Whitehorse , Yukon
Tuesday, April 4, 2006 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Cancer Awareness Month
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the House to pay tribute to the month of April as Cancer Awareness Month. We are all acquainted too closely with cancer. One in three Canadians develops cancer in his or her lifetime. It is our leading cause of premature death.
Even if we have been lucky enough to escape it ourselves, we each have a relative or a friend who is coping with the tragedy of this disease. If current trends continue, the incidence of cancer will increase 70 percent in the next 15 years.
Now, the good news is that approximately 60 percent of cancers could be prevented through a healthy lifestyle. Eating less fat, more fresh fruits and vegetables, combined with regular physical activity three times or more per week are the basics of prevention of many illnesses, including cancer.
The causes of avoidable cancer are listed by the Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. They say that about one-third of cancers that could be prevented are caused by diet and another third by tobacco. There are 69 cancer-causing substances in tobacco smoke alone, and even non-smokers who have been exposed to tobacco smoke are affected.
Smoking is widely understood to be the leading cause of lung cancer, but has also now been identified as a cause of breast cancer as well.
There are many causes of cancer, and one, as dramatically pointed out by CBC broadcaster Wendy Mesley, is probable environmental and occupational carcinogens and chemical agents. A high priority should be given to ensure that these are monitored and products are labelled. One day, we hope, they will all be banned, Mr. Speaker.
Prevention of cancer requires actions by individuals, agencies and employers. The territorial government also has a role, and not only for health care.
The Canadian Cancer Society's strategy for cancer control ought to be in place now, and our commitment to its principles would encourage the federal government to implement it.
The Canadian Cancer Society will be canvassing homes for donations in April, and the Relay for Life will once again be presented in June. Please give generously.
In recognition of Girl Guide Cookie Week
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of all members of the Legislature to advise Yukoners that April 3 to 8 this year is Girl Guide Cookie Week in the Yukon . I would thank members, once again, for their indulgence in allowing me to go forward with this tribute.
This is the major fundraising activity for the Girl Guides organization, at $4 per box. Each box sold supports girls throughout the Yukon and all money raised stays here and supports unit activities.
I would remind members that the Girl Guide organization is the largest single organization for girls led by women in the Yukon and in Canada . Of course, members will recall that guiding began in the Yukon in Dawson City in 1914. 2006 will be the 92nd anniversary of the contributions offered by this volunteer organization in the territory.
Members will recall that annually I provide them with a box of the cookies - not in the House, of course, Mr. Speaker. I would advise them that they will be delivered this afternoon. I would encourage all Yukoners to greet, with a smile, the Sparks , Brownies and Guides and their adult volunteers. Of course I encourage the sale of these cookies because it's all about the girls.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. Jenkins: I have for tabling a copy of the memorandum agreement between the Yukon government and the City of Dawson on wastewater treatment that was filed with the courts.
Speaker: Are there any further documents for tabling?
Any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 70: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 70, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (2006), be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 70, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (2006), be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 70 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) global climate change is one of the greatest environmental threats facing our planet today;
(2) governments can play a major role in reversing global climate change by persuading their citizens, corporations and businesses to voluntarily reduce their emissions of harmful greenhouse gases;
(3) cuts to federal government programs promoting the reduction of greenhouse gases or research on global climate change are not in the best interests of most Canadians and will send the wrong message to other jurisdictions; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to ask the Government of Canada to reconsider its plan to stop funding the One-Tonne Challenge or any of the other 100 or so education and research programs it sponsors that target global warming.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Statistics Canada defines adult literacy on a scale that measures the “threshold for coping with the increasing skill demands of a knowledge society”;
(2) results of the international adult literacy skills survey indicate that, on this scale, the Yukon has the highest literacy rate in the country;
(3) however, analysis of the results shows that there is a large disparity between the education and literacy levels of rural Yukon and Whitehorse and between First Nations and non-First Nations adults; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to respond to the disparities between rural and urban Yukon , and First Nations and non-First Nations adult literacy levels by increasing the financial contribution to adult literacy organizations and to establish adult literacy programs in rural communities.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to effectively lobby the federal Conservative government to either reinstitute the popular One-Tonne Challenge climate change initiative or to immediately replace it with a similar program that will also encourage public participation to reduce greenhouse gases that lead to accelerated climate change.
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of documents that specifically list the requests and needs of each Yukon community as identified during last year's territorial budget consultation process.
I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of budget documents known as community breakdowns.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Land development
Mr. Cardiff: It's not secret that subdivision and development issues within the Whitehorse municipal boundaries have frequently led to tension between the City of Whitehorse and the Department of Community Services. At one point, we were led to believe there was a protocol being worked out between the territorial and municipal governments. It is my understanding that it was the Department of Community Services that actually drafted the protocol and they sent it to the city. The city signed it, but the minister has refused to sign it.
So, given the increasing pressure for orderly development within the city limits, why has this process taken so long and when will this agreement be in place?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The protocol is in the process of being vetted and then it will be signed and we will move ahead with the protocol. It will be done in a timely fashion.
Mr. Cardiff: I guess we have a new Minister of Community Services. It was the Minister of Community Services who held this file.
Now, if last night's city council meeting is any example, it's obvious that some type of formal understanding is desperately needed for this situation. Once again, we've seen a Cabinet minister stick his nose into a development issue that is none of his business. Even the Minister of Community Services doesn't completely have clean hands on this issue. He had his own ideas about greenbelt land in Porter Creek , which he didn't bother sharing with the city or the Minister of Education, but he was willing to advise the City of Whitehorse on where to put its traffic circles. So, what has the Minister of Community Services learned about the role of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources in a proposed development in the Holly Street area since it came up at city council last night? Does he consider his colleague's intervention appropriate?
Hon. Mr. Lang: This government didn't do anything that wasn't appropriate, Mr. Speaker. We as a territorial government didn't do anything with the proponents, any more than we would do with any Yukon citizen. The debate has to happen, and the debate will happen.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, it looks like there is a reorganization in lands, because now the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is answering for the Minister of Community Services about land planning issues.
The same minister who is answering now didn't even bother getting the necessary permits from his own department before conducting his own personal FireSmart program. A few months back he took part in a nomination meeting for the Copperbelt by-election where the developer in question was trying to become the Yukon Party candidate. Now he is authorizing the same person to apply for development permits within the city limits, despite strong opposition in the community. Maybe that is a consolation prize for not getting the nomination, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister spell out exactly what his Cabinet colleague, the Minister of Community Services, promised this developer and how his involvement contributes to a fair and open process of land disposition within the municipal boundaries?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In correcting the member opposite, we have no position on the future of this land inside of Whitehorse . This individual came forward with a proposal; we just say that the gentleman has to have his day in court. Part of that day in court is being able to address his issue to the City of Whitehorse . We have no stake in this. We are just doing what is appropriate for a territorial government to do on a daily basis. The gentleman - the corporation - will have his day in court in front of the City of Whitehorse . The City of Whitehorse will be making the decision, not the territorial government.
Question re: Watson Lake care facility contract
Mr. Hardy: I have a question about the Watson Lake multi-level care facility. Last summer, the former Minister of Health and Social Services authorized a sole-source contract for project management of this facility in the amount of $25,000. On August 15, a change order increased that by almost 300 percent to $70,000. On October 27, a second change order bumped it up to $140,000 - nearly 600 percent higher than the original contract. My simple question for the minister is, why?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: In answer to the leader of the official opposition, as he is well aware, that was before my tenure as minister. The decision was made based on the contract proceeding forward. It is commonplace with contracts that there may be contracts for future work. At that point, the original contract did not encompass the entire lifespan of the project, and that is the simple reason in a nutshell.
Mr. Hardy: This minister does not know what he's talking about when he's talking about contracting. I sure hope this isn't the way they are going to do it.
On July 8 last year, the same contractor - who is the father of a Yukon Party Cabinet minister, by the way - received a contract to build the foundation. It was a sole-source contract worth $281,000. On October 1, there was another sole-source contract worth $58,000 to the same contractor. This one was signed by the acting deputy minister two weeks after the contract ended. In other words, this one contractor, as both the project manager and builder, has pocketed almost $500,000, that we know of - I'm sure there is more - without anyone else having a chance to get even a piece of that action.
Does the minister have any concerns about that way of doing business or does he consider that this special project in the Premier's riding deserves special treatment?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, the leader of the NDP is doing a disservice by implying that the amounts he was discussing in the contracts were profit that went into somebody's pocket. It's very clear, and it should be clear to the leader of the NDP. If he wishes to criticize me regarding contracts, he may wish to consult the book himself. The contracts were money that flowed through for supplies, for cement and for work that was conducted. It certainly was not profit.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I didn't realize that people do this out of the goodness of their hearts in contracting, and I have been in that business for 30 years. We've been trying to unravel the mysteries of this project through the access to information process. Let's look at some other interesting sole-source tidbits of this government. There was a contract to a Whitehorse company for architectural assessments and schematic design work given out last July 20. It started at $33,750 and has now it has ballooned to $143,600, sole sourced by the deputy minister.
On July 7 last year, a contract for geotechnical work was sole sourced at $5,300. Less than three weeks later, it was up to $21,000. On July 7 again, a $50,000 sole-sourced contract to a Watson Lake company for advice on structural engineering. We don't know if we've even seen the tip, let alone the whole iceberg, Mr. Speaker. If this minister won't act now to end this Yukon Party boondoggle -
Speaker: Order please. Ask the question.
Mr. Hardy: I am asking it. Is he prepared to see this file brought to the attention of the Auditor General of Canada ? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I point out, first of all, to the leader of the NDP that taking care of seniors should not be characterized as a “boondoggle”. I'd also point out to the leader of the NDP that all contract rules were adhered to. The project was developed in discussion with the Watson Lake community, and certain components were sole sourced with the intent of ensuring local benefit and expenditure in Watson Lake . Under my direction, with the support of Cabinet, the majority of future expenditures will be publicly tendered.
The Department of Health and Social Services has broken the project down into a number of different components. The intent is to make each piece small enough to facilitate contractors from both Watson Lake and the Yukon being able to bid on those public tenders.
Question re:Porter Creek land development
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
The minister has been caught interpreting that famous Yukon Party election slogan, “Land for all Yukoners” - he seems to read it as “Land for some Yukoners”.
Last night at city council, a private developer reappeared before council asking to turn a piece of Porter Creek greenbelt into residential lots. This isn't just any private developer, as the Member for Mount Lorne has pointed out; it's someone who ran for the Yukon Party nomination in last year's Copperbelt by-election. This individual presented a letter of support from the minister. In it, the minister encouraged the proponent to apply for all the necessary permits. Council members, quite rightly, asked the developer what kind of deal he had negotiated with the minister. The response from the developer: “That's confidential”. That did not sit well with council, and it doesn't sit well with Porter Creek residents.
What confidential deal has the minister struck with this former, potential Yukon Party candidate to develop lots in the middle of Porter Creek ?
Hon. Mr. Lang: For the member opposite, there is no backroom deal here. This is an open dialogue between the proponent and the City of Whitehorse . That's exactly what has happened here, Mr. Speaker, and we as a government gave the proponent a letter of comfort so that he could go forward and have that dialogue. There are many, many steps to be taken before any of these things are resolved, but the individual, the proponent, should have his day in court, and that day in court will be in front of the city and the city council can make that decision. It is not up to the territorial government to make decisions on that. We are a landowner, the land is in our inventory, and the proponent has a proposal to put in front of city council. That's the beginning and end of it.
Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has a very unfortunate history during his short life as a minister of interfering in land development issues. A couple of years ago, he encouraged the Yukon Agricultural Association to apply for land and was recorded in public minutes as stating he could pre-approve their application. Apparently he hadn't read the briefing note about something called the Land Application Review Committee.
Then came the Fish Lake lot disaster, and the minister hadn't yet read the briefing notes on consultation with First Nation governments. There's another piece of ministerial advice about Cabinet colleagues.
Now this minister is in the middle of a fiasco that has the Yukon Party promising another piece of Porter Creek to three different groups - three tries. The minister still hasn't figured his role out.
Last night, this developer reappeared at city council and said he had a confidential deal with the minister to develop some lots in Porter Creek .
Mr. Speaker, what's the secret deal the developer's talking about?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I'm glad for that history lesson. I've been a minister in this department longer than she was a minister in a government. I'll remind her of that.
There is no side deal with any developer in the Yukon . The process is in place; the proponent will get his day in court, like every Yukoner has the right to do. He will present his case to the City of Whitehorse and move forward.
The City of Whitehorse has official community plans. They have zoning regulations. It's their decision whether those will be changed, but the proponent has the right to have that dialogue. That is a Yukon right. The proponent is exercising his right, and the City of Whitehorse will make those decisions.
Ms. Duncan: Yukoners have had it with this minister, who doesn't bother to read his briefing notes and who won't do his homework. He has not learned anything in his time in office about separating his duties as minister and his other activities.
Once again, we see a former Yukon Party potential candidate standing before city council saying he has a confidential deal with the minister. He said it in a public meeting, a publicly recorded public forum.
I would remind the minister that that land doesn't belong to the minister. That land belongs to the public, and the public wants some answers. What promise did the minister make? Clearly the developer has said there's a promise, and there's a confidential deal. What's the confidential deal?
This is the public's house and public land and the public has a right -
Hon. Mr. Lang: I will remind the member opposite that there is no deal on the land. I would remind the member opposite, if she wants to make accusations of impropriety, to go outside and make those accusations. My job, as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, is the land issue. Are you denying the proponent? If you talk about public land -
Speaker: Order please. Would the minister please address his answers through the Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Okay, thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The individual who is going forward with this proposal is part of the public. The public has access to public land. The process involves presenting his case in front of city council and having city council make a decision. There is no guarantee in this process that this application will be accepted. We gave the Yukoner the right to present his case in front of city council. That's the start of it and the end of it. That's all we've done as a government.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, indexing benefits
Mr. Mitchell: I have some question for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
A worker recently took a complaint he had about workers' compensation to the Ombudsman. The worker was concerned about the failure of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board to index his benefits in accordance with the requirements of the Workers' Compensation Act. The reply he got from the Ombudsman was quite straightforward. His complaint was substantiated. The Ombudsman had this to say: “I have concluded that the board's actions are contrary to law.”
Is the minister aware of this case? Is he aware of the Ombudsman's ruling, and what does he intend to do to correct this injustice?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I thank the leader of the Liberal Party for his question. I would point out to the member, first of all and foremost, that the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board is set up as an arm's-length body for a specific purpose, and that is to have independence. The minister is not allowed to become involved in individual cases.
I would also point out to the member that if a court has compelled the board to take specific action, it is very clear that the board would have to follow through on that. I do not interfere in the law. The board has its operations. That is under its jurisdiction. The board is, of course, required to comply with the law.
The role of the minister and the role of the Legislature is in amending the Workers' Compensation Act from time to time. Of course, the area of occupational health and safety regulations also falls under the minister's purview.
Mr. Mitchell: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's not quite good enough.
Mr. Speaker, a review by the Ombudsman has concluded that the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board's action is contrary to law. The board, and therefore the minister responsible for the board, are breaking the law. They have not been properly indexing the benefits of workers, as they are required to do. The board's excuse for these benefits not being paid is because the board needs to purchase a new computer system. Once that is done, the legislated adjustments will be made on a monthly basis, commencing in 2007. In other words, the workers can wait at least another nine months until these changes are made.
Mr. Speaker, if the computer system was stopping the minister from getting his full paycheque, you can bet it would be fixed. It would not take nine months. Is the minister going to make these workers wait nine months to get their proper payments, or is the minister going to get this problem fixed right away?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I would point out again to the leader of the Liberal Party that specific cases are something that the minister may not be involved in. I have certainly issued no direction to the board with regard to their case management. That would be inappropriate for me to do. I expect the board to comply with the requirements of law and of the regulations as issued from the minister and Cabinet in the case of regulations and as prescribed by the Legislature in the case of the act. I cannot and I will not involve myself in specific cases.
Mr. Mitchell: Well, Mr. Speaker, it isn't good enough for the minister responsible to say that the board is operating at arm's length. He is the minister responsible. The buck stops there. That's why his name is in the government phone directory as the minister.
The Ombudsman had some very strong words for the board and for this minister. He said the board was acting contrary to law. These are very strong words. I expect the minister to do his job and make sure that the injured worker - and all injured workers who may be in the same situation - receive their proper compensation payments. This is not an individual case. This is policy. Employers have done their part. They have funded the program with their insurance premium payments. This minister needs to take responsibility for what happens under his watch. The Ombudsman says the board is acting contrary to law. Will the minister pledge to fix the problem and ensure that this worker and all other workers start getting the money they are owed today? Will he do that instead of ducking his responsibilities?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I thank the leader of the Liberal Party again for his concerns. Again I would remind him and suggest that perhaps he pick up the Workers' Compensation Act and read it. The minister may not get involved in specific cases. The board must comply with the law. My expectation as minister is that they do so. They are required by the law that sets them up to comply with that law and with other laws. If there is a court decision saying they're not in compliance with that, no doubt they will be compelled into doing this.
I will not involve myself in specific cases. I expect the board to take note of any instances where it is drawn to their attention that they may not be complying with the law, and I expect them to exercise their responsibility under the Workers' Compensation Act to comply with that law.
Question re: Dawson City sewage disposal
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Community Services. Dawson City is under a court order to have a wastewater treatment system in place and operating by December 31, 2008. There is a memorandum of agreement between Yukon and the City of Dawson, which has been filed with the courts, that Yukon will deliver this system.
The MOA provides Yukon with the sole and unfettered control of the management, tendering, selection of bidders, contractors, proponents and engineering firms for this project.
My question for the minister: given that the budget tabled is seeking $2.5 million for this project and the preliminary construction cost to build the system selected is $14.7 million, what is the total cost of the system selected, and will it be constructed upstream of Dawson's water supply in time to meet the court-ordered operating date?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working with the City of Dawson on their sewage facility system. We have made application to the Government of Canada under the Canada strategic infrastructure fund, which has been forwarded, and we are awaiting a response from Canada.
Once we get a location for the facility and once we are in a position to know the prices, we will notify the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: I tabled earlier today a copy of this memorandum of agreement. I would refer the minister who signed it to section 11: Dawson shall save harmless and indemnify Yukon with such indemnity surviving the expiry or termination of this agreement.
The MOA was signed by the trustee, who is a YTG official, on behalf of the City of Dawson, and the Minister of Community Services.
The MOA goes on to say that Dawson has passed all motions and/or resolutions necessary for the purpose of this agreement. There is no evidence to that effect.
My question to the minister is why is the minister imposing such crushing responsibility on the City of Dawson, which will be far greater than Dawson's debt load?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We agreed to take over the sewage facility on behalf of the City of Dawson with regard to that and our agreement considers that particular situation. Also, if the member opposite reads further down in that particular document, it will also state in there that the parties can amend the agreement from time to time based on mutual agreement. I assure the member opposite that when we get to the stage where we can reach that particular aspect, we can do so.
Mr. Jenkins: That's reality, Mr. Speaker. That's contained in the MOA, but the bottom line is that the indemnification and save harmless survives the termination or expiry.
Any other firm with proven viable options for sewage treatment that has approached YTG has had the door slammed in their face by Community Services. Why does the minister have such a closed-door approach and his mind made up with respect to other viable options?
When will the minister direct his department to examine all options for sewage treatment?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite well knows that a substantial amount of professional engineering work has been done on the Dawson sewage situation and all manners and forms of sewage treatment. I could bring into this Legislature - it would take a cart the size of the table there to haul it all in. The aspect is that we are under a court order to address the Dawson sewage situation and we are doing so. We are doing so based on the professional information we have. We are looking at all alternatives to the Dawson situation. We are looking at the situation that will hopefully reduce the operation and maintenance costs of any new sewage facility in Dawson City. We are also exploring those opportunities through that national code and figuring out what may or may not have to be done.
Question re: Climate change programs
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the Minister of Environment. Northerners know that we will get hit first and the hardest by global climate change. But the new government in Ottawa has stopped funding groups and individuals across the country promoting the One-Tonne Challenge, which asks Canadians to voluntarily cut their greenhouse gas emissions by one metric tonne a year. According to media reports, the Harper government is also reviewing about 100 other climate change programs set up under the previous government. If these programs get cut, important educational and research work on climate change will cease, and that will have a catastrophic consequence in our country. Will the Minister of Environment tell Ottawa, in the strongest possible language, to reconsider its plans, or is this government still in denial about the dangers of climate change?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, let me address with the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin the issue of denial. Nobody on the globe is in denial about climate change, especially here in the north, considering the very visible stark realities of the impacts of global warming and climate change. Example: the largest spruce beetle infestation on the continent - very stark, very visible, and it's this government that went to work on that issue. Recently the minister through his efforts and the department through their efforts and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and Canada are moving toward trying to address that very issue through adaptation and other measures.
With respect to what the federal government has just done in making a decision, I would encourage the member opposite to recognize that we found out about this at the same time she did. I am certainly going to look into that decision and its ramifications on the Yukon.
Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I think any government coming into office in Ottawa should look at this issue, considering all that has reportedly been done by the past Liberal government since 1993 as evidence, obviously, shows that our emissions have increased. Maybe there is a problem.
Mrs. Peter: Climate change will change the face of the Yukon. Species will disappear, glaciers and permafrost will melt, forest fires will increase. We are all aware of that. We are already seeing some of these changes throughout the Yukon, but they will accelerate if we just sit back and hope for the best.
We need more climate change education and research, not less. Northern Canadians should be leading the charge - and in some cases, they are - on global climate change because we have the most to lose, especially in First Nations across the north, yet this government still doesn't have a plan to implement the Kyoto Protocol.
When will this government start being part of the solution instead of insisting it's someone else's problem?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Once again, we do a disservice to this Assembly when we imply that a government is doing something that it is not. We are very concerned about the issue and the problem.
As far as the Kyoto plan, there is good reason to look into this matter, considering that Canada's emissions have increased in recent times, not decreased. Further, the emissions relevant to climate change and global warming are global in nature, and the Yukon contributes some 0.001 percent, which is almost immeasurable.
We in the Department of Environment are certainly conscious of how we can reduce our emissions here in the Yukon, but we're also very conscious about adaptation, and we are encouraging the federal government and all our partners in this federation - the provinces and our sister territories - to recognize that, as we proceed with things like the northern strategy with a main objective of addressing climate change and entering into the field of research, adaptation must be of the highest priority.
Mrs. Peter: Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are working on climate change initiatives across this country, but last Friday the Northern Climate Exchange Centre at Yukon College lost its communications advisor, and more staffing and program cuts are imminent. There, and elsewhere, if the federal government tops all of its climate change programs, will the minister urge Ottawa to reverse its misguided plan to put climate change on the back burner, since global climate change is threatening what we love most about our unique, northern way of life?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would encourage the member opposite to recognize that the world is not putting climate change on the back burner. That is evident and clear.
That said, I'm sure that the Government of Canada is not doing that very thing about putting climate change on the back burner. I would suggest that it's quite the opposite - it's on the front burner - and they want to implement measures that are effective. One of the main issues in the recent federal campaign was very clear that all that the past Liberal government had been doing to date was not effective because Canada's emissions have increased. Yet, in other countries in this global community, the measures that have been implementing have contributed to a decrease in emissions. Something is wrong here in Canada, and I would suggest at this time that the federal government is going to look into this matter so that we are much more effective in addressing Canada's role in reducing emissions overall. I would again remind the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin that, for the north, in conjunction with that, we must work on adaptation because we are impacted, and we are impacted in a very real way. Adaptation is a necessity.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Hassard: I would like to ask all members to join me at this time in welcoming Mrs. Pearl Keenan to the gallery today.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mrs. Peter: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, April 5, 2006. They are Motion No. 568, standing in the name of the Member for Mount Lorne, and Motion No. 603, standing in the name of the leader of the official opposition.
Ms. Duncan: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, April 5, 2006. They are Motion No. 613, standing in the name of the Member for Copperbelt, and Motion No. 616, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill 20: Second Reading - adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 20, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie; adjourned debate, Mr. Cardiff.
Speaker: The Member for Mount Lorne has four minutes and 30 seconds.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will try to be brief and wrap up where I left off yesterday.
I would just like to return to where I started yesterday, actually, and talk about the fact that this budget showed very little enthusiasm on the part of the minister in his delivery of the budget. There was very little enthusiasm on the part of his Cabinet ministers and backbenchers. As I said yesterday, there was no thumping; members were getting up and wandering around, and they didn't seem to be interested in what the Premier was saying. We had more enthusiasm yesterday afternoon from the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
This is a go-for-broke budget, Mr. Speaker. This government is in the dying days of its mandate, and this is their attempt to try to persuade the electors that they actually have a plan. Yesterday I talked about budgets expressing the vision and the priorities of a government for the territory, for the people and for the communities. I cited a few examples of where I thought the government had fallen short - areas like the environment. It is evident in the budget highlights. All a person has to do is look at the budget highlights, and you can see that the spending on the environment just doesn't match up to other areas, like Energy, Mines and Resources or Highways and Public Works.
Some of the other things that disturb me about the budget and about the actions of this government are the way that it has mismanaged and mishandled several files. We heard about it today in Question Period, Mr. Speaker. They've mismanaged land dispositions in the territory ever since they came into office. They have mismanaged the replacement of a very important facility that is needed in this territory, the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. They hid behind a consultation and did nothing but apply band-aids and ignore the workers and the inmates and the health and safety of those people. The Workers' Compensation Act review - a pretty straightforward project - has been mismanaged by this government. It fell two years behind. In their dying days, they're trying to resurrect it and actually get some product.
Hopefully that will happen. In my mind, this budget doesn't; it just carries on with the actions of this government over the past three and a half years. It doesn't show much hope. It doesn't show properly placed priorities for spending the public's money. It is the public's money, and that's one thing this government seems to be good at - spending other people's money.
I'm going to have a hard time supporting this budget.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: It's a pleasure to rise in the Assembly today and speak in favour of this budget. Mr. Speaker, the last speaker, the Member for Mount Lorne, seemed to be speaking, in part, on a theme of a lack of enthusiasm, and I can tell him that I'm certainly very excited and proud of what we have developed here, with what this government has implemented and with our plans for the future.
The budget we're debating at this time contains, for the Department of Health and Social Services, the largest budget ever in Yukon history. The total of that budget is $183.6 million, of which $175.6 million is in operation and maintenance. This is a significant increase from 2004-05 levels, during which the budget was $165.2 million, so that is an increase of over $10 million in those short years.
It was also a great pleasure the other day, as members are aware, to announce our plans for the expenditure of the territorial health access fund and the medical travel fund, and our government's health human resource strategy, for which we have allocated approximately $12.7 million over a period of five years.
This strategy is aimed at improving Yukoners' access to primary care, particularly with regard to ensuring the availability of the necessary professionals and having the right professionals available at the right time. The cornerstone of this strategy is the physician resource component. Mr. Speaker, this has two components to it. One is an initiative offered to a graduate of any Canadian medical school, which is debt repayment in exchange for years of service working in the Yukon, and the second is forgivable bursaries provided to Yukon students attending medical school.
Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, the issue of access to a family doctor has been one of great concern to Yukoners. There is nothing more fundamentally important to Yukoners and to Canadians as a whole than being able to access needed health care for themselves and for a loved one. I can tell you that since being elected as an MLA and in my short time as minister, any time that a Yukoner or a constituent has approached me with regard to difficulty in accessing a doctor, it has been very difficult to tell them that we simply have a shortage. This government is taking steps. We are putting the cash on the table. We are putting a strategy in place, and we are working to address the problem. We do not have control in the short term. We don't control when doctors choose to accept patients. We have implemented, as you are aware, the “orphan patient” provisions, which provide doctors with an incentive to take on patients, and the uptake on that has been 508 patients, according to the last information presented to me. So it has made a difference in providing Yukoners with access to a doctor, but it is a short-term measure.
As you are aware, we have also assisted in other ways, such as with the declaration of a doctor shortage, thus providing the Yukon Medical Council the ability to issue special licences and to shorten the entry process for international medical graduates.
We have also assisted in the situation of Dr. Xui Mei Zhang, who has proceeded through the new western initiative aimed at speeding the process of approval of an international medical graduate.
Addressing this issue of improving access to doctors is a very high priority of mine. Though we have taken steps on these short-term solutions, the intent of the health human resource strategy is to address the medium and long term. Members will be aware that it does take several years to go through medical school, especially if there is specialty training involved, so it's not an overnight solution. We recognize that but, the reality is, there are no quick fixes to this. We are taking the steps that are necessary and moving forward.
I do have to point out, though, that the Member for Copperbelt, the leader of the Liberal Party, spent a significant amount of time in his budget speech claiming credit, that this was his idea and that we accepted it. I will give the member credit for raising the issue, but he is one of many who have raised this. He is certainly not the only MLA who has brought this issue to my attention, and he's certainly not the only Yukoner who has raised the issue.
I recall discussing with constituents the issue of forgivable loans or debt repayment to attract doctors during the 2002 election, and I believe I had heard it somewhere before, but I can't recall specifically where. I do give the leader of the Liberal Party his share of the credit for representing his constituents, but he's not the only one who has brought this forward.
Members who come to mind that I've discussed the issue with, off the top of my head, are the MLA for Riverdale North, the MLA for Whitehorse West, Porter Creek Centre - I'm sure I'm missing MLAs who have brought this issue to my attention. Discussion around doctors is something we have on a regular basis. We're pleased now that this money gives us the ability to address this, which we did not previously have.
The new money from the territorial health access fund is more than $21 million over a five-year period, and that money was gained through the successful efforts of our Premier and the premiers of the other two territories in walking out on former Prime Minister Chrétien - on national TV, at the premiers conference - and making it very clear that the federal government was not addressing the health care needs of northern Canadians. That led to the historic recognition of the inadequacy of per capita funding for addressing our needs in the north with our sparse population and our large areas of jurisdiction.
I would also like to point out, in response to comments made by some of the members opposite, that by no means were the programs under this funding set out. There were three, very broad criteria with regard to this programming. The decision on how to fulfill those needs was entirely ours. The three established goals under the health access fund were: build self-reliant capacity; provide services and strengthen community level access to services; and ensure that residents have the education and awareness tools to make informed health decisions. The health and human resource strategy falls under the goal of building local capacity.
Again, I would be remiss if I did not thank the officials of Health and Social Services for their efforts in putting this program together in my short time as minister. As you are aware, this has been a high priority. I identified this early on to officials as an area on which I wished them to put a significant amount of focus. They did so, and they did so in a very short timeline considering the processes which government must go through, and the due diligence that we must follow in reviewing the processes and the programs in place in other jurisdictions in situations such as this.
Mr. Speaker, again, the goal of this is to improve access to primary care, especially including the access to a family doctor for Yukoners.
The other area that we announced, as stated before - and I anticipate we will be announcing details within the next week or two - is the territorial medical travel fund. That is $1.6 million per year for a five-year period. We are planning the investments, and we will be targeting them to improve Yukoners' ability to travel and to access care and to be provided with the services they need in a timely fashion.
I would also like to note the one area where there has been some criticism suggesting that we had not developed this program, or these two programs for access to family doctor, with Yukon Medical Council. I recognize that it did not state that in the press release, but I had hoped that, by raising it at least three times during the press conference, we had addressed that issue. I stated at that time, and I will state again, one of the reasons we did not provide a lengthy sheet of details was because we wanted to do the Yukon Medical Association the courtesy of sitting down and having that discussion with them, and we hoped to have all the details hammered out and forms available for application within the next couple of months.
Also, with regard to the issue raised by some members of a collaborative care clinic to address the problem, I will advise them that we are indeed looking at this. The Yukon Nurses Association has brought this to my attention. I had a meeting with them the other day and was pleased to be able to indicate to them our support of them taking a role in leading the discussions among health professionals. It is our desire to have the solution agreed upon and accepted by health professionals, to not have government dictating to them what we'll be doing. We're certainly very interested in collaborative care clinics. They have been used in certain jurisdictions within Canada with a great amount of success. For those who are not aware, they are based essentially on a principle similar to the way that a hospital operates. When you go to such a clinic, you may not initially see a doctor. If you have a cut, perhaps a nurse would attend to your care needs. If it is an issue that requires the care of a physician, you would then be triaged to a physician and receive that care.
Again, we want to work in partnership with regard to any changes within the Yukon's health system. We don't want to go down the road the N.W.T. did in implementing a change to their system of compensation, which did not result in an increase in the number of physicians available, but there was a decrease. Twenty doctors left the Northwest Territories in the space of just one month.
Again, the amount within this year's budget for Health and Social Services is $175.6 million for operation and maintenance. As you may be aware, a significant amount of the cost within Health and Social Services is program delivery for permanent employees for front-line services. This department has the largest number of employees working compared to any other department, and the majority of these are front-line staff.
The administration and central structure of Health and Social Services is actually fairly small. They do work very hard in compiling all the information and directing the programs that are delivered. The front-line staff are people who are working out there, dealing with things on a daily basis, whether they be nurses, social workers or any of the many fields we deal with. The norm is that these people are very dedicated and very hardworking, and they put in a significant amount of service that we all take for granted and don't notice, but we would certainly notice if it were not there.
Highlights from the operation and maintenance area of the budget are that we have increased the amount for salaries within this budget to reflect the increase to wages in the collective agreement, and that is in the amount of $902,000. There are increased costs due to the new agreement with the physicians, and that is $2.3 million. A significant portion of that is to improve recruitment and retention activity.
We have also increased funding to provide services and programs for children with disabilities. We have provided Autism Yukon, a new organization within the Yukon - an organization of parents who work and collaborate on the delivery of programs to their children - with core funding for the first time, and that is $61,000 for this year.
We have continued the Yukon government's support of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon in the amount of $162,000. We have also added to this by providing interim funding to them in the area where the federal government withdrew from their program delivery and their funding responsibilities. It was a decision made by the previous Liberal government. The very day that the new Conservative government named their Cabinet, we sent a letter to the new minister in regard to this, asking the government to step forward to renew their funding and to recommit. We have attempted to arrange a meeting with the minister while I was in Ottawa; unfortunately we were unable to do so and have yet to receive a formal response, but I assure Yukoners that we will indeed be following through on this issue and urging the federal government to come to the table.
We have provided interim funding in this area, and we have provided bridge funding to the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon for a period of a year, to be reviewed every three months, depending on whether the federal government has renewed their commitment or not. We have guaranteed that for at least a period of one year, so they will continue their operations. We certainly hope the new federal government will recognize its responsibility and will not continue the previous government's practice of entering programs and then withdrawing from them after a few short years, leaving the responsibility to fall on the shoulders of provincial and territorial governments.
Other highlights within the budget are that we have full-year funding to pay for the opening of seven beds at Macaulay Lodge. That is in the amount of $357,000.
There is an increase of five percent in the child operating contributions, as per the recommendations made in the four-year plan for early childhood education and care. I should point out that our government has recognized the importance of childcare and childcare workers and the contribution. The government expenditure to assist Yukoners in accessing childcare has increased significantly. We did increase the direct operating grants. The total increase to childcare under our watch has been approximately 30 percent. I recognize that there has been significant concern among the childcare community and among Yukoners with regard to the new federal government's decision that they are not continuing forward with the early learning and childcare initiative that had been put forward by the previous government.
We have expressed our position to the federal minister. I am pleased to make members aware - with regard to their suggestion that perhaps I should write a letter to the federal minister - I have done one better than that. I went to Ottawa and met personally with Minister Finley, the new Minister of HRSDC, who has the responsibility for this, and I communicated our concerns to her. They appear to be very adamant in their decision to proceed with their platform commitment of $1,200 a year per child, provided directly to parents. I expressed to her our preference for the previous structure and that there was familiarity in the childcare community, and they had a desire and plans to spend it, and that we would prefer they retain that structure. She made it very politely clear that they did not intend to do so.
With regard to both programs of the previous Liberal government that never quite came to fruition and the Conservatives' program, I outlined to her, again, the inadequacy of per capita funding to address our needs in the north with our sparse populations, greater cost of living and all the other areas of concern. We will continue to pursue them in this regard. They have not told us yes; they have also not told us no. We will see what we can get with regard to that. We are hopeful that they will recognize that importance, and we will continue to do what we can.
I would also like to make members aware and make Yukoners aware that at that same time - this was at the end of February, beginning of March, that I met with Minister Finley - I also took the opportunity to meet with the new Health minister, Mr Tony Clement, immediately following the federal-provincial-territorial health ministers meeting. I did meet with him personally and directly, one on one, to outline the Yukon's concerns and to stress the need to address these. Certainly, we will wait to see what the reaction is and what the product is, but I can tell you that the indications are very positive, and we're hopeful that they will come through in addressing our needs. The funding that we have achieved now in the base funding is significant. It does not fully address the increased costs we have, and we hope that they will recognize that need.
Within our budget this year, we have $345,000 for the purchase of three new ambulances - three new type 3 two-wheel-drive ambulances. There is $750,000 for nursing station upgrades and repairs. We have money within the budget increasing the pioneer utility grants; that's in the amount of $198,000. We have carried forward the primary health care transition funding to September of 2006. That has assisted us in certain areas, such as some of the systems that we are working on, the development and the release of the Yukon HealthGuide, the development of the chronic disease management and palliative care project, a new insured health services system for processing and paying medical claims, implementation of a case management computer system for mental health services and implementation of a computerized public health immunization system.
Also, pursuant to our agreement with Canada Health Infoway, there will be funding for projects such as strategic planning for the management of information and supporting technology over the next three to five years, working toward a billing infrastructure that will allow us to have an electronic health record. There is considerable concern nationwide and recognition among health ministers, and of the experts who advise us, that moving toward an electronic system such as electronic prescription forms not only can save cost and paperwork and duplication, but it can avoid errors due to improperly read prescriptions and other matters. It is a system that has to be implemented within the health system run under government, within the medical clinics generally run and privately owned by physicians, and within the pharmacies.
One other area I did not mention earlier, which I should outline, is with regard with FASSY. This government is continuing forward with the five-step FASD action plan, and one area where we are getting recognition through the western partnership - the Canada Western FASD Partnership - is the meconium testing the Yukon has implemented, which is the first of its kind in Canada and enables us to identify, on a percentage basis, the number of children who are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, based on the analysis of the baby's first stool.
Capital budget highlights from this year - we have money, of course, continuing for the construction of the multi-level care facility in Watson Lake; we have $1.257 million for replacement of various insured health registration and claims systems with an integrated system providing health registrations and physician, hospital and drug claims. Again, this is with regard to the area that I outlined earlier.
We have $120,000 for construction of apartments in the basement of the St. Elias adult residential building. This facility houses a residential program for vulnerable, severely disabled adults and the main floor will continue to house this program, but the basement will now allow us to house transitional adults who will be taught living skills in a supportive environment, preparing them for independent living.
We will continue to move forward on planning for a multi-level care facility in Dawson City and, in this year's budget, we have allocated $100,000. Also, we have outlined $100,000 for planning for an additional continuing care facility. There are 12 more beds that can be opened at Copper Ridge Place and then the facility will have reached capacity. With an aging population, there will be a greater demand for facilities. We are taking the steps necessary in planning for a facility that we will need far too soon. We will have that need and we are stepping forward on that.
Also, Mr. Speaker, we have funding in this year - of course, we are requesting the approval of the House for - to plan housing options and residential support for persons with mental illness.
In this year, we increased by 100 percent the territorial supplementary allowance that is provided to persons with disabilities and seniors who are receiving social assistance. We recognize the need to take care of the vulnerable members of our society, and we are moving forward again to do that.
We have also contributed - or will, subject to the House's approval, I should say - $415,000 to Whitehorse General Hospital for the capital costs of medical equipment replacement and upgrades.
Mr. Speaker, I would also note at this time, and for members, that we have significantly in our time in office increased the yearly contribution and funding to the Yukon Hospital Corporation. In 2002-03, the total contribution stood at $20,678,000, and the 2006-07 mains have an amount of $25,828,000.
That, Mr. Speaker, is the broad outline of the highlights for the Department of Health and Social Services. Of course, we are one of the departments that are the main partners in moving forward on the substance abuse action plan, and we look forward to future debate and discussion on this in the House.
I would like to at this time note a few areas with regard to my constituents in the riding of Lake Laberge that I represent, areas that I am pleased we are addressing in this budget. There is money for the purchase of a mobile abattoir - that has now been ordered. It will allow red-meat producers to have their product processed, inspected and put into Yukon stores, restaurants, et cetera.
It will allow Yukoners to take a step forward they have been held back from for so many years. The abattoir the Yukon previously had in place was 200 miles away from both the majority of the customers and the majority of the producers. A mobile abattoir is something that has come into play in the northwestern United States. Alberta was looking at one; I'm not certain if they have purchased that or not. It's basically designed to address - although a lesser capacity of animals for production than a regular abattoir, but it comes at a significantly reduced cost from constructing a facility and it enables the flexibility to take the facility where it is needed.
This has been done in partnership with the Yukon Agricultural Association and we're very pleased this has been ordered and should be in place for operation this fall. According to a statement made by a representative of the Yukon Agricultural Association in our announcement of the funding approval for this project, he said this has been needed in the Whitehorse area for 40 years - for 40 years they've been trying to get an abattoir here - and this has finally addressed it in giving them the ability to have their meat and products inspected - it will, rather, once it comes into operation this fall.
Another area that I am very pleased to mention is that we're continuing the investment - it's very important to my constituents, of course - of the domestic water well-drilling program. It has been a very popular program. A significant number of my constituents and constituents of other MLAs have taken part in it and, to date, I believe approximately $843,000 has been committed through this program in previous years.
I can tell you that, for those who have the program, it's pretty nice to have payments through this plan reduced to less than water delivery costs, in most cases. It's based on the same structure as the rural electrification and telephone program, and it allows Yukoners to make the payments for a well over up to 15 years, rather than having to pay for it in the space of a year or two, as they would have to under a standard bank loan.
Mr. Speaker, another announcement that has been made, and I thank the Minister of Community Services for it, is that the Deep Creek dump, which has had issues for so many years because of the problems of burning and polluting the community, at the request of me and the local advisory council and area residents, will be changed to a transfer station. This will hopefully address the problems that we have faced in the past.
There is also money in this year's budget for Alaska Highway pavement improvements, which, of course, are of significant interest to me and something that I receive a considerable number of constituent comments about, as so many of my constituents do drive into Whitehorse for work. Those who don't must travel into Whitehorse to get supplies.
Another item of importance, again, is the investment in cellular infrastructure. It was a significant impact to my constituents when, some years ago, the NMI Mobility cell tower was removed. We are moving forward as part of the mobile communications system project to enhance cell service ultimately in 17 communities, and we look forward to an improvement in service, not only in this area but throughout the Yukon. Hopefully this will provide assistance as well to tourists and to mining companies and to others for economic purposes. The ability to have increased communication is, of course, of great importance in our modern age.
Also, there was planning done last year for the Hot Springs Road - engineering done - to look at widening it and creating a multi-use or sports lane along the road. I look forward to an announcement in the near future from Highways and Public Works on when the public planning process that has been committed to will take place. We look forward to moving forward with that and to giving Yukoners and cyclists and other users the ability to travel along that road in greater comfort and safety.
Mr. Speaker, there are two other areas that I would like to highlight. One is the construction of lots - the residential lots development along the Hot Springs Road. That, of course, has been announced as carrying forward, and 20 lots are expected to be on the market this fall. This development became an issue last year. As you are aware, I went to work with constituents who expressed concerns and indeed invited them to contact me if they did have concerns. Significant modifications were made to the project, and we have come up with an option that residents in the area can accept. It's certainly something we all have - misgivings - when there is development in our backyard, but I appreciate the recognition by residents - and my constituents in that area - of the need to do that and their fair and reasonable discussion of the issue and proposal of reasonable modifications that we could make - and indeed did make - with that project.
The government has announced, through the Department of Community Services, that we are looking at development north of Grizzly Valley. That is out for public consultation right now, and I hope that we can proceed in a similar fashion in this case and ensure that it is done in a way that does not have any significant adverse impact on the residents in the area. It is of great concern to me to ensure that my constituents do not have their lives adversely impacted. We do need to address, of course, the tremendous shortage of residential lots and the desire for rural residential land. That is one of the most common issues that I hear from constituents - the desire to be able to purchase agricultural or residential land.
We are moving forward with the planning. It is always a catch-22 situation, but I've found in the past and hope to find in the future that when people in government work together and communicate that we can address the issues and come up with an end product, an end result, that is acceptable to all involved.
We are continuing, of course, this year, the government's commitment to the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter, the core funding of $75,000, which was an area that was identified to me by constituents involved with the Humane Society and our government stepped forward to address.
I could continue on for a significant amount of time, but I look forward to having greater discussion within my department on issues within the general debate in Committee of the Whole. At this point, I would like to commend this budget to the House. I would like to note that the investment that has increased under our government's watch - the stimulus in the economy is very clear to see. It's very evident today - unemployment having reached historic lows, the population having increased by approximately 2,000 people, mining exploration having gone up from a low of $5 million under the previous government to $50 million last year, and with expectations and predictions that it will range as high as $100 million this year. The work that is going into the rail feasibility study is certainly a very important step forward. The fact that our partnership with Alaska has resulted in them paying $1.5 million of the $1.7 million booked in this year's budget is another example of how we can work together in collaboration and is a recognition of the fact that railways, for all the criticism that could be levied against them, have been, in the past, nation builders and they are the cheapest way of shipping product to market. We have significant resources, including and especially mineral resources, whose access to market can be significantly improved through the creation of a rail corridor.
I am confident that this will be a long-term piece of infrastructure that, if it proceeds to fruition, will enable the Yukon to grow, to become stronger and to live within our means and more dependent on our resources.
At this time, I will commend this budget to the House and encourage all members to support it. I look forward to hearing the comments from members on both sides of the floor.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it is, as we often say when we stand in the House, an honour to represent our constituents and, in my case, to represent the people of Porter Creek South. It has been truly a privilege to have been afforded an opportunity to speak on behalf of these residents for almost a decade now. I thank them for their trust and appreciate their confidence in me.
It was interesting to note in the budget that one of the issues on the minds and in the conversations with residents of Porter Creek has been the issue of the Porter Creek Secondary School and the additions and renovations that were required for that school. The budget, as tabled by the Finance Minister last week, I was pleased to see, contains $1.4 million for the Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria expansion and renovations. One of the members opposite has pointed out that we only have to walk by Porter Creek Secondary School and we'll see the progress that is being made on that particular project. I do that quite frequently and have been witness to the progress. Many residents of my riding appreciate that.
It should be noted that the reason it's required is an error on the part of the Yukon Party government in the first place. I would be remiss if I didn't point that out, but it was a grade reorganization and a cafeteria that was too small, and the industrial arts wing has needed to deal with the fact that it's too small, as well.
The original Yukon Party idea was that, for these other areas, students would just simply go to the college for their classes, when in fact now, many years later, it has clearly been recognized that renovations were required to that particular school and they have been funded.
Another issue that is often spoken of by members of my riding - and some constituents have been particularly involved in it - is electoral reform. Many of my residents have been significantly involved in that particular initiative, and it's a discussion that crosses party lines.
I note that, in spite of the commitments we've heard from the members opposite on that particular issue, there's no money allocated. There's no talk of it, there's no real mention of discussion with Yukoners on that particular issue, which is of concern to many of them. It seems to have dropped off the radar screen of the Yukon Party.
The members opposite love to criticize the previous government, and I would contrast that dropping off the radar screen of the important discussion of electoral reform with the political land mine - if I might use that word - of electoral boundary reform that was handed from the NDP government to the Liberals and was dealt with. It was not an easy issue; however, we did have the courage as a government to tackle the tough issues. We didn't simply have a report tabled and leave the discussion for the next government to deal with; we dealt with it. I note the Yukon Party government has employed quite the opposite tack in that other electoral issue of electoral reform.
There is some money in the budget for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and what a sorry mess the Yukon Party has made of that particular issue - the way they have handled that file. This government has spent in excess of $3 million on correctional reform and for band-aids to a building that was well beyond repair, and what have they accomplished? They have ended up exactly where they were in November of 2002 after the election. They had a set of plans. Dirt had been turned, money had been budgeted, and they cancelled it. They ignored the consultation work with the Council of Yukon First Nation elders. There had been significant consultation work. They ignored it; they threw it out. What do we have now? They have spent in excess of $3 million. They budgeted $1 million, and we'll discover more in the line-by-line debate. The cost of that facility - which is going to be in the same location - has now gone from the $17 million in the last budget discussions in the House to - according to the minister - $40 million. To say they accomplished nothing would be not quite the whole picture, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What they accomplished has been an increase in excess of $15 million in costs for the facility.
W hat is the price that has been paid on the health of inmates, of the professionals who work there and of the mental health and the cost to the loved ones of those who are incarcerated? That decision by the Yukon Party - it's not quite right to call it an error in judgement, and it's not right to say it's flat out wrong. It was poor decision making on the part of the government. It didn't accomplish anything. The Premier is fond of asking Yukoners if they are better off now, after almost four years of Yukon Party government. Well, the resounding answer from those incarcerated, the resounding answer from those who work at the jail, the resounding answer from Yukoners who have seen the costs of a much-needed correctional facility go from $20 million to $40 million is a resounding no. They certainly are not.
Another issue that is noticeably not dealt with in the budget, which has very real implications for my riding and is of deep concern to everyone in my riding, is this issue of land and land development.
Now, it is very, very interesting to go back and look at some of the budget discussions and budget replies that have taken place in this House over my time here. I would just like to remind the Premier and Finance minister of his response to the last budget speech I delivered.
He said this, ironically, on April 11, 2002 - a few short years ago, “The members opposite have not done any work in the hard policy area. They have not accomplished anything when it comes to land use conflict issues.”
My, my, my, Mr. Deputy Speaker, can the Premier say his government accomplished anything with regard to land use policy and land use conflict? If anything, they made it worse. How many times worse? As we heard today in Question Period, a minister has dealt with land and land issues - I should back up. The minister and the Yukon Party government had an incredible opportunity - devolution and the transfer of land and the responsibility for land - to move forward. What have they done? Well, so far they have managed to pit First Nation governments against the Yukon government and citizen against citizen. They have citizens at odds with city council and citizens at odds with ministers regarding what commitments have been made and not been made. And the now Finance minister had the audacity to stand on his feet and say our government accomplished nothing? We accomplished the transfer of the authority - gave them a golden opportunity to deal with these land use conflict issues. What have they accomplished? They have made it worse. They have made it absolutely worse. The now Premier said that we had not done anything in forestry. Well, what has his government done? I don't see forestry legislation yet. And he also said - and he wasn't ruled out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker - “They haven't done tweet in oil and gas.” He wasn't ruled out of order and I am quoting - so I will appreciate your latitude in that remark.
He didn't preface the “tweet” with “sweet”; he just said “tweet”.
He also said we have the lowest bids on land sales in this country. Well, at least we had one. What has the current minister managed to accomplish?
The correlation between the land issue, the forestry issues and the budget is this idea that somehow the Yukon Party has made government and made the Yukon better. How? They have not. They haven't accomplished anything in forestry, they haven't resolved land use conflicts, and they haven't moved our oil and gas industry forward.
These are broad Yukon issues. The heart of the budget responses is also about the finances of the territory. It's interesting, because I listened to the Premier's lengthy speech - and we're often fond in this House of saying our children are our greatest educators, and when I was asked what I had done at work that day and I explained that I had listened to the Finance minister give a two-hour-and-22-minute speech, one of my children advised me that, “You know, he would have failed my speech contest, because we're only allowed two minutes and we have to stick to one subject.”
The Premier can take that as a piece of advice - well meaning and well intentioned. I certainly believe in the old adage, “Least said, soonest mended.” Perhaps if the Premier ever has an opportunity to deliver another budget speech, the Finance minister might take those words of advice.
In terms of “least said, soonest mended,” I also have to advise the Premier that the time for the blame game is long, long, long over with. Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party seemed to ascribe to the belief that, if you say something often enough, well, then, it must be so. The fact is that I have yet again to remind the Premier that the last financial statement I signed off on, as audited by the Auditor General, indicated that there was $68 million in net financial resources - close to $70 million.
The net financial resources he is indicating is signing off on, as Finance Minister, are suggesting that there is far less in net financial resources. The leader of the Liberal Party pointed out that, in fact, the net financial resources has gone down or will have gone down under this party's watch quite significantly - down to $15 million - and that is in spite of record increases in the amount of money we get from the federal government: $200 million more a year than we did just five years ago - $200 million more.
The blame game and criticism of previous governments is long over, and it's time to talk about what the government has done.
To just go back to this idea - and given that this is the last budget the Yukon Party will deliver in this session of the Legislature and, perhaps, in the future - what does it say about their term? Have they left their campsite cleaner? Have they left the Yukon a better place? There's no question they have spent a great deal of money - a lot of money has been spent. What do Yukoners have to show for it? The Premier loves to ask and try out the campaign slogan, “Well, Yukoners have to ask themselves, are they better off today than they were four years ago?”
Again, we look at our children. Are our children any better off? Do the children and grandchildren of members opposite and members on this side have any greater sense of opportunity in the Yukon than they did four years ago? I think not.
Is there one new industry? No. Has there been significant development of existing industries? A long-permitted mine is anticipated to be opening. The Yukon Party can't take credit for that.
Has the forestry industry finally been developed under the watch of our former forestry commissioner? No.
What about those of our young people who aspire to a future hope of employment with the Yukon's public sector, as teachers, for example, in our public education system? Our public education system hasn't fared very well under this particular budget, and when the Yukon Party had an opportunity to do something innovative and employ a teacher supply tax credit - it wasn't a significant cost, although there's the financial resources to deal with it, if it was -and when they had the opportunity to recognize the contribution of Yukon's teachers, did they do it? They could have done it in this budget. No, they did not.
Have we seen a better relationship under the Yukon Party between the Yukon government and its Yukon government employees? No, we have not. We have seen a relationship that can be described as fractious, at best, and it is not often considered by members opposite, given the way they treat the advice they're given, as a strong working relationship that all sides can be proud of and to which our children could aspire.
Has there been any innovation in our tourism industry - one new program? Has there been a new, innovative program, like “stay another day,” under the Yukon Party? No, Mr. Speaker, there has not. Our film industry has grown. Certainly, this morning's discussion about a commercial shoot in the Yukon is very welcome news. I would caution the Yukon Party, as they love to take credit for everything else, to give that credit where credit is due to the film commission.
There is also the question, of course, in dealing with the budget and financial resources - I have responded to the criticisms levelled by the current Finance minister - there is also the question Yukoners have to ask themselves about this budget and about the Yukon Party in the coming months. Do they consider them good financial managers? Well, let's talk about the athletes village, shall we? How did that project go from $3 million to $33 million? That happened under the Yukon Party watch.
While it would be reassuring to the public and a good idea that was suggested to the members opposite - it came from this side of the House. It is very simple: end the naysaying and the criticism of the way they have handled this project by simply stating, “We recognize that there have been problems and we are prepared to put the Auditor General on notice now that we would like her good offices to be here as soon as that project is finished and have a look at that from top to bottom.” No, this government's response to criticism and to questions in the Legislature is to issue yet more sole-source contracts.
I'd like to speak with regard to the budget in terms of the overall issue of accountability in this government. Mr. Speaker, fundamentally it matters not what any member of this House says or how many times we talk about different issues. It's the public's money. It's not the Yukon Party's money to spend; it's not the Liberal Party's money; it's not the NDP's money. It's the public's money, and we have to account to the public for how it is spent.
On the fundamental issue of accountability, I note the members opposite and their close ties to the current federal government - and the words “Liberal” and “federal” seemed interchangeable there, Mr. Speaker. The members opposite have close ties to the Conservative government. The Conservative government's first issue was to bring in accountability. What was the first action by the members opposite? Repeal the Government Accountability Act; repeal the Government Accountability Act.
It's very, very interesting. I would like to quote again from the current Finance minister, the Member for Watson Lake, on April 11, 2002. He said, “Now, the Premier” - and he was referencing me, Mr. Speaker - “had every opportunity, when it comes to accountability to this Assembly and to the Yukon public, to bring the Assembly in earlier this spring, bring forward interim supply bills and conduct the public's business in an appropriate manner. Instead, the Premier chose, in a very secretive, very unaccountable approach, to simply go to the Commissioner and get a special warrant.”
My, my, my. The Member for Watson Lake went on to refer to this - and Mr. Speaker, I am quoting, at the risk of being ruled unparliamentarily - and said, “As far as the budget that they, through a very, very, very shady manner - passed in this territory with special warrants - in a manner that is not conducive to the intent of the Assembly. $280 million was spent. The whole purpose of this Assembly is to provide that spending authority through debate and through a vote. That didn't happen.” That was the Member for Watson Lake speaking - the now Finance minister - who had the audacity to do what? Wait till March 30 to call the Assembly back, and pass most of the budget in a special warrant. Not once, Mr. Speaker - not once. He has done that consistently.
It is amazing how he can stand on the floor of the House and criticize everybody else for it, but he can do it. His answer when asked about it in the media? Well, it's the most efficient way to do it. What about accountability to the public? But three short years ago he was demanding - pardon me - four short years ago. Four long years - I am advised by my colleagues. The fact is that there hasn't been accountability on the part of the members opposite. They have repealed the accountability act. They have made excessive use of special warrants. They don't practice what they have demanded in this Legislature in the past. Accountability is doing what you say you will do.
On a positive note - doing what you say you'll do - I did ask the current Yukon Party government to increase the kids recreation fund, and they did. I'm glad to see that kind of money enclosed in this budget. So, on a positive note, I commend them for that. I appreciate them taking that suggestion and yes, it came from just one corner of the House. I do appreciate that they have also acted upon the suggestion brought forward with regard to the funding for those students engaged in medical fields.
However, I would caution the Health and Social Services minister, in light of the comments by the president of the Yukon Medical Association, to ensure that there is consultation and discussion. I note also from Hansard, in reference to the discussion of consultation, that government was being criticized at that point for consultation. The quote was, “This type of phoney consultation does not build trust in government. In fact, it does quite the opposite. It has to be consultation where we listen to what the parties' suggestions are, work together, build consensus and move forward.” So it is a good idea. We need to work to a greater degree with the Yukon Medical Association to go even further and make sure it happens that it is all areas of the medical field and that we listen to what the YMA has to say about that particular initiative.
The overall points in terms of the budget - there are a few things I have given the government compliments on in terms of what is in the budget. I was discussing accountability. Before I leave that area, Mr. Speaker, I would just remind the members - in my very first response to the Finance minister's initial budget - that at the time the government spent, as an example, $200,000 of taxpayers' money on achieving an abeyance agreement, the Finance minister wouldn't say - it was a sole-source contract, not unheard of under the Yukon Party - how long the supposed abeyance agreement would last and did not account for the $200,000 that was spent.
He never has accounted for that $200,000. He went on and on and on in that particular budget speech about the trajectory. In my response, I noted that the trajectory of ethics and leadership would, I hoped, stop its downward spiral and begin an upward spiral with some answers to some very hard questions.
That trajectory never did go up, not under the Yukon Party. Answers to some hard questions and accountability to the public might have stopped the downward spiral, in the public's view of the government, of the Yukon Party; however, we didn't get those answers. We haven't had those answers over the four-year life of this government. We haven't had those answers to tough questions. We haven't had answers to questions of accountability for their actions. We haven't had answers to questions of accountability for the money they have spent. There is no question that there has been a great deal of money spent - a lot of money spent. In fact, if there was a theme to this budget, it would be spending other people's money by a government and by a party that itself is spent.
Yukoners will be the judge in the coming months and Yukoners will assess for themselves how the government has spent this money over the years. I look forward to the coming month of debate of the budget, which will reveal to the public that there is no innovation, there is no moving forward, there is not a lot of hope that the government will see its way clear to tackling the hard policy work or accounting not only for all the money they've spent but for all of their actions.
What we've seen so far has been the blame game and rhetoric, hype, slogans. Yukoners would rather see their money at work. It is their money.
There are some good things in the budget. There is some money that has been spent in areas that have been asked for. However, it's not enough to just spend the money and to finally allocate funding to things like the Porter Creek high school. It's about more than that. It's about the hard policy work. It's about the innovation in programming. It's about working well with the public service and working well with the teachers. It's about creating hope for young Yukoners. This budget doesn't do that. For that reason, Mr. Speaker, I am sure it will come as no surprise to members opposite that I won't be supporting it.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That was quite a session that just went on there. I don't know if it was a response to the budget or if it was just 40 minutes of political bashing of the work of this government. However, I believe I will try my best not to discredit the member for some of the comments that were made. There are a few that I would like to start out by addressing.
One of the comments made by the Member for Porter Creek South was that there was a lot of error in judgement. I would like to start out with that, reminding the Member for Porter Creek South that one of the biggest errors in judgement that happened since I've been involved with politics was when that government and that Premier called an election halfway through a mandate, blaming this government for not continuing with the correctional facility. Now, had that error in judgement not been made, that government would have had two years to continue building the facility - “the Ritz Hotel”, as it was referred to by some people in the public, was one of the phrases I heard to describe the facility.
I'd like to address the consultation process a little bit also. From what I understand to date on the consultation, it basically never happened. There were a few questions asked around and that was considered consultation.
The staff who have taken on this initiative on the consultation process have repeatedly stated to me, as a minister, that this consultation process was far superior to the one that was done previously. Half the recommendations that were given to this consultation group were never mentioned in previous consultations.
I want to just touch on that consultation process, because I think it's very important that that consultation did take place. The corrections consultation was a 15-month, Yukon-wide public consultation, co-chaired by the Yukon government and the Council of Yukon First Nations. Approximately 160 meetings were held throughout the Yukon during the consultation.
Yukoners were asked for their views on how to improve correctional programs and services in communities and in a correctional centre and the challenges and opportunities for delivering programs and services. The information gathered during the consultation will be used to develop a corrections action plan to guide program and service delivery.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that, through the consultation process, it was not a surprise that the recommendations said the correctional facility needs not to be developed as a warehouse.
In fact, one of the court judges in the Yukon made the statement that if you build a 160-bed facility, you will do your best to fill it. I believe that statement to be very accurate. I also believe quite strongly that things have to change, not only in the Yukon but right across Canada, with regard to the revolving-door syndrome that we have in correctional facilities. I will just speak specifically to the Yukon, because that is the jurisdiction we are dealing with right now.
The revolving-door syndrome has been going on for as long as that correctional facility has been in existence. At least this government has the interest to do something different and try to address that issue to the point where there will be consultations with other governments to get ideas and recommendations and to determine how best to change how the justice system works in the Yukon today.
One of the initiatives that this government is going to be embarking upon in the very near future, for example, is the problem-solving courts. That's new to the Yukon, and I believe it has been a long time coming. The problem-solving court will deal with offenders a little bit differently. They will have options for taking treatment or being incarcerated. People with potential FASD will be dealt with differently through the court system.
Those with mental health issues will be dealt with differently through the court system. I want to stress that mental health issues could probably cover quite a drastic range. Those who suffered severe abuses in the mission schools, for example, do have issues of mental health with the way they were treated as children and how that affected them throughout their lives. There could be severe mental health issues where sometimes a person is really not 100-percent accountable for something that they may have done. So all those issues come into play. Alcohol and drug addicts, for example - an option to get treatment versus going to jail is something that would possibly work. All these issues were raised in the consultation process on how citizens in this territory viewed changing the justice system so that the government is not just going to build another facility that's going to be used as a warehouse. So there was a lot of merit to embarking upon that consultation process. At the end of the day, maybe the government is going to have a process to deal with justice that's going to be Yukon-made, per se. I believe that other jurisdictions across Canada will be looking at the model that's being proposed in the Yukon, because it is going to be different.
I also would like to just sort of touch on some of the things that are happening within the Education and Justice portfolios. All we need to do today is look around and we will see the marked improvements since our government took office. Yukoners are moving back and more are working. We have the lowest unemployment rate in history.
In the areas of justice and education, I am pleased to talk about the many new initiatives that we are continuing to build on, as well as the new items that we have added to this budget. For example, this government realized the under-representation of First Nations and other citizens in this territory in employment within the justice program. Therefore, the Yukon government is conducting a feasibility study to determine whether there could be a northern institute of justice in the Yukon. The government is trying to address across the north a chronic shortage of qualified workers. A northern research institute of justice would help train new and existing staff so that the highly trained staff could provide quality programming across the north for the justice system. We will be working with our northern neighbours and our departmental partners, Education and Health and Social Services, to complete this study. This program has a total budget of $218,000 for the current and next fiscal year, which includes federal, territorial and departmental contributions.
We also realize, when there's domestic violence, quite often there are children involved in these situations. The Department of Justice has received five years of funding from Justice Canada to establish a program that will provide counselling for children who witness domestic violence. We recognize that children who witness domestic violence are affected by what they observe and need help. This project has been planned and will operate in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Services.
The kickoff for this project was a three-day information session for front-line workers who work with children who have witnessed domestic violence. We were able to bring representatives from the London Family Court in London, Ontario, and representatives from the Zebra Child Protection Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, to the Yukon to share their experiences of working in this area.
At the onset, the project will focus on children whose parents are involved in Domestic Violence Treatment Court.
When we talk about the Correctional Centre - I know the Member for Porter Creek South made a lot of reference to the correctional facility - we are spending $1 million to begin design and engineering work on a new correctional centre to replace the ageing Whitehorse Correctional Centre. $1 million has been allocated in the spring 2006-07 budget and is subject to legislative approval.
The consultation on corrections will report its findings in April of 2006. The correctional consultation action plan is expected to guide the design and engineering of the new Correctional Centre, as well as set out the priorities for corrections for Yukon for generations to come.
When we took office, we were not comfortable with simply replacing the Correctional Centre and maintaining the status quo on corrections. Instead, we wanted a made-in-Yukon solution to stop the revolving-door syndrome, which I referred to earlier. The Whitehorse Correctional Centre was originally commissioned in 1967 and has undergone many updates and renovations to keep it operating. Again, I want to remind the House and the citizens of the Yukon Territory that we do have schools that are older than this facility. That's not to say that it shouldn't be replaced, because it has to be.
The most recent renovations were completed to upgrade the medical dorm to better handle the inmates with mental health problems and to address safety concerns. The design and engineering team will draw on the important contributions that First Nation elders made in preparing plans for the new building. The planning process will also provide an estimate of cost for the new facility and develop a timeline for completion of the project.
Another very important aspect that this government is bringing forth is the substance abuse action plan and that substance abuse action plan developed from all parties having interest in trying to address the drug issues in the territory. Very soon we will be bringing in the safer communities legislation. This legislation will provide the Government of Yukon with a new civil method to deal with certain illegal activities that create an unsafe environment in Yukon communities.
The public has been asking the government for more tools to respond to the problem of unsafe activities in their neighbourhoods, and I am pleased to be able to say to them that we have moved significantly forward in our goal of safer communities in the Yukon.
The development of safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation was identified as an action item in the 2005 draft Yukon substance abuse action plan. The legislation also responds to the motion passed unanimously by the Yukon Legislative Assembly in November of 2005 calling for the establishment of this legislation.
In a short period of time, we have done a full consultation with Yukoners, including members of the public, First Nations, community associations, municipal governments and other partners. The proposed act was very well-received at these consultations, and I want to thank all the staff within the Justice department who worked so diligently and hard to get this legislation prepared for this sitting. It was an awful lot of work and a lot of demands were thrust upon them, and they met the challenge. For that, I sincerely thank them. The legislation will come into action when a confidential complaint is received from the community concerning a property that is being used for certain illegal activities. Following an investigation, the government will have a number of options to consider. These options range from the landlord working cooperatively with the investigator to stop the illegal activity, to applying to the Supreme Court for a community safety order. These activities include producing, selling or using illegal drugs, prostitution, solvent abuse and/or the unlawful sale and consumption of alcohol. The successful implementation and administration of this legislation is dependent upon inter-agency collaboration. If necessary, evictions will be carried out, but they will be done in the context of all the social services available to Yukon residents.
The government will work with partner agencies to consider the needs of women and children affected by the eviction and to coordinate appropriate services. This legislation is not meant to address the root problems of drug use. This legislation is only one piece of a larger puzzle for dealing with drug issues. This legislation specifically targets the activities on property and not individuals. The RCMP will continue to deal with individuals through their enforcement activities.
Safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation helps fulfill one of the government's platform commitments - to protect the family and create safer communities. Yukoners will experience safer, more peaceful and less disruptive neighbourhoods.
When we go on into some of the issues of education, Mr. Speaker, we continue to build on a healthy economy for Yukoners.
Our government restored the community training trust funds to $1.5 million in the 2003-04 budget. $500,000 of this money was dedicated to pre-employment and trades training in the 2004-05 budget, and an additional $500,000 was approved in the supplementary budget. $1.5 million was allocated in 2005-06 as part of this government's commitment to maintaining community training funds. In 2006-07, the funding will remain at $1.5 million.
An awareness campaign targeting students, teachers and parents will continue to promote trades as a desirable career option. Nationally, there is a desire to look at the shortage of tradespeople and all the provinces and territories are currently working on ways to tackle this issue.
I believe that some of the figures that came out of Alberta indicated a shortage of 30,000 tradespeople in all trades across the board. Having said that, Alberta is only one province. I've already heard comments that one of the barriers to building this proposed pipeline from Alaska through Canada is going to be just that: a shortage of tradespeople.
We also are aware that education covers all spectrums of society and, with that in mind, this government took upon putting more programming into the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The inmates have been offered courses in transportation of dangerous goods, prospecting, and computer fundamentals, welding, small engine repairs, first aid. There are numerous programs that were started and maintained at the correctional facility and we will continue to offer courses at Whitehorse Correctional Centre for 2006-07.
I might add that on my visits to some of the classes that were taking place, I had several positive comments from some of the young inmates there, to the effect that they were very pleased that there were now courses being offered in the correctional facility again. Some of the courses were so well attended that they had to be run twice because there were too many who wanted to take certain courses.
We also realize that the youth are an important part of society, so we have the youth employment strategy and $200,000 budgeted for that program.
We have investments in the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture. Again, I want to commend the people in Dawson City for being able to come together, work together as a team, and continue to promote this visual art. It was through their persistence that this became a reality.
$500,000 was given to renovate the old liquor store in Dawson. The Dawson City Arts Society has partnered with Yukon College and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation to work toward the creation of a one-year university level visual arts program.
A Management Board submission has moved forward in the spring of 2006 to address funding for a foundation year for the Yukon College school of visual arts. In 2005-06, we have an agreement to pay $376,000 in capital and $167,000 in operation and maintenance for start-up costs for the school of visual arts in Dawson. The Premier and I recently attended the press conference in Dawson a few weeks ago. This is a very exciting initiative for the people of Dawson and Yukoners. We continue to see the benefits of education community needs assessments, where we injected $1 million for schools to spend on immediate short-term needs, as identified by school councils, First Nations and communities.
Mr. Speaker, it has been brought to my attention on several occasions from different communities across the Yukon how important that was to the different community schools and the schools in Whitehorse.
There were such things as statements made to me like, “We have tried for as many as five to six years to get curtains for a stage in one of the schools in the community, with no success.” They were able to do that with this. We also heard of industrial arts classes where they had no tools to work on the mechanic trades. With this money, they were able to purchase those tools they need. So this $1 million the government put to the schools for their immediate needs is still being commented on today, so it was a very good investment and well worth the efforts of this government to helping those schools' immediate needs.
The Member for Porter Creek South made some comments about how this government doesn't support the public service. I need to put on the record that, under this government, there was no job action by the educators, as there was during the previous Liberal government. So to make comments that this government doesn't work with staff is unfounded. I believe this government has met the demands of the Public Service Commission, and because of that there was a three-year agreement successfully negotiated with the educators. There was a successful agreement with government staff for four years. Those are examples of how the government has supported the staff wholeheartedly.
Again, I think it's in order to say that this government appreciates all the work done by the staff throughout government.
This government has enhanced the teacher professional development program. $362,000 was spent ensuring our teachers are up to date with their education and professional development. So, we do support the educators when it comes to any type of professional development.
This government has also expanded the apprenticeship programs. Three new apprenticeship categories were created and implemented: heavy equipment technician, off-road motor transportation technicians and truck trailer technicians.
A piping trade program was offered at Yukon College for the winter-spring session of 2004-05. This supported efforts to train Yukoners for oil and gas jobs by offering entry level petroleum industrial training services certified courses at Yukon College. $35,000 is available to promote trades to students, parents and teachers as a desirable career option. The number of registered apprentices has increased 28 percent since February of 2005. This program continues in 2006-07.
I might also add that Yukon College is implementing a new program for women exploring trades. So, the government again demonstrates quite clearly that they do support the post secondary programs. They promote and strongly support all those who wish to move forward in a trade.
We've also expanded alternative education. $200,000 for youth employment programs was provided. There is $50,000 for high school students to access college programs. The Individual Learning Centre opened in February 2005 to encourage high school dropouts to return to school and successfully complete post-secondary entrance requirements. The success of the program ensures that it will continue in years to come. We have almost 100 students registered in this school. The school was originally developed to work with 45 students, and we're now at 100. Mr. Speaker, these students were all young people and young adults who would basically not have the opportunity to complete their schooling.
This government has also demonstrated good support to First Nations in the schools. $30,000 was allocated to the elders in the schools program; $375,000 was identified for the homework tutor program to support students in Yukon schools. $40,000 was provided for stay-in-school initiatives. All these initiatives will continue in the 2006-07 budget. Again, I would like to just touch on the home tutor program for one minute, because it's very important that people understand what the home tutor program is about. This home tutor program basically allows a tutor to go into the home. But this was left for the school councils and the First Nations to decide how they were going to develop that tutoring program. To date, I believe we have it working in all communities.
It originally started with Old Crow and expanded from there because of the success.
The government also has the five-step FASD action plan. $132,000 has been identified for FASD training and support for teachers. Implementation is currently underway. Tantalus School in Carmacks, Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing and Johnson Elementary School in Watson Lake will be the next schools to be trained.
At Yukon College, this training program will assist FASD-affected students to successfully complete academic or vocational programming, enabling them to make successful transitions into the labour market in their communities.
This government has also improved access to the Yukon native teacher education program. The YNTEP opened to non-First Nation students in September of 2004. Six seats have been made available and have been filled. Programs continued in 2006-07. This year, there are 35 full-time students, and of these full-time students, 25 are First Nation.
The government also increased the Yukon College base funding. Base funding for Yukon College was increased by $1 million. This was done in 2004-05 and the increase was to the base. In addition, our government is currently working on a contribution agreement to secure the pension plan. This initiative will be announced very shortly. The government has also indexed the Yukon student grant. The Yukon student grant was indexed to the annual consumer price index.
Initiated resources exploration training courses again provided people in Dawson City, Haines Junction, Ross River, and Whitehorse with skills to work in the resource exploration fields.
The government has also worked on the Yukon excellence awards. This program was expanded to include math, science and language arts in grade 10, beginning in September of 2004.
The government is still working on the replacement of the Tantalus School in Carmacks. $375,000 for the design and planning of the new school was identified. A $9,348,000 contract was awarded to the lowest bidder, Dowland Contracting Ltd. of Inuvik. The total cost is estimated to be $11.4 million, and we are on time with an estimated completion date of December 31, 2006. Again, Mr. Speaker, there were some comments as to the reasons for the rise in cost of this school. I think it is no secret that the cost of materials has skyrocketed, the cost of fuel has skyrocketed, and those are contributing factors as to why this building is at the cost it is today.
This government also started full-day kindergarten. Optional, full-day kindergarten had been implemented in all Whitehorse schools, and that process began in September 2005.
Literacy strategy funds of $100,000 have been allocated to update the Yukon literacy strategy.
$305,000 has been allocated to enhance cultural programming in schools. These funds continue in 2006-07.
The Department of Education is pleased to be part of the Canada Games. Some of the schools will be used during the games, and we have to do some upgrading to accommodate that. One of those is $360,000 for the F.H. Collins lower bench upgrade. This is in partnership with the Canada Winter Games Host Society to put in a speed skating oval at F.H. Collins lower bench. The Canada Winter Games are providing a contribution of $105,000 to this project. This is a new project for 2006-07.
The Vanier school roof repairs and modifications of $300,000 were to repair the roof and prevent the buildup of water that flooded the gym and repairs to modify the roof over the industrial area shop. The design was done last year and repairs are to take place in 2006-07.
In aboriginal languages, four aboriginal language instructor trainees were hired in 2004-05. $72,000 was identified to hire two more instructors for 2005-06 with First Nations piloting the First Voices program to support the Han language at Robert Service School in Dawson City, the Southern Tutchone language at Elijah Smith School and the Tagish language in Carcross. A Gwitchin language program was established at F.H. Collins and a Southern Tutchone language program was established at Kluane Lake School.
$352,000 was allocated to the Council of Yukon First Nations for the Yukon Native Language Centre.
I will close off by saying that the education reform process is now underway. $794,000 was identified in the budget and we'll continue in 2006-07. We have put together a team structured similar to the corrections consultation team, and they have their office set up at the Elijah Smith Building. I would encourage all to visit their office and voice ideas and concerns.
With that, I will say that I do support this budget. I have a lot more to add but I will close it off there.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to respond to this budget, the last Yukon Party budget of their mandate. I must say at the outset that there are a lot of very good initiatives contained in this budget. Where I do have some serious reservations and problems are with the Klondike and the community of Dawson. There is one extremely important initiative that the Minister of Education and the Premier announced recently, and that is the collaborative effort between Yukon College, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and Dawson City Arts Society to open a new facility of learning. The problem I have is that I don't see where this is contained anywhere within this budget. It may be buried somewhere, but I have not been able to determine where those funds are for this initiative.
But let's move on. Apart from that initiative, there is $2.5 million that the Department of Community Services is seeking in the 2006-07 budget for the Dawson City sewage treatment project. That's the only other money identified in this budget for the community, other than the dollars that normally flow into a community through the various departments. Dawson and the Klondike - Dawson being the second largest community in the Yukon. It looks like it's coming more and more home to roost that some in this government are out to teach Dawson a lesson.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, today, April 4, is a second anniversary of the appointment of a trustee over the City of Dawson, and what did the government say? They were waiting for audited financial statements, a financial plan.
Well, the financial statements are in, and all they show is that the expenditures and income taken in over the last 2005 fiscal year by the city have been treated in the normal accounting manner. But if you look at the auditor's report to the trustees and ratepayers of the Town of the City of Dawson, this audit is also very well qualified and the opening balances cannot be confirmed. The auditor's report goes on and says: “In our auditor's report dated July 15, 2005 on the financial statements at December 31, 2004 and for the year there ending, we were unable to express an opinion whether the financial statements were presented fairly in accordance with Canadian generally accepted accounting principles. As a result, we were unable to determine whether adjustments were required for the opening balances at January 1, 2005 for assets, liabilities, non-financial assets, equity and non-financial assets, funds and reserves.”
When one looks at reserves, I don't know how you can have reserves amounting to what the city has set out that have no cash value. It's like you or me taking our bank statement and writing in, “We have reserves of $163,000.” There is no cash there to back it up. There are no reserves and yet these reserves are stated as an asset.
When we go on further and look at the asset base of the community, we have a recreation complex that's on the books for $10.5 million. There's no money identified in this budget to fix that rec centre, which had ice in it this past winter for some 50-odd days. I'm given to understand it's going to take about a million dollars just to fix the roof, never mind putting artificial ice in.
What the government has to recognize is that it's more than just fixing the debt load.
Let me share with the House what has to transpire in the community of Dawson. Number one, there has to be closure to the findings of the forensic audit. That has not occurred to date. Yet you pick up yesterday's paper and there's a whole article by a former member of council on the former mayor, clearly indicating he says he has no liability for any of the expenses he incurred while he was mayor. So, closure has to be brought to the forensic audit. People have to see something transpiring.
This forensic audit cost the government half a million dollars. That in itself is a significant sum of money, but to date, other than the appointment of a trustee, Dawson has survived by the trustee liquidating community assets and not undertaking any major initiatives within the community whatsoever, like repairs and upgrades to sewer lines, water lines, arenas. It has basically been to debt-service the city's debt, spend as little as you can on O&M and capital, and move forward.
Now, those instructions to the trustee have to come from somewhere. He didn't just dream them up on his own.
The second component that has to be addressed after closure to the findings of the forensic audit is the debt load that the City of Dawson has currently. It currently stands, according to audited financial statements, at $4.7 million. Its debt load, to be workable, should be down in the order of about $2 million - $1.5 million to $2 million is about all the town can afford to debt service and undertake the basic minimum - save and except repairs to the arena, the rec centre, save and except upgrades to the secondary sewage treatment plant.
That brings us to the next area that's not even mentioned in this financial statement, and that is money for the debt load that Dawson currently has. A number of options have been proposed. The government is going to have to seriously consider a write-off of quite a number of dollars, and, at the same time, address the issue of the arena and secondary sewage treatment.
Earlier today, I tabled a memorandum of agreement between the Government of Yukon and the Town of the City of Dawson on waste-water treatment. Mr. Speaker, there exists a similar type of memorandum of agreement between the Government of Yukon and the City of Dawson on the arena and the project management team that was put in place to oversee its construction.
I'm well aware that agreement indemnifies and saves harmless the project management team, the leader of which was hired on the recommendation of officials in the Government of Yukon and who structured the financial arrangements with Yukon to flow the money to the city to pay for the arena, even after it was known that it was not going to work and the foundation was flawed. The complicity of the Government of Yukon in the failure of that arena is in black and white. That it hasn't surfaced is a credit to the Department of Community Services and the City of Dawson, because it clearly spells out who was to make the decisions. The City of Dawson could never have spent the vast amount of money they spent had the Government of Yukon not flowed that money to them.
Let's give credit where credit is due. That was flowed by the previous Yukon Liberal government and the previous NDP government, but it was the previous Liberal government that bears the political responsibility for the failure of this project. I make that abundantly clear.
Mr. Speaker, the arena and rec complex is the heart and soul of a community. It's where everyone goes and congregates. You could argue that it used to be the bars, but that's not the case. It is the recreational complex.
Dawson City's financial statement shows the arena as being capitalized at $10.5 million. What is not known is that, in addition to that, approximately $2 million was spent on legal fees, so Dawson has $12.5 million worth of arena that you probably wouldn't get 10 cents for.
This is another problem that the Government of Yukon was heavily involved in and helped to create. I make no bones about it, and there is every bit of evidence to clearly show who was involved in this. It appears that after the failures were recognized, the statement has been made: we're going to teach Dawson a lesson. Well, that lesson has been some lesson. It's how a senior level of government should not act. So we deal with a debt load, a write-down of the debt load. We deal with an arena, and we deal with secondary sewage.
The memorandum of understanding clearly states that Yukon shall have sole and unfettered control of the management and administration of the project, including any and all tendering and selection of successful bidders, contractors, proponents, engineering firms and capital financial requirements for the design and construction of the project. This would also extend to all regulatory reporting, approvals and court reporting. It says all of this was put together, that Dawson has passed all motions and/or resolutions necessary for the purposes of this agreement.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there is no evidence whatsoever to that effect contained in any of the minutes that I have read that date back to since the trustee was appointed. This document was filed with the courts, it was signed by the trustee on October 7, and it was signed by the Minister of Community Services on February 14, 2006. This document places a very onerous burden on the city, in that Dawson shall assume, subject to such Yukon program as may from time to time be in effect the full cost of the ongoing operation and maintenance cost of the project upon completion.
Well, that doesn't sound too bad until you look at the estimated cost of operation and maintenance as being in the magnitude of $321,000 per year, and you divide that by the number of service connections. That comes out to between $600 and $700 in additional costs for virtually every household.
Now, if you add that to what we are currently paying for water and sewer in our community, which is in the neighbourhood of $1,800 or $1,900 per year - add another $600 and see what you have. We know how good YTG estimates are.
At the same time, Dawson shall save harmless and indemnify Yukon, its officers, employees, contractors and agents from all claims, liabilities and demands arising under this agreement with such indemnity surviving the expiry or termination of this agreement.
So, Yukon isn't liable or responsible for a damn thing, Mr. Speaker. It's a heck of a good document. It's all written one way, signed by the trustee, under the direction of the minister. It's called the big hammer, the big stick. We're going to teach Dawson a lesson, Mr. Speaker - it's more evident all the time.
It goes on to say that an aerated lagoon waste-water treatment facility is proposed to be added to the existing treatment system. The new facility will be designed to provide an advanced level of secondary waste-water treatment capable of producing a non-toxic secondary effluent that will meet territorial, Yukon Water Board, and federal regulations, i.e. the Fisheries Act.
Let's back up there and think about that, Mr. Speaker. It was the Government of Yukon, through an act of this Legislature, that installed a water and sewer system in Dawson City back in the late 1970s.
It was called the Dawson City Utilities Replacement Act. The waste-water guidelines have not changed one iota since that time. Because they are so loose and wide open - in fact, they are some of the most lenient waste-water guidelines in Canada - the federal Department of Environment and the federal Department of Fisheries superimposes other conditions on the waste-water discharge, just like the Water Board can do. Waste-water regulations have to be changed. They have to be brought in conformity here in the Yukon with - let's adopt B.C.'s, let's adopt Alberta's; they are virtually identical. But given that no one here in the Yukon has the political will to deal with this issue of addressing the waste-water guidelines, we are going to stumble around the senior levels of government - the federal government - with a sewage treatment plant that will have to be built and will cost multi-millions of dollars more than it probably should because somebody made a determination in the government that this is the best way.
For the longest time it was a sequencing batch reactor which, when it was pointed out that you would have to heat the effluent and you would have to truck sludge to Dawson City to make it more concentrated to work, went out the window. So, an aerated lagoon was finally looked at.
This project description goes on to say the minimum design life for the facility will be 20 years, given normal growth patterns. The new facility is proposed to be located in the Callison area and the Klondike River Valley, approximately three and a half kilometres upstream from Dawson. Oh, that's great: put your sewage upstream of your water supply. Hallelujah.
The exact location of the facility remains to be confirmed. The facility will have the capacity to treat all waste water produced from Dawson, outlying rural septic and holding tank waste water. So here we go again. Everybody in the Klondike gets to truck into Dawson City their septic, even though the Government of Yukon went to some $200,000 worth of expense to put a lagoon outside of Dawson to be trucked into, but that's too expensive.
And listen to this, Mr. Speaker: waste water from Dawson will be pumped to the proposed aerated lagoon by sewer force main, and then the treated effluent will return to the existing screening plant by gravity and be discharged through the existing outfall into the Yukon River. That's great. Just think about that for a minute, Mr. Speaker. We're going to have a force main that runs the sewage out to the Klondike Valley, 3.5 kilometres - force main to and gravity feed it back and tie it in. What has been forgotten in the whole equation is that there is a river crossing. It's called the Klondike River. So there is going to have to be a force main in both directions. And given the significantly low temperature of the effluent, it's going to have to be heated. That hasn't even entered into the equation.
Then it is proposed that the effluent will be disinfected by UV, thus eliminating the need to add chlorine to the waste-water stream. UV treatment is a very viable option. Probably on its own it would work, with a very high level of filtration. That hasn't even been examined. Somebody is going to have to go back to the drawing board on this, because the City of Dawson is under a court order to have a secondary sewage treatment in place that works. The logic of what has taken place in all these areas - well, it's just not logic. It's more or less a dog's breakfast.
Mr. Speaker, those are the four areas that have to be addressed by the city: closure to the findings of the financial audit, the debt load of Dawson has to be examined, and money for the arena has to be appropriated to fix it and carry it over for a number of years. What I've suggested to the Premier and to the Minister of Community Services is that the City of Dawson engage in a land swap, whereby the government compound - the old Highways yard in Dawson City - is transferred to the city in exchange for the block of land that is currently used and leased as a campground. It's about the same size parcel of land. So, in the future, should there be the need for another school in Dawson City, the government will have at its disposal an entire block.
Then, over a number of years, money could be appropriated for a new arena. That arena could be constructed on the site of the old government Highways compound. There is good, solid soil there, there are no foundation problems, and it is central in the community. It is the heart and soul of the community, Mr. Speaker. That's the forward-thinking and planning that it's going to take to bring life back into Dawson.
Dawson cannot afford the $200,000 a year it cost to run the arena this last year. It's $100,000 for heat and another significant amount just for electricity. This is ludicrous. If you want to see a design that doesn't pass any of the structural tests, have a look at the structural design of the arena in Dawson City. It is seriously flawed in many, many areas. The contractor appears to be getting the brunt of it and being blamed for what has transpired there, but he built it, under the inspection services of the project manager, to the design that was provided to him.
Mr. Speaker, it's a flawed design. The foundation won't work; the roof structure won't work. Snow-load conditions are minimum. My suggestion is that a land swap be put in place and the government appropriate the necessary money for an arena that will see Dawson back on its feet over a number of years.
Let's examine this secondary sewage treatment. I have spoken with three engineering firms that have mechanical plants. The last engineering firm is just putting one of these significant plants into Fort McMurray. They are built in Alberta; they are built in B.C., and they are in place all over these areas, Mr. Speaker. These individuals come knocking on the door of the government and Community Services, and they are given a polite, “Thank you very much. We have already made up our minds; don't confuse us with the facts.”
No one with any kind of a logical approach to this situation is being given any consideration. There is a mindset that has determined what is to transpire and how it is to transpire.
Mr. Speaker, those are the four areas.
Let's examine a secondary sewage treatment that is going to work and provide a discharge level that meets the environmental standards and at the same time has a low capital cost - or maybe a little bit higher capital cost, but a very low operation and maintenance cost. Bear in mind that it was the previous Liberal government that provided Dawson with hydro energy, and that in itself may or may not have been a good thing. Previously, the city was heating its potable water supply and cooling the generator sets. It has now added over a quarter million dollars a year in fuel costs to the City of Dawson to heat the potable water supply.
It sounds great. Then the Department of Community Services does a comparison between Watson Lake and Dawson and says, “Well, your operation and maintenance costs for the arena are way out of line.” Yes, they are. Watson Lake had the foresight to scavenge the waste heat from the gen-sets and heat their building in that manner, the same as Dawson was previously heating its water supply.
Let's compare apples to apples. Let's look at what Watson Lake did with $5.5 million a few years ago. That is probably one of the best, most beautiful and functional recreational complexes in the Yukon outside of Whitehorse, and it's O&M costs are reasonable. That was a local initiative, very well undertaken by local structural engineers and project managers in the same manner as the multi-level care facility in that community is being undertaken.
Watson Lake will have a bang-up job with their multi-level care facility because of the way the government has determined it should be proceed and, at the same time, you can have a look at their arena and see how great that arena is. That is probably the best arena/recreational complex that exists outside of Whitehorse, as I said earlier.
It's time that this government made practical decisions. Yes, they were failures of a previous administration, but that's no excuse to procrastinate and take as long as we have.
One of the other things that has concerned me greatly is why there is no bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson. We will all recall there was a P3 initiative a few years ago to build a Yukon River bridge at Dawson City. That would go a long way to extending our visitor season in the Yukon and in the Klondike. It would probably initially allow our season to open earlier, because no one will come to Dawson before the middle of May, at the earliest. We're the end of the road until the ferry goes in.
But if you look at what happened - someone made a determination that they didn't want this to go. Of the three proponents, in my opinion one of the best ones was a consortium of Yukon companies led by Epcom. They were eliminated from the whole equation. The justification for that - let me share some of it with you.
Epcom has no financial history, revenue or balance sheet - that's actually correct - no financial commitments provided from lenders, no assurances from SNC-Lavalin that they would offer financial support. I've had an opportunity to read the document submitted on the request for qualifications. It's SNC Capital that was the financing arm. SNC Capital, I believe, is the largest company in Canada of its type and they are not going to make waves for a $30-million or $40-million project in the Yukon when they are putting together the RAV Line in B.C. that is a couple billion dollars. Why would they?
A general lack of experience with respect to Epcom's ability to finance the project - that is pure bunk. This is just an excuse that someone has put forward to eliminate Epcom from the equation. Then it goes on with the technical team. In a letter from Highways and Public Works, signed by the deputy minister, it goes on at great lengths to say that they are weak in river bridge design experience; lacking in big river bridge experience; no experienced partner companies identified to undertake concrete work; key construction member, Ruskin, has no demonstrated structural concrete experience; team members have little experience working together; the key individual structural engineer has no cold climate experience and inadequate river bridge experience; project manager light on bridge project management experience; construction superintendent has experience working on bridges but not on a river as difficult as the Yukon River at Dawson City.
Sounds like darn good excuses when you look at a bridge over the Yukon River in Dawson City. Thirty feet down is granite. The bridge abutments on both sides are very simple. Compare that to the bridge across the Donjek River the government just awarded. Very interesting. The Donjek River bridge is longer, less costly than the tenders that came in for the bridge in Dawson, and more technically challenging than the Yukon River bridge at Dawson, in that it's on a gravel pad and they have to get into soil densifications. That soil densification is going to require a higher degree of skill to put the concrete pillars up than anything.
What is most interesting, Mr. Speaker, the contractor that is working on the project is Ruskin from Prince George, which the Community Services deputy minister's technical team determined did not have the experience. By the way, Ruskin is probably one of the largest concrete and bridge builders in Alaska and British Columbia, but that's another story for another day. Some of their equipment is out there. And two other contractors are out there from the Yukon: Golden Hill Ventures and TSL. TSL is doing the concrete work and placement, and Golden Hill is doing all the roads and access routes, has supplied the camp and done a lot of other work. So we have a $34-million project across the Donjek River, more technically challenging, being undertaken by the same group of individuals that the technical review committee, spearheaded by the Deputy Minister of Community Services eliminated from the bridge at Dawson City. It sounds like somebody was out to sabotage the project in Dawson City and see that it didn't take place.
This whole situation, Mr. Speaker, does not even pass the smell test.
So, we don't have a bridge.
I still see in the budget that there is a dollar that has been earmarked for the multi-level care facility in Dawson City. I want to thank the government very much. At least the project is still alive. Spend it well. It might cover the cost of a telephone call to Dawson City to say that we are not doing anything this year.
If you want to look at the second-largest community in the Yukon that has two full-time doctors, and usually one or two additional locums, and if you want to see what is transpiring there now - we are fortunate to have the dedication of the nursing staff and the doctors there. We are very fortunate to have the people in place, but the facility is inadequate.
Again, what was budgeted and what is envisioned - somebody grabbed hold of the conceptual drawings, took the number of dollars per square foot or square metre, and extrapolated the cost. There are four or five garages in the building proposed and they work out to be about a million and a quarter dollars each at the rate that the government extended the cost figures. That is ludicrous, Mr. Speaker. And those garages are needed to house - there are two ambulances in Dawson City. One for a year sat outside, with a diesel engine. It was just about an impossibility to start that after about 20 or 25 below zero. There is also a handibus and there are also vehicles used by public health. In Whitehorse we can put them in a garage. Virtually all across the Yukon we can put them in a garage - from Beaver Creek to Teslin. But for Dawson they sit outside.
T he department says that somewhere along the line it's going to cost $1.5 million to build each garage. Well, hallelujah, Mr. Speaker. That is bunk.
Let me sum up by offering the government some suggestions. Let me just go over them once again. Number one, bring closure to the findings of the forensic audit. Number two, reduce Dawson's debt load. Number three, put in place a practical secondary sewage treatment. Number four, fix the roof on the existing arena so we can get by for a number of years until we make a land swap and build a new arena. Some 50 odd days of skating in the north is just sheer folly. Talk to your friends anywhere in Canada. They're skating in September. We're lucky to be skating in January or late December, Mr. Speaker.
Overall, Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of good in the budget. I will be supporting this budget, but I want to see progress on the initiatives outlined by me today for my community of Dawson City. “Teach Dawson a lesson” appears to be what has transpired for the last number of years. I'm hoping that lesson has been taught so we can move forward. It has been a tremendous learning experience for all, but it has almost destroyed our community. Indeed, a lot of people have moved elsewhere because of the lack of facilities.
Mr. Speaker, thank you.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I'd like to thank the Member for Klondike for that expansive view of the budget touching on every aspect of the Yukon economy. It was quite enlightening.
In general - and in reviewing some of this, if I may - it has been interesting to sit back and listen to some of the discussion that has occurred on this. With some of the rhetoric, you can certainly tell where we are in the sitting and in the mandate. It is most interesting to see how the positioning starts.
For instance, the Member for Mount Lorne commented during his speech that we were hiding behind consultation, and yet he has been one of the more vocal people about requiring consultations. I'm not really sure what he is trying to say. I can only speculate. His biggest criticism of the budget speech seemed to be that it was quite boring. He lost me for the rest of it because, quite frankly, I fell asleep. His delivery was less than stellar. I'm not sure we should debate the budget based on the enthusiasm of the person who is delivering the speech. That's unfortunately a very short-term way of looking at things.
The leader of the Liberal Party made the comment that our budget was made up of “one idea - to spend other people's money”. However, later in the same speech, he mentioned he had no issue with receiving our fair share of money from our fellow Canadians. He proceeded to go back to the fact that it was other people's money. Perhaps as the sitting progresses, he will decide what the source of the federal transfer payments and territorial transfer payments really is.
He made the comment, too, and I quote: “There is no plan, no long-term vision, no idea how to keep the territory going during the slowdowns that inevitably follow boom periods.”
Well, I go back to Hansard again and quote, “The members opposite have suggested that the priorities of this government have not been laid out when, in fact, seven priorities were laid out in the throne speech, and those are priorities that affect all Yukoners: land claims, devolution, turning the Yukon economy around, dealing with substance abuse and addictions in our communities.” That's a quote from November 1, 2000, by the then Liberal Premier.
What did we get out of that? We got one land claim and self-government agreement signed. This government has achieved three. It took this government to develop a substance abuse action plan and safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation. This government had to complete devolution after both the NDP and Liberal governments couldn't complete it, and the Yukon economy did not turn around. In fact, we got higher unemployment rates - into double digits - we got historically low mineral exploration spending and a population that continued to flee the Yukon for work. Notice that I said “low mineral exploration spending” because, in fact, during the 1980s and 1990s, $2.3 billion was invested by Canadian mining companies - most of that in Alaska, because the Yukon was not considered a good place to invest in. We've changed that around. When you look at the mining statistics now, given the same world mineral prices, we have moved from one of the worst jurisdictions to among the best jurisdictions.
Let's look at the planning and where we have come from what was the shortest lived majority government in the history of the Commonwealth. They could have done so much more if they hadn't dropped the writ prematurely, but thank God they did and we were able to recover some of our population. We were able to turn the unemployment around to one of the lowest in Canada.
I know the Member for Kluane quite enjoys quoting his favourite authors, and so I will look to one of mine, which is Lewis Carroll and of course the very famous quote: “Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “Well, I really don't much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn't matter which way you go.” said the Cat.
One of the mysteries of past governments is the Department of Economic Development. Why did the previous Liberal government feel that the best way to promote economic development was to disband and scatter the Department of Economic Development? Why did they disband the one department that could take a look at where we want to go? Perhaps even look at how we might get there?
Now, I haven't been able to make much sense out of this and many Yukoners are still scratching their heads over this less than wise decision. It was with this in mind that our government made the decision to bring back the Department of Economic Development and give it a strong mandate to look at the big picture and determine where it is that we want to go. In the words of Lewis Carroll again, and I quote: “I don't see how he can ever finish if he doesn't begin.”
We started the long process of looking at this big picture and where we wanted to go and first we determined we should focus on the long-term view and look at how we can attract outside investment. We have to look at the global picture and how the Yukon fits in.
According to Canada and the New World of Integrative Trade , Conference Board of Canada, 2005, of the G7 nations, Canada is the most dependent on international trade. Canada is also one of the most prosperous nations in the world. These two facts are connected.
Worldwide we look at serious population growth. There will be an increase in world purchasing power, there will be an explosive demand for natural resources, and there will be growing innovation and technology. World population doubled approximately from 1952 to 1992 and it will nearly double again by 2050. Much of this population growth will be in China and India, with significant growth in the United States, Japan and Europe.
If we look at the world demand for lead - that's a metal near and dear to most Yukoners, Mr. Speaker - the demand has doubled from 1964 to 2004. And if you look at that curve, at the moment, it is exponential. It is significant that, when General Motors and Ford contract, the price of zinc goes down. However, the latest contraction saw the price of zinc actually go up. From 2004, China is now a major consumer of zinc, and they're in a serious deficit position. Korea needs to import 99.3 percent of the metal used for its manufacturing, - and this, when the Yukon has a number of advantages in the world market.
We are strategically located. We sit between Alaska and the Lower 48, with good port access to Asia. With rich resources, we are a much more attractive trading partner than Ontario, Atlantic Canada and most of the United States. Add to that the congestion of the ports in Los Angeles, Seattle and others, and we are actually much more attractive.
We have a huge abundance of natural resources - zinc, lead, copper, coal, tungsten, molybdenum, silver, gold - and, of course, we can keep going.
We have a distinct people advantage. We have skilled and adaptable residents and First Nations who see the benefits of economic development.
As we look at the pathway from a vision to action, we must consider Yukon's risks and constraints, of course. We must always consider our environment and what we leave for our children. We must consider the pressures on health, education, social services, land access, housing stock, et cetera. We must be aware of our human resources, and not only their quality, but their limitations. We must be proactive, rather than reactive. We can't simply react to what happens, but we must plan carefully for each step.
Again, in the words of Lewis Carroll - if I may go back there, Mr. Speaker: “Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves.” Growth planning is critical and must be done carefully.
Cancelling and disbanding the very government department that is supposed to do this was not a very brilliant move. But the former Liberal government disbanded that department, and that appears to have been their vision. What's the final strategy? Population growth plus emerging markets give a strong demand. Major resources in the right location with good people to extract them with care and diligence give us a good supply. The global demand and the Yukon supply will give us Yukon economic prosperity.
What's our vision of the Yukon? The quality of life in the Yukon is second to none, arising from intense global demand for Yukon resources and value-added products, natural beauty, high levels of investor confidence - recently, Mr. Speaker - a skilled labour force, rewarding career opportunities, strong First Nations participating in the domestic and global economy, safe communities and a healthy, well-educated people.
With this as our vision and the development of proper infrastructure and support industries, we can generate wealth and a quality of life that we can be proud of, but we need to promote and facilitate business and industry. We have to develop capacity and growth. We must stay on top of our policies and regulations to give people a good place to invest in and a good place to do business in. We have already come from one of the poorest places in the world to do business in to one of the best. We did it with the same mineral prices as the rest of the world. We have grown significantly in our global status and we've done this with the same world metal prices, again, and the same world economy as everyone else.
Mineral prices and an upswing in the world economy have helped us. But to say this is solely responsible for our huge improvements, compared to other jurisdictions that enjoy the same benefits, is folly at best, politics at the most likely, and of course, at the worst, sheer stupidity.
Four years ago when the rest of the country was benefiting from rising mineral prices and an upswing in the world economy, the Yukon at that point was still flailing. Four years later, we can take advantage of those same world factors because we are making sound decisions and encouraging investment and growth in our economy.
But we must continue to develop our research and innovation potential. We must continue to develop that economic infrastructure, such as fibre optics and transportation, rail, port access, et cetera. We must seek partnerships and linkages with the private sector, First Nations, regions and communities, our citizens and all other levels of government.
So, what are the next steps? We do have to develop discussion papers for our enabling factors. As each new initiative and project comes on board, we have to evaluate it carefully and see just how it fits into our overall strategy. Collaborating with our partners is essential for each action, and it's critical that these steps move forward toward a shared vision, a shared strategy and actions.
At the same time, we must look carefully at the smaller parts of the puzzle and never overlook each small part. To this end, I am pleased that the Department of Economic Development will be increasing the focus on small business and how we can help small business to establish and accomplish what they need to do in this overall plan.
Traditional institutions are quick to point out too often the problems and why a project cannot proceed. Our department, our business and trade branch, our strategic industries branch and our regional development branch will all emphasize how it can be done, rather than why it can't be done. We have an exceptional staff, Mr. Speaker, and I've every confidence they will do this very well. This message has been clear from our chambers of commerce and all our partners, and our department looks forward to that challenge.
Continuing on, I'd like to describe in some detail the initiatives we have undertaken in order to meet our government's objectives that, in turn, improve the lives of Yukoners for generations to come. I would first like to touch on an emerging industry, one we've place a high emphasis on, and for good reason as it's proving itself to be a very popular and profitable one. I'm referring, of course, to Yukon's film industry.
One thing that surprised me at the doors during the last election was the number of people in Porter Creek North who are involved in the film industry, and it was a very strong message that that should be a priority.
As you may know, 2005 was a banner year for Yukon film production. The Yukon has a record for film production due to incentives from the Department of Economic Development and favourable weather.
Film production generated $4.1 million in 2005, compared to $2.5 million in 2004. The film industry leverages almost $10 for every $1 invested - an incredible job. The dollar figures have risen dramatically, demonstrating film as a viable and growing contributor to the Yukon economy. More locals are working in film on more and newer productions.
Some of the 2005 highlights: Coyote Films Ltd. spent $262,000 while in the Yukon and employed 21 Yukon residents while shooting a commercial for Land Rover. Whisper Productions spent a total of $265,000 while here and employed 42 Yukon residents on a feature film production titled Hellion. Mad Films shot an AIM Trimark tire commercial that seems to be on every channel these days, Mr. Speaker, with a projected total spending of $120,000 and employing 21 Yukoners.
Five productions from England were shot in the Yukon, putting 56 people in the Yukon to work.
Yukoner Andrew Connors shot Artifacts, hiring 15 Yukon residents on this production.
Ten Yukon filmmakers also received funding from the Yukon filmmakers fund for their projects.
Part of last year's success can be attributed to good winter shooting conditions created by record snowfalls and $715,000 from the film incentive fund, which was fully subscribed. That leveraged $9 to $10 per dollar invested. This is one small part of our diversification of the economy.
We are also extremely proud of Northern Town, and its success proves that the Yukon film development and film production funds are working to shape an active film industry. Set in small-town Yukon, Northern Town depicts the adventures of a colourful cast whose fictional community is near a meteorite landing site. The first six episodes were shot in Carcross, Dawson City, Haines Junction and Whitehorse - all done in 2005 - with a budget of $3.3 million - $500,000 of which came from the Government of Yukon's film development and film production funds.
And with the backing of CBC and Telefilm, the filming of Northern Town episode 7 through 13 will also take place in the Yukon. Season 2 details, including budget and timing of the shooting, have yet to be finalized. Episode 1 through 6 of Northern Town put more than 250 Yukon residents to work. They weren't working at a mine, Mr. Speaker. They were working in the film industry.
I'm pleased to announce that the first-ever Yukon International Film Festival will take place from June 21 to 25, 2006, in Whitehorse. The 7th Annual Dawson City International Short Film Festival takes place shortly, from April 14 to 17. A Yukon delegation travelled to the Toronto International Film Festival, now considered one of the most important film festivals worldwide and a rival to Cannes, to promote Yukon's newest festival, as well as the upcoming annual Dawson City International Short Film Festival, now in its seventh year, I believe.
Toronto presented an excellent opportunity to reach the media, production companies, producers and directors to let them know about the festival and our growing film industry. Film is an exciting sector in our revitalized and diversified Yukon economy.
In talking about the film - let's take a look at some of the other potential things that have happened within the Department of Economic Development and really across the board. We have to be proactive rather than reactive in our thinking, and growth planning is critical in all industries. It must be done carefully. This government is undertaking a few initiatives to do just that. One example, of course, is the rail feasibility study.
The rail feasibility study continues to generate great interest from communities, companies and organizations throughout Canada and throughout Alaska. Recently, the project was represented at the 2006 Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the study is transitioning now from stage 1, market and technical analysis, to stage 2, financial and public interest analysis.
The results of stage 1 will cap the most comprehensive research of northern railway prospects since the 1942 U.S. government survey, conducted during the construction of the Alaska Highway. I believe this is actually the study in 1942, which the leader of the official opposition referred to as being adequate and which we should make our decisions on.
Things have changed a little bit in the Yukon since that point in time. The results of the market analysis will qualify and quantify the existing market for transportation from Alaska to northern British Columbia, through the Yukon, quantify potential future markets, including resource development, pipeline construction, passenger traffic, and estimated potential rail revenue from these markets. One only has to turn the television on some evenings now to look at the wonderful articles that have been done on the growing use of container traffic. Anchorage is five sailing days closer than Seattle to the Asian market. The waiting time for some of these ships right now, due to the congestion, can be as much as a week before the ship can dock and unload its cargo. By the time a ship gets to Seattle and unloads, we can have the cargo and the containers on the rail in Anchorage, down this corridor and into world markets, and we can do that and generate Yukon jobs - at least, we think we can, and we're willing to let this commission and task force review what they're looking at and see if it is feasible. We have to prove that business case. We're not building the railroad, but it's our job to build that business case.
The opposition would rather look at the old studies - the 1942 study - and there was one in 1992 that looked exclusively at the extraction of Yukon minerals. It didn't look at container traffic; it didn't look at passengers; it didn't look at freight in and out of Alaska; it didn't look at resource extraction within Alaska; it didn't look at supplying in the other direction, the economy of the State of Alaska; it didn't look at Howard's Pass, didn't look at Wolverine, didn't look at Minto; it didn't look at much of anything, but the official opposition seems to think that's adequate.
The results of the technical analysis will assess the technical feasibility of building and operating this railway over various routes in Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon, research alternative modes of transportation and the routes that are or could be available to shippers, and to develop life cycle costs for all the alternatives.
I've said many times in this House that I would rather make decisions with data than by flipping coins or relying on 1942 studies.
With its conclusion coming this summer, the completed study will provide sound economic and engineering information to build a business case for investors. If the business case cannot support rail construction right away, then the study will nevertheless provide a comprehensive body of knowledge to support future transportation planning in the north. Over $1 million in contracts was awarded last fall for the first stage of the study. Approximately 45 percent went to Yukon companies. A joint initiative of the Yukon government and the State of Alaska, the study is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2006.
Another initiative in our planning for the future is the port access study. Changes in the global economy are opening up many economic opportunities for the Yukon, particularly in resource development. Secure tidewater access is a prerequisite to the viability of many resource developments in the Yukon and work is being done now in the inventory and capacity analysis, forecasting demand analysis and environmental analysis. The work is being done very closely in conjunction with the rail link study. They are very much linked. The study, once completed, will be grounded in economic realities and will provide enough objective and quantified information to enable public and private investors to take a serious look at developing port facilities and related transportation links. That study, as well, will be done by June 30, 2006.
In order to assist Yukoners in making sound business decisions, the Department of Economic Development is developing a paper, entitled, “Pathways to Prosperity”. “Pathways to Prosperity” provides a framework for partners to engage each other and a shared vision of Yukon's future.
Yukon is experiencing an increase in mineral exploration, new activity in oil and gas sectors and growth in tourism. Self-governing First Nations are emerging as key investors in business starts and joint ventures. This activity is reflected in a net positive migration to the Yukon and a shrinking unemployment rate.
If we look at those, not only have all of the Yukon - not all of them, but a good percentage of the Yukon refugees who want to, have returned to the Yukon with many other people who have come into the Yukon. And our unemployment rate has still gone down. It is still one of the lowest in the country.
In the future, highways, ports, railroads, pipelines, fibre optic cables - all in various stages of planning and development - will bring global customers closer than ever before, of course. New global investment and trading networks will complement existing partnerships with Alaska and the rest of Canada.
Balancing this positive outlook is heightened completion and competition from countries and regions that are meshing competitive industries with increasingly efficient and effective governments. In the global context, economic development in the Yukon requires industry and government to maximize the benefits of our competitive advantages while addressing our constraints. That's sort of where we started, Mr. Speaker, of course.
Key economic sectors - mining, oil and gas, tourism and emerging sectors - must enter a new era of strategic growth in order to achieve lasting prosperity and rewarding opportunities for the youth of this and future generations. Economic Development continues to work with other departments and individual stakeholders to foster investments in our territory and create a healthy and sustainable economy.
Economic Development is also a member of the committee of government and industry representatives that is overseeing the development of the Yukon mine training strategy. We have to look at that, as well, of course. The goal of the strategy is to coordinate government and industry activities in order to ensure that mining industry workforce requirements are met by qualified Yukon residents.
We are working on this in conjunction with the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, to which I'm very honoured to have been elected vice-president for Canada. We are looking at a transportation corridor study that will look at the impact of this corridor - the railway, the pipeline - as all of these things come together. What is the effect on our workforce? The levels of training of our workforce? How are we going to house them? How are we going to look at the increased medical care and challenges that way?
A draft of the strategy was completed in 2006 and presented to industry and First Nations at the Cordilleran Roundup in Vancouver. The regional economic development branch of the Department of Economic Development is contributing $22,000 to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of establishing a Yukon mine training association that will coordinate training activities and administer the mine training fund. The department will continue to participate in and monitor the development of that strategy.
Another initiative we are providing the private sector with support on is the cold climate innovation centre. The Yukon private sector, the National Research Council, the governments of Canada and Yukon, and Yukon College are currently working together to assess whether an innovation cluster in Yukon could be nurtured. A $137,000 development plan has been completed and the northern innovation cluster would focus on the development, commercialization and export of sustainable cold climate technologies and related solutions for cold climate regions around the world. It could be a key wealth generator for the Yukon. We have built potential space for this into some of our construction projects so that we would have that capability as well. Now remember, Mr. Speaker, that while the main thing that we are concerned about in the Yukon is to keep the cold out, there are other parts of the world that have the same challenges of keeping the cold in. The technology is the same. So this has a global ring to it, not just simply for the north.
In an effort to continue our cooperative working relationship with First Nations, several memorandums of understanding agreements have already been signed. Two examples of this are the north Yukon economic partnership agreement and Destination: Carcross.
In July 2004, the north Yukon economic partnership agreement was signed, and signatories to this agreement are the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, Na Cho Nyäk Dun and the Government of Yukon. The purpose of this agreement was to work toward the identification and economic opportunities that would be mutually and collectively beneficial to all parties.
Senior officials of First Nations and Government of Yukon have held several meetings to discuss and develop recommendations for consideration by agreement signatories. Economic discussions revolve around the Dempster Highway corridor. The north Klondike Highway and the Dempster Highway have recently been designated as part of the national highways system. This has huge implications in that part of the transportation corridor system. Some of the identified opportunities include transportation-related activities, resource-based activities and tourism-related activities. A scoping document has been produced from those discussions.
In the next year, partners will work together to prepare a Dempster corridor strategy economic development plan, and this is already underway, Mr. Speaker. The department also facilitated the signing of a tri-party Destination: Carcross memorandum of understanding on January 6, 2005, that demonstrated the commitment on behalf of the three parties and signified the beginning of a long-term working relationship there.
The Government of Yukon has supported numerous initiatives over the past two years through Destination: Carcross and related initiatives. Projects we've looked at and had participation in include Four Mountains Resort, the Destination: Carcross summit, the expansion of rail charter service from Bennett to Carcross, and the Ride Yukon event that was so successful last year. We are looking at Carcross waterfront development and the Caribou Crossing Adventure Company: Carcross-Tagish First Nation tourism business incubator.
Total direct contributions and commitments for the last two years from the Government of Yukon equal approximately $836,500. The Carcross waterfront contributions and commitments equal approximately $3,836,500.
On a bigger picture, the government has been working together with First Nations and the federal government on the strategic investment northern economic development fund. This fund was previously known as the northern economic development fund and is now referred to as the targeted investment program, or TIP. You have to love some of these acronyms.
In 2005, INAC committed $90 million to support northern economic development, $30 million being allocated to each territory.
Now, in traditional fashion in Canada, of course, INAC funded $90 million. They have already funded some projects without Yukon government or Yukon First Nation input and have kept $3 million for its own administrative expenses.
That leaves about $22.8 million of the fund remaining to be allocated over three years. On average, I understand that is not too bad a break from what we've seen in some other projects. Through the Yukon forum, a joint Yukon government and First Nation working group was formed to develop a common position on that fund. A targeted investment plan was developed, which includes investment in four areas: building a knowledge base, enhancing the economic infrastructure base, capacity development and economic diversification.
The Yukon government and First Nations have agreed on a draft investment plan consisting of a mix of major projects, targeted investments and calls for proposal. All three parties have agreed in principle to a proposal approval process that includes Yukon government and Yukon First Nation representatives.
To further demonstrate this government's support for the upcoming Canada Winter Games in 2007, a small business opportunity development program, called “raising our game,” has been developed. Economic Development has included $60,000 in its budget to sponsor the sport business opportunity development program, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, to raise awareness of sport-related business opportunities and to take advantage of the upcoming Canada Winter Games.
The Department of Economic Development has also undertaken an analysis of the Yukon Quest. We have done this in the past and we're doing it once again. The department has worked with the Yukon Quest on producing an economic impact analysis of the 2006 event. This is important: as the Quest goes toward discussions with potential sponsors, they have the data to show how important this event really is.
This year's analysis included a survey during the Dawson City layover to further examine the economic impact of the Quest. An interim report is expected in the spring with a final report due in May. In addition to analyses performed during the 2005-06 events, an economic impact analysis is planned for the 2007 Yukon Quest to provide additional data in support of the sponsorship marketing and business plans.
On the global scene, I've been working hard to promote Yukon and raise awareness of our territory, its issues and potential. I've accomplished this through several trade missions to Asia, as well as my role as vice-president of PNWER, the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region. Through various missions and meetings, the Government of Yukon is continuing to establish relationships with the Asian mining and investment sectors in three Asian countries: China, Korea and Japan. The objective of these initiatives is to promote Yukon's world-class mineral deposits, oil, gas resources and other investment opportunities.
Partnering with industry, the most recent trip in February 2006, provided the Government of Yukon an opportunity to use previously established relationships to promote specific investment opportunities in the Yukon. Since that first trip to Asia in 2004, there have also been three visits to the Yukon by companies from China, including one that included 12 members of the delegation to very seriously look at investment potential in the Yukon.
Recently an individual from China was accepted through our business immigrant nominee program and has put a conditional offer on a building in Whitehorse in order to establish that business. He has plans of operating a business that will entail providing training to several Yukon individuals and will entail purchasing raw materials locally. This one business alone could inject several million dollars into our economy and could potentially look at an improved distribution network for Yukon products and First Nation crafts.
I'd also take the opportunity to mention that the Yukon nominee program has been expanded to include skilled workers, in light of the current shortage of doctors and other professionals. We can utilize this program creatively to address the chronic and worldwide - certainly North America-wide - shortage of physicians and other health care professionals.
In that role as vice-president of PNWER, the Yukon is put firmly at the table in talking trade, tourism, security, et cetera. PNWER, for those who don't know, is the statutory partnership composed of legislators, governments and businesses in the northwest states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, and the western Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, and the Yukon Territory.
We once looked at the combined economy of the PNWER region, and that would make us the 10th largest economy in the world. That puts us at a table that has a much better ability to open doors in both Washington, Ottawa, state and provincial and territorial capitals, and has actually gotten us into some pretty amazing discussions, particularly with the passport issue, which I have been intimately involved with for almost a year now.
PNWER promotes greater regional cooperation by governments and business and enhances the region's global competitiveness while striving to maintain or improve our environment.
Another event that will highlight the Yukon on the national stage is the northern development ministers meeting that will occur in the Yukon, in Whitehorse, from September 20 through 22, 2006. The ongoing work in the areas of education and training, northern awareness, innovation and maximizing the impact of northern projects allows us to collaborate as northerners and to share ideas and find new opportunities.
At the meetings a special project called Knowledge North will be initiated. Knowledge North will build on the excellent work already completed to enhance the awareness and contributions of the north by utilizing an innovative way to present strategic, economic information.
By collaborating, we will allow the jurisdictions to further advance the diverse and common interests of our members. The Northern Development Ministers Forum continues to develop the potential of the north for the benefit all northerners.
We would like to describe in more detail, although I am running out of time, Mr. Speaker, some of the things that have been done by the Yukon Housing Corporation.
The increase in house prices has created a gap in the ability of lower-income people to access home-ownership financing. The average price of a home in the Yukon has risen from $152,000 in 2001 to $200,000 in $2005.
Beginning in January 2006, Yukon Housing Corporation implemented a new financing option within its existing home-ownership programs to assist low and middle-income earners to access home ownership. This will help young families purchase their first home.
Changes include a one-percent reduction in posted interest rates, providing amortization periods for up to 30 years, and setting a higher maximum lending threshold of $195,000. $7 million has been allocated for this program in this year's budget.
Contributions are continuing to be made to the seniors housing management fund, and the budget contribution of $100,000, together with interest derived from the green mortgages, brings the fund in excess of $2 million.
I understand we will be debating the Canada-Yukon affordable housing agreement tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.
The Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors is responsible for approving the program criteria and for selecting projects for funding. In April 2005, the board conditionally approved $830,000 for 44 home-ownership units and 20 rental units within Falcon Ridge Development Corporation. This project is well underway.
Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors also approved $3.5 million toward the construction of 48 units at Yukon College that will be first used for the Canada Winter Games. People should be aware of the fact that in the bid that was placed in 2001 to host the Canada Winter Games, the housing and feeding of athletes had to be in one location. Scattering them around town or using multiple locations was not an option.
We've leveraged that $35 million into 48 units at the college. We are very pleased to acquire the 48 units. They are new, affordable, barrier-free and energy efficient housing with an investment of $3.5 million. They will become the property of Yukon Housing Corporation and will become available once the games are underway.
I will save other comments until we debate the individual departments, and certainly I give full support to this budget, including a health care centre in Haines Junction, which is in the budget if anyone in the opposition had actually read it.
Mr. Fairclough: I also would like to respond to the budget as presented in the House and the Premier's budget speech to this House. Hopefully I won't take up the full 40 minutes that is allotted to me, but I would like to make some comments again about the communities in my riding. I have mentioned many things in the past, and I was hoping I could see them reflected in the budget presented in the House last week.
It was a long budget speech; I think everybody agrees with that. There was a new line, though, that the Premier used on the very first page, and I have never heard the Premier or the Finance minister use this line before. It reads, “At the time our government took office, the Yukon government was paying overdraft payments to meet its payroll.” This is the first time that I've heard the Yukon Party make this statement. Last year it was not made, or the year before or the very first year, and you can bet that this is a line that is going to be used in the upcoming election.
Mr. Speaker, in my opinion it's misleading, because it's saying that the government didn't have the money when, in fact, it did. The very first person that I showed the first page here with this line, Mr. Speaker, pointed that out right away, also.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Hon. Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, first of all, referred to a statement made by the Premier as misleading and then went on to add to that by stating that statements made by the Premier were, in fact, not factual or that such was not the case. That is clearly contrary to our Standing Orders, and I would ask you to review that, please, and to ask him to retract that.
Speaker: The Chair is prepared to rule on that point of order. There is no point of order. However, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun should avoid using the word “misleading” even qualifying it with “as an opinion”. It is still not an acceptable terminology for this House, as the member fully knows.
Please carry on, you have the floor.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I used it because that was past practice, as I understood it, but I will respect your ruling on this.
Here was another line that was similar to that. I have to find it, Mr. Speaker. It refers to the amount of money that the Yukon Party saw in the budget when they took over. The reason why I brought up this particular line was because that was used by another Yukon Party when they came into power and, at the time, the government was broke and there was no money. In fact, when you get the Auditor General's report, you can see the difference. That's why I wanted to point this out, and I think it's important.
The other line that the Premier has used before is the unqualified audits. It has nothing to do with the amount of money the government operates on, but it was how they did their books. That was the suggestion that the Auditor General made in the past; it just wasn't carried out by any other governments and now we've got one set of books, as the members opposite know. So, you get a different reading by the Auditor General.
That's pretty important too. Most people probably would not understand that and wouldn't even care, but those lines being read by the Premier, I think, would have some impact unless it's explained to them clearly. That's the reason I brought it up. I would like to go through the Premier's budget speech page by page and look at them carefully and comment on them, but there is certainly not the time allotted for me to do that, so I want to bring it to the attention of those who are drafting and putting together budgets in the future. There have been suggestions made in my riding. I made quite a few of them last spring and the spring before - whenever a budget has been brought to this House - with hopes that some suggestions would be carried out and reflected in the budget. I know I have heard members say that this is a budget that clearly - and I heard this last year and the year before - supports every community in the territory. I'm sure that every department in government is somehow connected to a community and that's how we see the support, but if you look at the new spending, some people just get left out.
I've written letters to the minister regarding Stewart Crossing for example. It is not a very big community, but it shouldn't be ignored either. Some simple things could have been done to improve that community.
One of the ones was putting streetlights in - at least where the bus stops to pick up kids. That's one important one. A streetlight did go in, but it is paid for by a private person; it's not the government that pays for this. I think governments could take on that role fairly easily.
The other streetlight was to light up the highway that comes into the community. A lot of community people have come to me with complaints that the traffic does not slow down when coming into that community, and it's going right through. It's basically a gas station with a highway camp. There are residents there, but not many people would even see the homes that are built around Stewart Crossing. I believe about 45 people live there, and they do walk up and down the road. There are kids in the community who are bused to the school in Mayo.
Another thing I have brought up before about Stewart Crossing is the need to open the youth centre that was there. You wouldn't even know that there was a little recreation centre for the kids there. The trees are growing higher, and it's going to be a little more expensive to open such a centre for the kids. Now, they need a place to go, and where do they go in a little community like Stewart Crossing? That was one.
The other simple one that could have been put in through the community development fund, or through Community Services, was a sliding hill for the kids. That wouldn't take a whole lot of money, and I believe that the government could be looking after these small communities in that way.
I will give credit to government where they are spending in communities, too. In Keno, this is the other thing I know that some of the other speakers to the budget have mentioned: the government is re-announcing things in its budget speech. This year was an improvement over what was said last year, because we've had portions of different departments, I guess, announcing initiatives that were reflected in the budget. And then when the budget comes down, it's announced again. Then it's announced throughout the year. Some of the projects, Mr. Speaker, are not even completed. So we've gone through another year, and we're going to go through an announcement again.
There have been quite a few years of that. I have noticed throughout this budget speech that it does reflect on something that was done in the past year, and just to note that - not to carry on - but to reflect on what was done in the past. One of them was in regard to water for Keno City. It was improvements to their local drinking water system.
I guess it's pretty important for every place, and I'd like to talk about that in a couple of the other communities in my riding too. But Keno doesn't have that many people there anymore. As a matter of fact, the population is shrinking. I think there are about 14 people there now, Mr. Speaker. From a city that once had close to 20,000 people there, that is quite the reduction in people. But there is still interest there, and one of the interests for those in government who want to hear this, is there are people who still want to buy lots in Keno and have been asking whether or not the government can look at developing some lots and putting them up for sale, because people still do want to build there.
For a small town like that - it has a coffee shop you can have a full meal in, with the best pizzas in the Yukon. It has a bakery, a bar, a hotel for 15 people. It's supported throughout the winter. Of course, they don't support the business; it's the people who are coming through to see this beautiful place. It has one of the nicest museums in the territory, and it is well kept by the local people.
Also, I asked the Highways and Public Works department to see whether they could do an annual cleaning of the snow off the Signpost Road so they don't have to go through the damage on the road, and have it cleared at least in time for the tourist season. I really didn't get any commitment at all from this government.
I was glad to see some money going into museums, into the interpretive centres and to the communities of Carmacks and Pelly. The Big Jonathan Heritage Centre and the interpretive centre in Carmacks - I think that when people walk through these two small museums - they give a bit of history about the first peoples of that land - they would be impressed to see how they are put together with so little money, compared to what we have here in Whitehorse with the Beringia Centre. I thank the government for doing that.
I only see these two places growing, because when you talk to the tourists who come to the territory, what they want to see is a lot more First Nation content, history, and so on.
That's what we see and hear from both the rubber-tire traffic and the people on the river. Some of these places are being visited a lot more - for example, Fort Selkirk. I don't know if everybody in this House has been there but, if they haven't, it's very much a worthwhile trip to take. The First Nation has spent many years, many summers, trying to upgrade the facilities there. They felt so strongly about it that it's reflected in their final agreement. They get money from Ottawa to do that job and it's interesting to see the type of work they have to do, because - I'll give you an example of, say, a building that's there and they have to re-roof the building, or put shingles on. Well, you don't go down to Home Hardware and buy shingles and put it on, you have to special order these. Some of them are through Sweden - the only place that makes these old-fashioned type of shingles. So, a lot of research and background work has to go on to bring the buildings up to where they are as original as possible.
It is a beautiful place and I know the Yukon government does have some stake in there too. There is an airport there and, every now and then, they do fire up the old grader to take some of the snow and smooth off the airport, and people do take their small planes into Fort Selkirk. I've been there quite a few times and it's always an enjoyable trip.
The other that has been ongoing, and we have seen it reflected in Old Crow, is to do with the riverbank erosion programs, but in Dawson and Mayo it's doing some work to the dyke that is there that's protecting the community. And here's another one that's reflected in the budget and that the community of Mayo has been asking for, for a long time, and it is the recreation centre.
I'll explain it again to the members opposite, if they're wondering how it came about. The recreation centre was supposed to be built for the 100th anniversary of the community, and it didn't happen. We had our little sitting in the community and we had Prince Charles come to visit the community. This was just before this facility was to be built. It's unfortunate, because the building of the school, the building of the First Nation administration building and the community centre were all part of a long-term project that the community engaged in. They did it in a way to try to put people to work, to ensure that the community people are the ones that do the majority of the work on the capital buildings that are going up so they can be proud of the buildings that they built.
They worked with Yukon College to get all the training necessary - that they can, I suppose - for the community people so they could be working throughout a number of years, and not just on one project. It was supposed to flow from one project to another. Well, as you know, the Mayo school got delayed for a year. The community people weren't happy. That threw the whole plan of keeping people working throughout the winter off track. When the school finally got built, the administration building didn't. It wasn't designed and wasn't committed to by government. This is three and a half years that we've been into this mandate, and we finally got this commitment from last year too.
T hey did tear down the curling rink that was there. It was a pretty old building, and I think they put that building up more than 25 years ago for $25,000. The community is gearing up for a new building and really looking forward to it. I know that the company itself has equipment stored in the community hall. They are sort of sharing that building until the recreation centre is built. The community is really looking forward to that, Mr. Speaker, and I am glad to see it reflected, finally, with some real money in the budget so that this project can go ahead.
The municipality has also been talking about the sewage system in the community of Carmacks. I remember asking the minister in the department debate about the sewer system in Carmacks. I got the strangest response. I didn't expect it, because the community is a community whether it has municipal lands or First Nation lands - it is the community. What we see in this budget is a system that is designed for downtown Carmacks, and it doesn't involve First Nations. When I asked the minister about consulting with the First Nation on expanding or including this mechanical plant, he said he was going to consult with the community or municipality, and the First Nations didn't play a major role in this. This is not sitting well with the community.
The First Nations ended up having to really do a lot of work on their own without any of the government monies. So they've done that. And along with that project is the water distribution system. The sewer is one that is being funded. I think you probably will see more funding for it over the next year. I think they finally came up with a different design for the mechanical plant. It's the mechanical plant, again, so it's probably a lot more expensive than you would normally have in a leach system. It's going to serve downtown Carmacks, which is about 40 percent of the community. It seemed like an awful lot of money to service that small portion of the community, and it is - but hopefully in the future, the rest of the community can somehow connect into the system. Part of the problem is that the First Nation lands are on the other side of the Yukon River. That's where the expense comes in: if the sewage has to be piped under the river and up over into this plant, or if another system is used. More and more, this is going to become a priority and perhaps a health issue in that community.
With that, I will just go right to the water system that is being proposed. I will give a little bit of background about what took place over the years in that community.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we have all seen in Whitehorse how Kwanlin Dun had to be moved up from the floodplains, the swamp area down in the industrial area, into McIntyre-Takhini. It cost a whole lot of money. The First Nation in Carmacks has also been moved several times. The majority of the people used to live down near the mouth of the Nordenskiold River, then close to downtown, then up near between the cut-off to the First Nation offices - the First Nation's land now - and the Campbell Highway. They've been bumped out as they went. Now they're settling there, and they're over on the First Nation's side. I think, Mr. Speaker, that you've been there and know how the community is laid out.
Most of the buildings used to be on the lower bench. There was no running water or sewer system at that time, and it was basically an outhouse system. Well, there were problems with the drinking water then in some of the community wells that were drilled there. It was also a time when the Yukon River water was unfit to drink, and there was the whole issue of the outflow from the City of Whitehorse going through the community of Carmacks and all other communities down below.
So the First Nation ended up moving most of the people from the lower bench up to the higher bench. That's where you see most of the design of the community on the First Nation side taking place now, and they're stretched for building lots now. So it means you're up higher off the river. The wells are deeper and, at the time, it was perfectly fine to have a well, and your septic fields would not affect your wells.
Over the past number of years we have had water being tested. Many of their wells are inside the homes. Some of them are showing E coli; I think on average it is about 30 percent. I'm not sure of the numbers, but it is about 30 percent - which is high. This is for individual testing of homes. Some of them are from surface runoff, but the problem is that these well systems aren't good enough any more, so what do you do? What other alternative is there? We all know about the water system here - it's pretty expensive. We don't have a dam that we can draw water out of. One of the solutions is to have a low-pressure water system in the community.
The community of Carmacks didn't work at this alone. The community of Pelly Crossing was in the same situation, and they have worked together on this project. I believe - and I may be wrong on this - that they were told to go through the community development fund, but when they took their application there it was rejected. The next possibility was to go through MRIF - the municipal rural infrastructure fund. They were rejected there too. So where do they go? They talked with the federal government. The Yukon government is not really there to give them a helping hand. They are hoping for additional federal money to fund this project.
On the positive side, Mr. Speaker, lately we have seen some monies go to the Selkirk First Nation for design of this low-pressure water system and we have seen - and I think this is just lately, as of last week - the Carmacks First Nation working with the federal government to get some money to do work on their design.
I think they got $229,000 or $29,000 - I can't remember what it is. But I was told over the phone that they did get some money. That's the positive side. They can move ahead, and hopefully, with the Yukon government's help in funding this project, it could happen under MRIF. I know some people may think it is expensive - I think it's around $5 million - and it is for the First Nation too, because they've put a whole pile of money into individual wells, and some of them are 170 feet deep. The deeper you go, the more costly they become.
I haven't been told what the final design is for the sewage system in Carmacks or what it is going to look like, but I'm sure it's going to come to my attention, and that's the next challenge for the First Nation. I hope that when the minister talks to the First Nation he treats them as if they are a community on their own, because the Village of Carmacks does not provide the services to the First Nation. They're like an unincorporated community within a community - doing things on their own, like Pelly Crossing does and like Ross River does.
The other thing that has been a controversial issue in Carmacks is the building of the school. Everybody knows about the demonstrations outside this House. They took place twice, and they were all about the First Nation wanting its voice to be heard by this government.
I'm not going to get into too many details about this, like I have in the past, but there is no doubt that the community wanted this school. It has been fighting for it for a long time - probably for about 30 years. There were issues about the site, and compromises were made by the First Nation.
I did ask the question in the House this week about the ground conditions where the school will be built. My concern - and this is the community's concern too - is if the materials are not taken out and replaced, we could have major problems with the school like we have with the skating rink in that community.
The next time you go through the community, just take a look at it, because the skating rink doesn't have walls. You can come and go as you please. It has a concrete slab, and you can see the waves on it right away. The work was not done properly, but it was always approved by the engineers. It is unfortunate, because that building now needs to be replaced, and it is going to end up costing more and more for the people of the community. It is not only that building, Mr. Speaker, but the building right beside it, which was built years before the skating rink. It has been damaged by the movement of the ground. Concrete pillars coming out of the ground are cracking, and it is all because of the movement of the ground.
The community people definitely warned the contractors and government about that in the past, and it's too bad - a bit more money would have taken care of that. I think we saw that with the Carmacks school. I was hoping to get an answer from the minister on it. The price of the school has gone way up. We are at $11.4 million now, and I believe we built the school in Old Crow for less than $10 million, including putting in a winter road and bringing materials in. That school was built eight feet off the ground on pylons to avoid this very same problem of ground movement.
The community, of course, is looking forward to the school. It's too bad that we're just starting because the government said that we would be having people working in the community of Carmacks throughout the winter, and that didn't happen. Right now we have people just starting to work. Throughout the winter, they didn't work, and they are just starting it now. I am glad to see the money is reflected in here. Somehow, the Minister of Education had pull on this one - interesting that he was not vetoed by the Finance minister.
The other issue that has been raised with me quite a bit, and of course with government too, is the transmission line between Mayo and Dawson and the mess that has been there. The additional work that had to be done by a local company, even this past summer - $1 million had to be put in to just try to stabilize the line from its vibration.
It's something that other people didn't know, but if a local company had been hired to do the job, I believe they would have done it right. Of course, there has been much talk about the transmission line between Carmacks and Stewart Crossing. I think the First Nations are dealing with this matter. I think there were two routes at the beginning, and the First Nation in Carmacks supported one - not the highway route, but it had a lot to do with development of mining in the Tintina Trench there, up the Freegold Road - not just with the mine at Minto, but others also.
Let me go quickly with this, as I don't have much time here. I've raised the issue about the highway camp and whether or not government was going to move it. They found a site; they put up some fencing, and they were ready to move, but it didn't happen. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is.
The Campbell Highway - major work has gone into resurfacing the highway. Every year, it started from the junction in Carmacks. There was new chipseal, and if the base needed to be replaced or added on to, they'd do a shorter stretch. It would cost more. We've seen patches of it, and now most of the work is in the south part of the Campbell Highway. Many people are raising concerns about that - particularly the residents from Faro and Ross River and, of course, the people in Carmacks.
I have to say that I'm pleased to see monies, though, go into MoCS. Many of the community people have talked about having cellphone capabilities in the communities, so I'm glad to see that happen.
I think having a good communications infrastructure is really attracting people here. There is one thing that the Yukon Party didn't really talk about, and neither has the public. Sometimes I wonder why people miss this so much, but since the Connect Yukon project took place and basically provided high-speed Internet to communities, it has attracted a lot of people back to the Yukon. I know some people are saying, “How the heck can that be?” But that's one of the problems we had in the territory in attracting people back. I've heard from a number of people now, even lately, that this was one of the biggest projects in attracting interest back to the territory, so I don't think we should forget that.
My riding, though, Mr. Speaker, has a lot of mining potential, from Carmacks to Keno. People want to see development. First Nations want to see development. They want to see protection of the environment. I said this in the House before too. The Minto mine, for example - everybody's talking about it and ready to go. That property is on First Nation property. There are a lot of people right now in training. I just met a woman in Pelly Crossing over the past weekend who is taking all the training she can so that she can be a truck driver. She is so interested in this and excited about it. But I look forward to the increased activity in and around those three communities.
I also wanted to mention one more thing before my time runs out. An issue that I raised with Health and Social Services in regard to Tatlmain Lake - the Northern Tutchone Council has a treatment centre there. They have trained counsellors - sent them Outside, trained them, and had a lot of their own First Nation people attending this treatment centre. But the counsellors were never recognized by the territorial government as qualified counsellors, and therefore the Yukon government has not sent people to Tatlmain Lake like the First Nations have. We've been trying to get that recognized through the territorial government. Hopefully that will change.
I see my time has run out. I'll reserve the rest of my debate for when the departments come up. Thank you.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and pleasure to rise today to debate and discuss the budget that has been tabled.
This is a good solid budget. It addresses the needs of the territory, and it does so in a fiscally responsible manner. It doesn't increase taxes or fees. It doesn't borrow or incur any long-term debt, and at the end of the year, Mr. Speaker, it is predicted to leave a surplus. This is a good solid budget.
I would like to start by thanking the folks who put the budget together, and those include the Yukoners who came out to the various consultation meetings throughout the territory - those Yukoners who came out and discussed the needs in the community, what opportunities there were in the community, problems and voids and gaps in service delivery.
Yukoners are very involved in their community and in their government. I know that at the meetings I attended - and they were very well-attended - Yukoners were willing to share their concerns, thoughts and opinions. I thank them for doing so. It makes a big difference, because then you know the people for whom you are preparing the budget, and you know that you are addressing identifiable, real needs in the community.
I would also like to thank the departmental officials - those hard-working folks who have designed effective and efficient solutions for addressing the needs of Yukoners. They are the ones who have put together the programs, who actually do the work to keep the territory going. I would like to thank the ministers and the Cabinet for their hard work continuing to implement the vision and platform that the voters of the Yukon Territory mandated us to implement. I know it's an awful lot of hard work around the budget table and a lot of compromise in order to ensure that the best possible return is made for Yukoners.
This budget does what government is supposed to do. It addresses the priorities and responsibilities and identifies community needs and it makes the appropriate investments in the future. I am very pleased to see that it continues the Yukon Party vision, priorities and principles. These have been all laid out, beginning with the throne speech and in every budget speech since, where the priority is building a balanced budget; building partnerships with government-to-government relationships with First Nations; building sustainable, competitive economy and building healthy community environments and a better quality of life for all Yukoners.
That's the direction that we committed to going in and that's where we are headed.
Since taking office a couple of years ago, we've worked hard to get the territory back on track and to build the kind of momentum that we are feeling today.
I believe the leader of the official opposition said the other day that we are riding a wave. Boy, what a great campaign slogan. Ride the wave. We are heading in the right direction; we have momentum, let's continue riding the wave. I think that's where the Yukon wants to go.
What's the alternative? Well, Mr. Speaker, we could change direction and get mired in a trough and hope that things might pick up again, but I don't think that's what Yukoners want. They want consistency and they want confidence. They don't want turmoil, navel-gazing and reorganization. They want to continue on the track on which we are heading and they want to make refinements along the way.
Now, from what I have heard in debate so far, Mr. Speaker, it's safe to conclude that the Liberals want to send the money back to Ottawa and the NDP want to stop any development and any momentum - and I don't think either are good options for the territory.
We need to stay the course, and, as a member of the opposition pointed out, this budget certainly stays that course. Except for some justifiable program increases in certain departments, most departments have been held to normal increases. It was commented in a negative way the other day that it is pretty much the same budget as last time. Well, that's what building a balanced budget is all about. You recognize what the needs are, commit the funding and get the ball rolling.
Now, there are some necessary program increases. We have increased in Health and Social Services and Education, and those are responding to justifiable needs in the community. This has been the whole plan and theme of the government from the election. In the first year, we took control of spending; we changed directions, as we had a mandate from the electorate to do. In the second year, we focused on putting the financial house in order and set the future agenda and started much-needed projects in the territory. Since then, we have been focused on building balanced budgets and building on the momentum.
Now, some on the opposition complained about receiving funds from Ottawa. Well, sending it back won't allow us to make the investments in health care and education that we need and that we're making. Until we can substantially increase our own-source revenues, we will continue to need money from Ottawa on top of what the federal government is obligated to do for citizens in the territory.
But let's just take a look at our own-source revenues. They're up. In the budget of 2002-03, I believe there was a prediction of looking at $73 million in own-source revenue, and in this budget we are looking at generating own-source revenues of over $86 million. That's great news.
Where do these own-source revenues come from? They come from personal taxes, corporate taxes and royalties.
As I've said, we haven't increased taxes, and unlike previous governments, we haven't increased fees. These have been due to volume increases.
I'll be the first to say we need to increase our own-source revenues even more. How do we do that? We do that by building the territory, by building the population, building the economy and developing and utilizing our strengths and assets. We need to continue to build to diversify the economy. Throughout debate, we've heard a lot about where we're heading and what we've accomplished.
In the last couple of years, we haven't just focused on one industry. We haven't said the be-all and end-all was the pipeline. We haven't put all our eggs in that one basket. Instead, we've concentrated on building a diversified economy, because that's what we will need in this territory to create a sustainable future.
We've invested in cultural industries. Earlier, the Minister of Economic Development spoke about the payback that has had: almost $10 has been generated for every one dollar invested - a great return on investment and a great way to build a sustainable economy.
We're hearing that mining is opening up again, not just because of mineral prices, but because responsible mining companies are being welcomed to the territory. We want to welcome responsible development. It isn't time to just say, “No development, please.” It's time to work with others to build on our assets and strengths. We're building capacity for research and development.
Again, we've heard about the cold climate research centre being developed. We are looking at what some folks would call a weakness - our weather - using it as an opportunity to try new technologies and new building practices. We can be a centre of excellence for the world. That's another area the government is looking into.
Forestry - well, just recently, again, we've heard about a commitment to forestry with the release of one million cubic metres to responsible forestry operators. From the Education minister we've heard about the investments for training for trades and a refocus on training Yukoners to fill the jobs that are going to be available in Yukon. Mr. Speaker, we're going to need more tradespeople. We know the opportunities that are coming to the territory, and we need to be prepared for them. We need to refocus education with things like additional investments in the college - which have happened and are happening - by concentration on trades training and additional funding for the training trust funds to allow for specific industry types of education and training. In the budget, we've heard about increased tourism industry funding - again, diversifying the economy.
Additionally, under this government's watch, we've had the first oil well drilled in decades.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the eggs aren't all in one basket. It's diversified across the spectrum.
Now, the Liberals have called us a one-trick pony. I think not, Mr. Speaker. The facts just don't back that up. The population has increased. The number of people working has increased. Retail spending has increased. People's confidence is on the increase. Now, the NDP and the Liberals might think that there is a single, one-trick pony, but the Yukon Party knows that that's not the case. Our actions are resonating in the community.
Now, let's look at the criticisms of the budget and of the government that we've heard so far.
In addition to the normal “you've-spent-too-much-but-you-haven't-spent-enough-on-this” discussion that is repeated quite often, we have heard some very significant criticisms about the bridge in Dawson - you shouldn't have looked at it. The student residence - you shouldn't have built it. The railroad - you shouldn't look at it.
A responsible government needs to look at these things. Let's just take a look at the bridge in Dawson, for example - a project that this government has been criticized for countless times. A couple of years ago, we were at a crossroads. It was time to either look at rebuilding the ferry -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Rouble: I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, I think the Member for Mount Lorne was talking about the devil over there.
Speaker: You have the floor.
Mr. Rouble: Thank you, sir.
Back to the bridge in Dawson - there is a reason why there isn't a golden gate ferry and there is a Golden Gate Bridge. A bridge makes sense. A fixed link makes sense.
When is the appropriate time to look at it? When the ferry is coming to the end of its useful life. That's the time when you've got to make the decision: do we reinvest in a ferry or do we invest in a bridge? We've got to make a choice here. One of the things you've got to do as a responsible government is to sit down and do the math and look at the calculations of what it is going to cost for a ferry, what the operating cost is, take a look at the lifespan of a bridge - we will do the present-value calculations and see which one works out better. Let's look at how we're going to finance a project like this. Do we do it on a cash flow basis right now? Do we lease it? Do we mortgage the future of Yukoners and get a loan?
Or do we enter into what other governments are using for projects like this, a public/private partnership? Other governments are looking at these things. The responsible thing for this government to do was to look at the options and look at the options for financing. You know what, Mr. Speaker? It didn't work out. It wasn't the right time, and the right economic case wasn't made to build a bridge in Dawson, but a responsible government looked at it.
The next point is the student residence. We've heard comments from the past leader of the Liberal Party about how this is a sorry mess, a financial disaster. I have to disagree with that assumption and characterization, and I think the folks working on the Canada Winter Games would agree that's not what it is. The Canada Winter Games are certainly not a sorry mess. Let's take a look at the situation.
When the host society first put together their budget for this, they put aside about $3 million for accommodating the athletes for the games. They were going to put up 3,600 athletes in shifts for $3 million. After the numbers were crunched, they found they couldn't do it for that amount of money. Go ask them. $3 million was not enough money to accommodate all the athletes.
So, what do we do now? We don't have a place - the organizing committee, all of a sudden, didn't have the ability to house the athletes. Were the games at risk? You bet. There wasn't a realistic solution on the horizon. They didn't have an answer as to how they would accommodate the athletes.
Well, the Yukon Party has publicly stated that we are committed to making the games a success. So, we got behind the project and came up with a solution. We fast-tracked a plan to build college residences. Now, the residences are a long-term project, and these buildings will last for years. We aren't paying for an athletes village; we're building a college residence that will be built in time for the games.
Now, the games committee could have spent $3 million on renting pup tents. Instead, we're investing that into a building - a much-needed college residence, a residence that will allow Yukoners and their families to come into Whitehorse and take advantage of the many training opportunities available at the college.
Mr. Speaker, this isn't a sorry mess. This is good fiscal management. This is investing in a legacy project.
The college residence is on time and on budget.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the other project - the railroad. The Yukon Party government has been criticized repeatedly for investing and looking at the option of a railroad. Government is not planning to build a railroad, we are just looking at if it makes sense. Would it work for the territory? What are the payoffs? I think we all agree that we all would have preferred a previous government, say back in the 1950s, to have invested in the railroad and constructed it when they had plans on the shelf to do so. Would it have had great economic spinoffs for the territory? You bet - and that's what we need to look at now. This is an investment in the future. This is looking at how we utilize our resources to the best of our capacity.
The other criticism that has been levied - other than the fact that the opposition members have said we've spent too much, but, well, we should have spent another $25 million to $50 million on these projects - again, without identifying where they would have gotten the money. There was a criticism earlier today from the Member for Mount Lorne who compared the Environment and the Highways and Public Works budgets and budgeting priorities.
What he didn't say, Mr. Speaker - and what we are constantly waiting for - is what is the option? Does the member want to cut the Highways and Public Works budget to the level of the Environment budget? Does he want to do a 50:50 kind of thing? Does he want to spend more on the environment? If so, where does the money come from to increase Environment's budget? If the Highways and Public Works budget is cut, what projects does he want to see cut? Criticizing is one thing, coming up with the hard plan is another.
Mr. Speaker, seeing the time, I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Southern Lakes that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on second reading of Bill No. 20 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following document was filed April 4, 2006:
Wastewater Treatment: Memorandum of Agreement (dated October 2005) between the Government of Yukon and the Town of the City of Dawson (Jenkins)