††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Thursday, November 10, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
In recognition of Remembrance Day
Speaker: Before the House goes on to the business of today, we will take a few moments to honour the memory of those who have served in Canadaís Armed Forces.
Tomorrow, November 11, is Remembrance Day. On that day services will take place throughout Canada where Yukoners and other Canadians will pay tribute to the men and women who defended Canada during times of war and have brought peace to troubled parts of the world.
As members are aware, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, has declared 2005 the Year of the Veteran. Throughout this year, Canadians will continue to celebrate, honour, remember and teach our youth about the contributions and sacrifice of our veterans.
Many significant events have been commemorated during this year. Among them were the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the Aboriginal Spiritual Journey to Europe, which was undertaken to educate Canadaís youth, Canadians and Europeans about the proud tradition of service and sacrifice by Canada's First Nations, Inuit and Mťtis warriors.
As the Yukon Legislative Assembly will not sit tomorrow, it is appropriate for us to observe a moment of silence today. I would ask, therefore, that members and all others present rise, bow their heads and reflect on the sacrifices of those who have served, and continue to serve, Canada.
Moment of silence observed
†Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of National Seniorsí Safety Week
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise today to ask my colleagues in this House to join me in recognizing National Seniorsí Safety Week. The week of November 6 to the 12, 2005 is the 17th annual celebration of Canada Safety Councilís National Seniorsí Safety Week. The week is taken as an opportunity to focus on injury prevention for our seniors.
As more Canadians are living longer, a significant desire of these seniors is to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. This yearís theme is ďItís Easy to Make Your Home a Safer PlaceĒ.
Falls are the largest cause of injury for seniors living in their own homes. They account for almost two-thirds of injuries for which those over age 65 are hospitalized and 40 percent of admissions to our nursing homes. Falls are also the leading cause of fatal injuries among our seniors. In addition to having regular health, vision and hearing tests, walking aids and other safety devices are available.
Special construction and safety features are now included in Canadaís housing intended for seniors, such as proper lighting throughout the house, quality stair construction with anti-skid treads, well-maintained and secured, attached handrails, grab bars in the bathrooms around the toilet, tub and shower, use of rubber skid mats the full length of the tub and non-skid bath mats beside the tub.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I am certain all members of this legislature wish our Yukon seniors health, safety and happiness. Thank you.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
†Mr. McRobb: I invite all members to join me in welcoming the executive director of Blood Ties Four Directions, Patricia Bacon.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to introduce to this House this afternoon the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, Andy Carvill.
Welcome, Grand Chief.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Also, Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to this House, the Grand Chiefís executive assistant, Joan Graham.
Welcome to the House, Joan.
Speaker: Are there any further introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Ms. Duncan: I have for tabling the statement on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge issued this morning by the Prime Minister of Canada.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I have two documents for tabling. The first one is a letter dated October 6, 2005, to the Health and Social Services minister from Blood Ties Four Directions.
The second document is a letter sent out by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources dated October 26, 2005, regarding the Yukon oil and gas disposition process.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have for tabling a list of Republican legislators that we have contacted in Washington over the past 24 hours with respect to the issue of ANWR, in conjunction with the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin.
Speaker: Are there any further documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 9 ó response
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I rise to respond to Petition No. 9, which was tabled in the House on October 27, 2005. The petition deals with questions regarding the ratification of the Umbrella Final Agreement, which is the basis for individual First Nation final agreements in the Yukon land claims settlement process. There are now 11 Yukon First Nations with final and self-government agreements that have been ratified by the three parties to the agreements according to the processes set out in the said agreements.
The petition asks for a detailed response to four questions. The questions are important ones. These same questions are currently before the courts as part of litigation brought by member First Nations of the Kaska Nation. As these questions are before the courts, it would be inappropriate to respond to them in this House at this time.
Our governmentís policy is that negotiation is preferable to litigation. Therefore, it is our hope that Canada and the Kaska will take the necessary steps to resume negotiations to finalize the Kaska land claims in the Yukon. We believe that it is in the best interests of the Kaska people as well as the other two parties to finalize all land claims in the Yukon and bring about modern self-government agreements for all Yukon First Nations. That is the way to the future.
Speaker: Are there any other petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate, and the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate to work with non-governmental organizations, First Nations, front-line workers, municipalities, stakeholders and the general public to move forward on a 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, such as the development of a bill to create a safer communities and neighbourhood act for the Yukon that would be closely similar in spirit and effect to the act of the same name that has been in effect in the Province of Saskatchewan since November 15, 2004, and to do so as a matter of priority so that the proposed legislation is ready to be considered and passed during the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Mr. McRobb: † I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to take immediate action on implementing the Yukon substance abuse action plan by funding the No Fixed Address Outreach van so that it can properly deliver material services, counselling, education and health support to individuals on the street.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to take immediate action on implementing the Yukon substance abuse action plan by establishing a fund that will provide financial assistance to communities that wish to deliver projects focused on aftercare treatment, harm reduction and/or prevention in an amount that will respond to all reasonable requests.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to take immediate action on implementing the Yukon substance abuse action plan by immediately researching the cost, design, implementation and evaluation of Canadian drug and problem-solving courts and report back to this House on the results of the research before the beginning of the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to take immediate action on implementing the Yukon substance abuse action plan by immediately giving additional financial resources to the departments of Justice, Education and Health and Social Services to support communities to develop plans to identify and combat social issues in their communities.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion on behalf of both opposition parties:
THAT this House reminds the Speaker that the best referee is one that allows a contest of fairly matched opponents to proceed without interruption, provided the established rules of combat are observed and does not impede the momentum of the match or draw undue attention to the refereeís own presence in the ring by repeatedly stopping the action to advise the combatants on matters such as what stance or sequence of blows they should employ.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Hon. House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † Point of order, Mr. Speaker. That motion is out of order.
Speaker: The Chair will give it due consideration.
There is no point of order.
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Blood Ties Four Directions funding
Mr. McRobb: This government has been avoiding giving a response to a very serious matter. Blood Ties Four Directions Centre is working overtime to attempt to serve Yukoners who are diagnosed with hepatitis C without any funding to do it. Their letter requesting the funds they needed to respond to the need for services has been ignored by this Yukon Party government. I tabled that letter earlier.
For five years this government has received funding from the federal government for the services provided by Blood Ties. The Minister of Health and Social Services still canít even get on the right page. He wonít acknowledge the difference between federal money for compensation to patients who received infected blood and the services needed for the prevention, education and support of people with hepatitis C.
So I will direct my question to the Premier: will the Premier repair some of the damage caused by his Health minister, as he did with the Haines Junction seniors last month, and order his Health and Social Services minister to fight this deadly disease by funding Blood Ties?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The simple and direct answer is that the Yukon government is funding Blood Ties Four Directions. It used to be at a level of about $140,000 per year. Under our watch, it has risen to $161,000 per annum. For the next budget cycle, itís $166,000 per annum in a contribution agreement ó sole sourced and signed off by the minister ó to Blood Ties Four Directions. Itís on the web, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is getting closer, but he is still not quite on the same page. There have been no extra funds provided for the extra services, doubling the workload of this non-profit organization. This is a most serious matter. A thousand Yukoners have been diagnosed with this disease, and there will be more people affected with this blood disease in the future. Yukonersí lives are at stake here.
One Yukon man had the courage to bring the problem to the attention of the public and the government. This government should respond in kind, but the Premier wonít even pick up the phone and call him, even though he sat beside the phone all day yesterday.
Will the Premier finally respect the courage of this person and answer his phone call?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government respects all Yukoners and answers the phone. If that were the case, Mr. Speaker, I would have certainly taken the call. The issue with Canada and hepatitis C is that in 1998, Canada allocated, out of a vast sum of money, $5,000 per year for 20 years. That is what has flowed ó $5,000 per year for 20 years. Yukon has resourced the Blood Ties Four Directions, which is an NGO that we are firmly committed to and have firmly subscribed to, and they are doing a very good job on behalf of those afflicted. The current amount that is flowing is $161,000 by way of a contribution agreement from the Yukon government to Blood Ties Four Directions.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the minister has finally done some homework, but he still gets a failing grade. Heís not on the same page. He should realize itís costing this government a lot of money to treat hepatitis C patients. For instance, a liver transplant is extremely expensive. Prevention and early detection are measures this government talks about. They were key recommendations in the Romanow report. Itís time for this government to walk the talk.
Will the Premier now commit to provide immediate funding to Blood Ties for the extra work it has taken on, so it can continue its good work related to hepatitis C victims, education and prevention?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, if we can get through the debate, we have a substance abuse action plan that we are moving forward on, and it was begun with a cooperative effort of all three parties in this House, Mr. Speaker. We are moving forward on that action plan by way of a motion today, which we intend to call very quickly as a government. That motion addresses the issue of safe houses, safer communities, among many, many other aspects of our substance abuse action plan.
With respect to hepatitis C, $5,000 per annum commenced in 1998 to flow to the Yukon government for 20 years to address hepatitis C here in the Yukon. Currently, the level of funding provided to this NGO by the Yukon government has gone from about $140,000 to $161,000 this last fiscal year, and itís going to $166,000 in the next budget cycle, which Iím sure the members opposite will vote against also.
Question re: Government promises
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Premier. On page 17 of the governmentís throne speech delivered in this House on February 27, 2003, the following words appeared: ďPractising good government is another important priority of my government. It is adopting an inclusive approach to governance based upon consensus, consultation, collaboration and where need be, compromise.Ē
When and why did the Premier decide to abandon that clear commitment to the Yukon people?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, this government, by virtue of the fact that we have honoured and lived up to that commitment, has been able to, in working with First Nations, the private sector, other jurisdictions, other governments, the State of Alaska† ó you name it ó has been able to progress in this territory.
We have stopped the exodus of the population. We have created more jobs for Yukoners. We have the investment community back into the territory by restoring investor confidence. We have done a great deal in conserving and protecting Yukonís environment. We have strengthened our social fabric. We have invested further in our education system, improving it and building upon an education system that must meet the needs of Yukon citizens now and long into the future. It is through that commitment, it is through that collaboration, it is through that compromise approach, that non-confrontational approach to governing, that we have been successful.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, apparently the Premier doesnít like to be reminded of the promises he has just broken, or has been breaking for three years, actually. Weíre talking about the promises he made as Premier, not just as a campaigning politician.
Letís continue a review from the same page of the throne speech. ďIn the Legislature, this approach means my government óĒ and I like the words when you read throne speeches, all about ďmy governmentĒ ó ďwill be seeking support for an all-party committee on appointments to major boards and committees as well as an all-party agreement on a code of conduct and decorum in the Legislature.Ē
Same question for the Premier, since he didnít answer the first one: when and why did the Premier decide to abandon a clear commitment ó that clear commitment as well as many others ó to the Yukon people?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, once again I must correct the record for the leader of the official opposition. The government hasnít abandoned anything. In fact, the government has forged ahead with its plan and vision for this territory. But when you speak to issues like an all-party committee for appointments to boards and committees, the offer is there ó but there has to be reciprocity, Mr. Speaker. The other side of the House must be willing to work with the government side.
Yesterday we saw demonstration that that is not the case in dealing with a fundamental ill in society here in the Yukon Territory. Working together on how to address that ill, what transpired? Will the opposite benches agree with proceeding with the substance abuse action plan? No. But today they are tabling motions, one and all, about how to proceed with the substance abuse action plan. I rest my case.
Mr. Hardy: †† It gets tiring; the Premier constantly attacks us on this side, always finding fault with us on this side, and yet the public is in the hands of the Premier. They gave him the trust to manage the affairs. He will not take that responsibility and he continues to break promises. Not only has he broken the promises that I have mentioned, he has also actively rejected attempts from this side of the House to do the things he has promised. The proof is a code of conduct and decorum thatís needed every single day in this Legislature.
What has been happening is an abusive way the Premier treats questions and suggestions from this side of the House, and we did have an example of that yesterday evening. We saw it yesterday, of course, very much in a disgraceful attack on the members on this side for daring to urge the government to take action to make the Yukon communities safer. We see it in how the Premier abuses anyone who doesnít kowtow to him, and that includes reporters, public servants ó theyíve felt his wrath ó even leaders of other governments who disagree with the Premierís view of reality.
If the Premier refuses to honour his throne speech commitments, will he do the right thing and put it to the people? Call an election so the Yukon voters can elect a government that will keep its word.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First let me point out to this House and all Yukoners that, should they wish to read Hansard to come to a conclusion on what the leader of the official opposition is implying, Iíll leave it to that process. Yukoners should read Hansard to see exactly what transpired here yesterday afternoon in this Assembly with respect to dealing with one of societyís most difficult challenges.
Furthermore, the member implies that we have somehow broken a commitment with a standing committee. All we have to do is pick up the Standing Orders ó there it is for all to see. Standing Order 45(3.5) dictates ďthat a committee for appointments to major government boards and committees shall consist of three members from the government caucus, one member from the official opposition caucus and a third party memberĒ. Thatís the problem here, Mr. Speaker: the opposition benches would not respond positively; they donít like the structure written in the Standing Orders. So that offer stands ó we are prepared to proceed with the committee.
Mr. Speaker, letís look at the evidence. To even suggest the government has not lived up to its commitments flies in the face of the evidence and is there before all to see. Yes, we will let Yukoners pass judgement when the time comes.
Question re: Watson Lake care facility contract
†Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Yesterday we were discussing how the minister has bent the contracting rules in Watson Lake with contracts for the new multi-level care facility. The Minister of Health has personally signed off on four contracts worth $434,000 with no competition. This is not the normal way of doing business. Normally these types of contracts are publicly tendered. Not in the Premierís riding ó different rules apply.
All four contracts are over the limit for sole-sourcing. Yesterday the minister said, ďPersonally, I havenít handed out one contract.Ē Mr. Speaker, I am filing with the Clerk four contracts today that were personally signed off by the minister, downloaded from the web, the contracting authority is listed, the name on it is the Member for Klondikeís ó he signed them. Did the minister make a mistake yesterday or did he just forget that he has personally signed off on $434,000 in sole-sourced contracts for this facility?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is incorrect in the number of sole-sourced contracts. Itís about eight or nine, as my recollection or memory serves me. All the contract rules and regulations have been followed to the letter and adhered to. The contract rules and regulations have not been changed one iota from when the member opposite was in office to when our government came to office.
Ms. Duncan: This week in the Legislature we have heard about how the Yukon Party made changes to the contracting rules for highway equipment rentals ó changes that only appear to benefit Watson Lake. They have ignored normal contracting rules for the new multi-level health facility in Watson Lake. This is what the contractor who just built the Canada Games Centre said: ďThe governmentís decision to go the sole-source route for the Watson Lake project is a breach of standard protocol used by governments across North America to ensure taxpayers get the best value for their money.Ē
Mr. Speaker, there is a section of the contracting rules that allows the minister to personally approve this type of contract. It says ďin special cases authorized by the ministerĒ. Will the minister state for the public record, what is the special case?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Maximizing business opportunity for Yukon and Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, all rules and contracting regulations have been fulfilled and abided by. The member opposite has wrapped up three issues: the highway equipment rental contracts program ó and he doesnít mention that the HERC program not only applied to Watson Lake and the Campbell Highway, but also the north Klondike, the Klondike Highway, to the Dempster Highway ó that are not in that riding. So the benefits have accrued across the entire Yukon. If we look at the athletes village, which the member opposite refers to, that is done by a project manager, and many of those areas have been sole sourced, and many of those areas have been contracted out. At the end of the day, the benefits that are accruing to Yukon are maximized, and the benefits will be flowing in advance of when they may be flowing. Weíre serving the people of the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, and serving them where we get value for our dollar spent.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the president of the Yukon Contractors Association does not agree with what the minister is saying. He says the decision to sole source this level of work is a significant departure from the normal bid process to ensure the public gets the best value for the dollar. The business community that the minister is suggesting agrees with him does not, and does not support this level of sole sourcing for this type of contract.
The Yukon Party is ignoring the normal rules and the normal procedure. There is no special case in that $434,000 worth of contracts handed out in the Premierís riding. Will the minister commit that he will follow the normal contracting practices and tender the rest of the project so everyone can get a chance to bid on a $5-million project?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † Mr. Speaker, once again for the member opposite, who was wrong in his assertions: all rules and contracting regulations have been fulfilled. They have been abided by with respect to the project, which is a design/build project in the community of Watson Lake. It is a multi-level care facility that will serve the needs of the Yukon seniors primarily in that area, among others that need medical attention. Weíre on the record and, Mr. Speaker, we have done nothing outside the contract regulations and rules that exist in the Yukon today. And the member opposite, when she was in government, did many of these sole-source contracts. Itís quite common in the Yukon to sole-source contracts.
Question re: Wildlife Act amendments
Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Environment. Iím happy that he has decided to back away from tinkering with the Wildlife Act and the definition, to allow more time for public consultation. I think we can all agree that the process was confusing and flawed. Will the Environment minister outline the new process and the timeline for changing this legislation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: When the officials from the department met with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the renewable resource councils, they requested more time to examine what is being proposed. There are issues being proposed by both parties ó both the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the RRCs ó and they are all going to be taken into consideration. No one is tinkering with this piece of legislation. We have an obligation as a government to consult with First Nations and we are doing exactly that: consulting with First Nations and consulting with the public in general.
Mrs. Peter: Changing the definition of ďwildlifeĒ in the Wildlife Act is a big step, because it might require similar changes in other important pieces of legislation to make them all consistent. This scares the Yukon First Nations who are concerned the government might be secretly trying to create greater opportunities for game farming and even hunt farms. Not long ago, the Member for Lake Laberge went on at great length about these changes. He even cited the Magna Carta once again to make the claim that this is all about property rights.
What is the ministerís take on that? Are these changes about game farming opportunities, property rights, or both? And does he consider some wildlife animals as private property?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I donít have a take on this issue. I am not prejudging what the consultation process will determine. There is a consultation process that is underway with First Nation leaders, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the RRCs. We proposed a number of changes; those changes are on the table for consideration, and consultation time is requested. One day we are being criticized for no consultation, the next we are being criticized for too much consultation. Where is the member wanting to go?
Question re: Land development
†Mr. McRobb: I have a follow-up question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources on yesterdayís question about the changes the Yukon Party government is making to the disposition process for oil and gas leases. We are hoping the minister will finally provide a reasonable answer to a reasonable question.
Yesterday we asked about the Yukon Partyís changes to the disposition process, but the minister couldnít elevate the debate. Instead, he spun out, saying the Yukon Oil and Gas Act was brought in by the previous NDP government in 1998. We knew that, Mr. Speaker, but our questions pertained to the changes he is making in 2005 to the disposition process, not the act.
So, letís try again. Hopefully, he is finally on the right page. Why is the minister now opening this Pandoraís box and escalating conflicts between the various land users by opening areas to development before the completion of land use planning?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, we have to follow the Yukon oil and gas regime ó itís the law ó and weíre doing just that.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously, heís not up to the challenge, Mr. Speaker. Without any public consultation, this minister is suddenly changing the entire process. His changes include how areas within our territory are selected for development, the scheduling of those selections, who selects the areas, the length of the review process, the number of areas for review at any one time, et cetera, in a way that favours industry over Yukoners. Heís opening up every possible inch of land within the territory to oil and gas development, including your backyard, Mr. Speaker. Youíd think we would have learned by now from the bad examples where damage to the environment and infringement on property owners has surpassed reasonable levels, such as in parts of Alberta and Wyoming.
Why is the minister so willing to throw away our childrenís environmental heritage just for another pro-industry news release?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís very trying to sit on this side of the House and listen to the misinformation that the member opposite directs toward the Yukon population. We are working within the act, with YOGA, and moving forward with oil and gas in the Yukon. Thatís what our obligations are. We have an act in place, we have a law, and we are following that law for those dispositions.
Question re: Land application process
Mr. Cardiff: Land is an important issue for all Yukon citizens and we need a policy and a process for making it available in a manner thatís fair to all. Thereís a perception out there that the current process for obtaining land, in a lot of instances, is unfair and arbitrary. Iíd even go so far as to describe it as being outdated.
The time has come to legitimize the work of the Land Application Review Committee with legislation or regulations. When would the government commit to doing that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We had been working through the Department of Community Services in particular on trying to develop the land development issue for the land availability in and around the Whitehorse area. We are in that process right now, and weíre trying to come up with a solution that will provide adequate land, when needed, and provide it in an easy manner.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, I didnít realize that the LARC was in Community Services, but I guess maybe it moved last week.
Weíre hearing concerns about the land disposition process and about spot land applications. The concerns are about the environment, and theyíre about traditional uses by First Nations. Now, we need a new process for land disposition, because the public believes that the current one, which we inherited from the federal government, is not working in the best interests of the majority of Yukoners. When will this government recognize the need for long-term land use planning to ensure that the proposed new activities do not negatively impact on traditional activities, the environment or wildlife?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, we certainly are concerned about the issues the member opposite brings forward, and we are working within the LARC process to answer those questions. We certainly are looking toward land planning so that we minimize the spot applications. The only way weíre going to eliminate spot applications is by putting something ó exactly what that member is talking about ó in place. So this government is going forward with that.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, Iíve asked them when they are prepared to commit to doing that. The problem is that the policy and the process are old and antiquated. Now, when is this government going to be prepared to move forward on doing something with regard to the land application process and the land disposition process? When are they going to be able to do something about that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member oppositeís opinion about the process is wrong. We are working on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to improve the land situation in Yukon, and we are taking under advisement all stakeholders in it and moving ahead with land development in the Yukon. So as far as being too archaic and that we rub out LARC, thatís not in the books. We work with our groups to get this problem resolved.
Question re: Government credibility††††
Mr. Hardy: By now everyone knows that there is a by-election going on in Copperbelt, and they know why, Mr. Speaker. They also know it was the Premier who set an election date that denies the people of Copperbelt a voice in this Assembly for more than half of this sitting. Safer communities, action on the doctor shortage and action on Yukonís drug problem are among the top issues in that by-election. So is the need for a higher ethical standard in government. What steps has the Premier taken to improve the ethical standard he demands of his ministers and MLAs, or will he only get the message after Copperbelt voters just say no to the Yukon Party way of doing things?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The issue here is that the government did something that ensured that we did not deny the citizens in the riding of Copperbelt their right to the democratic process. That is of the highest ethical standard possible for any government ó not to interfere in that democratic process. The rest is up to the citizens, the voters of the riding of Copperbelt, to make their choice. The government side is very comfortable in placing the outcome of this by-election in their hands.
Mr. Hardy: We have to wonder what the Premier considers ethical. Perhaps he considers it is ethical for ministers to refuse to pay their debts. Perhaps he thinks it is ethical for ministers to refuse to answer questions in this House and to hide out in their offices so the media canít question them ó or even refuse to answer phone calls, as weíve heard today, from the top. Perhaps he thinks itís ethical to break his throne speech promises. Perhaps he thinks itís ethical to commit millions and millions of dollars through snap decisions with no consultation and without spending authority from the Legislature.
When the people of Copperbelt just say no to the Yukon Party way of doing things, will the Premier reconsider the legislative renewal bill that we put forward that calls for an ethical code of conduct for MLAs and ministers?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The government side is not going down to that level of debate. The member talks about making so-called snap decisions. Is the member saying that the development ó under the leadership of our Minister of Education ó of an individual learning centre bringing young people and other Yukoners back off the street, into the school system, to get a high school diploma is a snap decision? Does the member opposite suggest that more home-school tutoring in the communities is a snap decision? Does the member suggest that the increase to the base funding of Yukon College, which hasnít had an increase in a decade ó is that a snap decision? How about the encouragement to enrolment and trades and apprenticeship in technology ó is that a snap decision?
What about the 17-percent increase in the Education budget ó is that a snap decision? What about the injection of $1 million for an immediate needs assessment in all our schools in this territory ó is that a snap decision? What about the increase in the community training funds ó up to $1.5 million ó is that a snap decision? No, itís a snapshot of all the work this government has been doing under a sound plan and vision for this territory.
Mr. Hardy: Well, he never answered my question again, because there was a snap decision that could cost tens of millions of dollars ó all for political expediency. A Finance minister who wonít debate his own budget ó thatís what we witness in here; ministers who canít or wonít speak for their own departments ó we see it all the time; a government that demeans and intimidates its own employees and will use an agreement signed and then ignored; disintegrating relationships with many First Nations and municipal governments; environmental concerns trampled in the rush to pursue a Murkowski-style economy; and chaos in the executive suite because of the whoís-on-top struggle that we witness daily. We are hearing it from the inside, Mr. Speaker, and Yukon people are seeing it for themselves outside. They want an end to what they see as an abuse of power.
Will the Premier give Yukoners what they are asking for: a chance to go to the polls and just say no to this style of governing?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I didnít know that Question Period had become accusation period but I guess, in the case of the official opposition, thereís not much that they can debate with the government side on policies, program, our plan, our vision, and I think the evidence is clear.
The member says we wonít debate the budget. We tried to debate the budget. By the memberís own admission, the member is dumbfounded by the budget. How can we debate the budget in a constructive manner? Weíll continue to try, Mr. Speaker, to engage with the members opposite in a positive and constructive way on behalf of all Yukoners and to the benefit of all Yukoners. What we wonít do is deviate from what we committed to do, the plan we said weíd bring in, the vision we have for this territory, and there is a marked difference between this side and that side.
We see a positive, optimistic future for this territory. We see growth. We see well-being. The members opposite see negativity, madness, misery, and they are looking backwards. Not this government ó we are building a future with Team Yukon, which is all the partners of this territory.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would ask the indulgence of the House once more to turn our attention to the gallery and introduce Kh‚ Sh‚de Hťni, Mark Wedge, of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. Please make him welcome.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 61: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 61, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 61, entitled Co-operation in Governance Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 61, entitled Co-operation in Governance Act, be now read a second time.
†Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour today to speak to this motion to give second reading to Bill No. 61, Co-operation in Governance Act. In short, this bill makes Yukon history and, more than that, it makes history in Canada.
In no other jurisdiction in our country is there legislation of this kind, legislation that formally establishes a forum where a public government and self-governing First Nations can come together to cooperate on matters of mutual interest. In the Yukon, we often make the point that we are unique, and that is true: we are unique in many ways.
One thing that makes us especially unique is the achievement of aboriginal land claims and self-government agreements. In many ways, we are the envy of the rest of the country.
Through many years of effort, we were able to finally achieve in 1993 the Umbrella Final Agreement, which provided for the settlement of land claims, as well as self-government, by Yukon First Nations.
Since then, we have been able to achieve 11 First Nation final and self-government agreements. We cannot underestimate how profound this change is to the Yukonís economic, social and political fabric. In 1995, the first four First Nation final and self-government agreements came into effect. Since then, First Nation governments and the Government of Yukon, as well as the Government of Canada, have gained considerable experience with this new regime of governance in our territory. All governments involved have learned much along the way.
In true Yukon fashion, we have come to understand quite well how much benefit there is to the people of our territory when governments cooperate on issues of mutual concern. With the evolution of First Nation self-government and the finalization of seven additional final and self-government agreements in the 10 years since 1995, we have come to appreciate more fully the nature and extent of First Nation self-government, and we will learn more as time goes on.
One of the single most important features of First Nation self-government is jurisdiction by First Nation governments over areas of governance that are compatible with the Government of Yukon. With the evolution of the Yukon government as a public government, especially through amendments to the Yukon Act in 2002, and the coming into effect of the devolution transfer agreement in 2003, there is now, for the first time in Yukon history, the ability of Yukon people to truly govern themselves.
As First Nation self-government evolves, and as evolution takes place with public government in the Government of Yukon, both governments involved have become aware of our full potential. There is simply so much more that can be done by Yukon people through their governments in their territory, making decisions on their own much more than ever before.
As governments, we respect one anotherís jurisdictions and we respect one anotherís traditions. We talk, we discuss, we agree on many things, and sometimes, it is true, we will disagree. But as partners at the same table, that is the fundamental purpose. First Nations no longer have to wait to hear from the Government of Canada before taking action on a matter affecting their people or their land that is under their jurisdiction. The Government of Yukon can and does make decisions every day that before were made by the federal government. As Yukoners, we know that when we cooperate on matters of mutual interest we are stronger together, and the benefits to our people can be greater than if we acted on our own. This is what the Yukon forum is all about.
Mr. Speaker, many previous government leaders and premiers have sat down in meetings with First Nations leadership to discuss issues of common concern. I pay tribute to my predecessors for the work they have done to bring us to this day. We would not be here discussing this legislation had they not helped to pave the way. It is now time to formalize the government-to-government relationship in a way that is mutually agreed upon by those involved.
Letís take a moment to review a few of the key features of Bill No. 61. The bill makes it clear that the jurisdiction of the governments involved is not affected in any way. It is made clear in the bill that the final and self-government agreements are not affected in any way. This is because those agreements are the primary legally binding documents that define the relationship between Yukon and Yukon First Nations from which so many things will flow.
This bill provides for the establishment of a place for discussion among governments called the Yukon forum, and its central purpose is to establish a means by which we can review, discuss and determine common priorities and opportunities for cooperation and collaboration as governments on behalf of our citizens. Members of the Yukon forum are the Premier, the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, and the chiefs of self-governing Yukon First Nations who wish to participate in the forum. First Nations that are not yet self-governing are welcome to attend and participate. The bill provides for four meetings per year, at which the Premier and other members of Cabinet will participate.
For two of those meetings, we will endeavour, as I said earlier, to ensure that the governmentís Cabinet will be involved. The bill references the memorandum of understanding that was signed to establish the forum prior to the legislation. The memorandum of understanding was signed last January and as honourable members will recall, copies of the memorandum of understanding were made available at that time. That memorandum, which has been signed by nine First Nations, outlines First Nation involvement in the forum. The memorandum also outlines the operating procedures of the forum, and the bill leaves it open to the forum to make decisions in that regard.
This bill makes it very clear that this forum is not a new level of government or a new structure or bureaucracy that will cost a lot of money. There will be some expenditures by Yukon, but they will be modest. Yukon First Nations are contributing their share as well.
The Yukon forum is a way to formalize what were previously informal meetings between the leadership of Yukon First Nation governments and the Government of Yukon. We are creating formally, in a cooperative manner, a place where government can come together to deal with issues of great importance to our citizens.††
Itís about building Yukonís future, and this is a significant accomplishment, and itís a very positive development in the history of our territory. Indeed, it is a significant accomplishment of the country itself.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my comments and say that I look forward to comments made by the other honourable members with respect to Bill No. 61. I look forward to this Houseís support in moving forward with this historic and important piece of legislation for the benefit of all.
Mr. Hardy: Itís probably, from many peopleís perspective, a long time coming to have the public governance bill formalized and brought forward into the Legislative Assembly to be debated and discussed. In doing so, I think itís very important ó and something we should never neglect ó that we remember the long journey and the many other agreements ó many of them even more significant ó that have brought us here today, and the many people who have given up so much in their lives to work on self-government agreements, the Umbrella Final Agreement, the many other agreements that have been brought about with other governments at the territorial level, even with the different governments that have come and gone at the federal level, and the many people who were involved in it, the many struggles and differences of opinion, and the ones who had significant impact in bringing forward recognition of the rights of First Nations ó the importance that they are at all tables and not selectively asked to participate, all tables that will have an impact on their lives.
When we talk about equal partnerships, it shouldnít just be talk, Mr. Speaker. It should be demonstrated on a daily basis by how we live our lives and how we work together and how we conduct ourselves. It should be demonstrated in the agreements we sign ó that itís not just a piece of paper but itís something that we will now abide by. It should be demonstrated when we meet with other levels of government. It should be demonstrated when we send off correspondence to other levels of government, to businesses that may want to do business in the Yukon, such as oil and gas companies. When we have discussions with all people of the territory, a concept of equality should be demonstrated.
This has been a struggle for many, many people for a long time ó many of whom have passed away. As I said yesterday in regard to the veterans, I also believe those comments apply in our relations with First Nations of this territory. We must constantly practise in a manner that people can be proud of and that we practise our lives and our actions based on what went before and what they would want.
Just because we are elected doesnít give us power to do as we see fit or to act in any manner we wish. We must have checks and balances, and we must be accountable to somebody, some people, something else. Many of the ceremonies I have attended over my life growing up here have talked about the spiritual side. With the First Nation, itís almost always mentioned. That is accountability for us, something for all of us to measure up to. In whatever spiritual path that you may choose, it is once again something for us to be accountable to, to guide us. It is our core. As I said, Iím not taking any kind of spiritual path; Iím just saying we all need something other than just facts in front of us. We need some guiding values and principles and something that gives us strength. We also have our families that do that, and we have our communities to help guide us, and we have our elders and seniors and people we trust, and we have a belief in principle.
Now, there are different parties in this Legislative Assembly and they do have different principles, different standards and values. They also have some that are common. We must always have some kind of connection to those values. We must have some way to measure: are we doing what we say we are going to do? Are we practising good governance? Are we practising ethical behaviour?†
Are we sincere about what we say, what we put out to the public, what we say to people? Will we stand by it, or are we just doing it to get publicity? Are we just doing it to get elected? I hope not because, if that is the case, and the Yukon forum bill is just another MOU that we have witnessed being signed on many occasions over the last three years, and itís all talk and very little commitment to action, then we have let down the people of this territory. We have let down our equal partners, the ones who are entrusting themselves to this bill ó the First Nations.
If on this side we cannot honour it, then it means nothing ó absolutely nothing. Actually, Iíll take that back: it means something. It means a betrayal and, frankly, if you look at our history and the treatment of the First Nations of this country, there has been enough betrayal; there have been enough agreements signed that do not carry any value. The wording might be all right, but there is no intent to follow through. There has been enough of that.
It is too easy to draft up MOUs, letters of understanding, agreements ó it is just far too easy to sign them and then walk away.
Many of the agreements that have been signed with First Nations across the country have not been honoured. Many of the agreements that have been signed in Yukon are not being honoured.
There is the huge question of implementation of self-government agreements and the struggle that comes out of them ó and itís a hard struggle. But I thought they were signed. I thought they were supposed to be honoured. I thought they would work together as equal partners and work together to resolve the outstanding issues and move forward. But the federal government on a regular basis does not honour them, and the Yukon government, though they may sign many more agreements, many side agreements and MOUs ó at some point you get tired of seeing MOUs, you want to see action. Though they may sign them, we donít see the results.
Instead we see something else coming out of them. We see a break, a lack of trust, broken faith, and cynicism in that the territorial government canít be trusted. It all comes down to broken deals and raising peopleís expectations that you are going to honour the words that you speak, such as equality, partnerships, working side by side, all levels of government benefiting from economic activity, social programs, education, protecting the environment.
So you end up with a situation where you may get another deal signed. The territorial government may get another MOU. They may get another letter of understanding, but they are not going to have good relations a year, two years, or three years down the road, and they shouldnít have, if they donít honour them.†
Now, itís not just with the First Nations that we feel this government has not lived up to its word. Itís with other partners, other people in the territory, and I mentioned some of them earlier today. Their own employees and how they treated their own employees is indicative of how they would treat others. Well, Mr. Speaker, their attack upon their own employees was outrageous. Their employees were found guilty, and they had to prove themselves innocent. It demoralized that workforce.
If an employer treats their own employees that way, I suspect they would also treat other people that way. We witnessed that. We have seen broken promises, and we talked about that earlier today as well ó an all-party committee on appointments to major boards and committees as well as the promise of an all-party agreement on a code of conduct and decorum. None of that has ever materialized. But you know, Mr. Speaker, it is actually words that were spoken by the Premier. Those were the promises that were made. They havenít been lived up to. There are so many.
Hereís one: ďMy government is committed, as a priority, to establishing a government-to-government relationship with First Nations, based on mutual respect, consultation and collaboration for the better operation of all governments in the territory, with the objective of reducing barriers and providing more cost-effective services to all Yukon citizens.Ē
I would assume that promise is now what weíre talking about, the Yukon forum bill.
It goes on to say, ďThis relationship will extend to all areas of governance, including the economy, education, health, justice, social and community services.Ē
We know whatís happening with education, Mr. Speaker. The Premier may stand up and say the relation with First Nations is wonderful, itís perfect and itís the greatest ever, but itís not my words saying that itís the opposite, that thereís something seriously wrong, that there is a lack of trust and a withholding of support. Thereís a cynicism that has grown.
Iíll go through a couple of examples that are very, very disturbing. In education there is actually a move to draw down that education by four First Nation governments. The Premier and the minister do not recognize the significance of that, do not recognize their own role in creating that. Anybody who will look back to see what happened in Carmacks will recognize a territorial government that was not collaborative.
They did not show respect for the wishes, not just of the First Nations up there, but also the other citizens that were very concerned. They did not work in collaboration with the people, and there is very clear evidence presented that shows the breakdown and the entrenchment of the territorial government on their position and then finally forcing what they wanted. So now we have a school being built, but we have a community extremely upset. Generally, building a school is something to celebrate and has been historically. In this case it is not.
A lot of promises have been made: electoral reform ó not fulfilled; legislative renewal ó not fulfilled. These are essential things that I believe have to be brought in so that the territorial government is different. Itís more respectful of other levels of the government that will work more closely with them, but it is also more accountable to the people of the Yukon but also to each other in the Legislative Assembly and that doesnít happen. Each government, it seems ó and I have been around a little while ó to want to make a difference to how we conduct business in here and how we treat each other in here. In this case, three years later, it has gotten worse. Maybe the previous one ó it was worse, too, and the one before that. Many people have told me they have never seen it like this. But if people within here, as people who are elected to represent regions of the Yukon ó ridings as they call them ó cannot respect or recognize each otherís contribution without trying to always ďone upĒ the other person or take credit where credit is not due, without trying to make each person part of solving the problems facing the territory, how, Mr. Speaker, do we expect the Legislative Assembly to honour agreements with other levels of government ó with the First Nations?
If they cannot treat each other as equals inside the Legislative Assembly ó where theyíre supposed to work ó because ultimately weíre all equal ó every riding is equal to another riding, at least from my perspective. The rights of the people who voted for us ó the people who elected me in Whitehorse Centre, the downtown riding, should be as equal and treated with the same respect as the people who elected the Premier in his riding, or the people who elected the Member for Southern Lakes in that riding. We forget that sometimes in here. We forget that we are elected by the people, and when we do not treat each other with respect and as equals, we are actually saying ó through the personís representative in here ó that those people are not as important.
As you can tell, Mr. Speaker, I have very serious concerns. Theyíre not about a formal agreement to meet four times a year. I think that is perfectly acceptable. Formalizing it ó some people have told me the reason itís being formalized on behalf of the territorial government is to make sure they actually do it. It is very significant. I have no problem with that.
My problem lies with something that follows it and something weíve seen before, and that is that itís just a piece of paper with signatures on it that is very significant, but will it be followed through?
Will it be a document that builds that relationship, that strengthens and recognizes the equality that is necessary for us to move forward, or will it be a document ó will it be an memorandum of understanding, as some of the other ones have ó that will become a flashpoint for distrust? Will it become a document that is used as an example of betrayal or trust misplaced? And there are so many examples in our past in dealing with First Nations ó so many ó and thatís what Iím worried about. Thatís what I fear, and I am fearful because just in the last three years we have seen so many MOUs, so many letters of understanding, so many agreements, and very little action from them. We have even passed budgets in here recognizing or trying to support coalitions and groups.
Mr. Speaker, Iím going to use an example ó and itís a disturbing example, and itís very recent ó to emphasize how important it is to honour each other. I recognize the fact that weíre not even going to be here that long in the scheme of things, in the lifecycle in the Yukon, however long that will be. If we look at the past, we look at where we have come, we look at the impact, some of the major activities that have happened here, and the negative aspects and some of the positive aspects on the First Nations, who lived their lives here long before my ancestors came along and all of us ó most of us. And we also look at whatís coming ó major, major economic activity called the pipeline ó and how weíre going to share in that and what kind of relationship we have and what we put in place to deal with a significant activity that could once again change the Yukon.
There have been changes. It happened during the gold rush period. People in here spoke about the impact that had. There was significant change when the Alaska Highway was built. There were some agreements signed and probably not honoured, and that has an impact.
Now we are facing another massive project that is coming into the Yukon at some point. Most people recognize now that it probably will go ahead. Most people recognize that there is a lot of debate out there and are taking positions on it. We have a chance to ensure so much is in place before it actually lands in the Yukon and it begins. We have a chance. We have a chance to be side by side with First Nations on this. We have a chance to share in the resource development from it. We have a chance to ensure training is there for all people, for the youth. We have to work together to ensure that. We have a chance to ensure that benefits will flow long after the building of the pipeline.
Iíve met with the pipeline builders and the unions, and Iíve talked with the First Nations around this. All of them want to work together. They are committed. They want to see training. No training has happened, really, Mr. Speaker, yet we are all saying itís coming. The building of the pipeline is very specialized, and it wonít take long to build the thing. In the scheme of things, it wonít take long at all. People who think this is going to be a project that is going to last 10 or 15 years donít understand that these pipelines are built very fast now. There are sound economic reasons why. The faster you have it built, the faster you are now generating revenue to pay back the cost of it.
Itíll happen very fast. If all these agreements are not in place to ensure not just training, economic benefits from it, environmental concerns addressed ó if theyíre not in place and if all people are not part of the whole process right from the beginning and treated as equals, then I believe we will end up with some of the problems the Mackenzie pipeline is facing, and we will also end up with people being out of the loop, being left behind, not benefiting from it.
An example of the problems has come to surface. My colleague, the MLA for Kluane, has tabled letters in the Legislative Assembly to try to address these issues and concerns that were being expressed by the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and their correspondence and to work with the Premier.
There was a letter sent to a variety of companies ó ConocoPhillips, Imperial Oil, BP Canada, oil companies. It was sent from the Premier himself, and in it the Premier says the NPA, the existing certificates of public convenience and necessity and the associated easement held by Foothills Pipeline Yukon, provide this advantage ó he had aligned some advantages ó and one that is likely to avoid repetition of the Mackenzie experience.
Now, of course, heís talking about whatís happening over there. It goes on to talk a little bit more about First Nation settlement lands and land claim agreements. Then it says that the Yukon advantage is accentuated by the establishment of a well-prepared Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. Now, in this House, we voted on a budget, and there was money allocated to ensure that the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition had some money to work with. Iím not sure if the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition has necessarily identified the Northern Pipeline Agency as the one they wish to go to, instead of the National Energy Board, but that was what was indicated in this letter ó speaking on behalf of this coalition.
Now, that was on June 8. On June 9, the interim chair of the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition sent a letter to the Premier. In it, it says, ďYour letters imply that the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition shares your governmentís view with respect to the Yukon advantage of a Northern Pipeline Act. Nothing could be further from the truth.Ē Iíll skip down a little bit. It says, ďThe coalition finds the process you use to make and communicate your decisions offensive Ö.Ē
†Speaker: †If a member wishes to cite or quote from a document that contains unparliamentary language or does not adhere to proper form, the member must paraphrase the offending portions so that it will conform to the rules and forms of this Legislative Assembly. Iíd ask the honourable member to please follow that.
Mr. Hardy: Could I ask the indulgence of the Speaker to tell me exactly what I read that was offensive language?
Speaker: ďIt could not be further from the truthĒ is an expression that is not acceptable in this Legislative Assembly. We have ruled on it several times before, so I would ask the honourable member to exercise that.†
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker
The coalition finds a process used to make and communicate your decision offensive and a breach of mutual commitments to work cooperatively and in collaboration on pipeline issues.
So there is a conflict right there and it demonstrates a problem with an agreement that we in this House thought had been agreed to with this coalition and the territorial government. Yet, obviously it wasnít being acted on by the territorial government or by the Premier.
On June 14, there was another letter that was sent. Again, it was in regard to a regulatory regime that may govern the proposed Alaska Highway pipeline. It was sent to all the businesses and people to whom the Premier sent the initial letter that I quoted from ó number one was the Governor of Alaska and the president of Imperial Oil, president of Conoco ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 57(2), the debate on a motion for second reading shall be limited to the object of expediency principles and merit of the bill or to alternate methods of obtaining its purposes.
I believe the member opposite is wandering into an area that is not covered or contained whatsoever in the purpose and intent of the bill before the House.
Speaker: The Chair has allowed a lot of latitude in the nature of these debates from both sides of the Assembly. From the Chairís perspective, itís really up to the members themselves to self-regulate, unless itís obviously against the Standing Orders. So I would ask the leader of the official opposition to carry on with that in mind.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As I was saying, the president of ConocoPhillips, president of Enbridge, president of BP Canada and president and CEO of TransCanada Pipelines ó in which the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition ensured that their position, contrary to the Premierís position that they had contacted them with, was different and there was some disagreement in that regard. That was on June 14. On June 16, once again there was another letter sent, and there might be other letters, Mr. Speaker. The point I am making here ó maybe we will go back to memorandum of understandings and agreements and, really, what is the intent, what is in our heart and what will we fulfill?
Going back to this ó a request to the Premier, June 16, from, again, the interim chair of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, which states, ďThis afternoon we have learned that you, together with Governor of Alaska and others, are attending in Washington to discuss the pipeline railroad. We understand the producers will be there as well. It was extremely disappointing to learn this news through a third party and at the last minuteÖĒ It goes on to lay out some positions. Another sentence I will read is: ďWe hereby request participation in meetings in Alaska, a legitimate request if we are going to be equal partners in this massive, major impact on the territory and be equal partners as governments.Ē
A letter came back on June 27 in which the Premier denies that request.† He states that it was the governor who organized it, and the Yukon government was going to participate at his invitation ó otherwise, no, youíre not going to be there.
It goes on, and Iím not going to go much more into this. I think the point has been made. The lack of financial commitment that was made in this Legislative Assembly was not flowing to the APC to the point that, finally, the interim chair had to become very vocal about it. And we in this Legislative Assembly, knowing that a budget had been passed and money had been allocated, were very concerned that that money was not being transferred to this coalition, this extremely important coalition, for them to do some work and represent their interests and their people.
Now, the reason I brought that up, Mr. Speaker, and the reason I used that most recent example ó and there are many others besides education and the significant activity thatís going to be coming ó is that if you do not honour your agreements, those agreements mean nothing. The history to date has said that this is a government that hasnít honoured those agreements. That is why, for the first time ever, weíve had demonstrations of specifically First Nations out in front of this Legislative Assembly. We have had, for the first time that I can remember, First Nations shutting their office doors to the Premier and ministers, refusing to discuss issues with them.† Thatís unheard of, and that shows an erosion of trust. There is a pattern, unfortunately, Mr. Speaker.
I believe that the Premier said all the right words and has said many good words about the relations in regard to First Nations and equal partnerships. I believe that the bill before us can be a good thing. What I question and what Iím struggling with is, once again, do we support something like this when the past has shown that it isnít honoured? At what point do you say, enough is enough? You canít keep signing MOUs; you canít keep having press conferences; you canít keep lifting the hopes of the representatives from the First Nations by saying that itís going to be different this time, only to let them down again.
At some point, that will end: the First Nations will not come to the table and sign another agreement when they know it may not be honoured.
For any future government, it will be extremely difficult to rebuild that trust, because the next government has to show that they are different, that they truly will not sign something unless they will live by it. They will not seek the photo op; there is more to it than this.
Thatís a huge challenge. Once trust is broken, itís very difficult to re-establish. Anybody who has ever been in that situation, on one side or the other, will recognize that that seed, once planted, sits there and it doesnít take much for it to blossom again ó the seed of distrust ó because itís now set that you canít trust them. There is no question about it, our history in Canada is dismal on how we have treated the First Nations and all the agreements we have broken and all the hopes we have raised.
I said earlier that itís not just about this bill. There are so many other areas in which that trust has been broken. Unfortunately, I think there are going to be some more. I believe we have another year to live with the actions of the Premier and this government. I am hoping if we go forward and this is passed, which of course it will be by the majority, that this does not become the next point of contention, the next failure to point at and say, ďWhy should we work with you when, look, you couldnít even live up to this latest one.Ē
It just becomes too difficult for the First Nations and it makes it almost impossible for a new territorial government to move forward. If that is what we are trying to do, we really and truly stand behind the belief of equal partners, of treating people with respect and equality, but itís coming from the basis of trust ó then itís going to be extremely difficult to re-establish and rebuild that. Unfortunately, I think that is almost the situation that we are facing today with certain First Nation governments right now.
Some of them have their signature on this.
Saying that, Mr. Speaker, Iím going to sit down and allow my colleagues in here, the other MLAs, to contribute to this very important bill ó in many ways a small step, but a significant step ó about having meetings, as well as the other aspects that are tied to it.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím going to rise to support this bill. It gives me great pleasure to do so. Iím going to try to be brief. I will try to respond to some of the comments from the member opposite. I will say that, as the MLA for Riverdale South, Iím very committed to my constituency. Iím also committed to my conduct in this House and I also believe the performance here in the House that the member opposite referred to works both ways. I think thatís something that has to be accepted on both sides of the House.
Anyway, weíve heard from Yukoners that politics of division and isolation were not working. Weíve heard from Yukoners that they want to elect officials to work together.
Mr. Speaker, this is an attempt to do just that: to meet several of the issues the member opposite brought up in his dissertation for the last hour or so, of just what we are attempting to do as a government to bring back a relationship so that itís government to government.
We made that commitment during our campaign to formalize our government-to-government relationship with the First Nations, based on mutual respect, consultation, cooperation and the benefit of the better operation of all governments in the territory, with the objective of reducing the barriers and producing more cost-effective services for all Yukon residents. Thatís an objective of what weíre trying to do with the Yukon forum.
Weíre also committed to working with the First Nations to make them full partners in the economic development of the territory, for the mutual benefit of Yukoners to avoid litigation and create a positive, united-front investment climate that will encourage responsible economic development in the territory.
I use the word ďresponsible,Ē Mr. Speaker ó a balance between the economy and the environment itself. Again, members opposite have been talking about, for the last two days, of where we are. Weíre looking at responsible development, and weíre looking at doing that with our First Nation partners.
I am pleased that we have created the Yukon forum, which establishes a real, meaningful participation between Yukon First Nation governments and the Government of Yukon. The Yukon forum is a meeting place where elected leaders of the Yukon government and self-governing First Nations can discuss and determine common priorities of cooperation, collaboration and opportunities to work for common action. I might add that it is also a very important area where we can work with our First Nation partners to deal with situations that are a national concept ó that is, dealing with the federal government. And we have several instances with our First Nation partners in which we have to go to the federal government to get the necessary resources and programs available to our First Nations so they can improve the situation within their community; i.e., whether itís water, sewer or whatever. These are all issues that the federal government has responsibility to the First Nations for and weíll be working together with them to get that achieved.
Weíre also looking to create more effective governance in the Yukon. The Yukon forum has been created to formalize our government-to-government relationship with the self-governing First Nations. As the Premier mentioned, for those who havenít signed their agreement, they are also invited to attend and they have in the past.
One of the great strengths of the Yukon is the richness of our background. If we find a way to work together we can accomplish so much more than if we are at odds with each other. I am pleased that the First Nations of Vuntut Gwitchin, TríondŽk HwŽchíin, Na Cho Nyšk Dun, Selkirk, Little Salmon-Carmacks, Champagne-Aishihik, Teslin Tlingit, Taían Kwachían and Kluane have all signed the MOU. I am also pleased that Kwanlin Dun and Carcross-Tagish have recently become self-governing First Nations.
I review the act preamble and I am reminded of how progressive the legislation really is. Yukon is unique in its evolution of both public government and the self-government of First Nations. We have an opportunity to find solutions and ways that other Canadian jurisdictions cannot. We are way ahead when it comes to this particular aspect of dealing with our First Nation partners. We are way ahead of the other jurisdictions in the south.
We recognize that the governmentís goal ó be they First Nation or public ó is to improve the quality of life for Yukoners ó thatís all Yukoners, Mr. Speaker. I think this goal is true and noble. I share the value: that is why I got involved in this area. I want to help people and I am sure that is true of each member in this Assembly ó they want to improve the health for all Yukoners, as well as the living conditions for many Yukoners throughout the Yukon.
Sometimes, though, it can be frustrating when one sees a need but it is outside oneís jurisdiction, or the scope of the problem exceeds what one government may address. As I mentioned earlier, the Yukon forum is a perfect opportunity for us to work with our First Nation partners to deal with these issues that go outside our jurisdiction.
Iím pleased that we have set the vehicle to address this global issue. We want to improve Yukonersí lives. The bill recognizes the responsibility of each of the government parties participating. Weíre going through our process; itís an important issue. None of us lose our respective responsibilities to their First Nation requirements and/or governing issues.
This forum provides a means for us to discuss issues of common concern. Mr. Speaker, regardless of where we are in the territory, we have issues of common concern. The Yukon forum will help us establish common priorities for cooperative action. It will help us identify opportunities for us to move forward together, as each government implements our respective initiatives.
I commend my colleague, the Premier, for bringing this bill forward and I encourage each member of the Assembly to support this bill. I would also just like to reiterate that itís an important step and, as the member opposite indicated, itís a small step but an important step to ensure that this government and future governments will have good government-to-government relationships with our First Nations partners.
Mr. Cardiff: It gives me great pleasure today to rise and speak to Bill No. 61, Co-operation in Governance Act. It is an important piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker. I agree with that.
Itís kind of interesting, though, how the government has to legislate itself to attend meetings. While itís important to recognize the relationship between governments ó this government and First Nation governments and other levels of government ó I think that is generally the work that the public expects governments to do: work with other levels of government.
So, I think it is one of the things I have heard on the street, in talking to people ó why would the government need a piece of legislation to make it attend and participate in four meetings annually? If you look at the explanatory note on the bill it actually says, and there is actually an escape clause which says, ďÖ or to participate in fewer or additional meetings if agreed.Ē So that means it is mandated to have four meetings, but it could be that there would be five meetings, 10 meetings, 20 meetings. We hope that there are lots of meetings, but meetings in themselves donít always end up producing results, is how I would put it.
But at the same time, the little clause in parenthesis also means that there could be zero meetings if agreed to. So that escape clause ó and we know sometimes how hard it is to reach agreement with members opposite; weíve seen over the past three years how hard it is for other governments to reach agreement with this government as well.
So, while I can support Bill No. 61, I think that there some flaws in it. I think that it is important we recognize the relationship between the Yukon government, which represents all peoples here in the territory, and First Nation governments is paramount in order for us to move ahead as a society, to address issues of community safety ó like we were trying to do yesterday afternoon.
And it was hard to get agreement with this government. I think eventually we will, but itís about the approach. I would certainly hope the approach the government takes in their meetings with First Nation governments is somewhat different than it is here in this Legislature with members of the opposition. I certainly hope so, Mr. Speaker.
There are many important matters to be discussed between governments, and some of them we hear about on a daily basis in the Legislature. Weíve heard about disagreements with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, and the Member for Whitehorse Centre also highlighted some of that. The critic for Energy, Mines and Resources has been highlighting that. Those types of actions on the part of the government donít bode well for a good relationship or ó Iím searching for a word. If the Member for Klondike would like to send over the dictionary, I could search ó meetings that are meaningful and are conducted in an orderly fashion.
Those kinds of examples donít bode well for these meetings.
One of the clauses in the preamble talks about the purpose of the forum. But what I donít see ó Iíll just read this: ďÖ recognizing the purpose of the forum is to provide a means for the members to discuss issues of common concern, identify opportunities, common priorities for cooperative action and to formulate directions that the members, if they agree, will endeavour to reflect in their respective strategies, activities, undertakings and appropriations.Ē
Now, what happens if they donít agree? What I donít see in this bill is some means of reaching a resolution where you donít agree. It goes back to what the Yukon Party promised. On the first page their letter to Yukoners about what the election was about and what their promise to Yukoners was, was to build consensus, to seek collaboration, to use consultation and to compromise.
I would certainly hope that that carries through in the meetings of the Yukon forum and that the government does spend a little bit on some of this. Because there are a lot of issues out there, whether itís oil and gas dispositions, whether itís land use or land applications: weíve seen this government not bend. The Minister of Health and Social Services couldnít bend today to assist and provide support and services for the prevention, education and support of people with hepatitis C.
If the government canít bend a little bit, how are they going to breathe life into this legislation? How are they going to live up to what people ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is conveying inaccurate information. Itís on the record as to what the Yukon government does for Blood Ties Four Directions. Weíve increased the funding from a low of $130,000 to $160,000 today. That is on the record.
Speaker: On the point of order, leader of the third party.
Ms. Duncan: As we have come to know all too well in this Legislature, there are two sides to every story ó at least two sides. The facts as presented by the Member for Mount Lorne are the facts as he knows them to be, and the Member for Klondike is speaking of the facts as he knows them to be, which to me would represent a dispute between members, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: From the Chairís perspective, there is no point of order. It is simply a dispute among members.
Member for Mount Lorne, you have the floor.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you for that ruling, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that.
The point I was trying to make was the inability in many instances of this government to compromise, to see the other side of the story. This forum is very important. The issues that are going to be dealt with are going to be of such great importance to every Yukoner ó how our society develops here in the territory, how we go forward together to ensure that there is economic prosperity for all the citizens of our society no matter who they are, that there is safety for all members of our society, no matter who they are or what walk of life they come from, and that everyone has access to the same services no matter what walk of life they come from.
These are very important meetings. The forum is important; these discussions will change the way we live our lives in the Yukon, hopefully, and we will see more respect in our society, more tolerance of other people. But it has to begin on that side of the House.
I certainly hope the members on the other side of the House will take it seriously, especially the Premier, because the Premier is the one who will be leading the discussion.
So I can definitely support this bill, but with some caveats, I guess, that I hope the Premier really does take this seriously, that he doesnít try to wiggle out of the meetings or use that escape clause thatís in there, and that the meetings are beneficial and productive and they live up to the promises they made in the election platform and they do collaborate and look at all sides of the argument ó not just the side of the argument theyíre presenting, but that they actually take a good look. Itís not easy, sometimes, to see the other side of the picture.
We heard again today disagreement about the Wildlife Act and the definition of ďwildlifeĒ. We know what the Member for Lake Laberge thinks about that; he believes that when you pay for something you own it. Unfortunately there are some things that you just canít buy, but he believes in property rights, whether or not itís something that should be legitimately owned. I think that this is an important issue, especially for First Nations, and this is somewhere where I believe the government is going to have to, at the Yukon forum, through this legislation, live up to their promises. They are going to have to compromise a little bit and to reach some sort of a consensus that will satisfy everyone. In the words of a famous musician, ďYou canít always get what you want.Ē You have to give it up sometimes. This government needs to think about other people and other peopleís needs, especially about the needs of First Nation people, I believe. They have lived here, on the land ó and I consider myself to be, after living here for 30 years, still a guest, to be honest with you.††
I thank my lucky stars every day that I live here in the Yukon, that I can live in this wonderful place, that I can drive down the highway and park my vehicle and wander off and experience such a beautiful, natural environment and see wildlife.
Thatís something I treasure, and itís something thatís very important to everyone who lives here, but I think the First Nation people have a bond with the land and with the wildlife, and that is very important. The government needs to recognize that when they address issues; they need to listen to what First Nations are saying when it comes to the ownership of wildlife. I hope those discussions do take place at these meetings.
Time today is limited and I see my time is limited, as well, thank you. I can support this, but I truly hope the government lives up to the promises it has made about consensus, collaboration, consultation and especially compromise. They need to find a way to compromise and to resolve some of the disagreements that will happen. Thatís what it says: if they agree. It doesnít say what they will do if they disagree. I think there needs to be some sort of dispute resolution mechanism they can fall back on. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree and go your separate ways, but I donít think thatís beneficial for the Yukon.
†You need to work hard. You need to find a way to resolve those differences, and I wish the government well in those meetings. I would just hope that they take those words and ponder them and think about them when theyíre in their meetings.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill No. 61.
Bill No. 61 establishes the Yukon forum. This is where the Government of Yukon and the self-governing Yukon First Nations and the Council of Yukon First Nations will join together and discuss common priorities and address those common priorities. The members opposite point to ďarguingĒ and ďtaking this bill seriouslyĒ. This bill is leading in Canada. It enshrines in legislation the coming together of the political leader of the Yukon and the political leaders from the self-governing First Nations and the Council of Yukon First Nations. This in itself is unprecedented in Canada.
This is a clear demonstration by our government of how we have committed to work with First Nations. Previously it was done by memoranda of understanding and a number of other instruments that did have force and effect, but this piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, formalizes what previously has been an informal arrangement.
From time to time, the Premier will be joined by other members of the Cabinet when he meets with the leadership of those self-governing First Nations and the Council of Yukon First Nations.
This forum is very unique, as is the number of self-governing First Nations here in the Yukon. We have the highest number of final agreements of any political jurisdiction in Canada, Mr. Speaker. What Yukon does with respect to how we involve First Nations will be watched closely. Under the final agreements, Yukon First Nations have an opportunity to draw down many areas ó education, justice, health, parts of natural resources. This is an area that our government will respect and acknowledge, not because itís legislated, but because itís the right thing to do. Itís the right thing to do.
What this establishment of the Yukon forum does not infringe upon is final and self-government agreements. They will not be affected in any way whatsoever.
Those final and self-governing agreements are the primary legal and binding documents that define the relationship between Yukon and Yukon First Nations, and this bill, Mr. Speaker, carries us one step further.
I could go on at great length, but the substance of the debate here today is that our government fully recognizes our role and responsibility and has chosen to work with our First Nation partners in many areas. We will continue to do so, and this forum is the opportunity to come together in a meaningful dialogue and advance the cause of First Nations, Yukon and all Yukoners.
As I pointed out earlier, this bill arises out of a memorandum of understanding and was the subject of much discussion between the Premier and the leaders in our First Nation community. I donít plan on speaking at length to this bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but only to say that this is a product of the good work of our government, I recommend it to the House and I look forward to this bill receiving the full support of all people here in the House.
Ms. Duncan: The legislation before us this afternoon is all about relationships with First Nation governments and the Government of Yukon throughout the Yukon.††
Many other speakers before me have made reference to the land claim process, because the land claim process includes the reaching of self-government agreements. This is about government-to-government relationships; the link is obvious, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I would like to speak for a moment about the land claim process. There is no question that it is a struggle, and it is very hard work on everyoneís part. No one political party and no one individual can take credit for all the agreements or even for each of the specific agreements to date. I note this because those of us who have had the very good fortune to attend the signing of land claim agreements will note that the Premier of the day always ensures that credit is given to those who have gone before. There is also, of course, recognition of Yukonís public servants who work in the land claims secretariat. It is very important to recognize that no one political party, no one individual ó there are been many public servants ó all have had a tremendous role to play in reaching the agreements we have. Thatís from the Government of Yukon perspective.
Itís important to note that the Government Leader ó as we have to sign these final agreements with Canada as the ďGovernment LeaderĒ instead of ďPremierĒ ó itís important to recognize that the Government Leader is supported by a team of negotiators. They also, of course, have their colleagues at the Cabinet table, as there are many decisions that are at the very end of the land claim process that come to Cabinet. First Nation chiefs have a team of technicians, but they donít have the same support system. In my time in this Legislature and in my involvement with the land claim process, I have often been heard to remark that one of the loneliest, toughest jobs in the Yukon has to be that of a First Nation chief.
As I said, they have the support of their technicians. However, ultimately, they as individual leaders at the very end of the process and at the end of the day have a tremendous amount of responsibility in taking the step to say that they agree with this package and shake the Premierís hand. Itís very, very difficult; itís philosophical, emotional and financial ó it has all of the characteristics you can imagine in reaching those agreements. And theyíre speaking on behalf of not only the people who are residents today but also for all the future generations and those who have gone before.
It is a very difficult decision to reach to accept the package and then to work through the ratification process. But itís that acceptance of the package that is critical. On March 31, or thereabouts, in 2002, when a number of memoranda of understanding were reached, it was a very difficult time. I will never forget a letter to the editor, a columnist who had written a column saying, well, if the leaders think theyíve had anything to do with it, they really are overestimating themselves. Make no mistake, Mr. Speaker. There wasnít a political leader or a First Nation chief who was not working incredibly hard that Easter weekend and who wasnít there, waiting for the phone calls, seeing the negotiators ó ďIs there anything we can do?Ē ó picking up the phone and simply saying to First Nation chiefs, ďWe recognize the difficult job you have. I recognize how tough this is.Ē Even that is part of the mental and emotional work that goes into reaching these landmark agreements. And make no mistake ó this Legislature can take tremendous pride in having worked with First Nation governments to reach no less than 11 agreements. They are a landmark in this country, and they are incredibly important to our future and to our childrenís future.
Many individuals have also heard me say on many occasions that land claim agreements are about far more than the text on paper ó far more. Proof of the agreements is in their implementation, and also, as other speakers before me have noted, in treating one another with respect.
If you would permit me, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to contrast this for a moment with our situation here in Canada. When we study our Canadian history, we learn that Canadians had the British North America Act, repatriated the Constitution, and we had First Minister conferences where Yukon was an observer. Yukoners wonít forget, David Peterson, I think it was, heckling Mr. Penniket about being an observer at the table as opposed to having full delegate status. Now, we are full partners at that table; weíve hosted the western premiers conference on two occasions. We have a seat at the table of the council, which is now called the Council of the Federation.
The reason I talk about this is that Canadians can see their governments at work. Canadians can see their premiers and their Prime Minister, their ministers of justice as we saw in Whitehorse this week, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Justice nationally; they can see them at work; they see the meetings on national television ó granted they are fairly choreographed; nonetheless, Canadians see their governments at work. It struck me, after having some time here and going into the 2000 election campaign and working more and more with First Nation governments, that Yukoners donít get to see this. There is no occasion when Yukoners see their Premier, their First Nation leaders, or their Premier and their Cabinet ministers and First Nation chiefs at work. It happens. For example, I have attended many meetings at Council of Yukon First Nations; likewise we see our city council here in Whitehorse on television ó those of us with cable ó but we donít ever get to see televised proceedings of the General Assembly. We listen to it, though, on CHON FM, but we donít see it televised. We donít see the Premier at the General Assembly ó or the General Assemblyís individual First Nations.†
Knowing this and working with our party and working in opposition with First Nations, in 2000, our commitment to Yukoners was that the four levels of government in the Yukon must work together to provide the services we all depend on. Cooperation on service delivery will enhance the efficient use of taxpayersí dollars. The Yukon government must take a leadership role in facilitating this process.
I am quoting from our platform, Mr. Speaker. ďYukon Liberals will institute an annual intergovernmental consultation process on all issues related to First Nation self-government, work with all levels of government to improve our economy and maximize the use of transfer payments from the federal government, and hold an annual meeting that brings together representatives from all levels of government.Ē
That was the commitment of the party I led in 2002. Upon taking office, we built on the work that had been done by our predecessors. Former Premier McDonald had worked with First Nations to develop a memorandum of understanding, and we had a former chief work with us to develop this memorandum of understanding. It was all about how we would work together.
In government we signed that memorandum of understanding: every Cabinet minister, every First Nation chief. We signed that. It was a precursor to the intergovernmental forum. Minister Nault also struck an intergovernmental forum, and we worked with First Nation governments on a number of other processes as well, and of course there was the background work going on in the land claims.
That work has been built on and we have today a Co-operation in Governance Act. This act, just like the land claims that I spoke about when I opened my comments, has built upon the work. It is a continued evolution of this desire by all Yukoners to celebrate the landmark agreements we have and to see their governments at work and see their political leaders treat one another with respect.
As Iíve already stated, I support the principles and the intent of this legislation. I am troubled that the Premier seems to feel we need to legislate this process. We havenít needed to legislate the Council of the Federation. We havenít needed to legislate and require that ministers meet with one another. We havenít needed to ďrequireĒ across the country on issues of concern ó as I said, our justice ministers just met. We havenít had to legislate this. And for many years I have been told we donít need legislation for what you can do; you need legislation for what you canít do. So I am troubled that the side opposite feels they need a law to tell them to do what should be done.
This is about more than a memorandum of understanding. The bill essentially says the government should meet with First Nations, which is a good idea. But as I said, itís something all previous Yukon governments have done and will continue to do long after the side opposite has moved on.
Meetings are held because theyíre the right thing to do, theyíre the way we should govern, not because we have a law to tell us to do this.
There are some questions with the legislation, and for one of them I go back to the issue of being public. I would hope the Premier will address it in his closing remarks. Thereís no requirement that these meetings be made public. Thatís a good innovation of ministersí meetings and the Council of the Federation and the First Ministers conferences. Then everybody knows where everybody at the table stands.
When Alberta leads the justice ministers or the premiers in saying this country needs a national sex offender registry, which is what Alberta did, the whole country knows, not just the people in Alberta, that Premier Klein led that initiative. When the whole country is demanding that the premiers and the federal government reach some resolutions on health care about far more than just the dollars, but about the delivery of health care in this country, then everybody knows where everybody stands at the table, and thatís important.
That is one issue I would like to see the Premier address in his remarks when he closes debate.
I would just like to conclude my remarks ó I have a few minutes so I would just like to summarize what Iíve tried to say this afternoon.
First of all, I believe that Yukon is unique in the country, and perhaps even the world, in our relationship with First Nations. Reaching these agreements has been a struggle. It has been hard work and itís to the credit of all parties ó First Nations, public servants, the governments of all stripes ó that weíve reached these agreements. The test for us is to live up to them, to implement them, and itís a test for us, as leaders, to treat one another with respect and to ensure that we exercise the kind of cooperation we should.
Historically, government-to-government relationships are evolving in the territory. Historically, government leaders have engaged in this kind of cooperation in governance meeting. They havenít required legislation to do it. That being said, the side opposite has brought in the legislation. I support the legislation. I support the idea. The test will be in the implementation. I encourage the Premier in his closing remarks to perhaps address that one point I was making with respect to the meetings being public. There are a few other questions I have, and I will address those in Committee of the Whole debate, and I look forward to it.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you for the time and attention of the members of the House.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that I make comments on Bill No. 61, which I support. We all know that throughout history there have been many, many agreements between First Nations and the different groups that have come to this country and to Canada and even into the United States. These are historical agreements that have been signed. Sometimes it makes one wonder why First Nations have to have agreements, when theyíre the first people of this land; however, I think that itís a good sign and in a good spirit of cooperation that First Nations do work with different governments within their traditional territories. As we know from history, not every agreement or document that has developed is going to be without any growing pains.
Even in the legislation thatís developed by governments across Canada, itís common to bring things in for amendment. I have no doubt that sometime in the future there may need to be amendments to this one. Things change, leaderships change, there are lots of issues that could come into effect where this document may have to be looked at.
However, I strongly believe it is an excellent start. Itís setting down some of the ground rules here where the government of the day does have an obligation to meet with First Nations in this territory, and rightfully so. We must also recognize that First Nation governments are different than municipal governments, for example. They spent many years negotiating their self-government agreements and land claim agreements. This document is just another document that could add to the stability of commitments of governments to sit down and have discussions with the First Nations.
Iím a firm believer in unity. I always will say itís important for everyone to work together. Itís important to recognize differences of opinions; itís important to recognize the differences among First Nation governments and the Yukon territorial government and the municipal governments. We all have different responsibilities.
Mr. Speaker, it is essential to have partnerships and cooperation. We cannot, in a sparsely-populated territory like the Yukon Territory, work as individualists. I donít believe for one minute that we can start having and developing separate schools all through the territory. The financial commitments to building the infrastructure and the operation and maintenance ó the population just doesnít warrant it. So therefore it is best to work in partnership arrangements and to try our best to recognize that there will always be differences.
I know there were some comments made with regard to the Carmacks school. Mr. Speaker, I have watched over the years with regard to different governments that were in power in the different eras. I know when the NDP government was the government of the day, they did not build a school in Carmacks, and that same division was there then. There were problems with what different people in the community wanted. There was no school built. And when the Liberal government came in, Mr. Speaker, there was still that need there for a school. Was it built? No. One has to ask themself why. I believe that maybe they were having too many problems trying to get the school built.
Well, Mr. Speaker, at least this government can say we stuck to the task and today there is a school being built. I have to say it is a state-of-the-art school. Itís beautiful. Any community should be proud to have such an infrastructure in the middle of their community.
I would advise all the people to work together and enjoy that facility. I have said from day one that the best interest of the children was in my heart and it stayed there. I did try my best as minister not to let it become a political football; however, it took a long time to be able to kick the field goal, but at least it is being done now. Iím sure that the people in Carmacks will greatly appreciate it. I do sincerely wish the best for everybody in Carmacks. I think it is important that people live together, work together, and share and respect each other, and I think it will come. There is no doubt in my mind that there are a lot of individuals in Carmacks who have the will to make things work, and I am sure they will do it.
I also want to touch a little bit on what this bill really provides. This bill really provides an avenue through which First Nation governments and the Yukon territorial government can actually sit in the same room with equal voices on common priorities ó to demonstrate cooperation and collaboration as governments.
Itís critical that people can all sit in the same room and have very professional and equal opportunities to discuss issues that are going to affect their communities and the people of this territory. Itís a known fact that the more we do make an attempt to all come together in the same room, the better off this territory will be.
Iíve heard other governments here ó as well as previous opposition leaders ó say that the governments always work with First Nations in this territory. Well, Mr. Speaker, I donít mean disrespect to anyone; however, I would have to say that that wouldnít be 100-percent true. It just so happens that I have been involved in First Nation politics in this city for many years, and I canít think of one time that the chief and council I was a member of were ever invited to sit down with the Premier and the Cabinet in this government building, before I joined the Yukon Party. I canít remember any time, and I would specifically remember the times that our chief and council sat with other government leaders.
I certainly know that a lot of the chiefs and councils of today will remember sitting in the Cabinet with this government. And I sincerely hope that every government will continue that respect to First Nations, because they need to. I know that a lot of the chiefs that I talked to do respect that, and rightfully so.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I think whatís important to note for the record, also, is that this all has a lot to do with individual choice. If the invitation is there and somebody refuses, at least the invitation was there. Not everybody is going to jump at the opportunity, but those who do ó congratulations to them, because it demonstrates that they are willing to work in partnership in the territory with all levels of government.
All levels of government in the territory must be able to work together. If it takes legislation to ensure that the governments in the future will continue to do this, then so be it. There is nothing wrong with having it in legislation. I think itís a good idea. Far too often, when government changes, they donít respect what other governments were doing. Sometimes you canít, but I know when itís to the best interest of the community at large itís a good idea to keep that continuity.
I believe that, in the future, First Nation governments will demand that they have a strong voice in this territory. This legislation is only going to help support keeping the Yukon government accountable in dealing with the First Nation governments.
We have to understand, right across the territory, that First Nation governments are different. They do have responsibilities. In a lot of the agreements, they have the option to take over justice, for example. Thatís always there, and they can exercise it. Itís not something negative if they do; thatís what they choose to do. Iíll say the same thing for education. They have the opportunity; itís in their agreement. They have the right to take down education and it shouldnít be looked at negatively if they so choose. That is their prerogative. Itís their choice and they have to make that decision.
Mind you, as I stated earlier, the population in this territory does not support having two schools in every community and 20 more in Whitehorse to duplicate what a public school would do. I also want to state for the record that the citizens of the territory must realize that the Yukon government of the day will always have the responsibility to provide a public school.
So, regardless of what happens, the government of the day still has to provide that public school. Again, I canít stress enough how important it is that the education system is a very important part of society as a whole. The more we work together, the more we put all our finances together to enhance education, Iím a firm believer the better off we will be in the future.
Literacy is a very important part of education, and this government has demonstrated just how important it is by the number of dollars that go into it. We have put that as quite a high priority with regard to education, and we will continue to do that.
When we talk about literacy and how important it is ó if you were to see some of the things this government has done, we have stepped outside of the box a bit to make things work. For instance, the home tutor program doesnít sound like much, but you have to seek understanding of just what that really means and how valuable it could be. Because it is done differently, it makes it more valuable. Instead of asking the child to leave the home in the evening and go to a designated infrastructure the government might point out or have, it has been reversed. The tutor will go to the home, and thatís a very significant difference. It gives the opportunity for the family to be engaged in helping the child with the homework.
I stated before on the floor of this House that the curriculum constantly changes. I know that the government helps the educators keep up to speed on curriculum changes, but not every parent has that opportunity. I have encouraged educators who do get updated on curriculum changes to bring it back into the community and even hold weekend workshops with parents to help them understand the changes.
When we go into the homes now with tutors, the parents actually have the opportunity to sit down at the table and partake in the tutoring program with the child. When we do things like that, it clearly demonstrates that weíre willing to go that extra distance to ensure that education is being taught at home.
The Individual Learning Centre is another one that is going to do remarkable things. I have already heard from parents who have said that they are so pleased that their son or their daughter now has a second chance. I have heard parents say how much better their child has done since going into the Individual Learning Centre. There could be a lot of reasons for that: flexibility is one. Flexibility in a personís life could be what makes or breaks their education pattern.
I know that traditionally we know and sincerely believe that everyone is different, and we believe that not one program would fit everyone. So we recognize and we respect those differences, and I believe that is what this Individual Learning Centre does: it respects the individuals for who they are.
Iíve heard from young teen mothers who have said to me personally they are so happy that this school has started so now they can finish their schooling, because they have to spend time with their children and, at the same time, they can go to school.
So, these different initiatives are all part of governing. This Bill No. 61 is going to again just strengthen all the relationships that we have developed. Itís going to promote longevity in them. Itís not something that is going to be signed today and another government walks in and doesnít have to respect it. Itís something thatís going to start to develop some continuity with regard to First Nation relationships and the Yukon government.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: I am happy to speak on this bill that is before us today. Iíve listened with great interest to the comments that were made on the floor of this House this afternoon, and we were honoured to have some guests in our gallery. It brings back a lot of memories, thinking back to the time in the history of government that had dealt with our communities and our leaders before land claims and after land claims were settled. We mentioned the chiefs and many leaders who blazed the trail in the area of governance for our communities. We only have to think about the whole land claims process that was supposed to take only a couple of years and turned into a 30-year ordeal, the sacrifices that our community leaders had to make, to make sure that our place in history, our governing, was actually respected, and they did this on behalf of their people.
There is a document, Mr. Speaker, called Together Today for our Children Tomorrow. There could never be a better title for a document than that.
The leaders of our past had great vision. They knew exactly what they wanted, how they wanted it done and when. When First Nation leaders speak about their people today, the decisions that they are making are not about who we are today; itís about generations from now. We are making decisions on behalf of those children who are not in this world today with us but will be 20, 30, 50 years from now.
In the short time that Iíve been in this Assembly, Iíve witnessed many agreements being signed by the Yukon Party government, not only with my community but with other communities. The Premier today in his speech said that we have to have respect for all traditions and cultures, and how important the government-to-government relationships are, that this document before us is going to define that relationship between the two or three levels of government, and all First Nations are welcome to participate.
Mr. Speaker, I have a question about this document. That question is: why do we need another piece of paper to define what should already be there?
Why do we need another piece of paper, a piece of legislation thatís going to give permission to the Premier for the government of the day to hold meetings with a First Nation government, when it already should be happening? Do we need a piece of paper, let alone legislation, to encourage that kind of relationship?
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini, in his comments a few minutes ago, asked: why do we need agreements signed? That was his very first comment. Why do we need a piece of legislation to say that we have to hold meetings four times a year? Self-governing First Nations have the power. Yes, they have to have and build a relationship with whichever territorial government is in power that day. Thatís something, Mr. Speaker, that I recognize. I realized that from the first day that I became an elected official on behalf of my riding. I made that point very clear to my constituents. I know that the First Nation governments have to build a relationship with this government, and I have to respect that.
Yet itís my role to hold this government accountable. We are supposed to have a fair, democratic process. From the time the Yukon Party government took their place here in this Assembly, the Premier was forever talking about the wonderful relationship he was going to have with First Nations. Thatís great; I donít dispute that. But what about the equality the Member for McIntyre-Takhini mentioned ó the equality for all people? What about those people who do not have their agreements signed and finalized? Do they have a place at this table, or are they observers? Do they have an equal voice, the same voice as the self-governing First Nations? I question that.
Iíve witnessed within this Legislature some of the decisions that have been made and some of the conduct that goes with it. We talk about ethics. We represent our people in this Legislature and the way we behave in here says a lot.
Some of the decisions that Iíve seen the Yukon Party government make in the last few years have been discouraging. We talk about these agreements, how meaningful they are and how respectful theyíre going to be and how weíre all going to be partners. Yet, we have quite a number of examples where that has not happened. One that really stands out for me is the recommendations that were brought forward by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, only about a year and a half ago. Those recommendations were through public consultations that they held. This board, Mr. Speaker, was formed under the Umbrella Final Agreement. Yet, the minister of the day could not see fit to accept any of the recommendations that were brought forward. Those recommendations were from the Yukon public. That says a lot.
There are various First Nation governments that have had to deal with this Yukon Party government, and decisions were made that were not respected. Another issue that comes to mind is the agreement this government has signed with the TríondŽk HwŽchíin surrounding the Tombstone area, which is within their traditional territory.
Where is the respect in that? This fall, elders had to sit in that area at the Tombstone to send a strong message to the Yukon Party government that they do not agree with what was taking place. When elders have to go that far to make sure that their voices are heard, then there has to be a problem in the whole process.
We have respect for our elders in our communities. Their guidance, support and words for us are very valuable.
When I heard that over the news, I was shocked, yet they had to do what they needed to do in order to have the government of the day listen or not listen to them.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini mentioned several times the schools and the plans, and the way the schools were planned for each community. He took a shot at the NDP on the process that we followed. I believe that was the most democratic process that was in place for that time.
And the school councils were the ones that made the decision. So is he saying that the school councils are wrong? The school councils are the most resourceful people in our communities; they know the needs of our communities. And who are the experts? I think I would take the school councilís word that they know the needs of the community, and to stand up on the floor of this House and say that that was wrong ó I donít agree, Mr. Speaker. If I were the Minister of Education, I would be pretty concerned about how decisions were made around the Carmacks school and, more recently, the political decision that was made for Copperbelt and how that came about.
Those are the concerns that are out there, and theyíre very real. Weíre not dreaming them up. We actually listen to the people of our communities and throughout the Yukon. We donít walk in here every day and just guess what weíre doing, and we know that the Yukon Party government does not listen to our ideas or the concerns that we bring here on behalf of our communities. We had a good example of that yesterday afternoon, and we were practically ó you know, I guess the Premier felt he put us in our place, and we say we have a democratic process. If so, then I feel sad for our process sometimes.
I have questions about the act thatís before us. I realize that governments have to meet. There are a lot of issues out there that they have to address on behalf of their own constituents. I canít help but have a certain amount of fear about that. There are other acts that were supposed to be brought forward. One of them is the Wildlife Act. There is a definition of wildlife within that act that is questionable, and the whole process had to be stalled once again, so the government can take that back out to the public and redefine what the definition is to make sure that itís consistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement and other legislation in place today. The meaning needs to be consistent and understandable for everyone, so that it doesnít mean one thing for the government and another thing for the First Nation people.
Those are the kinds of decisions I see that bring me to question some of the decisions made by the Yukon Party government.
Some to the commitments in the memoranda of understanding that have been signed havenít even been fulfilled, and how many years has that been? Is this going to be just another piece of paper that sits on the shelf? The Member for McIntyre-Takhini is giving me a signal that I should sit down. Maybe he doesnít like to hear what I have to say because of me bringing the reality to the floor of this House. Thatís too bad, because if anybody should be more outspoken on these issues, it should be the member himself. Mr. Speaker, when we talk about conduct and ethics, I guess that is what it is all about.
I look forward to making more comments on this act, and I look forward to hearing other comments.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to be able to speak to Bill No. 61, Co-operation in Governance Act.
It has been said on a number of occasions that the Yukon has come of age. When we speak of coming of age, one only has to look over the last number of years and the series of major events that have taken place in the Yukon that certainly have shown that Yukon has matured as a territory. One only has to refer back to events, historical events, very significant events, when in 1993 the Umbrella Final Agreement came into force and effect, which effectively provided for the settlement of land claims as well as self-government for Yukon First Nations in the territory.†
One only has to look to 1995 when the first four First Nation final and self-government agreements came into effect.
Since then, we have actually seen, in total, 11 First Nation final and self-government agreements that have come to fruition. It is quite significant ó 11 out of 14 is a very substantial commitment. It is certainly a proud accomplishment of all self-governing First Nations and the Yukon government, as well as the Government of Canada, present and past governments alike.
It is through the hard work of committed individuals, whether they be negotiators, members of the First Nations, or members of our territory working on all the respective sidesí behalf. We must all take time to commend each of these individuals and take pride in our accomplishments over the last number of years.
When we talk about coming of age, I think of devolution in addition to the settlement of land claims in our territory. The opportunity for the Yukon to obtain the ability to manage its resources, lands, water and minerals and to obtain control ó albeit not ownership ó of the resources, really sets the stage and places the future development of our territory in our own hands.
Again, itís a significant feat and accomplishment of which we can all be proud.
Coming of age ó itís a term that Iíve heard the chair of the Canada Winter Games Host Society refer to on a number of occasions. That is another significant accomplishment for this government and previous governments on all respective levels for the Yukon to show leadership by being the first northern territory to host the games.
All these significant accomplishments certainly speak to prosperity, they speak to opportunities, they speak to new relationships and new partnerships with each other and with our respective orders of government. By orders of government, I refer to Yukon self-governing First Nations.
Now, over the last number of years, we as a government have been very busy working with Yukon First Nations on a whole host of different fronts, some of which have been perhaps spoken to already today. But certainly members are very familiar with the various initiatives that we have been working on together.
Education reform, the Childrenís Act review, the corrections consultation, the nine-year review, seeking concurrence on the northern strategy ó these are but some of the major initiatives where our government has been able to seek concurrence, strike an agreement and really initiate a very unique process by which the Yukon government and Yukon First Nations can come together and work on issues of utmost importance to all Yukoners and be able to garner a common position, whether that means a common position when we are going to the Government of Canada to bring the common position forward, or itís garnering a common front with respect to areas of substantial concern and issues of importance to all Yukoners.
I speak to education reform. Mr. Speaker, there have been a number of attempts over the years to review the Education Act. A number of proposed amendments have come forward for consideration. I will certainly give credit to the good work of previous governments to garner the input of Yukon citizens and to obtain feedback regarding our Education Act.
The one thing missing from those proposed amendments, the one thing missing from all the input received, was the link pertaining to feedback from Yukon First Nations.
Mr. Speaker, the formation of the education reform process is in response, in part, to that, to the fact that there is a missing gap of information from the First Nationsí perspective surrounding the Yukon Act. Itís also in response to self-governing First Nations wanting to see more curriculum related to Yukon First Nations, more culturally related programming occurring in our schools related to First Nations. Itís a desire to work together to identify synergies, from which we can work upon our strength. Itís also an opportunity to work together to identify our weaknesses and how we can effect change by identifying a number of initiatives to work together with.
We know that self-governing First Nations have the opportunity to draw down education and have the opportunity to draw down a whole number of services ó the administration of justice ó and we certainly respect those processes. They are legislated by law and it is incumbent on us all to adhere to the laws in place. It is also a desire among many First Nations and the Yukon government to work together, to integrate our existing systems as much as we can so that we can be able to provide an education system thatís complementary to all cultures and one that accentuates our strength so that, at the end of the day, we can provide the best education system available for our children.
The corrections consultation is another process that was developed in full partnership with First Nations. It is a much-needed review. Itís a comprehensive approach and a new way of looking at corrections in our territory. Itís an opportunity to identify the weaknesses in our justice system and an opportunity to work together to realize our strengths and to be able to accentuate those strengths.
The Yukon forum is a new way of formalizing our relationship with First Nations, with the leadership of First Nation governments and the Government of Yukon. This is something we highlighted in our election platform in the last territorial election in 2002. It is really a wonderful opportunity to be here, to be part of a government that has been able to see this commitment actually formalized in legislation. Itís a significant accomplishment and a very positive development in our history.
There have been comments from the other side regarding the impetus behind the need for legislation. The purpose of the forum is to establish a means by which we can review, discuss and determine common priorities, as well as opportunities for cooperation and collaboration as governing nations in the territory.
It certainly goes back to discussions that have taken place over the last several months. In fact, the bill does reference the memorandum of understanding that was struck back in January of this year to establish the forum, prior to the legislation. Just looking at the news release that was issued back on January 21, 2005, which is entitled ďYukon Self-governing First Nations Collaborate on Yukon Forum,Ē one only has to refer to the Grand Chief, now the former Grand Chief, and he states ó and I will quote this one sentence for membersí information and to help them recollect: ďWe are now embarking on a process conceived some 30 years ago, a process upon which the Yukon moves into the future on terms, conditions and decisions made for the benefit of all Yukoners, enabling us to speak with a single voice. This is a great day for all of our children, today and tomorrowĒ.
Certainly that was a significant day and today is also a very significant day of significant accomplishment for which we can be proud to see this memorandum of understanding really become the legislated version of the Yukon forum.
We are very pleased to be able to work with Yukon First Nations on a number of fronts. I think that the forum will only enhance our ability to develop our relationships with First Nations. One has to remember that negotiations have been ongoing for over 30 years. Now we are into the implementation phase for many self-governing First Nations, and it is a very important time for the Yukon and Yukoners at large for us to learn from one another.
I think that by working together, by formalizing our relationship with each other, we can only do better. That will be of benefit for all Yukoners alike.
One area that certainly we can work on is to see the implementation of First Nation settlements go forth. This has not always been an easy task, but this gives us an opportunity between the Yukon and Yukon First Nations ó the opportunity to work together to identify the synergies, to identify a common position, a common front as you will, so that we can present it to the Government of Canada and say that this is Yukonís position. This is really significant, because if you look to other jurisdictions in the country, I think you would be really hard-pressed to find a sound relationship such as this that is now going to become legislation, that formalizes these positions ó our approach to issues. It is a very innovative process, an innovative initiative, and it is one I am very proud of ó to be part of a government that has worked very hard on behalf of Yukon people and with Yukon First Nations to realize.
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to be able to speak to this bill, and I certainly encourage all members of the Legislature to provide their support for this bill because their support for this bill is also showing support for the future, for the betterment of all Yukoners today and tomorrow. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to speak on this Bill No. 61, moving forward in the House here. It is certainly a commitment that our government has made that this working relationship was doable, that we could get this umbrella of cooperation put forward and it could work to the benefit of all Yukoners.
As the Premier has spoken on this subject, as public government, we certainly have to work on our relationship with our First Nations. Of course, the self-governing First Nations have to have a mechanism of communication on many issues that will impact Yukon and we have to have a common voice when it comes to addressing these issues. It certainly doesnít mean the government of the day ignores the fact that First Nations have self-governing agreements and we have to deal on specific issues with independent First Nations. Thatís not the question.
The question is how Yukoners are going to deal with each other in the larger picture, meaning the umbrella of cooperation through the forum that makes that possible.
The member opposite was talking about memoranda of understanding and all sorts of other arrangements that governments have had in the past and that weíve also had with First Nations. I think probably this tool, this bill, puts obligations on the part of the government of the day ó whether itís this government or other governments in the future ó that at the end of the day there is a process on how this umbrella of decision-making will be handled.
Certainly, as the Premier said ó reminded us ó we are not going to agree on everything. Thatís not human nature. What this forum does is put into place the bricks and mortar on how our society will go forward in the Yukon in the future. It sets out that we have to meet on a regular basis. The Premier of the day, his Cabinet and First Nations will meet and discuss the issues of the day. This government has been very aware of the commitments we made to Yukoners on how we were going to look at north of 60 partnerships.
Our Premier, in the last 36 months, has been very active making sure that the federal government and the rest of Canada recognizes north of 60 as an important component of this nation. When I was hosting my counterpart yesterday at the Chamber of Commerce meeting in Whitehorse, at the High Country Inn, we discussed that ó how that partnership has worked. An example is his governmentís support of the Canada Winter Games. He mentioned in that discussion how this partnership we have will influence and work for the Northwest Territoriesí benefit because, down the road, they have vision and they can see where they can have a parallel Canada Winter Games somewhere down the road. It makes sense for us to work together.
So, when we move into our own jurisdiction with these partnerships, the forum will address those issues. As a public government in the Yukon, we certainly have to move forward in a very prudent way and understand that the position of being in government is that we have to follow the rules. The process is in place for issues like the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, which this government is actively supporting. The members opposite, of course, are questioning how and when the money flows, and there is a process to that.
The history of it is that this government, in conjunction with the First Nations, put together a budget for $350,000 with a commitment to further fund the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, and we are doing exactly that in that partnership. Now, how the money flows is in the hands of the government, and there is a process. We, as responsible managers of the public treasury, have to follow that process, and weíre doing just that.
So, our partnerships are out there. We donít agree on every issue. Iím sure everybody in this room ó every sitting member ó has certain issues that are brought up that you might not agree with but, in a partnership, that happens. What you have to do is have a mechanism in place where we can get together and thrash out the issues and come out with a common goal. And the common goal is for the betterment of all Yukoners.
We have only acquired a big part of responsible government, through devolution, in the last two years. As we mature as a government, along with our self-governing First Nations, this forum will become a tool that will be used for the betterment of all Yukoners.
So, in closing, I certainly support this. We certainly can see the merits in it. And I think the forum is a very positive move forward in our working relationship with fellow Yukoners and, of course, the First Nations are a big part of that group. I think this gives us a tool to move forward to make sure that, at the end of the day, with dialogue we can solve some of the issues that we have to address as Yukoners.
So, in closing, I hope that the House agrees with me on the urgency of this and the betterment that this will add to the overall mosaic of the Yukon community.
So, again, thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will be very brief. I certainly support the motion. I just want to throw a few things out. Iíve been very privileged to attend some of these forums and have watched the good work in action, and it has been certainly very good work in action.
In 1995, when the first four First Nation self-government agreements came into effect ó since then, the First Nation governments, and the Government of Yukon as well as the Government of Canada, have gained considerable experience in terms of how to make this work. Itís a very unique structure in Canada, if not the world. We have been very proud and pleased to watch this develop.
The Yukon government itself, of course, through devolution, as the previous speaker referred to, has gone through a lot of changes with the Yukon Act in its original form, and the federal Yukon Act of 2003 has given us all new powers, new control over our resources. Itís really the first time in Yukon history that Yukon can control its own resources and Yukon people have the ability to truly govern themselves. The relationship with First Nations has, of course, been a very integral part of this. We have to respect each othersí jurisdictions and respect each othersí traditions and live together with that.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I always joke about doing 20 years in Toronto, but it was an enjoyable place to be. One of the things that I really most enjoyed about it was the fact that it was multicultural. A fellow that I worked with was extremely involved in the multicultural aspects of that, and it was really quite a pleasure to work with groups. One organization was called Caravan. Different cultural groups would actually, over a week, have their own pavilions, and they could be in the basements of churches or community halls, and it would feature their culture, their foods, their languages, their dancing. You actually had the opportunity to utilize a passport that you buy for $5 and go around to all the different pavilions and groups and experience Croatian coffee or whatever.
It has similarly been a great pleasure to travel around the Yukon and experience the First Nation cultures first-hand and see whatís out there. For anyone who hasnít done that, I think they are missing a great, great deal.
The forum sets up a jurisdiction or a place where we can talk or we can discuss, we can agree on things, we can occasionally disagree on things. But we are partners at the table, we are partners in the same structure, we are partners with the same wants and desires for where we want the territory to go. As Yukoners we certainly cooperate on matters of mutual interest. This is all part of it. It makes us much stronger, it benefits people of all jurisdictions, and it can always be greater if we can act as one than if we had acted on our own.
This bill makes it clear that the jurisdictions of the governments involved are not affected in any way, and thatís an important part of this. It states that we will work together and I think we have worked together over the amount of time. When I review looking at it, from my own portfolio of Economic Development, you look back at some of the contribution agreements weíve made with various First Nations to assist in capacity development, and thatís a word that is constantly used in this government. We have our own capacity development. Yukon is a small jurisdiction that has some very good things going for it and it has some real challenges.
But when we look at things like community access program and distributing through CYFN and contributing $49,500, or looking at the First Nations portal on the web and contributing $90,000 to the community development fund ó on and on and on with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, funding executive leadership programs for $50,000 through regional Economic Development. And you can keep going on and on on this through contribution agreements with Kaska Mineral Corporation, $95,000.
††††††† It is all going to benefit all the Yukon at every point in time, so this is something that is a very good thing.
††††††† One of the challenges is that there are First Nations who are not yet self-governing, and we have been very clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that they are always welcome to attend and fully participate. It has been the policy of this government from the very first day. We must create this formally, in a cooperative manner ó a place where governments can come together and discuss matters of mutual concern and areas of possible cooperation. This is all a very big part of it.
††††††† With that, I certainly support this bill and look forward to the cooperation of the opposition parties to create this marvellous place where we can talk openly, cooperate with each other, disagree on things ó disagree on things, but most importantly, move forward.
††††††† Mr. Cathers: This is an important and historic piece of legislation. There has been a tremendous amount of work put into this by members of this government, by officials, by First Nation governments and officials within those governments.
††††††† The land claim process took 30 years. In fact, it is ongoing in some areas. This piece of legislation marks another important step in moving forward. It does not affect the jurisdiction or authority of either level of government, and it does not diminish that authority in any way, but it does create and legislate a very important forum for discussing the issues that are shared among the citizens represented by both levels of government.
††††††† It is a historic piece of legislation, formalizing the government-to-government relationship between the Yukon government and First Nation governments and is key to moving forward together and moving the territory to a future that is bright for all Yukoners.
In the election, the Yukon Party members ran on a theme for our campaign of ďTogether We will do BetterĒ and together, today, the territory ó Team Yukon and all its players ó is better than it was three years ago. Together, we are doing better.
Formalizing the relationships between the two orders of government was a commitment we made and a commitment on which we are delivering. We thank the First Nations for their hard work in moving forward toward cooperation that represents the needs of their citizens as it does all Yukon citizens and moves us all forward to a future that is good for all.
Much has been said by all members of the House this afternoon. I appreciate the comments from my colleagues on this side of the floor, recognizing the importance of this legislation.
Rather than repeating some of the excellent points that they have made, I will simply recommend this legislation to the House and urge all members to recognize the significance and value of this historic piece of legislation and vote in favour of Bill No. 61, Co-operation in Governance Act.
Mr. McRobb: Itís a pleasure to speak to this piece of legislation. I first want to congratulate those First Nations who have signed their final agreements and are benefiting from those agreements. I also want to congratulate the unsigned First Nations, who believe itís better to take a wait-and-see approach. Either way, it should be left to the people of each First Nation to decide their future, not for some order of government to dictate that decision to them, as has been done in the past.
Now, this piece of legislation is easy to support, but I do have some questions for the Premier to answer in his closing opportunity.
I have to wonder why it has taken three years to get to this point. If, indeed, this was such a priority to this government, why didnít we see it years ago? Why the delay? Is it because the Yukon Party government didnít want to live up to the conditions of this agreement? What do I mean by that? Well, let me explain.
Itís no secret that this government has a maximum of 12 months left. It could call an election at any time because it refuses to implement fixed election dates, so it has complete discretion to when to call the election. We also know this act wonít be proclaimed until close to the end of this year, so there wonít even be a full year between the implementation of this piece of legislation and the next election. So this government wonít be around for the full year to even test drive whether itís feasible to have four meetings a year.
So thatís the next line of questioning: why didnít they bring it in sooner? I think itís really a test of faith. If this Yukon Party government really believed in this legislation, it would have brought it in sooner and it would have practised what is contained in the legislation, in terms of meeting with the other First Nations and working together. But it hasnít. Instead, itís like weíre having to deal with a promise here that some future government must uphold.
And that causes some concern. Itís also a concern that the hard work of this agreement will be left for the next government, because not all the First Nations have signed on to the memorandum of understanding. How can we have the Yukon forum without complete participation? Thatís a reasonable question.
The next government will have to do the hard work to get everybody at the table, and we know some First Nations refuse outright to deal with this government because theyíve been burned before. They donít want to be burned again.
There is also a real question about the need to legislate these four meetings per year, and many previous speakers have alluded to that. This really should be a normal course of business. If the Yukon government is serious and sincere about developing First Nation relations and working with our partners, then it shouldnít be necessary to legislate these meetings. They should be happening on a regular basis ó frequently enough that everyone is satisfied.
But to actually legislate it raises some questions. Does the Premier need to have this legislation in order to get motivated to participate in four meetings per year? Is that it? It makes me wonder whatís next. Can we expect another piece of legislation requiring the government to meet a certain number of times a year with municipalities ó mayors and councillors? Is that next? What about the other northern premiers? Is that another possibility? Where will this end? This is all a matter of normal business for a government.
Yet, this government here deems it necessary to indoctrinate that normal business into legislation. I donít really understand why itís necessary. I will be voting for it but I really donít understand why itís necessary. It makes me wonder whatís next. Is the Legislature going to be dealing with a piece of legislation saying the Premier should go for three dental checkups per year? Is that next? Well, Iíll admit that is a little ridiculous but thatís about what itís coming down to. Letís hope it doesnít get to that extent with this government, although it is getting desperate for good-news stories and is liable to do anything.
Regarding First Nation relations, there is a lot to be said about this governmentís track record, and not all of it is good. In the past couple of weeks we have seen several letters tabled that outline just how poor those relations really are. Some of those letters have come from First Nations; other letters have come from organizations like the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition.
It makes me wonder why those relations are so bad when this government stands up and trumpets how itís willing to go the extra mile to work with First Nations and develop those relations. What can possibly go wrong? Why the disparity between the two?
Now, Iím quite familiar with the pipeline coalition situation. As a critic for the particular area, Iíve had the opportunity to review all the several pieces of correspondence that have been tabled so far in this Legislature, and itís quite clear what the problem is. Hereís one example: this government does not listen to what the First Nations are saying. Thatís the first problem. Another one is this government is off on its own, telling leaders from other provinces and states and even the federal government that itís speaking for all Yukoners and it favours a particular approach when, in fact, itís not speaking for all Yukoners. The pipeline coalition had to write to the federal government, it had to write to other leaders and the heads of the big oil companies, to clarify that it has a much different position.
Well, Mr. Speaker, if this government is really sincere about having good relations, why does it behave in such a contradictory manner? A lot of people are wondering what the answer to that question is. That question was put to the Premier, and he refused to answer. Well, I think thatís a darn good question. The Premier should answer that question when he gets on his feet, probably later today, and closes the second reading debate on this bill.
Why should First Nations put any more faith into this Yukon Party government, listening to them, with this piece of legislation, than they have now? The answer to that is there is no reason, because this legislation doesnít change anything with respect to how this government will conduct itself with respect to First Nation issues.
All this does is set up a loose framework for four meetings a year. Thatís pretty well all it does. Furthermore, there is qualifying language in the bill that excuses the requirement to meet four times a year. In fact, it says that if parties agree there should be fewer meetings, then there will be fewer meetings. I have to wonder how that is decided. It doesnít say anywhere how many members have to agree or disagree. If there is a full complement, we are potentially dealing with about 16 members. Well, what if one disagrees? What if half disagree, or two-thirds? This isnít spelled out.
I think the legislation is inadequate within itself. It doesnít lay out any kind of complete guidelines for these meetings. It doesnít lay out how decisions are made. Are they made by a majority of members, or does this use the consensus approach to decision making?
It doesnít lay that out. These are all big questions because I know several First Nations have different interpretations of what consensus is. So maybe thatís why the government left it out, maybe again this is another area to justify how it will be the next government that will be doing the hard work with respect to fulfilling the requirements of this act. So this government is really taking the easy way out: itís getting the publicity and itís avoiding having to live up to the conditions in the act and itís dealing with less than a full slate. A lot of the working, operating rules havenít been worked out, so itís the next government, whomever that may be, that will have the difficult challenges.
It also makes me wonder why this legislation is necessary. Letís just review some recent governments and their history with respect to First Nation relations. Letís go back to the original Yukon Party government that was elected on October 19, 1992 and stayed in government until September 30, 1996, about four years. Mr. Speaker, the relationship between First Nations and that government hit an all-time low. As a matter of fact, the First Nations basically voted as a bloc to throw that government out. The next government was the NDP government that stayed in government until April 17, 2000, and I recall from being part of that government that we campaigned to have a First Nation summit every year.
And that, I believe, was the first campaign promise with respect to such meetings, and it was fulfilled. I participated in those meetings myself, as did the Premier, when he was a member of that NDP government.
So, what happened next? Well, the next government was the Liberal government, which was elected April 17, 2000, until the next election on November 4, 2002. Well, it handled things a little differently, but I have before me a news release dated February 2, 2001. Itís quite striking to see the similarities between the language in that news release and the current piece of legislation. There are similarities with even the previous NDP governmentís announcements with respect to how it was conducting First Nation relationships.
So, there are a lot of linkages and similarities here that really opens oneís eyes to see that this piece of legislation really contains very little in the way of anything new or any type of requirement that means anything.
This press release I referred to talks about a ďhistoric agreementĒ and how it will ďÖ open up communication and strengthen the working relationship ÖĒ and that itís a ďÖ method for sharing information, discussing and resolving issues of mutual concern ÖĒ As well, it ďÖ establishes a diplomatic secretariat ÖĒ By the way, what happened to that secretariat? Is it still in existence, or did the Yukon Party cancel it? Good question. Thatís another one for the Premier to answer when he gets up.
†ďÖ government-to-government relationship ÖĒ ó well, how many times have we heard that term?
ďÖ both governments feel is necessary to move forward on issues that affect all Yukoners.Ē I believe that phrase has been used even this afternoon, Mr. Speaker.
ďÖ Yukon First Nations and the Government of Yukon are committed to working in a partnership which will benefit all Yukoners.Ē Again, that language has a familiar ring to it.
ďThis is a huge step towards improving the relationship between First Nations and the Government of Yukon ÖĒ Again, thatís language we are hearing members across the way use.
ďBy working more closely together we can better meet those challenges and ensure a brighter future for all Yukoners.Ē Well, Mr. Speaker, letís just stop there. Letís face reality.
This piece of legislation is really nothing more than previous governments have done, with the exception that it has increased the number of possible meetings per year. I can just imagine the two premiers upstairs as they were discussing how they could possibly pull one up on the previous government. The discussion probably went something like this: ďYou know, the NPD had one meeting, the Liberals had two; how many should we have?Ē ďWell, weíve got to make it at least three, otherwise weíre not going anywhere.Ē ďHow about four then?Ē ďWell, I donít know if I could make it four, but letís put some qualifying language in there that, if everybody agrees, there wonít be any.Ē
Thatís what they settled on. Now, they are proclaiming this. They are holding it up on their mantle as the piece of work that really demonstrates how great their relationships with First Nations really are.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the letters and other documents that have been tabled in here tell it how it really is. Itís going to be very interesting in the months ahead ó if indeed there are months in the term of this government ó to see what else transpires.
I know my time is almost up. I have less than one minute. I did mention earlier that I have no problem supporting this bill because it doesnít really do anything. Itís all stuff we have dealt with before. I think the proof will be in the pudding as to how the next government behaves ó not this government, because it wonít have to uphold anything in this agreement.
I think a lot of Yukoners will be watching to see what happens.
Mr. Hassard: I rise today in support of Bill No. 61. I am going to be brief and general in my terms. I think weíve already heard a lot of the details that we needed to hear today.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hassard: I hear someone say, ďWhatís new?Ē Well, I actually have notes and I could go on at great length about this, but I wonít.
I think Iíve said it over and over that Iíve spent the majority of my life in Teslin. I think most people realize that it is a predominantly First Nation community. Iíve had the good fortune to witness the signing of the land claims there and watch the positive growth of that government there. Iíve had, on many occasions, the opportunity to work with the leadership of that First Nation on several different levels. Before coming to this job I was a councillor with the Village of Teslin ó the municipal government ó and we did our own form of cooperation in governance with the Teslin Tlingit Council.
Iíd like to think that I was somewhat instrumental in helping that happen. There was nothing official, of course ó just a verbal agreement between the two councils that allowed us to sit down and discuss the common issues, much as we see in the act here in front of us today. It provided us an opportunity to work out the problems that we saw. Obviously this agreement is much more formal and probably more important on the broad scale than what we had. I think this will really provide benefits for all Yukoners in all Yukon communities, and I say that because I think of what we accomplished in Teslin.
To give an example of that, I guess, just briefly, there were a lot of issues between the municipality and the First Nation government. There were things like dogs running loose, street maintenance, street lights, all kinds of things that every small community goes through. One of the ones that we tackled, first off, was an issue with a sliding hill that the children were playing on. In an effort to make things safer for the children, the First Nation asked that a particular street in the community be closed. Of course, that raised some issues with our municipal council because we had liability concerns ó perhaps the fire truck and the water truck and the ambulance couldnít make it to certain homes and all those issues, as well as things like the contract for the snow removal. I know, because of previous experience, that with the two councils sitting down, we solved our problems a lot more easily and quickly than if we had just left it in the hands of the CAO and the lands people with the First Nation. Itís not that they wouldnít have got it done, but I think we got it done more quickly.
So, Mr. Speaker, I hope that this legislation, although itís new and may not be perfect ó maybe it is perfect, I donít know; it is new. Letís give it a chance. Some of the members opposite have been quick to criticize it, and itís unfortunate because I think that the people involved should decide whether itís legitimate or not and not ó it shouldnít be decided here.
So that said, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the positive results of this legislation and I look forward to hearing from the other members.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today in this Assembly to support this very appropriate bill, the Co-operation in Governance Act. This bill and the creation of the Yukon forum will formalize the spirit, the will and the desire to work together to collaborate, to strategize and to compromise on issues of concern.
Mr. Speaker, the question has been asked today: do we really need to formalize this arrangement? I thought, Mr. Speaker, about another situation in our society where we formalize a relationship. For some people itís satisfactory to just, for example, live together when two people decide they want to work together on common issues and bring their two equal selves together. Well, for some people itís okay to just live together. Often that creates a casual relationship, often it is just a temporary relationship. But for a lot of folks, they want to take it that next step further and create a marriage where they have a formal ceremony to make a public commitment and I think a strong part of this is that it is a public commitment to work together.
To honour and respect ó there is the reciting of the vows where people stand up in front of friends, loved ones and others and make that public commitment to how they are going to work together for their joint future. In a marriage it also creates that sense of permanence. It isnít a short-term arrangement. They are in it for the long haul. They are both in it for their combined futures forever.
So I think there is a lot to be said for formalizing this kind of relationship and going forward in the manner that this government has done and publicly put forward this legislation to publicly commit to the relationship they want to make and make that relationship permanent. I think itís an important next step.
Mr. Speaker, all orders of government in the territory are dedicated to the well-being of their citizens for the people of today and the people of tomorrow. With this agreement we all agree to work together on issues of concern for all who live in the Yukon. Many First Nations in the Yukon have recognized their inherent right to self-government and self-determination. Their powers and responsibilities are being recognized. They will use their powers and abilities to grow and develop healthy communities. They will face challenges, as indeed we all will. Many of the challenges we will face, we should face together. They will affect all in the Yukon.
With this agreement, we agree to face these challenges together and develop joint solutions. We all know that if we work together, we will accomplish more than if we work independently. We wonít always agree on every issue but we all know that we have to keep talking, keep discussing, keep looking for similarities rather than differences and keep looking for solutions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Rouble: Iím sorry, Mr. Speaker. I must have missed a joke. The opposition members are laughing.
As I was saying, we need to keep looking for solutions that will address the best interests of all Yukoners.
I am encouraged by this bill. I am encouraged by this step. I am particularly encouraged by the fact that it creates a permanent forum that will formally recognize the government-to-government relationships between the Yukon government and Yukon self-governing First Nations. This is a forum that will continue in perpetuity. It will involve this government, the next government and future governments. It will be an ongoing forum. I expect that this forum will grow, develop and evolve.
One of the issues that I expect to be discussed around this table ó or wherever it takes place, whether around a table or a campfire out in the open or some other spot. I was particularly encouraged by the leader of the third partyís comments that perhaps some of these meetings should be in a public forum. I think that is an idea worthy of some consideration. One of the things I expect to be discussed around this table is PSTAs and how First Nation governments will develop their own programs and services.
Previous speakers have spoken about how First Nations delivering their own programs is likely to be a bad thing. I have to wonder why the ability to transfer some of these programs and services is included in the agreements, if the people didnít think it would ever happen. Indeed, there is a right to bring these down. The self-government agreements recognize inherent rights and powers ó the power to govern and the power and responsibility to provide services to citizens.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I also believe that if we work together ó which I think we should do ó weíll work more efficiently, more cost-effectively, and will accomplish a lot more than if we work independently. This act and the meaningful ongoing discussion and dialogue that will be generated from it, provide for that formal mechanism for all of us to work together. I commend this legislation, and I would again like to recognize all the hard work that all the orders of government that have collaborated on its creation have put into it, and the dedication of people who have faith in the territory to think that we can all work collaboratively, collectively for the betterment of all Yukoners, and I would ask all members to recognize the intent of that and to support this so we can send the message that the entire Yukon Legislative Assembly is behind this concept, this idea, this forum and, indeed, this piece of legislation.
Thank you for your attention.
Speaker: If the Hon. Premier now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: † Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all the members for their comments this afternoon with respect to the Co-operation in Governance Act. But I would like to close by pointing a few things out that I think are very important to this debate.
Iíll begin with the official opposition before I delve into some of the logistics and the reasoning behind why we have taken this approach as a government in partnership with First Nations. To the official opposition, I have to say that, in their haste to criticize the government and fill the pages of Hansard with the spoken word, they have actually criticized a lot of hard-working individuals and First Nations who collaborated jointly with the government on drafting the legislation.
The First Nations were very serious about the need for this type of legislation to give force and effect to what is a structure that formalizes our government-to-government relationship. That is why they worked on it with us. So, the criticism is actually levelled, not at the government, but at the First Nations, their officials, and also the Yukon government officials who, in a joint working group ó which was directed by the principles of the Yukon forum ó set about drafting the legislation, as we committed to do. And thatís really unfortunate, because it need not have happened.
As I understand it, the members opposite will support the bill. So, I just wanted to caution them that in their haste to criticize the government, it is sometimes misdirected because theyíre actually criticizing others who have done a tremendous job and have done all the work in putting this together and bringing it to a reality.
I think comments like ďthis has already been doneĒ and ďthis is nothing newĒ are serious in nature because this hasnít been done. No past government has put into legislation a structure such as this, which will ensure that no matter what government is in office, they must meet no less than four times a year with First Nation governments to address issues and common concerns.
So, I think itís essential that, at times, the issue of criticism that comes from the opposition benches should be set aside for the good of those who have made such a contribution to making sure that this became a reality.
That said, the Yukon Party government committed at the outset that there has to be a process and method to formalize the government-to-government relationship in this territory. That began with going to work with First Nations on establishing that very framework. That is the memorandum of understanding that was reached with the First Nations and the Yukon government almost a year ago ó after considerable work, I might add, with the First Nation chiefs and officials from both orders of government.
The purpose of the memorandum of understanding was to formalize the government-to-government relationship between the parties by establishing ó and this is critical and very important ó a means by which the parties can together review, discuss and determine common priorities and opportunities for cooperation and collaboration as governments, as the parties may deem appropriate. So, the whole purpose as defined speaks for itself. That is essential to why we are here today discussing and debating Bill No. 61.
It then goes on to put some structure around the Yukon forum and states clearly that we agree that the chief, chief executive or chair, as the case may be, of each self-governing First Nation and the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations shall endeavour to meet together as the Yukon forum at least quarterly. Thatís part of the structure and it commits us. No matter what government is in office, it commits us to that.
It will aim toward cooperation among the parties.
Then it lists a number of things that are important: the parties have respective responsibilities, authorities, vision, priorities and directions ó which the parties, respecting those authorities, together believe to be in the best interests of the Yukon Territory. This again is where the opposition has totally underestimated what has been done here and why we are doing it.
It goes on to point out that objectives and strategies and areas of endeavour of the parties are absolute in this ó opportunities for effective coordination. There are obligations, priorities, commitments and operations that go with it that, including financial arrangements with the Government of Canada. I bring that up because I will get to how essential this agreement has become in our dealings with the Government of Canada.
Anyway, from this memorandum of understanding, we struck a common working group with Yukon government officials, the First Nation government officials and, jointly ó which is another unique and new approach to governance in the territory ó drafted the legislation that we all agreed to, and the legislation, Bill No. 61 before us, is that very act.
So the opposition benches go on to say that there is no difference between what this government has accomplished with First Nation governments and what past governments have attempted to do. Well, there is a difference. It is a very important difference, and that is called results.
The results of the Yukon forum are, I think, quite significant. In the first place, this piece of legislation is a product of the Yukon forum, and our formalized relationship and collaboration. So, too, is the joint working group that is now engaged in developing a joint Yukon position on a new federal mandate for the implementation of land claims, final agreements and self-government agreements.
Thatís another product from the Yukon forum. The Yukon chapter on the northern strategy was done by the Yukon forum ó another result that shows clearly the tremendous difference between this government and past governmentsí attempts. And so, too, is the Yukon position on the northern economic development fund. All these aforementioned issues outside of the bill itself are also directly linked to Canada, and I think you can see why, within the body of our understanding, Canada is part of that agreement and how we intend to work with Canada in this post-devolution era and in the era in the Yukon when 11 of 14 Yukon First Nations are self-governing.
The act is not that complicated or difficult. It lays out exactly what I was talking about through the agreement, and it is all about formalizing the relationship and recognizes each otherís jurisdiction; it provides definition. It lists all the First Nations, because we will always leave that option open for any to join, as they see fit. It does not in any way affect agreements that exist. It does not affect jurisdiction. It sets out the meetings, the structure; it sets out the ability for us to create common working groups. Iíve talked about a number of the results from these common working groups, and today, Mr. Speaker, we can say with the greatest degree of confidence that the Yukon has taken a very significant step in our ability to create a system of governance in the territory that is going to lead to a much better future, because we are all now building that future. This act gives force and effect to a structure that will ensure we will continue to do that long past this governmentís tenure and mandate, whatever that may be.
I think itís evident that this House can unanimously pass this bill. And as we go forward, it will be a tool for all governments that come after us to be able to work with First Nation governments in doing exactly what we have envisioned here today with this legislation and the understanding weíve reached with First Nations, and thatís about collaborating and cooperating in building Yukonís future for the benefit of all our citizens.
That was the spirit and intent of the land claims, that was the spirit and intent of the self-government agreements, that was the spirit and intent of us formalizing that relationship and those two jurisdictionsí involvement with each other. Thatís what this is all about.
The needless criticism, unfortunately, was intermixed in this discussion and debate. The opposition benches could have raised this discussion in debate to a much higher level. They chose not to. They will be judged on that.
But at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, we have accomplished something of great significance, and I want to extend, on behalf of the Yukon government and this House, our greatest appreciation to the many First Nation chiefs and their governments involved in this, who worked so hard to make sure that this came to this positive result, and to all the officials from both jurisdictions who have been working over the past couple of years putting all this together. Itís a great day for the Yukon, itís a great day for our future, and I look forward to full support in this House from the members opposite in the passage of Bill No. 61.
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. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 12 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 61 agreed to
Speaker: The Chair has a rather obstructed view of the clock, but it appears to be 6:00 p.m.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following documents were filed November 10, 2005:
Blood Ties Four Directions Centre request for funding: letter (dated October 6, 2005) to the Hon. Peter Jenkins, Minister of Health and Social Services, from Patricia Bacon, Executive Director† (McRobb)
Oil and Gas Disposition Process in Yukon, Administrative Review: letter (dated October 26, 2005) to Mr. Lewis Rifkind, Energy Coordinator, Yukon Conservation Society, from Debra Wortley, Rights Disposition Manager, Oil and Gas Management Branch, Energy, Mines and Resources, Government of Yukon† (McRobb)
House of Representative (U.S.), list: information from Joe Linklater, Chief, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, pertaining to letter (dated November 9, 2005) sent from Premier Dennis Fentie to U.S. legislators† (Fentie)