Monday, December 19, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
†Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of Father Tim Coonen
Mr. Jenkins: I rise to pay tribute to a member of the Dawson community who will be leaving us very shortly, Father Tim Coonen.
Father Tim first came to the Yukon in 1986; he served in Teslin for four years, Faro for four years, and Dawson City the last 11 years. Father Tim is a member of the Oblate Order and is probably one of the first Roman Catholic priests in Canada who has served as a chairman of a board of directors overseeing a gambling casino. He is also probably one of the first Roman Catholic priests in Canada to bless a brothel that was reincarnated as Bombay Peggyís in Dawson City.
Heís a well-respected member of the community. Weíre going to miss him. Heís moving on to Ottawa to take up a financial position with the Oblate Order to look after the finances of the organization in the English part of Canada. We wish him well. Weíll miss him in the community of Dawson.
Mr. Hardy: † Father Tim has been a tremendous figure, I believe, in the last many years in Dawson City. I know him personally, and my family does, and weíre really going to miss him when he leaves. I know his involvement with the Dawson City Music Festival and how he has opened up that church and made it a huge part of the community is very well respected across this territory, and definitely within Dawson. Iím sorry to hear that Yukon is losing a person like this.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling the annual report for the Office of the Ombudsman, Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Are there any other documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 12 ó response
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Petition No. 12, organized by the St. Elias Seniors Society, supports construction of a seniors facility for the Kluane region.
In the fall of 2004, an independent, third party community needs assessment was conducted to study the need for a multi-level care facility. The Department of Health and Social Services presented the results of the study to the community at two meetings this past May.
The study determined that the community need did not yet justify construction and operation of a multi-level care facility at this time, but it did commit to revisiting the issue of a multi-level care facility in three yearsí time. Instead, the study suggested that most of the communityís current needs could be met through an increase in home care services. As a result, a full-time home care nurse has been added to the services provided in Haines Junction.
During this fallís community tour, the Premier reiterated that a level 1 or 2 care facility, such as the ones in Dawson and Watson Lake, is not feasible right now. He indicated that a seniorsí housing project is a possibility, with normal home care services provided from the community to the seniors, and he directed the department to engage in discussions with St. Elias Seniors Society and other community members.
Those meetings took place on Tuesday, December 13. Representatives from Yukon Housing Corporation and Health and Social Services met with representatives from the St. Elias Seniors Society and the Champagne-Aishihik elders group.
A second meeting was held with the Village of Haines Junction. Under discussion was construction of a seniors housing project that could accommodate independent apartments. Common areas could be included to serve other needs, such as home care visits and personal care services and social activities, depending on the priorities of seniors in the community. At both meetings, people were very receptive to proceeding with a Yukon Housing Corporation project and agreed that it would meet their needs, apart from their wish to have an on-site staff person available to provide care 24 hours a day. That need has yet to be demonstrated, but assurances were given that community supports such as home care would be available to residents in the seniors housing project.
Yukon Housing Corporation received a fax from the village on December 15 of this year expressing appreciation for the opportunity to meet with representatives from Yukon Housing Corporation and Health and Social Services. The fax contains a motion passed at the December 14 council meeting, and the motion reads as follows: ďBe it resolved that the Village of Haines Junction notify Yukon Housing Corporation of its desire to work with that department in pursuing all avenues toward providing services to the areaís senior citizens, which services would include but not be limited to local accommodation for seniors.Ē
The letter goes on to say that the municipality looks forward to a successful, cooperative effort between Haines Junction and Yukon Housing Corporation on behalf of the seniors.
Based on this consultation, this government will proceed with the next steps in exploring a housing project for seniors. With the Village of Haines Junction, two possible sites have been identified that feature enough space so that the housing project could be expanded in any one of a variety of ways at a future date. The next steps for the Haines Junction seniors housing project will be to finalize a land selection and begin the design process with Haines Junction seniors and the village council. Following this process, it is hoped that construction of the building could commence in late summer or early fall of 2006.
Residents of Haines Junction and area and the north highway will be consulted on an ongoing basis as the project continues.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any other petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to demonstrative its compassion by immediately providing professional counselling services to assist the owners of the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm to deal with the traumatic loss of their reindeer herd at the hands of the government, and by offering to enter into mediation and/or negotiations with respect to full and fair financial compensation without prejudice to either side in this protracted and unseemly dispute.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to develop legislation to ensure that economic benefits from megaprojects are distributed equitably among Yukon people and that it introduce such legislation during a 40-day sitting in the spring of 2006, to help fulfill its commitment to creating a better future for Yukon people.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to fulfill the commitment made in the 2002 throne speech and create an independent citizens commission to review the territoryís electoral system, as a measure that will improve the Yukonís future and increase participation in the democratic process.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to restore public confidence in the democratic process by consulting more widely with Yukon people on changes to the way public business is done and that it do this before a 40-day sitting in the spring of 2006 to fulfill its commitment to creating a better future for Yukon people.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to bring forward changes to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act that will increase citizen access, for members to debate and pass during a 40-day sitting of the Legislative Assembly in the spring of 2006, as a measure that will improve the Yukonís future.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to begin a process for doing ďnatural capitalĒ surveys of all those areas of the Yukon imminently threatened by industrial-scale developments, to determine how the value of ecosystem services like water filtration and carbon storage compare economically with the net market value of resources extracted from these areas, and that it do this before a 40-day sitting in the spring of 2006, to fulfill its commitment to creating a better future for Yukon people.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to bring forward legislation that would prevent an MLA from ignoring the wishes of his or her constituents by changing parties, crossing the floor, and joining another party without first sitting as an independent until the next election, or by resigning their seat and running in a by-election.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to develop a management plan with the TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation for Tombstone Territorial Park and that it do so before a 40-day sitting in the spring of 2006, to fulfill its commitment to creating a better future for Yukon people.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to develop a comprehensive policy for genetically modified crops, which have yet to be found safe to humans and wildlife beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt, and that it do so before a 40-day sitting in the spring of 2006, to fulfill its commitment to creating a better future for Yukon people.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to develop, before the 40-day spring 2006 sitting of the Legislative Assembly, an improved strategy to alleviate the critical shortage of family doctors, to help fulfill its commitment to creating a better future for Yukon people.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to bring forward, in the 40-day spring 2006 sitting of the Legislative Assembly, legislation to ban smoking in all public buildings in the territory as a public health measure to help fulfill its commitment to creating a better future for Yukon people.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to bring forward, in the 40-day spring 2006 sitting of the Legislative Assembly, legislation to amend the Childrenís Act, after it first gives this important undertaking immediate priority and resources to help get the process back on track, to help fulfill its commitment to creating a better future for Yukon people.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to develop, before the 40-day 2006 sitting of the Legislative Assembly, a policy on uranium extraction and processing that addresses its long-term negative impacts to help fulfill its commitment to creating a better future for Yukon people.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to bring forward legislation to revise the Education Act for members to debate and pass during a 40-day sitting of the Legislative Assembly in the spring of 2006, as a measure that will improve Yukonís† future.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to fulfill the commitment made in the 2002 Yukon Party election platform and bring forward whistle-blower legislation for members to debate and pass during a 40-day sitting of the Legislative Assembly in the spring of 2006, as a measure that will improve the Yukonís future and protect Yukon workers.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to bring forward legislation to revise the Workersí Compensation Act for members to debate and pass during a 40-day sitting of the Legislative Assembly in the spring of 2006, as a measure that will improve the Yukonís future.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to bring forward legislation to implement the recommendations of the Liquor Act review completed in 2002, for members to debate and pass during a 40-day sitting of the Legislative Assembly in spring 2006, as a measure that will improve the Yukonís future.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Commissioner and Executive Council to establish, pursuant to the Yukon Hospital Act, a Yukon health authority that would be administered and overseen by the Yukon Hospital Corporation and which would be responsible for providing health care to Yukoners within the mandate of the Yukon Hospital Act.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to
(1) take such action as is necessary to cause the gasifier fluidized bed located at Yukon College to be commissioned and put into production; and
(2) make arrangements with the college for it to use this highly efficient and environmentally sensitive technology to heat the facilities of the college.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Government promises
†Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, the Christmas season is nearly upon us. Unlike most of us, Iím sure the Premier has had an opportunity to watch a variety of seasonal movies on TV. Now, my personal favourite concerns a certain gentleman who is haunted by visions of his past, his present and his likely future.
In the not-so-distant past, the Premier promised a rosy future, with a new, inclusive style of governing based on consensus building, consultation, collaboration and compromise. Does the Premier remember that promise, and can he explain why it has gone unfulfilled?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, that promise was made because, as a government, we recognized the value and the merit in working with First Nation governments here in the territory, in working with our neighbours to the east, to the south and to the west, and we have delivered on all those fronts, Mr. Speaker. Many of the results that weíre experiencing here today in the Yukon Territory, whether it be in our strengthened economy, our population thatís growing, our enhanced education system, our strengthened health care system and social safety net ó these results are because of the collaborative and cooperative approach where we have compromised with our neighbours, with First Nation governments and with Yukoners to ensure that we deliver the best possible governance, programs and services in the territory.
Question re: Government promises
†Mr. Hardy: † I have a new question for the Premier, Mr. Speaker. In the classic story by Charles Dickens, the central character has cut himself off from others. He has cut off his faithful employees. He has shunned his fellow citizens. Even his old business partner ó maybe the Premier would call him his ďdeputyĒ, if you will ó he has cut him off as well. He is bitter and lonely, unwilling to give to others, unwilling to experience simple human joy. This character lives only to hoard material and emotional wealth for himself.
It is now approaching midnight for the Premier, a time to reflect on the promise of his not-so-distant past. Can the Premier explain why the Yukon is more dependent than ever on government spending while his promise of a robust private sector with First Nations as full economic partners has also gone unfulfilled?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís amazing how the member opposite is trying to turn A Christmas Carol into a negative story. Thatís true to form, though, for the NDP, who just completely ignore the positives of this territory, the optimism of its future, and try to ignore the facts that are before them.
To say that we havenít delivered on economic partnerships in this territory is flying in the face of the evidence, Mr. Speaker. All you have to do is look at the stats. Furthermore, does the member not recognize that in sharing in the oil and gas revenues and royalties ó is that not part of an economic partnership with First Nations? Does the member not recognize the development of the Yukon chapter of the northern strategy with First Nation governments ó thatís a partnership, that is sharing. In the northern economic development fund, the same holds true. In the sharing of the gas tax, the same holds true.
The Minister of Economic Development is negotiating and concluding a regional economic development agreement with the Northern Tutchone. The bilateral agreement ó much criticized ó by the official opposition and the third party ó delivering oil and gas development, forestry and mining development in the southeast, are all examples of economic partnerships that this government has delivered.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre rebuild
Mr. Mitchell: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on this governmentís decision to delay the construction of a new jail indefinitely.
Shortly after coming to office, the Yukon Party decided that it did not see the construction of a safe, new facility as a priority. It cancelled plans to build a new jail and, instead, embarked on a three-year delaying strategy called ďcorrections reformĒ. It told workers at the jail that their concerns about how unsafe the facility is were not important and that they should just wait.
Inmates have been told programs that would help with their rehabilitation would have to wait.
The Yukon Party has dragged its heels for three years on this project, and not weíre getting close to an election. The government is clearing the decks and wants to be seen to be doing things. The new jail will cost approximately $24 million. How much of that money will be in the spring budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start, Iíd like to correct the record on what the member opposite just stated. This government decided not to build another warehouse; thatís all they did. The justice reform that has taken place has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that that facility was not adequate and would not have served the direction in which the people of the Yukon would like to see justice go.
This government took up the task of doing an extensive consultation on what the territory sees as suitable for a justice system in the Yukon. I must add that the whole initiative has turned out very positively. All one had to do was attend the justice summit on correctional reform a few weeks ago to see a very packed house. All the interest groups had representation there. There was a very good summit on initiatives that were happening.
The member opposite talks about cutting off programming at WCC. Iíd like to just mention a few that are happening.
Speaker: Thatís good, thank you.
Mr. Mitchell: †† One thing that we can all agree upon is that the existing facility is grossly inadequate.
The Yukon Party made a political decision early in its mandate not to build the jail. They have to answer for it. We have numerous reports that say the jail is unsafe and should be replaced. Instead this government has wasted more than a million dollars on a phoney consultation process and millions more on renovations to the existing jail. There is almost half a million in this yearís budget alone for more band-aids to keep the place operating.
The Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation is not happy with the way this government is going about replacing the jail. The government signed an agreement that gave the Kwanlin Dun a role in replacing the jail. This is what the chief said about the agreement: ďIt is an agreement that is waiting to happen. There is no indication from the minister in charge as to when thatís going to happen and they are not prepared to give us any dates.Ē
Why is the minister ignoring the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As a minister I donít agree with the member opposite. I believe in my own heart that he may be out of order by referring to a consultation as being phoney. There is nothing phoney about it, Mr. Speaker. It was done in all good faith and it was something that had to be done. This government doesnít just go out and start building buildings because they think itís important to build. I mentioned before that we have education infrastructure thatís older than the correctional facility.
I do agree with the member opposite that, yes, there should be a new facility built and it will be.
With regard to courses that were offered at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, we had transportation of dangerous goods program, workplace hazard material information system, an introduction to computer fundamentals. Yukon College operates a campus at the Correctional Centre. In addition to providing short-term training courses, it also provides upgrading courses. Other courses were an introduction to welding, introduction to small-engine repairs, initial fire attack-1 firefighting. So, the list goes on, Mr. Speaker. This government did take courses seriously at the correctional facility.
Mr. Mitchell: †Well, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the dangerous goods is the existing Whitehorse Correctional Centre facility. Mr. Speaker, the Chief of Kwanlin Dun is upset with this government, and rightfully so. It is obvious that this is just one of those memoranda of understanding that the Premier signs, shows up for the photo op, and then heads back to the corner office and waits to see his picture in the paper.
The hard work that comes after is left to someone else or, in this case, it doesnít happen at all. The government has delayed for long enough. When is the construction on a replacement facility going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I find the leader of the third party in kind of a precarious position here. Maybe the House and all citizens in the territory need to be reminded again that the previous Liberal government had the opportunity to build that facility. It was their decision to quit halfway through their mandate.
Question re: Government promises
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to return to our Christmassy question theme. At this festive of time of year, I have no wish to disturb the Premierís reveries but, alas, it falls to my lot to shed light on the present reality of what should have been a time of balance and certainty. In place of balance between the economy and the environment, we see a secretive pursuit of dirty industries like coal-bed methane and uranium. In place of diversity, we see a mad dash for megaprojects. In place of partnerships, we see cronyism. In place of consultation, we see confrontation and confusion. In place of stability, we see urban boom and rural bust. After three years, why is Yukon at present so different from what the Premier promised it would be?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, Yukon present is different from Yukon past, to be sure ó when we were under an NDP government and the former Liberal government. It has improved dramatically, and that is measured by the fact that people are moving back to this territory instead of moving out of the territory.
But in the face of all the erroneous accusations from the Member for Kluane, I extend to him a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Question re: Government promises
Mr. Cardiff:† ††††††† Mr. Speaker, I would also like to call on the Premier to take a close look at Yukon present. Do we see a correctional facility? No, we donít. Do we see new workersí compensation legislation? Nowhere, Mr. Speaker. Do we see a new Childrenís Act, a new Education Act, amendments to the Liquor Act? The answer is no ó three times.
Municipal democracy in Dawson City is nowhere to be seen, Mr. Speaker. Affordable housing ó only for those with deep pockets. The Premier says, ďBah, humbug.Ē With three years under this Premierís watch, why does the present look so much like the past?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite is stating to Yukoners that todayís Yukon is similar or looks like the past under the NDP government and the former Liberal government, what can the government side say? The member opposite is ignoring the facts. The population is increasing. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. We have a much strengthened financial position from where we were under former governments. That is through the efforts of the government. We have a growing economy. We have increased mining and resource exploration as one strategic industry. We have a better tourism industry and more optimism and potential there. We have a film and sound industry in the territory. We have an IT sector, and we have small business that is benefiting from the stimulus and the investment coming into the territory.
Mr. Speaker, we also have an enhanced education system. There is some 17-percent increase in the education system, including things like the Individual Learning Centre, bringing high school dropouts back into the school system. And there is no doubt that our health care system has improved.
Mr. Speaker, that is Yukon present. Obviously it is a secret to the members opposite.
Question re: Government promises
Mr. Fairclough: I also urge the Premier to look at the here and now and what has become of the promises he made in the not-so-distant past. Where are the partnerships with First Nations? Are they on paper or on the many dusty MOUs and agreements? They are not there in practice. Where are the economic partnerships? In press releases, but not in practice? Where are the recommendations for advisory boards and committees? Gathering moss on the ministerís desk or on the reject pile. The Carmacks school, for example ó is it any wonder so many First Nations canít wait to draw down their self-government powers, because they donít trust this government? When people believed the Premier three years ago ó look at the Yukon present ó why do they see partnerships in word but not in deed?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: For the member oppositeís benefit, let me start listing some of the partnerships. In fact, the members opposite have voted for this very bill ó the Co-operation in Governance Act. Thatís a partnership. When the Member for Mayo-Tatchun talks about drawing down education, I would caution the member to not diminish what has been accomplished under the land claims and self-government agreements. At least this side of the House respects those agreements and is living up to them.
The Childrenís Act review ó for the first time ever, a legislative renewal process has been conducted by a government in partnership with First Nation governments. The northern strategy, the northern economic development fund ó the list goes on and on and on. What the members opposite fail to recognize about Yukonís present is that this government has delivered the goods, unlike the governments past who could not deliver the goods.
Question re: Yukon College endowment lands
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Premier, as he chairs Cabinet. This session, we have heard conflicting answers about the handling of land in Porter Creek. The Yukon Party government has laid out three different plans for the same piece of land. On one hand, itís going to be a park, as requested by residents. The Minister of Community Services says heís working on this. He has also been busy working with the City of Whitehorse for the last few months to develop residential lots on the same land. Finally, we have the Minister of Education, who has promised the land to Yukon College as an endowment.
My question is for the Premier. How does he intend to resolve this situation with his Cabinet ministers, the City of Whitehorse and residents?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thereís nothing to resolve. The facts are that the government is committed to a consultation process that would include not only the citizens of Porter Creek, the stakeholders, the City of Whitehorse, Yukon College, Taían Kwachían First Nation, and Kwanlin Dun First Nation. Thatís how weíre going to deal with the situation.
Thereís nothing to resolve. Thereís only the way ahead. We need land developed. We want to ensure the college has a future and that part of that future may be in endowment lands, and we want to make sure that, where we can, we conserve and protect our environment. Itís all part of the equation.
The difference between this government and the members opposite is that we work with the full equation. We donít cherry-pick it.
Ms. Duncan: Itís obvious there are serious communication problems within the Yukon Party Cabinet. One minister is making plans with the city to build a subdivision in part of his department. He has made public commitments about consultation for the same piece of land as a park. A second minister, the MLA for Porter Creek North, is busy opposing the subdivision. We have the third minister, the Minister of Education, who has been privately working with the college and giving away the same piece of land.
One member of city council said it last week: ďDonít they talk to each other down there?Ē
Residents want the land protected and they want to participate in public discussions. Will the Premier commit that the Yukon public, including the residents of Porter Creek, will be the deciding factor over the very different views of his Cabinet ministers? Will he commit to that and will he commit to a start date for the public consultation?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, weíve already committed to a consultation process by strengthening the member oppositeís very motion tabled in this Assembly in this sitting, and weíre proceeding with that.
But letís talk about the lack of communication in the Cabinet. There certainly isnít one on this side of the House, but we all know from the recent past how quickly the demise of the Liberal government took place because of that lack of communication. They lasted only half their mandate, Mr. Speaker. There is the evidence in itself, Mr. Speaker ó testimony to who communicates and who doesnít.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is true to form in spite of the season. The Minister of Education met with the college behind closed doors for three years, privately telling them he was going to give them a piece of land. The college president said in the local paper that it wasnít just on one occasion that Minister Edzerza made this commitment. Meanwhile, the Minister of Community Services has said publicly on two occasions that consultation would be undertaken to have the land set aside as a park. At the same time, his department was working with the City of Whitehorse to develop the land as a subdivision.
My concern is that full public consultation takes place before any more private and public commitments by the government and before we see lot development budgeted in this spring budget. Will the Premier insist that public consultation take place over the private commitments of his Cabinet ministers, and that the public consultation will take place early in the new year and will include the residents of Porter Creek.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, if I had the copy of the motion here, Iíd read it into the record verbatim. Thatís what weíve already committed to do. The member makes insinuations with respect to the Minister of Education and what he has done for the college ó behind closed doors? I think not, Mr. Speaker. Very publicly. And the members have voted against it: an increase of $1 million to the collegeís base grant, more training dollars, more facilities for the college. The minister intends to make the college a centre of excellence, a learning institution that will meet Yukonís future needs. That is what the minister has done very publicly, very openly, and the members opposite have opposed that.
Question re: Dawson City financial situation
†Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the acting Minister of Community Services about the Dawson City debacle. Dawson today has no functioning rec centre, no secondary sewage treatment; the Klondike Highway through Dawson City requires repaving. The bridge over the Yukon River hasnít come to pass. There is no multi-level care facility, no new lease arrangements with Chief Isaac Incorporated, and the municipal infrastructure is crumbling. The municipality canít carry its debt load and there is no elected council. The minister has been in the driverís seat for over a year and a half. The attitude of the government is that it must teach Dawson a lesson.
My question to the acting minister is this: when will the minister step up to the plate and address Dawsonís situation, which has been caused to a large extent by government?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to state for the record that the member opposite is probably most knowledgeable about the situation in Dawson, as he lives there, and he has also been mayor, and the list goes on.
The Government of Yukon stepped into the situation in Dawson City because the town was broke. Dawson City was in this precarious financial position because of failures by Dawson City and because of failures by the two previous Yukon governments. It took Dawson some time to get into the predicament they are in, and it has taken this government some time to help get them out of the situation.
This government looked at conducting a public inquiry but decided against one because they are very expensive and take a very long time to complete. The Public Inquiries Act, section 5, empowers a board of inquiry to enforce the attendance of witnesses and to compel them to give evidence. The Public Inquiries Act also states in section 6 that people involved have the right to counsel.
Mr. Speaker, this situation in Dawson is not something that developed since this government took office. It has been there for a very long time. Again, this government did take on the task of trying to improve the situation and will continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: I happen to agree with the minister and his response to the question, but the need for a public inquiry is paramount now, and I believe the only reason itís not going forward is because of the culpability and complicity of the Government of Yukon in creating this debacle in Dawson City.
Could I ask the minister to elaborate on the timelines for a solution by his government to the situation in Dawson City? The minister has been in the driverís seat since he came into power three years ago, Mr. Speaker. It has been over a year and a half since he has been totally in charge through a trustee. When is something going to take place? When is this government going to address its responsibility for Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As the member opposite very well knows and as he is very familiar with all the issues that transpired in Dawson City over the years, itís a situation that would be impossible to rectify within a year or two. I believe this government has worked diligently with all the people involved ó the municipal governments, you name it. Things were done to try to address the serious issue in Dawson.
Again, I believe this government has worked toward the best interests of trying to find a good solution to the issue.
Question re: Tourism initiatives
Mr. Rouble: Itís unfortunate that weíve almost gotten through this session and thereís one department that we havenít heard from. The Department of Tourism and Culture is a very important department in this government. Itís a very important economic driver in the territory.
The members opposite are laughing at the Department of Tourism being recognized as being important. I think it is.
My question is for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. With the rising gasoline prices and the rising Canadian dollar, what is the Department of Tourism and Culture doing to ensure we are going to have a healthy, vibrant tourism economy?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I am delighted to speak about the Department of Tourism and Culture and all the very important initiatives our department is taking on and has been working very hard on over the last three years.
Our government is quite proud of the varying investments that we have been making in the Department of Tourism and Culture over the last three years. Since elected, our government has certainly worked closely with industry to dedicate resources in areas of priority that have been identified. Investments include increased resources toward media relations, familiarization tours, Web site enhancement, investments in product development, and investments in the scenic drives campaign, which is fully inclusive of interpretive signage, and marketing cooperatives. We have also been able to create the tourism cooperative marketing fund, $500,000, to enhance marketing businesses in total among the communities to be able to market their operations worldwide. We continue to provide investments in the rubber-tire traffic area inclusive of Tourism North, our joint Alaska-Yukon program. We have been working very hard and we will continue to work very hard.
Mr. Rouble: Tourism is a key industry in the beautiful Southern Lakes, and itís a very important industry throughout the rest of the territory. Weíve heard this from our neighbours to the west, from Alaska, from tour operators, from the wholesalers: we need more tourism infrastructure, and we need more tourist attractions.
Again, for the Tourism and Culture minister: what tourism infrastructure and attractions are being invested in, not only in the beautiful Southern Lakes, but also in the rest of the territory?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †In addition to the $200,000 we have allotted toward the Yukon tourism brand strategy ó not to mention the $5-million national marketing campaign ó of which we have identified our first million dollars in this fall supplementary budget ó not to mention other resources dedicated to our Yukon sports tourism market. We have also identified significant dollars toward waterfront development. $3 million has been put into the Southern Lakes region, in the beautiful community of Carcross. $19 million has gone toward the development of the Whitehorse waterfront, which is inclusive of infrastructure that includes lighting, extension of First Avenue, products along our waterfront.
We have invested numerous dollars toward our museums ó $500,000 toward the expansion of the MacBride Museum, as a recent example.
Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of the investments we continue to contribute to the development and growth of the tourism industry, and we will continue to work hard.
Mr. Rouble: I know that this government often takes a very inclusive holistic approach to planning and the undertaking of projects and developments. Specifically, what partnerships is the Department of Tourism working on? Are they working interdepartmentally? Are they working inter-governmentally? Are they working with not-for-profit organizations? What different organizations is the Department of Tourism working with to ensure we have a healthy and vibrant tourism economy ó again, not only in the beautiful Southern Lakes, but also across the territory?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I wish I had a few hours to list off all the partnerships that our Department of Tourism and Culture has been able to engage in with industry across the territory in every single community ó partnerships with the Klondike Visitors Association, partnerships with Holland America, partnerships with the Gateway Tourism Association in Watson Lake, partnerships with our museums community, partnerships with our First Nation cultural centres ó $220,000 in new funding to support our cultural centres in the territory. We are working very diligently on a number of partnerships not only to enhance our ability to promote the Yukon as a premier destination, but also to leverage our ability to promote the Yukon as a premier destination.
Again, there are partnerships with White Pass & Yukon Route to extend the train service into the community of Carcross. I will just reiterate that we have partnerships with our municipalities, First Nation governments, and our many non-government organizations that are working very hard on Yukonersí behalf to promote the territory as a world destination of choice, inclusive of organizations such as the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, Wilderness Tourism Association, and Yukon First Nations Tourism Association.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. Weíll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent re Bill No. 110
Speaker: The Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: † Mr. Speaker, I am requesting unanimous consent for the House to proceed with second reading, Committee of the Whole debate, third reading and assent to Bill No. 110, Yukon Smoke-Free Places Act, at this time.
Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Speaker: We do not have unanimous consent.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: † †Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
†Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 17 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. Weíll continue now with Vote 24, Elections Office.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, we see no need to debate either the Elections Office or the Ombudsman. Therefore, I request unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 24, Elections Office, cleared or carried, as required.
Chair: Before I ask for unanimous consent, is there any further debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 24, Elections Office, cleared or carried
Chair: Mr. McRobb has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 24, Elections Office, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Elections Office in the amount of $66,000 agreed to
Elections Office agreed to
Chair: We will now continue with Vote 23, Office of the Ombudsman.
Office of the Ombudsman
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, similar to the previous request, I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 23, the Office of the Ombudsman, cleared or carried, as required.
Chair: Before I ask the question, is there any further debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 23, Office of the Ombudsman, cleared or carried
Chair: Mr. McRobb has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 23, Office of the Ombudsman, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
†Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman agreed to
Chair: I understand the next department under debate is Vote 3, Department of Education.
Department of Education ó continued
Mr. Fairclough: It has been a long time since we debated the Department of Education. Itís too bad that it is now being debated on the last day and there really is not the time to go through this department thoroughly, as the public would like to see us do in this House.
I started asking a few questions of the minister about commitments, and so on, and I was interested in some of the answers that he gave in the House. I reviewed the Blues and looked at the answers from the minister, and I believe at the end of the questioning of the department I was asking about the Carmacks school. I asked the Minister of Education to look at this with some seriousness. I am hoping he has some updates from his officials. I asked him to look at what it means for First Nations to draw down education, and the departmentís involvement with that. I asked the minister if he could provide funding for the three First Nations that have come together ó Na Cho Nyšk Dun, Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and Kwanlin Dun ó to look at how this government could help assist them in doing the necessary homework, and bring the information back to the people .
It was in the best interests of the Department of Education, I believe, to do that, so they could be up to speed as to what drawing down education really means to the Department of Education and to the general public.
One was the effect it would have on the Department of Education. I laid out a little bit about my understanding of this to the minister, and Iím hoping to hear back now that the minister has had a couple of weeks to be briefed and to get some opinions, perhaps, from lawyers and so on, on what it really means to the department and to the Yukon and what his understanding of that is.
I asked about the school in Carmacks and it being the major community facility and how the people in Carmacks would love to brag about this in the future, about how they worked on this school and built it with their own hands. Part of the problem here, Mr. Chair, is that First Nation wanted to be fully part of this project, and it fell apart. It did fall apart, and thatís evident. Itís to the point that the First Nation had to go outside of this House and protest this government in actions that they have taken.
Thatís the unfortunate part. Still, weíve heard from the Premier that theyíre willing to give First Nations full partnership in economic development. A major facility like this in a small community like Carmacks is economic development, yet the minister said that only three people from that community are working on this project, which should have been closed in by now and them working inside through the winter months ó three people, one First Nation person.
I also asked him to look into the fair wage schedule to ensure the company thatís building the school is paying the workers what the Yukon government would pay the workers. To my surprise, the minister said that he believed the fair wage schedule isnít in place on all government contracts. I believe that is true, but on any major project like this, it kicks into place. Iím wondering why the minister said that, when he knows full well this should be in place on major construction projects like this.
The people who are working there as labourers should be getting $18.80 an hour, instead of what Iíve heard, which was $14.00 an hour.
I asked the minister to look into that, and Iím expecting some information from the member opposite on that, and Iím hoping that he could lay it out quite clearly. A lot of the work still has to be done on the school throughout the winter months, and it could put a lot of people to work.
Iím also looking at how this Yukon Party government is going to rebuild relations with Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation on this project.
It has fallen apart and it is in a very bad situation right now. Is the Premier going to make some effort to do that? Well, weíll see through the ministerís answers.
I donít have a whole lot of questions for the minister because I think we need to clear this department and move on, although I was interested in reading the response from the minister to one of my questions in regard to the Carmacks school. The minister responded to this ó and itís in Hansard, Mr. Speaker. He said that it doesnít matter which government is here, because, at one point in time, youíre not going to be able to agree with the First Nation on an issue and youíll become an enemy again, I guess. Thatís just the way it is.
That line that the minister said ó that response to me ó means a lot. Itís quite damaging, actually, for any government to take that approach and say that if we donít agree, we are automatically an enemy, rather than saying that when there is a problem or disagreement between the First Nation and government, there is a process and way to work things out. Thatís what I thought I would hear from the members opposite. I guess we could go and review the Blues over and over again and find these types of points that are made not only by the Minister of Education but by the Premier and other ministers on that side of the House. That one, I would like the minister to clarify. This is an opportunity for him to clear the record on perhaps what he meant by that. It is important for this government to clear the air. We have said time and time again that relations are not as rosy as the government thinks they are.
First Nations have gone to the extent ó not that they wanted to, in the first place ó of drawing down the education, which is a major move on their part because it holds a lot of responsibility.
If we had had further questions in Question Period ó and we will have in the spring ó things could have been ironed out here. Iím surprised the Premier today didnít take that opportunity to do that.
We asked about relationships and how theyíre falling apart, what the minister could do in the future to gain the trust again of the public in government. Itís falling apart. Whatever government is elected after the next general election, theyíll be faced with that situation of having to fix the problem that the Yukon Party, in three years, has made.
Unfortunately, thatís what people are faced with. Itís not going to be the Yukon Party thatís faced with it, because theyíre not going to be elected. Ask the public out there; take a walk down the street. I think the minister is quite aware of it.
I also wanted to talk about the ministerís decisions. A question was asked of the Minister of Education; this was a response we on this side of the House agreed with, and it was in regard to the Copperbelt by-election and the Granger area in regard to a school. We asked the minister what heís going to do, if heís going to build a school or not. The minister said he would take the approach of doing his homework first. We agree with that; we definitely agree with that, to look at it seriously and to look at the situation government is in and, perhaps, the lack of action from past governments on agreements already made. Because the minister has been part of Kwanlin Dun, heís fully aware of this one. There was a relocation agreement with Kwanlin Dun, and that started in 1969 but ended in the 1980s, I believe.
In that agreement, there was a promise of a school to that First Nation. Any time an issue of a school comes up, in and around the Kwanlin Dun area or in their traditional territory, they want to be fully part of it. They will bring back and look at the old agreements with the relocation agreement. I think what supersedes that is their final agreement. Although the minister, I think, would be very interested to hear what Kwanlin Dun has to say about that, they are one of the First Nations that are wanting to draw down education.
When the minister answered the question the way he did, he was very right. Heís got to do the homework, and itís too bad his colleagues didnít hear that. Itís too bad the acting Minister of Education didnít hear that, because she announced the school, and I would really like to know if the minister was fully part of that decision making and whether all of Cabinet was. It is very questionable because the announcement took place that day instead of a day earlier or a day later or two days later. Thereís no reason why that could not have taken place at a later date in an announcement by the Minister of Education, because it would have been appropriate for the public to hear the minister announce that. Thatís very important. Perhaps the minister could respond to that too.
Iím quite eager to hear what the minister has to say about his understanding of what it means for First Nations to draw down education, and Iím hoping that some details will come of that.
There are other issues Iíve brought to the ministerís attention in the past. Iíve gotten written responses from the minister, and I thank the minister for that. One was in regard to Teslin and the school gymnasium being built on First Nation land. Iíve gotten lengthy correspondence back from the minister, and I thank the minister for that. It gives me a clear understanding about past agreements and so on.
I asked the Minister of Education in the past about busing routes. Even though itís a small issue, itís a big issue to some people in the community of Mayo. A simple thing ó the bus is not going the same route to pick up the kids as it was doing several yeas ago.
It was simply an issue of road maintenance, I believe, and the minister or the department would not commit to seeing any improvements in that area. I certainly would like the minister to respond to that, too. In the past, the government has made some improvements based on my request, simple things like street lights in the proper place to ensure that there is light where students are picked up and so on.
There is an increase in the Department of Education. I asked the question about why. In looking at the budget, why did almost every school have an increase in the supplementary budget? Some explanation was given. I couldnít understand why the department was so far off, though, in their estimates in the spring. In capital, weíre looking at $1.9-million additional spending. We have already even seen in the community of Carmacks, before construction even started, $277,000 additional added on. Iím not sure, but is it because of the cost or the higher-than-estimated bid on the school? Some explanation was given to each of these line items, and I thank the minister for that. I will go through that in some detail, because obviously weíre going to come back with questions in the spring sitting.
With that, I would like to ask the minister to respond to some of that. I am particularly interested in the end of the last debate where I asked the minister what his understanding was of First Nations drawing down education and whether it was the same as mine. So far, I did not see that, but I believe that if the minister took it back to the officials, and there was some detailed discussion on it, perhaps we will have a clearer understanding of what it means from the ministerís side.
What I donít want to hear from the minister again is that First Nations have that right to drawdown education. We all know that, and we donít need to hear those lines again. Itís in their final agreements, and itís their right. We donít need to hear that again. Theyíve been pushed into the position of wanting to do this, and I think thatís where the minister needs to take it from. Never mind what his colleagues are saying ó itís where the minister is going to go with this. I understand what the education reform is all about. One First Nation is not participating in discussion, and thatís pretty important to me, and I think itís pretty important for the minister to find a way to engage the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation in this discussion. Maybe the minister could lay that out too.
There are a good number of questions for the minister to respond to, so Iíll let him do that in the next 20 minutes.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start with, I would just like to state for the record that the 15- or 20-minute talk from the member opposite was just basically a review of what took place during the last questioning from this member. I donít see much sense in repeating myself and answering all the same questions over again.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite could read the Blues and get the answer to everything he brought out just now. It has already been answered.
In my opinion, what it means for First Nations to take down education is that, number one, theyíll have added responsibility to the citizens. I think thatís a choice that the First Nations have to collectively make.
Since the last questioning by the member opposite, Iíve had a number of phone calls and discussions with people on the street, from both First Nations. Not all citizens of Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation want their government to take down education; thatís obvious from the comments Iíve heard from different people with regard to that, so I guess thatís an issue the First Nation will have to come to terms with on their own. Itís their decision to make.
I also want to say that not all citizens of Kwanlin Dun First Nation agree with their governmentís comments to take down education. Again, I make that statement because of discussions Iíve had with some long-time citizens of Kwanlin Dun who have lived in the McIntyre community. They are very resistant to their government taking down education.
So again, Mr. Chair, thatís an issue a First Nation will have to deal with. I guess time will tell exactly what will happen with regard to those announcements by both chiefs.
I want to state for the record that itís not a negative thing to view a First Nation wanting to take over that responsibility. If they feel they have the capacity and the means to take over that program, and they feel confident they can do the job and do a good job, then thatís a choice they have to make.
I wish them all the best of luck if they do decide to take down education. Again, I will state for the record that, regardless of which First Nation in the territory takes over the education program, the government of the day, whether it is Yukon Party government, the NDP government or the Liberal government, will still have to provide a public school system for all the citizens in the territory. So, if it comes to the day when there are two systems of education in the Yukon, then I guess thatís something we will have to live with.
I certainly donít encourage it, but Iím also not a dictator. If the First Nations feel very strongly about this and they choose to do it, I think no government would be able to stop them from doing it.
The member opposite wanted some clarification on my comments with regard to First Nations and that other governments may have problems when they say no to one of them. Well, I simply meant, Mr. Chair, that itís a fact of life that there will be disagreements between different levels of government. There will be disagreements between First Nation governments and the municipal governments. There will be disagreements between First Nation governments and the NDP or the Liberal or the Yukon Party governments. Thatís a fact of life. My comment was simply to mean that when you have to make unpopular decisions, you usually donít come out being a popular government, whether itís Liberal, NDP or Yukon Party. There was no intention whatsoever to discredit any First Nations because I think they are all very capable of making decisions on behalf of their citizens.†
I would encourage all governments, whether municipal, NDP, Yukon Party or Liberal Party, to honour those agreements and try to work out the differences.
With regard to the school in the Copper Ridge area, the member opposite was correct in saying that, in the heat of the election, there were promises made by the Liberal government and the Yukon Party government to build a school in Copper Ridge. The only statement Iíll make to that is that itís certainly not going to be built in this mandate and it would be very interesting to see who is going to build it in the upcoming election.
Obviously the Yukon Party, if elected, will fulfill their promise, and I imagine that if the Liberals are elected theyíll fulfill their promise. Thatís where that sits with this minister.
I know the member opposite asked a number of questions about First Nations taking down education. To the best of my knowledge, at least two meetings have been held with the department and the Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation to have discussions about what it means to take down education. Those discussions will be ongoing and Iím very certain the government will continue to honour the First Nation requests, and when they request talks around taking down education, the department will surely comply. I know weíre not the only stakeholder here; thereís also the federal governmentís responsibility here.
All I can say is that I certainly hope those talks will go well with the First Nations, if they choose to take down education. Thereís a lot involved and itís certainly something that wonít be implemented and taken over in three or four months. It will be a very extensive process to get to the point where that program is taken over.
With regard to the contractors in Carmacks, the construction of the school, the government continues to bolster local economic development by giving Yukoners training opportunities in their communities, which our government has done. There was a pre-trade qualifier course and a level 1 carpentry training course held by the Yukon College in anticipation of construction of the new school in Carmacks. Seven students completed the carpentry training. Again, that was initiated by the intention of building a new facility in Carmacks.
At the present time, there are three workers and two pieces of equipment with their operators from Carmacks on the jobsite, which is in the early stages of construction. I am quite confident that the construction company that is responsible to build that infrastructure will make the best use of all the citizens available to work in Carmacks and specifically with work in conjunction with the First Nations.
There was some talk about the fair wage schedule with regard to the Carmacks school construction. With respect to the member oppositeís concerns regarding application of the fair wage schedule on this project, I have notified labour services in the community services branch of this issue. I understand they will be looking into the member oppositeís concerns. The rules are very clear on all government-tendered construction contracts regarding the fair wage schedule. The rate for labour before December 1 was $16.95 per hour and for a carpenter, it was $23.50 per hour. This project is regulated under these rates. These, as well as all rates, must be paid at a minimum to all work performed on the jobsite. The rates form part of the contract and are identified as such.
When we talk about First Nations and education, I would like to put on record just what the government has done with regard to First Nations and education. For the aboriginal language trainees we have provided $2,456,000. Yukon native teacher education program has received $540,000. First Nation curriculum materials and resources have received $500,000. Cultural activities have received $305,000. Native Language Centre received $352,000. First Nation curriculum consultants have received $173,000. First Nation partnerships coordinator has received $90,000. There are now six aboriginal language teacher trainees ó $206,000. First Nation curriculum materials development ó $100,000. The home tutor program ó $375,000. Elders in the schools program has $30,000 put into it. The First Nation languages program has received $20,000 for WNCP. Stay-in-school initiatives have received $25,000 for school counselling and support. This totals $5,172,000. I think that is quite an improvement over the last three years.
The member opposite also commented on possible soil contamination around the Carmacks school construction. There have been no reports of any contaminated materials being found during the excavation of the Carmacks school. When the government bought the Sunset Motel and demolished the building a number of years ago, EBA Engineering Ltd.,† a geotechnical and environmental consultant, was hired to conduct a detailed environmental analysis of the site involving review of the use of the site by prior owners and sampling of soil materials uncovered in the process, cleaning up the site.
We were mainly concerned about finding hydrocarbons, although we were also looking for other contaminants, such as garbage. Nothing was found. The contractor has uncovered some poor natural soil conditions beneath the gym area. This winter, construction will continue on the rest of the school area and the gym construction will recommence in the spring when the poor soil will be replaced with gravel.
The completion date of August 2006 has not been affected.
When we talk about education, I think itís important to note that education involves everyone in the Yukon Territory. One of the main reasons for doing the education reform process was to promote unity among the citizens of the territory. I say that because, by doing an extensive consultation process, people in the Yukon Territory will feel as though they have a voice within the education program.
I hope that everyone will take advantage of this process and get involved, because a lot of us in First Nation communities have intermarriages. A lot of our childrenís grandparents are non-native, so we canít disrespect citizens in the territory based on ethnic background. I think itís important that we all work as a territory and do the best we can to come up with the best possible education program that will suit everyone.
Again, the Department of Education ó when we talk about education, literacy is a big part of that. Yukon Learn was $300,000; Yukon Literacy Coalition, $50,000; Learning Disabilities Association, $101,760; Literacy Action Committee, $129,398; Whitehorse Correctional Centreís education program, $78,130; the home tutoring program, as I mentioned earlier, $375,000; reading recovery, $1,537,250; literacy for math, $150,000; the Wilson Reading System, $180,000; full-day kindergarten, $558,000 ó again, just in literacy alone, for the benefit of all Yukoners, $3,460,288.
So, Mr. Chair, this government has looked at the concerns of all citizens in this territory. I can continue with numerous other things that have happened in Education, but Iíll give the member opposite a chance to respond.
Mr. Fairclough: From the ministerís answers, if that is the result of briefing from his officials and the department and what his understanding is of drawing down education, I would say that he has a very poor understanding of it.
I heard the minister say this over and over again about intermarriages and not wanting to discriminate against people in the territory. I donít believe First Nations had any intentions to do that. We have Catholic schools here; we have French schools, and there is absolutely no problem with having First Nation-run schools too. That could help out the minister, and itís helping out the department tremendously.
How does the minister think education reform came about? It was lack of action on their part, on the Education Act review, and it was because First Nations showed a tremendous interest in education, and it prompted the department and the minister to start doing something about it.
One of the biggest things, when they talk about education in the communities, is what the First Nation interest is in education. I was hoping the minister would have a clear understanding of it because weíve got to relay this message to the public, not one thatís different from what the First Nationís understanding is of what the drawdown of education is. So, Iím not going to go into detail in questioning the minister. I believe we need to get on to different departments. Iím going to pass it over to my colleague here, and Iím hoping that perhaps the ministerís government could take another approach in trying to bring unity among the people of the territory here, not the confrontation attitude that it has had in the past, not demonstrations, not the firing of mayor and councils. Education reform isnít going to fix that for the members opposite.
He said he is committed to their promises, even in the Copperbelt area. I want to know if we are going to see that reflected in the spring budget. We are engaged, as the minister said, in developing the budget right now. It should be finalized sometime in mid-January, I believe. The decisions have been made and maybe he can give us a preview of what is to be seen in this spring budget in regard to the school in the Copperbelt riding.
I have many questions for the minister, and Iíve taken what he has to say seriously. Many of my questions for the minister have come directly from communities. Iíve heard his responses and Iíll take his responses back to the people who have asked me to ask these questions and I thank the minister for his answers.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for all the issues he has raised, because there were several. I just want to make something perfectly clear: neither the government nor I take issue with any First Nation having their own school. At the end of the day, as was stated on several occasions, that was something that was negotiated. The member opposite is quite right: there are francophone schools, there are Catholic schools. If a First Nation school develops in the future, then thereíd be First Nation schools also.
With regard to announcing initiatives that are coming up in the budget, the budget process is ongoing right now. There probably would be a couple of very interesting and good things I could announce today, but I wonít.
Ms. Duncan: Iím sure the Finance minister is quite pleased the Minister of Education isnít going to announce his budget for him this afternoon. Weíre quite interested in listening to it.
I would like to ask a few questions of the minister and Iíd like to follow up on some of the debate that has occurred so far. I understand the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has received a lengthy response from the minister to some of his questions. I donít recall having seen that lengthy response and itís customary, if thereís information given to one opposition party, that it be provided to both. Could I just ask the minister to have his officials send us a copy of that letter?
There are two points Iíd like to follow up on immediately. This spring, we had a discussion about the outdoor education policy. I committed to the minister that I would meet with officials and the Jack Hulland School principal about that outdoor education policy. Iíd like to advise the minister publicly that Iíve done that, and I understand the Department of Education has worked extensively on a specific outdoor education policy.
My reason for raising this question has to do with safety precautions that are taken. I have no desire to wrap our children in Saran Wrap; rather, I do appreciate the opportunity to see them take advantage of this wonderful environment we live in. However, Iím also aware we have to be cognizant of the risks associated with that.
My short, specific question is this: has the outdoor education policy been signed off by the department and by the minister?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We will give the member opposite a copy of the same information we gave to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. With regard to the outdoor fieldtrips, itís actually a work in progress. The policy isnít quite developed yet and it has not been finalized yet.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have a date when he anticipates it being finalized? Will it be used this spring or summer? The early part of the summer is when most of the fieldtrips take place although, of course, there are some winter expeditions as well. Will that outdoor education policy be signed off before the spring or does the minister have a different date as to when he anticipates it being signed off?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The policy is expected to be completed early in the new year and it will be signed off then.
Ms. Duncan: So we would look at that being in place for February then.
I would like to ask the minister about the report-card system that is currently in place in the Yukon. I appreciate the departmentís desire to ensure full reporting ó the minister is smiling. I am not talking about the report card that is going to be issued to the Yukon Party. I am talking about the report card that we, as parents, receive and which is currently in place throughout the Yukon.
This is a new issue I am raising for the minister. I would like to know if there is any evaluation program in place. While it is extremely thorough, it is almost a small novel we receive three times a year. While I appreciate its thoroughness, I also recognize the tremendous amount of work that the teachers put into this report-card system. It is very lengthy.
Iím sure all parents read it. The minister is smiling, so Iím sure he must have the same experience. What kind of evaluation system is there? When do we look at the report-card system and say this could be improved by ó and who does that evaluation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, the member opposite was certainly right in one thing. It is a new issue. I have never heard anything with regard to anyone having an issue with the report cards, and neither has the department. But if there was some kind of an evaluation, I would tend to believe that it wouldnít be made as a political decision but more of an administration one.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Chair, Iím not raising this as a political issue. Itís an issue of policy in the department. Itís what goes on in the department. Iím asking the minister, who has responsibility for his department, to outline for me what sort of ó this is a new report card. It has come in, in the last six years. Itís a new style, a new format. It is very lengthy, and I am looking at it as ó I understand the departmentís desire to provide as much information as possible and engage parents or guardians responsible for children in their childís education. It is also a tremendous amount of work for our teachers.
My question, just as we evaluate, and the minister made a decision ó a policy, political decision about all-day kindergarten without a great deal of consultation ó Iím just asking him to do a little homework and outline for me when and how a review might take place or when there might be a questionnaire of parents, guardians and teachers working with the Yukon Teachers Association, and when we might be looking at this ó itís a relatively new report-card system. It has been put in place within the last seven years, when I have been seeing these report cards come home. So I wonder if the minister could just provide me with a little background research on that, other than just saying itís policy and work within the department ó the minister has responsibility for the department.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I realize the minister has responsibilities, and I take them very seriously. With regard to this report card the member opposite is just raising here, I believe the department feels itís a very appropriate way to engage parents and be able to provide as much information with regard to their child and how theyíre doing in their grade.
It would be very interesting to see if this is an issue thatís raised with the education reform thatís taking place right now.
Ms. Duncan: My specific question was what are the plans for its evaluation? Itís relatively new. The minister hasnít answered that.
However, Iíd like to move on to the education reform project. Could I ask the minister to table the terms of reference and the budget for the education reform? I understand there was an open house December 16. I was unfortunately unable to attend; however, perhaps the minister could outline what the workplan is for the education reform, with timelines.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department has no issue with providing that information to the member opposite, and I do have a copy of the workplan and the terms of reference for the education reform. I can give this to the member opposite, but I would also like to have a copy for the other members.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to thank the minister for the information. I will examine this over the forthcoming Christmas break and have a closer look at it. Perhaps the minister could indicate ó I donít, at first quick glance through here, see the budget. Could the budget for the education reform be sent over as well, please?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For 2005-06, there has been $580,000 put in. For 2006-07, it is $682,000. For 2007-08, there has been $392,000. This totals $1,654,000.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have a further breakdown on that $1,654, 000 ó a breakdown between research, staffing? The minister is shaking his head. Perhaps that information could be sent over.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We do not have that specific information with us right now but it can be sent to the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: I will look forward to reviewing the information that is being photocopied and the additional information that will be sent by the minister.
I would like to speak briefly about some of the capital projects, both in this supplementary and to come.†
The Carmacks school has been under some discussion and thereís an additional $277,000 in this budget, for a total of $5.6 million to date. Does the minister have an indication as to what additional monies will be required to complete the school and is the anticipated opening September 2006?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That $277,000 is a revote ó itís required to complete planning and design ó that has already been done. The project was delayed while community discussions took place regarding the attachment of the community learning centre. This project is now on schedule and is expected to be completed by August 2006, and the total cost overall is going to be approximately between $9 million and $10 million dollars, somewhere in that range.
Ms. Duncan: Further on the capital discussions, there is additional money for the Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria expansion renovations and there is also a new emergency lighting upgrade. Narrow Gauge was awarded the contract on October 11, a very, very late start date for this particular project. When is the expected or anticipated completion?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria expansion renovations project was awarded to Narrow Gauge Contracting Ltd. on October 11, 2005, for their bid amount of $3,635,000. The project will resolve overcrowding in the cafeteria seating area by increasing the seating capacity from 190 to 400 and will provide a well-designed teaching kitchen for 16 students. The existing cafeteria and kitchen area will be renovated into three classrooms during the 2006 summer break, and the project is expected to be completed by August 15, 2006.
Ms. Duncan: Another issue at the Porter Creek Secondary school is the shop; the mechanical area is very, very small. The history of that area was that the students were using the college. That really hasnít always worked all that well all the time. Are there any plans once the cafeteria expansion is complete to move on to some of the other capital requirements of the Porter Creek Secondary School, such as the shop, in particular?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, it was the school council that originally requested a change of direction in this area. But for the member opposite, the expansion of the industrial shop and renovations to the industrial shop are on the departmentís agenda for a future capital budget.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that information from the minister. With respect to the capital budget, there is the key issue of rebuilding F.H. Collins or another high school and what weíre going to do in the future with F.H. Collins. Itís long overdue for replacement. Selkirk school has major capital requirements. Just about every school in the Whitehorse area you can name requires some substantial capital work.
What are the ministerís plans with regard to the capital works required in the Department of Education? The NDP government was rather infamous for tossing this issue to the school councils, saying, ďWe donít want to decide, we donít want it to be political, the school councils can decide.Ē That essentially becomes a political football. The Yukon Party cancelled any plans for new school construction in Whitehorse when they took office, and Whitehorse itself is changing. I donít want to get into the discussion about new schools at this point in time; I would just like to deal with the capital needs of the existing schools, particularly in the Whitehorse area.
I am focusing on Whitehorse because weíve rebuilt or had new schools in a number of communities. During my time in this Legislature, we have had new schools in Old Crow and Mayo and we are working on one in Carmacks, and there has been significant money spent on the school in Watson Lake and Teslin received some money this year as well, for a new gym, I believe.
How are we going to deal with the capital requirements of the Whitehorse area schools ó not the new schools, but the existing schools? How does the minister intend to deal with that in the forthcoming spring budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department is going to financially assist an external committee to do a facility study. They will also be asked to look at the catchment areas and have some discussion around the catchment areas and how they are going to be affected in the future with regard to requests for different schools that are being proposed.
Mr. Mitchell: The Member for Porter Creek South has been kind enough to let me ask just a few questions at this point while she is on the subject of schools and facilities, so I will take this opportunity. We had some previous discussions during Question Period regarding the proposed new school to be built on the land set aside on Falcon Drive. I am not really interested in going over that ground again, regarding when planning started or how far along it is. The minister has had several days since I raised that question in Question Period and, no doubt, he has had further discussions with his officials. I am wondering if the minister can provide any more information regarding the scope of the facility that is being anticipated ó presumably it is an elementary school, which is kindergarten through grade 7. There had been some talk of using pre-existing designs but I know that, as times change, design needs change too, and there may perhaps be benefit in looking at different design options that better serve the particular community.
Iím asked questions quite frequently by my constituents about this proposed school, so I would just like it if the minister, with the help of his officials, could give an update, including the timetable. Is this school anticipated to be opening in the fall of 2008? Is that still the realistic expectation? Roughly how many students is it designed to accommodate? What sort of consultation will go on with the parentsí school advisory council of the existing school in the area to best coordinate how the two schools would relate vis-ŗ-vis the shifting of the student body population?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that if the member read the Blues again, the position really hasnít changed any in the government. There have been no decisions made on a design for the proposed school in Copper Ridge. The Department of Education has been directed to complete a facility study of schools in the Yukon, more particularly in Whitehorse, and this study will assist in determining the size, design and type of school that might be required for Copper Ridge.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the minister for the response. I certainly have read the Blues, more than once since that day, and I appreciate that, at least as of that day, there was no firm plan in place of a particular design of school. The minister is talking about a facility study of Whitehorse in general. There has been discussion of catchment areas. I hope Iím not reading into the ministerís response a re-thinking of whether there is in fact a decision made to have a school at all, because we thought that decision had already been basically announced in this Legislature.
So, again, I would ask ó the planning is still going forward. Is there a timetable for a particular year that the minister envisions that this department would be looking to have a new school in place, regardless of what the design of that school is?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The answer is no.
Mr. Mitchell: †Well, Iím presuming the no is to the year. I would like the minister to please correct me if Iím wrong. Is there a decision that there will be a new school up in that area, period?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, Iím not prepared to start making any pre-budget announcements at this time.
Mr. Mitchell: †So we donít know whether there is anything in the spring budget toward this school at all. As far as announcements, again, going back over the Blues, I believe back when this issue was first raised by the Member for Porter Creek South, the acting minister indicated that there would be a new school. Certainly that was the general impression left with the public. So Iím wondering if this is now a correction or an adjustment of that decision, or is there still a plan to build a new elementary school to serve the increasing needs of the Copper Ridge-Granger, Logan-McIntyre-Hillcrest area?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I think if the member opposite was listening earlier when I made the comment to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, it was a promise made by the Liberal government and the Yukon Party government in the heat of the by-election campaign. I also stated that it is a big enough piece of infrastructure that it is certainly not going to be completed before the end of this mandate, and it would be interesting to see who really builds the school in Copper Ridge. It would obviously have to be the party elected.
Mr. Mitchell: †† This isnít meant to be confrontational. We are just trying to get more details of information because people are asking questions. We certainly realize that no school will be built and completed before this governmentís current mandate expires. No one expects there to be a new school building commenced or built in the 2006 building season. We are talking about ongoing planning toward construction of a school. As far as things that were announced in the heat of a by-election, which the minister refers to, I would suggest that while the Yukon Party candidate indicated in her literature that there would be new school infrastructure, it was actually the Acting Minister of Education in this House, as well as in a radio interview, who announced that in fact there would be a new school, and there were headlines in both newspapers attesting to that and certainly no move by the government to retract that at the time. So this is not a heat of the moment by-election promise by a candidate ó by any of the candidates. This was a commitment made by government and it was a public commitment and Iím only trying to get more information about this commitment. Again I would ask: is the government entering into the planning stages toward the future construction of an additional elementary school in the Copper Ridge area?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite can analyze things as he sees fit. However, I view the line of questioning to be more or less a fishing trip for the member opposite on the number of dollars that might go toward a new school in the Copper Ridge area in the upcoming spring budget, and I am cannot state any specific amount today and I will not.
Mr. Mitchell: I would ask the minister to check his notes about the current line of questioning or confer with the officials who are here. There hasnít been one mention made in this line of questioning about a specific number of dollars. Not one mention has been made about a particular dollar figure. I understand that the minister cannot commit to exact figures in a future budget, and I wouldnít be asking him to do that. What Iíve asked is if there is planning money going forward and if it is still the intent of this government to move forward toward construction of a school. I donít think thatís a fishing trip; I think it was just to reaffirm statements that were previously made. Since then, there has been some indication that perhaps that was not the case. So, itís a clarification that is being requested. I think the public is certainly interested in knowing that.
I know that the constituents ó not only my constituents, but we are talking about the ministerís own riding, as well as the ridings of colleagues of the minister who are affected by that decision. Or are we looking at an additional city-wide planning process with a resulting possible recommendation that there be no school built but, rather, just a change in catchment area? I think people are very interested in hearing that.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As I previously stated, the committee that will be formed to look at all these issues will be responsible for coming to some kind of determination on the questions the member is asking. Again, I am not prepared to give a dollar commitment. I would just advise him to stay tuned and he may hear something.
Mr. Mitchell: ††Well, Iím certainly staying tuned. Iím asking questions, but Iím not getting answers. Again, I would repeat, in case the minister missed my last question, that Iím not asking for a particular dollar figure. Iím asking for a commitment to actually build a school. That doesnít require the dollar figure or even the amount of money that is being spent in the coming yearís budget.
Certainly there will be a planning process, and I think that the community would be quite open to having input into that process. Indeed, the partners in education under the Education Act should have input in the process. That would include consultation with the affected First Nations, consultation with the parents of students who live in the area and with parent advisory committees and logically with the parent advisory committee of the adjacent school, Elijah Smith Elementary School, as well as the administration of that school for their input.
So I guess Iíll try one more time to ask the minister if he can confirm that it continues to be the intent of this department to build a new school, or is the minister now telling us that the committee that he intends to strike to look city-wide on this matter of enrolments and catchment areas is going to supersede any such decision, including the one that we thought had previously been announced?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, Iíve already stated to the member opposite that this is an ongoing process. Of course, all citizens and stakeholders in the area will be involved with the discussions of any possible new infrastructure built in that area.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask the minister a couple of questions with respect to the Department of Education and, in particular, the Department of Educationís relationship with Yukon First Nations.
There has been discussion in the House about First Nations drawing down education. My experience would lead me to believe that, should a First Nation communicate to the Premier their wish to discuss drawing down education, first of all it would have to be communicated in writing, and secondly, it is my understanding that there would be discussions embarked upon under the programs and services transfer agreement. So, PSTA negotiations would be undertaken, or they would just be perhaps within the Department of Education.
Could the minister explain what the mechanics would be? Would it be discussions between the First Nations and the department? For example, when the Teslin Tlingit Council drew down justice, as they are entitled to do under their final agreement, there were extensive negotiations with the Department of Justice. The PSTA negotiating group may have also been involved. Could the minister just outline what the process would be administratively?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite probably has quite extensive knowledge with regard to the Umbrella Final Agreement. Itís the governmentís position that this is something that was negotiated through the land claims process and there is a definite process in place for First Nations to apply to take down education. Itís the governmentís position that negotiations would have to take place between the federal government, the Yukon government and the First Nation in question.
Ms. Duncan: To start that process, there would be a formal communication to the Government of Yukon via the First Nation. Has that formal communication taken place?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, there are approximately three First Nations who have written that letter and, at the present time, there are some discussions happening with a couple of the First Nations and the department, and the talks would specifically generate around the process and what is involved with taking down education so there is a good understanding of just what it means to take over education and the education program.
Ms. Duncan: Am I to understand from the ministerís response that the discussions that are taking place are informal only at this point? There has been no formal notice issued to Canada? Or has there been formal notice issued to Canada and have we started a negotiation process?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The discussions that are taking place with the First Nations in question on this request are formal and Canada is involved with the discussions.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have any other information that he is prepared to provide the House? For example, there is usually quite a series of meetings and negotiators assigned to deal with this issue of drawing down education. Does the minister have any more information that he is prepared to provide members of the opposite side of the House with in regard to these negotiations?
†Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There isnít an awful lot to report on this issue at this point in time. Basically, all that has taken place to date is that the Government of Canada, the Yukon government and ó I donít know if all the First Nations. Some of them havenít identified their negotiators, and that is about where it is at. There have been some discussions with some of the First Nations only to determine and lay out what responsibilities would be involved with taking over an education program.
Ms. Duncan: Of the First Nations that have identified their negotiators, is one of them the First Nation of Na Cho Nyšk Dun? The minister is nodding.
The negotiations, then, forming the governmentís response to a rather scathing report that was done on the education system, the school in Mayo ó is that how the government is responding or has there been any response to that report? It was some time ago, but during the life of the Yukon Party government, that the report was publicly discussed in the media. I donít recall the government ever issuing a formal response to that report. Is there a formal response or is the Department of Education simply accepting that the report exists and moving any discussion to the negotiations with Na Cho Nyšk Dun on drawing down education?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As the member opposite is probably well aware, every time this issue has been brought up over the years, it has been the governmentís position that this is an independent report that was authorized and done by the First Nation for the First Nation, and the government has reviewed it and has had discussion with Na Cho Nyšk Dun with regard to that report. If they use it in the negotiation process, that remains to be seen.
Ms. Duncan: I have no further questions in general debate on the Department of Education and would request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 3, Department of Education, cleared or carried, as required.
Chair: Before I put forward the question, is there any further debate under general debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 3, Department of Education, cleared or carried
Chair: Hearing none, Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 3, Department of Education, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $875,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures in the amount of $1,966,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Chair: That concludes Vote 3, Department of Education.
I understand the next department is Vote 10, Public Service Commission.
There has been a request for a five-minute break to bring in officials. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with Vote 10, Public Service Commission.
Public Service Commission
Hon. Ms. Taylor: ††The Public Service Commission supplementary estimates contain a budget request for $4,060,000. These costs are amounts that were not known prior to the closing of the financial records at March 31, 2005, and therefore could not be included in the main estimates. These are the same expense areas that affected the Supplementary Estimates No. 3 from March 31, 2005. In the future, they will be regularly budgeted.
The budget includes $4,460,000 for employee future benefits offset by a small lapse of $400,000 in salaries related to the phasing in of investing in public service initiatives. Also included are three small transfers between branches that have no net impact on the budget. The budget changes for employee future benefits include non-pension, post-retirement and post-employment benefit plans for 2005-06, as is now required by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants †Public Sector Accounting Handbook, of $2,960,000 and employersí pension plan contributions related to employee buybacks estimated at $1.5 million for this year.
That concludes my comments. I look forward to discussion from the members opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a few questions for the minister. I hope she takes notes, because Iíll be asking several of them while Iím on my feet. One is in regard to the computer use investigation. I would like to know what happened to the information. Has it been destroyed? If not, is the government destroying the information they gathered? Iím referring to all those who have been investigated in government and outside of government. I know it stretched right into First Nation computers, for example.
The other thing I want to know is if the Yukon Party government had a policy in place before the investigation took place. If so, what was it? Was it reviewed before the investigation? I know this type of action taken by government had to have Cabinet approval, because it was a major move.
Can she answer those questions?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †With respect to those documents that the member opposite referred to, all documents related to the investigation are certainly being treated in accordance with the arbitratorís ruling that took place over a year ago, in that all information in the governmentís control is subject to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. So, the act, as I understand it, explicitly states that information received in confidence from other governments can only be released in accordance with the provisions.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that. The other question I asked was whether or not this Cabinet used existing policy with regard to computer use before the investigation? Do we have one in place, or do we have one drafted up? Whatís happening with that? Because the way I understand it now is that the department is operating on guidelines and not policy.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I believe this has already been responded to by the minister responsible for Highways and Public Works. This is an operational issue, which means that we as elected officials on this side of the House have not been involved in that process. The computer use guidelines are administrative updates to replace the old statements of use for e-mail and Internet use.
Mr. Fairclough: One minister promises policy, and it wasnít delivered. Is this minister going to deliver policy in regard to computer use with government employees?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †As has already been responded to by the minister responsible for Highways and Public Works, this is an administrative matter. Itís an operational issue. Itís an issue between the employer and the employee, so therefore we have not been involved in this particular matter or matters such as these.
As I mentioned earlier, the guidelines are administrative updates to replace the old statements of use for e-mail and Internet use. They were approved and issued by administration as part of the responsibilities of Highways and Public Works. I think, as has already been relayed by the minister responsible for Highways and Public Works, we would certainly be more than happy to arrange for a briefing for members of the opposition on these guidelines.
Mr. Fairclough: This was promised by the previous minister responsible for Public Service Commission. Obviously that minister felt it was a big enough issue that the executive arm of the government should be looking at a government policy in this matter. Iím not talking about administrative issues on this matter.
If the minister doesnít have it, is she committing to putting together a policy, or is she allowing the department to go on its own on this matter?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I will reiterate again for the information of the members opposite. The guidelines that were recently issued a few months ago ó or just recently, as I recall ó are administrative updates to replace the old statements of use for e-mail and Internet use. This is an administrative matter and one we have chosen not to become involved with, simply for the fact that it is an administrative matter. As such, the updated guidelines were approved and issued by administration as part of the responsibilities of the Department of Highways and Public Works.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím not talking about guidelines any more. I want to talk about policy. One minister promises policy; the other is hiding behind the department, trying to say itís an administrative matter. What is it? Whatís happening with this Yukon Party government? Why canít they commit to policies, like they promised?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Well, Mr. Chair, when we talk about policy, there certainly are many forms of policy instruments, and guidelines are certainly one of those. As I mentioned earlier, these guidelines are updates to replace the old statements of use for e-mail and Internet use. Theyíre administrative updates, and they have been approved and issued by the administration as part of the ongoing responsibilities of the Department of Highways and Public Works.
Mr. Fairclough: And the minister is saying that there are many forms of policies and that guidelines are one of them. Is she saying that the guidelines the department is using in regard to computer use is government policy?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Chair, they are administrative. Again, they were approved and distributed by the Department of Highways and Public Works as part of their responsibilities. Again, the guidelines that were recently issued by the Department of Highways and Public Works are administrative updates. Because they are administrative, we on this side of the House, as elected members of the government, do not become involved in those particular areas.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, she didnít answer the question, Mr. Chair. The minister said that there are many forms of policies, and one of them is guidelines. I asked if this is government policy. The guidelines that are in place now are government policies ó the updated guidelines. Is that what the minister is saying? Because that is what I gather from her answer. I want a yes-or-no answer out of this.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Chair, if the member opposite is asking us whether or not we had any hand in developing these updates, these computer use guidelines that replace the old statements of use for e-mail and Internet use,† the answer is no. This arm, the elected arm of government, the executive arm of government, had no hand whatsoever in it. They are administrative updates and, as such, we on this side of the House do not become involved in this particular administrative process.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying the previous minister responsible for PSC is wrong? After all, he promised policy. He promised it. I want to know where this government is going with it. Itís definitely an issue that was raised by the union, and the minister knows that. A letter has been written and hasnít been answered yet in regard to policy. When can we expect the government to work on policy with regard to computer use?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †The computer use guidelines are administrative updates to replace the old statements of use for e-mail and Internet use. They were approved and issued by administration as part of the responsibilities of Highways and Public Works. If any members opposite would like a briefing from the Department of Highways and Public Works, I can refer that matter to the minister responsible and we can make that happen.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister then saying that there is no policy in place with regard to this? There are guidelines but no policy ó is that what sheís saying?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †The computer use guidelines are administrative updates to replace the old statements of use for e-mail and Internet use. They are guidelines.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasnít the question, though. I asked about policy. Is there nothing in place? Thereís no policy in place, just guidelines? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †When it comes to guidelines, these are computer use guidelines. They are administrative updates to replace the old statements of use for e-mail and Internet use. They were approved and issued by administration as part of the responsibilities of the Department of Highways and Public Works.
Mr. Fairclough: This is a major issue. The Cabinet canít hide from this and call it ďadministrative.Ē They give direction, and they are guided by policy. It was promised by the previous minister. I donít think the new minister responsible for the Public Service Commission should just disregard a promise made by another minister. We are talking about having policies in place, not just guidelines. I am hoping the minister can answer that question and not hide from it. Hiding from the whole issue of having a policy in place leads to more questions. I do have lots of questions on this, and I want the minister to be very clear on this. So far, she has moved away and talked around the question, and it really is a straightforward question.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I donít know what Iím hiding from or what the member opposite insinuates that Iím hiding from. I think Iíve been pretty clear. These are computer use guidelines that are in the form of administrative updates. They replace the old statements of use for e-mail and Internet use. They are guidelines. Again, they were developed, approved and issued by the Department of Highways and Public Works. Itís an administrative matter and therefore we, on this side of the House, have not and will not become involved in this administrative matter.
Mr. Fairclough: This government investigated its employees. Is that administrative? Itís a huge, huge decision to make. I known itís made by Cabinet. I donít think the department would go out and do this on their own. They would have to come back to Cabinet and ask. That is what Iím trying to get at ó the policies that guided the department to do that.
Let me ask the minister this: has the union asked the government at all for policy and not just guidelines? Has it asked the department to come up with some policies so they can deal with this matter too?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Perhaps the member opposite would like to ask the union if they have sought a policy. Mr. Speaker, I will just state on the floor of the Legislature that the investigation surrounding the misuse of computers was in fact a personnel matter. It involved a breach of the Yukon governmentís workplace harassment policy, as well as a violation of the Human Rights Act, so the Public Service Commission did investigate and that is what transpired.
Again, for the record, there was no political interference in the process. Rather, the investigation was dealt with by the Public Service Commission of the Yukon government and, by agreement with the union, as the member opposite is fully aware, a full and binding settlement was made by an arbitrator in a process that was agreed to by the government and the union.
Mr. Fairclough: I think if the minister knew the answer to the question she should have just given it, instead of bumping it back to me of whether or not I should be asking the union this matter. I wouldnít be asking if I didnít know the answer. I want to know if the minister would admit to it. So far, nothing.
Itís pretty interesting how the minister is answering questions in this House. Why not be straightforward in this matter, instead of skirting around it as best she can? The public doesnít like it; they donít like being investigated. They donít like how this government takes actions on them. It was hurtful to many people. Government employeesí morale fell tremendously under this Yukon Party government. Iíve asked these questions and I guess I have to take the answers back to those who asked me to ask these questions and say, these are her answers ó the ministerís answers; itís the best she can do on giving answers in the Legislature.
Obviously, it is a hiding game by the minister, and Iím just going to pass the questioning off to my colleague. I have no further questions on this matter.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has engaged in a lengthy discussion about the new computer use guidelines, and Iíve listened carefully to the ministerís answer. I just have one question in this regard. Itís usually the Public Service Commissioner, through the minister, who engages in discussions with the union about matters to deal with the government. Could the minister just advise the House what consultation took place, through the Public Service Commissioner, on the discussion of the new computer use guidelines, or was there any discussion?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Chair, as I understand it, according to the Public Service Commissioner, the union certainly was invited to provide comments on the draft computer use guidelines in January of 2005. They were also asked for input before they were released, and to this day, they are still being urged to provide input to those guidelines.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate the answer from the minister in that respect. I wonít go further on that particular line of questioning.
I would like to follow up on another initiative of the government. The initiative that ó the government calls it ďinvesting in employees serving Yukon people,Ē and when it was announced, we referred to it with the Beatlesí title, the ďCanít Buy Me LoveĒ program. The solution was a $1.3-million initiative by the government, and the minister announced in the spring that there would be some elements of the program that would be rolled out in the fall. Of course, we recently had the award program. What other initiatives are we still awaiting with this particular program, and has there been any evaluation of the initiatives to date? Has there been a review of how well the program has been received ó or not ó by employees?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Investing in public service was announced earlier this year. The member opposite is correct; it is just shy of $1.4 million. It is a five-part initiative that contributes to resources toward training programs, learning, workplace health, and so forth. With respect to progress, there has been quite a tremendous amount of progress regarding investing in public service. For example, as I mentioned earlier, the five parts ó the first is working on succession planning. We have the internship program, which is the GradCorps program. We had the first intake of individuals who had applied for positions. Those positions were awarded. I believe there were nine positions in total in terms of GradCorps recipients.†
Also, we had the first intake of individuals who took part in the training of first-line supervisors and managers. Career assessment and development program ó there is currently staffing underway with respect to that initiative. Supporting the knowledge transfer of experienced workers is ongoing. There is a pilot project going on with respect to supporting professional development and technical training for Yukon government employees.
Similarly, thereís pilot work being undertaken with respect to the employee developmental assignment program. Through those two particular initiatives, I would assume there will be an assessment completed after those pilots have been performed to see what is working and what isnít working.
Similarly, we are also conducting an assessment with respect to the GradCorps initiative.
We are also working on the safe workplaces and healthy employees program. We have staff hired for that initiative, and we are in the midst of developing a model for implementation.
As the member opposite will recall, in this yearís budget we also allocated $200,000, I believe, toward work placements for employees with disabilities. That is underway as well.
The member opposite referred to the Premierís award of excellence, which began earlier this summer. The first round of awards was recently announced. We had a lovely ceremony take place in the foyer of YTG. With respect to awarding people for excellence, framework for employee recognition, which also began this summer, I know work is ongoing there and is taking place with the respective departments. We will be getting an update on that fairly quickly.
There are continuing initiatives to establish an organizational culture framework, as is also expressed in our corporate human resource plan. We have now developed a comprehensive orientation system, which is currently in place. We are working to modernize the recruitment process, which is currently underway.
We are also promoting flexible work arrangements which have been underway and will continue to take place. These are very well received by employees. We are also reviewing and working to improve the classification system.†
I guess thatís a pretty good update on progress reached to date with respect to the IPS initiative.
Ms. Duncan: With all due respect to the minister, the ďpretty good updateĒ is rather short on details. An example is when she mentioned at the end of her answer, ďpromoting flexible work arrangementsĒ. That has been underway already and has been very well received.
She just said that in the House and that is the exact same answer I got on May 16, 2005. I am looking for some more detail. For example, in the Department of Highways and Public Works, we have had 16 people come to us wanting to have a flex day, and we have incorporated this, and this was the cost, and this was how we did it. I am looking for some more detail. I donít necessarily want it on the floor of the House; a written response would be fine.
It is a very general response that the minister has given me, and I would like to know the details in terms of numbers. Have we been able to accommodate 50 percent of our workforce? I am particularly interested in flexible work arrangements, because that is a key issue for people, particularly caregivers.
The minister has nodded. I appreciate that she will send me, sometime after the holiday season, a more detailed analysis of how well this program is being implemented.
Is there a different answer on patriation of the pension? Is that project still on the shelf until such time as there has been a greater degree of forgiveness among all the parties, shall we say? Or has it been taken off the shelf, and are we looking at discussions next year?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †With respect to the member oppositeís inquiries regarding flexible work arrangements, I am very pleased to have the Public Service Commissioner to talk to the respective departments and see what the uptake has been so far. I am not too sure if we have statistics readily available, but weíll certainly endeavour to do that.
With respect to patriation, I was just advised by the Public Service Commissioner earlier today that the union has asked that that item be removed, that they are not interested in pursuing patriation.
Ms. Duncan: That is a particular project that I have a great interest in and believe it would be of tremendous benefit to all Yukoners. So it is unfortunate that we havenít been able to come to terms with that.
That being said, I look forward to receiving additional information as I have requested from the Public Service Commission at some point in time. I am not in a big panic for it. If I could just have some more details on the program as a whole ó not solely the flexible work arrangements, but the program as a whole. I understand a lot of it is pilot still, but more information would be greatly appreciated.
Ms. Duncan: As I have no further questions in general debate, I would request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 10, Public Service Commission, cleared or carried, as required.
Chair: Before I ask the question, is there any other member who wishes to participate in general debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 10, Public Service Commission, cleared or carried
Chair: Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 10, Public Service Commission, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Public Service Commission in the amount of $4,060,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission agreed to
Chair: The Chair understands the Committee will now be continuing with the Department of Environment.
Order please. We will continue with Vote 52, Department of Environment.
Department of Environment
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I will expand briefly in some of the areas of the department with respect to the supplementary. Mr. Chair, the department is seeking $507,000 in operation and maintenance approvals, and $174,000 for capital projects. Some new items occurred this year after the main budget was approved. Many of the expenditures will have their costs recovered and many of the requests here are for programs that started in previous years and faced new expenditures during the fiscal year. The largest new project within the operation and maintenance budget is the ongoing investigation of the Lambert Street fuel spill, which is now budgeted at $247,000. The investigation is continuing, as is the oil into the sump in the Optometrist Building and the officials are continuing their search for the source of the fuel.
Climate change may have been on the minds of many last spring when we opened our campgrounds two weeks earlier than normal and then closed them two weeks later, but it also meant an additional $25,000 was needed to cover that cost.
Other items that occurred this year after the main budget was approved were a $15,000 contribution to Ducks Unlimited to carry out water bird surveys in north Yukon; $30,000 for a moose survey in the Nordenskiold Habitat Protection Area and $50,000 to cover the costs associated with the care and cull of the Northern Splendor reindeer herd.
Many expenditures will have their costs recovered. These include $21,000 for a satellite monitoring program for the Porcupine caribou herd; $33,000 for NatureServe Yukon fieldwork and $9,000 for a raptor survey on the Yukon North Slope.
We are also seeking funds for continuing programs: $63,000 to continue the design and planning of the new Tombstone Park interpretive centre; $26,000 to continue work on Tombstone Park trails that were halted this past fall due to an early winter on the Dempster Highway; and $27,000 for legislative work to complete new parks regulations as well as a review of the Environment Act amendments.
The majority of these funds for this year were approved in the last fiscal year but were not undertaken at that time. These include $25,000 to monitor the waters out at the Icy Waters fish farm in Whitehorse, $14,000 for design and printing of a number of wildlife viewing publications, $20,000 for elk and grizzly bear management plans, and $10,000 for health monitoring of wood bison.
Mr. Chair, there are also a number of areas that are very important to the department in its efforts to continue to protect and conserve Yukonís environment, our habitats and wildlife. These are important initiatives for the government, and indeed for the department.
I think itís important at this juncture that the government relays to the side opposite and to this House that our purpose in protecting and serving Yukonís environment is, first and foremost, to live up to our obligations under land claims. Within the claims and the obligations that government has negotiated, we have a tremendous number of initiatives through special management areas and habitat protection areas and the creation of parks, such as Tombstone, Fishing Branch, Kusawa and Asi Keyi, that will serve Yukoners long into the future in maintaining and protecting Yukonís wilderness, its environment and its habitat.
If we look at the total in Yukon of land base that is under protection and conservation through all these initiatives, which would include Kluane National Park and Hershel Island Territorial Park, we are talking about a total of 65,000 square kilometres of Yukon land base that will be, once our work is complete, under protection or conservation. That is a sizable amount of Yukonís land base ó protecting our environment, our wilderness and the beauty of this territory for future generations, as is our priority as a government.
Beyond that, there are a number of other initiatives that the department undertakes, and thatís to ensure that we maintain and enhance the quality of Yukonís environment for present and future generations through ecosystem-based management. We also are implementing the principles of the Yukon conservation strategy. We are ensuring that Yukon people have the opportunity to be involved in the department and review of the departmental programs, and weíre also managing natural resources in a manner that promotes integration with other sectors, including economic development, so that optimum benefits can be derived for all Yukon people.
We are participating in national and international measures, the most recent example of which would be the COP 11 conference in Montreal, the United Nations initiative on climate change, where the Yukon played a significant role in representing the Arctic regions and also presented at the conference the video that was produced here in the Yukon by Yukoners, called Through Arctic Eyes, which was a very revealing video, in terms of concrete and tangible demonstrations of whatís happening to us here in the territory and the Arctic regions with respect to climate change.
We are integrating, implementing and managing additional authorities and responsibilities in water resource and environmental management and undertaking resource management activities that meet the Government of Yukonís obligations and respect the rights of aboriginal people and relationships established through land claims and self-government agreements.
In short, the departmentís mandate, its work and what it is doing now to ensure that Yukonís future is going to be one that is sound environmentally is very significant. That is why, in this supplementary, we have increased to some degree the resources that are made available for the department to continue to carry out its work. Those areas include, in revised votes, such things as the Porcupine caribou herd, the raptor survey, NatureServe, and weíre doing some vehicle emissions inspection clinics, which is another initiative that would lend itself positively to dealing with one of the contributing factors to global warming or climate change.
Overall, Mr. Chair, I am very pleased with the tremendous amount of work that the department is undertaking. I know the challenges before them are many. This is a highly scientific, highly technical area when it comes to our environment, our biodiversity, the biological issues that must be dealt with, and the science that goes with this particular department is critical to ensuring that we conserve and protect. A great deal of credit goes to the many individuals in the department who apply those skills on a daily basis to ensure that Yukonís future will be one that includes our beauty, our wilderness, our environment, our wildlife.
Mr. Hardy: It is always nice to hear the Premier read the departmental objectives because, frankly, I donít think he has very much more to say about it. He doesnít understand, from my perspective, what really is going on in the world today in regard to the environment. He has demonstrated that quite handily over the last three years with his attitude toward the environment and the Department of Environment.
Now, having said that, letís start with the big one, the Kyoto agreement. Where is this government on that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, the member well knows, and it has been stated many times, that the Yukon is following the federal lead on this. Our position is that we wanted to ensure that the federal government keep us involved in implementing the plan for Kyoto, and that is what we intend to continue to do. But I have also just listed many areas and many initiatives that the department has undertaken to deal with the elements of climate change, and I have done this publicly time and time again, whether it be energy conservation, green energy programs, retrofitting buildings and homes, reducing our need for fossil fuels, promoting such things as natural gas development because it is a much cleaner burning fuel, and the list goes on and on. The member opposite probably, if looking at the evidence and the facts, will quickly come to the conclusion that, under the Yukon Party government, the environment is safe. Under the Yukon Party government, we didnít undertake flawed political processes to protect the environment, because that doesnít necessarily work. We followed science, we followed expertise, and we are following our obligations under the claims themselves, whereby aboriginal Yukoners have contributed a great deal in terms of their tradition, their history and their knowledge of Yukonís environment to ensure we protect and conserve it.
Mr. Hardy: Itís always interesting to listen to the perspective of the Premier in this matter, because the public already knows exactly where the Premier stands on the environment, no matter what he says.
So he says he is following the federal lead. Thatís the best he can do on this one ó following the federal lead, following somebody else, following the Liberals. Thatís all we are going to get from this Premier in regard to the Kyoto agreement and having any real significant initiatives or standing up or making a very clear statement to the federal government. All he is going to do is follow their lead. This is our leader, supposedly. This is the Premier ó following the federal government. I suppose he follows Paul Martin all the time as well. He follows him around the country.
Did he follow the lead in regard to the rail study when the federal government had no interest in it? No, he found $3 million to throw to this study. Another study ó he didnít follow the lead there, but it was a pet project, I guess. $3 million is easy to find for a pet project.
When we were talking about climate change, when we were talking about the Kyoto agreement, all he can do is make jokes on the other side. He is going to follow the lead. Can I ask the Premier if he will do a little bit more than follow the lead, and start setting an example in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me remind the member opposite that itís our national government that signed us on to the Kyoto Protocol, and itís our national government that is coming forward with the implementation plan, and it is this government that said we support the national government on Kyoto. What we want to know is: what is the plan to implement the protocol itself? Above that, we are doing a number of things, as I pointed out to the member opposite with respect to climate change.
But Yukon contributes little to the factors that are causing, as we know it today, this issue of climate change, although it is shown clearly by science that it is a natural occurrence. But overall, I would urge the member opposite to recognize that this is an important area for all of us ó the future of our environment ó because without one, there is not a whole lot else that we have, Mr. Chair.
So to suggest that a government, this government, would ignore that very fact and diminish its responsibilities with respect to the environment, its protection and conservation is absurd, Mr. Chair. No government in their right mind would do such a thing, because it compromises virtually everything else that any government may be undertaking at any given time.
Mr. Chair, the government is a very complex area. Far be it from me to suggest to scientists and biologists and others what it is they should do. As a minister, frankly, Iím not going to tell the department what to do. Iím going to promote, as the minister, what they do and do very well.
Mr. Chair, the Yukonís environment, outside of external forces and pressures, is certainly not being endangered by what we do here internally ó not in the least. I have laid out for the member opposite a long list of areas of protection and conservation that are undertaken now to add to other things that weíre doing with respect to the Porcupine caribou herd, the Chisana caribou herd, Lewes Marsh, protecting wetlands like the majority of the Turner wetlands from land disposition processes. These are all facts about what our government is doing based on its department, the department officials, its scientists, and all those who toil daily in ensuring that the Yukonís environment is in no danger.
We accept the work they do and the advice they give and that is why weíve undertaken, as a government, all this work.
I know the member opposite wants to engage in a confrontational debate, but weíre not going to reciprocate because weíre extremely pleased with the work and the efforts of the department and where the departmentís going and we are here merely to provide some political direction in that regard.
If you look at the budget overall for the fiscal year with the addition of this supplementary budget, there is a significant investment in the Department of Environment. To date the revised vote shows some $20 million for operation and maintenance and some $3.6 million for capital. We are talking close to $24 million of investment through the Department of Environment in Yukonís environment. I think thatís an acceptable level of resources and we will continue to work with the department on addressing their needs.
Mr. Hardy: I am glad to hear that the Premier thinks everything is rosy out there and that the scientists have all the answers, and far be it that he would have an opinion on this. But it is interesting when you actually break down what he said. He said itís a natural occurrence ó climate change is a natural occurrence. So what scientist is he actually listening to? Has he selectively decided that some are good and some are not good, that some are right and some are wrong? Then thatís a decision on his part; then he is actually engaged on that. Frankly, if thatís his opinion, we know he reads the Fraser Instituteís reports on a regular basis and he reads all the brochures from the oil and gas industry to continually say that itís a completely natural occurrence and thereís nothing that the people of this world are doing to contribute to climate change.†
Yet almost all reputable studies have indicated that people are having a significant impact on climate change. We need to take some type of action, and we need leadership in this, not this kind of action or these kinds of words that are being spoken by this Premier.
Iíve already said he found $3 million for a rail study when the feds wouldnít come forward, even though he said the feds are coming forward ó we know they are not. In this case, he would rather follow the fedsí lead and let them tell him what to do. He would be quite happy to just wander around out there and let Paul Martin and the Liberals tell him what to think and do with regard to the environment and climate change.
He mentioned natural gas as a solution. Itís not, Mr Chair; itís a non-renewable resource. In the long-term, itís not a solution. It might be something that we go toward until we find more permanent solutions ó the many things we may need to do to deal with what is happening to the planet today.
He mentioned that we contribute very little to global warming. Well, very little adds up. Small countries all say they only contribute very little, and all provinces, territories, states, democracies and non-democracies around the world all say, well, we only contribute very little. Add them together; they contribute a lot.
Yukon used to be known for being a leader in many areas and for setting examples in Canada and around the world. Now we seem to just be followers ó a race to the bottom in many areas, such as environmental issues. Under this Premier, I think we pretty well have hit the bottom.
Yes, I do get upset, because I care deeply about the environment. I am not ashamed to say I get upset about it.
Iím not ashamed to say that I will engage in vigorous debate in regard to the environment. I have children and grandchildren. I want them to have a clean environment too, and there is impact in the Yukon, whether the Premier wants to see it or not. Thereís serious impact, whether itís with fish stocks, contamination of our soil, mine reclamation projects and abandoned sites work; whether itís airborne. The Premier has mentioned a lot of initiatives. Those were not brought about by this government; theyíre old initiatives. Iím glad to see they still support them to a certain degree, but theyíre not new initiatives.
Weíve heard every government talk about them, so if the best this Premier can do is to hang his hat on other governmentís initiatives, then it fits his own words of following the lead, following somebody else in this matter. How many conferences has this Premier gone to in regard to the environment, in relation to how many conferences he has run off to at the beck and call of oil and gas and mining industries? How many? How much money is spent on those trips, in relation to the environmental conferences and meetings? It doesnít even compare, because we know where the priorities lie. Itís a shame this is the Minister of Environment.
What about the reindeer? The Premier mentioned ó I stand to be corrected ó $50,000 for the cull. I would advise the Premier to look in the dictionary and read what ďcullĒ means. That wasnít a cull. Use proper English. Thatís not a cull. When you slaughter every single animal, itís not a cull. Call it what it is.
We have wetlands that need protecting. Many parks that have come about were not initiatives of this Premier. They came about from work that has been ongoing for many, many years.
Iím waiting for some leadership in this department, but I donít see it, and I doubt if weíll see it in the dying days of this government. I can assure you, Mr. Chair, that the public is not going to see it or buy it, no matter how much this government wants to paint themselves green.
$37,652,000 is being spent in Energy, Mines and Resources; Environment ó $20,000. Twenty million ó pardon me. It might as well be $20,000 the way this Premier treats it.
Highways, $76 million; Justice, $39 million; Public Service Commission, $22 million; Community Services, $15 million; Education, $106 million ó these are big budgets. But the environment is what we have to have to live. Itís fundamental ó absolutely fundamental: clean air, clean water, healthy food. There is no getting around it. It has to be a priority, equal to many of these departments. It has to be intertwined. It has to be melded within our education system, within the other departments. But itís not.
Itís quite a ways down. We can live without a lot of things. We donít have to. There is a lot of money here, a lot of money being spent, but we cannot live without a healthy environment. One of the attractions of the Yukon is its environment, its clean water and lakes, clean air and wilderness. It feeds the tourism industry.
When you look at the posters throughout Canada and the world, what are they? What are the posters? What do they feature in tourism? What do they feature? Do they feature an open pit mine to try to get people to come to the Yukon? Do they feature industry and housing to get people to come to the Yukon? What do they feature? They feature the wilderness. What makes us pause when we see some of those beautiful photos that we use to sell the Yukon? Itís our wilderness. Itís our rivers. Itís our lakes. Itís our mountains. Itís the wilderness.
There are a lot of organizations and groups that promote the Yukon, but they promote it from that aspect, not from others.
So I am not convinced that the environment is protected under this minister. As a matter of fact, I know it isnít, and I will be passionate in my arguments for more protection.
Mr. Chair, in your own riding of Carcross ó a train coming down through there. People want to go on that train through the wilderness. They donít want to go on a train through the suburbs. How do you sell the Yukon? Through the wilderness, through the lake, Bennett Lake, through White Pass and that area there. I worked in that area and I know what the tourists wanted. I know what they were looking for. Itís not hard. Most of them donít have it where they are coming from. Thatís what we have and thatís what makes this place very unique. Even if the Premier canít stand listening to me ó he has to stand up and kibitz when I start to talk like this ó it doesnít matter. The truth is there. Thatís what people want. Thatís what people want to see and thatís what people want to experience. Thatís what brings a phenomenal amount of money and benefit to the Yukon.
But in a larger scale, we can lead, we can set examples. We donít have to follow. There are a lot of things we can do.
We donít have much time left. We donít have much time to deal with the seriousness of climate change and what is happening around the world. We donít have much time to find other ways, other sources of energy. We donít have much time left to make sure we can protect what we have left. If we donít do it now, we may not have it in 10 or 20 years. We donít have much time left today. I know I want to make sure that the leader of the third party gets up and asks some questions. I have a multitude of questions. Hopefully, in the spring, we will spend a lot more time debating the environment because it does deserve that, and not just in Question Period.
I will ask a couple of short questions. In regard to the reindeer, I think the reindeer have been a very sensitive issue for the Premier, but will he get all the correspondence on the table that would maybe clear some stuff up ó the slaughtering of the reindeer. Will he release all correspondence regarding the reindeer ó both studies, the interdepartmental correspondence and the decisions that were made and the follow-up through that ó the correspondence sent outside the department but within as well and with other departments? For instance, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources ó would he be willing to release or share that information with us, so we can get a better perspective of what actually happened? Iíd appreciate it.
And I would like an update on the positions that are vacant within the department and which branches and the staffing numbers if the Premier could give me that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me begin with the last question from the member opposite, but I must warn the members opposite, I am compelled to respond to the leader of the official opposition at length. With respect to the vacancies, the Department of Environment is running an average that is no different from across the corporate structure of government. It has been historical, and it continues that way. We continue to recruit, and we continue to have changes and transitions in our employee numbers.
The reindeer ó the leader of the official opposition continues to criticize those who were charged with this task, those who bear the responsibility for the decision that had to be made, those who did the inspections and the necessary review of the medical condition of the reindeer ó so on and so forth. As far as the government is concerned, we accept the expertsí advice and decisions that had to be made.
Thatís the way it is, Mr. Chair. But the member opposite, in his zeal to criticize the government side, has failed to recognize the significance and the importance of the land claims as negotiated and has certainly diminished the role of Yukon First Nations in terms of the environment and its protection. That is why the land claim negotiations went on as they did, because part of the land claims was to ensure that conservation and protection of Yukonís wilderness environment was not compromised and the integrity was maintained. If the member opposite wanted to take time to apprise himself of the claims and all that go with them, he would quickly come to the realization that his criticism was misguided.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite has said that the government side has done nothing with respect to the environment. Well, outside of the fact that the Department of Environmentís budget is higher than the Department of Economic Developmentís budget by some $8 million, Mr. Chair, I donít know how else to put it to the member opposite. There have been more resources provided for the Department of Environment than the Department of Economic Development.
I was attempting in a very constructive and positive way to relay all that to the member opposite. The member says we have done nothing. Let me point out that the establishment date of Fishing Branch Wilderness Preserve was in 2003. Now, if the member would care to look at a calendar, the member would quickly realize that 2003 was a year into this governmentís mandate. The establishment of Asi Keyi Natural Environment Park was in 2003. The establishment of Kusawa Natural Environment Park was in 2004. The establishment of a habitat protection area known as Fishing Branch was in 2003. The establishment of Pickhandle Lake Habitat Protection Area was in 2003.
There was the establishment of the MíClintock Habitat Protection Area; 2004 projections for Agay Mene Habitat Protection Area ó commonly known as Tarfu ó for ongoing work, 2006; Lewes Marsh Habitat Protection Area, establishment date 2005; the Tagish River Habitat Protection Area, projected work ongoing into 2006 for its establishment.
Thereís a brief list of a number of the major initiatives that have been undertaken by this government. So itís very difficult to grasp what the member opposite is trying to do, other than just levy needless criticism with no substance, nothing to back it up. This is also erroneous, in many cases, in terms of demonstrating to the public what is really happening in this territory.
What the government didnít do is undertake flawed processes, as the NDP did, pitting Yukoner against Yukoner, resulting in major land use conflict. We resolved that issue also. The third party made a half-hearted attempt in trying to address it but failed miserably, and they also failed miserably in establishing the boundaries of Fishing Branch and those for Tombstone. Importantly enough, these were both major initiatives under the land claims process.
I think that about wraps up the member oppositeís comments in terms of the government doing nothing. Letís focus on what science tells us.
Itís a well-known fact that, for example, in core-drilling Arctic ice fields, the levels of carbon have increased and decreased over the millennia. Thatís not a secret; everybody knows that. Of course the human factor has accelerated, if you will ó at least, thatís what science tells us ó the climate change and the phenomenon of global warming. But itís not something that is brand new to this planet. It has happened before. There have been ice ages, there has been the melting of the ice ages ó the thawing. There has been climate change on this globe and, frankly, one of the species that has survived all those phenomena is the Homo sapiens. That would be us, Mr. Deputy Chair. For whatever reasons, weíre obviously very adaptable.
And that brings me to a segue into why this government believes one of the most important initiatives that we could undertake in the territory and in the north is to pursue mitigating and adaptation measures that would allow us to better manage the issues and effects of climate change and global warming in the north.
But we must work within the global community. Standing up and criticizing First Nations, government scientists, government biologists and government officials with respect to the work they do with the environment is not going to resolve the issue. In fact, it does absolutely nothing but alienate the member opposite, who may very well, at some point, have something very positive and constructive to contribute to what we do here in the territory ó but not in that manner.
So, we have to continue to do our work. We will continue to allow the federal government to proceed with the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. We would like to know a little more detail of what the implementation plan is. We will continue to do our work with respect to the many areas of energy efficiency and those types of things to help reduce our contribution of emission factors. I want to point out to the member opposite that our contribution to climate change is minimal. I believe itís a 0.1 percent factor in terms of emissions that the Yukon produces.
I want to make another point here, because this is the fallacy that is promoted by the NDP. I wonít put this on the third partyís lap, but this fallacy is promoted by the NDP ó that they are the champions of the environment, that they are the only protectors, the sole protectors, of the environment, and that is not the case, Mr. Chair. Letís look at recent examples.
When the NDP government in the late 1990s had the opportunity to use more hydro and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, they did not do that. They made the decision to burn more diesel ó versus taking down within the Aishihik water licence. I believe some $4 million more diesel was consumed here in the territory to produce electricity. I ask you, Mr. Chair, how many tonnes of carbon did that decision by the NDP emit into this atmosphere? Tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of carbon, when they could have used the two feet within the water license of Aishihik Lake to produce electricity. That is example one of that fallacy.
Another example of the fallacy ó and I know the recently elected leader of the third party wants to get on his feet, but the member will have to bear with me, because these are important points. These show the contrast. These show exactly what Iím talking about. Letís talk about the spruce beetle infestation in the southwest Yukon. Yes, one of the contributing factors would be climate change because it allows the incubation and the cycle for the beetle to grow and expand in enormous numbers. But there was a time in recent history when mitigating measures could have been implemented. Who were the loudest opponents of any kind of those mitigating measures that were coming forward from the private sector, for example? It was the New Democrats. They opposed harvesting and reducing the level of spread by the spruce bark beetle back in the 1990s. They opposed that. They contributed to stopping any reasonable mitigating measures being brought forward and implemented. Well, we are now dealing today with the results of that, and the results are the biggest spruce beetle infestation on the continent, as I am led to understand ó the biggest. What does that do? Well, that is dead forest ó thousands and thousands of cubic metres of dead forest ó hundreds upon hundreds of square hectares of dead forest. What is that dead forest doing? Itís releasing carbon. All the carbon stored in that forest is now being released into the atmosphere. So the so-called champions of the environment, the protectors of the environment, have actually contributed to factors that are harmful to the environment, Mr. Chair ó I repeat, harmful to the environment.
The leader of the official opposition has just stood on his feet and laid accusations at the feet of this government that we do nothing. Nothing could be further from the facts, Mr. Chair. The government is doing a great deal.
Chair: Order please. The term ďnothing could be further from the factsĒ has been declared unparliamentary numerous times before.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Iím crushed, Mr. Chair, but I will retract that statement because there is no other way I can put it other than: that is not the case. The memberís assertion is not the case. Would that be fair?
Chair: The Chair can live with that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
On and on we go with this issue of the environment and this government has indeed placed a great deal of importance in the environment and we will continue to do so. There is much to do ahead of us. Thereís no doubt that the challenges are many, but the government side is quite comfortable with the fact that we have a department that, throughout its makeup, has the necessary expertise, the necessary personnel and the necessary skill sets to contribute constructively and positively to protecting and conserving Yukonís environment, to deal with mitigating measures with respect to things like climate change, to continue to find ways to promote an integrated approach so that we can realize benefits from out there on the land base but at the same time reduce and mitigate harmful impacts to our environment. All these things are important. We have those things in todayís government, and I think that is exemplary when we consider the department and all that it does.
Now, I donít want to go on at great length. I would like to give the leader of the third party an opportunity. So, with that, Mr. Chair, let me close by saying that under the Yukon Party government, the environment is in good hands, and with respect to all the people we have in the department, we are only strengthened in our abilities to deal with Yukonís environment and maintaining it for future generations.
Mr. Mitchell: †Well, that was a very interesting ó I wonít say ďspeechĒ ó response. As the saying goes, ďSo much to do; so little time.Ē And thereís about four minutes left here now today before I know we will run out of time. I can certainly commend the member opposite for how well he is able to fill the time.
I will mention that it is a disappointment that the Department of Environment is the last department to be called, in the last day of a 30-day sitting, and only then, the last one on the day, so that we didnít have very much time to debate this. There is one thing I will agree with the member opposite on ó not too many things, but one thing ó and that it is not simply one party. Itís not simply the NDP that needs to be the champion for the environment. We all have to, and it shouldnít be a matter of party politics. We all need to be looking after the environment. We need to find the balance between economic development and the environment so that we continue to develop a sustainable economy, so that we leave behind a Yukon that our descendants will thank us for 100 and 200 years from now, instead of them asking, ďWhatever were they thinking?Ē
The member opposite mentions the comparison between the Department of Environment and the Department of Economic Development. He has left out, of course, the budget for Energy, Mines and Resources, which also has to be put into balance when we look at the environment because their department also impacts ó and I donít say ďopposesĒ because I donít believe itís opposing ó on the environment. And we have to make those decisions with respect to the environment as well.
I would like to believe that this new minister ó same Premier, but new Minister of Environment ó as we move forward, will breathe new life into the department and will fund and support it and will fill vacant positions so that this department can do the job that it is mandated to do, and continue to do it.
There are a lot of questions I would like to ask but it is going to be pretty difficult to ask them. Certainly, if I ask them, I am not going to get very many answers. Among them would be: the definition of ďwildlifeĒ was going to be changed, but there was only 30 days of consultation that was being planned. I am curious whether First Nations were able to comment during that 30-day period. If so, what did they say? Does this minister think that 30 days is long enough for the consultation? Why did this ministerís government try to ram through those amendments? Why bother with consultation if a decision has already been made? I suspect it has, just looking at some of the comments from one of the ministerís new Cabinet colleagues, going back to his reference to the Magna Carta, which certainly showed he was paying attention during high school history lessons, if not during high school biology and science classes, about some of these issues.
I am also curious, since the minister made reference to watching the discussions on the Kyoto accord ó I know the minister recently returned from a United Nations conference ó what I havenít heard from this government, from this minister, from this Premier is, yes or no, does this government support the Kyoto Protocol or not? We are one of the three jurisdictions in Canada without the complete Kyoto plan. I would like to know what the minister plans to do about that? I am sure the minister will get back to me about that and many other conversations it will have in the future.
Termination of Committee proceedings as per Standing Order 76(1)
Chair: Order please. The time has reached 5:00 p.m. On this, the 30th day of the 2005 fall sitting, Standing Order 76(1) states: ďOn the sitting day that the Assembly has reached the maximum number of sitting days allocated for that sitting pursuant to Standing Order 75, the Chair of the Committee of the Whole, if the Assembly is in Committee of the Whole at the time, shall interrupt proceedings at 5:00 p.m. and, with respect to each government bill before Committee that the government House leader directs to be called, shall:
ď(a) put the question on any amendment then before the Committee,
ď(b) put the question, without debate or amendment, on a motion moved by a minister that the bill, including all clauses, schedules, title and preamble, be deemed to be read and carried,
ď(c) put the question on a motion moved by a minister that the bill be reported to the Assembly, and
ď(d) when all bills have been dealt with, recall the Speaker to the Chair to report on the proceedings of the Committee.Ē
It is the duty of the Chair to now conduct the business of Committee of the Whole in the matter directed by Standing Order 76(1).
The Chair would now ask the government House leader to indicate whether Bill No. 17, the only bill now before Committee of the Whole, should be called.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: † †Mr. Chair, the government directs that Bill No. 17 be called at this time.
Chair: The Committee will now deal with Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. The Chair will now recognize Mr. Fentie as the sponsor of Bill No. 17 for the purpose of moving a motion pursuant to Standing Order 76(1)(b).
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move that all clauses, schedules and the title of Bill No. 17, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, be deemed to be read and carried.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that all clauses, schedules and the title of Bill No. 17, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, be deemed to be read and carried. As no debate or amendment is permitted, I shall now put the question.
Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 17 without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved that Bill No. 17 be reported without amendment. As no debate or amendment is permitted, I shall now put the question.
Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Chair: As all government bills remaining in Committee of the Whole have been decided upon, it is my duty to rise and report to the House.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Chair: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 17, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report it without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Standing Order 76(2)(d) states: ďOn the sitting day that the Assembly has reached the maximum number of sitting days allocated for that sitting pursuant to Standing Order 75, the Speaker of the Assembly, when recalling the Chair after the House has been in Committee of the Whole, shall:
ď(d) with respect to each government bill standing on the Order Paper for third reading and designated to be called by the government House leader
††††††† ď(i) receive a motion for third reading and passage of the bill; and
††††††† ď(ii) put the question without debate or amendment on that motion.Ē
The Chair, therefore, would ask the government House leader whether Bill No. 17, the only bill now standing at third reading, should be called.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The government directs that Bill No. 17 be called for third reading at this time.
Bill No. 17: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 17, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 17, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 17, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, be now read a third time and do pass. As no debate or amendment is permitted, I shall now put the question.
Are you agreed?
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 17 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 17 has passed this House.
We are now prepared to receive the Commissioner, in her capacity as Lieutenant Governor, to grant assent to the bills which have passed this House.
Commissioner enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILLS
Commissioner: † Please be seated.
Speaker: Madam, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed certain bills to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Co-operation in Governance Act; Act to Amend the Income Tax Act; Fourth Appropriation Act, 2004-05; Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act; Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act; Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act; Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act; Act to Amend the Jury Act; Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bills as enumerated by the Clerk.
Iíd like to say a few words as my first time on the dais as Commissioner. As we reflect on the past year and plan for the coming one, Iíd like to wish all the members a very Merry Christmas. I also extend to you an invitation to join me on New Yearís Day at the Commissionerís Levy. Happy holidays ó well deserved.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. As the House has reached the maximum number of days permitted for the fall sitting, as established pursuant to Standing Order 75(3), and the House has completed consideration of the designated legislation, it is the duty of the Chair to declare that this House now stands adjourned. Merry Christmas.
The House adjourned at 5:09 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled December 19, 2005:
Ombudsman and Information and Privacy Commissioner 2004 Annual Report† (Speaker Staffen)