††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Tuesday, November 8, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, itís a great honour to introduce today a friend, a partner, a very distinguished visitor, Mr. Paul Okalik, the Premier of Nunavut. Please join me in making him most welcome.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to introduce to the House Cynthia Kearns, a great friend of mine and also a constituent of mine, so please welcome Cynthia Kearns.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon substance abuse draft action plan.
Speaker: Are there any other reports for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 7 ó response
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím pleased to respond to Petition No. 7. The government is committed to working with the City of Whitehorse to establish the consultation process involving the Kwanlin Dun First Nation government, the Taían Kwachían First Nation government, Yukon College, Porter Creek residents and other stakeholders to protect the natural park area bordered by Rabbitís Foot Canyon on the west, Mountainview Drive on the east and McIntyre Creek on the south, which is wholly owned by the Government of Yukon in its natural state as a park area within the City of Whitehorse.
The government has instructed the departments of Community Services, Education, Environment, and the land claims and implementation secretariat of the Executive Council Office to develop a draft consultation plan on this issue. We value the input of all Yukoners on this issue and want to ensure that all voices are heard.
Because of this governmentís interest in the broad consultation, we cooperated with members opposite during debate on related Motion No. 426. In looking at the motion, it became apparent quickly to the government side that we needed to strengthen the motion to assist the Member for Porter Creek South, which is why we amended the motion to establish the consultation process involving Kwanlin Dun First Nation government, the Taían Kwachían First Nation government, Yukon College, Porter Creek residents and other stakeholders.
Petition No. 10 ó received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and honourable members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 10 of the First Session of the 31st Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun on November 7, 2005.
This petition was found to be comprised of three different documents. The first of these documents was that read to the House by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. It meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly and will be retained in the working papers of the Legislative Assembly. The Executive Council response made pursuant to Standing Order 67 should be to Petition No. 10 as it was read to the House by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and as it appears in the working papers of the Assembly.
The other two documents provided with Petition No. 10 do not meet requirements as to form of the Standing Orders and will be returned to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Speaker: Petition No. 10 is accordingly deemed to be read and received.
Are there any other petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to work with non-governmental organizations, First Nations, front-line workers, municipalities, stakeholders and the general public to move forward on the collaborative, coordinated approach to addressing the problem of substance abuse in the territory and making our communities safer, including specific steps to address harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement as detailed in the Yukon substance abuse action plan.
Mr. Hardy: † I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Government of Yukon, on behalf of Yukon people, responded generously to those affected by the tsunami in Southeast Asia and by Hurricane Katrina in the southern United States; and
(2) no similar response has been forthcoming to assist those left homeless by recent mudslides in Guatemala and other parts of central America or by the devastating earthquakes in Pakistan, where the official death toll now exceeds 87,000 people; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to take steps to redress the inequities in its disaster relief efforts and to develop a Yukon government disaster response policy that addressees humanitarian needs in the wake of natural disasters in a consistent and fair manner.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of the current agreement between the Yukon government and the Yukon Medical Association.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) avian influenza is being recognized as a possible problem worldwide; and
(2) the people of the Yukon want assurances that everything possible will be done in the unlikely event that the Yukon needs to deal with a pandemic; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to assure Yukoners that updated information is being given to them and that emergency measures are in place in the event of a Yukon-wide avian influenza outbreak, especially in rural Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
Speaker: Before proceeding with Question Period, the Chair will rule on points of order raised yesterday.
During debate on Bill No. 60, Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act, the leader of the third party rose on a point of order. The honourable member made two points, and I will take them in the order that the member raised them.
The first point was that the Minister of Economic Development had violated Standing Order 19(i) when he said the Member for Mayo-Tatchun ďshould get out more.Ē The Chair finds there is no point of order. While the Minister of Economic Development could have chosen better, less colloquial, words to express his difference of opinion with the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, the Chair does not feel that the choice of words, in the context used, violated Standing Order 19(i).
The second point made by the leader of the third party is that the speech made by the Minister of Economic Development violated Standing Order 19(b)(i) in that the minister did not address the bill before the House.
The issue of relevance is one the Chair has been struggling with during this sitting. The Chair has noticed that almost all speeches made during this sitting have, to varying degrees, wandered from the issue before the House at any given time. So far the Chair has intervened only rarely in this regard as such comments have not, until yesterday, led to disorder and members seem to be interested in the comments of other members even if they are irrelevant to the topic before the House.
Members may recall that last Thursday during debate on Bill No. 64, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, the Chair intervened during the comments by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun because the Chair was having difficulty connecting the memberís comments to the bill. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun explained his wide-ranging approach to the debate by saying, ďif we really want to talk about this act, thereís not all that much to talk about.Ē Procedurally, it is not for the Chair to determine whether there is much or little to say about any piece of business that comes before the House. The Chairís only concern is that the remarks made, be they long or short, are germane to the topic before the House.
The Chair takes the interventions by members on yesterdayís point of order as indicating that they wish the Chair to take a stricter approach to the issue of relevance in the future. Therefore the Chair will be more vigilant in this regard.
The Member for Southern Lakes also raised a point of order yesterday in response to a comment from the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, who said that the government had, in his view, told ďthe Yukon public something different from whatís already on the books.Ē This could be seen as a violation of Standing Order 19(h), that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun had charged members of the government caucus with uttering a deliberate falsehood. However, the Chair believes in this case it was a dispute about facts; therefore, there is no point of order.
We will now proceed to Question Period.
Question re:† Substance abuse
Mr. Hardy: Last week I tabled copies of the Saskatchewan Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act. I also tabled a motion that we will be debating tomorrow, calling on this government to bring forward similar legislation for the Yukon in time for the next sitting. Mr. Speaker, I understand that Yukon Justice officials have already been talking about this subject with some of their Saskatchewan counterparts. So my question is for the Premier: can we count on the Premierís unqualified support for that motion tomorrow?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, as members opposite are fully aware, I actually just tabled for the member oppositeís information our Yukon substance abuse action plan. It is a plan that originated out of a Yukon substance abuse summit that was held early this June at which 200 stakeholders representing First Nations, communities, and non-government organizations took part in addressing these very dire issues in our communities today.
From that, over the course of the summer, an action plan was drafted which is out now for consultation. We are working to address these very issues in our communities today. We certainly will be working with members of the opposition to address these very issues.
Mr. Hardy: Yukon people are not going to tolerate this government playing games on this. They want action to shut down drug operations in their communities. I have been hearing it for two years. The Premier has put out a discussion paper on substance abuse that he is calling an action plan ó we just heard that minister talk about it ó but there is no money attached, no timelines and no concrete commitment to action. Here is what it says about safer communities legislation: ďThe Department of Justice will explore the possibility of developing legislation.Ē
Will the Premier commit right now to not just explore the possibility of developing legislation, but to actually develop safer communities legislation by next spring?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Our draft action plan proposes 30 programs and services; 13 of these proposed programs and services are new and 17 are expansions of existing programs and services that address substance abuse issues. One of the new action items proposed is an exploration of the safer communities legislation. That will give the territory the ability to enhance its opportunity to crack down on drug houses in our communities.
Mr. Speaker, we are looking at the safer communities legislation as part of our plan and we will be looking at existing legislation, including Saskatchewanís and Manitobaís, as examples in crafting any legislation for Yukon. As members know, any new legislation requires full consultation with our municipalities, First Nations and other stakeholders in developing legislation that is made in the Yukon, that suits the needs of the Yukon and that will address the issue at hand, and that is to get hard on substance abuse in the territory.
Mr. Hardy: Iím going to a funeral in one hour where a person died because of a crack house, and all we hear is talk like this. Weíve had public meetings; Iíve held public meetings; the public has been crying for this. Weíve been hearing it on Copperbelt doorsteps. The Premier has consistently dragged his feet on this issue and this minister as well. His action plan acknowledges the need for a comprehensive strategy, but it doesnít provide the community-based approach that this problem needs.
Next Tuesday, Yukoners will have a chance to take part in a territory-wide, town hall forum on safe communities. Theyíll be able to tell their own stories and share their ideas about how to make our communities safer. Iíll make the Premier an offer, Mr. Speaker. Iíll guarantee him a seat on that panel if heíll make a commitment to take these grassroots suggestions and use them as guidance in developing the final version of a more comprehensive action plan on substance abuse with the emphasis on action. Will the Premier make that commitment to Yukon people right now?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, just for members opposite, we did that. We held a drug summit this spring, this early summer, with members of the opposition. As members will recall, there was a unanimous motion in this Legislature, through which all parties committed to work together to address substance abuse and alcohol-related issues in our territory. That is exactly what we are doing. We have come up with a draft substance abuse action plan, of which there are 30 newly recommended initiatives. We are talking with the members of CAIRS, PARTY, the Outreach van. We are talking with womenís organizations, FASSY, the Boys and Girls Club. Surely members opposite would not oppose us speaking to members of the public in our communities ó First Nation governments ó talking about these proposed initiatives and getting further direction.
We are committed to moving forward with our substance abuse action plan, including all the new initiatives, including another new program that is also being recommended: a problem-solving court that provides comprehensive treatment options for persons in the criminal court system who have drug or alcohol addictions, mental health issues or FASD.
Mr. Speaker, weíre moving forward in addressing the issues at hand in our communities. I wish members opposite would do the same.
Question re: Hepatitis C
Mr. McRobb: I have another question for this all-talk-and-no-action government. Hepatitis C has long been a serious health concern in the Yukon. At least 400 Yukoners are currently suffering from this disease. A year ago, I asked the minister what heís doing about programs for the prevention and spread of hep C and for the support of hep C patients but, as usual, he sloughed it off and pointed his finger at the federal government.
For its part, the federal government has made progress toward this cause. In 1998, it earmarked $50 million over five years for hep C prevention, support and research to be given to the provinces and territories. We know that funds have been provided to the Yukon government in the past five years. Will the minister reveal how much of this funding supposedly targeted at hep C programs has actually been received?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím pleased to advise the House that this issue was the topic of discussion at one of the recent health ministers meetings held with the federal government and the Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh on this very important issue. He clearly indicated there was a surplus in the fund that was set up to address those afflicted with hep C, however they came into contact with this blood-borne disease, and they were looking for ways to flow the money to an additional group of individuals who were afflicted with this blood-borne disease and would be doing so, given the dates they established for contacting this disease were quite late in the situation.
Mr. McRobb: The volunteer group, Blood Ties Four Directions, is struggling to serve the HIV and AIDS community in the Yukon. Under the previous Yukon government, Blood Ties was talked into the added workload of fulfilling the hep C mandate for support and prevention programs and for education.
Although this has doubled its workload, Blood Ties has received no funding to deliver those services. This minister boasts about how many extra federal health care dollars he has gotten for the Yukon, but whereís the funding for Blood Ties?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is confusing two important programs. The hepatitis C program was initiated by the federal government, and they are delivering that program. They are delivering it across Canada on a uniform and consistent basis. The HIV issue is a separate issue. That is being resourced by our government, in part, as well as by the federal government. The member knows it full well.
Now, what the issue is here that the member is choosing to raise is the issue of compensation for those who are afflicted with hepatitis C, versus those who have blood-borne diseases. There are two separate streams of programming.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thereís nothing up my sleeve. Maybe we should check the ministerís. This is not about compensation.
Now, more than a month ago, Blood Ties wrote this minister, asking him to consider sharing some of the federal money he has received for this purpose from the federal government. Theyíre still waiting for his reply. The minister needs to stop hiding behind the confusion that he perpetuates even today, and itís time to take a clear stand for the benefit of present and future hepatitis C patients. Blood Ties is working for him. Will he work to fund Blood Ties now?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, we have taken a stand, as a government, to deliver health care, not just to this group of individuals but to all Yukoners, and we have done so and clearly demonstrated that.
Now, what the member opposite may be referring to is the territorial health access fund that has been committed to by the federal government. Funds have not flowed yet to the Yukon, and weíre given to understand this will be approved at the federal Treasury Board level sometime this December and it will flow shortly thereafter. With that new funding, we will be able to address a number of other issues that are right before us that we have chosen to address and will be addressing, but thereís a uniform and consistent delivery of health care for all Yukoners, and thatís what our government has concentrated on, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Highway equipment rental contracts
†Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Highways and Public Works. Last year the minister changed the rules for how his department rents equipment in Yukon communities. He announced changes to the highway equipment rental contracts, or HERC, in May 2004. So far, the new rules only apply to the Premierís riding. Over the last two years under this program there has been $3 million in contracts to the Premierís riding. The new rules donít apply in any other part of the Yukon. If this new way of doing business is such a good idea, why does it only apply in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We started off the program in Watson Lake and, just to correct the member opposite, we actually have incorporated this program throughout the Yukon ó on the Dempster Highway, on the north Klondike Highway, as well as out on the Alaska Highway. We are doing that throughout the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: In the last election, the Yukon Party promised that, ďTogether we will do better.Ē After three years in office, itís apparent that, together, some of us will do better ó if you live in Watson Lake. These are facts, Mr. Speaker. Fact one: since 2004, one Watson Lake company has received 30 HERC contracts worth almost $800,000. Fact two: principals of the company have been contributors to the Premierís election campaign. The minister has to answer this question for the public: why is it that only this area of Yukon has been chosen for this unique contracting method, and who made the decision?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will reiterate what I said before, for the member opposite. We are providing this service in other areas of the Yukon. We are specializing in road construction in the Watson Lake area, which has a higher construction cost with regard to building. But we are utilizing this program, as I said, on the Dempster Highway and on the north Klondike Highway and we are following that process throughout.
Ms. Duncan: This issue has been raised in the Legislature before ó this spring in fact. At that time the minister said that an internal evaluation was being undertaken to determine if this new way of doing business was in fact saving the government any money. The minister has said it is being utilized elsewhere. One company alone has received contracts worth $800,000 in the last two years. That same company has a relationship with the Premier. The minister promised in the spring that an evaluation was being done of the program. Will he provide that evaluation? Will he table it so that taxpayers can decide whether this program is about more than just spending money in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, as I indicated, the report is being prepared and will be submitted to the House.
Question re: Nurse shortage
†Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. The Canadian Institute of Health Information and its registered nurse database reports that, in the Yukon, 23 percent of our nurses are employed as auxiliaries and casuals. This is much higher than anywhere else in Canada. The definition of ďauxiliary employeeĒ in the Public Service Act says, in part, ďhas one work assignment on a seasonal basis of more than three but less than 10 consecutive months on an hourly, daily or other periodic basis.Ē So will the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission tell us why she believes that hiring nurses as auxiliaries is a proper response to our nursing shortage?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member oppositeís statistics are actually very accurate, Mr. Speaker. What this points to is a program that is working in the Yukon. The Department of Health and Social Services currently has a group of some 50 nurses, four of whom are resident here in the Yukon. The balance has chosen to work that way and are called on as and when required. There is an additional group of seven nurses who work in Macaulay and Copper Ridge Place and this group of seven nurses has also been offered full-time employment, and they have chosen to work in this manner.
This is a win-win situation for Yukon and Yukoners in delivering health care. We have this body of 50 nurses who choose when they want to come back to the Yukon, and that peak comes in the summer months. They are employed and deployed to a lot of our rural communities. They do an excellent job of serving the health care needs of Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: Now, the minister knows the auxiliaries are cheaper to hire. Maybe he can say that when he gets up. They donít have the benefits that the permanent staff do. Not only are 23 percent of our nurses auxiliary, but they are also on call.
The Minister of Health and Social Services seems to think that an auxiliary on-call position is just the ticket for nurses. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have some nurses who feel theyíre second-class employees and some are thinking of leaving the territory.
Will the minister review this policy immediately, with the objective of coming up with a more viable approach instead of using nurses to save money?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is incorrect that these nurses are not being paid at the same rate and donít have all the benefits. They certainly do, and they have more, because their recruitment includes transportation cost to the location they work in rural Yukon; it includes a subsidy for housing, which, in a lot of cases, is at no cost; it includes a living allowance; and the total package is meant to recruit and retain nurses and nurse practitioners when they are required.
Itís a win-win situation, and these individuals choose the time when they want to come back to the Yukon. A lot of them are resident in Central America, Alaska, Mexico and the States. This is a pool of very highly skilled health care professionals who can choose to work anywhere in the world, and the Yukon is very fortunate that they have selected the Yukon, in part, to work here.
Question re: Pharmacists, consultations with
Mrs. Peter: On November 1, the Minister of Health and Social Services announced that, ďLocal pharmacies have voluntarily agreed to remove cold medications containing the ingredients used in making crystal meth from the open shelves.Ē
This is a good thing; what isnít a good thing is that the president of the Pharmacy Society of the Yukon heard about it from the news media. In the news release, this minister says, ďIt reflects our governmentís commitment to work with stakeholders.Ē For once, heís right. This announcement does reflect his way of working with stakeholders.
What is the process that this minister uses for working with stakeholder professionals, or does he simply decide what is right for everyone and hope they will agree?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † The Department of Health and Social Services consults with all. With respect to the issue that the member has raised, itís an issue of putting some of the drugs behind the counter. The department contacted the owners and the general managers of all the pharmacies here in the Yukon. That arrangement was made by the department with the respective drug-dispensing firms.
I can assure the member opposite that the department didnít go and speak with every pharmacist, but that is not the issue. Itís to get the concurrence of the operators of the pharmacies, the owners of the pharmacies, to put some of these drugs that can be used for other purposes behind the counter and to dispense them at the discretion of the pharmacist. That has been consulted on and it has been implemented and it is in place to the betterment of all Yukoners. It will serve to reduce or eliminate the potential for one of the ingredients in the making of crystal meth.
Mrs. Peter: A news release on November 1 states that, ďHealth and Social Services has asked that pharmacies voluntarily place single-source precursors of crystal meth behind the counters.Ē The release goes on to say that all pharmacists ďagreed readily to this approachĒ. The minister says that his department consulted pharmacists. This move on the part of the minister not only puts the Pharmacy Society of the Yukon in an awkward position, it embarrasses the employees of his department.
Will the minister now apologize to the Pharmacy Society of the Yukon and to his employees for jumping with this news release and ignoring them?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is asking me to apologize for this precursor to having crystal meth ingredients taken off the shelves and put behind the counters? No, Mr. Speaker, I will not apologize. There was consultation done. This is an initiative that the pharmacies agreed with. Itís implemented, and itís underway to the betterment of all Yukoners.
Question re: Ambulance replacement
Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health and Social Services decided, without consulting anyone, to buy new four-wheel-drive ambulances for Whitehorse a few years back, and he created a hornetís nest of problems that simply refuse to go away. So what did the minister do with these ambulances that were causing health and safety concerns for ambulance attendants in Whitehorse? He sent them to Dawson, hoping that the public would forget how badly he had bungled the file.
Because of the extra heavy lifting thatís involved for the operators of these ambulances, the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board has now strictly forbidden the use of these ambulances unless there are three people to go on a call. At this time of the year, there arenít enough volunteers in Dawson most days to comply with the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Boardís written order.
So how does the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission hope to solve this snafu created by the Health ministerís impulse buying?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The department had a request for four-wheel-drive ambulances. Two four-wheel-drive ambulances were purchased. One is located in Watson Lake and one was located in Whitehorse. A request came in from another rural community ó that being Dawson ó for a four-wheel-drive ambulance, and it was located in the community of Dawson. So there are other four-wheel-drive ambulances throughout the Yukon. The member opposite is raising an issue where there really isnít an issue. Yes, the bed of the ambulance is a little bit higher, but look at what our government has done with respect to ambulances. There are two new type III ambulances en route to Whitehorse. We should be receiving them in December ó maybe early January ó depending on the delivery schedule. In addition to that, that makes four new ambulances arriving in the Yukon during our watch. Now, our resourcing of the ambulance services across the Yukon, our enhancement of the program with honoraria for rural volunteers, our increase in the training for volunteer ambulance attendants and our resourcing of clothing for rural volunteers has been a very, very well-received program.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I hope the minister didnít sole source those new ambulances that are on their way.
The minister doesnít seem to get the problem. There is a health and safety issue here. There is an order by the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, which he should understand ó he is the minister responsible for the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, and the occupational health and safety regulations that he hasnít proclaimed yet.
Now we have a problem where the ambulances are causing the injuries to the workers who are working on the ambulance. What is the minister going to do about that? When can we expect the minister to deal once and for all with this file so that Dawsonís new ambulance doesnít cause more pain and injury to volunteers?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Dawsonís volunteer ambulance service requested a four-wheel-drive ambulance. Now, everyone knows ó perhaps other than the member opposite ó that four-wheel-drive vehicles are a little higher off the ground than two-wheel drives. It was well-received in the community of Dawson. That said, Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite is suggesting that they do not wish a four-wheel-drive ambulance any more, I am sure there is another location where it will be well-received.
That said, this government has done more to resource our volunteer and full-time ambulance service here in Whitehorse than any other government. We have purchased four new ambulances. In addition to that, clothing, training, honoraria have all been increased. We have one of the best groups of volunteers here in the Yukon providing this service and we hope to provide them with the equipment necessary to maintain that high level of service that they do provide.
Question re: Seniors facilities
†Mr. McRobb: Well, letís hope we can get an answer from the Health minister on this question. In the spring budget, there was $5.2 million allocated for the multi-level care facility in Dawson City. In the supplementary budget we are debating right now, that $5.2 million has shrunk to a paltry $1 item. Yet Yukoners have seen the conceptual design for a Dawson City facility with a $14-million price tag attached. Those designs had the thumbprints of the Minister of Health and Social Services all over them. Will the minister tell us exactly why this multi-million dollar promise to his constituents is now in the pending file with so many other unfulfilled Yukon Party commitments?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As Minister of Finance, itís appropriate that I respond to the Member for Kluaneís question. First off, because thereís so much going on with capital projects across the territory, it became clear during this fiscal year that the project for Dawson City, the multi-level care facility ó with a $5.2 million budget envelope ó could not proceed in this fiscal year.
One of the principles weíve applied when it comes to financial management is cash management. Therefore, weíve kept the project alive, as the member will see in the budget. Itís still a line item, but we have put the cash that will not be expended during the remaining part of this fiscal year back into consolidated revenue. Thereís a reason for that.
Letís look to a few years ago when the Liberal government was in place and we were in an overdraft position ó essentially borrowing money to pay for programs and services. Thatís not the case today. Not only does the government have a sound financial position and a healthy surplus, we have lots of cash in the bank.
Mr. McRobb: Itís no wonder why the Premier bailed out the minister on that question. The bottom line is the Health and Social Services minister doesnít deliver: no bridge, no multi-level care facility. Watson Lake is getting its multi-level care facility ó the Premier is making sure of that.
New schools can happen at the drop of a hat under this big-spending government, or maybe that should be the drop of a writ, Mr. Speaker. Will the minister tell us when Dawson City seniors and the medical community in his riding can expect to see the project finally get going, or is this something he plans to announce and re-announce and announce again, until his time runs out next fall?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís an interesting question in itself, but the issue is that our government will address a demonstrated need where a demonstrated need exists. Dawson currently has McDonald Lodge as well as a nursing station. Watson Lake does not have a lodge for the seniors. There has been a request there for a number of years, going back 15 years, for a facility to house seniors. A multi-level care facility was conceived by our government; it was an election platform commitment and weíre moving forward. Watson Lake is going first; Dawson City will come after, but it shall happen.
If you want to look at the issue of a school, and the school up in Copperbelt, thereís a demonstrated need there. Under the Liberals, they were looking at closing schools. We had a exodus of population. Today, due to the good work of our government, we have an increase in population, we have jobs, and we have children who need to go to school. Thereís a demonstrated need for a new school there and a new school will be constructed.
Mr. McRobb: Iím becoming very concerned about this ministerís reputation, if not in his riding then surely in mine. The minister ruffled a lot of feathers in Kluane by turning a deaf ear to seniors who were able to demonstrate that thereís more need for a new seniors facility in Haines Junction than there is anywhere else in the Yukon.
During the Premierís community tour, the Premier pulled the rug out from under the minister. He gave seniors his commitment to act on their request where the minister hasnít. So hereís my suggestion for the minister: take the $5,199,999 that he isnít spending on the Dawson City multi-level care facility this year and put it toward a facility for Haines Junction. Will the minister agree to that practical course of action before the supplementary budget comes to a vote?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím compelled to correct the record. The Member for Kluane is suggesting that there is some sort of inconsistency with this government with respect to the seniors and elders in Haines Junction and the north highway, and nothing could be further from the facts, Mr. Speaker.
The facts are ó and I was at the meeting myself. I clearly said that if itís a multi-level care facility that the seniors and elders are seeking in the community, we cannot do it. But if itís assisted living and a seniors residence, we are firmly committed to engage with the seniors society in Haines Junction and begin the process of addressing that need for those seniors. In fact, today Iím pleased to say that since that meeting, we have been coordinating our team to sit down with the seniors society in Haines Junction to begin the planning of an assisted-living seniors residence in the community of Haines Junction. Obviously the member opposite wouldnít be supporting it, no matter what we did. The NDP has never supported one nickel of spending by this government, including what goes into the membersí ridings.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Mr. McRobb: † Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, November 9, 2005. They are Motion No. 507, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and Motion No. 494, standing in the name of the Member for Mount Lorne.
Ms. Duncan: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called tomorrow, Wednesday, November 9, 2005. They are Motion No. 398, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South, and Motion No. 498, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: † We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 17: Second Reading ó continued
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 17, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie; adjourned debate, Mrs. Peter.
Mrs. Peter: It is my pleasure again to respond to the supplementary budget. The budget that is before us, Mr. Speaker, does not reflect some of the more serious issues that we hear about in our communities. The community of Old Crow does appreciate many of the dollars that are spent in our community, and how that came about is we did have a plan, we did have a vision for our community, and that five-year plan was presented to the government. From there, we addressed some of those issues that are seen today.
The Premier did hear about some of the more serious issues while on his tour. He held a meeting in the community and he heard about the dumpsite and the sewage lagoon that are near our community, and the environmental hazards that they cause every spring. Especially after the ice breakup and when the snow is melting, a lot of the seepage goes into the Porcupine River, and that is very much a concern to the people of Old Crow. This government has heard about it for the last three years and has yet to address that issue on behalf of our community. I donít see that reflected in the budget before us.
Affordable housing is also a concern in Old Crow. Many of the rural communities in the Yukon have a housing shortage. Many of our families have to live together. Maybe four, five or six members of one family live together in a two-bedroom home. How healthy is that? A lot of the young adults in our community would like to become more independent and yet there is no housing available for them. That leads to other social concerns in the community.
Another concern that was mentioned was climate change. We know the impact and the effect that climate change has in the north, and more especially for our trappers and for our hunters. The impact is felt during the harvest season for animals and during the trapping season.
Our community members who practise this traditional way of life and are experts in this area can give you information on how much impact that climate change has on our traditional way of life. What is this government doing about it? How are we going to address this concern on behalf of people in the north?
Another concern that this government heard about is the nuclear plant that is being planned in Galena, Alaska, and the impact of such a plant on the Yukon River, especially on the fish and wildlife, is huge to the people of the Yukon.
We know the impacts that are out there today regarding the salmon issue. This summer, we have finally been able to do some salmon fishing in the communities along our rivers. Thatís because we had to take some responsibility in previous years to make sure they donít overharvest, so the numbers can grow each year. I know that the community of Old Crow has taken that responsibility very seriously.†
Another concern that came out of the community was in the area of coal-bed methane. That wasnít a surprise to me, even though the coal-bed methane issue is in the traditional territory of Na Cho Nyšk Dun.
These decisions that will be made by this Yukon Party government will impact people of the Yukon Territory, not only in certain little areas or various traditional territories. The decisions that are made in regard to resource development by the Yukon Party will impact the Yukon people for the rest of our lives.
That brings me to one of the more serious concerns on the minds of people in my community today. It seems that I ruffled some feathers yesterday in Question Period in that regard. For three years, Iíve asked this Yukon Party government to be more vocal. Iíve asked the Premier of the Yukon to use his office, the most senior office in the Yukon Territory, to speak on behalf of Yukon people in regard to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with very little success.
He can stand in a lineup and shake the Presidentís hand and have a one-minute comment; he can attend many, many oil and gas conferences across Canada and the United States; he has those opportunities to make a clear statement on behalf of Yukon people, and those windows of opportunity were lost.
Now weíre down to the last few days, where only a handful of votes will make the difference, and that will have an impact on the Gwichíin people for the rest of our lives.
Mr. Speaker, Iím talking here on behalf of the people who do not have a voice in this Assembly.
The people out there are so very, very concerned, and when they talk about the impacts of the decision that may affect the Porcupine caribou herd and the possibility of oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it brings tears to their eyes. We think about the children ó the way the elders put it is about the children who walk around at our feet today, and especially for those who are not yet born ó† and that is why this issue is so very important. There is no room for politics with the Porcupine caribou herd issue. What weíre talking about is a centuries-old tradition, and we have very little support from this Yukon Party government. For that, I feel very sad. However, that is how government works sometimes. That is the reality of today. We can hear promises; they can make promises. They can make commitments, but when it comes time to step up to the plate and be counted and to show some leadership, theyíre not there.
I will move on to other issues that impact my riding. We are very concerned, Mr. Speaker, about social issues and social impacts in my community.
The social department at the First Nation level has taken a very active role. They have a plan in place, and weíd like to move forward. There have been many MOUs signed on behalf of Vuntut Gwitchin with this Yukon Party government that have addressed these very issues, but we have yet to see progress made on those.
I know one issue thatís constantly on the minds of people, because of the lack of resources ó both financial and human. We have asked this government time and again to fill a Yukon territorial government social worker position. We do need that to help address some of the social issues we have. That is reflected in one of the MOUs that has been signed on our behalf.
There are child welfare concerns. The Vuntut Gwitchin government has spent a lot of money addressing child welfare issues, yet thereís a review being done by this government that they say will address some of the concerns we have, yet the review is stalled. There was mention of a draft review coming out, but we have yet to see that.
People have a lot of hope that some of these issues will be addressed through speaking and making public statements and sharing their very deep concerns.
Some of our children are in Whitehorse and some of the family had to travel to Whitehorse at their own expense to attend court and to make sure that they are available, to make sure that their comments are taken into consideration so that our children donít get lost in the whole process. That is very important; that is a priority.
Education is also a priority for people in our territory. Thereís also a reform that is supposed to be taking place on behalf of this Yukon Party government. They held a conference a month or so back, and at that conference there were views taken from all the communities throughout the territory. How long is that going to take? The Yukon Party government is constantly saying that they are addressing all these key issues on behalf of Yukoners. But it is caught up in a long process. Where do we see the end? Where is the end product ó especially for the justice consultation? That is going to take another few years.
Mr. Speaker, I know my time is up right now. I would just like to say that our communities have a vision, and we would like to see our First Nation meet their vision for our communities, and thatís why we are here. We bring those concerns to the floor of this House on behalf of our constituents and we are going to continue to do that.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am pleased to speak to the supplementary budget for the government. I would like to note that the role of the two departments, Community Services and Highways and Public Works, is accomplishing the governmentís objectives. We want to promote sustainability and healthy communities by supporting local governments, community organizations and the volunteer sector, encouraging active living through sport and recreation, directly providing community services, planning, zoning, property assessment, taxation, infrastructure and land development.
We also want to protect safety through driver and vehicle programs, to provide community education opportunities through public library programs and to promote bilingual information services to the public and Yukon government departments.
We want to support the health, safety and protection of the public through programs such as the application of minimum building, electrical and mechanical codes, equitable and responsible employment practices, and orderly and accountable professional and commercial activity.
We want to protect the broad consumer interests through the provision of education, information and enforcement services. We want to assist and enable the communities and people to protect themselves from the threat of wildland fire, structural fire, and other emergencies or disasters, through the provision and administration of wildland fire, structural fire and emergency preparedness programs.
These are admirable goals, and Iíd like to spend a few minutes reviewing our progress in accomplishing them. First, I would like to thank the dedicated department officials who translated these goals into reality. While I could draw an example from any one of the branches, I will pick one from my first goal, which is to promote sustainability and healthy communities by supporting local governments.
Earlier this year, community development branch officials sacrificed evenings and long weekends to make the gas tax deal a reality.
Without their dedication and determination, this $37.5-million deal would not have occurred. Iím pleased to have such excellent staff supporting the government and me, as minister, in this course.
I could also cite similar examples of dedication above and beyond the call of duty from other branches: protective services, consumer and safety services and from the Department of Community Services.
The community development branch is working with communities and the federal government to deliver fiscal improvements through three infrastructure-related funds. The municipal rural infrastructure fund commits Canada and the Yukon to each make $16 million available over each year for the next four years. The Canadian strategic infrastructure fund is nationally allocated monies, 50:50, between Canada and Yukon. Over the next five years in Yukon, $80 million will be spent on highways, waterfront developments in Whitehorse and Carcross, and water and sewer projects throughout the Yukon.
The new gas tax money will flow $37.5 million in funding over the next five years. In the 2005-06 fiscal year, the Community Services department has continued to focus on building healthy and safe communities through investments in critical infrastructure and community-based improvements. We accomplish these goals by improving the buildings available to these communities. For example, in Mayo, this means a new recreation centre or, in Marsh Lake, a new community centre, which is currently underway.
In other areas, this means new and expanded fire halls. Mendenhall just recently had a new fire hall. Weíre working with concerned municipalities and First Nations to address their concerns as they come about, and all are based on demonstrated need.
We also accomplish our goals by adding resources, such as new boats, fire trucks and other equipment to other communities throughout the Yukon.
The department remains committed to doing its part in rebuilding the economy and fostering strong relationships between governments. Community Services is focused on working with our local communities to improve the quality of life. For some places, this means improving the level of services available over the Internet, which we are achieving through our local libraries. Weíre also responsible for ensuring the safety of our communities from forest fires, floods and other natural disasters. We work with the communities to ensure emergency planning and training activities are current and meet the needs of the community.
Community Services also has a responsibility for testing and licensing Yukon drivers. Our consumer and safety services branch ensures the qualifications of the professionals as well as protecting consumersí interest in commercial activity in the territory. These are but a few of the roles Community Services provides the territory with pride and dedication toward improving the quality of life for all Yukoners.
We also play a major role in long-term capital planning, economic stimulation and job creation through the many community infrastructure projects we undertake. Many infrastructure and similar construction projects are currently underway, and many of the people in firms that work in the construction and development industry are busy and can only take on so much work.
People in businesses are very busy. Our private sector is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, as evidenced by the number of job postings in the newspapers. As many will note, in our local newspaper there are several employment ads from outside of the Yukon, looking for skilled labourers here in the Yukon.
Some material costs are increasing beyond estimates that were made when the planning of these projects were completed. Despite these challenges, projects are still moving ahead, Yukoners are gainfully employed, and the improvements are being made to our communities.
Mr. Speaker, we are in the midst of our decade of sport and culture. There is a great deal of excitement and anticipation for the approaching 2007 Canada Winter Games. The host society is currently making good progress in bringing new sponsors for the games and promoting Whitehorse as the place to be during February and March of 2007.
All around us are examples of preparation for the games, such as the recent grand opening of the multiplex, the Canada Games Centre. It is now open for Yukoners and for visitors to enjoy the facilities therein.
These are not investments in just sporting or cultural facilities; they are investments in people, investments in active living and health-conscious programs. The investments we made into sport infrastructure are easy to see. The investments we make in future athletes are no less important. They just show themselves in different ways.
Over and above our commitment to increase the kids recreation fund, this supplementary provides a fully recoverable $52,000 in the pan-territorial bilateral funding agreement, which includes the Best Ever program. The Best Ever program helps our young athletes improve their skills in preparation for high-level competition in their chosen sport. It helps coaches improve their skills and, subsequently, our young athletes to do better in the games.
Also, Mr. Speaker, we are increasing our O&M supplementary of $92,000 for grant-in-lieu of taxes, which benefits recipients in municipalities. On the revenue side, the department estimates a $172,000 increase in general property tax as a result of assessment increases associated with new buildings and renovations.
Business and corporate licensing will witness a revenue increase of $400,000 due to the impact of security regulations under the national registration database and increased filings under the system for electronic document analysis and retrieval ó or SEDAR, as it is called in the short form.
Also, we are making changes in the capital expenditures and recoveries. Iím requesting a revote of $185,000 for systems and related infrastructure projects that werenít completed in the previous fiscal year.
The bulk of this, $299,000, will continue to be the development of the integrated motor vehicles system, which will improve the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of the driver record, motor vehicle registration and interprovincial records exchange components of the system. We will be investing in our library system development and other various upgrades to allow for the delivery of quality customer services for all Yukoners.
Iím also happy to report that the last yearís fire season was not as dramatic as the one in 2004; however, there were a continual number of fires in the Mayo and Dempster Highway areas throughout the summer. The fire management branch effectively and successfully carried out the required fire suppression activities in those areas.
The FireSmart program is making a positive difference in many Yukon communities. I am sure members opposite are seeing the effects in their communities throughout the Yukon. In fact there was recently a letter in the paper from the west Dawson residents praising the program.†
The department is also seeking an increase of $10.6 million to the sport and recreation budget for the development of the athletes village project.
Completion of the Ross River community hall requires an additional revote. We are in the final completion stages of that community centre for that individual community in this fiscal year.
As announced already in the House previously, we are going to put some money into the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture to advance their facilityís development.
Also, the domestic well program is becoming more popular as rural Yukoners become more familiar with the program and how it can serve their needs for developing a potable water well on their property. Since the launch of the program, Community Services has received more than 125 inquiries. Fifty-two applications have been processed, at an average cost of about $19,000 per well. Iím asking for an increase of $189,000 to complete the approved well projects that were delayed due to weather and ground conditions at the time. The funding program is fully recoverable through the property taxation process.
Mr. Speaker, itís no secret that Community Services is very busy with a number of key projects in virtually every Yukon community. We are requesting funding in the amount of $193,000 for water supply treatment and storage projects. Weíre looking at improvements in other small, non-incorporated communities to assist in their access to potable water.
On the sewage treatment disposal list of projects, we are reducing the budgets by $1.5 million because we have the option of taking the Carmacks sewage plant upgrade project funding through the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund.
Weíve also increased our current fund to the Mayo dike protection project to advance the completion date to the fiscal year rather than 2006-07, as planned. We are looking to increase the roads and streets upgrading funding to help revote and complete Hamilton Boulevard.
Extraordinary funding of $1.3 million for the Mayo community centre and $444,000 for the Teslin sewer main project is provided in the supplementary.
Mr. Speaker, we have not progressed as we had planned and as we would have liked by putting more land on the market. As most of you are aware, there have been delays associated with increased consultation with area residents, acquisition or required zoning amendments.
Taking into account relatively minor increases, the land development budget will in total be reduced by $2.3 million; most will be related to the Whitehorse Copper subdivision development. Project work is planned to take place in the upcoming year.
On this particular issue, we submitted our program to the City of Whitehorse. The City of Whitehorse Council made a change in the submission, which delineated a certain access point, which was considered an important element by the engineers for that development. As such, we went back to the city and asked them to reconsider that particular aspect. In addition, the city did reconsider that particular process and weíre now moving ahead on the whole project. But again, due to the delay incurred there, we are a little bit behind schedule.
I would like to emphasize also that some of the leading reasons for the slower-than-planned progress of community-based projects can be attributed to our fast-growing economy, which creates gaps in the supply and demand. That makes it difficult to get required project resources on time. We could move ahead with some of the projects by attracting Outside firms. However, we would like to keep the facilities within the Yukon, so weíre looking at delaying some of the projects or looking at the increased value of some of them and making them go ahead.
However, as stated, weíre looking to try to improve the Yukon economy and quality of life for its people who live here by providing increased employment opportunities. Projects are put out to tender in component parts so that the local contractors are not overwhelmed and can bid on them locally.
In many ways, weíre wrestling with the success of the growing economy, and our local resources are engaged on a number of projects. I can say without hesitation that the Department of Community Services strives to deliver quality services and programs but also significantly contribute to simulating our economy.
Now, I would like to speak to the progress we have made in the Department of Highways and Public Works in the last year, which has been remarkable. This progress is the result of our comprehensive strategy to strengthen the foundation of the fiscal, economic and social future of Yukon. Considering that the Department of Highways and Public Works expends one of the largest budgets within the government, I am very proud to say that our objectives in building our territory are on course and greatly contributing to the future of the Yukon.
Iíd like to inform the House of some of the highlights. In relation to operation and maintenance, an additional $750,000 has been added to our budget in order to improve highway maintenance, which will enhance the level of winter service through the territory, thereby providing greater service to our rural Yukoners. Its main focus is also to assist with auxiliary employees.
In keeping with the growing need to secure government IT infrastructure and the data in cases of emergency, an additional $288,000 will be spent for our connect on business communities.
Iím aware that the Member for Porter Creek South has asked me on a number of occasions, both inside and outside the Assembly, about the present MDMRS system, which is coming to the end of its useful life. The government is working on replacing this most modern and efficient communication system within the Yukonís history.
In terms of capital projects, the department has continued dedication to the people of the Yukon over the year. At this time, I wish to highlight just a few of the significant accomplishments we have. We have worked on improving the Whitehorse Airport CATSA renovations; the Alaska Highway is a critical international highway, and we are working closely with our partners in the United States to ensure long-term funding is maintained, and we have now received a commitment from the U.S.A. on continued funding in the years to come for the Alaska Highway.
In addition, we are making additional improvements to the Klondike Highway, additions to the Dempster, making improvements on the bridges ó
I see I have two minutes. I will try to wrap up here.
Weíre making improvements to our aviation and airports throughout the Yukon as a priority, depending on what they are.
We are working on the potable water system throughout the Yukon for the services that we provide water for. We are working with French Language Services to develop a secretariat for them. We anticipate that will be done very shortly.
We have made significant improvements through both my departments to assist the welfare of Yukon for all Yukoners. I look forward to the members oppositeís comments.
†Mr. Hassard: I rise today to add my support to the 2005-06 supplementary budget. Earlier today, Mr. Speaker,† you ruled, I believe, on a comment made yesterday about someone needing to get out more. Interestingly enough, my own notes had a similar comment. I hope that my context is not ruled out of order, as I was thinking of the leader of the opposition needing to get out more; however, I was thinking of getting out to the communities more, so I hope that you will allow that.
The reason I say that is because I believe that the majority of the people in my riding see things much differently from the way he does. He truly needs to get out of his madness-and- misery mode, because, I donít believe that is whatís going on out there.
Normally I donít get into responding to comments from the other side, but this time I really canít help myself. I canít help but notice that in his comments yesterday, he spoke of a rise in public sector spending in recent budgets, but he didnít take into account the devolution process that has taken place in recent years.
When YTG absorbs a large number of federal employees, we absorb the cost that goes with that, so our budgets are obviously increased to take care of that. Unfortunately the leader of the official opposition neglected to take that into account.
He also spoke of a report that showed that New Democrat governments spend less than Liberal or Conservative governments. I can almost believe him because, after the election in 1996, the people started to leave, and what would be the reason for the government spending money if there are no people here? Itís pretty obvious whatís going to happen.
I also noted yesterday that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun spoke about the protected areas strategy. He kept saying that we killed it, or they killed it, or somebody killed it, and thatís true, but we did not kill the protected areas strategy. I truly believe the people of the Yukon killed the protected areas strategy.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order, Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, listening to the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin talking about all the killing going on makes me wonder if thatís not in violation of the Standing Order 19 ó Iím just looking for the clause. Itís about violent language, Mr. Speaker. I recall when the Standing Orders were revised a few years ago and your predecessor enforced this, that the words ďkillĒ and ďkillingĒ were not parliamentary. Weíve heard a lot of it from the Yukon Party.
Speaker: Iíve heard enough, thanks. In this context, as sensitive as I am to the memberís comments, I donít believe it is of a violent or aggressive nature, but I thank the Member for Kluane for pointing that out and I will listen with a vigilant ear to the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin.
Mr. Hassard: † Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I apologize if I offended anyone using the term. Perhaps I can use the term ďshelvedĒ ó weíll leave it there, and thatís exactly what this government will do. Weíll leave it on the shelf.
I noted yesterday that members opposite said that the Yukon Party should take no credit for any increase in mining activity and that it is only about metal prices. Unfortunately I have a hard time believing that, when all around us three years ago there was a great deal of mining activity ó the Northwest Territories and Alaska, on each side of us ó and there were jobs aplenty.
Also, the members opposite didnít take into account that, yes, as the value of gold rose, what about the fact that the Canadian dollar also rose against the U.S. dollar. If you talk to the people in the placer industry, theyíll tell you that itís offset, very close. There is no greater income derived from placer mining than there was three years ago. So I think the members opposite are wrong and we are doing things to help industry. I believe we are making a difference, and I believe that the investors are happier to deal with the Yukon Party government than with an NDP government or a Liberal government.
Now, I also heard that the price of houses was rising in the territory, but only in Whitehorse, and I donít believe that that is the truth. I believe that Marsh Lake is outside of Whitehorse. Iím quite sure that the price of houses in Marsh Lake is rising, and I believe that the price of houses in Faro has risen in the last three years. Maybe not to the same degree in Faro as they have in Whitehorse, Iíll admit to that. But itís certainly not the doom and gloom that the opposition has been talking about.
My riding has benefited greatly from this governmentís budgeting process. First of all, anyone driving between Carmacks and Ross River or Faro can see that we are listening to the concerns of people up there. We have provided the funds to reconstruct the highway and turn an ailing piece of infrastructure into a nice chip-sealed road that is certainly a pleasure to drive over, compared to what it was. It can always be improved more, if the Minister of Highways and Public Works would like to open his wallet ó why, Iíll be more than happy to offer some suggestions on where he can spend more money.
Speaking of Faro, it is interesting that they are working hard at becoming a holiday destination: perhaps a change from what Faro has been recognized for in the past. It was difficult to do when the motorhomes had to travel across this muddy gravel road ó I donít have the appetite to take a several hundred thousand dollar motorhome up a muddy trail. It is not what I would want to do if I had such a vehicle. So I know that the residents of Faro are certainly appreciative of having that infrastructure repaired.
I would like at this time to comment on the fantastic work the people of Faro have done in renewing their image ó I guess you would say. A great deal of credit must go to the municipal government and of course to the townspeople themselves. For those of you who havenít been there recently, it certainly is cleaner and greener than it has ever been before, I would guess. Interestingly enough, I was there this summer and took part in the annual golf tournament. Hopefully I wonít get reprimanded for my next comments, but I did have the pleasure of playing on a team with our Sergeant-at-Arms, and I must say what a pleasure that was.
Iím not sure we won anything, but we certainly had fun.
I also notice that there were so many teams from out of town registered that the local teams had to play during the week because it was too full during the weekend. It was a very exciting time in Faro.
One of the things that Faro has spoken in favour of, in contrast to the leader of the official opposition, was the feasibility study of the railroad. I believe that the community of Faro is very supportive of this initiative. They even went so far as to send a delegate to a recent conference in Prince George to learn more about this topic, and given the tremendous potential in resource development around Faro and Ross River, it is understandable why. It is quite conceivable that the railroad would pass near these communities. Given that there is a lot of past history of mining in the area, it is likely that the future holds some of the same. Iím sure that the people there would look forward to a railroad coming by, perhaps making it more viable to access some of those resources.
Mr. Speaker, Ross River, being situated where itís at, can sometimes, by some people, be out of sight, out of mind. However, I donít feel that this government has treated it that way. I think weíve done a great deal of work to try to ensure that the people of Ross River have received their share ó I guess you would call it that ó of what the government has been doing in the past three years.
I am pleased to say that the new community centre there is now up and running and providing a safer and more usable space for the daycare as well as many other groups. Three years ago when I first went there, it was made very clear to me that the daycare was in a building that really wasnít suitable. In fact, the fire inspector was asking for a sprinkler system to be installed. Unfortunately, the price for installing a sprinkler system in an existing older building was just cost prohibitive. It made a lot more sense to build a new building that many townspeople had been asking for, and put some space in there for the daycare.
Iím pleased to say that that is, as of a few short weeks ago, now a reality. And I would like to thank the minister and the government departments responsible and the employees who did all the hard work to ensure that this facility was made available.
I also noticed that a recent tender was let to allow for the repair of the footbridge over the Pelly River near the ferry crossing. Now, that wasnít a big-dollar contract, by any means, but to the people of Ross River it is a vital piece of infrastructure. I think anyone who is perhaps hunting up the North Canol or stuck on the other side of the bridge when the ferry shut down would have to agree that we donít really want to be without some form of access across the river. So I know that Iíve had comments from the community that people are appreciative of that and look forward to the work being done. Itís certainly a high priority.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak for a minute about where I call home, and thatís the community of Teslin. This summer has certainly been a busy construction season there, with the construction of a nearly $2-million sewer force main. The money was secured under the municipal rural infrastructure fund. The town was a proponent and took over the project and made best efforts to hire local people and local contractors. I think that, in speaking to many members of the community, they are very pleased with how that has gone. It is nearing completion. Given the weather outside, I hope that theyíre working hard at it today.
This project ó itís interesting that some people may see it just as a construction project and the government spending money to put people to work, but I see it a little bit differently. Itís 20 years ago that the lagoons were built and there was an original plan to have the sewage force main there, but it never got done, and the community has witnessed several spills of effluent. They have had to deal with a truck rumbling up and down the road every other day ó nobody has been in fear of this particular vehicle or anything, but there are environmental issues. The Member for Kluane called it the honey wagon. I believe that is what it has been called in the past. But I think the people of Teslin truly feel better, knowing that the truck wonít be a risk as it may have been in the past.
The government has also committed $1 million for the Teslin hockey arena. The tender has been let. I donít know the results of the tender. Weíre certainly looking forward to getting artificial ice this year. I know the town has purchased the ice plant. It will provide artificial ice for the curling rink and the hockey arena. Itís something that, like the sewage system, has long been on the wish list, if you will, of Teslin people, and Iím certainly pleased to see that itís coming to fruition.
Mr. Speaker, I think a quick trip through Teslin and a drive by the museum to see the recent upgrades done there, some of the FireSmart, a new ball diamond ó Teslin has truly done its homework and held us as the government accountable, and I think we have done our part to ensure the people there have been supported.
I could go on at length about my own community, because itís where I spent 30 years plus, and it is where I call home. I would like to recap a little bit whatís going on across the territory.
This government has been working to revitalize, diversify and expand the Yukonís economy. Since the election in 2002, there are approximately 2,500 more Yukoners working. The unemployment rate has dropped to a historic low of 4.8 percent and is one of the lowest in Canada.
The Yukonís population has increased. Retail sales and housing prices are increasing and mining exploration in the territory has increased by over $43 million. Mr. Speaker, all and all, I would say that itís a positive time in the Yukon.
I look forward to hearing comments from other members.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Mr. McRobb: I donít see the Premier present, so there wonít be a question soon.
I would like to start with some general comments.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Minister of Economic Development, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I believe referring to the absence of members from the House is not permitted in this Assembly.
Speaker: Yes, point of order well made. Member for Kluane, you know better than that.
Mr. McRobb: I certainly do, Mr. Speaker. I was just seeing if the honourable member was awake across the way there.
I would like to start off with some general comments. First of all, I want to address this issue of all these MOUs from this government. I have never seen so many memoranda of understanding, or whatever they want to call them, from any government before. The Premier even brought a binder down here the other day that he said was full of these MOUs.
There needs to be a moment of check on what is happening here, because this government has gone past the line of reason with respect to MOUs and it has gotten right out of hand. People across the Yukon are beginning to see through this governmentís intentions. Obviously it backs up what people are saying about how this government is all talk and no action. I would just refer to todayís Question Period, for example, about some more recent examples of all talk and no action that were raised.
The government, in signing these MOUs, uses First Nations and organizations and others as political pawns to achieve press conferences and publicity. People are beginning to see through that.†
Speaker: The Member for Kluane using the expression ďthe government is using individuals as political pawnsĒ is liable to cause discord. Itís clearly out of order, and I would ask the honourable member not to do that, please.
Mr. McRobb: Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Speaker.
Also, letís talk about the spending this government has been engaged in recently. Weíve seen record budgets that arenít sustainable. The government has even admitted the spending is not sustainable. The spending has been spiked much higher due to an infusion of federal dollars. For instance, the Canada Winter Games funding and some other projects ó increased health care dollars ó have spiked the budgets beyond a sustainable amount.
So many people are beginning to wonder what will happen to the territory in the future. There are rumours about decreased funding in the way of the transfer payment and other payments made from Ottawa to the territory, and people are becoming very concerned.
So the government is not adequately addressing the shortfall that could happen sooner than a lot of people expect. As we heard yesterday, the prospect of a federal election is a lot closer on the radar screen than was envisioned, and heaven forbid, should the Conservatives win, thereís a great likelihood the territory would have to make do with far less of a contribution from Ottawa.
That makes the fall even harder.
Now letís look at what the Yukon Party promised in its campaign. It promised to get away from the Yukon dependency on federal dollars, but in fact weíve seen the opposite come true. The territorial governmentís dependency on federal dollars has increased.
We also heard from this government, at least in the first year, about the big bad trajectory and how it used the trajectory as an excuse to cut spending in its first year in office.† Iíll give you a specific example, one that comes from my riding.
The top priority project in the region was the facility for seniors and elders. All the candidates from all parties agreed that it was a top priority at the candidates forum during the election campaign, so I presume the Yukon Party was well aware of this. But to ensure they were, I personally communicated this priority to the Premier elect within three days of the last election. Iíve mentioned it at practically every opportunity since then and weíve seen no movement. In fact, a makeshift study commissioned by the Minister of Health and Social Services that he kept under wraps until the last sitting day in the spring sitting of the Legislature showed there was no need for a facility for another five years. At the public meeting when he was lambasted by the seniors and other members of the public, he relented and moved that review up to three years. But lo and behold, when the Premier was there last month, he took an entirely different position. Now, this was related to my question today, Mr. Speaker ó that it is confusing where this government stands.
As far as the spending goes in its first year, it didnít hesitate to announce seniors facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City within a few months of becoming elected. I believe the date of that announcement was March 6, 2003. What should have happened, Mr. Speaker, is there should have been an announcement of three facilities, because clearly there were three regions in the territory that were all generally equally deserving of such a facility. Instead, only the Premierís riding and the Deputy Premierís riding were served, and thatís not fair government. Iíve talked about that before. It seems we keep getting back to fairness in government, and there are lots of examples to justify that concern. So, given the Premierís recent statements of how the government is trying to work with seniors at the last minute, there must be an election coming soon. It reminds me of the old saying about deathbed repentance.
Letís talk about consultation from this government. The Yukon Party promised meaningful public consultation on matters important to Yukoners, but what matters has it consulted Yukoners about? Well, Mr. Speaker, mostly on trivial matters, mostly on matters that really arenít all that important to the public. The government has only consulted on matters it wants to consult people about. It hasnít consulted on matters that are important to many people. Iíll give you an example. It killed the Yukon protected areas strategy, Mr. Speaker. It killed it, outright ó outright killed it. Now that thatís parliamentary and that has been established, I can frequently use the word. That is contrary to what it promised.
It promised it would review the YPAS, and so on and so forth, but instead it came out and killed it. What really happened?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The members find this amusing. I could think of hundreds, if not thousands, of Yukoners who donít find it amusing at all. Itís contrary to what it promised.
Letís look at what really happened upstairs. If you look at what really happened, you get an insight into what this version of a Yukon Party government is really like. It hired the chief opponent to the strategy as its chief of staff. It met in the backroom to discuss its position. A position was determined and that decision was announced. So it consulted in the backroom only among its MLAs and staff. It didnít talk to the public about this, even though it campaigned publicly during the election campaign on something entirely different. Weíve seen this time and time again, how the Yukon Party really consults with its own ilk with respect to important matters to Yukoners, and thatís contrary to its consultation promise.
What about consulting on the railroad? We saw the Premier flip out $3 million from his pocket last May ó of public money, Iíll clarify ó to join in the railroad study with his idol, Governor Murkowski from Alaska. Was there any consultation on this? Absolutely none ó no meaningful consultation or any consultation at all.
This whole railroad project ó this government has really gone out of its way to milk that one, and itís a dry cow. There is no proponent. The government is creating a big illusion, raising the expectations of Yukoners and others, including readers of Time Magazine, I might add, that there is going to be a railroad through the Yukon. Well, where is the proponent? Where is the company or entity that will operate the railroad, Mr. Speaker? Because it will be a multi-billion-dollar-a-year operation, there must be a proponent somewhere in the haystack. But where is it? I think that if somebody started searching, they would find the needle first. There is no proponent.
What about consultation on the Alaska Highway pipeline project? Well, Mr. Speaker, there has been none of that either ó none. The Yukon Partyís position on this matter has been somewhat schizophrenic over the years. In opposition, it demanded that the project should precede the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. In its campaign, it changed its position. It softened the competitive nature of the two pipelines and conceded first place to the Northwest Territories and decided it would be satisfied by picking up the scraps of the pipeline. It said, ďWell, we will shoot for the Dempster lateral to tap into Yukon gas.Ē We have heard that line over and over, Mr. Speaker. When the government releases its calls for nominations on oil and gas leases, letís say, in the Peel Plateau, it talks about this Dempster lateral. But, do you know what, Mr. Speaker? Nobody else is ever talking about the Dempster lateral.
I recently spoke to someone who is participating in the N.W.T. hearing process and inquired about the significance of this project. I was told that itís nowhere on the radar screen. Nobody is talking about this Dempster lateral.
He says itís pie in the sky; itís a smokescreen; itís an illusion. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, it appears to be just that. When you think about it, you think about all the huge pools of natural gas that have been discovered in the Northwest Territories and the potential for further discoveries, and you think about the capacity of that smaller pipeline ó well, guess what? The useful life of that pipeline will be sucked up just trying to deliver the gas they have over there, never mind trying to build a new spur off into the Yukon and trying to tap into smaller pools of gas here. Whatís their interest there?
Meanwhile, the Yukon Party is holding this charade up as something itís working on, and itís spending millions of dollars of taxpayersí money now to intervene. Weíre paying lawyers, consultants and others to intervene, only to try to prop up this governmentís position on this Dempster lateral, to try to make it look good.
Well, Mr. Speaker, itís wonderful to finally have the opportunity to drag this one out of the closet, and there are a lot more skeletons with respect to this governmentís position on the pipeline. Those will be coming out in the near future, as well.
So there is lots to talk about. I want to talk about something several of the members across the way have boasted about during this second reading opportunity, and that is this well-drilling program the Yukon Party is taking credit for launching. My first comment: you know, the NDP had a similar program 15 years ago, and it was a better program.
I recall some specifics of it. It allowed up to $7,500 to Yukoners for water or sewer projects, and it contributed 20 percent of the equity of the amount granted per year. So, in essence, if a homeowner took up the program for the full amount of $7,500 and continued to live at that location for another five years, nothing would have to be repaid. Wow, thatís a great program. This government, however, demands every penny back, with interest, and it is a much different project, yet it ballyhoos this program as being better than sliced bread. Well, a lot has been sliced, Mr. Speaker, but it isnít bread.
Now, even before the government announced the program, we were making constructive suggestions for improvement. We suggested it include small business operators. Did the government respond? Yes, it responded, but it said no. The government has ignored our suggestions to include small business operators. I can think of one example, where the operators of a particular business have gone public, and that is the Bear Creek Lodge, just about five miles west of Haines Junction, Mr. Speaker. This government has forced new regulations through on a lot of businesses, and it required the owners of this particular business to upgrade, and it was insistent that those upgrades occur within a short period of time and at their expense.
It wasnít until after I met with the Minister of Health and Social Services that he conceded and it allowed them more time in which to comply. But even then, Mr. Speaker, they still have to pay for all these upgrades themselves. That is the thanks we give to these long-time operators who are elderly people, who have served our tourists and served Yukoners for years, trying to eke out a living in a highway lodge.
There is another one that has come up recently, which is the Koidern River Lodge, and it is a very similar situation. The operators there have eked out a living for 38 years. They are deserving of recognition from this government. They should get a medal for what theyíve done. Instead, this government is running them out of business with these tough regulations. It offers no parachute, no soft landing for them. It had the opportunity to do so by expanding this well program to sewer, as we suggested. But, you know, weíve learned on this side that no matter how many constructive suggestions we make, the government time and time again only listens to itself and those allowed into the backroom of this Yukon Party government. Thatís about it. It doesnít listen to anybody else. Itís ďmy way or the highwayĒ. That seems to be the theme of this government.
I note that my time is running out. Thatís too bad because there is a lot more that I wish to say.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The Premier is suggesting that I could have more time. Is that allowed, Mr. Speaker?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)†
Mr. McRobb: No? Well, there is another failed promise, Mr. Speaker. I shouldnít be surprised. Iím getting used to it by now.
Anyway, there is a lot more that I hoped to get around to today. I think one of the major issues that Yukoners are concerned about with regard to this government is ethics. That has not been addressed. Itís about ethical government. They are very concerned. That supersedes the economic recovery that the territory has witnessed to a certain extent.
But I will add that economic recovery isnít happening in the Yukon communities. It is happening in Whitehorse. If you go out to the communities, you will see unemployment, you will see that property values have not increased, and there are a number of concerns in the communities that this Yukon Party government is continuing to ignore.
And what about the need for regional economic development? Well, whatís going to happen ó my timeís out? Thank you.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, itís my honour and my pleasure to rise today to support this supplementary budget. Iím glad to see that the hard work of the ministers, the deputy ministers ó indeed, all government employees ó is paying off and that we have achieved a sound fiscal position while investing in the social and economic fabric of the Yukon.
Well, once again we see an increase in the budget, and Yukoners have seen territorial budgets grow in the last few years. In fact, I would expect that every budget is bigger than the one before it. But we did see this last budget take a very significant increase. This, Mr. Speaker, is due in great part to devolution. Yukoners are aware that when the Government of Yukon took over the additional responsibilities from the federal government, it also received additional funding to make this possible. As the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin has just explained, our budget has increased, and a great deal is because of devolution and our increased responsibilities.
Additionally, through the hard work of the government, funding has increased for health care and the Yukon is receiving a more appropriate share from Canada. In turn, these additional revenues are being responsibly invested in the Yukon to respond to the identified needs of the territory. Mr. Speaker, I can see every one of the opposition membersí heads nodding in agreement. Every member thatís over there is agreeing vehemently with me.
In turn, Mr. Speaker, these additional revenues are being responsibly invested in the Yukon to respond to the identified needs of the territory. Mr. Speaker, I believe Iím hearing cheers now, coming from the opposition benches. Every member in here is loudly supporting this.
Mr. Speaker, the territory is in a good financial position. We expect to end the year with a forecasted surplus of $17 million and the accumulated surplus is expected to be over $430 million. A shout of hoorah, I believe, is heard from the opposition.
Mr. Speaker, the government is managing the territory responsibly and in the best interest of Yukoners. There is more money being saved for a rainy day, and there is more money being invested to ensure a prosperous future. The government is investing in necessary infrastructure. The government is investing in necessary programs, and the government is investing in necessary services.
The results, Mr. Speaker ó letís take a look at the results. Letís look at how the territory is doing. The population is rebounding. People are moving back to the territory. Our children are staying here. Families are staying together. I think that probably every one of us, when we were out campaigning three short years ago, knocked on a door to find someone whose spouse was working Outside, that they had been unable to find a job in the territory. Well, an awful lot of those folks are working at home now, and I am glad to see that families are able to stay together.
More people are working ó the labour force is up. Private sector investment in the territory has increased. Average weekly earnings are up. Investments are being made and actions are being taken to strengthen our social fabric.
Now, what is the vision of the opposition? What do they want? Do they want a decrease in employment? Do they want to see the 17-percent increase in education budgets decreased? Do they want to see the recommendations of the substance abuse action plan put on a shelf? Do they want to see the value of Yukonersí houses decreased? Do they want to turn back to the way things were three years ago?
Mr. Speaker, what kind of future do they want? Is it one where no development is permitted? I for one am getting very tired of the ďjust say no; just oppose because we-are-the-oppositioní attitude.Ē Weíve heard the opposition say no too many times. Build a new school in Carmacks ó just say no. Bring the train back to Carcross ó just say no. Send a Yukoner to vet school ó just say no, Drill another gas well in southeast Yukon ó just say no. Develop residential lots for Yukoners ó just say no.
Buy a new four-by-four ambulance. Mr. Speaker, look outside. If you were coming in from outside the city core, would you want to be in a four-by-four ambulance or in a two-wheel-drive ambulance? We only have to look at the realities of the weather to know that four-by-four vehicles make sense in the Yukon.
What did the opposition say? And they even said it today ó just say no. Look at the feasibility of a railroad ó just say no. Now, the official opposition is saying no to building a school in Copper Ridge. Where is their vision? Where is the plan for a prosperous future for the Yukon, one where people can live, raise a family and enjoy our incredible quality of life?
This supplementary budget is just one more step in the right direction? It is the continued implementation of the Yukon Partyís plan and it keeps the momentum going. This budget invests in community service, in education, in justice, in health, in Yukoners. In Community Services, the budget invests in making the Canada Winter Games a success and it invests in meeting the infrastructure needs of our territory. The government has come up with a creative solution to a potentially game-threatening problem. Where were the athletes going to stay? Where was the host society going to house them? What was their plan?
This side of the Assembly believes that with every problem comes an opportunity. This side of the House recognized that there was a need for more student housing, a place where Yukoners with family could stay while attending school. We recognized the need for more affordable housing, recognized a need for another stimulus in our economy, a research centre. We came up with a strategy to resolve all the issues in time to ensure the success of the games. The opposition members want to discuss the semantics of the title of the budget item but I want to discuss how to solve the problem and bring benefits to Yukoners in time to ensure the success of the games.
Letís look at education. Yesterday, we heard the Liberal member say, ďThis government has built nothing in education.Ē Has the member read the budget? On page 6-4 under capital expenditures for Education, we see additional commitments in money for the Mayo school, the Eliza Van Bibber School, Vanier Catholic Secondary School, Porter Creek Secondary School, soccer field replacements and upgrades, Tantalus School replacement, Whitehorse Elementary School upgrades. We are seeing investments in distance education, in school-based equipment purchases and in school replacement of furniture. Weíre seeing increases in community training trust funds and student financial assistance systems.
The Government of Yukon is committed to providing Yukoners with greater optimism by providing a better future for our youth. Among the many measures weíve taken for education, weíve developed and implemented the Individual Learning Centre, an alternative path to achieving a high school diploma; weíve established a home school tutoring program in the communities; increased the Yukon student grant; increased the base funding of Yukon College by $1 million; encouraged enrolment in trades and technology by expanding the apprenticeship program; implemented optional full-day kindergarten; expanded late French immersion to include grades 6 and 7; revitalized Yukon aboriginal languages through the First Voices program and invested $500,000 into First Nation curriculum development; invested $100,000 for the Yukon literacy strategy; increased the Education budget overall by 17 percent to $105 million; injected $1 million for immediate, short-term needs as identified by school councils, First Nations and communities; restored the community training trust funds to $1.5 million, with $500,000 dedicated to pre-employment and trades training; increased First Nation support in schools by allocating more money to elders in the schools program and establishing a homework tutor program; and expanded the Yukon excellence awards to include math, science and language arts in grade 10.
I would ask all members: are these good things? Yukoners are saying they are. And they are going to lead to great outcomes.
The government is responding to needs in health, and when we receive the additional funds from the health access fund that this government has negotiated with Ottawa, weíll do more.
Letís look at what this budget does in Justice. One year ago, we debated in this Legislature a motion, and we agreed to it all. I believe there was unanimous support for the motion that this House calls upon the Government of Yukon to work in conjunction with all other levels of government in the Yukon to convene the territory-wide summit to develop a comprehensive action plan to combat substance abuse, which is a destructive growing force in both urban and rural areas of the Yukon.
It was a year ago that this motion was tabled, debated and unanimously agreed to. Well, Mr. Speaker, the government went to work on this. It went to work in further consultation, and it went to work in coming up with specific, concrete programs and ideas that could be implemented. Weíve seen the tabling of the Yukon substance abuse action plan, which I believe the Minister of Justice commented earlier today includes over 30 specific programs and projects. And, Mr. Speaker, I think weíre seeing wide support for it, because weíve even seen opposition members pull out one of the recommendations from page 17 and put it forward as a motion.
Mr. Speaker, this government, I believe in this budget, is putting $130,000 into supporting this new action plan and ensuring that these programs and projects go into effect and have the desired effect in the community. Now, Mr. Speaker, we need to get on with doing the peopleís business. Letís get going with keeping the territory going in the right direction, in the direction that Yukoners want. Mr. Speaker, letís hear some options. What would the opposition members do differently? Would they have increased funding to education and health? I donít see any heads nodding. Would they have focused on diversifying the economy? Would they have become pipeline ready? Would they have looked to the future by investing in projects like the railroad? Mr. Speaker, letís get an honest to goodness debate going. What different results do the opposition want? And what would they do differently?
The opposition has accused this government of reckless spending. What spending do they want to cut? What projects do they want stopped? What should be taken off the table? Mr. Speaker, the opposition has the power. They can move that a budget item be cut. They can tell Yukoners what they wouldnít spend on. In debate, they can put forward amendments to reduce budgets for health, for education, for the implementation of the substance abuse action plan. If they are really outraged by these expenditures, they can propose a change. Just saying no or opposing for the sake of opposition isnít an alternative.
Yukoners are asking themselves now: are they better off now than they were three years ago? They are saying yes. They are saying things like these: ďMy job is more secure; I am making more money; I am seeing investments in health; I am seeing improvements in education.Ē Seniors are seeing increases in the public utility grant. Employees are seeing fair contracts, not strikes. NGOs and not-for-profit organizations are seeing increases in funding and a government that is willing to work with them on resolving the issues and concerns of Yukoners. I canít think of one segment of the population or one group that hasnít substantially benefited.
This supplementary budget is just one more step in the right direction. Yukoners want to keep the momentum going, they want to see the continued investment in programs that matter. They want to continue to see the positive outcomes that are coming about. They want to continue to live in the Yukon, which is a place with incredible opportunities and an incredible quality of life.
Mr. Speaker, I commend this budget to the Assembly. I would like to see all members support it. That concludes my comments. I think this is a budget that everyone can support.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There doesnít appear to be a quorum present.
Speaker: According to Standing Order 3(2), if at any time during the sitting of the Assembly, the Speakerís attention is drawn to the fact ó
It has been brought to my attention by the Table Officers that in fact there is a quorum present. I leave the floor open to the next member wishing to speak.
You still have the floor, Member for Southern Lakes. You have four minutes left.
††††††† Mr. Rouble: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would just like to conclude my comments by saying that I commend this budget; it is a positive one; it is one that continues to take the territory in the right direction. If members do have substantial and significant differences with it, if they really want to see alternative investments, or alternative programs or a decrease in funding, I would encourage members to put those thoughts, opinions and motions forward. This is a place for open debate where we can discuss different ideas, and we have on many different occasions. We have discussed many different motions in this Assembly that have been amended or changed ó almost always for the better ó and have shown collaboration between both sides of this Assembly, including all parties. Weíve got the power to work together, because together we will do better.
I would like to thank all members for their attention.
Speaker: If the Hon. Premier speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: You know, Mr. Speaker, in listening to the debate over the last day and a half with respect to the supplementary budget, it leaves a question: how is it we are going to engage in a constructive debate with the members opposite? Thatís essentially to the detriment of the Yukon public. Because if you look in Hansard, if you listen to what the members opposite are saying, they have offered no alternative. They have made no realistic suggestion; they have spent a lot of time attacking the government side. Whatever it is they are trying to point out, we donít understand, nor do I think the public understands. But the point of this debate is to have a constructive discussion between the government side and the opposition benches on exactly what is happening in todayís Yukon with respect to our finances, with respect to the economy, with respect to issues that are important to Yukoners, like education, health care, the social safety net, tourism, film and sound industries, the IT sector, small business, access to capital, the mining sector, the oil and gas sector, the development of strategic industries. These are the discussions ó and many more ó that we should be having. Thatís the debate that we should be having.
Now, first, in dealing with the finances, weíve been hearing a lot from the opposition benches that, upon coming into office, the Yukon government had made the point that the trajectory of spending was not consistent with the finances that the territory had available. This is not something that the government side dreamed up. The facts are that, in 2002-03 when we came into office, the government was actually in an overdraft position to pay for programs and services to the Yukon public. What did we say? We said the first thing we were going to do is get a firm grip on the finances of this territory. We made the moves quickly to address the financial situation by first increasing it, which was an obvious decision that had to be made, considering that the Yukon, and indeed, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut ó the three territories ó were not receiving their fair share of what is distributed among all provinces. We were not receiving a fair share of the national purse. And we made that case. We also made the case that health care funding was insufficient. The federal government agreed, and we went further to make the case that we needed an economic development fund, like other provinces and other regions and jurisdictions have: the territorial health access fund, the increases in the territorial funding formula. It was all negotiated at the national level, including the infrastructure fund. All these funds, all these allocations of the resources, were negotiated at the national level through the Yukonís participation with the provinces and our sister territories in making the case to Ottawa. Ottawa, in recognizing that the evidence was clear, made sure that the appropriate allocations were coming north of the 60th parallel.
The minute we recognize what the real picture of the financial situation in the Yukon was and what it is today, then we can have a better debate with the opposition benches on why we are investing as we are, because we also said that, upon coming into office, we would stimulate ó increase the stimulus ó the Yukon economy to generate economic growth but, at the same time, we would be ensuring that we would be bringing forward policies and programs that would encourage the private sector to invest back in this territory ó in short, re-establishing investor confidence in the Yukon.
The members opposite have made the statement that this is all government money. Well, how can the members opposite make that statement without including the fact that there is an increase of millions upon millions of dollars in the mining sector, millions more in the oil and gas sector, tourism investment is obvious, investment in the IT sector from the private sector is obvious and the film and sound industry is obvious.
Talk to any bank in todayís Yukon and they will tell you that theyíve increased dramatically their access to capital for small business, which is, in turn, investing that back into projects here in the Yukon Territory. Thatís private sector, not government.
Mr. Speaker, real estate development is private sector development, where a huge amount of investment is coming forward into this territory. The increase in property values is not because of government spending; itís because of a growth in the population. Under the policies and programs of the NDP and Liberal governments, there wasnít a growth in population ó there was an exodus of the population. They were leaving here, Mr. Speaker. Thatís what this government has accomplished on that front.
Weíve stopped the exodus of the population, turned it around, and now the evidence is clear: our population is growing.
All of this begins with sound fiscal management. How can we debate with the members opposite fiscal management in any way when the leader of the official opposition openly and publicly admits that he is dumbfounded by the budget? Itís impossible to have that constructive debate with the members opposite based on that very statement. How can the members opposite call this a spending spree and say that we are breaking the territory, if they look at the balance sheet? Now, if youíre dumbfounded by the budget, that would lead one to conclude that understanding the balance sheet may be somewhat difficult, and I want to point out why Iím saying the territoryís finances are in no danger.
Not only have we increased the revenues overall, but we have also maintained a spending or investment pattern that is increasing our capital investment, putting Yukoners to work, thereby increasing our own source revenues through income tax and other taxation, ensuring we invest in policy and programs that create investor confidence and have the private sector complementing what the government is doing through its investments. What are the results? The results are that we have a strong financial position as booked for the year-end of 2005-06. With the largest budget in the history of this territory ó over $800 million ó we still show a net financial position and/or surplus at the end of the year of $17,188,000.
Three short years ago, the very first budget tabled in this House by this government, given the financial position the Yukon was in, showed a surplus of $1 million. There is not much more that needs to be said with respect to the financial position of this territory. Whatever conclusion the members opposite draw from the budget document simply does not fit with the facts, Mr. Speaker.
Furthermore, full disclosure is what has happened in this budget document. No longer are we getting qualified audits; no longer are we ignoring the fact that we are obligated to book such things as employee pension liability and leave liability. Itís all here in the pages of the budget document. Weíre also booking the asset base of the territory. So Yukoners have a clear understanding of what the finances are for their territory, because itís their money, their assets, their surplus. We have shown that clearly.
The members opposite have failed to demonstrate in any way, shape or form that they understand where (a) the finances of the territory are, and (b) they have not provided any alternative on where they would invest money, how they would increase the finances, how they would have gotten the private sector more engaged, how they would have restored investor confidence. None of those things are coming from the opposite benches ó quite the contrary. Itís an attack on the government side that, as the member from the beautiful Southern Lakes has pointed out, is based simply on opposition for the sake of opposition ó just say no. Thatís unfortunate because, as weíve proven on a number of occasions, we can constructively engage in this Assembly and do whatís best for the public and in the public interest. Obviously it is at the convenience of the members opposite when they want to engage in this type of debate.
We will not go there. We will stick to what the facts are. We will stick to making the presentation to the Yukon public that what is happening in todayís Yukon is creating the trends and patterns we need. They are resulting in growth, population-wise and as far as our economy; they are resulting in enhancing and improving our education system; and they are resulting in strengthening our social fabric.
The third party goes on to point out that there are issues here with sole-sourcing and other policy areas of government but, Mr. Speaker, the member fails to provide the evidence on what the influences are in terms of these particular types of expenditures. First and foremost, I would caution the member of the third party to even engage in a debate about sole-sourcing, considering the sole-source contracts that were given out under that memberís watch while in government, which resulted in candidates suddenly and magically appearing ó hundreds of thousands of dollars. Furthermore, ó
Speaker: Order please. I will offer a caution. We are debating the second reading of Bill No. 17, and this is a caution that I have offered to both the opposition and government before, and I would just ask the Hon. Premier to stay in that direction, as opposed to, from what the Chair perceives, almost casting aspersions. I would ask the Premier just to carry on and have that consideration.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I certainly will. The question Iím dealing with is the continual mention of ethics in government, and Iím pointing out that ethics in government come from following the policies, the law, the regulations and the guidelines: all that we must do. We do not politically interfere in the judicial system or the justice system. We have not interfered politically with the democratic process. We do not interfere in personnel matters. We maintain the highest level of ethics and integrity for governance.
Beyond that, there is an issue here with respect to this supplementary budget, because some of the costs that are ongoing and cumulative in the Yukon territorial budget are dealing with the situation that Dawson City is in. Thatís a very challenging situation that need not have happened. Under the NDP government, the situation for Dawson City and its financial woes began with decisions made by the then NDP government. It was continued by the former Liberal government. The result is that Dawson City is broke and millions of dollars have been expended with little to show for it. That, again, is about ethics, Mr. Speaker. We, as an ethical government, had to make the decision to ensure that we would put in place the necessary mechanisms and instruments to get control of the financial situation for Dawson City, and thatís exactly what has transpired. The forensic audit, I think, speaks for itself.
So, if the members opposite want to continue down that road, again we have to look at facts. Thatís very important here. We are dealing with what is important to Yukoners as a government. It is the obligation of the members opposite to do the very same. I think this budget is clear. Itís not that difficult to determine the reasons for the increases in spending. Itís all there for anyone to see. This is not a spending spree, as the members have continually portrayed.
Do the members opposite consider the fact that $10 million to Yukon College for the Canada Winter Games ó do they call that a spending spree?
The investment in a community hall for Ross River, a rural community with a demonstrated need, for $1.3 million ó do they consider that a spending spree? The investments in education for public schools and advanced education of over $1 million ó do they consider that a spending spree?
Look at all the money thatís being invested throughout Yukon for education reform, the Mayo community school, Eliza van Bibber School, Teslin School renovations, soccer field replacements, Tantalus School replacement, Whitehorse Elementary School upgrade, various school facilities renovations, indoor air quality, distance education, school-based equipment, school replacement for equipment and furniture ó is this a spree? These are needs in the system.
In the Department of Health and Social Services, do they consider it a spending spree when we invest $1.1 million in family and childrenís services; $1.2 million more from the start of this fiscal year in social services; another $4.8 million in this supplementary budget for health care for Yukoners, improving access to health care for the Yukon public? Do they consider the fact that we are investing in renovations of the Thomson Centre as a spending spree? Thatís a health care facility. Do they consider the fact that primary health care has received more money? Are they considering the Hospital Corporationís need for equipment of some $400,000 a spending spree?
The way this debate should have gone is the members opposite should have provided what alternatives they would have brought forward with respect to these needs. If these needs were not there, we would not have seen a supplementary budget of this nature or of these amounts.
The Yukon Party government will continue to invest where itís needed. Mr. Speaker, what are the results? Well, in todayís Yukon, we have a growing population. In todayís Yukon, we have a growing economy. In todayís Yukon, we have increased investor confidence, resulting in more and more private sector investment in the Yukon economy. In todayís Yukon, we have been improving, advancing and enhancing our education system. In todayís Yukon, we have a better health care system. In todayís Yukon, we have a strengthened social fabric. In todayís Yukon, we have diversification. In todayís Yukon, if you ask Yukoners, ďIs your life better? Is the Yukon a better place to be today than it was three years ago?Ē all the evidence shows clearly that it is.
The challenge and the problem for the members opposite is they have no answer to those facts or to those areas that are marked improvements under the Yukon governmentís watch. Thatís the problem for the opposition. That is why we canít have a constructive debate, and that is why the opposition has not shown in any way, shape or form that they are a reasonable alternative to the government of today.
People donít want change, Mr. Speaker. They want this territory to continue in the direction itís going. Thatís why we are going to continue doing what weíre doing. Itís our plan, it was our vision. We are delivering on that plan and vision, and it is producing results. Yukon is a better place under a Yukon Party governmentís watch.
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. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are nine yea, six nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 17 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Bill No. 17 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06
Chair: We will begin with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to introduce Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, into general debate.
I do not need to speak very long, as much of what I need to say was addressed in my second reading speech.
The ministers responsible for the various departments will, of course, be well positioned and pleased to more fully expand upon their funding requests for their individual departments.
This first supplementary estimate for 2005-06, as I outlined in my second reading speech, seeks authority to increase operating and maintenance expenditures by $16,253,000, and capital expenditures by $16,760,000. The resulting expenditures, once approved, will increase the total expenditures of the government by just over $33 million to approximately $817,500,000 in total.
Revenue and recoveries are forecast to increase by just under $2 million, to bring total revenues to $764,700,000. After adjusting for anticipated lapses of approximately $27,600,000, this results in a year-end forecasted surplus of $17,200,000. Net financial resources to year-end are projected to be $23,200,000, and the government accumulated surplus on a non-consolidated basis as of March 31, 2006 is forecast to be $430,600,000.
As members are fully aware, the government now reports and capitalizes its assets so that we are fully in compliance with the CICA public sector accounting guidelines. Last yearís financial statements, which have already been tabled in this Legislature, reflect that change in financial reporting. This supplementary estimate document details the expenditure changes that require legislative appropriation authority.† It also provides the Legislature and the general public with the most current information on the forecasted financial position of the government to the year-end.
As noted in second reading, a relatively significant amount of the requested expenditure authority comes about because departments are seeking revote authority for the previous year expenditure lapses. On a net basis, these revotes constitute about $15,800,000 of the budgetary authority sought.
Capital expenditures are the largest increases in this budget. The biggest increases are in Highways and Public Works at $11,700,000; the Department of Community Services, with $3,800,000; Economic Development with $2,700,000; and Education with $1,900,000.
There are also some offsetting reductions in capital expenditures. Expenditure increases for operation and maintenance are found in 13 departments. The largest requested increases are in the Department of Health and Social Services budget at $8,900,000; the Public Service Commission with $4,060,000; the Department of Justice at $1,300,000; Tourism and Culture at $1,060,000 and the Department of Education at $875,000.
Ministers for these departments will provide Members of the Legislative Assembly with the complete details of their expenditure requirements as we proceed with the department-by-department, line-by-line review in general debate.
The revenue and recoveries of the government are forecast to change only moderately since the 2005-06 main estimates were prepared and tabled at the start of the year. In total, they are expected to increase by just under $2 million. The largest change in revenue is in the area of investment income, which is predicted to be about $1 million higher. Tobacco revenues are forecast to decrease by $350,000 due to volume declines.
I will not go into the highlights of specific expenditure initiatives contained in this supplementary budget. Some of them are already outlined in the second reading speech. Ministers, as I pointed out, will be able to go into further detail when their departments are called for debate. If there are questions of a general nature, I would be pleased to answer them now.
I look forward to a constructive debate to engage with the opposition members on what their alternatives would be, considering the financial position the Yukon is in, the demonstrated needs in the Yukon public and in Yukon communities, and the issues of pension liability that we are obligated to book, on the issue of the fact that we again have an unqualified audit from the Auditor General and, in all aspects, Yukon territorial finances are in good shape, being managed well, and I want to extend a great deal of credit to the situation we are in ó a very positive one indeed. A great deal of credit goes to the Department of Finance and its officials, who are doing a masterful job on behalf of this government and the territory.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, it is lovely to get up and be able to ask some questions of the Finance minister, but letís start with a comment that he made. The Finance minister seemed to indicate that if the question is not general in nature, heís not going to answer it. Can he clarify that for me?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Without the Funk and Wagnall dictionary here that would give me a clear word-by-word definition of ďgeneral,Ē I would submit that what I meant was that general debate is a discussion that is general in nature; it does not get into detail. For instance, it isnít about a specific expenditure in a department or a line item; general debate is about a discussion on the finances of the territory, the totals, as laid out in the supplementary budget. What else can I add? The change in the fiscal arrangements, all those things are general in nature, and weíll see where the member goes with that.
Mr. Hardy: Well, if we go on the past few years, we know the moment the Finance minister is asked questions he doesnít like, he immediately evokes the general debate argument and then dances all over the place. So do we have a great deal of hope and faith that weíre going to witness a Finance minister who can answer the questions? Probably not, not on this side of the House, because we have a record already.
I want to ensure that the Finance minister understands what weíre not going to do in general debate. Weíre not going to do what the Minister of Health and Social Services did when he was in opposition, which was, of course, talk about how many bolts are in grader blades and stuff like that. Of course, we would not do that, on this side of the House.
We assume the leader of the third party has no intention of doing that either. We were subject to that kind of discussion that went on for days about those very minute issues or items that the MLA for Klondike liked to involve himself in. Of course, the Chair allowed it to happen. We went day after day on the type of bolts that were used and other very significant issues facing the finances.
However, weíll start with something more recent. A concern we have is about an announcement that was made last week in regard to a school in Copperbelt. There has been a lot of discussion around that. Weíve been trying to locate how that came about, what studies have been done, what consultation has happened, where itís reflected in the budget ó whether past budgets or this one ó and how it will affect the future planning and spending of the government. I would suspect, based upon an overbudgeted school this government has proceeded with in Carmacks, we have to assume this will be a $10-million school, or even more.
The question in general nature ó just so the Finance minister doesnít get upset ó is can he demonstrate to us the planning and how it will affect short-term budgeting for the budget next year, as well as the long-term impact it will have on the economy of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I am going to do my level best, Mr. Chair, to respond. I am not sure how the cost of the school is in any way related to the economics. I would assume, I guess, that what we are talking about here is the finances of the territory.
First, I think itís important that we recognize that, as the member opposite ó in fact, the opposition benches continually try to make the case that the government side doesnít listen to the public. So, the point I am making here, which is general in nature, is that since this government took office it has been very clear in the riding of Copperbelt, the growth rate: all the new houses, the families moving in, how the schools in the area are full, the fact that we are now in all likelihood busing students from the area to other schools and that this has been a high-priority issue for the citizens, the residents of the riding of Copperbelt. It is essential that during the campaign we position clearly ourselves as a government on what we would do considering the growth and the demonstrated need, so on and so forth. It need not be in the supplementary budget. If the member exercised patience, the member would see clearly then how this reflects on the finances of the territory and how we would go forward with a plan, which, by the way, includes an overall assessment in this territory of school needs. Of course, what is the impetus for that? It is the fact that the territory is growing. Our population is growing, and that would dictate that more and more children are going to be entering our education system.
So this is strictly about listening to the public, making sure the riding is well represented, which is again contrary to what the members have tried to imply, and it certainly will not endanger the finances of the territory in any way, shape or form. But we know that the position the official opposition has taken clearly is that they would not do such a thing in the riding. They would not address that demonstrated need.
And we know what the third party is doing. Theyíve announced clearly through the public media that they would be busing students from the riding and hauling in trailers or modulars. That was clearly a statement made by a closely associated member of the riding who has openly announced that he is working actively for the Liberal leader in this campaign.
So let me just point out, Mr. Chair, that because we listened to the constituents, because we recognize the demonstrated need, given the growth factor in the region, in the area, we have clearly demonstrated that the government realizes the need for a school. We would build one, as we go forward, in conjunction with the territory-wide plan for new schools. The NDP would not build one, given the position theyíve taken, and the third party, the Liberals, would bus students out of the area and drag in a bunch of Atco trailers.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, first off, Iíll put on the record that the Finance minister, as is normal, is putting words in other peopleís mouths on this side, because there has been no position taken by the NDP in regard to not doing it, and I might go so far as to say that I have not, in this Legislative Assembly, heard the Member for Porter Creek South take the position that was just put forward by the Finance minister, which begs the question: what doctor does he go to? Because he might have to get his ears cleaned out.
Chair: We have had comments like that in this Assembly before, and it was pointed out that it might be making light of an individualís disability. Iíll ask members to refrain from making comments that might identify an affliction or disability an individual might have and continue with debate.
Mr. Hardy: †Thatís interesting, Mr. Chair, that that is how it is interpreted. I apologize if it is interpreted that way, because it is not meant to be identified in that manner.
Going back to debate ó it also raises the question of why the Finance minister would accuse us of something we havenít said? It raises the question of how that is actually allowed to be said in the Legislative Assembly when there is no record of it, and I thought there were rulings in regard to that as well.
But saying that, let us make sure it is on record that that is not a position that we have taken, and if the Finance minister insists upon doing it, I would expect that he be called upon to produce those statements.
But letís go back to the school, because it has become very clear that the decision to build that school was not on the agenda, and the question I asked, very simply, was: how is that going to affect the short-term budgeting of this government and the economics of this government and the longer term? Because it is not in the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06; I can see no money allocated for the pre-work that needs to be done before you proceed with this. I can see nothing in the main estimates from the spring that indicates this and that is common in this kind of planning. Thatís good planning.
What weíre seeing here is zero planning, yet there is a $10-million announcement. The public definitely knows where this one is coming from.
Can the Minister of Finance once again attempt ó instead of attacking us and putting words in our mouths ó to answer the question that I asked, which was how an announcement of this size affects the planning for the budget in the spring and the longer term budget.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, at no time has the government side put words into anyoneís mouth. We merely relay the facts. I find it ironic that the leader of the official opposition is somewhat concerned about putting words into peopleís mouths. I will turn now to the question.
If the member opposite would go to the main estimates, he would see a fiscal framework that we have laid out. It shows the positive financial position of the Yukon government into the years 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09. Of course we will constantly work within fiscal frameworks. They are projections and are subject to variances. That is part of what sound fiscal management must deal with.
Mr. Chair, the member is incorrect in his statement that this is just something that popped out of the blue over the last couple of days or because there is an election campaign going on. That is not the case. All through this mandate there has been growth in that particular area and the issue for those citizens ó among others, such as the second access for Hamilton Boulevard ó has been a school. There is even property set aside within the precincts of the riding for a new school.
But again I say that we as a government, in the highest of ethics and accountability, have stated that we recognize the demonstrated need and are moving ahead with delivering and dealing with that demonstrated need, and that is a school in the riding of Copperbelt. The New Democrats have not said anything of the sort. In fact, they have implied that this is a knee-jerk reaction, this is something that is not needed ó thatís not putting words in their mouths. They are saying itís not needed. So we are drawing a conclusion that the New Democrats here in this Assembly and out in the public would not build this school ó they obviously have other priorities, which they maybe should relay ó and that the Liberal Party representatives in the public media have stated that they would be looking at busing students out of the riding and bringing in trailers, modular units ó I call them Atco because thatís one of the few manufacturers in western Canada that builds this type of structure.
So this is not putting words in peopleís mouths. We hear it in the news, we listen to the members opposite, we read it in the newspapers. These are all facts of what is going on in todayís Yukon with respect to the riding of Copperbelt. So, if that will help the member opposite, I would hope that we could then move to another question general in nature.
Mr. Hardy: Well, here we go again. The Finance minister says he is putting out facts. The fact is, he cannot produce what he is saying in this matter. He once again is making allegations about bureaucrats, employees of the government who spoke from that perspective. They spoke as public servants, as employees, talking about busing, as they were instructed to do.
The Finance minister has now attacked that person, turned it around and accused that person of speaking from a Liberal perspective and, from my perspective, tarnishing the image of this professional.
Before we continue on, I ask for that Finance minister to retract that statement in regard to that person, because that person spoke ó from what the Finance minister is quoting from ó from the authority as he was directed to, from the Department of Education.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have no idea what the member is talking about.
Furthermore, what I have stated here on the floor of the Legislature moments ago reflects the differences between what the government will do, what the NDP would do and what the third party ó in this case, the Liberals ó would do. Full stop.
Iím discussing this in general terms because we are in general debate.
Let me ask a question: given the growth in the riding, with all the children who have moved into the riding, with the schools that are there in the riding today and in the immediate vicinity full, would the NDP recognize that demonstrated need and, if they did recognize that demonstrated need, in general terms, what would they do about that growth and the need for a school in the riding?
Mr. Hardy: I like it when the Finance minister is so desperately trying to get out of a situation he just put himself in that he decides heís going to ask us a question on this side of the House.
Guess what? Let me give him an answer. The land that was put aside ó if I remember rightly, and I stand to be corrected ó for that school was done by an NDP government. The school that was built up there, the Elijah Smith Elementary School, I believe was built under an NDP government.
The French association, with the government of the day and the federal government of the day, built another school up there ó an NDP government. Weíre very proud of our record. Itís there. So what are we listening to here? The Finance minister canít even build one school ó not even one school without massive controversy, without it being overbudget, and without having a community completely divided and adding a space on to a school that has no identified need.
Well, I just took one area of Whitehorse in which the NDP was very involved. We have a very good record. Compare it to the Premierís record of three years ó any day, Iíll compare that in the public, and weíll compare it here, and weíll see what the public says on who delivers the goods and delivers it in a manner thatís respectful.
So saying that, I did ask a question. It was a finance question and, once again, the Finance minister hasnít answered it. So I have to wonder, do I have to repeat the question, or will the Finance minister get up and answer what I asked? Will the Finance minister once again attack a public servant, make accusations against a public servant, accuse them of speaking from a perspective of being a Liberal ó Iím not even sure what word he used ó possible Liberal candidate. It doesnít matter. That basically tarnishes this public servantís name. The message that they delivered, from my perspective, by reading what the Premier was quoting from, was a message he was asked to deliver from the department or from the minister.
There are a few questions that raise serious concerns with me: (1) the Finance minister is not answering a simple question; he refuses to answer a simple, general question about finances; (2) the Premier has attacked a public servant in avoiding answering that question; (3) the Premier has made statements that cannot be substantiated by fact about the positions of the other parties, and thatís how this debate started; (4) in order to avoid answering the questions, he has asked us a question, which we have answered. So where are we at with this Finance minister? This is getting embarrassing. Answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, thatís exactly what Iíve been doing ó answering the question. It has obviously sparked a tremendous amount of angst with the member opposite, who is probably quite concerned about the position that the NDP are in. Furthermore, I did say the third party, the Liberals, are taking that position. Iíve been making those statements in general terms.
The member opposite said that the NDP built schools up in the riding. Well, good for the NDP, but there is an important fact here. Under the NDP and Liberal government policies, programs and lack of plan and vision, the schools werenít full to capacity. In fact, they were very lacking in student enrolment. Itís under this governmentís watch that they have suddenly become full. There has been dramatic growth in the riding. The Liberal candidate has said again ó and I hope I donít get chastised for this ó publicly that, wow, since the 2002 election, this riding has really grown. There is something like over 200 new houses in the riding. Again, in general terms, thatís what we heard the member say.
The candidates say that the riding is really growing.
So, weíve taken schools that were not full to capacity with students, as we all want our facilities to be ó thatís why we pay the money to build them ó and turned that around. Instead of an exodus of the population, our population is increasing, and it just happens that there is a lot of growth in that one particular area and now there is a demonstrated need. As everybody has pointed out here on this side of the House, we are going to move ahead with meeting that demonstrated need. Itís about children, itís not about us. Itís not about whether the NDP built a school or whether the Liberals would do this or would do that. Itís about children. Itís about educating our children and the need for facilities to do exactly that.
There is a broader plan that we are proceeding with, which is about assessing the need for schools in the whole territory. To say that the Tantalus School was not needed, again, is compromising the health and safety and learning environment for children. So, I donít know what the member opposite is going on about. The Tantalus School in Carmacks was needed; we are building it. Itís not overbudget, itís overestimate: thereís a difference, Mr. Chair. The estimate was lower than the tenders that came in; therefore, we made provisions in the budget ó in the budget, Mr. Chair. Itís in the budget ó that overage from the estimate for the cost of the building.
At the end of the day, Mr. Chair, I did ask a question. Would the NDP build a school in the riding of Copperbelt? Would they make that decision today based on all the facts they should have been picking up over the last three years, when theyíve made the claim that the riding was never represented? All along the government has known and recognized that this is one of the highest priorities for the residents of the riding of Copperbelt. Would the NDP actually deliver on what that priority is for the citizens of Copperbelt? Would they or would they not move ahead with building a school where there is a need or would they just simply run around talking about it and trying to find a way not to build a school so that maybe they could start a protected areas strategy or what about a school in their own riding somewhere, which smacks of the multi-level care facility? With all those needs out there in the Yukon, where did we build a multi-level care facility? In an NDP ministerís riding.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís an extended care facility.
Mr. Chair, I have answered the question. Weíre going to build a school because there is a demonstrated need. We will work within the fiscal framework, which are projections. There are always variances with the projections, as we all see. It happens all the time; thatís why we go through variance reports ó one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight variance reports. Thatís how it works; thatís budgeting. The government side has stated that the NDP wouldnít build a school and the Liberals would bring in trailers and bus students. Why doesnít the NDP correct the record and tell us what they would do?
Mr. Hardy: Here we go again: the poor Finance minister canít answer a single question. Iíve been asking a question; he canít answer it; instead he has to attack us on this side. Well, you know what? We have built more schools than any other government that has been in place. Iíve already talked about the activity that has happened up in that riding and the NDPís involvement in it ó the land was set aside for the future, recognizing that was the growth area. The NDP anticipated that would be the growth area and knew there would be a continuing growth and was involved in ensuring that buildings were up there.
However, yes, I will answer the question. If, through proper planning and consultation ó which should have happened ó and we had all the information, the NDP would build a school where it is needed, because it has historically always done that, but we would do it in a manner that was not political. We would do it as we did previously, which was to have school council representatives come together from across the territory to set the priorities for new schools and listen to community advice on design and construction.
They would have been involved. The Premier knows this full well; he was with the NDP when that was in place; it was not a political football around children; it was not a political football around schools. We put it in the hands of school councils and the people gave us the advice ó very sound, solid advice ó which allowed us to set the areas most in need, and build schools. So thereís the answer to your question ó of course.
However, the Premier has not shown us any evidence whatsoever yet on how this decision came about. Did it go before Management Board? Was this decision discussed? Is the Premier stating that all the work necessary to make this decision had been done and it just coincided with a by-election ó that this announcement came out?† Is that what he is trying to tell the people out there? Is that down the garden path that he is leading them? Because I donít think anybody is going to believe that because, Mr. Chair, there is no evidence ó zero. It is not in the budget, there is no money allocated, but if the Premier is feeling generous maybe he will give us all the correspondence, all the documents, all the studies, all the consultations, the open houses ó all that, everything that has happened ó for the last couple of years to come to this decision so that we can understand that this has been a long process ó this decision that was made around this significant item that does affect the future finances ó and has been well thought out, the communities have been involved and how the priority to build a school there was arrived at.
Interestingly enough, the Premier has just said that a couple of years ago the schools werenít full. When did the schools become full? Because thereís a contradiction in terms here, Mr. Chair. Thereís a contradiction in terms in what the Premier is saying. The indication is that there has been a lot of work in this area, that the schools have been full, that this was a direction that this government was going in. He hasnít produced a single drop of evidence that thatís what was happening. But the next thing we know, the schools werenít full. So if the schools werenít full, where was this coming from? Itís a shame.
As to the school in Carmacks, of course we support that. That was in our plans when we were in government, and the Premier knows this. We were moving down this road.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: As the Member for Porter Creek South says, the NDP bought the land to move forward on that. We were involved in that. We did support it, and it was on our list and it was identified by school council representatives. So once again, what is this Premier saying? Can we believe it on this side, or is he just making it up as he goes along? Thatís not acceptable in this debate. So I go back to my question again, very simple: what impact is this expenditure going to have on the budgeting process for the springtime and future?
Chair: Order please. Before the member responds, weíve reached our normal time for a recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.††††††††††
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
We will continue with Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I want to repeat for the member opposite ó when he talks about the impact on finances. As I stated, the projected fiscal framework is in the main estimates budget document for this year and the supplementary document. It shows what Iím talking about. Anything we do in 2006-07 will be within the fiscal framework. I am sure that the member understands that these are projections and that there will be variances, as always.
I am starting to understand something here and why the New Democrats are very nervous about the position they have taken with respect to a school in the riding of Copperbelt. The member said it was under the NDP that they recognized that this particular area, Copperbelt, was a growth area.
And now I understand what the problem is, because the NDP found the solution. Instead of building a school, they just drove people out of the territory. Then you wouldnít need a school. So, yes, they recognized it was a growth area, but there was no growth, and they ensured there was an exodus of the population, and then there was no need for a school.
Mr. Chair, the information that the member is talking about is all about getting out in the public and doing our work, representing Yukoners as a government. Thatís exactly why the issue of a school is so important, and we know itís so important to the constituents, to the citizens of the riding of Copperbelt. This is a high-priority issue for them, and so is Hamilton Boulevard and a second access. If we just want to focus in on the safety aspect for traffic flow out of the fastest growing area in the City of Whitehorse, then would the member dispute the fact that there is a need for a second access out of the area? Thatís another plan we have. In fact ó and the members voted against it ó there already has been preliminary planning done.
This is all about listening to the people the members opposite say we donít listen to. This is all about recognizing demonstrated need. This is all about the fact that, under a Yukon Party government, instead of an exodus of the population there has been an increase, and in the City of Whitehorse, a large percentage of that increase is in this particular area, and we all recognize that. Therefore, proceeding as we are only makes sense. We proceed with planning, we proceed with working within the fiscal framework. Thatís what this is all about.
So Iím trying to establish what the three parties would do with respect to this issue. Thatís all weíre doing as a government. The government has already stated what itís going to do, why itís doing it, and how itís going to do it, within a fiscal framework.
Of course weíre going to plan a school. Itís essential. We canít just have one suddenly appear. It has to be planned. These are significant undertakings and they have to be done properly, and we will do so within a fiscal framework. Projections are in the budget document.
Mr. Chair, itís clear from the debate that has raged on here over the last number of days ó and Iíll now begin with the Liberals ó that the Liberals would not build a school. Period. They would not do that. They have other options, and Iíve already mentioned what those options are, as we understand them ó general in nature. The conclusion we draw through general discussion is that the NDP would not build a new school in the riding. They must have other priorities, I guess. So I have asked the question, under the circumstances, given all the facts, given all the evidence, given the growth in the riding, given the fiscal framework that the member has at his disposal, what would the NDP do? Would the NDP build a school in Copperbelt or not?
Mr. Hardy: I already told the minister what the NDP would do. I made it very clear exactly how we would have done it, too. So Iím not sure why he wonít recognize that heís responsible for his decisions and the taxpayersí money and what he should be doing and how he does it.
Interestingly enough, I have an article here, and itís quite interesting when you look at this. The candidate for the Yukon Party, who announced the school ó as the Member for Porter Creek South so aptly exposed in questioning last week ó announced this project in a flyer that was sent out, or was being handed out door to door in her campaign, yet the minister was unaware of it in questioning around this, which is very interesting, only to find out a day later that the acting minister made the announcement that thereís going to be a school ó not even the minister. I have to wonder what happened with the minister and where the minister has been on this.
From my perspective and from what Iíve been listening to, I havenít seen the minister participate in this debate at all. The acting minister looked like she supplanted the minister and, from my perspective, it looks like theyíre reacting to a candidate promise on a flyer.
Is that good and responsible planning? Is that how you spend taxpayersí dollars ó throw out $10 million just because there is a by-election? This is the Finance minister. The Finance minister has to approve it. Is this how the Finance minister came to this conclusion?
The candidate for the Yukon Party accuses the Member for Porter Creek South of ruining her Christmas present. Well ósurprise ó we are going to build a school. We are not going to tell anyone, just keep it in a little package, wrap it up and tie a bow on it. We are not going to tell a single person until a by-election comes along. Is this how the government is going to handle affairs? Is this how the government is going to be accountable? Is that the right way to spend money ó on a whim or on the wishes of a Yukon Party candidate, in order to try to get that candidate elected?
Interestingly enough, the Finance minister and Premier, when questioned about this, immediately attacks a public servant and, of course, the other parties. That is accountability from the Premier. That is what weíre getting here. He can attack us for asking questions. He can attack a public servant and make accusations toward public servants for doing their jobs. He has twisted it in such a manner that the public servant is now labelled as a Liberal ó as somebody who will be running in the next election in this Legislative Assembly. Thatís why these words were spoken.
Iím going to read some of the comments from the article the Premier was obviously referring to, and then I want the Premier to apologize to this person for labelling them and diminishing the message that they were asked to put out on behalf of the department. Of course, I donít believe Iím allowed to say the name in here, so I wonít, but I will read what was said: ďWhen this happens, parents are told which school has a capacity level that is able to accommodate their children. Currently, the closest school, with the most available space is Takhini Elementary, and that is where most parents agree to send their children. About 13 students are bused to Takhini,Ē he said, adding ďother parents chose to drive their children.Ē The minister has watched that part of the city grow.
Let me move down a little bit to the next section of quotes: ďThe department was somewhat surprised by the explosive growth in Copper Ridge because of the previously slow development of Granger, which was developed in the mid 1980s. It has meant there has been a need to look at a variety of options on how to better serve the studentsí needs. There is also the possibility of examining catchment areas to redirect students to schools with low enrolment or adding portable classrooms to schools.Ē That is not uncommon; it is very common. That doesnít mean you just go out and build a $10-million school because the Yukon Party candidate makes a promise.
ďBuilding a new school is a political decision the department is unable to comment on,Ē said this person. He added, ďThe department was not aware of plans to build a school in the area until this weekís Question Period in the Legislature.Ē
Now, the Finance minister, the Premier, has stood on the floor today and said that this has been in the works a long time. Can the Premier stand up and tell me what works? With whom? Because obviously the department wasnít part of this.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Actually, what the government side has been saying is that this has been a priority issue for the residents of this riding for quite some time. Thatís the bottom line. Thatís why we are conducting the affairs of government as we are.
By the way, Mr. Chair, where does the member opposite suddenly come up with $10 million? Based on what?
Now, letís follow the logic. If the member opposite is saying that we would do the planning ó in other words, the NDP ó wouldnít you think that going through the planning exercise would result in an understanding of what a facility would cost? Thatís exactly what we said weíre going to do. We are going to work within the fiscal framework. The projections show we have a healthy financial situation. There are variances, but, for the riding of Copperbelt and in that overall vicinity of the City of Whitehorse, there are some needs there. They include the second access for Hamilton Boulevard.
Whatever the member wants to read, recite or quote is the memberís business. As I stated, the government is advancing the process where a demonstrated need is evident.
A demonstrated need is in one of the fastest growing areas of the City of Whitehorse. The now Liberal leader has publicly stated that. He was astounded and surprised at the growth rate. We recognized the growth rate was there and will continue. We project also, when we look into the future, that given the situation of todayís Yukon and the plan the Yukon Party government has been implementing, growth will continue. We understand all those things, but the member opposite alluded to the fact that people were surprised because past history showed there was not this kind of growth. Yes, thatís correct: there wasnít this kind of growth. Thatís because the Yukon suffered under the policies and the lack of a plan and vision for this territory from both the NDP and Liberal governments.
The dramatic change has taken place since a government was elected that did have a plan, did have a vision, understood the issue of stimulus, understood the issue of investor confidence, started to remove policies that were detrimental to growth and started to implement policies that complemented growth and attracted growth.
The evidence is clear: weíre here discussing the fact that, in a certain part of the City of Whitehorse, there has been dramatic growth and there are some needs and weíre addressing the needs, as any prudent government would do.
Furthermore, letís go to the Tantalus School and letís correct the record here. Mr. Chair, the NDP stated they would have built a school there. Well, that didnít happen. I agree they bought the property. We all understand that; but they didnít build a school, nor did they commit to a school ó to my recollection ó as we did.
And we built it ó or, at least, weíre building it. Itís unfortunate that, once again, children were caught up in issues that adults seem not to be able to deal with in a constructive manner.
But the point that the member makes that this whole community is divided over this school is, frankly, nonsense. The whole community is not divided whatsoever. We all know the role that has been played here by individuals. Thatís fine. The government made a clear commitment to the community. Weíve stuck by that commitment, and we continue to stick by that commitment. The important fact is that the school construction is underway.
And thatís just another factor ó another piece of evidence that shows that what weíre doing is real and it addresses what has to be addressed in this territory. Itís called good governance.
The issue of a school in Copperbelt is based on the fact that we have been listening to the residents of Copperbelt. Unlike the constant rhetoric of their not being represented, the government, as we said, is representing all citizens in this territory, regardless of what riding it may be.
The issues for Copperbelt of a high priority are, obviously, the growth and the increase in children who need to go to school. Weíre addressing that and will proceed with planning within the fiscal framework.
That is a far cry from tabling in this Legislature a photostat of Saskatchewanís safe communities legislation and calling that an option or alternative for anything. Whereís the consultation in that? How long did it take to photostat Saskatchewanís bill? Who did the member opposite talk to about safe communities legislation, when the member opposite was involved from the outset in the whole process that resulted in the substance abuse action plan, which includes safe communities legislation?
So look at the difference. The government has gone out, whether it be a school in Carmacks, whether it be a school in Copperbelt, whether it be the need to address substance abuse in this territory, whether it be the need to address the economy, the education system, the health and social services programming, the social fabric ó all these things we are doing because we have engaged the public and we have come up with responses the public believe to be areas of their greatest concern. The difference is clear. Substance abuse action plan ó weeks and months of hard work by NGOs, by stakeholders, by the RCMP, by the professionals involved that we brought in, the expertise, and by many, many government officials. The member opposite says ďThatís no good.Ē Now who is attacking the public service?
Furthermore, the member says that we are on nothing but a spending spree. Well, how does that affect the hard-working financial officials in the Department of Finance who are ensuring each and every day that our finances are in order? Iím sure that the Department of Finance would never, never allow a spending spree by any government. They have an obligation and a responsibility that they have been living up to in spades. So who is attacking whom here, Mr. Chair?
The member opposite should get serious about the budget. If the member wants to talk about the budget in general terms, letís get on with it. Letís talk about the financial position that this territory is in. Letís talk about how this fiscal framework that the member so conveniently ignores when asking his question. If the member wants to delve into detail with the school, there is a minister of education in this government and the Minister of Education, as the member incorrectly pointed out, did say that because of the economic growth, because of the growth of the population, of course we recognize what has to happen in the riding.†
As the Minister of Education, who also is the Minister of Justice, continues to do his good work, Iím going to recognize his tremendous leadership. Look at what has happened in the education system. There has been education reform, an individual learning centre, a $1-million needs assessment putting materials and other things out there in Yukon schools that are needed. The NDP and the Liberals didnít do any of this.
There was a $1-million increase in the base grant for Yukon College. The previous governments didnít do that. They didnít touch that. They were spending money elsewhere. In fact, a former deputy minister was so worried about these governments that he would direct that they maintain a $25-million surplus position at all times, because there was a worry about how members opposite were managing the finances of the territory.
I could go on at great length, but we are here to debate a supplementary budget that has some main elements. Is the member opposite saying that we shouldnít have booked the liabilities for pension? Is the member opposite saying that we shouldnít have booked the monies necessary for that huge investment in Yukon College that will, for two weeks, be used by athletes, but forevermore, through the fullness of its life, be used by Yukoners ó rural Yukoners included ó to go to college and increase their skills and capacity and further educate themselves, as they cannot in rural Yukon?
These facilities are going to be suites where families can come in and parents can attend college. It is an investment that the members opposite should recognize as not being anything like a spending spree, as they claim.
The member opposite and the third party make the claim that the increases in health care were not needed, that weíre just deciding weíre going to throw more money at health care. The increases in health care werenít needed ó is that what the member is saying? Letís talk about the budget. If they want to talk about schools, I think theyíre behind on the issue of schools, period. And as I pointed out, we will continue in a process, general in nature, that will address the school needs across this territory.
Mr. Hardy: Oh, well, where do we even begin, Mr. Chair? Where do we even begin? The attacks continue from that side. To avoid answering any questions, attack the opposition ó so typical of this Premier.
You know what my question was? Very simply, it is a question Iíve asked a couple of times already, a question of apology to a public servant about the comments made by the Premier, the allegations and accusations made by the Premier to this public servant. Thatís all the question was. Thatís all the Premier had to do was recognize his mistake, recognize that he had crossed a line. But this government has a history of attacking public servants. He has a very low regard for the employees of government. I have heard MLAs in this room talk about ďreal jobsĒ, meaning people who work for the government donít have real jobs. Itís interesting. Itís an interesting concept, how you define a real job.
We went through the computer use investigation where everybody was guilty until found innocent by this government. We witnessed a minister target and attack the public servants, interestingly enough in Education, only over a year ago. Here we now have the Premier once again attacking a public servant in Education ó and also including in that retired public servants. He believes that he can get away with that in this Legislative Assembly. Itís all right to make accusations that you canít substantiate or support and they canít defend themselves.
I read the comments of this public servant and I ask ó I think itís very important to be on record ó for the Premier as leader of this territory to correct himself and apologize for those comments.
Throughout the substance abuse summit, the Premier also attacked me around that. That debate will happen tomorrow, rest assured.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Now the Premier says he canít wait. Well, I look forward to that. I really do look forward to that.
We are discussing approximately $10 million. He asked me where I got that figure from. Just like we got the figure of $50 million for the bridge in Dawson City, and we were correct on this side. We looked at other examples ó the cost in Carmacks for the school up there. It isnít hard to figure out what schools are costing now. Itís a ballpark figure, something to work with.
Is the Premier telling us he hasnít got any figure in his head at all? He has no idea what this is going to cost? I thought he had said on the floor here today that they had been doing a lot of work in this area. Well, one of the areas that you work in is, what is the budget cost? Obviously, the Premier doesnít have that in his head.
I can imagine the shudder that went through the Finance department when they saw the announcement being made, knowing full well that there had been no planning or budgeting in this regard. Itís even questionable whether there had been discussions around that school. When you have the Education department saying that there hadnít been any plans to build a school up there, up until this political announcement, then there had obviously not been budgeting ó a recognition to start to put money aside for this.
But the Premier can stand on his feet today and show us that weíre wrong; show us where the money is; show us the Management Board decision with respect to this; show us a lot more of the correspondence. If the Premier is open and accountable, then Iím sure he will do it.
But before that happens, I would like that apology on the floor today. The public servants have been attacked by the Yukon Party enough. They have been tarnished enough by these people. Will the Premier do it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Iíll never apologize for stating openly in this Legislature what the government side believes to be the Liberal position and the NDP position. How the member wants to derive any conclusion from those statements is the memberís business.
Furthermore, the government side is not making accusations at all. Weíre not attacking anyone. We are merely stating the facts as we know them. The member opposite keeps going on and on about this school. We have said that of course we are going to have to do the planning. Thatís part of the process. Weíve said that over and over. We will work within the fiscal framework, as we always do.
Itís a good thing that we have strengthened the finances of this territory. We have options available today in the Yukon that we never would have had under the two former governments, because we made a stand to get our rightful share of the national wealth ó period. If anyone wants to get into that debate, we can start with the five-percent cut to the base grant and go from there. Then weíll see, because the territories deserved an increase here, full stop, considering what Canada had already done with the provinces in terms of sharing the surplus that we all helped create by reductions such as the Yukon suffered in 1995.
Letís do some comparisons as to how a government respects and takes care of its public servants. The New Democrats, from 1996-2000, supposedly the champions of the public servants, would not replace the two percent and would only put a two-percent increase on the table. What has this government done? We put 10 percent on the table for our employees. We created the investment in the public service initiative, so that there could be mentoring, training, advancement and many, many other things to create a better workplace for our employees.
Mr. Chair, at the end of the day, there are some nonsensical arguments happening here that are a waste of the time of this House. Does the member want to talk about the budget, or is the member dumbfounded by this budget document, as he stated publicly? I suppose that is incorrect, too, but the member did state that he was dumbfounded by the budget, and I am really struggling to figure out how that could be.
Itís a simple financial statement thatís clear; itís open, itís accountable, and it provides all the information the member would need. What else is there to do here, Mr. Chair?
So does the member understand that we have a healthy financial position? If so, or if not, maybe we can debate why he doesnít understand that. Does the member understand the difference? Under the Liberal government, under their watch, we were in an overdraft position ó essentially borrowing money to pay for programs and services for this territory. And in the first budget tabled by this government within that fiscal chaos and mess created by the NDP and the Liberals, because it takes more than one mandate of two years to create that kind of a fiscal mess, we had to table a budget with only a $1-million surplus.
Today we are showing a surplus for the year-end of 2005-06 of $17,188,000. To me, that adds up that we have increased the surplus in three short years by some $16 million. But at the same time, Mr. Deputy Chair, we have increased the investment and the stimulus in this territory by over $200 million ó over $200 million ó and we do not get qualified audits any more.
Under that memberís watch, the Liberals, and under the NDP, we were constantly getting qualified audits because the territory was not booking its liabilities as it should. That has all changed under the Yukon Partyís fiscal management and this governmentís fiscal management.
Iíve stated clearly that a great deal of the credit goes to the officials in the Department of Finance who helped put all this together. Thanks to them, we are in good shape.
I can recall the endless discourse around the Taxpayer Protection Act and all the goings-on from the members opposite. But at the end of the day, what did it bear out? That the members were not dealing with the facts whatsoever and that the government side was merely applying sound fiscal practices, financial management, to the finances of the territory.
So, Mr. Chair, I am going to apologize on behalf of the members opposite for not understanding the budget. I will do everything possible to help them understand the financial position the Yukon is in. Thatís why we can build schools. Thatís why we can increase the investment in highway reconstruction. Thatís why weíve invested in a film commission.
Wouldnít you know it? They are down in Los Angeles right now marketing the Yukon as a place to come and shoot films, creating a movie industry. Thatís why weíve invested in programs in Tourism to increase tourism. Thatís why we re-created the Economic Development department. We had those options. Thatís why we are investing in capital projects in Mayo, in Ross River, in Carmacks, in Whitehorse, in Watson Lake, in Dawson City, and the list goes on and on and on. Itís because of our fiscal management and the options we have made available, which are considerably more than they were under the former parties when in government.
There is a lot to this, and it begins with having a plan of what it is you are going to do. To stimulate the economic growth in this territory, there is once constant in any economy: itís called cash flow. Thatís the fuel that drives any economic engine. Without it, it doesnít run.
In all this, Mr. Chair, we have created an investment climate with the private sector. Banks are lending more money, the private sector is investing more money. The industry is coming back to the Yukon in the resource sector, investing millions and millions more, creating more own-source revenues for the Yukon. This is all about the plan and the vision for the Yukon.
What is the NDPís vision for the Yukon? First and foremost, they make the claim, time and time again for anybody that will listen, that this is a place of madness and misery. This is a place where you cannot do any development until you have a network of protected areas. Mr. Deputy Chair, what would the NDP do with the fact that we want to continue to drill for oil and gas? We want to develop mines. The NDP said none of that can happen without a protected areas strategy?
Now, under four years of NDP management and a protected areas strategy, we wound up in major conflict with both Fishing Branch and Tombstone, the two parks the NDP supposedly created under their vaunted protected areas strategy. The Liberal government, in coming into office, could not resolve the problems.
So along comes the Yukon Party government and it immediately goes to work on the problems. It is the Yukon Party government that established the boundaries for both Fishing Branch and Tombstone, set them in place. Itís the Yukon Party that resolved the issues for the management plan for Fishing Branch with respect to third party interest. Itís the Yukon Party that in the land disposition process in north Yukon withdrew the majority of the Turner wetlands, the Snake and the Peel. Itís the Yukon Party that withdrew Lewes Marsh. Itís the Yukon Party that withdrew and protected the land base for Kusawa Park. It is the Yukon Party that is working on eight habitat protection areas. I would say, Mr. Deputy Chair, that under Yukon Party government, we are protecting and conserving more in this territory than we ever were under a very flawed protected areas strategy.
And how did the protected areas strategy do with respect to the investment community? It drove them out of here. But donít take our word for it: ask the mining sector, ask the oil and gas sector. Ask them why they would not invest in the Yukon. Uncertainty is why they wouldnít invest in the Yukon, and the number one area of uncertainty was the protected areas strategy.
So letís get on with the debate of the realities of what has happened in todayís Yukon. If we do that, then maybe the opposition members will start to establish some ground that would lead toward them getting a message to the public that they have an idea of: (a) whatís going on in the Yukon; and (b) where we should go in this territory. Frankly, they have not demonstrated in any way that that is the case.
Elections come and go, governments come and go but, at the end of the day, thatís the way it is and weíll continue to do our work. Weíll not deviate from the plan and the vision. Weíll not deviate from continuing to do what weíre doing. Weíll continue on with that.
From StatsCan, business investment surged ahead and is growing at an average annual rate of 13 percent in the Yukon ó 13 percent. It says business investment ó 13 percent annual growth rate. Does that not mean anything to the members opposite? Our GDP grew by 3.5 percent. Does that not mean anything?
Mr. Chair, we said weíd stimulate the economy. Weíve put $200 million more dollars into the economy ó $200 million more in the economy, with $17 million in surplus.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Deputy Chairís statement
Deputy Chair: Order please. I would ask all members to respect the rights of those who are speaking and wait until they are recognized before they enter into the debate. I appreciate the zeal to get involved, but if you could just restrain yourself for a few minutes, youíll get your turn.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have concluded my remarks.
Ms. Duncan: If we were to listen to the Premier and current Finance minister much more, whose zeal, as you put it, knows no bounds, I am expecting any moment, given that he has taken credit for absolutely everything else under the sun ó if it were still shining ó I would expect the next comment out of his mouth to be, ďOn the seventh day, I rested.Ē Thatís about how he has compared himself.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Klondike is trying hard, once again, to be funny, and he is not ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: To change feet, as the Premier has said. The Member for Klondike is trying to change feet, without success.
It is fascinating that the Premier and Finance minister has done everything he possibly could to avoid addressing and recognizing the fact that the Yukon Party screwed up last week. I think that is ó
I see Mr. Chair is frowning. The Yukon Party took a misstep last week. They took a misstep last week, and they are trying desperately to regain ground, which is long, long gone. They have tried a lot of interesting spins in this particular debate on the school in Copperbelt ó actually, the land is in Whitehorse West. There has been a lot of interesting spin.
The Finance minister said that the Liberal Party plan was to close schools. Having been part of that, letís talk about that Liberal plan, shall we?
Very conveniently ó very conveniently ó every one of the members opposite has chosen not to remind the Liberal Party and not to remind me of a commitment to 150 children in Riverdale for a school that would replace 40-year-old portables ó long overdue, long overdue. $3.2 million is what the replacement cost would have been. They voted against it. They criticized the Liberal government endlessly for building that school. They cancelled it. They cancelled it ó cancelled schools and closed schools.
Donít stand on the floor of the House and suggest that the Liberal Party was prepared to do that. Theyíre the ones who did it. But conveniently they havenít talked about that, Mr. Chair, because there are two members from Riverdale now who are going to have to answer for that on the doorsteps. Theyíre also going to have to answer for the fact that Selkirk is in desperate need of repairs and F.H. Collins has to be replaced. It could have and should have been replaced in the first budget by the Yukon Party, but they chose not to do that.
Takhini Elementary had substantial funding put into it in order to continue to keep the school and keep it functioning. Hidden Valley and Holy Family are the plans we own for schools. Those schools are in good shape. Unfortunately, Hidden Valley doesnít have the population, and it is not an option to be busing children all over Whitehorse. Porter Creek school: the members opposite love to say, ďWell, weíre finally building the cafeteria, weíre finally going to address this need.Ē It was the Yukon Party that made the mess in the first place in not designing that school to be the appropriate size.
It was the last school the Yukon Party built. They made such a hash of it that the school was overpopulated from day one, it had a major design problem that has since been corrected, and the money that is required to build a cafeteria and make the school the appropriate size has been in the budget for the three years they have been in office. The Yukon Party has no commitment to new schools until they are embarrassed about it on the floor of the House. There is no commitment. There was no commitment to a school in Copperbelt. Three days of questions and there were no commitments. It wasnít until the acting minister recognized that the land was in her riding that the government stood up ó they were embarrassed by the campaign brochure, which was publicly tabled ó that the government acquiesced ó ďNo, weíve been planning it all along.Ē
The leader of the official opposition has quite rightly pointed out that there is not dime one in this supplementary for that school, not dime one. The minister says, oh, we are going to undertake a planning exercise. There is no money for a planning exercise for schools in Whitehorse in this supplementary ó there isnít.
So the Finance minister cannot stand on his feet and say, ďWell, Iím just saying the facts as they are.Ē Well, theyíre not the facts, no matter how the Finance minister likes to try to suggest that they are the facts, that this is a dispute between members, Mr. Chair, because they are not.
The Member for Klondike has sent over a dime. Shall I send this up to pay the Member for Klondikeís bill? Gee, dime one ó heís finally going to pay off a bill. Iíll have to table that tomorrow in the Legislature, shall I? Itís the first payment by the Member for Klondike.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes, and the Member for Klondike suggests that it is the Member for Porter Creek Centreís dime. Well, heís paying his debts. We know that ó finally. Finally. Iíll send it over to Dana Naye Ventures with my compliments ó a payment from the Member for Klondike. Hallelujah.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Borrowed. I hope the interest rates are about the same. And perhaps the Member for Porter Creek Centre one day will see it back. Perhaps weíll see the other ó what is it, $341,000 now? Whatever the bill is ó it just keeps growing.
The fact is, the Yukon Party had not committed and has not committed any money toward the school in Copperbelt in the supplementary budget. They were not committed to the school and supporting the school until they were embarrassed into it by their own candidateís election brochure. There was no discussion or plan for a school in Copperbelt by the Yukon Party ó not until the candidate was running in the by-election.
The Finance minister has to recognize that, no, he and his colleagues did not speak for all the people of Copperbelt because that school was not planned until they were embarrassed into it because of a by-election and questions in this House. If someone had been speaking for Copperbelt at the Yukon Party table, we would have seen plans in this budget, we would have seen money in this budget ó in this supplementary.
Then again, the Yukon Party doesnít have a lot of success in building schools, do they? They couldnít manage to get the Porter Creek extension tendered until they were embarrassed about that in the Legislature as well. As for Carmacks, those school doors will not open in the life of this government.
There will be an election. For some Yukoners, it canít come soon enough.
Much as the members opposite love to go on and on and on, trying out their campaign slogans and trying out all their rhetoric, Yukoners are not buying it. The member opposite goes on and on and on and on about the great financial management and everything theyíve done. Great financial management would have ensured that the school needs, including Copperbelt, Carmacks, Selkirk, F.H. Collins, and several other needs in Whitehorse could have and should have been dealt with.
We could have had a new primary school for the amount the Premier is putting into his pet project of a feasibility study of the railway. The private sector has not climbed aboard that idea. We could have had a school for that money. It is no small wonder that Yukoners have every right to question the depth of the commitment by the government for a school in Copperbelt when there isnít any money for it.
The minister can say, ďWell, weíre going to plan.Ē There is no money for a planning process and none for a planning process that involves all the school councils. Much as the leader of the official opposition likes to suggest the NDP didnít politicize the process by passing it off to school councils, if he goes back to the debate, yes, the NDP government, of which the current Premier was a member, did politicize the process.
There needs to be a recognition that there are a tremendous number of school needs in the Whitehorse area that are long overdue to be addressed ó long overdue to be addressed. A new school on Falcon Drive is one of them. Itís a very important one. It has to be constructed, the land has been set aside for several governments, and the members opposite are enjoying unprecedented financial largesse ó unprecedented. The minister got another announcement of more money today thanks to the federal government and the territorial financing arrangement ó more money to spend.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Because it was made public, thatís how I know.
Itís amazing the amount of money the government has had to spend, and equally amazing is their inability to address the needs of all Yukoners with the money, including children who go to school, not only in Copperbelt, but in Whitehorse West, in McIntyre-Takhini, but throughout the territory. It takes rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work of government. It does not involve ratcheting up the rhetoric in the Legislature in general debate and it doesnít involve denigrating public servants who are asked to do a job, and do their job to the best of their ability ó every single one of them.
Just as everybody in this House comes with the best intentions ó thatís what we are all doing here. So I would encourage the Finance minister, when next we resume our general debate on the supplementary budget, perhaps we could focus our time and energies on debating the ó the member opposite loves to say, ďWell, the fact isÖ The facts of the matter areÖĒ Well, those are the facts according to that member. There is a different point of view elsewhere in the House.
When a leader or government takes a misstep, it takes a lot of courage to stand up and say, ďYou know what, you are right ó you are wrong ó we did thisÖĒ I would encourage the Finance minister to recognize that ó as the leader of the official opposition has asked him to do all afternoon ó look, there was no planning money in the supplementary for a new school, or studying the Whitehorse or Yukon school facilities. There is no money in that, and there is no money to turn the dirt or to activate the plan and to maybe issue some tenders. There arenít any; we have a plan. To even put that plan out to the school council consultation, thereís no money for that. Thereís no money to engage someone to take that plan to the school councils or to parents in the area, to even do an assessment of the needs. It canít all be done internally. There does need to be additional financing, and there isnít any in the supplementary. So admit it.
All the Finance minister has to do is stand up and say, ďLook, there isnít funding in it for the new school in Copperbelt. Clearly, our party has expressed a commitment.Ē If youíd just perhaps enjoy a slice of humble pie, we might be able to move forward, and perhaps if we could tone down the rhetoric, we could get on with debate on the supplementary budget. We donít need to chastise and denigrate public servants on the floor of the House. It doesnít need to happen. It shouldnít happen.
Itís a new development under the Yukon Party and, as a member of the Legislature, I personally find it offensive, and I would just ask the Premier to tone it down and letís focus on the supplementary budget. In that, I would go one step further and ask him to recognize that the Yukon Party, as much as they have said they speak for Copperbelt and speak for all Yukoners, they werenít, in this instance, and there wasnít the money for a new school. The decision for a new school was made on the fly in less than four days ó no Cabinet submission, no Management Board details required.
Thatís all that has been asked this afternoon, and itís not difficult. It can be done.
I would dare to suggest that recognizing that, yes, it is only six minutes to the hour and the time being close to adjournment, perhaps we could adjourn at this point and clearer heads will prevail when next we resume debate.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that we report progress.
Motion to report progress negatived
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There is time remaining. We have a very important agenda in this sitting, and I would encourage the member opposite not to try to vacate the Assembly early, because we have a lot that we should be discussing.
Now, first let me point out that the member has made a number of comments around a school in the riding of Copperbelt and made the suggestion that, because it is not in this budget document, there is something wrong here.
Well, the member has been a Minister of Finance. She knows thatís not the case. So what if it isnít in the budget document? That doesnít preclude it from being part of the long-term plan ó not at all. Again, I point out, what about the citizens of that area? And what are their priorities? The member, by now, should know that, considering whatís going on and the dynamic in place today.
Furthermore, we have stated clearly what we believe to be the Liberal position ó busing and modulars. Thatís our assessment. Given what they have been saying, I doubt the NDP would build any school whatsoever in the area. And all this rhetoric and nonsense about a campaign has little to do with the fact that this has been an issue in the area as far back as when the property was designated for building a school.
So I think the members opposite are embarrassed that they missed this one. They missed it. And good for our candidate who recognized it and put it in her campaign material, because at least our candidate had an understanding of what was important to the citizens in this particular region, one of the fastest growing areas in the city.
Mr. Chair, the member brought up the railway issue. Thatís a sore spot with the Yukon because it was the MP who, in the last federal election, loudly proclaimed that they supported this feasibility study, this was a good thing, and they were going to make sure that this feasibility study goes ahead. Then, of course, true to form: no delivery.
But now the member ó once weíve invested in the feasibility study ó calls it ďourĒ feasibility study. Well, given the fact that we have a great deal of respect for orders of government, we have ó the Yukon government ó ensured that Canada can participate. But they havenít invested one thin dime. So the member might want to take the dime received from the Member for Klondike, borrowed from the Member for Porter Creek Centre, and send it to the MP and have him invest it in the railway feasibility study. At least we would get one thin dime out of the federal government for the study and our MP, who committed to this.
So, good on the Minister for Economic Development for showing leadership and moving this initiative ahead, because it also includes port access, it also demonstrates the partnership between the Yukon and the State of Alaska in ensuring that we focus on initiatives and projects that will contribute to a better and more positive future for our citizens, whether they be in the state or whether they be in the territory.
Now, the member opposite made the point that we have taken all the credit. How many times, Mr. Chair, has the government said that, no, we recognize that there are a number of factors contributing to the situation in todayís Yukon. What the government did do is important, however, to complement the external forces that are generating the situation we find ourselves in. First and foremost, we did rectify the financial situation.
And why we cancelled Grey Mountain is because the Yukon was broke. It didnít have money. It was in overdraft paying for programs and services. But we strengthened the financial position, creating more options, increasing the stimulus by over $200 million, which generates optimism, which then translates into more and more private sector investment because weíve created growth.
We removed policies that would put an impediment in front of resource sector investment, like the mining industry ó policies like the protected areas strategy. The member opposite had an opportunity to get rid of this very flawed process but created nothing but land use conflict ó it chose not to. We did it, so we contributed in that area.
We have worked very hard. The Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of Tourism and I have been diligently, over the last three years, going out and expressing to all who will listen, whether in Canada, the United States, the Asian market or the Pacific Rim countries, that the Yukon is now a good place to invest. Itís starting to produce results.
Letís look at the mining industry. Under that memberís watch, we had less than $5 million of exploration invested in this territory. Under the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, the Member for Porter Creek Centre, we are going to break $50 million this year. Thatís done in three short years of implementing our plan and vision for this territory.
Letís get serious about the debate. What would the Liberals do in the context of this new-found fiscal strength that the Yukon government has helped to put together, by making sure that Ottawa understood that our rightful share of the national wealth must be afforded to the territories and not kept from them?
Chair: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, at this time of the day, it would probably be a very good time to wish the Premier of the Yukon a happy birthday.
Chair: Members of the Assembly, the time being 6:00 p.m., the Chair shall now rise and report progress.
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: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report progress on it.
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. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:02 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 8, 2005:
Substance Abuse Action Plan (Yukon), Working Together for Healthier Communities: Discussion Draft (dated October 2005)† (Taylor)