon in order. Amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act are there, and there is no need to worry whatsoever under this governmentís watch, because we wonít even come close to triggering any mechanism or spending any future monies belonging to our children.
I donít have the same level of comfort with the previous administration as I do now, because there wasnít an understanding, or even a knowledge, of the various areas and the overexpenditures continued. The Mayo-Dawson transmission line ó by the time the full cheque book has been taken out and written there ó this Liberal initiative was carried over from the NDP ó will probably be another $20 million odd. The Energy Solutions Centre is another millions of dollars. The Dawson financial situation ó it was the Liberal government that put the money into Dawson, which they spent, and that got them into the mess they are in.
Weíre talking millions of dollars. We had qualified audits under the Liberal administration. We now do not have a qualified audit. We have a full, clear audit on the undertakings under this governmentís watch. That has been the change. There has been no mortgaging of the future generations of the Yukon. What there is is a solid, concerted effort by this government to address the needs of Yukoners, to enhance our financial position, to put in place and continue to operate in all the areas that we are tasked and have responsibility for, and, if I may say so myself, Mr. Chair, weíre doing one heck of a fine job.
Ms. Duncan: Well, clearly the acting Finance minister has been waiting some time to deliver that particular speech in this Legislature, and judging from the expression of the Member for Lake Laberge, he finds it highly amusing and highly entertaining. The unfortunate fact is, once again, that the acting minister, who has a unique ability to stand on the floor of this House and deliver statements as though they were fact, has in fact erred in the fact. He has suggested with great aplomb and great gusto that the ratepayers will be tagged with the price for the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, which was an initiative ó he was correct in stating that the first study of that initiative was under governments other than that of the Liberals. In fact, the public record very clearly, very explicitly states in black and white on more than one occasion that ratepayers will not be on the hook for that. Itís very clear, very crystal clear, that that is covered under Yukon Development Corporation and their funding. Examine the record. Go back and look at the public statements of the chair at the time.
It is written in the documents, if the member chooses to examine the facts. Unfortunately, it has been ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: †The Member for Kluane wants to enter into the debate and talk on and on about the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Solutions Centre audits. The fact remains that however often the minister chooses to deliver that particularly unproductive remark, which has several errors in fact, he also suggests that, ďNo, our government would never receive a qualified audit.Ē Well, take a look at history. My friend opposite would do well to examine the other audits of Yukon government, and the qualifications with respect to the Auditor General and why they were there. The irrefutable fact is that those members opposite decried the very excellent history of the former leader of the Yukon Party who brought in the Taxpayer Protection Act so that they could mortgage our childrenís future.
†I see the minister opposite thinking it quite humorous and is pretending to play a violin. The fact is the Taxpayer Protection Act was amended by the current Yukon Party. The Taxpayer Protection Act, initiated by the former Member for Porter Creek North, Mr. Ostashek, served Yukoners very well. It was the best balanced-budget type of legislation in the country. It served us well. Enter the change to accounting standards. Government, in complying with them, saw fit to change that to give future governments the ability and give themselves the ability to mortgage our childrenís future.
That is an irrefutable fact and it is truly unfortunate. This country, and Canadians, are in debt enough without their government trying to set an example by taking us along that road. Is the government examining further amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act? Given that they have eliminated very strong provisions, are they prepared to examine amendments or an alternative form by some kind of a balanced-budget type of protection for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It must probably be difficult for the third party and the official opposition to accept the budget that is before the House for debate, given that it is the largest budget ever in the history of the Yukon, given that it does a lot of amazing things for virtually all Yukoners.
We move forward in the debate and there doesnít appear to be any substance in what the members opposite want to discuss with respect to this budget, so we go back to the debate of two years ago on the Taxpayer Protection Act and the changes that were brought forward then.
The Taxpayer Protection Act was brought in when the Yukon was operating on a cash basis of accounting. Today we work on full accrual accounting, and the budget that this government tabled is a balanced budget. We have a very large surplus. Just look at the projections, Mr. Chair. We see no quarrel with what we have accomplished.
We have done an awful lot as a government, and for the first time in a long time, the audit of the governmentís books is not a qualified audit, as was the case under the previous Liberal government, as was the case under the previous NDP government. We can move forward. Iíd encourage the members opposite to not try to go back to something that has happened two or three years ago. Letís deal with the basis and substance of the budget that we have before the House for debate here today.
I recommend this budget to the House, Mr. Chair. This is an excellent budget. It was compiled by a very hard-working group of elected officials along with the tremendous efforts of capable officials. What we have here is a debate that is degenerating into what transpired two and three years ago in the various areas. Our only recourse is to throw back the comparison of what is transpiring today to what transpired under previous watches. The leader of the third party is absolutely correct when she said the ratepayers are going to perhaps not pay for all the costs associated with the Mayo-Dawson transmission line or the Energy Solutions Centre. Sheís absolutely correct, but if itís not the ratepayers, it will be the taxpayers, and theyíre one and the same individual, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the acting minister is suggesting that a question about any contemplated changes with respect to balanced-budget legislation or further amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act is somehow reliving a debate from two years ago. In this budget, there is money for development of legislation in the Department of Finance. Itís a sound, overall question.
Would the acting minister please give the courtesy of answering a question? Perhaps it would do the acting minister well to revisit the debate of his colleague in general debate March 1, 2001, when he sat on this side of the House and was questioning in general debate the Minister of Finance. He said ó and this is the Member for Watson Lake, then and now ó ďPeople make promises during a campaign; they should be accountable for them.Ē What happened to constructive, what happened to consensus, what happened to consultation with Yukoners before changes, what happened to the commitment there would be no amendment to the Taxpayer Protection Act?
People made promises during the election campaign. The Yukon Party made those promises. Itís my job in this Legislature to hold them accountable for them. Theyíve made the changes, in spite of those promises, to the Taxpayer Protection Act. Are they contemplating further changes? Thatís the question. It does not relive a debate from two years ago. Itís a debate here and now, and the acting minister would do well to provide the consensus and collaboration they committed to and provide an answer.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The funds identified by the leader of the third party in the Department of Finance are for miscellaneous amendments to the Income Tax Act. Thatís the legislative changes that are being reviewed.
While Iím on it, our party has just reviewed our party platform in the last election and compared it to what weíve accomplished to date. Weíre about 85 percent there in our election platform commitments, and weíve done a lot of things. Unlike the leader of the third party, we still have a majority of the seats in this Legislature. According to my recollection of the previous Liberal administration, they lost members who chose to leave or were kicked out of their party, depending on whose side of the equation you listened to, which led to an election.
I can only compliment the leader of the third party for snatching a defeat from the jaws of success.
There has been a lot said, but we are here to debate this budget and we are prepared to go forward. But as we stand now, this budget is one of the largest budgets ever tabled in the Yukon. It puts a lot of comfort back into the economy, it restores investor confidence and it rebuilds the Yukon economy. The capital component of it is very, very significant for all sectors and all Yukoners.
Ms. Duncan: Iím well aware of the changes that the Department of Finance is looking at and what they are considering. Are there any other legislative changes being contemplated at this time in the area of balanced-budget legislation or further amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act? That was the specific question, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: During this partyís mandate, our first one and our next one, Iím not aware of any commitment in that area.
Ms. Duncan: Clearly the acting minister isnít aware of the commitment that they werenít going to change the Taxpayer Protection Act, either. I would remind the member again that people make promises during an election campaign and they are to be held accountable for them.
The Yukon Party noted also that they would lessen the dependency on Ottawa. In fact, the budget figures note an increased dependency upon Ottawa. We have significant additional funding from Ottawa.
Now, I have asked in the briefing sessions ó and would appreciate the acting Finance minister giving this, if he is able to ó to be given an outline of the additional revenue from Ottawa. It is outlined to some degree in the budget documents, in general debate. For example, on S-5, there are nine different funds in the health area. Now, there are completely different parameters around these funds. The funds like the municipal rural infrastructure fund are identified elsewhere in the budget as a recovery.
Thereís significantly more funding arriving from Ottawa. Could we have an outline, for the public record, of the different funds ó the additional money ó and an indication of whether this money is project-driven, proposal-driven, if itís in trusts or how itís being disbursed?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíve fully met our partyís commitment with respect to the Taxpayer Protection Act. What our partyís platform said ó and I encourage the member opposite to listen ó is ďmaintain the Taxpayer Protection ActĒ. It still exists; itís still there and it still does have a box around the government, and it will continue to do so.
The member is trying to imply something other than what is actually the reality of the day. The Taxpayer Protection Act is being maintained.
Mr. Chair, the breakdown ó
Chair: Order please. There have been several comments by honourable members today regarding intentions. There have been comments that, while they have not cast a determination of intent, theyíve clearly indicated that members were stating something different from what others believed to be true.
I would just caution all members to be very mindful of Standing Order 19(h), which prohibits charging other members with uttering a deliberate falsehood.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we want to look at the federal funding sources, the unconditional $494,140; Canadian health transfer, $22,665,000; the health accord, $6.6 million; northern health access fund, $5.9 million. Some of these have time limits on them, Mr. Chair. Canadian social transfer supplementary trust is an unconditional $463,000. The wait-time reduction trust is $610,000. There were terms and conditions applied to that under the health accord. The immunization trust is $137,000. There are three years left in that fund. The Canadian social transfer of $9.5 million is unconditional. The total major transfers are $540,205,000.
We also have recoveries from Canada for work we undertake on their behalf.
The Alaska Highway fund, of course, are funds that Canada receives from the U.S., of $24,450,000. Canadian strategic infrastructure is $9.2 million. Municipal rural infrastructure fund is $4 million. Yukon Housing Corporation is $8.3 million. Child welfare, recoverable from Department of Indian Affairs, is $6.3 million. Aboriginal language services is $1.1 million. French language services is $1.35 million. French language programs is $1.366 million. Land claims implementation is $4.790 million. Mine sites reclamation for type II mines is $11.915 million. Forestry is $315,000. The young offenders facility is $1.349 million. Airports is $3.170 million. Inuvialuit land claims is $901,000. Legal aid is $934,000.
For all the other categories, $11,709,000. The grand total for both these categories comes to $631,602,000, but this last category of transfers and recoverables from Canada has many conditions associated with the program delivery and agreements. To say that weíre going to receive them all is contingent on us being in compliance with delivering the programs as stated and as agreed to between Canada and us, and living up to those agreements.
So while we budget the full amount, we have to live up to the contribution agreement and the conditions associated with delivering the programs. So thereís $631,000, and I know the leader of the third party is going to suggest we raise a bronze statue to the Liberals from Ottawa, but this is flowing now currently to Yukon as a consequence of a tremendous amount of effort by the Premier, the Minister of Finance, and by the officials in the stats branch and the Department of Finance in the Yukonís Ottawa office. Thatís how it came into place.
Ms. Duncan: There are three points I would like the member opposite ó the acting minister ó to review before I elaborate further on my question. Number one, he made reference to $631,000. Did he mean $631,000 or $631 million? He made reference to whether or not we are in compliance with some of these funds. There is compliance with what the money is directed to be spent on; thereís also cost-sharing in some of these funds where Yukon is required to contribute matching funds, so Iíd like a differentiation in that respect. For example, infrastructure funds ó is Yukon contributing one-third or one-half, and northern health access fund: is money to be spent under certain parameters? Itís not a like contribution, so there are different parameters for each of these envelopes of money. Could he outline the differences in the list of the funding?
Iím quite well aware of the list in the budget book. There are additional funds the acting minister has named over and above those, and whatís not spelled out in the budget book is the parameters. What the acting minister also didnít spell out is which funds ó I believe there is at least one in the Health area ó that are not identified in this budget because the monies are not booked to flow to Yukon as of yet. They havenít gone through Treasury Board in Ottawa.
The health access fund is the one that was mentioned in the budget.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Letís just back up a moment. Iíd like to share with the House the wording from the Yukon Party platform with respect to the Taxpayer Protection Act. I quote, ďmaintain the Taxpayer Protection Act passed by the previous Yukon Party government, which ensures the Yukon government will not put the territory into debt.Ē We have adjusted the Taxpayer Protection Act, but thereís no intention by this side to ever put the Yukon into debt.
With respect to the issues and the questions the member opposite has asked, all this information is contained within the budget. Yes, some of itís cost-shared; some of itís dependent upon us carrying out the work, as specified, and a lot of that information is best left to the specific ministers when we get into department-by-department.
The only trust fund that is not included is the northern strategy trust fund of $40 million over three years. That is not included in here. It has been identified by Ottawa, in a pre-announcement, I might add, but it hasnít passed Parliament as yet. So we have not budgeted for that amount of money.
But all the other areas the member opposite has asked questions on are contained within the budget envelope.
Ms. Duncan: Yes, the money is contained in the budget. However, what arenít as clearly identified in the budget are the parameters around the funds. Iíve asked for the information from officials in all departments that have provided briefings who have, to date, been as they always are: professional and extremely helpful. I appreciate very much their efforts in that regard and the information they have provided.
I have asked for this.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have thanked the officials who have provided the briefing and information. What I have specifically asked for, and others have asked for, is that there are numerous envelopes or pots ó use whichever term you wish ó of funding coming from Ottawa. Iíve asked for the envelopes to be identified and the parameters around them. Some of them are spelled out in the budget, some in transfers from Canada on page S-5, and others in recoveries.
Officials have indicated they are willing to provide the information, and I look forward to receiving it. Itís very helpful, as there have been a number of announcements, and itís not always clear: is this in trust? Is this money that parameters are attached to? Is this money where Yukon contributes one-third and a municipality will contribute one-third, or how is the money going to be spent? And there is money where it has been indicated that it is coming, but itís not booked as of yet.
I would like to welcome the Finance minister, and I appreciate the opportunity to provide him with a question that Iíve asked be addressed. Officials have indicated that they are going to provide us with that information. If there is anything the Finance minister would like to add by way of a listing or through more information he has in front of him, Iíd appreciate that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, first Iíll go to the less complicated response, and I think the member probably knows now that the only money that is not booked in the 2005-06 budget is the northern strategy trust fund. That is because it is still under debate in Parliament with the federal budget that was tabled this spring in Parliament. Once the budget passes, if it does ó I mean, weíre all aware of whatís going on there, the to and the fro. It is our hope, though, that the budget does pass, because the northern strategy is an initiative that we want to proceed with. Then we would probably come in with the booking of the amount in a supplementary. But it is not in this budget. So thatís yet to come.
Now, with respect to all the other funds, because there are so many departments outside of Finance that are involved in many of these funds, where they have signed agreements, have entered into terms and conditions ó it involves Association of Yukon Communities, it involves other groups, for example ó I would suggest to the member opposite that we organize specific to the number of funds that are involved here the related departments and officials and provide the member ó and if the official opposition wants to engage and the independent member ó† and give a full and detailed briefing. Because it would be pretty difficult here, unless we brought in all the officials, to be able to give the member opposite any comprehensive outline of each and every fund because they sit in so many departments.
The only other option I would suggest is, when we get into department-by-department debate, then the minister responsible ó for example, Community Services where CSIF is ó that minister then could provide detail to the members opposite. So the offer weíre making is coordinating all the related departments on all the funds, with Finance involvement, and create a technical briefing or we wait until we get to department-by-department debate, because Finance doesnít have a lot of these agreements and terms and conditions.
Theyíre signed off by line departments. Theyíre between that line department and the associated department with the federal government.
Ms. Duncan: Let me refine the Finance ministerís offer a little bit and explain what has happened so far. In the detailed budget briefings, the official opposition and I have asked for this information. What we have so far is that the Department of Finance has indicated ó as the Premier has said ó that theyíre aware of the funds because they have to book them, and theyíre aware of the broad parameters, but theyíre not always aware of all the details. Itís not the technical briefing weíre looking for so much as that one-page briefing note ó colloquially I think we would call that a cheat sheet ó but one page that says northern health access fund, X amount of money, its parameters, whatever it is. Itís the ones the Premier is holding with a little bit more detail that say, yes, hereís the parameters around this one, by agreement, by project-driven, and the ones that are cost-shared, because the infrastructure money is booked in recoveries; health is booked in transfers from Canada. Itís spread throughout this budget and weíd like a handle on them. I appreciate the Finance ministerís offer, I thank him for it, and Iím going to enhance it a little bit. We donít need the technical briefing ó just the written paper is what has been asked for ó and I very much appreciate that the Premier has offered.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Weíll provide a breakdown that is somewhat general but provides some timelines. There are areas where there are specific terms and conditions that are involved in an agreement between a line department and a specific federal department.
With this document, weíll see if that provides the information the member seeks. Thereís still the option to be able to engage with ministers responsible on specific funds, like the municipal rural infrastructure fund, like the Canada strategic infrastructure fund, like the health accord, for example, and the territorial health access fund, which would fall under the auspices of the Minister of Health and Social Services. Because of these arrangements that, in many cases, are based on an agreement that the federal and territorial governments enter into, there are areas you wonít see reflected here, because they may be a many-page document of terms and conditions.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to thank the Finance minister for providing this information. This is largely what we had requested this morning, and it has arrived very promptly. Thank you very much.
I hesitate to use the expression ďthe bottom lineĒ. There is clearly ó Iím not intending any pun ó a substantial increased level of funding from Ottawa. The Yukon Party had committed they would lessen our dependence on Ottawa. In fact, that hasnít happened. Thereís an increased dependency on funding from Ottawa.
Mr. Chair, if you would permit me, the print and electronic media in the territory also have a role to ask questions, and they ask questions in a public forum. We have the opportunity to ask questions in a public forum. The question Iím about to ask the Premier has been asked in editorials recently. Iím referring to the Whitehorse Star, Friday, April 1, and Monday, April 4, in the Yukon News, about financial issues and financial situations. Generally the questions revolve around: what if we end up in a situation where we donít have this money from Ottawa?
What then? And how do we as Yukoners cope? The Yukon Party promised to lessen the dependency. The Whitehorse Star editorial says quite clearly what happens if the current government were replaced by a regime that believes northern transfer payments should be significantly reduced. And the former Reform and Canadian Alliance parties have said they would reduce and question significantly the degree to which the rest of Canada is financially supporting the three territories, and they have talked of reforms.
Iím not advocating this position. Please donít misunderstand. We have significant resources from Ottawa. Clearly, 70 percent of our money comes from Ottawa. What do we do in the event that there is ó for lack of a better word ó a rainy day?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the member has posed a very important question, and thatís what I think past Yukon governments and future Yukon governments are going to have to be very mindful of, and that is ó shall I say ó the political situation in Ottawa. However, there are a number of important issues here that may help bring us to a better understanding of exactly what position the Yukon is in.
First and foremost, we have to recognize that things like the 3.5-percent escalator that has been committed to are legislated ó Bill C-24. So, for any change taking our floor or where weíre at, ending 2005-06, we will experience a 3.5-percent escalator in ongoing years.
So that is legislated ó Bill C-24 ó and for any government coming into the federal system to change that, they would have to rescind or amend the legislation. I doubt that will happen. Thatís number one.
Number two, all that has transpired here, in terms of our increase in the TFF, the territorial funding formula, the floor, the 3.5-percent escalator of the territorial health access fund, the infrastructure monies, the Northern Health Accord, the territorial health accord ó all those commitments by Canada are also fully, 100-percent supported by the Council of Federation, which means every province and every territory has supported these positions on the national level. Again, that furthers the difficulty that an incoming federal government may have in making changes, because the changes would not just affect Yukon or Northwest Territories or Nunavut; theyíd affect provinces, also, because the escalator is across the board. Thatís national. It was equalization and TFF.
So those are some points that are critical. Also, through this arrangement, the federal government has committed ó and I believe this is legislated also ó $41 billion over 10 years for health care. So itís law. Again, it establishes a fairly stringent position that the federal government must take, because itís law.
Weíre also going through a process of a review, where we are jointly appointing a panel not only for territorial funding formula but for the equalization arrangement. I think, it has now been finalized as to the members of the federal panel. We will then be experiencing at some point in the next number of months a conclusion that the panel comes to on equalization and the TFF.
I think itís fair to say, though, that the federal government has committed to a floor on the TFF, which we experienced, and are achieving that floor ó increases in 2004-05, which were retroactive and increases in 2005-06. Now, just off the top of my head, I believe $47 million was the approximate increase in the grant in 2004-05, and for 2005-06, itís approximately a $51-million increase in the grant.
Letís remember that, in 1995, the Yukon experienced a five-percent cut to its grant. We did not get reduced on a per capita basis; we got a five-percent cut to our grant. What has been accomplished here through the business case that was developed by the Yukon and its Finance officials, is an objective that was set out back in 2003 with an agreement from Canada that they would create the special Northern Health Accord and accept from us a business case that laid out the issues that we had in terms of fairness of Canadaís distribution of the wealth.
Let us not forget that the financial position Canada finds itself in today is in large part due to the cuts that they applied in 1995. So, all jurisdictions in this country made a contribution to attacking the deficit and lowering the debt. Essentially, all weíve achieved ó for the member oppositeís benefit ó is that we now have some of what was cut back. We like to say that weíve closed the adequacy gap. Canada removed the ceiling on equalization. Canada increased transfers to provinces. They forgot about us. We made a stand and walked out on the Prime Minister. I know the member probably doesnít think thatís a contributing factor, but I can assure the member that it was. It opened the door for us and finally put the territories in a position where Canada was listening.
Through all those efforts ó that included our MP, who we engaged immediately; it included our senator as well as a very in-depth presentation by Finance officials, not only from here in Whitehorse but from our representative in the Yukon office who, I might add, contributed a great deal to this process ó the results are where we are at today collectively. All those people and departments were involved, and the three territories in a pan-northern arrangement.
So the member talks about a rainy day. I think itís fair to say that we have put the finances of the Yukon into a position where we now have something for a rainy day. As the member will notice in the budget, we have booked and projected a year-end surplus of some $29 million. We have booked and projected a net financial resource position, which was the former accumulated surplus, of some $64 million. We do have something for a rainy day if one reflects and compares where we were at in past years.
So, all in all, we are in a healthy financial position. That does not mean, though, that we can continue at the levels of spending we are today unless we increase, in relative terms, the revenues that we are bringing into the territory. Thatís one of the main objectives with this governmentís plan. With the investments weíre making in last yearís budget and this yearís budget, we have set the Yukon on a fiscal course that is resulting in further investment coming from the private sector, which is complementing government investment. An example of that is that our increase from the federal government, in terms of transfer, relates to about a five-percent increase. Our increase in own-source revenues is at an eight-percent level. So if we project this into the future and keep going with the same trend, we will experience an increased own-source revenue position. As long as that keeps going, I think itís fair to say that the Yukon is heading in the right direction.
That is because, as our own-source revenues increase, as more and more diversification takes place in our economy, as more and more growth is taking place in the private sector, we will continue to reduce our dependence on the federal government, and that is exactly what the vision and the plan is when it comes to this Yukon Party government.
So I think we should be somewhat confident and comforted that the Yukon, in the next number of years, considering even our long-term projections through to 2008-09, will remain fiscally sound.
Ms. Duncan: The Finance minister has given quite a recount of what has transpired over the last two and a half to three years ó and the situation in 1995.
There were a couple of salient points that the Finance minister didnít mention, and which I believe add to the full and complete picture of what the Finance minister has said. I agree with the Finance minister that in 1995 we suffered a bigger cut than anybody else because of the impact. Clearly the territory suffered more than most.
The federal Finance minister at the time also finally saw that point after much arguing by specifically Yukon of the three territories. Iíd like to particularly join with the current Finance minister in giving a lot of credit to our Department of Finance officials. Of the three northern territories, we have the best ó we have had, we do have, in Ottawa and in here.
Other territories have consistently relied on our financial expertise on the formula and on everything else. We were the first ones, the first of the three territories, to get the formula in 1985. The Finance minister at the time said to me very clearly, when we were negotiating with this gap and suffering more than most ó we negotiated $42 million, and the Finance minister at the time said, ďNow I donít want to hear again about this points transfer.Ē There were a number of arguments we raised, not the least of which was the cut to the CHST. We got part of it back. We started down the road.
Now, the next salient point that the Finance minister didnít mention is that the then Finance minister is now the Prime Minister, and that makes a huge difference. For years, he has listened to provincial Finance ministers argue about the cuts to CHST, how the territory has suffered more than most, about equalization, about trying to balance our budgets and, as a Finance minister, he knows exactly what Finance ministers are going through. That individual is now our Prime Minister.
I think that salient point needs to be said as well. He knows where the member opposite is coming from when he listens to Cabinet ministers come in and say, ďGosh, health care is $15 million overbudget this quarter,Ē or whatever the latest health care and drug costs are, and the community and infrastructure minister wants to pave roads and create work for Yukoners.
So our current Prime Minister knows where Finance ministers have been, and I think a lot of credit goes there as well. Thatís a salient point to the ministerís discussion, and the government previously did, in working on this issue with our officials, get $42 million back out of that money that was cut. So that needs to be on the record as well. Credit where credit is due, and most especially the credit goes to the officials in the Department of Finance.
We lead the other two territories in that respect. I extend my compliments to them for their work.
Two questions arise out of the Finance ministerís comment. First of all, letís focus on this issue of financial security. On the record, there is a surplus and the minister says, ďYou know, the future is ó the rainy day, weíre all right.Ē There is, in the editorials I mentioned, though, a discussion of the Alberta heritage fund and the perils of the permanent fund. There was a review conducted by our government where we asked Yukoners what they thought about these funds. What has happened to that money that has been set aside is history. Is the minister at all interested in studying these other examples? Has he looked at either the Alberta heritage or the Alaska permanent fund? Has he looked at the examples? Has he discussed them with the tax round table at all or any of the people he regularly consults with?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes. First, Mr. Chair, I concur with the memberís comments. I meant no offence or disrespect of past governments or anybody else. I was merely concentrating on our first budget forward. But we know there has been a lot of work as far back as the late 1990s on trying to stickhandle around this situation. I think what has really transpired in the last two and a half or three years is that the federal government has become more receptive for reasons such as the new Prime Minister, who was a Finance minister, and also the pan-northern approach is unique, because all three territories are now engaging with Ottawa on many levels as a collective. I think that contributes too.
This is the kind of debate we should be having. We are actually talking about the finances of the territory and what is going on here. So, to the memberís credit, the third party is contributing very constructively to the debate and I would hope that the official opposition takes note.
The discussion around permanent funds and those types of investments ó as I understand it, the heritage fund and the permanent fund are investments that are geared to take large revenue streams, put them into an investment and then use the earnings, always maintaining a threshold but using earnings to reinvest back into the economy or programs and services, which Alberta and Alaska do in various ways.
Right now, we are not, given the level that the Yukon finds itself at, looking at putting money into funds like that. This governmentís position is to get the money into the hands of Yukoners now and to keep the stimulus in this territory going.
We are doing that because it is the first phase of addressing the economic situation that we found ourselves in. It is contributing to an increase in the population. It is contributing to the employment factor, the increased number of jobs that are being created. It is contributing to a much more certain investment climate for Yukon.
I will give you an example of that. In the last year, financial institutions, banks, in the Yukon Territory have increased their amount of lending to Yukon businesses and Yukon citizens. In other words, they are opening up somewhat because they are more optimistic about the Yukonís future.
And weíre also doing things like taxation ó small business tax credit. That does not mean thatís the only thing weíre going to do with the tax regime. Weíre looking at all options, but we want to move carefully in that area because, over the long term, we have to recognize that other unforeseen things may happen. In some instances, it may be much more difficult to react in a way that we can address impacts, so we have to be careful about what we do. We are now sitting in a position, with all these things happening, with the increased investments ó which are quite dramatic ó where weíre still maintaining a healthy financial position, and our projections over the long term show that that will remain.
Thatís not to say that weíre not going to run into some instances where the unforeseen may come with a significant cost. But I think we have established enough of a financial position that anything within reasonable terms for any government to manage ó we are going to be okay.
Let us not forget, though, that if we get into situations where, for example, we would have to declare a disaster area, there is already a national formula or national arrangement of a 90/10-percent split between the federal government and any jurisdiction. So Iím focusing in on areas that are going to be somewhat limited in cost ó though it may be significant ó but are within the means of the Yukon government.
So weíre not going to look at a fund like a permanent fund and/or a fund like the heritage fund. Weíre going to continue to look at ways of maintaining a healthy financial position, but maintaining a strong stimulus in the Yukon economy through investments.
Ms. Duncan: I didnít mention it in my previous question, but in the memberís lifetime in here, and mine as well, there has been a proposal put forward to government ó the fireweed fund ó which was put forward by labour representatives, largely, and other groups as well. This fund was very similar to the crocus fund in Manitoba. The situation at the time was that the Government of Yukon didnít have the money to be able to help kick-start this fund. The Government of Canada did not contribute to starting the establishment of the fund. My question is: is there any possibility of dusting off that proposal and the Finance minister taking a look at it, given the financial picture of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would suggest that thereís always a possibility, but let me just update the member on what has transpired. We have worked with labour extensively, as recent as last year I believe ó 2003, Iím informed ó on the fireweed fund. We could not get any progress with Canada. Thatís not to say weíve closed the book or closed the door, but weíve taken one step and that is with Dana Naye Ventures. So in addition to microloans through banks, venture loan guarantees through banks, we have now added a loan fund with Dana Naye Ventures for small business to access capital. Weíll look at other means. One of the keys here is establishing mechanisms where small business and the private sector can access capital to reinvest in the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the Finance minister could just elaborate on this one point. Is the initial investment ó Iím going by memory, but it seems to me that the initial start-up investment figure was around $15 million.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: $13 million. Seed money ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister can outline what the financial request was of Canada and of the Yukon to start the fireweed fund.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I think, in partnership with labour, we were going to see up to $13 million to have Canada then invest in the fund, which would bring it up ó Iím not sure exactly to what level, but there was going to be a significant investment needed from Canada. However, our contribution was through the tax credit ó 25 percent was Yukon income tax credit. However, the federal government, because there were so many failures in other funds of this type, has been standoffish on the initiative.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that information.
In the Budget Address, 2005-06, there is a page with long-term plans. Iíll make sure I have the right reference. Itís not numbered. Iíd like to ask in general debate some fairly specific questions about it in comparison with the budget and the long-term plans page of which Iím most familiar, which is the last budget I tabled ó just questions and clarifications and the same long-term plans.
In the long-term plan, the 2004-05 supplementary forecast, the territorial revenue is $79,937,000. The projection that I tabled in the long-term plan for 2004-05 was $78 million. So our projected revenue has not significantly increased under the Finance ministerís watch. There is only a $1.9-million change. What that says to me, Mr. Chair, is that our economy has not significantly diversified under the Finance ministerís watch.
We havenít increased our territorial revenue; we havenít increased our territorial revenue base. Itís very slight, so my question ó
The minister is comfortable that we have enough money and the largesse from Ottawa will continue and that weíre all right for a rainy day. What are we doing about diversifying our economy? What are we doing about increasing that projected revenue figure?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I guess weíre going to do a little sabre rattling here. Iím going to be very succinct about this. There has been a change. It has been a change in where money has been invested; it has been a change in the direction the territory is going; and the member oppositeís projections are nothing more than projections.
What we are showing in 2004-05 is actuals.
Iím going to be quite adamant about the fact that there has been a change. Furthermore, the member is not recognizing that we extended the mineral tax credit, which would add another $5 million plus to that figure, bringing it up to over $84 million. Thatís another point thatís important, because we did extend the mineral tax credit.
So, we have to be relative with the facts that create these types of projections. Further to that, if the member wants to talk statistics, under the memberís watch, even though the projections showed some similar numbers, there was still an exodus of the population; there was still double-digit unemployment; there was still a very low number of jobs.
In todayís Yukon, there is an increase in the population. There is an increase in the number of jobs for Yukoners, and there is a reduction in the unemployment rate to one of the lowest in Canada. Also, we have gone from approximately a $5-million investment in the mining exploration area under that memberís watch to $30 million under this governmentís watch. There was no drilling for oil and gas under the memberís watch in the Yukon. There is here in the Yukon today. Both in the southeast and in north Yukon, we are drilling for natural gas.
There was no film shot, such as Big White, where our film industry is experiencing growth. Our tourism sector has grown since the member was in office. Our small business community has grown since the member was in office.
Our interest in real estate has grown since the member was in office. Our investment, even in the Canada Winter Games, has increased since the member was in office. Letís not forget a $3.9-million overbudget tender for the multiplex, and of course an $18-million overprojected budget for the athletes village that was at some $2.7 million originally.
So we are experiencing growth in so many areas that the memberís arguments, albeit on the pages of a projection for a budget, simply do not reflect the overall facts or the big picture, and thereís no doubt that, regardless of what the member may want to believe, what has transpired since December 2002 in the Yukon Territory, through the efforts of many, is a significant improvement in the quality of life for Yukoners, in the economy and there is a much more optimistic view of the future.
Chair: Order please. Weíve reached our customary time for a recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Ms. Duncan: When we took a short recess, I had pointed out to the Finance minister that the budget tabled on February 22, 2001 has in the long-term financial plans 2004-05 projected actual territorial revenue of $78 million. The budget tabled on March 24, 2005 has the supplementary forecast for territorial revenue at $79,937,000. There has only been a $1.9-million difference in our territorial revenue.
My concern is that it reflects a lack of diversification of our economy, and it does not reflect the kind of growth that one would anticipate if dollars being spent are generating the type of employment and the type of economy that the members opposite claim.
Weíve had a discussion about the dependency on Ottawa, and I will get into those revenues in a moment. The answer from the Finance minister was to outline a number of initiatives that he feels are his governmentís and reflect change, but the facts of the matter are that statistics are saying that Yukon communities have not experienced any kind of turnaround in the economy. Had Yukon communities experienced a kind of turnaround in their economy, we would see a different territorial revenue picture.
Were all the claims by the members opposite to bear fruit, I think we would also see a significant increase; however, we have not under the term in office. We projected $78 million, and the government has only managed $1.9 million more. There is not a diversification in our economy. Rural Yukon is continuing to suffer economically ó significantly. Rural businessperson after rural businessperson stops me in the street and says, ďItís terrible out there.Ē When Iím in the communities, they are deeply concerned about their economic future. They are deeply concerned about their business.
I donít see any broad-ranging initiatives to correct this disparity ó to diversify the Yukon economy. At the risk of inciting a 20-minute discourse on all the wonderful initiatives, I would like to ask the acting Finance minister to clearly outline where and how the government anticipates changing this revenue picture. Theyíve had several years to do it; it hasnít been accomplished ó over the projected actual.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, contrary to what the member opposite is suggesting and portraying, the picture in the Yukon is turning around. If you look at the projections that the member opposite is referring to, that question has been asked and answered by the Minister of Finance. There are a number of factors, and there is a lead-lag situation, and itís what is projected to happen in the future and what is projected to be, the tax returns from mineral tax credits and corporate income tax ó a whole series of components. The indicators that I would encourage the member opposite to look at today are the growth in the population of the Yukon, the number of individuals in the workforce here in the Yukon, and the unemployment rate. All those indicators are on a positive trend. If the member opposite wants to portray things as being bad now, they have certainly advanced a heck of a long way under our watch, Mr. Chair.
Our commitment as a government was to restore investor confidence in the Yukon. Weíve worked on that and weíre making strides, great strides. As soon as we have addressed the areas of the resource extraction industry and provided some certainty in the many areas that need and require certainty, Iím sure you will see a resurgence in those industries.
In fact, weíre seeing it today. If I only look at the mining industry and mining exploration, it went down to a low of just over $6 million under the Liberal governmentís watch because of the imposition of all sorts of regulatory regimes and not keeping their eye on the ball. That is a track record that is not enviable. What is enviable is the task that we were faced with when we came into office: restoring that investor confidence and rebuilding this Yukon economy.
Look at the mining community and the investment community today. Itís projected to be, for this forthcoming season, some $60 million. That in itself is significant. It wouldnít surprise me if it increases again the following year.
One only has to look at the amount of mining exploration that is being undertaken, primarily by Canadian mining companies in Alaska, in the Northwest Territories, in British Columbia. What is wrong with this picture? We are surrounded by three jurisdictions that are in an upswing.
Well, Mr. Chair, all that has changed is the political party in town and the political will to rebuild the Yukon economy and restore investor confidence. That is underway and that is taking place and that will continue under our watch.
We look at the oil and gas industry and the potential we will have if, eventually, the stranded gas here is moved to market. Weíre seeing drill rigs in operation here in the Yukon that havenít operated here for some decades. One can only wonder why.
Forestry ó weíre looking at strides in that area and, hopefully, things will occur in the not-too-distant future. Thereís so much work in progress that it defies the imagination to find room to criticize it, but I guess itís the responsibility of the opposition to hold the government accountable and question them on many areas.
Letís paint the picture as it should be painted, and thatís an economy that is growing, as are jobs. One only has to look at the community breakdown of capital projects to see the funding that will be flowing into the communities.
The Member for Kluane had the details for the expenditures in his region. I would encourage the member opposite to have a look at the capital dollars that will be flowing into her riding. There is not a riding in the Yukon that is not going to see a significant amount of capital dollars flow to it. Irrespective of the political stripes of the MLA representing that region, we are committed to rebuilding this Yukon economy, putting Yukoners back to work. The member opposite is trying to make some connection between what has been identified as the trends. The trends are all positive trends ó very positive.
Ms. Duncan: The acting minister suggested that I keep my eye on the ball. I would suggest to the acting minister that no matter how he tries to portray it, this is no game. We were elected on behalf of our constituents to ask some tough questions, and that is what we are doing. If he is unable to answer them, I would invite him to defer to someone else.
The facts of the matter are that in the 2001 budget tabled in this House on February 22, 2001, the projected actual territorial revenue was $80 million. In the long-term financial plan tabled on March 24 by the Finance minister, the acting ministerís colleague, the 2004-05 is $79 million. Thatís less, any way you cut it.
And those are the facts, black and white, tabled in the House.
Now, the acting minister can take credit for an increased mineral exploration and so on. I would invite the acting minister to sing from the same hymn book as his colleague in the back seat, who said quite clearly in front of a major mining convention that the increase in mineral exploration is also a direct result of increasing mineral prices. So perhaps he and his colleague would like to get on the same page; that would be a good idea. The acting minister isnít fond of my advice, so I will not offer it to him any further.
The next line that I would like to explore with the minister is that the transfers from Canada in the long-term financial plans are booked, on this supplementary forecast, at $519,922,000. The projected, in previous budget figures of the financial transfers from Canada, were at $388,500,000, so there is roughly a $121,000,000 difference.
I listened to the exchange earlier between the leader of the official opposition and the Finance minister. Take away $71 million that accounts for devolution, if I understood that debate correctly. That means the difference in transfers from Canada is about $51 million ó between what was project back in 2001 to what is now.
So my question is: is this $51 million all funds? Is the $51 million accounted for in this listing of these various grants and envelopes of money, or is it strictly the TFF?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If I could refer the member opposite to page 6 in the budget income summary by source, there are: transfers from Canada, the Canada health transfer, $22 million; Canada social transfers, $9 million; the other health transfers, $13 million; and the grants from Canada, $494 million. And compare that to the 2005-06 forecast and thatís the comparison ó the 2005-06 forecast vis-ŗ-vis the previous.
Ms. Duncan: We need to both be on the same page. Iím referring to the Budget Address book ó operation and maintenance and capital. It contains the budget speech, the budget highlights, the long-term plans and financial information. On the long-term plans page, the transfers from Canada are $519,922,000. What was projected in the past has been $388,500,000. That old project of $388,500,000 didnít include devolution because it wasnít finalized in the old books that Iím looking at.
So, $388 million, add $71 million, is identified from devolution. Itís lumped in as a transfer from Canada. So under the old formula, the old methodology, we would have received $388,500,000. We got devolution, so that added $71 million. The difference between what weíre getting now and that devolution money included in the transfer money from Canada is $51 million.
The acting Finance minister said to refer to page 6. Is he referring to the same document? I see nods across the way, so what Iím hearing then is that this difference is health accord money, because page 6 of the same document is the budget speech ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Financial information. Okay.
This is all health money, largely.
In looking at the page the acting minister has referenced, the difference there includes the health and social, and that is what he has outlined. Thatís what I was looking for ó where the difference was. Itís largely the health and social.
So the specific funds are left out of that. The member opposite is nodding. Thank you for that clarification. Any way you slice it, itís significant funding from Ottawa.
The territorial revenue is showing projected increases. Is that in the long-term forecast? Are those projected increases based on tax revenue and increases in revenue from resources, general increases for inflation? Is there anything untoward in that figure, in the projected increase? We go from $79 million to $86 million.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís revenue all sources. Itís not anything untoward. Itís the various components that make up that revenue own sources, personal income tax, corporate income tax, gas, liquor. It just goes on and on and on.
Ms. Duncan: If weíre talking the same document here, Government of Yukon projections for territorial revenue for between 2004-05 and 2005-06, we go from $79.9 million to $86.4 million, and that is strictly price and volume increases. There is no new additional revenue outlined in that.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated earlier, the revenue increases come from a lot of sources. One of the main components of it is personal income tax. There are more people now working in the Yukon than ever before. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it has ever been. Thereís investor confidence being restored in the Yukon. Weíre moving forward in many areas. Weíre seeing an inward migration of people to the Yukon. In fact, there are skill shortages in a multitude of areas now in the Yukon like never before. One of our main exports under the previous administrationís watch was our skilled tradespeople and workforce. That is no longer the case. Theyíre coming back. There are opportunities here in the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: I believe it should also be noted for the record that there is a significant increase in our own gas revenue as well outlined in these documents ó $3 million. So that also accounts for the increase.
I have a couple other questions in general debate. I would like to allow my colleagues the opportunity to address some questions to the acting minister. Perhaps I could just deal with this one particular area. I am not sure if the acting minister is prepared to answer these questions or not.
In Department of Highways and Public Works ó this speaks to the overall infrastructure plans and financing of the government ó there are at least two projects being developed as public/private partnership pilot projects using a design/build finance approach. Design/build finance is only one method of public/private partnership. All of these are being done in the absence of the development of a public policy to guide the use of P3s, which the Premier had also committed to in the Legislature. Is anybody in the Government of Yukon doing any work on developing this policy framework?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the House was advised earlier, the Department of Economic Development is the lead in this area, and they are working very closely with Partnerships B.C. This is ongoing, and hopefully in departmental debate the member opposite can question the Minister of Economic Development on these initiatives.
Ms. Duncan: The Department of Economic Development is working on specific projects and examining specific projects as P3s. I asked about the policy that guides these. The policy is the responsibility of the Premier and Minister of Finance. Is there any policy work to guide the use of P3s being undertaken, overall? Itís the Finance ministerís responsibility.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Department of Economic Development is the lead in this area, and they are working very closely with the Department of Finance for the financial components in the P3 policy that is being developed. And it is being developed in the Department of Economic Development. Now, I donít know what other answers I can provide the member opposite, but thatís what has been undertaken and committed to by our government ó itís work in progress.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what the acting minister has just stated is that the government, the Department of Economic Development, is going full-steam ahead, examining specific projects on behalf of the Government of Yukon for the use of P3s, public/private partnerships, with no guiding policy in place ó out on a limb, no safety net, making the deals, not worrying about what the overall policy is that guides Yukoners ó is this fair to everyone involved, and does it fit within the Yukon guidelines?
There is no consideration to having a policy in place to guide the work on these specific projects. The government is quite prepared to go ahead. It speaks volumes about a government not prepared to do their homework before they proceed. Get the policy in place. The Premier committed to it. The Premier said, absolutely, before we do this, weíre going to have a policy; you bet we are. Theyíre not prepared to do the hard work of government. You donít go out and negotiate a land claim without a mandate and parameters. You donít go out and select a P3 model without looking at all the factors, without making sure that thereís a policy to guide your actions ó unless, of course, youíre the Yukon Party. And the proof will be in the end result. Weíve already seen that Yukoners have paid for the bridge design twice.
The Premier has also indicated and mentioned in his budget speech that the Yukon is, once again, examining port access, which was a particular initiative of the Member for Watson Lake.
The NDP government, of which the current Finance minister was a part, was quite convinced that the Yukon Development Corporation would be buying these ports. That is not an initiative that our government pursued. How does the Finance minister intend to deliver on his commitment with respect to the ports? Where is he getting the money this time?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Letís go back a little way to previous governments. Under previous governments, the issue of P3s was being looked at. I believe it was under the watch of the previous Liberal government and it was being looked at in the Department of Economic Development, from my recollection, until, of course, the Liberals chose this course of government renewal and eliminated the whole Department of Economic Development along with another series of departments. So the whole time and effort of the Liberal administration was spent on government renewal.
Our government is committed to developing a P3 policy. That work is underway in the Department of Economic Development, which was recreated by this Yukon Party government.
For the life of me, having been around through two different governments and having seen the shortcomings and witnessed the shortcomings, letís just deal with the previous Liberal administration, which is criticizing a policy that doesnít yet exist ó that we havenít gone forward and tendered anything under, but itís work underway. We as a government are looking at a whole initiative and a whole series of policies, and those are being developed in the Department of Economic Development with input from all the other branches of government, as required.
One of the pivotal roles will be played by the Department of Finance.
With respect to the issue of port access, this was another very good initiative that was led by the NDP government, and no one has a monopoly on good ideas. The only people who seemed to have a monopoly on destroying good ideas was the previous Liberal government. The port access was one thing that the NDP worked on and developed in both Haines and Skagway. As soon as the government changed, that was one of the first initiatives that was punted right out of the ballpark. Why? I donít know, but when we come to the table and we start looking at resource extraction, when we start looking at the import of goods, port access is necessary. The transportation system is very much a requirement. If you start looking at the export of ore, letís just look at a few years ago. The export of ore from the Anvil mine, the Faro mine site: it cost more to transport it from Faro to tidewater than it did to produce it. That figure remained for quite a number of years.
Tidewater is important and I give kudos to the previous NDP government for recognizing the importance of port access. Itís something our government is working on and we will move forward. The question as to how itís going to be financed ó next thing weíll hear from the leader of the third party is that it will be financed via a P3. The member wonít just jump to conclusions; the member opposite will be leaping to conclusions.
No decisions have been made, other than we recognize the importance of port access, and itís an initiative our government is committed to working on and developing.
Mr. Chair, letís look at the P3 initiative. Letís look at what has gone on today with respect to the bridge project in Dawson. What is out is a request for qualifications. A request for qualifications is not a tender. Itís the beginning of a program; itís the beginning of a system. There is another step after that. Qualifications are one thing.
The next step is in order ó and it has not been taken as yet. The P3 policy is being worked on by the Department of Economic Development, and itís being built.
We start looking at some of the engine drivers here in the Yukon, and we start looking at the Department of Economic Development and its value and we start looking at the Department of Tourism. Under the previous Liberal watch, the Department of Tourism disappeared.
It was our government that brought all these departments back and used them for the purpose they were intended. They have a great potential to develop the economic well-being of the Yukon. What did the previous Liberal government do? They spent their time on government renewal ó rearranging the deck chairs on the SS Liberal ship, which was built by the same firm that built the Titanic.
At the end of the day, Yukon people recognized the importance of having a sustainable economy, and we are moving forward. Our government has committed to rebuilding that economy and making the Yukon one of the best places in Canada to live, work and raise our children. We have a lot to be thankful for and we have a lot to recognize as being important to our well-being. The efforts of the officials in the various departments constitute one of them.
Ms. Duncan: Just to ensure that the record stands as it should, I would invite the acting minister to take a look at the Auditor Generalís report. It outlined that the NDP government should not have spent over $1 million on those ports in the manner in which it was spent. It was very clearly outlined that it was not spent ó I donít have the Auditor Generalís report in front of me, but the NDP government was quite clearly criticized for the initiative and the way it was handled. It was not one of the first initiatives of the former Liberal government.
The minister can go on and on in which to debate his version of history, or the record, which facts ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The minister calls across the floor, ďListen to me rewrite it.Ē
In respect of your rulings, Mr. Chair, I am not making references to the member oppositeís versions of history. I am pointing out that the Auditor Generalís report spoke very clearly that the decision to buy the ports was an expenditure by the Government of Yukon that shouldnít have been made in the manner in which it was made.
Secondly, I do not support ó and the memberís good friends who sit on the Yukon Development Corporation board very clearly recommended to me with one voice, ďDo not spend Yukon Development Corporation ratepayersí money on buying these ports,Ē which was the previous governmentís intention.
I endured several long debates and several comments from the Member for Watson Lake for not spending $4 million of Yukon Development Corporation money on the ports, and I asked a very civil, clear question. The Member for Watson Lake has clearly committed on several public occasions the importance of buying these ports. He committed clearly in opposition that he wanted to see the Yukon buy these ports. Itís a simple question. Heís now the Minister of Finance. Where is he getting the money?
And I donít accept the acting ministerís comments that no decision has been made yet. We also heard that we wouldnít proceed on P3s without a policy in place, and the acting minister stood on his feet and said there isnít a policy in place. Theyíre proceeding anyway, and much as he loves to lecture me about contract law, the fact is that a request for qualifications is an offer. There is an expectation. There is an expectation, and the member opposite agrees with that.
Itís a simple question: where does the Finance minister intend to get the money to fulfill his vision that the Yukon should buy the ports? Is he intending that Yukon Development Corporation should pay for it, as was the intent previously?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I encourage the member opposite to perhaps go to the dictionary, or go to the Law Library. A request for qualifications is not a contract. A tender isnít a contract. Itís not an offer. Itís subject to acceptance. Itís not an offer.
To make a contract valid, there has to be an offer and an acceptance. This is basic ó Mr. Chair, this is ludicrous to even get into it. Thereís a dictionary there and Iíd encourage the member opposite to go to it on these terminologies and what constitutes a contract.
But letís just back up to the leader of the third party and her position with respect to the acquisition of ports under the previous NDP government. What the Auditor General criticized was how the money was put in place. He didnít criticize the concept or the acquisition per se. The Auditor General criticized how the money was flowed to make the acquisition. Thatís what was criticized. I stand on what I said. This idea of acquiring ports in Alaska to service the Yukon was one of the better ideas that the NDP government came up with.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It does matter how you spend the money, Mr. Chair, and that is important. That is very important because you have to spend the money in conformity with the Financial Administration Act, but if we want to look at the expenditures of money under the watch of the Liberal government and the overexpenditures, we only have to look to the Mayo-Dawson transmission line and what that is going to end up costing the Yukon Development Corporation.†
At the end of the day, itís either the ratepayers or the taxpayers who are going to be charged with the costs that are incurred there. And they are significant cost overruns, with the final cheque yet to be written. I donít believe weíve ended the expenditures that have been incurred as of yet.
So, we could go on, to try and rewrite history and turn the stories around, but the basic premise under which the NDP government proceeded was a good undertaking, and that was to acquire port access in Alaska to service Yukon. The issue that the Auditor General took with it had nothing to do with the concept or the acquisition of ports ó it was how they put the money in place to make that commitment. There are issues there. It was mentioned by the Auditor General, and so be it. But let us look at the overall concept. It was a good concept, and I will stand by that remark. Itís something that our government is looking at seriously.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Now, where are we getting the money, the leader of the third party asks. Weíll develop that policy; weíll develop the initiative; and weíll bring it back to the House for approval because if there is going to be an expenditure of money by this government, it ultimately has to be approved by this House ó and it will be.
So there are vehicles in place as to how money is approved for government spending. Iím sure the leader of the third party is familiar with the process, or should be. Iím not sure there was a handle on the previous ministerial finances and understanding of the various expenditures and the multitude of expenditures, because it is a big area. Itís a very large area, and it takes quite an initiative and quite a grasp of the basic understanding of the whole budget process. There are many areas Iím still unfamiliar with but, over the years, I have gotten to understand quite a number of the areas.
If the member wants to get back to general debate on the budget, Iíd be pleased to entertain logical, thoughtful questions relevant to this fiscal period.
Mr. Fairclough: I only have a few questions, but Iíd like to follow up in regard to the tidewater access. The minister said they are seriously looking at it. I would like the minister to give us an update on where it is now and what we can expect down the road.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Other than advising the House that itís an initiative that weíre examining, that itís work in progress, I canít comment further until we have something developed.
Mr. Fairclough: In the Department of Economic Development, I notice there are planning monies. Is that where we can see some of this work taking place this year?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would encourage the member opposite to ask those questions of the Minister of Economic Development when we get into that department, because the Department of Economic Development has a tremendous amount of very positive, forward-looking initiatives underway, which I am sure that the members opposite surely will be enthralled with.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, maybe the minister can tell us what the government is looking at seriously. Theyíre looking at port access, ports in a couple of different places. I donít know where itís carrying on from what government has done before. He says heís looking at it seriously; I would like to know how seriously. Is it something that we can expect to come forward in the supplementary budget, for example, in the fall? Are negotiations taking place? Is the government looking at buying land for access to tidewater? What are we looking at here, and what can Yukoners expect to come out of this?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is work in progress, and I canít comment on it until we have some certainty surrounding the issues.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís not a very satisfactory answer, Mr. Chair. Is it that the government is just beginning to look at it? How long has the government been engaged in developing access to tidewater?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, as the member opposite knows, there was an understanding of this issue by our Premier, and it is an initiative being examined today. But until something more is established and something more concrete comes out, I canít comment further, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: There was a lot of discussion on this. It was obviously an interest with the development community. What other information can the minister give us on this? What can we take back to the community? Just saying that government is seriously looking at it but weíre not sure how far into development they are? Is the government working on the policy on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That would be a question best directed to the Minister of Economic Development.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, we are not going to make any progress here. Although this is not within his field, I believe the minister should know the answer to it, because it is a major government direction. I know he is interested in ports. I know he has mentioned that it was a good idea by the New Democrats. But, guess what ó he voted against it. It was interesting to hear the Liberals talk about it, too, Mr. Chair, at the time because they adopted an NDP budget and then proceeded to take it apart throughout the year.
I would like to ask a question in regard to a federal funding source with regard to health care and the health transfer and the Northern Health Accord. $6.6 million has been identified to address the high cost of health in the north. How long does the minister expect this funding to continue to flow from Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It expires at the end of this fiscal period.
Mr. Fairclough:†††††††††† The amount of money that has been identified is $6.667 million. Are we expected to have that much less in the transfer from Ottawa next year?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thereís the northern health access fund of just slightly less than $6 million that will replace this funding.
Mr. Fairclough: The northern health access fund will replace the Northern Health Accord after this fiscal year. In 2006-07, we will see that change reflected. Are we expected then to see an increase, I guess, equivalent to what weíre getting now in the Northern Health Accord? Will we see that reflected in the northern health access fund?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We just tabled a document that shows all this in the overview for the opposition parties.
Mr. Fairclough: I realize that and I have it right in front of me and Iím looking at it. It does say that the Northern Health Accord expires at the end of this year, confirmed by the minister, but the minister said that that would be taken over by the northern health access fund, which we do have money in right now. Itís $5.9 million.
Five years are left in this program.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: It says five on this paper. The minister says four. Are we expected to get that equivalent amount, $5.9 million, in the northern health access fund for the next four or five years?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is $30 million in the fund. Itís over five years. The first amount of funds flow this year, so we have both funds flowing this fiscal period to Yukon. But the one fund is eliminated at the end of this fiscal ó the $6.666 million ó and then itís replaced by this access and travel fund that was negotiated by the premiers of the three northern territories.
Mr. Fairclough: So, the minister is saying that what we can expect is up to $30 million for this fund, and weíre using $6 million of it right now, and dividing it out over five years. But what we can say is that we wonít be seeing the Northern Health Accord funding next year ó the $6.666 million. So, the budget would be that much less next year.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís correct. The $20 million comes out of the $60 million for the three northern territories, broken down equally over three years. It expires at the end of this fiscal year, so next year it will not be in existence. And that reduction is reflected in the long-term forecast.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that. We also have the Canada health transfer ó the health reform, which is a pretty healthy amount. Can the minister tell us again if this is an equal amount that is being transferred to the Yukon? I see in the notes that we have three years left in that. How much more are we getting from Ottawa under the health reform?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The health reform transfer fund is a four-year amount. It started off in 2004-05 at $1.46 million. This year, itís at $3.45 million. Next year, it goes to $4.4 million, and in the 2007-08 fiscal, itís $5.37 million. Then after that the funding expires. And these are reflected in the projections.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said itís reflected the projections: is he talking about the long-term plan on that page? Would it be just right out of the transfer from Canada? Is that what the minister is saying? Because I donít see a line item that says Canada health transfer. I donít see a line item on that page.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: You wonít, because itís all rolled up into one amount.
Mr. Fairclough: And I suppose the same goes with the medical equipment? We have two years left in that, and I see itís $488,000. Is that whatís left in that fund for medical equipment under Canada health transfer, and what can we expect next year?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That was a two-year funding agreement for medical equipment for Health and Social Services: $.47 million in 2004-05 fiscal, $.46 million in 2005-06 fiscal, and subsequent years that fund expires. Itís boutique funding.
Mr. Fairclough: I am sure that the Yukon Territory can do a lot with those monies that are coming for medical equipment. I will ask the question in Health with regard to medical equipment, so I will just leave that one alone for now.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: I know the members opposite are talking ó we are talking about the funding from Ottawa and that is why I was questioning this on the sheet that the Premier passed out. I wasnít going into any detail on it other than asking when the funding would expire on this.
I am going to ask another question with regard to the infrastructure fund. I see the Premier is back in his seat. There are two funds.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Mr. Fairclough, you have the floor.
Mr. Fairclough: I am looking at the amounts of the municipal rural infrastructure fund, which are on this paper here. All the funds that are recoveries from Canada are all under conditions associated with the program delivery and agreements. The rest of the money that is identified in the budget are top-up dollars from the territory, so is what we are seeing in that amount of money in the municipal rural infrastructure fund Canada money and Yukon money reflected in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: On the sheet that the member is referring to, under the section ďRecoveries from CanadaĒ, this would only be the amount that we are recovering from Canada. On a fund like the municipal rural infrastructure fund, the Yukon must also make a contribution of its own in regard to it, but itís all based on the program terms, conditions and agreements that weíve signed. So this column is entirely the amount we recover. It does not represent the amount that the Yukon has had to put in also, which is in the budget itself.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís what I was asking. I think itís double the amount thatís here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, then maybe that could be clarified by the Premier then. I heard him say that in regard to some projects, some are one-third/one-third/one-third or some are 50/50. I thought that perhaps some of the infrastructure in the communities was not broken down like that. Theyíre 80/20, or 20 to what? Itís what the communities put in. Maybe the Premier can clarify that for me.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: On a capital agreement between Yukon government and any Yukon community, municipality or village, we usually enter into a capital arrangement that has a 90 percent government commitment and a 10 percent community participation. Thatís separate from any of these funds. That is our standard capital arrangement with communities. We can get more detail when we get into the department debate, but I think the municipal rural infrastructure fund is set up so itís a 50/50 arrangement, Canada and Yukon. I could be wrong, but I think the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund is a one-third/ one-third/one-third arrangement that has Yukon, Canada and any given municipality where a project is taking place contributing the one-third shares.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you for that information. I believe that the Finance minister, in his remarks on the floor of the Legislature here, has identified a couple of projects that are not listed in the budget. One of them was the Mayo recreation centre. Does that fall under the Canadian strategic infrastructure? Is that the one-third/one-third/one-third, or is it going under the municipal rural infrastructure fund? I donít see it listed, and I know the project is designed and ready to go and that itís under one of these funds.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, the minister responsible for Community Services would be able to give the member the detail. I believe itís under the MRIF that itís committed to. Frankly, whether the MRIF funds Mayo or not, weíre going to build them the community centre ó period.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíve got to send that one back home to the municipality.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: Oh, itís a pre-budget announcement for next year. All right, well, thatís good. Theyíre expecting something. I had some students here from the Mayo community campus of Yukon College today. I had them tour through the office and Legislature and showed them the breakdown of communities here. They were interested to know why this was not reflected under their community breakdown.
How long have we had the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund? Is this money just going to infrastructure building? Is it going toward upgrading highways around the Yukon? Can the Premier explain some of that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I think under the Canadian strategic infrastructure, this would be the first year of its implementation. Now, whether it goes to highways or not, again, the minister responsible here would have that information.
We do have on the sheet, though, a recovery, which I believe this is the Shakwak recovery of $24 million. So why this is a recovery from Canada on highways, the Alaska Highway, is that itís the Shakwak funding. So all in all, these arrangements between Canada and the Yukon are by nature, to some degree, very complex because of all the terms and conditions that go with them. Some of these funds not only involve the Yukon government and the federal government; it involves the Association of Yukon Communities and groups like that. There are projects that are brought forward and then put into a process for approval. So there is a lot of work that goes on here over a period of time to actually get to where the federal government invests their share.
What the Yukon government did ó and I think this is important to note ó upon a commitment by the federal government that these infrastructure funds like MRIF would be in place, in last yearís budget we booked the money. So our share was put into the budget; the federal governmentís share did not materialize in 2004-05. In fact, I think on the MRIF, we just signed off the agreement in January of 2005. So we again revoted the amounts into this 2005-06 budget, and now with the projects that have gone forward for approval, we expect to have the federal money flowing in these amounts, in these categories, in the very near future.
I think that what it has allowed us to do, in all fairness to the federal government, is advance infrastructure in the Yukon. But I think we have to recognize that there was a position taken on these funds that changed what Canada originally had committed to. For the rest of the country, when it comes to the provinces, these funds are based on a per capita formula. Per capita cannot work in the north, for the three territories especially.
I believe there was an agreement of one percent of the total infrastructure fund, if Iím not mistaken, instead of per capita. So we are getting a one-percent share of the total amount. That is an important part of this, because if it were by per capita, we would not be listing this kind of recovery. The values would probably be down in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, not millions.
Again, Mr. Chair, it would be a lot more constructive if we could allow the minister who leads in these areas and who has all the detail in his material, which we do not have as the Department of Finance ó we have the general totals and those types of volumes. It would be much more conducive to have this debate and discussion with the minister responsible.
That said, I think maybe I could touch on a few other things that the member may even want to ask as we go forward. There is a reflection here on the document that shows timelines left and the amounts left in certain areas like the health reform monies and CHT. On that front, I think itís important to remember that not only have we established a special fund, like the Northern Health Accord and the territorial health access fund, we still receive through the CHT transfer our share of the total on a per capita basis. So these funds, like the northern health reform fund, are over and above what our share is ó sorry, the Northern Health Accord and the territorial health access fund. These monies are in addition to what we receive under the CHT formula. It has allowed us, with that extra money, to increase our investment in the social fabric for the benefit of Yukoners.
Also, the northern strategy trust money of $40 million, which is to be allocated over three years, has not been booked. It is not in this budget because it has not as yet passed Parliament.
The $40-million fund for the northern strategy trust is in the budget document that the federal government has tabled.
Mr. Chair, it would be a lot simpler if we could discuss the budget with the Member for Mayo-Tatchun without listening to the kibitzing from the Member for Kluane. If the Member for Kluane has something constructive to add, I think we could allow him time throughout the course of the 30 days ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I know it has been a long week for the Premier and he has logged in a ó
Chair: Mr. McRobb, is there a point of order you wish to raise?
Mr. McRobb: I want to raise the point that ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Mr. Mc Robb, whatís the point of order?
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. He launched a personal attack. Thatís against the House rules. He almost assumed the role of Chair in here, calling a point of order.
Chair: Well, as the member well knows, itís the role of any member in our Assembly to call a point of order when he hears that one of our Standing Orders is being broken. I donít see that there is a point of order in this matter.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I will quickly conclude my remarks. Overall, I think we are now heading down the road of a much more constructive debate with the members opposite, and I look forward to it, to be sure. I would suggest, though, that the quicker we can get into department-by-department discussions, given the size of this budget in all departments, then we can then ferret out even more detail for the opposition. I think weíve shown a willingness to provide them with as much information as we possibly can.
So, I think kudos to the opposition, who have come around and are now demonstrating a willingness to engage with the government in a productive and constructive manner. We on this side applaud them for that. With that, Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that the Chair report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call this House to order.
Before closing the House down today, the Chair would offer a quick apology to the members. In the Speakerís ruling I gave earlier today in regard to the leader of the third partyís question of privilege, I neglected to read the last page. I would like your indulgence, and I will quickly read the last page of my ruling. My apologies.
Speakerís ruling on question of privilege re pre-budget announcements ó continued
Speaker: In closing the Chair would like to bring to the Houseís attention certain points. The government should be aware that if it is going to progressively dismiss the idea of budget secrecy it might find it increasingly difficult to have others respect this principle.
The Assembly is not an impediment to governing this territory. Furthermore the government must acknowledge that we live in a representative democracy and that all Yukoners are represented in this Chamber. The easiest way for the government to speak to all Yukoners simultaneously is to speak to their representatives in here.
The government should take care in how it announces its intention for spending money that the House has yet to appropriate. In researching this ruling the Chair noted that not all government news releases acknowledged that such spending was subject to the approval of the Legislature. The Chair believes this statement should be included in all such statements to ensure that the Assemblyís authority is respected, its dignity is protected and the public is properly informed.
I thank all members for their attention to this long and detailed ruling.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-6, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
†††††† The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 7, 2005:
Yukon-Northwest Territories Subagreement on Northern Oil and Gas Development under the Yukon-Northwest Territories Inter-government Relations Accord †(Lang)