Thursday, November 3, 2005 — 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of all members of this House to recognize November as Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month. One of the main goals of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada, other than finding a cure, is to increase awareness of these diseases among the general public. Crohn’s and colitis are the two most prevalent intestinal disorders. They are chronic disorders that cause abdominal pain, cramping and fatigue, among other things. Severity of symptoms can vary widely, and flare-ups can occur without warning, sometimes ending in hospitalization and surgery. These two diseases can strike anyone at any time, and there are 170,000 Canadian men, women and children who know these facts very well.
There is currently no known cause or cure. Mr. Speaker, as a responsible and responsive government, we need to do our part to help educate others about these two conditions that may affect our population, and recognition in this House begins that process.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, I would like Members of the Legislative Assembly to recognize a constituent of mine, Ross Findlater.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Ms. Duncan: I have for tabling today a copy of the Prime Minister of Canada’s address to the Economic Club of New York. In particular I draw members’ attention to his reference on page 4 to the joint stewardship of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and the migration of the Porcupine caribou herd and the need to protect the same.
Mr. Hardy: I have for tabling the Safe Communities and Neighbourhoods Act from the Province of Saskatchewan. I also have for tabling a summary of a safe communities and neighbourhoods act along with that. Also included for tabling is the NDP legislation being introduced in Nova Scotia by the Justice critic for legislation to shut down crack houses and other illegal premises.
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
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Justice to direct his officials to develop a bill to create a safe communities and neighbourhoods act for the Yukon that would be closely similar in spirit and effect to the act of the same name that has been in effect in the Province of Saskatchewan since November 15, 2004, and to do so as a matter of priority so that the proposed legislation is ready to be considered and passed during the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) operators of Yukon’s highway lodges and other rural businesses are important tourism ambassadors and provide necessary services to our highway travellers;
(2) stringent government regulations with respect to water, sewage and fuel can place severe financial burdens on these businesses; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to develop practical incentive programs for such family businesses to help them overcome the financial hardships of upgrading their water and sewage systems and the ground near their fuel pumps to meet health and safety standards to ensure both the environment and the public are protected.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition needs adequate funding to continue its critical work of planning for the economic, social and environmental impacts of the proposed Alaska Highway gas pipeline;
(2) Yukon communities also need resources to prepare for what will be the largest ever private sector project in the world;
(3) Yukon government attempts to obtain such funding from the federal Liberal government have so far been unsuccessful;
(4) in the Northwest Territories, First Nations and communities have received more than $500 million in funds from Ottawa to prepare for its pipeline proposal; and
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the recent vote in the U.S. Congress to keep the budget provision to drill for petroleum in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge endangers the future of the Porcupine caribou herd;
(2) another vote on this issue next week will seal the fate of the herd forever; and
THAT this House urges the Premier of the Yukon to immediately agree to accompany the chief and delegates from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation going to Washington, D.C., next week to do some last-ditch lobbying, if requested.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition
Mr. McRobb: I want to follow up with the Premier on some of the outstanding questions on the Alaska Highway pipeline proposal. In the past week, Yukoners have learned how this government has withheld funding from the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, how it has tried to pressure the APC into using the Alaskan model of a pipeline commission, how it has misrepresented the position of the Yukon First Nations to the big oil companies and to the federal government, how it has impeded the APC’s progress, how it is pushing only one of the pipeline options to the detriment of all Yukoners, and how bad its relations really are with Yukon First Nations.
Question: now that this government has been embarrassed into flowing the funds to the APC that it had previously blocked, when might we expect the delivery of those funds to actually happen?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is quite amusing, listening to the Member for Kluane and the assertions therein.
Frankly, Mr. Speaker, the government has already flowed over $300,000 for the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to do its work and has earmarked, as I have said yesterday here in the Legislative Assembly, another $2,000 that we are going to allocate to the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. So I think when the member opposite comes to the realization that the situation or the position that the NDP is taking is actually incorrect, we can get on with the debate here on how best to make Yukon pipeline ready. The government is doing its work, as we should. But I would caution Yukoners, in listening to the debate and the questioning from the official opposition, that the NDP does not have a good grasp of what the Alaska Highway project is all about.
Mr. McRobb: Well, what do we have to do to get a question answered around here? The Yukon government must represent all Yukoners when taking a position with respect to a project like this proposed pipeline, but the government must also understand that without support from our First Nation partners, there won’t be a pipeline, ever.
Yesterday the Premier said there is no other project besides the Foothills proposal. What he didn’t tell us was that there are other capable parties very much interested in building the pipeline, such as Enbridge and the big three oil companies. The Premier says he’s representing Yukon interests, but how can he be so sure that the Foothills option is the best one for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The Member for Kluane has just stated that the New Democrats in this House do not understand what the land claim process has provided this territory. Throughout the negotiations of claims, a right-of-way, which has been established as a third party interest, has been agreed to. This should not be new or secret to the official opposition. It’s part of the land claim.
So I would urge the Member for Kluane to brush up on the land claim issue.
Secondly, we are representing the public interest with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline project. That is why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’re investing in the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, but we are going further by forming a very targeted process to deal with the public interest with respect to this project.
Again I repeat for the member opposite: there is no other proposal other than that which was given force and effect through a National Energy Board assessment, which is the Northern Pipeline Act. There are no other proposals anywhere with respect to moving Alaskan or North Slope gas to the marketplace in the Lower 48 and southern Canada.
I would try to help the member opposite; maybe I could offer him a briefing so he could get some detail around this project.
Mr. McRobb: There are expressions of interest, and the Premier knows it. There are a lot of unanswered questions about how this government is mishandling the pipeline file, including my last one.
We know it will go the extra mile for a photo op with Governor Murkowski, but it won’t do its homework first with the APC and all Yukoners.
I want to address yet another of the Premier’s questionable statements. He said he wants regulatory certainty, yet he hasn’t revealed what the regulatory process would be with his favoured Foothills option.
The N.W.T. is using a combined regulatory model called the “joint review panel”. I’ll now table this impressive, one-page guide for all members of the Assembly.
Yukoners need regulatory certainty too. What type of regulatory process will be used here, and when will the Premier first ask Yukoners what they want?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me start with the latter part of the member’s question. It’s clear, at least to the government side, that Yukoners are very interested in this project. One only has to go back to the recent Opportunities North conference hosted here by our chambers of commerce — which was a resounding success — to find that out.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, this side of the House believes firmly that we have been doing our work on the pipeline. The first order of business of this government was to stand down on the needless debate of competing interests and support both pipelines, and from there we have made remarkable progress.
Now, the member is talking about regulatory processes. In the first place, Canada will declare which regulatory regime will apply, and if the member again understood the land claim process, the member would recognize that a project like the Alaska Highway pipeline project would have to be assessed under YESAA, a mechanism that this territory developed in conjunction with First Nations so that we here in the Yukon have much more say in projects like this. So I hope I’ve cleared the matter up for the Member for Kluane, who seems to be somewhat confused.
Question re: Pipeline preparedness
Mr. Hardy: Earlier this week, the Premier admitted the Yukon is nowhere near being pipeline ready. Those were his words. Three years into the government’s mandate, that’s where we stand on a major Yukon Party dream. Because of this government’s inactions, many opportunities have been missed to move this file forward, Mr. Speaker. Because of the Premier’s who’s-on-top way of doing things, we’ve seen important relationships fractured by mistrust. We are being ignored by the federal government on this pipeline project that is four times the size of the Mackenzie Valley line, and we know how much work is being done in the N.W.T., so what’s going on there?
Why is the Premier only now starting to do what’s needed to get the Yukon what he calls “pipeline ready”?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In correcting the member opposite, we certainly, as a government, have been working very positively with the federal government and the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. As the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I have met on two different occasions with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, with the federal government and the pertinent departments. So we are getting our house ready. We are moving forward. We are funding the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. I remind the member opposite that we have already funded it to the tune of approximately $350,000; another $200,000 is being negotiated at the moment and brought forward. I think we are doing our work. The one who isn’t doing their work is the federal government. We will keep knocking on that door until somebody answers it.
Mr. Hardy: Well, looks on the other side of the mountains, Mr. Speaker. The Government of the Northwest Territories lobbied hard to make things happen on the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. As a result, the federal government has paid attention. Premier Handley got results — $500-million worth. On that side of the mountains, $10 million is going to fund a pipeline-readiness office, $13 million is being spent on skill enhancement. There is a joint regulatory panel within the N.W.T. All that the Yukon’s Premier can say is that we’ve got an advantage because of a 30-year-old agreement, Mr. Speaker.
Now, when will the Premier realize that one reason we are not pipeline ready is because of his failure to lobby Ottawa as effectively as Premier Handley?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, if the member opposite draws a conclusion that the Deh Cho litigation with respect to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline is lobbying by the Premier of the Northwest Territories, I think this is not going to be an easy question to answer. Frankly, the $500 million that the member speaks of came out of negotiations between the federal government and the Deh Cho because of that litigation with respect to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. The Yukon is not dealing with those issues, Mr. Speaker. We haven an established right-of-way, it’s a protected third party interest, and that right-of-way was given force and effect under a federal act called the Northern Pipeline Act. That’s what we are saying.
We, the Yukon, have an asset to contribute to the Alaska Highway pipeline. But we’ve also been doing our work on our own reserves to contribute to the economics of the pipeline.
So, Mr. Speaker, I really want to engage with the member opposite with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline project. The public knows what this government — the Yukon Party government — is going to do. What is the NDP going to do about the project? Let me share some insights: delay it, impede it, and try to stop it. Not the Yukon Party government — we want it built.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable. You know, the Premier can’t admit that he has been out-negotiated by Premier Handley. Well, we all know; the facts are before us. But, you know, in the interests of fairness, I’d like to extend an olive branch to the Premier. He’s getting a little agitated over there. Here’s what we propose: we’re willing to help the Premier get Ottawa’s attention by joining him in an all-party delegation to Ottawa to get the funding and support that’s needed to advance the Yukon’s pipeline interest. He hasn’t been able to do that by himself. Now, that delegation should also include the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, of course; but to be even more effective, we should have representatives of the Yukon municipalities, labour, the business community and others along, as well.
We’re willing to help the Premier with this. Is he willing to accept this offer, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This side of the House has always been, as we showed yesterday, more than willing to accept constructive suggestions from the members opposite. But, Mr. Speaker, with respect to Ottawa and the federal government and what it’s doing, a tremendous amount of work has been done, led by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, in partnership with First Nations. I can tell you today Ottawa, along with Natural Resources Canada — NRCan — and others, including the chair of the federal government’s energy committee, is very focused on the Alaska Highway pipeline, as they should be. And we expect Ottawa to deliver here in the Yukon in a similar manner — a fair and equitable manner — as they have in the Northwest Territories.
Let’s just shed come light on this. This project needs 375,000 person years of work during the life of the project. It will see a $20 billion plus increase in the GDP, and it will put over $20 billion into federal coffers. Of course, the federal government is very interested in this.
So, Mr. Speaker, any time the member opposite would like some help from this side with respect to the project, we will certainly live up to that request.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline promotion
Ms. Duncan: It will come as no surprise that I have a question today for the Premier about pipelines. I’m interested in his new-found interest in promoting an Alaska Highway pipeline. For the first 30 months that this government was in office, they did nothing to promote the pipeline — that was a Liberal thing; we’re not going to work on that.
Six months ago, the Premier realized that, oh, maybe we should promote that project. This week the Premier met with other western leaders who support the pipeline. Curiously, the leader of the Northwest Territories wasn’t at the meeting. He wasn’t there to help promote the Alaska Highway pipeline. Imagine that — the Northwest Territories not supportive of our pipeline. It has been the position they’ve taken for many years, doing everything they can to impede as opposed to support our project.
Why was the Premier’s friend not at the meeting to help promote the Alaska Highway pipeline project? What happened to “hands across the north”, Mr. Premier?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I am very pleased that the leader of the third party has engaged in the debate with respect to the pipeline. Let me just help the member opposite clear the matter up.
This government, upon coming into office, immediately took the position of supporting both pipelines and went to work with the N.W.T. We now have an agreement where Yukon citizens and N.W.T. citizens will all share in the benefits from both these projects.
The reason the Premier of the Northwest Territories was not at a meeting with Alberta, B.C. and Alaska is pretty clear: the Alaska Highway pipeline does not in any way, shape or form traverse any of the Northwest Territories land base. I hope that will help the member opposite.
Thirdly, I will say and give credit where credit is due: there is absolutely no reason why this side of the House would not extend credit to the leader of the third party, who, during her time in office, did promote and work hard on the Alaska Highway pipeline. The problem is the recognition by that former Liberal government that Yukon does not make the decision, that it’s made by the corporate community, in this case the producers. The approach was not correct, but she certainly did a lot of work on behalf of Yukon with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline, and this side of the House extends appreciation to the leader of the third party.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, for the first 30 months this government was in office they did nothing to promote the pipeline, and now we are playing catch-up.
As the Premier recognized today, I stood up for Yukoners, and the current Premier endlessly criticized my approach. Let’s listen to his approach for a moment, shall we? He said this on national television, earlier this year: “We encourage the federal government to try and expedite the building of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline because we want to make sure it’s completed before the commencement and construction of the Alaska Highway pipeline.” That’s standing up for Yukoners? It’s bad enough that the Northwest Territories won’t support our project; now we have our own Premier saying the N.W.T. should go first.
When is the Premier going to ask his friend in the Northwest Territories to get on-board in promoting our project as he has promoted theirs?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the difference between the Yukon Party government and the members opposite is that we are keenly interested in what the corporate community is doing and what decisions they will be making. It was pretty clear a long time ago that the Mackenzie Valley pipeline — in the view of the producers who announced to the public that they expect to build that pipeline first and it would have a completion date somewhere in 2007-09, and then they would move the Alaska Highway pipeline with a completion date somewhere around 2012. So we are only following exactly what the situation dictated we do. Again though, the member opposite was trying to make the case in direct contradiction of what the corporate community was doing with respect to these projects.
Now let me talk about our partners to the east. Under that member’s watch, the Northwest Territories supported an over-the-top route, totally negating the Alaska Highway pipeline and stranding Yukon gas reserves. Today the N.W.T. no longer supports an over-the-top route and is in cooperation supporting the Yukon with the Alaska Highway pipeline as we are supporting the N.W.T. for the Mackenzie line. Mr. Speaker, it goes further. We are supporting each other’s jurisdiction to maximize benefits from both projects.
Ms. Duncan: That’s a very interesting version of history from the Premier. Perhaps if he’d read some of the seven binders of media clippings and briefing notes and information, he might wish to restate that. In fact, what happened is that the industry minister for the N.W.T. is in national news today fear-mongering about how, if the Alaska project goes first, it will stall the Mackenzie project. He’s not helping our cause; he’s hurting it. And what does the Premier say in response just now? The direct opposite. In fact, he’s shrugging his shoulders and pretending he doesn’t hear the criticism from the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier has been badly, badly outmanoeuvred by the Northwest Territories. We need the Northwest Territories to stop criticizing the Alaska Highway pipeline project. In fact, we need their support just as our Premier has supported their project. When is the Premier going to use his friendship with his counterpart in the Northwest Territories to get on-board, instead of offside?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, the N.W.T. is on-board, and frankly, whether the energy minister in the Northwest Territories is worried about the Mackenzie project going first, or the Alaska Highway pipeline going first, that’s not something the Yukon government has a lot of problem with, because the producers will make that choice. They already have. They’ve announced it. But maybe what we could look at here is what’s really happening in the Mackenzie Valley. There’s regulatory uncertainty. There are problems with the project. That is not the Northwest Territories’ fault. That is not the Yukon’s issue. It is Canada’s issue. And now, to add to that, friends of the official opposition — the Sierra Club — has launched into a position that states that the Alaska Highway pipeline is the only pipeline that should be built, because it’s the lesser of two environmental evils. So there’s a lot going on here.
The difference between this government and the members opposite is that we have a plan on how we are going to make sure Yukoners are best represented with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline and the Mackenzie line, and we’re moving ahead with that plan. Recent developments now show that we have provinces and the State of Alaska working with the Yukon. That’s remarkable progress over the last three years.
Question re: Substance abuse
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Premier. In the last week or so, we have seen four disturbing trials in Yukon courts involving violent deaths. The one factor common to all of them was substance abuse.
I live in a riding where drug problems have been around for years and are well known to everyone, Mr. Speaker, but it’s not just a downtown issue, and that’s becoming very clear. We have seen marijuana grow ops busted in Copperbelt. We have seen major busts along the Alaska Highway and drug-related crimes in virtually every community. When is the Premier going to take this problem seriously and put the necessary resources and programs in place to deal with this problem that is afflicting the territory?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As the Acting Minister of Justice, I am pleased to respond to the members opposite’s comments. Let us be very clear that the safety and security of all our citizens, including our visitors to our respective communities, are of utmost importance to this government and to me as well.
Initiatives such as the substance abuse action plan that is a direct result of a summit that was held back in June involving 200 stakeholders — the action plan speaks to the four strategic directions, including prevention, education, harm reduction and treatment, as well as enforcement. Together with our communities, together with our front-line workers and our front-line agencies, our government is committed to addressing the problems of crime, the problems of social abuse endemic within our communities, and we are taking action to do just that.
Mr. Hardy: I am not surprised that they would fall back on the recent summit, or what has been called the Yukon substance abuse action plan. The trouble is that that plan at this stage is just a skeleton; there is no meat on the bones. The Premier has not committed any funding or given this plan any sense of the urgency that is required. Most significantly is that the plan is largely driven by government departments when what the Yukon really needs is a plan — a real action plan — that is community-driven and reflects the urgency that Yukon people themselves feel about this issue.
Now, when will the Premier respond to the very real needs of Yukon communities by listening to the people and by making a serious commitment of funds and resources to match the seriousness of the problem?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what our government has done. We have acted upon the request of the residents of the City of Whitehorse and our other communities — whoever should request our assistance. That is exactly what we have done. From the Town of Watson Lake to the City of Whitehorse, to the community of Mayo and so forth, we held a summit that involved over 200 stakeholders — not government bureaucracy, not public servants, but it included a number of stakeholders from our front-line agencies, a number of non-government organizations. We came together with a number of items for action. Over the course of the summer, the respective departments of Health and Social Services, Justice, Education, as well as the Women’s Directorate, came together to come up with an action plan — an action plan that actually refers to a whole host of actions, including restricting access to certain cold medicines, which we have done in partnership with pharmacists, including reducing bootlegging and working with the Yukon Liquor Corporation, the RCMP and the City of Whitehorse.
With respect to developing safer communities legislation, an initiative that the member opposite just tabled a motion to do, Mr. Speaker, we are working with our NGO, we are working with our front-line agencies right now, as we speak, to address this very dire problem.
Question re: Watson Lake care facility contract
Mr. Hardy: Last spring, the NDP led intense questioning over this Yukon Party government’s obsession with the use of sole-source contracts to avoid public scrutiny. The extent of sole-source contracting in the Watson Lake care facility has further eroded the confidence of the Yukon people in the integrity of this government. Over 350,000 was already sole-sourced to the father of a Cabinet minister, and the other minister who spoke yesterday, suggested the entire project may go that way. The spirit and intent of the government sole-sourcing regulations are that contracting is supposed to be fair, open and to the benefit of all Yukon workers and businesses. So far, this project doesn’t pass muster. Will the minister take a step in the right direction and give assurances that all Yukon businesses will have the opportunity to bid on the remaining $5 million of this work?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Department of Health and Social Services has selected the route we’ve taken with respect to building the multi-level care facility in Watson Lake in consultation with the community of Watson Lake. The project is moving forward in a very effective manner, creating employment and maximum benefits for Yukon, specifically the community of Watson Lake. We’re extremely comfortable that with the project management and the project management team in place, which includes the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, an architect, engineer and a project manager, we are getting best value for our dollar on this initiative.
Question re: Government spending
Mr. Hardy: Once again it has been a remarkable week in this Chamber. Let’s look at some of the highlights, one by one. First, a supplementary budget that will bring this government’s spending package this year to a staggering $822 million. This is from the same Finance minister who was so concerned about the big, bad spending trajectory just a little while ago.
To make it even more interesting, this is the same Finance minister who got this House to approve $60-million worth of spending authority he needed last year.
When will the Finance minister get his own spending trajectory and fiscal planning in order?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: That’s exactly what has transpired over the last three years of this government’s mandate — getting the Yukon’s fiscal house in order. Yes, we were very concerned upon taking office because, under the watch of the former government — the Liberal government — the Yukon was in a position where it was in overdraft. It was paying charges, costing taxpayers money to delivery programs and services. So we went to work on the issue. Not only did we, the three territories, gain the support from Canada to deal with the health care question, but we also got increases in the formula that were our rightful share of the national wealth.
So, Mr. Speaker, we have put the financial position of this territory back where it should be, and it is very sound.
But the member opposite has now referred to this budget as a spending spree. Does the member tell the Yukon public that increases for health care and delivering those programs to Yukoners reflects a spending spree? Is the member going to say that our government, in living up to its liabilities for employee pensions, is on a spending spree? Is that member saying that the investment in the college for the Canada Winter Games is a spending spree?
Mr. Speaker, it’s a good thing the finances of this territory are in this government’s hands.
Mr. Hardy: Well, it is becoming very obvious that this minister will not answer any questions asked by us on this side. As a matter of fact, he won’t even answer the question the public is asking — that is, when is the next general election? — so they can pass judgement on this government.
This week, we’ve also seen the Premier in denial about his relationship with the Yukon First Nations. The Premier says that everything is fine. First Nation leaders are using expressions like “disrespectful”, “dictatorial”, and “the worst government” they have ever had to deal with. Who are we to believe, Mr. Speaker? Let me put it more directly: why should we believe the Premier when he says the sky is blue and the First Nation leaders say it is black?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I am almost embarrassed to have to go through this on behalf of the member opposite. Last week, the Grand Chief of this territory, representing the members of the Council of Yukon First Nations, stated publicly that as long as he has been around, the relationship has never been better.
Now, we are dealing with one issue here that the member has picked up on, with one specific First Nation. It has to do with the facts here when it comes to the relationship with that First Nation. The Kwanlin Dun First Nation has received $1.2 million from this government to purchase the property on the waterfront for their cultural centre, and another $1.2 million to do the planning and design for the cultural centre. Another $465,000 has been spent to date on remediation work and another $415,000 is coming. We have gone further — a community off-street parking project with the First Nation and for the First Nation has been turned over to the First Nation for management, which is a total of $275,000. I add all this up, and we have almost $4.3 million of reasons why this government can say our relationship is sound, solid and a good one.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I have to agree with the first statement that the Premier said. I know that many Yukoners also agree that they are embarrassed for the minister. Now, just minutes ago we heard that the government has announced plans to build a new school in Copperbelt. That’s very interesting, Mr. Speaker. The day after the Minister of Education says there won’t be a school, now there’s going to be. Is that the result of good planning or something else, Mr. Speaker? How does the Premier expect Yukoners to believe in his government with this kind of impulse announcement to try to hang on to a seat in a by-election?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As the Minister of Education stated yesterday, our government is committed to building a school in the Copper Ridge area. There is a demonstrated need in that particular area. There has been significant growth in our population over the last three years, the economy has grown, and in the Copper Ridge area alone there has been an increase of well over 20 percent in the construction of residential homes. There are more jobs; there are more people moving to the Yukon and making the Yukon their home. As a result, the Elijah Smith Elementary School has reached its capacity, as we have heard. Students who reside in that area have to be bused elsewhere. There is a proven, demonstrated need for this. As such, our government will be undertaking a planning exercise in the very near future.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 64: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 64, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 64 be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 64, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Bill No. 64, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, is a bill of a routine nature and its prime purpose is to bring our Income Tax Act into line with the federal Income Tax Act, as a result of changes to Canada’s legislation.
The Yukon and most other jurisdictions often mirror federal tax measures to simplify the process for the taxpayer and, of course, for administrative efficiency. Consequently, when Canada amends the federal Income Tax Act, ours must be similarly amended.
The federal government has made changes over the past while to several tax measures. These federal government changes are in the areas of income tax brackets, the threshold for medical expenses claimed for dependants and the foreign tax credit for individuals.
Without this bill, these changes do not flow through to the Yukon Income Tax Act. Therefore, the bill before us will accomplish what we require.
Without these changes, Yukoners would be paying more income tax, so one of the essential items of this bill is to ensure that Yukoners aren’t paying more taxes, and that’s another reason why we’ve brought it forward. Mr. Speaker, I’m very pleased to introduce these changes.
This bill also accommodates a request from the Canada Revenue Agency that the manufacturing and processing profit rate be changed from a tax rate to a tax credit. This change is simply to assist the Canada Revenue Agency to better administer the taxes payable on the profit that arises as a result of manufacturing and processing activity. This change does not affect taxes payable in any way.
The Yukon will continue to have the lowest taxes of any Canadian jurisdiction on profits attributed to the manufacturing and processing areas.
Finally, this bill also corrects some minor errors in the current Income Tax Act. These errors have not, however, had any effect on taxpayers and are simply of a housekeeping nature.
Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time this House has been asked to pass legislation of this kind, nor will it be the last. It is a routine, ongoing and necessary exercise on the part of the Government of Yukon to ensure that our legislation, as amended and brought forward, is making the lives of Yukoners better.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I will be brief in my comments in regard to this bill, brought forward by the Finance minister, Mr. Speaker.
Obviously, what we’re dealing with in this sitting are a number of bills that are housekeeping bills. This is yet another one, and it is basically to come in line, like the Premier said, with the federal Income Tax Act, and he said also that it’s a housekeeping bill. We on this side of the House have questioned why the Yukon Party government has not done their homework in looking at bringing forward legislation to this House that directly affects Yukoners in building healthier communities, bettering the lives of Yukoners and so on. That hard work, Mr. Speaker, I don’t believe was done. As a matter of fact, the biggest piece of legislation that the Yukon Party brought forward in their mandate so far is to repeal the Government Accountability Act. That brings a lot of concern, because the Yukon Party did campaign on a number of things, and we expected that they would bring forward some legislation that would affect Yukoners.
They constantly say that we on this side of the House have no vision. We have brought forward very constructive direction that government could have taken in how they make decisions. Many times those directions have been refused. In the previous NDP mandate, a number of things were brought forward. I will list a few of them to remind the Premier about a lot of the work that had taken place, and a lot of it was reflected in the budget.
It affected people positively, like the low-income family tax credit. There was much debate on this. The Premier, at that the time, was part of government, and he bragged it up, and so on, but the Yukon Party, being in opposition, voted against it. I don’t know if we want to keep seeing that type of thing. Is it something they didn’t believe then and they do now, Mr. Speaker? It wasn’t a large amount of money, but it did put money back into Yukoners’ pockets. They in turn are spending the money here in the territory. It’s all about vision, about the future, and helping people out.
What about the child benefit program? Or the small business investment tax credit that the Yukon Party didn’t like at the time it was brought in? Or the First Nations income tax credit, which is about sharing government revenues? We’ve heard the Premier say time and time again that it was the first time it was ever done, and it was under their watch that they are now sharing revenues with First Nations. Well, it has all been a result of First Nation final agreements. All that happened at the time in 1999 was that it was brought forward to the House to ensure that those things do happen. It was back then that we started seeing more and more of the revenues that came to the Yukon government being shared with Yukon First Nations. Now, all of a sudden it appears by the messaging from the Premier that they were the first to do it and no one else thought about it. Well, all he needed to do was go back in time and look at some of these things a little more closely.
Here is another one that was widely debated, Mr. Speaker. I know we are talking about the amendments to the Income Tax Act, but I am talking about other monies that have benefited Yukon and the Yukon economy in the past.
I would like to say, though, that the low-income family tax credit was brought in in 1999, and so was the small business investment tax credit. That was brought in in 1999. The Premier fails to recognize these types of things.
The mineral exploration tax credit had all kinds of debate taking place in this Legislature at the time. It was introduced in 1999. Today what we’ve seen — I know it’s a very beneficial tax credit in that it does promote our economy and grow our economy into the future. When in government, the Liberals did not do away with the mineral exploration tax credit. They looked at it carefully and, even today, the Yukon Party is following suit. The Liberals increased it; they thought it was a good thing too.
We’ve seen a lot of different companies get this tax credit. Without it, I don’t think the amount of exploration that took place in the territory would have been boosted. Because of this, there’s a lot more interest out there. When we first brought it out, just to carry on a bit, it was interesting that, sitting in a restaurant, there were a number of Cabinet members — me and the government leader of the time, Piers McDonald. We noticed the people sitting there having lunch. We thought we knew who they were. They were obviously doing some mineral exploration, and we knew that the Yukon government was covering a portion of the tab for that lunch — 25 percent.
That goes a long way to getting more people involved with more exploration by those companies. What we’re seeing today is an increase in the amount of interest out there of people wanting to explore the Yukon a bit more, who are finding some good things. I have seen, for example, renewed interest or more interest in the type of people who are coming forward and showing interest in placer mining, for example. I did not expect to see their faces, but there were people from Alberta and B.C., who are looking at older claims and working them and so on. Obviously, that mineral tax credit was somewhat of a draw for many people to come forward and do some exploration.
That tax credit, Mr. Speaker, was introduced in 1999. What do you think the Yukon Party did at the time? They voted against things like that. And I guess every time the Yukon Party comes forward and says that about us, we can do the same thing. In referring back to, say, schools, for example —
Speaker: As interesting as the member’s recollections are, the Chair is having a lot of problems following this line of reasoning with reference to Bill No. 64, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act. Perhaps the Member for Mayo-Tatchun wouldn’t mind just focusing a little more on the act before us, please.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is general debate on the second reading, Mr. Speaker. We can explore in some detail, but if we really wanted to talk about this act, there’s not all that much to talk about, because it’s housekeeping.
What I’m doing is referring to bills brought forward in this House, to the Yukon Party’s actions in the past three years and other things that they’ve said in this House about monies coming into people’s pockets. The Premier did say that Yukoners were paying less in income tax. That’s why I referred to some of these things. I wasn’t going into any detail when mentioning the schools. All I was saying is that some of the things I have mentioned here, like the low income family tax credit, were in the budget — not through a bill. We all know how votes go in this House. Generally, when you are in opposition, you vote against the government bill. That’s what I’m saying. We don’t want to be referring to that time and time again. If it’s mentioned by the members opposite, of course we on this side of the House may and will go there.
Why hasn’t the Yukon Party government come forward with something substantive with regard to amendments to a bill or new legislation in this House? Why hasn’t that happened? Well, the Yukon Party says that that’s not where their focus is. Even though what we’re saying here is that a lot of the promises they made are focused on legislation. The hard work was not done by the governing party, the Yukon Party, has not been done over the last three years.
In the last sitting, we brought forward a major bill in this House. What happened to that? We can’t even have a really constructive debate on that bill.
Today the leader of the official opposition tabled another bill and a motion to go with it, suggesting that the Yukon Party bring it forward as a motion or bill on the floor of this House, because we can’t do it — it would be voted down. So rather than go through the whole process of introducing a bill here, we go through and table all the information, the summaries and so on, for the Yukon Party to deal with. How else do you do it?
I know the Yukon Party says they want to work with us. We’ve suggested many constructive things in this House and they haven’t happened, and they won’t happen, either. We are in the final year of their mandate and we can expect an election within a year, I guess — close to a year now. The final month would be the month of November of next year.
So the Yukon Party will not be introducing anything new into the Legislature. What we are expecting them to do is bring forward the goods that came down from Ottawa. It’s good to have that extra money coming into the Yukon. We on this side of the House recognize that; we need it. After all, there’s not much of an economy here.
I know the Yukon Party says they have done everything to grow this economy, but the interest rates and the price of metals are really bringing a lot of people to invest here. What we want to see is more Yukoners being put to work and more money into Yukoners’ pockets. That’s what we want to see.
This Act to Amend the Income Tax Act does that, says the Premier — maybe not in a big way, but it’s putting some money into people’s pockets so they can spend more here in the territory.
So we’re going to go through this act, pass it through the House, because it’s basically housekeeping. We are going to go into a few more bills and pass them through this House. If all we were dealing with in this sitting were bills, we would have a very, very short sitting. Of course, that’s not how it is going here. We are dealing with a huge supplementary budget, and that is interfering. I would urge the Yukon Party government to look a lot more carefully at the type of bills that they are not looking at now, and show some interest in that. We’ve talked about some of the big ones like the Wildlife Act and so on. I would like to see the Yukon Party show some attention to that and put some more emphasis on making some improvements to legislation that exists right now rather than just changing words and following the direction of the federal government in introducing housekeeping bills such as this one. We’ve seen this one come before the House many times. When the Yukon Party was on this side of the House, that’s all they said, that they were housekeeping bills, but what was included in the package of the government of the time were many, many major amendments to some of the legislation in this House.
We on this side of the House can’t say we disagree with the amendments to the Income Tax Act. It’s following what we should be doing, so we will be supporting it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, a number of years ago — the precise year escapes me, but Canada Customs and Revenue Agency came to the Yukon government and asked them to change our income tax legislation because previously, in the rest of Canada, the other 10 jurisdictions were a tax-on-income system. There was one system, and the three territories had a tax on tax. I could have that backwards, but the three territories had a separate tax system. This was causing enough problems for Canada Customs and Revenue Agency that they asked the Yukon Territory to pass some legislation. We did. The reason I bring that up is that Canada Customs and Revenue Agency also paid for the drafting of that legislation and did that work for us, at no cost to the Yukon. I wonder if the Premier, when we get into general debate, can outline whether or not it was the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency or the Government of Canada drafters that did this legislation, and who paid for it. That’s a question.
I outline this, Mr. Speaker, because there’s an expression that those who do not know their history are destined to repeat it, and even though we know that history, we are going to continue to repeat and continue to pass these amendments. Because when Canada changes, we’re going to have to change. That’s just the reality and the nature of having this type of legislation that’s in line with the rest of the country. I would just like to know whether they’re going to continue to pay for the amendments. It truly is a routine matter for this House.
I don’t mean to be offensive to anyone, Mr. Speaker. Income tax legislation is about as clear as mud to anybody except for the drafters and the income tax people. So we rely very heavily on the drafters and the income tax folks, because it is complex legislation. We put a lot of faith and trust in them, and I know that they’ve done a stellar job. I will be supporting this and I would also signal to my colleagues that I would anticipate clauses of this complex legislation read and carried as opposed to read line by line.
My colleague from the NDP has noted that, in passing this piece of routine housekeeping legislation, we could have also used it as an opportunity to bring forward an innovative tax measure. He is quite correct in that respect; the government could have. As the Finance minister said in his opening remarks, we are going from a manufacturing tax to a tax credit at the request of Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the federal government. So, the benches opposite could have — and should have — come up with an innovative tax measure, like the mineral exploration tax credit, and said, “While you’re drafting that, do this as well.”
I note that the mineral exploration tax credit was an NDP initiative; it was increased by the Liberals, and it was also heavily promoted by the current Yukon Party government. The proof is in the pudding in the exploration. I note there are a number of mining companies that have exploration camps out to this day, it even being as late as November 3, Mr. Speaker.
That being said, the mineral exploration tax credit is a good problem to have. With the increase in exploration, it does give cause for a little grey hair to Finance ministers, in that $43 million of exploration is about $11 million in foregone revenue, I believe. Finance can correct me on those numbers, but it is a good problem to have. These types of tax credits require some thought and some innovations. It is work on the part of the government. In bringing forward this legislation, there is a lost opportunity for not bringing forward an innovative tax credit.
A suggestion for them: they could have looked at the teacher tax supply credit that I brought forward. It could have been in this legislation. The cost to the Yukon government was less than $1 million — not a huge cost. The drafting was there; it was available. We had the bodies doing the drafting on tax legislation. It’s a lost opportunity on the part of the government, and that is unfortunate.
That being said, Mr. Speaker — those two points. One is that this is truly routine legislation. It’s at the request of Canada. My question is: who is paying for it? Secondly, it is unfortunate that the government did not also use it as an opportunity to bring forward an innovative tax credit because they could have done that, and they didn’t. The public will no doubt remember when it comes time to mark that point at the ballot boxes.
Thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to debate on this legislation.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It is a piece of legislation that is housekeeping and I wasn’t really going to belabour a lot of points in here. But the Member for Mayo-Tatchun made a comment and I certainly will go back to Hansard and make sure that I heard it properly, but I believe the quote is, “There’s not much of an economy here.” I’m sorry but I suggest that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun try to get out a little bit more.
Mineral exploration, when we took office, was around $6 million a year. This year it will be over $45 million, up from $22 million in 2004 — a consistent rise. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun says that it is due to mineral prices. Well, the last time I read a newspaper they were usually referred to as “world mineral prices”. Same price as anywhere in the world — that’s the nature of the mining economy. Why, then, has the Yukon gone so quickly ahead of other jurisdictions in Canada? Why have we gone from double-digit unemployment to the second best in the country? Why are we in a housing boom? Why are we debating a new school in Copper Ridge? Because of the massive influx of people.
This is an indicator of economy. The year-to-date value of building permits, if you sort of look at the raw figures — obviously the multiplex will skew that a little bit, but if you look around that — you’ll find that residential construction in the Yukon increased by $5 million to $33.7 million in the first nine months of 2005, when you compare it to the same period of 2004. But the member opposite concludes that there’s no economy here.
Permitted commercial construction has increased 13 percent so far in 2005 — a 13-percent increase in one year, actually less than a year, but the Member for Mayo-Tatchun would say that there’s no economy in that. The unemployment rate has dropped while the population has gone up dramatically. There are employment opportunities; people coming back; Yukoners who weren’t part of it before are entering the labour force; border crossings are up — an increase of three percent over the same period last year. You would think the price of fuel and everything else would have a major impact, and I’m sure it does; it could be even higher.
Non-resident Yukon travellers entering the Yukon have increased 3.5 percent, despite those higher fuel prices and the appreciation of the U.S. dollar. You can look at all sorts of different things. U.S. visitation is up 2.5 percent and overseas visitation is up 12 percent.
Our population has rebounded to where it was in the mid-1990s. That has taken a lot of work but, again, the economy has grown and has become almost explosive, causing us problems with housing and everything else. We have done that while, as I say, the unemployment rates have plummeted.
The consumer price index has been very stable and comparable to other parts of the country at the same time. When you look at sales, we’re up almost $294.6 million in 2005 to date. Construction — the total value of building permits in the Yukon is up 53 percent in changes from last year. If you look at residential, it’s up 38 percent; industrial, a whopping 335 percent. Commercial has actually dropped a little bit — we’re on a catch-up phase with that — but when you look at institutional, it’s a 224-percent increase.
Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite thinks that there is no economy here, I really do suggest that he get out a little bit more frequently and take a look. You can’t complain about the massive influx in people and the massive changes that have happened in this territory and then turn around and conclude that there is no economy. And don’t try to put that off on an increase in mineral prices. They are worldwide. We are doing this well in excess of other jurisdictions with worldwide mineral prices.
I agree with the member of the third party. I hope that people remember this when they go to the polls. I hope they remember it when they go to the polls during a by-election. This is a very, very major issue.
When you go back and start looking at other aspects of our economy and what we’ve been able to accomplish, we have done this while also putting fairly major money back into the Yukon and supporting our own people.
Mr. Speaker, I have equated government many times in this House to a business, and it is a business. The business is developing an economy. The business is the social safety net. It’s looking after the disadvantaged, the disabled. It’s looking after people who come on hard times and helping them rebound. This is part of the business, but it’s still a business.
In dealing with those 2,500 more Yukoners and dropping the unemployment rate — at one point to as low as 4.8 percent — we have caused some problems. Many economists would consider that 6.5 percent is pretty well full employment. We have actually exceeded that. At one point, our Bureau of Statistics actually had to stop reporting unemployment rates for one sector of the population because of confidentiality breaches. Confidentiality requirements cause us to not be able to report below a certain figure, and we actually exceeded that in one sector.
Retail sales and housing prices have increased. Yes, there have been some problems with that as well, but they are indicators of a very strong and vibrant economy. Mining exploration, as I mentioned, is way, way up.
The government’s efforts have been targeted to try to spend on projects that generate employment. That has been a real priority of this government. We have tried to create a climate of certainty to encourage private sector business investment. That was a priority from day one, and I think we have accomplished that. We’ve increased spending on education, arts, health care and social programs. We stand right now with the best and highest spending on cultural and arts programs in all of Canada. That’s something that I think all Yukoners can be very, very proud of.
Payroll employment earnings in hours — interesting statistics that have just come out in terms of the economy. In July 2005, the preliminary seasonally adjusted average weekly earnings figure for the Yukon was the third highest in Canada. That was up 1.6 percent from the month prior, so we’ve accomplished a fair amount on that.
Our number of charitable donors — and I’m only picking a few different things that would give us an indication of how the economy is doing. When people have money, they are a little bit freer to give money to charities. In 2004, the number of Yukon charitable donors increased 16.2 percent from 2003, while the amount of donations increased 17.5 percent over the same period. When you look at that percentage change, Mr. Speaker, that is the best in Canada. I might mention the rest of Canada, which has the same mineral prices and deals with the same worldwide economy — why is the Yukon Territory doing so much better?
Our expenditures in culture are to get back to that. The total spending on culture by the three levels of government in Canada was actually $7.3 billion, up 4.1 percent. When you look at the Yukon, there’s 22 percent actually on the municipal level, but when you get to the provincial and territorial level, there’s a 418-percent increase. I’d say we’re doing not badly at all in terms of all these things.
How have we done that in terms of our overall fiscal responsibility and our overall budget? Let’s take a look at some of those things. There’s very good news on that front, Mr. Speaker. The Yukon’s per capita ratio of excess of financial assets over liabilities led the nation in 2004 — led the nation. Alberta and the Northwest Territories were second and third.
Our individual figure was $8,548, while Alberta’s was $4,497 — twice as good as the number two. According to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, we did that without an economy. That’s pretty good.
In 2004, the Yukon was at $265 million and Alberta at $14.345 billion — well, Alberta has another set of problems, and good on them. The Northwest Territories was at $84 million. We’re the only jurisdictions in Canada to show an excess of financial assets over liabilities. We’ve done all this and not gone into any debt. We have stopped the need to go back to the bank for operating loans or lines of credit or anything like that. We have done this while moving fiscally responsibly onto the proper side of the ledger and have gotten a completely unconditional acceptance by the Auditor General of Canada.
When you look at that Auditor General statement, the Government of Yukon ended the fiscal year with a net financial resource of just over $48 million. This means that the financial assets exceed liabilities and the government is not carrying any net debt — that’s zero. To quote another member opposite: nada, nothing, zilch.
The surplus for the year ended with just over $5 million. The accumulated surplus presented in the non-consolidated statement was $413 million. On a consolidated basis, the net financial resources of the government, which include all government operations and corporations, I might add, were $168 million, and the accumulated surplus was $559 million — all of this from writing cheques on a line of credit not that long ago.
The members opposite would say that we’ve done that without an economy. I used a couple of words the other day: accounting and accountability. I don’t know too many accountants who go by an accounting method that would show that as coming about from no economy.
What are some of the other things we’ve done while we’ve accomplished all of that? We have invested $715,000 into film and sound incentive programs. That’s based on a 9:1 ratio, I might add. Our studies have shown that almost $9 comes back to the Yukon economy for every $1 that goes out. That is a huge, huge difference. The Film and Sound Commission, which was brought back into the Department of Economic Development after, of course, the department was killed — I still scratch my head why a government would think that the economy would be best served by cancelling the Department of Economic Development. But, who knows: maybe other things happened at that time that we weren’t aware of. I do agree with the member of the third party who said that often there are things that happen at the time that we don’t know.
But if we look at film activity, that’s simply one aspect of this economy that we’re not supposed to have.
Speaker: The statistics that the honourable member is quoting are very interesting; however, I will exercise the same cautionary note that I did with the member opposite, in that we’re in second reading of Bill No. 64, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act. I’m failing to follow the honourable member’s drift here, so if he would be kind enough just to focus on the amendment to the Income Tax Act, I’d appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My intention was only to debate and answer points that were brought up by the member opposite in the same debate. So I am not trying to go off on any tangents here. I’m simply trying to ponder why the member opposite feels there is no economy.
Northern Town, a CBC series written and produced by a Yukoner, was filmed in the Yukon for five weeks in the spring. Over 250 Yukoners worked on this production. Five productions from England were shot in the Yukon in the spring of 2005. Fifty-six Yukoners worked on these productions. It certainly amazed me, Mr. Speaker, in my own riding, going door to door during the last election, the number of people who were involved in the film industry. So these are very good statistics for Porter Creek North.
Whisper, a feature film by Universal Studios, was shot in the Yukon. Forty-two Yukoners worked on this production. Yukoners also created three film projects, hiring approximately another 41 Yukoners. The Yukon Film and Sound Commission is currently working with the production companies for three more feature films, five more commercials, and three television series that are considering the Yukon as a location for filming.
We recently had a complete Chinese film crew and contestants with a Chinese version of The Great Race, all generating revenue and income for the Yukon.
As a result of the highly successful Banff television festival trade mission, three Yukon residents have successfully obtained broadcast support for their projects. I could go on in that one little area, Mr. Speaker. This is just one of many examples that have absolutely nothing to do with mineral exploration, but we have been very successful in injecting reasonably large sums of money into the economy, and we’ve done it basically from scratch, in many respects.
We’ve also put together the film commission with the sound end of it to form the Yukon Film and Sound Commission, and that has actually also done very well. We’ve set up the professional sound recording eligibility for $5,000, or 50 percent for in-Yukon expenses; professional demo records are eligible for up to $2,000, or 50 percent of in-Yukon expenses; and we encourage people to look at that. Now, the deadline was November 1, but certainly they can look at that in future years and bring that about. That’s another complete area where we have stimulated the economy that the members opposite would claim we don’t have.
It’s always funny to travel around and talk to people and see people’s perceptions. I was in a shop — I probably shouldn’t say which one, because it would be identifiable very quickly. But the proprietor was very upset because they couldn’t find employees. I said, “You can’t?” They said, “No, we’ve tried. We can’t entice anyone to come here and work for us. Everyone seems to have a job.” I thought, wow, that’s great. She says, “Yes, we definitely have to do something about this economy.” She concluded, because everyone was working, that therefore the economy wasn’t good. Maybe that’s the type of logic the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is considering when he says that there’s not much of an economy here.
We’ve done all this at the same time by putting $10 million in to assist with increased costs at Whitehorse General Hospital. Another $6 million was for pharmacare and chronic disease programs, $1.1 million for specialized medical services, $400,000 to support children with developmental disorders and assist in five-step fetal alcohol syndrome. I could go on and on with that list, Mr. Speaker. I’m sure others will in the future in other debates.
How in the world someone could look at these statistics, walk down the streets of Whitehorse and look at all the help wanted signs, look at how we have done so exceptionally well across this country with the same mineral prices and conclude that there is no economy — the Member for Mayo-Tatchun really does have to get out more often.
Speaker: If the Hon. Premier now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I do believe that this side of the House detected from the responses from the opposite benches that they would be supporting the bill, though at times it was difficult to actually draw that conclusion. I think, as I’ve assessed all the comments made by the third party and the official opposition, they will be supporting Bill No. 64, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act. I think it’s fair to say that nothing more needs be said in second reading and we should move now toward general debate in Committee.
I want to thank the members opposite for their support and others for the comments they’ve made. The government side is prepared to move the debate ahead.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 64 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 64, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Clerk: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 64 — Act to Amend the Income Tax Act
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 64, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act. We’ll begin with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It has been awhile since we’ve been in Committee, so bear with me, Mr. Chair. However, we essentially have touched on the very essence of this bill in second reading. I think it’s fair to say the members opposite, though at times it was a little difficult to conclude this, are going to support the bill as we move forward. I’m prepared to take on any questions that may come our way that are specific to the bill. The bill is not very detailed in nature. It’s amendments that are not that difficult to address in terms of discussing. I think we can advance this quickly and move on to expedite debate in the House.
Mr. Fairclough: I agree with the Premier that this is basically a housekeeping bill. The explanatory notes in the bill are basically the same as what is being said by the Premier and we have no further questions on this. I’d like to pass it through the House too.
Ms. Duncan: The Premier could get back to me in writing if he wishes, but I’m sure he has the answer at hand — who did the drafting? Did Canada Customs and Revenue Agency do it for us and did they pay for it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The CCRA did provide us a copy of the draft bill. We had it reviewed, also externally, so there was some cost here — very minimal. The good news is that the amendments will ensure that Yukoners, as we go forward, will not be paying more taxes.
Ms. Duncan: That was the answer I anticipated. I have just a final question then: was there any discussion of additional tax measures over and above what CCRA recommended we do? They did a draft of the bill — did the Finance minister and his Cabinet then say, “Well, we could also do this innovative tax measure,” or did we just agree to do this?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member opposite has touched on something the government has been doing since day one of its mandate, and that is looking at our tax regime to see if there are ways — through innovation and good, sound measures — that we can use the tax regime as a benefit in the Yukon.
Some of the examples are, of course, the extension of the mineral exploration tax credit, the child tax credit and the small business corporate tax credit already. Now, as I stated some days ago, the Department of Finance is looking into the issue of the possible programming we could bring forward to try to offset the high cost of home heating fuel. That work is ongoing.
It may involve some innovation here, though, as we go forward with this bill — and if it’s through Committee, it would be hard to amend if we need to, but I suspect we will not at this time. But that’s a point the member has brought up that, in this instance, there might have been some possibility, through a tax regime, that we could try to offset the issue of home heating fuel.
But that remains to be seen because we want to do our work on this and make sure that what we are doing is reaching those who will need relief and assistance through this period with high fuel prices. Ultimately what we have to ensure is that globally the consumption and the cost of fuel comes down. That’s something that will require a tremendous amount of attention, far beyond the borders of the Yukon Territory. But for now we are certainly looking at what we can do to help offset the impacts.
Ms. Duncan: In terms of the work the government is doing, could the Premier spell that out? Have they convened the tax round table? Have they had a meeting of the accounting firms, or other representative groups? Is this a Cabinet or departmental initiative? Who is doing the work? Is it strictly within the public service of the Yukon, or have we asked for those outside the public service to have a look at this as well?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, much of what we’ve done to date, Mr. Chair, is the result of what we ascertain from dealing with the public, and it does go all the way back to times when there was a tax round table. If we come up with more measures that we’re going to implement and change, of course we will then be in discussion with whatever constituency would be impacted by changes and amendments to a tax regime. But for now, at this point in time, it is the Department of Finance, well versed in dealing with this, that is looking into our tax regime, and I’ve mentioned some of the things that we’ve done already.
Of course, the small business community was engaged and was very supportive of the small business tax credit. This is something that was not new. It has been asked by the small business community, I think, for quite some time in this territory to look into the matter, and it was done. Of course, the child tax credit is something that is helping those that need assistance wherever we can provide them assistance.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, clearly, any innovative tax measures aren’t ready for this bill. Are we looking at this spring, then — the spring sitting? Today was the last day for tabling legislation. Is the Finance minister hopeful that these measures will be ready for the spring? And the follow-up to that question is: are there any initiatives other than relief for home heating fuel and the high cost of fuel being examined?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Right now, the department is focused on the home heating issue. We will leave the department to that work. But I think it’s fair to say that what the government has done to date has placed the Yukon in a very good position with respect to our tax regime. In comparison to the rest of the country, the Yukon has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, taxes on fuel. The Yukon has a very competitive tax regime for small business, a very competitive income tax regime — it’s very low. It has mineral exploration tax credit, child tax credit — there are many things that we’ve done now that ensure the Yukon is a jurisdiction that has a lower threshold of taxation of its citizens.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Hearing none, we will move into line-by-line debate.
Mr. Fairclough: I would request unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 64, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, read and agreed to.
Unanimous consent deeming all clauses in Bill No.64 read and agreed to
Chair: Mr. Fairclough has requested unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 64, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, read and agreed to.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 6 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 64, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that Bill No. 64, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: The Chair seeks some advice as to where we’re going next.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: There has been a request for a recess of a couple of minutes to change officials. Is that agreed to?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 16 — Fourth Appropriation Act, 2004-05 — continued
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 16, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We’ll continue with general debate.
Mr. Fairclough: I’ll be very brief in my comments to this. As we look through the bill, talking about last year’s money, what we’re being asked is to approve is additional spending, and we’re also very interested in looking at the lapses in each of the departments.
The Yukon Party brought forward a budget, saying this is what they would like the government to spend over the year. Today we’re seeing a huge lapse in funding in some of the departments, some quite a bit more than others, and we’re also seeing some increases in Justice and the Public Service Commission. We understand what those are for.
I guess our questions in general debate would be more focused around the lapsed funding.
The way I understand it is that we are not going into the lines when it comes to lapsed funding. What we are doing is going into the lines when it comes to increasing government spending.
So I guess our questions in general debate are going to be in regard to lapsed funding. So, Mr. Chair, we are looking at, in operation and maintenance, $21 million in lapsed funding. We are even looking at more in capital. So this was last year’s money. I would like to ask the Premier, the Finance minister, to give some explanation of these and some of the big expenditures. For example, the Department of Highways and Public Works has close to $13 million that was not spent, and I know we have talked about revotes in our present fiscal year budget that we are in right now. I would like the minister to perhaps start off with that one — Highways and Public Works — and give some detail on why the dollars are so high, and how much of it has been revoted into this budget and how much of it has gone right back into general revenues?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the lapses that we are showing for the fiscal year-end of 2004-05 are not out of line or inconsistent with what all past budgets have shown and represented. Once again, though, through the public accounts, we will see that the Auditor General has given this government an unqualified audit. That’s not the case for past governments in their year-ends.
The member is now specific to the Department of Highways and Public Works, and we can move ahead into department-by-department debate and line-by-line debate so the member can discuss those issues with the appropriate minister.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I believe the way we understood it here is that we can’t go into lines unless it is a vote for an increase in spending. So the questions have to be asked in general debate, and that’s why I’ve asked them here. So I asked for some detail about a huge lapse in Department of Highways and Public Works of over $13 million. I would like some details on that amount of money, what was revotes and how much went back into general revenue?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, again, I point out that the lapses are consistent across the board. But I think the member opposite should also be looking at the dramatic increase for the Department of Highways and Public Works that this government has brought forward in terms of its highway reconstruction, job creation for Yukoners, including investment in the fall supplementary for winter works, which was another three-quarters of a million dollars. We did that last year, as we did this year. If the member opposite is thinking or considering that we are cancelling projects, no, that’s not the case. The situation we’re dealing with, frankly, is because of the economic growth that we’ve experienced. Because the construction market is very much overheated and saturated, some projects just simply cannot be done and this is a tremendous problem to have.
So what we are doing is applying a cash management principle to our budgeting, and that’s needed because, three short years ago, we were in a situation of overdraft. Today that is not the case because of cash management. When we see the fact that some projects just simply cannot go ahead because there’s no available labour, trades and so on, then we will go through an exercise of cash management that may revote it or may lapse it or we may put the money back into consolidated revenue.
All in all, if the member wants specific detail for Highways and Public Works, there is a minister responsible for Highways and Public Works — or an acting minister. I’m the Finance minister; I’ll deal with the overall budgeting process that we do, but not department detail. There are ministers who are responsible for that.
Mr. Fairclough: Then the Premier ought to make the ministers available to answer those questions, because we’re interested in it. It’s exactly what the Premier said: how the money is not spent or how government is managing their dollars is exactly what we would like to know.
A lot of times, there could be projects in our ridings that we want a little more detail on. Some of these projects, like the Premier said, are short of skilled workers. Is that why we’re seeing a huge lapse in Highways and Public Works? Why are the monies going back into general revenue? How much is a revote? We’d like to keep track of some of these projects, whether they’re disappearing off the government books or being talked about year after year.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is somewhat ironic that now the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has such a keen interest in the monies being expended in any particular riding, considering that member voted against this very budget. I make that point because — to get some realism to what we’re doing — the member now has an interest in why monies are lapsing, but the member didn’t have an interest in the budget, or wasn’t interested enough to recognize the value and the merit and good it was doing, and voted against the budget. The member is now alluding to the fact that there may be some projects in a particular riding that have been cancelled. This government, in any project it has committed to, has not cancelled it. Those projects we’ve committed to do are in our platform documents and in announcements we made, pre-budget or during the budget debates. All those projects are moving ahead. So I find it ironic how interested the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is after voting against every budget we have tabled.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, now that we’ve got the Premier’s interest, maybe he can answer some of these questions because I, too, think the Premier is interested in these projects. He might want to get updates from the ministers and know more about them. When the Premier was on this side of the floor, he voted against budgets. Was it then that he was not interested in what was happening in departments and is now interested? I’d still like answers to my question.
The Minister of Highways and Public Works is here. Maybe he can give us some answers if the Premier doesn’t have them. If not, share and brief the Premier on the lapses of over $13 million. I think the Minister of Highways and Public Works must be listening to the debate. So I would like to ask the question again about Highways and Public Works — the $13 million in lapses. What is it? How much of it is revotes, and how much is going back into general revenue, and so on?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I am sure the minister responsible for Highways and Public Works will want to engage in this debate. Again I point out that the lapses that are in the budget, supplementary for closing out fiscal year 2004-05, are consistent with lapses historically. There’s nothing overly enhancing and out of line.
But just as an example for the member opposite, if he wants to look at a decrease in the capital budget, $76,000, for example, on the Dempster Highway has been lapsed. It’s a decrease due to maintenance and consulting costs, planning and engineering, so on and so forth. If the member wants to go through $13 million in these kinds of amounts — because there are a lot of them. Here’s another one: Tagish Road, a $49,000 lapse. Is that the kind of information the member would want? Revegetation could not be done due to seed mix not yet developed.
Let’s be serious. I’m offering the Minister of Highways and Public Works to engage in the debate and assist the member opposite but the smart thing to do here, I think, would be to recognize this for what it is, and I’m sure the Minister of Highways and Public Works will stick to the facts of the matter.
Here’s another one: supply and services, Queen’s Printer equipment, $6,000; central stores; aviation and airports, $4,000 — lapses. The Auditor General has gone through all this and given us an unqualified year-end. For further detail, the Minister of Highways and Public Works may want to respond but I certainly would caution this side of the House, if we’re here to engage in this kind of debate at $4,000, $5,000 and $6,000 on a budget that members opposite voted against anyway, I think we have to recognize this for what it is.
Mr. Fairclough: All that little bit of money adds up, and it adds up to $60 million. The Minister of Highways and Public Works is going to enter the debate — good. We don’t want to do what the Yukon Party did when they were on this side of the House: spend three days on mosquito larvicide. Why is the Finance minister not wanting to answer the questions? This is important stuff; that’s why it’s brought to the floor of the Legislature — it’s for debate.
We want answers, and I’d like the Finance minister to answer the question, if he’s interested at all.
Chair: Mr. Fairclough, you still have the floor.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, it would be nice to get some answers from the Finance minister. It would be even nicer if the Minister of Highways and Public Works were to brief the Finance minister on the bill he has presented and give us some details on it. How could the Finance minister not know about $13 million or not have enough interest to pay attention to the debate here?
Hon. Mr. Hart: If the member opposite wants me to go through each individual item, we could be here for a long time. Or does he want me to go through the larger items?
Mr. Fairclough: I think we can leave the smaller items alone. I understand where departments are not spending the $5,000 if a computer didn’t come in, and they’re going to spend it in the following year, and so on. I’m interested in some of the bigger types of projects, why the dollars have been lapsed and what has gone into revotes and how much of it is going back into general revenue. I’ve asked this question many times already.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Many of these projects will be revoted anyway in the next process, and they’re just a matter, in some cases, of us not getting the project underway and having to wait for the delay process. I am more than willing to look at providing him with some of the larger projects to give them an idea of what’s there.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister could tell us what the next process is?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I guess the next process for us would be the revote exercise.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has made some very reasonable points this afternoon. We have no ability to ask which projects are going to be revoted and which funds are going to be considered lapsed, except through general debate. I am shocked that the Finance minister is passing off the general debate to his ministers. It is unheard of. Unless they were called away for urgent national business, never has a Finance minister not debated or participated in this kind of general debate. That is unheard of, and I am appalled that that is the way the Yukon Party chooses to conduct business. These are legitimate questions. We’ve voted on this budget. The ministers responsible have come in and said, “We don’t need to spend the money,” for one reason or another. It is perfectly legitimate to ask in this House — this is taxpayers’ money — why and how it didn’t get spent.
The only way to ask the questions in a supplementary is through general debate. You can’t ask them in line-by-line debate because we don’t debate it line by line when there are lapses, Mr. Chair, as you well know.
That being said, I understand and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has pointed out that we all understand that there are $4,000 and $5,000 expenditures that aren’t spent. But the lapses in this case, in the case of Highways and Public Works, are $13 million in capital. The O&M is $1.19 million. There are also a number of recoveries that didn’t come through. Why are we not recovering the money? Did we fail to sign an agreement with Canada? What happened?
That is an absolutely legitimate question. I would appreciate, as I’m sure the Member for Mayo-Tatchun would appreciate, an answer. Not the obfuscation of, well, it was $4,000 here and $5,000 here. We all understand that. But clearly, $13 million didn’t get spent on capital works — capital works that were promised by the Yukon Party government and weren’t delivered. Why not? It’s not just this side of the House that is asking. Yukon taxpayers would like to know as well. I’m sure we would appreciate an answer. The question was asked in good faith.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will just try to respond to the members opposite. As she indicated, we don’t normally debate lapses in the House. We debate the revotes and/or the main budget itself. But I will, for the members opposite, offer a technical briefing for them on this particular issue if they wish to take advantage of that.
Ms. Duncan: A technical briefing is certainly appreciated; however, I’m quite confident the minister has the information in front of him. They might not add up to $13 million to the nickel, but we’ll have a good idea of which major projects didn’t proceed, if he would simply provide that information. We’re here to debate it and vote on it this afternoon. Let’s do that expeditiously and have an explanation as to why the Department of Highways and Public Works is lapsing $13 million and why they have not achieved a recovery of $3 million, as they had anticipated.
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to recoveries, obviously the recoveries are hampered by the fact that some of these projects didn’t go ahead and, until such time as they do, those recoveries will come back at a later date.
However, in light of providing something to the member opposite, I will try to provide some information and give them some feedback with regard to some of them.
The Premier indicated one already but, under corporate services, we’re looking at $603,000. These include a reduction due to delays and complications in projects, equipment, all the rest of the systems and everything else involved in getting things through the department — project management. I could provide a real breakdown, but it’s approximately $603,000 in that particular area.
We also have a decrease of about $1.2 million in Connect Yukon. Under the MDMRS — the multi-departmental mobile radio system — we have $2.4 million, because we don’t have the project finalized yet; transport, facilitation and equipment is $446,000. These decreases are due to the central workshop, as a portion of $50,000. We’re also looking at the Fraser salt shed, which is another $50,000.
We’re looking at revotes for both of those, particularly in the years to come. We’re looking at aviation of $163,000, due to the CATSA — Canadian Air Transport Security Authority — requirements. We also have $138,000 due to weather conditions that prevented completion of a certain project in that particular venue. Also, under the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, we have $805,000. This decrease is due to the contract not commencing, so we’ll be revoting $1.7 million in that particular aspect. We’re also looking at $919,000 on the Alaska Highway, again due to a contract not commencing and various miscellaneous projects in that mix.
On the Klondike Highway, the Premier has already indicated this one. We had slope stabilization. It works out to 796 and it’s the Campbell Highway at 850 or 855.
This decrease in pre-planning for the work we couldn’t complete in the field is approximately $500,000. We are also looking at rip-rap around 50. Another looking at improvements at kilometre 10 to 55, $250,000, work for BST, which was late. Dempster Highway — the Premier already discussed. We are also looking at approximately $136,000 on the Atlin Road, a decrease due to fieldwork that could not be completed prior to the winter. Bridges — 606, again a decrease in the Dawson bridge of $277,000, which has been put on hold. We also have approximately $165,000 for bridge rehabilitation that didn’t get completed for various reasons. We also have bridge work in the Teslin area of $55,000, and we will be working several other small pieces that make up the balance.
Other roads — we have around $334,000 and it basically makes up a list of several items. One was $149,000 for additional environmental work due to environmental pressures that we have to move on. There will be a revote of $89,000 approved for that planning at this rate coming up.
Aviation, Yukon airports, $2.1 million — this decrease is due to delays in consultant projects: contract costs to crush gravel less than estimated in Beaver Creek Airport, Haines Junction Airport, Burwash Airport, Watson Lake Airport.
There’s an increase in Old Crow due to late certification for gravel remobilization — a late start — of approximately $1.2 million. There are several other smaller items included in that total. We’re also looking at capital construction of $1.4 million. Most of that is a decrease due to project management shortage. It has been very difficult to get project management — approximately $928,000 in that particular area.
We’re also looking at other delays in the purchasing of items, and there’s again a litany of smaller items that run into approximately $500,000. The other big item would be $856,000, which is a decrease due to the demand from corporations and federal agencies being less than estimated. The rest is made up of smaller items but roughly coming out to $13 million.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister elaborate on the delay or the reduction in Connect Yukon of $1.2 million? What happened in that particular instance? I thought we had all the communities connected at this point for a wired Yukon, so what was the expenditure that didn’t get spent, and why?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I don’t have the complete details for that particular one right here, but the decrease is mainly due to an expenditure being somewhat less than we anticipated and also just the completion of where it was for a final payment.
Ms. Duncan: So, in effect, the final project came in at less cost than anticipated. It’s done, and that $1.2 million will go back into general revenue; it won’t be a revote. From the answer the minister gave, that is what I would anticipate. If I could just suggest, the minister might want to move his microphone; it might be a little easier for us to hear.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, these items will just go back to general revenue.
Ms. Duncan: The MDMRS and cell service, the $2.4 million — the project hasn’t proceeded at the pace the minister had thought. What are the new dates we are looking at?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are currently in the process of finishing a request for proposal with regard to the cell, and we are dealing with the proponent with regard to the radio replacement.
Ms. Duncan: Will we be able to meet the time frame for the replacement that the minister had set out previously, and as required by the other agencies we work with?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are striving to achieve the date set forth by the local RCMP. We anticipate meeting that date that they have specified.
Ms. Duncan: What is that date? Is it 2005 or 2006? It must be 2006. Or perhaps it is 2007. The minister has the date at hand. Could he give us the date?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated, we are looking at making big improvements or changes to prove to the RCMP that we are making headway on this. We indicated to them that by June next year we would be in a position to do that. Ultimately, our date is in May 2007, when Northwestel will discontinue the service.
Ms. Duncan: So we’re looking at turning on, hopefully, the new version of MDMRS next summer, doing the work and having it functional by May 2007. The cell service project is hung up in the RFP/RFQ process. Does the minister have a time frame for that conclusion, and would he share it with the House?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am led to understand that we’re in that process right now, and I anticipate we’ll be able to make a decision on that prior to the end.
Ms. Duncan: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the last part of the minister’s answer. Prior to what?
Hon. Mr. Hart: December.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the balance of the projects were the smaller contracting work that the community looks forward to and the contracting community as a whole looks forward to. There is quite a significant amount that wasn’t able to proceed for one reason or another this summer: $839,000 on the Campbell Highway, I noted, and then the slope stabilization, $796,000 on the Klondike Highway. That’s close to $2 million of contracting work that the contracting community hasn’t seen this summer that they had anticipated. Is it the minister’s intention that the majority of this money will be revoted? I ask this question, wondering whether the contracting community can look forward to this or if the funds would lapse into general revenue and be the subject of Cabinet discussion and competing priorities?
Hon. Mr. Hart: To respond to her question, she merely needs to look at the 2005-06 supplementary budget, and she’ll see that a good portion of these monies will be revoted to take place.
I might add that we had a very exceptional year last year. Many of the reasons that we are here is because we were oversubscribed to our local industry. That is one of the many reasons why we didn’t get a lot of these projects underway. Several of our projects also were delayed because of environmental reasons, us not being able to get them completed on time. Secondly, some of our projects never even received a bid. So in those cases, we’ve had to resubmit some of them, and some of these projects have been moved ahead. We still think these projects are important and need to be done.
We are also working with several of the industry contractors — engineers, in particular. For example, we’re looking at trying a different method of letting those contracts out for the designs for highways and that. We’ve worked with them to get some feedback from them on how they think they can make it easier. We have let out contracts based on our consultation with them to see if it makes a difference, whether we get a project in on time or on-project or whatever.
We have left it up to the industry now for them to follow through on that particular process, and we have committed to utilizing that system for the engineering aspect already, which we have already done, especially on the Campbell Highway.
Again, this year, like I said, these guys have all been very busy on several issues throughout the Yukon, not just in Whitehorse. In addition, we were unable to commence a project on one of our bridges that we anticipated working on this year, that being the Lewes River bridge. Again, because of the delay in getting the other two bridges further down the highway, we wanted to stop. We didn’t want to interrupt the traffic any more than it already was. Plus we have an environmental issue with regard to the Lewes River bridge. We were unable to locate a drilling company that could drill for us so we could do the environmental work required before we work on that bridge. We need to do the environmental work on that bridge before doing any further work on that bridge, because it may require us to do further enhancement of the bridge itself.
In essence, that’s one big project that didn’t get started, and that’s also a 50-cent dollar that we share with the federal government.
That doesn’t mean we won’t go ahead with the project; it just means that, once we have the drilling contract done, it will help us out in deciding which way to go.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to thank the minister for providing that information that the Premier or the Finance minister couldn’t.
I am interested in the list and in comparing numbers from this list that the minister read out with the budget. So I would like to ask the minister if he could provide us with the list that he read out. In doing so, he can provide more of the details to us. In particular, I would like to know, in the information given to us — it could be by way of letter or legislative return — which projects have gone back into general revenue. We’ve talked about a couple here. I would like to leave it at that for now.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member is looking for the information. It’s right here in the public, so he can pick it up from the Blues. But I am prepared to provide him and the member of the third party with a letter outlining the documents and the projects that we are proceeding with and the ones that we aren’t.
Mr. Fairclough: It would be nice to carry on this debate on this bill with the appropriate minister, the Minister of Finance, but while we have the Minister of Community Services here, I would like to ask him if he can do the same thing with these major projects. It is big money that we are talking about — over $6 million. Could he do the same thing for us?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the members opposite, the Department of Community Services lost approximately $6.1 million of its 2004-05 capital. In the order of significance this lapse consists of $2.4 million of a $7.5-mllion budget that was allocated for land development. A substantial portion of this lapse was the result from delay of Hamilton Boulevard improvements due to weather conditions. Whitehorse Copper-Mount Sima Road — because of delays in zoning and subdivision approval and the deferral of the Porter Creek lower bench development. There is 1.3 budgeted for the Ross River community hall project. Work is continuing in this fiscal year and is now complete. 5.9 out of the budget allocation for the domestic water well program as a result of the announcement of the program late in the construction season. $513,000 for the flood erosion program that wasn’t utilized. $504,000 lapse of 1.4 budget that was allocated for systems and related infrastructure development projects, a major element in development of the motor vehicle system, which we’ll be revoting. And $158,000 lapse of $1.6 million budget for the FireSmart program as a result of payments pending delivery of the final report of some of these activities.
Before the member opposite gets up, the department lapsed approximately $3.1 million in capital recoveries. This lapse resulted from budgeting recoveries at the time setting the expenditure budgets were actually recoveries utilized over a number of years.
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions about the $2.4 million land development lapse. A portion of that was the Hamilton Boulevard — is this the plan for the extension? There was significant landscaping undertaken on the Hamilton Boulevard over the summer months. What was the price tag for that beautification?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I don’t have those specific numbers, but the amount included a portion of the $2.4million for finishing up and paving Hamilton Boulevard and, as the member indicated, some landscaping as well.
Ms. Duncan: So we did Hamilton Boulevard and did all this work, but some of the money that was budgeted for it has lapsed. Were some of the lapsed funds slated for the extension of Hamilton Boulevard?
Hon. Mr. Hart: None of the lapsed funds were for the extension of Hamilton Boulevard from where it is.
Ms. Duncan: The deferral of the Porter Creek lower bench is also part of the lapsed funds, according to the minister. He just read them out, and I was writing as quickly as he was reading. What was the reason for the deferral of this development?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Again, it’s a matter of doing some environmental work in that particular region, and we’re awaiting the results of that.
Ms. Duncan: There was environmental work commissioned this summer. Is that what the minister is saying? As opposed to being able to go ahead with the development, some of the 1992 studies and so on require further work. Could the minister just explain that further?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working with the city. There has to be some environmental work done with regard to the old lagoon facility, which we’re working with. That has to be completed. Once we work through that particular aspect, then we can sit down and start working with the City of Whitehorse on just what the components will be for that land development.
Ms. Duncan: Of the $2.4 million that was lapsed, does the minister have a figure for how much was scheduled for the Porter Creek lower bench development?
The Whitehorse Copper-Mount Sima road development — is that a result of the delay of the development in the new subdivision? Is that what I heard the minister say?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will indicate that $2.4 million is the total of all those developments. The main delay, as I indicated, was Hamilton Boulevard, due to weather conditions. Whitehorse Copper was because of the delay in the zoning and subdivision approval and the deferral of the Porter Creek lower bench development for 2005 completion.
Again, we are waiting for the odour report or evaluation.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: I would like to thank the Minister of Highways and Public Works and the Minister of Community Services for the information that he has provided with respect to the lapsed funding in that department.
It is almost unheard of for a Health and Social Services minister to come in underbudget in recent years, so I was very, very surprised to see the Department of Health and Social Services not only $4.9 million under in capital but $4.4 million in O&M, yet there is an increased recovery of $1.7 million and there was just a minimal decrease in the capital recovery. Would the Finance minister please outline for the House what happened in the Department of Health and Social Services to cause this kind of report in the supplementary estimates?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The capital would be due largely to the multi-level care facilities that did not proceed in this year, 2004-05; however, some planning dollars were expended, as I understand it. So they were moved into the next fiscal cycle, which is 2005-06. There is a total of $1.2 million, counting Dawson City and Watson Lake, that lapsed from this year’s budget for the multi-level care. The Thomson Centre renovations, for which Yukon Housing Corporation only completed preliminary building designs prior to year-end, and those monies were lapsed and revoted at $1 million, approved by Management Board, and $1.7 million deferred to the 2005-06 Supplementary Estimates No. 1, so we’ll pick it up when we get into debate for the supplementary. These numbers are in the next supplementary for 2005-06.
The community nursing renovations was $203,000, and that basically covers all the capital, Mr. Chair. But as I pointed out, some of this would be picked up in Supplementary Estimates No. 1 for 2005-06.
Ms. Duncan: Some of it will be picked up, and the minister explained, of the $4.969 million, that $1.2 million was for the multi-level care facilities. Is the balance the Thomson Centre, or where is the balance of capital? I’m interested in the operation and maintenance underexpenditure, as well. Did we get a break on flu vaccine? Was there a lack of uptake in a program? How did we underspend in Health — of all departments — $4.4 million?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First off, I did relay the capital lapses and itemize them for the member opposite, which included the Thomson Centre.
When it comes to O&M, one of the biggest — $865,000 — results from fewer disabled adults requiring residential care. There are some savings in childcare costs due to changes in needs and savings due to fewer placements in the young offenders facility. I would assume that some of our younger people are not getting into trouble, as they were in the past. There are fewer sentences and placements into the facility. That’s an $865,000 O&M lapse because of those reasons.
$1,255,000 is for: continuing care, communications, contract support, less due to fewer projects initiated; building operations and maintenance less than anticipated; fewer medical supplies and equipment needed at Macaulay; fewer contracts for social service surveys and workplace accommodations. There were some contract savings around the substance abuse summit — what the projected cost was for bringing expertise did not reach that threshold. So that sums up the $1.2 million.
We have another $408,000 in primary health transition fund projects that proceeded slowly; Yukon Family Services Association had a lower cost than budgeted, so there’s another component of the lapse.
There were some delays in receiving the funds from Health Canada for a second mass-media tobacco campaign, but we’ve just launched that again for this fiscal year so it would be picked up in that fiscal year.
I hope that covers it for the member opposite.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the response from the Finance minister with regard to the health care expenditures. There are operation and maintenance underexpenditures of $3.208 million in the Executive Council Office, and there is an under-recovery, if you will, of $2.229 million. My intuition tells me that this is probably a transfer of implementation funding or something that hasn’t quite caught up. Perhaps the minister could explain what went on with those expenditures in Executive Council Office.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would be more than happy to respond to the member opposite.
For this particular section in this enormous amount of material, this litany of paper, I think — if my memory serves me correctly — there is a connection here to the implementation of claims. This is an ongoing issue between Yukon and Canada, and it’s an ever-evolving situation. I’m positive that much of that relates to that particular area and will be picked up again in the coming fiscal year, as always.
This particular bit of information appears to be missing in the material that I have. I will leave it at the fact that it is usually with the land claim implementation transfers from Canada.
Ms. Duncan: That is as I suspected was the case.
Energy, Mines and Resources has an under-recovery as well, and hence an underexpenditure in operation and maintenance.
As the minister is locating the Executive Council Office information, perhaps he could pass on the underexpenditures in Economic Development, Education, and Energy, Mines and Resources. Please and thank you.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Okay. There was a lapse in personnel due to timelines around recruitment.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Sorry, I am in Economic Development right now.
Some lapses, $189,000, are savings in contracts, travel and administration. Again it is another example of our very prudent and sound fiscal management, as the member opposite will agree. I know she will, Mr. Deputy Chair. Again there were delays in recruitment of another $79,000.
It’s a challenge these days in the Yukon and western Canada to recruit skilled people, tradespeople and so on. That’s why we’ve brought it to the national stage. We want to develop a strategy in this particular area to deal with Canada on post-secondary and skills training. We have also implemented the IPS initiative for advancement within our ranks now within the corporate structure of government.
Could the member nod her head, if that’s sufficient for Economic Development?
Ms. Duncan: No, thanks, Mr. Deputy Chair. Is the minister saying that we underspent in Economic Development by $1 million just because of vacancies in the department, and we underspent in Economic Development in capital $3.2 million? Were all the funds that were set up under this department spent — the marketing funds and so on? Were they all spent, or are some of these underexpenditures because the funds were undersubscribed?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Not all are lapses in personnel. We’re recruiting for the department. As I pointed out, others were in lower costs on contracts, with our sound fiscal management. Now we go to the capital, Mr. Deputy Chair. As far as the funds, the community development fund had a lapse of $849,000 out of a $3.5-million fund. That’s a good sign. For the regional development program, a revote has been approved as we develop workshops in the coming year. The community development fund is always going to be revoted. Strategic industries — projects were not completed in the fiscal year and will be revoted into next year. Community access program — it’s a recoverable from industry in Canada, but it was not completed in the fiscal year. If you add it all up, it will get your totals there, but that’s the extent and the trend of all these lapses. They are in these areas, so most of these for Economic Development are revotes, and we’ll pick those up now in the 2005-06 budget cycle.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have any information on the lapses in Energy, Mines and Resources? It looks like it’s another flow-through from Canada because the lapse in O&M is $3.2 million and the recovery is $2.6 million, so I suspect it’s some program with Canada, but perhaps he could outline which one. That’s in O&M. The capital expenditures in Energy, Mines and Resources aren’t to the same extent.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: For example, the oil and gas and minerals branch or agency — $694,000 lapsed. Its funding consists of the First Nation royalty payments, which are approximately $300,000; contracts of about $106,000 were not completed by year-end, and the Yukon placer authorization was underspent by only $5,000. The $2.4-million lapse was a result of lower than expected participation by First Nation for type II mine site reclamation activities, so we had projected some monies there. The participation only reached a certain threshold, dictating that we lapse that amount.
There are some smaller amounts: $54,000 for leadership development training delayed until 2005-06; $130,000 around the agricultural transitional fund, which I understand was approved for revote in 2005-06. We’re still on O&M: assessment of abandoned mines, $2.3 million as a result of lower than expected participation of type II sites. Reclamation activities only went to $1.8 million and related receivership and legal costs were at $400,000. Minerals development is revoted $201,000, so it’s picked up in 2005-06 — $56,000 on rental and program materials, which were less than the director expected in the 2004-05 budget.
Capital — a revote for forestry engineering of $225,000, so it will be picked up in 2005-06.
I’m just looking for big amounts.
This is recovery. The rest of the capital is very small amounts, in terms of contributions, contracts lower than expected, so that about covers it for Energy, Mines and Resources.
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the Finance minister to have the Energy, Mines and Resources minister send over a note of explanation with regard to the royalty payments. He mentioned that the royalty payments were less than anticipated, or not having been made. If he could just have the Energy, Mines and Resources minister or technical staff send us over a note, please, as to why those weren’t made, I would appreciate that information and the type II mine site information as well.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I can explain the royalty issue. In 2004-05 the situation in the Kotaneelee was that the producing well was watering in, and through the period of 2004-05 and well into the winter, a new well was drilled, dramatically increasing the production. There was lower production because of the watering issue, so it lowered the amounts we share then because it’s relative to the revenues earned at the Kotaneelee. So we are very pleased that we were able to again show clearly how good our relationship is with First Nations. In an area with no land claim we were able to drill a $30-million hole with partners involving the industry, First Nations and the government. The Yukon public is getting the benefit now of a dramatic increase in the Kotaneelee. We can certainly have the minister respond to you on the First Nation participation.
Mr. Hardy: This might be a question that has already been asked. It’s really a clarification. I thank the minister for giving us the information up to now.
In Finance, underexpenditures were $174,000. The capital recovery was $250,000. There are two departments, and it is an opposite trend of the other departments. I was just wondering if that could be explained to me. I am sure there is a very simple explanation around it.
The other one was Energy, Mines and Resources with an underexpenditure of $322,000 in capital, and then the recovery was $559,000, so the recovery was less. If he could just explain those two to me, I would appreciate it. It’s in capital.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: With respect to Finance, this is in the loan guarantee contingency fund. Only one loan was called for $75,000. We booked $250,000; therefore, at year-end, we had to lapse $170,000.
Energy, Mines and Resources had a lapse of $322,000. That would have been in capital, I assume. It is a long list, Mr. Chair. $2,000 for information systems; $97,000 in delays in recruiting a geologist; contributions lower than expected; and contracts and travel requirements were lower than expected. Totalled up, it is $322,000.
On the recovery issue, the big one is $500,000 for forest engineering, which lapsed. It was not recorded by year-end, but will be adjusted in 2005-06. That’s why it showed here.
It’s a federal recovery. It lapsed on the expenditure side, and we have to pick it up now and adjust for 2005-06.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have questions on the revenue side of the ledger. We did gain an increase of $2.889 million in our tax revenue. The bulk of this is the corporate income tax, $2.456. I’m looking at S-10.
What year is that corporate tax applicable to, that we’ve seen an increase? I don’t think it would have been 2004-05 — the minister is saying 2004-05. Usually there’s quite a lag, it seems to me, in the tax revenues, so which year is that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The corporate income tax increase as booked obviously has to come from prior years, but mostly would have been 2003-04 in terms of the total amount, because that’s where corporate tax own-source revenue started to increase because we, the government of the day, started turning the territory’s economy around — revitalizing it, and it’s reflected now in the budget documents showing that our own-source revenues are increasing.
Ms. Duncan: I think some of it might have been 2002-03, too, but I’ll leave the minister with his moment. The oil and gas resource revenue didn’t come in as high as expected, and the minister’s explanation with respect to the Kotaneelee funds would apply in this instance, I would suspect. And the minister’s nodding; is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, Mr. Chair. One of the things that happened for us in the latter part of the 2002-03 fiscal year, of course, was ceasing the very flawed Yukon protected areas strategy, which started to generate, close to the year-end of March 31, 2003, our own-source revenue increase. Of course, the Kotaneelee issue, as I explained, was due to a fall in production because the well was watering in.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if I could just ask the Finance minister to explain — and I’m sure the answer is obvious, but it’s not leaping out at me. On page S-11, we have an increase in the Department of Finance of 3.224, but our own tax revenue was only 2.889. So is it the combination of both revenues attributed to the Department of Finance? How do the figures on S-11 match with the figures on S-10 and 9?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We’d have to sit here and add this all up, because it’s going to be a combination of a number of things, beginning with corporate tax and personal tax. Let’s see if we can quickly do this in our heads: $3.2million — so if we take $2,456,000, add to it $692,000, we would be getting 3.148. Is the member with me? $3.148 million, and then we have to find the balance that gets us to $3.224 million.
If the member would like to go through an exercise, we could sit here and go through these columns and find the numbers that add up to $3.24 million, because it is a combination of a number of them.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this is starting to sound like my dining room table at night when I am doing my children’s math homework. I believe what the minister is telling me is that S-10, the revenue summary, is just divided among departments on S-11. That’s what the minister has just said. Thank you for that explanation.
I have no further questions in general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As I pointed out to the member opposite, it’s a combination of a number of things, including personal income tax, corporate income tax, licence fees, investment income and liquor profit — all these wonderful things.
Mr. Hardy: I just have a question: the minister indicated that the Kotaneelee has had a substantial increase since they drilled a new hole. What are the indications around this? What are you hearing?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I don’t want to get into a big detailed response here. There is a lot that is involved here.
The original production well was watering in. The plant set up is there obviously to deal with water, because there is always water in the gas. The well itself that was producing was starting to escalate in the volume of water that was coming into the plant, therefore reducing the production and distribution or export of natural gas into the marketplace.
So the company had to look at resolving this problem because all water that accumulates in the plant itself must be re-injected into what they call an injection well. If the injection well fills with water the site is finished, because they are not about to spend millions of dollars drilling another injection well to continue to experience lower production.
In our discussions with the company, in this case Devon, we encouraged them to look at the possibility of drilling a new well in the Kotaneelee because it is important to the Yukon, given our own-source revenues that come out of us. They are significant and we share these with First Nations.
Their decision to do so came at a cost of somewhere between $20 million to $30 million during a six-month drilling program in the Kotaneelee area. They did drill a new well, albeit they intersected the original reservoir. What has transpired is they’ve lowered the water volume, increased the gas volume and increased the efficiency of the plant overall. Now I stand corrected, I’ve heard numbers of somewhere upwards of 70-percent increase production for gas. All things considered, which means the H2S has to be drawn off, and liquids go downstream to Fort Nelson and other places where liquids like butane and propane are drawn off. So overall at the plant, natural gas production was somewhere in that neighbourhood in terms of its increase.
Chair: Are there any more questions for general debate?
Hearing none, we’ll proceed line by line.
Department of Justice
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Ms. Duncan: Could we just have some clarity? The Minister of Justice is unavailable at the moment. Is the Acting Minister of Justice going to respond? Do we need a couple of minutes?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Of course the acting minister will respond. The Minister of Justice being unavailable at this moment is due to medical reasons. He had an operation on his eyes. If the member wishes information, the acting minister will respond.
Ms. Duncan: I was just trying to encourage the acting minister to be in the acting minister’s seat, from where she can respond.
Chair: Order please. I’ll just remind members that, during Committee of the Whole, members may respond from any seat, not necessarily their regular seat.
Ms. Duncan: Could the Acting Minister of Justice provide us with an explanation of the $104,000 expenditure, please?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, there is a bit of a story behind this. I will go back to 2004-05. About $857,554 was transferred to the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board for the mine safety program. These funds were to cover the operation and maintenance costs for the mine safety program for the fiscal years 2001-02 to 2004-05.
The Department of Justice 2004-05 budget was able to absorb the majority of that expenditure — $753,244, resulting in an overbudget expenditure of $104,000, which is what is reflected in the supplementary here.
Since the expenditures relating to fiscal years 2001-02 to 2003-04 were not considered material enough to warrant a prior year adjustment, they were included in the 2004-05 fiscal year’s expenditures. Hopefully that provides sufficient explanation.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it seems to me that this is the resolution to a long-standing dispute. It has finally been resolved in Yukon’s favour and Canada has transferred the money to Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board. That is what the minister has said. Previously, Justice covered these funds.
If Canada transferred the money to Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, which Justice has been paying for all this time — the minister is shaking her head. If she could repeat the bouncing ball of where the cheque went, I think that would be helpful.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I’m quite familiar with this issue, being the previous Minister of Justice. There was quite a lot of debate about this. What happened is that the Department of Justice assumed responsibility for the mine safety program in 1989 through devolution. In 1992, it transferred responsibility for the program to Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board. Since that time, the Department of Justice — the Department of Justice still obtains the funding directly from Canada, and it is through the Department of Justice that they transfer the money through to Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, with the exception of the fiscal years 2001-02 to 2004-05, for whatever reason. The Department of Justice has reinstated the annual payments since that time.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the operation and maintenance expenditures line?
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $104,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Mr. Hardy: Could I get a breakdown of where the money went with regard to the employee benefit estimates for retirees, extended health care and life insurance costs, recruitment and estimates for outstanding employee superannuation buybacks?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: We are requesting an additional budget of $6,884,000 for the Public Service Commission. As I believe I mentioned the other day, these costs are amounts that were not known prior to the close of the financial records at March 31, 2005. In a nutshell, employee future benefits has three components: employee leave and termination benefits liability, and then we also have the non-pension post-retirement and post-employment benefit plans, which are new this year because of changes to the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants Public Sector Accounting Handbook. The third component is the employer’s pension plan contributions related to employee buybacks, which were also new this year. It’s these new areas that have resulted in the additional cost.
The employee leave and termination benefits liability records the accounting liability of the Yukon government payout vacation and severance benefits, if and when employees terminate or retire. As members are, I’m sure, fully aware, the value of this liability is determined by actuaries and is recorded in the public accounts each year.
The budget estimated for this account is estimated on past year’s values.
The final amount required cannot be determined until after March 31 of each year, after departments have made their final transactions in regard to employees who have retired or who have terminated.
This year’s budget of $4,074,000 was undersubscribed by departments by $1,025,000. The second component refers to the non-pension, post-retirement and post-employment benefit plans. As I mentioned, they are recorded in conformity with section 3255 of the Public Sector Accounting Handbook. This is a change in accounting requirements for fiscal years after January 1, 2004. This is relatively new for us.
The Department of Finance and the Public Service Commission worked with the Auditor General and the Yukon government’s actuaries to record these future benefits obligations. And that’s the real keyword — the future benefits obligations — in the 2004-05 public accounts. The amount recorded as this portion of this liability is $2,552,000.
Benefits to retirees covered under this liability include extended health care and life insurance for those eligible.
The third component of this particular line refers to lump-sum pension buybacks. As employer, the Yukon government matches the actual buybacks, and the budget for this is $5,559,000. This is also new. And this amount includes outstanding employer contributions going back to 2000.
After a thorough legal accounting and actuarial review, it was determined that these particular amounts must be paid, because we had gone to the federal Treasury Board to ask them to reconsider the applicability of these charges. It was determined, after these last five years, that they must be, in fact, paid.
Yukon government employees participate in the federal superannuation pension plan, as the members opposite are aware. The cost of participation for both employees and employers is determined by the federal Treasury Board, to which the Yukon government has no input. Under this plan, employees have the right to buy back past service with the Yukon government or other employers transferable within the plan. Many employees have exercised this option and made lump sum payments in order to do so.
The employer — the Yukon government, in this case — must then match these payments at the rates determined by the plan. As I understand it, the rate is usually about 2.4 times the employee’s portion. As one can see, the cost to the Yukon government is significant, but it is required under the plan and provides our government employees with access to one of the best pension plans in the country, I think.
I hope this answers some of the member opposite’s questions.
Chair: We have reached our normal time for recess. Do members wish to take a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue with Vote 10, Public Service Commission, operation and maintenance expenditures.
Mr. Hardy: I just have a couple of questions. The one area I am going to focus on is the buybacks; it’s a substantial amount of money, as the minister has indicated. How many people have participated in the buyback? Do you have those numbers? I think you said $5.555 million into the lump-sum pension buyback. If you have that figure I would appreciate it.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I don’t have that information at my fingertips, but the invoices do date back to 2000.
Mr. Hardy: I missed that. Could you repeat it, please?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I’ll repeat for the member opposite that I don’t have that information. I don’t know the correct or accurate number of individuals we’re talking about. But I do know that the invoices date back to the year 2000.
Mr. Hardy: Would the minister be willing to get it for us?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Sure.
Mr. Hardy: Would the minister also be willing to give us an idea of what ranges the amounts were in? We don’t need every single amount, of course. I would like to see from the low to the high, and maybe an average.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: That should be doable.
Mr. Hardy: What is anticipated in the future? I don’t see this amount being repeated, of course, if it goes back to 2000, but are we anticipating buybacks down the road, or are they pretty well caught up now and trailing off?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: They’re ongoing from here on out. This is basically to close out the years previous, but you will see that reflected in the next supplementary that there is $1 million allotted for that particular expenditure. I think from here on out we will probably allot about $1 million in each year.
Mr. Hardy: Just to get an idea, you said $1 million each year after. Wouldn’t there be a trailing off already? As people kept buying back, at some point wouldn’t they keep dropping down to a certain point? Or the way it’s structured with the government and the hiring and people leaving government, is it actually anticipated that every year from now on is going to be roughly $1 million?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As I understand it, it’s somewhat unpredictable on the basis that we have allotments based on people who used to work for us and have come back. As well, there is the second component, which is individuals who have transferred from other jurisdictions. Based on those two components, it is somewhat unpredictable.
Mr. Hardy: Maybe I need an explanation. These are individuals who have transferred from other jurisdictions. How do they buy back into the pension plan here?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: There are reciprocal agreements in place with other jurisdictions.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a couple of questions. This $5-million expenditure — the lump sum pension buyback with the federal government — am I correct in that this matter has been in dispute for some time and this is the final resolution? I see the minister nodding. We didn’t win that one.
Are there any grounds for appeal? Is any of the $5 million still in dispute or discussion?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: No, unfortunately I think we’re the last of the jurisdictions to go down with this. There were disputes, as well, raised in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, but they also were advised by their council that they were obligated to pay these outstanding invoices. So the Yukon government has also received that advice. This has been going back and forth for a number of years, but we’re finally having to come down to that crunch of having to pay these outstanding invoices.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the frank answer from the minister. In future, we’re budgeting about $1 million to cover off this expenditure per year. Would repatriation of the pension enable us in the future to not have to budget this $1 million, or it would just be paid locally and we’d be administering it locally? The minister is nodding in response to that question.
The actuarial evaluation that necessitated some of this other expenditure — could the minister just enlighten me: is the actuarial evaluation once every three years in this instance? Or is it yearly, and when is the next one due?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: We’re actually conducting these evaluations every year now. The liability for March 31, 2006, coming up, will be reviewed by the actuaries to determine the actual estimate to be recorded in due course.
Ms. Duncan: So what is the total balance in the leave liability account at this point? Does the minister have a figure?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As of March 31, 2005, the estimated liability is $44,955,628.
Chair: Are there any further questions on the line?
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Public Service Commission in the amount of $6,884,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any debate on the total sums required of $6,988,000?
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B Grants
Schedule B Grants agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 16, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that Bill No. 16, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 64, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, and Bill No. 16, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has directed me to report them without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Bill No. 17: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 17, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 17, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. This first supplementary estimate for 2005-06 seeks authority to increase operation and maintenance expenditures by $16,253,000 and capital expenditures by $16,760,000.
This supplementary estimate serves two purposes. First, it details the expenditure changes that require legislative appropriation authority. Second, and just as important, it also provides this Legislature and the general public with updated information on the financial position of the territory and its government. The resulting expenditures, once approved, will increase the total expenditures of the government by just over $33 million, to approximately $817.5 million. Revenue and recoveries are forecast to increase by just under $2 million, to bring the total revenues to $764.8 million. After adjusting for expected lapses, this results in a year-end forecast surplus of $17.2 million. Net financial resources to year-end are projected to be $23.2 million, and the accumulated surplus, as of March 31, 2006, is forecast to be $430.6 million.
As is normal for the first supplementary budget of the fiscal year, a significant component of the requested expenditure authority comes about because the departments are seeking capital and O&M revote authority from the previous year expenditure lapses.
Owing to a large capital budget in 2004-05, the capital budget was, at that time, $166.9 million. As the government anticipated, there were considerable budgetary lapses. You will see that many of these budgetary lapses are revoted in this budget to ensure that these previously announced projects, many that are well underway, are completed in the current year. These revotes constitute about $15.8 million of the budgetary authority sought on a net basis.
The largest expenditure increases for operation and maintenance are included in the Department of Health and Social Services budget at $7.9 million, the Public Service Commission at $4.06 million, the Department of Justice at $1.3 million, and Tourism and Culture is seeking $1.06 million.
On the capital side of the ledger, the largest increases are in the Department of Highways and Public Works at $11.7 million and the Department of Community Services at $3.8 million.
The ministers for these various departments will be able to provide Members of the Legislative Assembly with complete details of their expenditure requirements as we proceed with the department-by-department, line-by-line review, in general debate.
On the revenue side of the income statement, there have been relatively small changes in the 2005-06 main estimate forecast. Investment income is predicted to be about $1 million higher due to somewhat higher interest rates than originally anticipated when the budget was developed. As well, the government’s cash available for the investments has been higher than originally calculated. On the downside, tobacco revenues are forecast to decrease due to volume declines; I think that is a very positive element of what’s happening in today’s Yukon. While the Minister of Finance does not usually like to see revenue declines, I assure you we are actually very pleased at this trend.
While ministers would be pleased to go into more detail in general debate, I will relate some of the highlights, Mr. Speaker, to the House as follows: under operation and maintenance are increases in Health and Social Services program spending by $7.9 million. The increases are spread throughout the department, but a large portion goes to fund primary health care costs, delivering better health care to Yukoners — continuing home care costs is another — taking care of Yukoners in their own homes — and of course, program expansion for home care. As well, there is in-territory and out-of-territory physician and hospital cost increases.
The Minister of Health and Social Services will expand on these various initiatives and cost increases. An increase in French language program by $858,000, which is recoverable from Canada, is another element of operation and maintenance.
Justice has identified increases for the Yukon substance abuse summit of $130,000. There is also aboriginal policing, training and recruitment in the amount of $367,000.
The Public Service Commission has indicated in this supplementary budget $4.4 million related to the cost of employee future benefits that are required to be booked.
The Canada Winter Games national marketing campaign is included in the amount of $1 million. This campaign will provide the Yukon with national exposure, which will be a huge boost to the tourism industry and indeed our ability to showcase to southern Canadians the tremendous opportunity and potential in the Yukon and Canada’s north.
On the capital side, there are a number of revoted expenditures, including the Ross River community hall for $1.3 million, Hamilton Boulevard improvements for $710,000, Old Crow quarry for $300,000, Porter Creek School expansion for $306,000, the community development fund at $608,000, and Tantalus School construction at $277,000.
Community training trust funds, Mr. Speaker, are $261,000; Thomson Centre capital improvements, $1 million; the mobile communications solution, $2.43 million; the Alaska Highway, through the strategic infrastructure fund, $1.56 million; other highway projects at $1.3 million; and Old Crow Airport at $2.6 million; Whitehorse Airport improvement, $318,000; Red Line train and trolley track extension for a total of $654,000; and Whitehorse Correctional Centre expenditures, $288,000.
As members know, these revotes in most cases will supplement the expenditures already identified in the 2005-06 main estimates for most of these initiatives that were previously announced and have been started. Some of the new capital expenditures and initiatives identified in this supplementary budget include a significant investment in the athletes village. We’re very pleased that, in our partnership with the Canada Games Host Society and the City of Whitehorse, we have been able to, through the Canada Winter Games, invest in the Yukon College and the future of Yukon education and its overall improvement.
Mayo community centre, $1.3 million; and the Teslin sewer trunk line, $444,000; the Canada-Yukon-Alaska railway link feasibility study, $1.7 million; the regional geophysical and geochemistry survey, $902,000; Hospital Corporation and ambulance equipment, once again, improving our ability to deliver health care, $490,000; and Macaulay elevator upgrade, $224,000.
Copper Ridge Place roof repairs of $200,000; the Dawson Airport improvement totalling $344,000; correctional reform consultations is for $267,000; and the Watson Lake highway equipment rental contracts of $150,000; and historic places initiative of $391,000.
As Minister of Finance, I am very pleased with the supplementary budget and the fiscal position of the government and the territory. Ministers and their departmental staff have worked very hard to ensure that we achieve equilibrium: sound fiscal management, while at the same time still ensuring a prudent investment in the social and economic fabric of the Yukon.
And, of course, as Minister of Finance, I am indeed very fortunate to have the finance team that I do, and this government does, housed in the Department of Finance. The team has a tremendous amount of skill and has done a masterful job in ensuring that Yukon’s finances are in a sound and strong position.
We are very proud of what we have achieved over the last few years, and we intend to continue the trend of sound fiscal management far into the future. It’s what Yukoners want, it’s what Yukoners deserve, and the fiscal position is certainly contributing to the optimism and the turnaround this territory is experiencing today.
Mr. Hardy: Well, it’s always a pleasure to get up and speak on the spending habits of the Yukon Party, to address some of the concerns that we get from the many, many people who contact us from around the Yukon and believe that it is essential that the official opposition represents a different perspective than what the Yukon Party government has a tendency to put forward.
I know this often bothers the members on the other side, and they get really upset, definitely the Premier. He often questions our ability to ask questions or our right to ask questions or the direction that we take. Of course, when that happens, I often have to wonder: is he questioning the people of the territory? Because we do represent a substantial number of people, not just as elected MLAs having constituents, but also the many, many people in all the ridings who believe that the NDP’s voice and direction will bring forward their issues.
There are many, many issues that this government hasn’t addressed. Whether it has been intentional or not, we don’t know. We do know, in many cases, the issues that we’ve brought up generally have been brought up already with the territorial government. People have come to us because they’re not getting any kind of response back or they’re being told that their concerns are not on the agenda. Sometimes, Mr. Speaker, what people ask of the territorial government is from promises that have been made by them, whether it was in the election of three years ago, or it was in a budget speech a year ago, or two years ago. People of the territory follow this very closely. Then there is the expectation, of course, that if this is what’s announced or this is what a minister has said or this is what a backbencher says out in their communities or what the Premier says, then that is going to materialize at some point.
What’s very distressing of course, in any kind of debate, is when it doesn’t; when the people who often come to us are saying that they thought something was promised and they don’t see it materializing — and we have to question that.
We can go all the way back to the election promises. It’s interesting to note that the Premier and other members of his caucus have been going around saying that they have fulfilled 80 percent of their election promises. When I first heard that, I was really quite surprised. As has been said on numerous occasions, I got their election promises. We have a copy in our office, as I am sure do the Liberals. We find it interesting reading. I opened it up and started looking at how they might have come up with the figure of 80 percent.
The conclusion I came to was 80 percent of one page, maybe, but not 80 percent of the other 16 pages.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The Member for Klondike just yelled out, “Probably higher”. I would quite happily debate him on this, page by page, election promise by election promise, any day in the Legislative Assembly to see if it is higher than 80 percent — even if it comes to 50 percent. I can assure you that, from my read of it, it doesn’t even come up to 50 percent.
That begs the question of what a person says and how they view what fulfilling an election promise is and what it is not.
I’ll give you an example: I would assume that the Premier believes that he fulfilled an election promise by hiring an old friend to do electoral reform — the promise was very clear; I don’t have it in front of me but I remember it. It said there would be a committee formed to look at electoral reform. A committee — and that committee would consult with the public. Now that was the promise.
What the government did, what the Premier did, was hire one person to go and travel back and forth from here to B.C. and observe the proceedings of their process of looking at electoral reform to come up with a model that would suit British Columbia — one person, not to consult with Yukon people, not a committee, but one person at $120,000 to 130,000. This person just went and observed.
I found that I could observe everything on my computer. It was telecast live through the computer; you could actually touch it. Reports were put out on a regular basis. It was a very good system, a very expensive system, a way people were able to access exactly what that gathering of British Columbians at the centre of dialogue were doing and the direction they were going in. You could have updates on it daily.
The Premier felt that it was necessary to have an observer go down there and sit there and then write a report — or barely write a report — at $120,000 and consider the election promise complete. Now, I heard him say this, that he fulfilled that promise, but the word in the 2002 campaign was “committee”. One does not make a committee. Consulting Yukon people, having the person hired say that he talked to a whole pile of Yukoners does not constitute consulting people. Who knows to whom he talked. Maybe it was his family. Maybe it was family and caucus. Maybe — we don’t know — it involved some neighbours. We don’t know. And then to write a report based on that and put that actually in there was kind of distressing. Does that fulfill the promise that was put out? No, it doesn’t — in no way, shape or form. But the Premier indicated that that was fulfilling the promise. Is that how he looks at 80-percent complete? The Member for Klondike, who figures it was even higher — well, like I say, I would love to debate this government on their election promises, and I look forward to that in the next election. So what concerns me, though, is to say that you have actually fulfilled your election promises. So I’ve got the Yukon Party Together We Will do Better. Now, even the title is a question of fulfillment. It says, “Together we will do better”. Well, I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I do not feel a part of the Yukon Party or any of their debates or discussions or decisions on what direction the territory should go in, whether it’s spending, whether it’s economics, whether it’s environment, whether it’s health, whether it’s social issues, whether it’s workers’ compensation. We have very serious concerns about what’s happening there or — well, what’s not happening there.
I don’t feel like I’m very much a part of the Yukon Party’s agenda here. I think that I represent the majority of people in the territory, with that opinion.
Now, the first page is a letter to Yukoners, and it says that this new inclusive-style governing will be based on consensus building, consultation, collaboration and compromise, not on confrontation and unilateral action. Well, Mr. Speaker, I remember one of the first issues we had to deal with once the Yukon Party came into power. It was over Macaulay Lodge. I remember this very clearly. My colleague and I went over there.
What was happening over at Macaulay Lodge was that — basically, Macaulay Lodge was going to be closed down. There was obviously a move to some type of privatization of care facilities for these seniors. It was going to be shifted into the private sector. The Minister of Health was very adamant about that — this was the way to go. The people of Macaulay Lodge and their families protested. They stood up and said no. The minister wouldn’t back down. In the end, there was a confrontation.
This was one of the first things to happen once this government came to power. I remember the meetings we went to over there. I remember the confrontation. And I remember — thank goodness — that democracy reigned and the people’s voice won out in that battle.
It was based not on compromise, consultation, collaboration or consensus building, but very simply on confrontation. That is the model that the Yukon Party has followed from day one. Unilateral action is the model this Yukon Party has followed from day one. We only have to look at First Nation relations. We don’t make this stuff up on this side of the House. If we did, we would be discredited or challenged out there by the First Nations. What we say in this House is based on and supporting what the First Nations are saying and feeling. Everything we say in this House with regard to that can be backed up by what is being said out there.
All of last week, the Member for Kluane talked about the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. He has been very articulate in spelling out the position that they are in. He has only done that based on letters that have been written by the acting chair. He has only done that based on responses from the Premier back to the APC — total fact. There is no deviation from it. He has done that because it is a legitimate situation and argument to make in the Legislative Assembly, especially when the Premier is putting out a different picture, one where relations are very good and there are no problems out there. That has to be challenged when we know from documentation, radio interviews, media reports and letters that have been tabled in the House to back up those arguments that this is not the true picture.
So, why is that? It’s because the Premier is using unilateral action, not consensus building, not consultation, not collaboration and not compromise. But once again, the last two — confrontation and unilateral action — are what is being used.
That was just one case in regard to the First Nation self-government. There are also the issues that many First Nations are facing, whether it’s from Dawson City and the problems they are facing in trying to negotiate work as equal partners with this Yukon Party government. Many letters have been written; there has been a lot of frustration, a lot of effort when we could be working together. We are in this House to bring to the forefront so that the Premier can hear, not just from them, but from us as well, that this is a legitimate concern, and he must change his ways. He must find a way to stop the confrontation and unilateral action and go with the words that he promised the people of this territory.
The Carmacks school is all about confrontation, and that’s a shame. The NDP has built more schools than any other government. Not a single one of those schools ever evolved as this one has. The NDP created a method to select schools to be built that was removed from the political agenda and put into the hands of the school committees and the main body in which they would prioritize which schools would be built next. It was a good system — not a political system.
It was one in which representation on the main body, the main committee — school board committee — had representation from the communities, from all areas of the Yukon. They sat down, and they prioritized based upon need. Again — I want to emphasize this — this arena was removed from political decisions to be done by the school committees and trust them to make the right decisions — and they did. Without a doubt, they made the right decisions.
We build schools. There were no confrontations around that. This government — now, just one second. I’m not sure if the Liberals were able to build a single school in their term. I think they stopped the practice that we had started — removing it from the political decision making and putting it in the hands of the people most closely affected and who closely understand the situation around the need for schools. I think they were the ones that stopped that process. I stand to be corrected, but I think it was them. That was a shame.
However, the Yukon Party, when they got elected, had a chance to re-establish that method of school selection. They decided not to because I believe they wanted to keep it political. I think the decision made today proves that. The worst way to decide how to build a school is to decide it based on your own personal political survival. That’s not what education is about. That’s not what building schools is about. It should never be — politics should never enter into education. But guess what? That’s what we witnessed today — making promises because there’s a by-election.
I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, from my perspective there would not have been a promise to build a school up there this month if there wasn’t a by-election.
Because, you know what? There has been no budgeting — zero. There’s no planning — zero. So where did this decision come from? Where? That’s our question: is this a case of one morning, Mr. Speaker, they woke up and realized they were in trouble in a by-election and they had better build a school and they might win now? Well, I can assure you the public can’t stand that kind of spending, they can’t stand that method — what some people call buying the vote.
I know another Liberal government tried to do this in a riding in British Columbia. It was Surrey. It was Gordon Campbell the Premier, and he was punished for it. He lost that one because the public doesn’t look at that as a good way of deciding, does not look at that as the way they want to see elected members operating. It’s not —
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: It’s interesting. The Member for Klondike is praising the Liberals now. Are we anticipating a floor crossing here? The Member for Klondike — maybe I’m announcing something I shouldn’t be announcing right now. Maybe I should withhold my remarks on that and allow the Member for Klondike to make his own announcements of his future party that he may be sitting with.
However, Mr. Speaker, I am really disturbed by the way this government decides how they’re going to spend taxpayers’ money. They’re going to use taxpayers’ money to buy the vote, and they should be very proud of that.
Speaker: I understand that the leader of the official opposition is in full flow. However, accusing another party or group of buying the vote is clearly out of order and I would ask the honourable member to not use that terminology.
Mr. Hardy: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. I would never in my wildest dreams think that they would do that. However, I will express my deep-seated concern that we are in the second week of a campaign and there have been no previous indications that a school is going to be built in this riding. There has been no planning whatsoever. There has been no money allocated. There has been no public consultation at all — zero. This is really something, because I think there was a promise made about consultation that this government was adamant it was going to do before they went out and spent tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. There was none — zero.
Interestingly enough, yesterday the Minister of Education had indicated that they recognized that there was an overcrowding problem at Elijah Smith Elementary School, but they were going to make their decisions based on consultation with stakeholders. They were looking at that. The next day — today — we have an announcement that a school is going to be built. So, in less than 24 hours, whom did they consult?
When the members opposite stand up, I will be very interested to find out who exactly was consulted in that area of Whitehorse. Was the Education department even told that this was going to happen? Maybe the whole bureaucracy doesn’t know that this is happening yet. It was a surprise for people — a Christmas gift, maybe. I might be misreading this; it could be a Christmas gift.
They were just keeping it secret, because if people are told what they’re going to get for Christmas, it kind of takes the thrill out of it. I know that this government likes to surprise the public. They do it on a regular basis.
So, here we are with the question of which stakeholders were consulted last night.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: My colleague mentioned a location, but I won’t go down that road, though I know it’s frequented by many people of the Yukon Party. Maybe that is where they hold their meetings.
However, there is a question of
stakeholders. Whom does the Yukon Party classify as stakeholders? How can they
consult this group? Maybe the candidate for the Yukon Party knocked on a few
doors and asked, “Do you want a school?”
and then phoned down the next morning and said, “They want a school; is it all right to spend $10 million and make this promise?” Maybe the Premier said, “Absolutely. We have lots of money. No one minds. We’re doing so well with the Carmacks school, we can just duplicate it.”
Now, going back to the Carmacks school, this is how the Yukon Party government builds schools. Let’s look at the Carmacks school. There was a process in place, and everything was moving along, I believe. All of a sudden, in the plans, there was a space for Yukon College. The community was very concerned. The First Nations were very concerned. They expressed their concern and were rebuffed.
They expressed concern around this, legitimate protests. People have a right to protest. Governments should listen, not ignore them. This government ignored them.
There were attempts to have meetings. They did not fulfill the needs of the community. Relations have gotten so bad up there that the Premier is not even welcome in the First Nation offices. So much of this circles around that school. Building a new school in a community should be a celebration. It should be one that’s well-planned, that involves consultation, that involves collaboration, that involves consensus building, that involves compromise, and it should be inclusive. The community should be celebrating that building, that activity.
Instead, because it’s not what they were working on and it’s not what they thought it was going to be, it has evolved into confrontation, and then the government taking unilateral action and forging ahead, even though that school will sit in the community and those people will have to live with it — it’s their school. They’re still going to put into it what the Yukon Party wants.
Well, the Yukon Party is not Carmacks. Carmacks is the individuals, it’s the First Nation, it’s the children and the children to come, it’s the elders. Those voices should be heard, not a small group of people sitting down here that refuses to back down and refuses to work with that.
So what we have is a school being built, a threat of boycotting it, a threat of building another school, a threat of drawing down education, and that threat has not just come from Carmacks. It has come from other areas.
Other First Nation self-governments are now working on drawing down education because they realize they cannot work with the Yukon Party government and the way they go about doing business.
Which leads to another example of failure, and I am only on Education now, Mr. Speaker; I have other areas I will be touching on, but I’m just on Education right now.
Education is so essential for our future and the children should not see adults fighting over buildings. They should not see adults fighting over programs. They need to see us working together, because that’s what we want them to do when they grow up. That’s what we want them to do at their own age, to develop those skills. The example being set by the Yukon Party government with everybody else is one of “my way or the highway”.
So, we now have an announcement today. A school is going to be built. I have no problem saying this: I am sure the department knew that school — the Elijah Smith Elementary School — was basically maxed out. It’s a very popular school with a very good principal and good teachers; it’s a beautiful building, one that we can be very proud of and one that the kids love. The area around it continues to grow, and when that school was being built I was fortunate enough to be very involved in that build, and I am very proud of that. The Yukon Party was against that one, as well — just to get that on record and remind them.
But the community up there continues to grow, and there is obviously another need. I’m sure the department knows this, and I’m sure the department has informed the minister and the minister has taken it to Cabinet and said, “Look, this is an area we have to look at building another school.” I’m sure of that. But there has been no movement forward on it. There are no plans, there is no consultation, there is no design work, as far as I know, unless that’s going to be released tomorrow and it has already been done and it’s a surprise. But all of a sudden, we have a school that’s going to be built.
Now, as I said, you know what actually might be a good idea? If we have a by-election in every single riding right now — if we had a by-election in every single riding, the way this government is acting, every single riding would get exactly what they want, no problem. You want $20 million to build a care facility up in Haines Junction? — absolutely, there’s a by-election happening. What about this? What about Dawson City? Let’s have a by-election, Mr. Speaker. Guess what? The bridge will be built. We’ll guarantee it; it’s only $50 million through P3s that we so adamantly believe would work. That’s the Yukon Party’s philosophy. That’s the way they’re thinking.
Look, they’re laughing on the other side. Well, yes, we’re laughing on this side, too, Mr. Speaker, because a decision to build a school because of a by-election is a pretty poor decision and pretty poor planning. Well, it’s no planning whatsoever. It is basically the desperation of a government going down. And they will do anything to try to save their bacon, including spending taxpayers’ money willy-nilly.
I think that’s in order, Mr. Speaker.
Now, I would suggest all ridings go into a by-election. Maybe the Premier would promise that. We could have a by-election in downtown Whitehorse. I would love to have a by-election in downtown Whitehorse, and in Kluane and in Klondike — absolutely — as long as I know that they are going to use taxpayers’ money. We will get whatever we want. Whitehorse Elementary could use a $10-million upgrade.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: It does have a nice paint job; I have to agree with that.
That’s the way politics is being done. That is the way budgeting is being done by the Yukon Party government. I can see next year’s budget already. They know there are going to be 18 by-elections — sorry, elections — within a few months. It could even be around that time. Guess what, Mr. Speaker? We just got a peek at what this Yukon Party government is going to do with taxpayers’ money. It has nothing to do with serving the good of all Yukoners. It has everything to do with survival of the Yukon Party. They will spend and spend and spend to convince Yukoners to support them.
I am glad this has happened because it shows the people of this territory exactly how far this Yukon Party government will go to stay in power. Unfortunately it’s not something to be proud of.
So, going back to Education, we have —
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Yes, I agree. We have many First Nations actively pursuing drawing down and doing their own programs, possibly building their own schools because of the disillusionment they have now with this government.
It’s because of what we have talked about so much this week, whether it’s APC and the broken relationships there, around education and the broken relationships, around social issues, around housing issues, or around First Nations having an opportunity to put together housing. And there’s a desperate need: up to 400 houses are desperately needed by many in their communities.
There is a very serious concern among the First Nations, to the point that many of them are saying, “We’ll wait; we’ll wait until the next election; we’ll wait to see, because the trust has been broken.” The best relationships, of course, are based on trust, openness and willingness to compromise and work together. Many of them don’t feel that any more. Many of them feel that because there has to be an election within a year — less than a year now — that it’s worth waiting, holding back, not entering necessarily into any more deals, and then going to the polls and passing their judgement upon this government and their four years.
And it’s a shame; it’s a shame because I know this Premier said for the Yukon to go forward, for the Yukon to prosper, for the Yukon to have a future, the First Nations have to be part of that future. Economically, the First Nations had to be treated as equal partners.
Land claims had to be settled. That was a goal. Those were the words, and I agree with those words; however, relations have fallen far, far back. In many cases we are no further ahead. Definitely we’re no further ahead on the basis of equal partnerships and trust from government to government.
I know that many municipalities have struggled to work with this government. Dawson City — it’s a very serious situation. There has been some good work done up there, but there have also been some delays that should never have been in place. That community should have a council by now. There is no question that that could be in place. What is the delay around that? That breaks trust. Many, many elected people, at different levels, no longer feel that they can work with this government.
Now, as I was saying, the Yukon Party platform started off with really good words. Unfortunately, words do not necessarily translate into action, and in this case I don’t believe they have. Interestingly enough, this is a government that stands up on a regular basis, especially the Premier, and talks about their great achievement of cancelling YPAS, as if that’s a great achievement. The stroke of a pen did it.
The Premier feels that killing YPAS opened up the whole territory and all the industries came pouring back in — that it was YPAS holding them back.
This is a very distorted view of economics — a very distorted view. Any person out there who thinks YPAS was holding back exploration in the Yukon is living in a world that is not in touch with reality. We have witnessed oil and gas prices rise substantially; we have witnessed mineral prices rise substantially. We have heard time and time again the industry say the reason there is investment, the reason there is exploration, very simply is because it is affordable because of the rise in prices — very clear, number one issue — but we have a Premier who can’t accept that. He wants to lay claim to the complete turnaround in this sector. So he can’t accept that; it’s beyond him. So what does the Premier talk about? He talks about killing YPAS, and all of a sudden the industry showed up.
Now, I have a problem with people who lay claim to things that they don’t rightly have a right to.
The Premier is getting agitated over there. But I know when he was on this side he talked about mineral prices. As a matter of fact, when he was my colleague and we sat in the back benches, he often expounded at length about the need to see a rise in mineral prices, a rise in forestry prices, a rise in oil and gas to kick-start the economy.
I didn’t disagree with them, because it’s common economics. That’s grade 5 stuff. I wonder what happened here and how it got twisted around so that all of a sudden, that is irrelevant. The only reason there is activity now is because of the Premier’s actions. What does that point to? It kind of connects to the fact that, in the last year, there have been a lot of issues raised by First Nations. There have been First Nations locking the Premier out of their offices. There have been First Nations refusing to allow them into the building. There have been First Nations walking away from meetings. There have been First Nations writing very, very strongly worded letters. There have been groups of First Nations being very concerned about the direction the government has taken and the lack of working together with them as equal partners. There has been example after example after example.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the rules of debate, the member is persisting in needless repetition.
Speaker: There is no point of order. It is simply a dispute among members.
Mr. Hardy: Just to finish my comment here, we have nothing but a record — over the last year, but it’s very specific to last year — of the First Nations’ extreme concern about dealing with the Premier and dealing with the Yukon Party government. They have been in the media, they have written letters. It has been out in the open. There is nothing secret about this. They say there’s a problem.
What does the Premier do? He stands up and says there’s no problem, everything’s perfect, everything’s rosy. I’ve got MOUs, and I can wave them around; I just met with so-and-so; I can do that; everything’s perfect.
What does that say? Just like the mineral prices are the driving factors in why the economy and that sector have turned around, same with the First Nation relations: what does that say? There’s something wrong here. Mr. Speaker, I think we’ll leave it at that. I think the point has been made around that.
In recognition of the late hour, I move that the debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the opposition House leader that the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.