Whitehorse , Yukon
Monday, April 24, 2006 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
In remembrance of Jobie Nutarak
Speaker: I would ask the members to remain standing please. It is my sad duty to inform the House of the passing of one our colleagues, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, the Hon. Jobie Nutarak. Mr. Nutarak was a member of the Nunavut Assembly, first sitting in 1999, and was acclaimed Speaker in 2004. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Nutarak at various conferences - actually we called him Jobie, not Mr. Nutarak. He was a fine, fine man. I found him to be warm and engaging and he will be missed.
I will now ask that you take a minute of silence for Speaker Nutarak.
Moment of silence observed
Speaker: We will now proceed with the Order Paper.
In recognition of National Volunteer Week
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today to pay tribute to a true Yukon phenomenon: volunteerism. Here we are with a territorial population of just a little over 32,000 and yet we have programs, celebrations, sport and recreation activities and large-scale events equal to those of most large metropolitan cities, all due to the tremendous level of Yukon volunteerism.
When you consider the number of community-level activities that take place throughout the year and the amount of work that goes into planning, set-up and the event itself, then the cleanup, Yukoners must be the national leaders of volunteerism.
Yukoners offer their time for a wide range of activities related to sport and recreation, community events, music festivals, celebrations and other activities designed to enhance their communities.
They also volunteer for an equally wide range of tasks, including planning and organizing, fundraising, marketing and promotion, holding the event itself, and then the cleanup and the wrap-up of the paperwork. The Yukon and all the people who live here are benefiting from the very good work of many of our volunteers.
We are also benefiting from the Yukon Volunteer Bureau, which provides an outstanding coordination service for people looking to volunteer and for the event planners looking for the right people. The Yukon Volunteer Bureau also provides training and workshops for developing the skills needed to undertake community-based projects with the many contributions from the volunteers. Looking ahead, in just under a year from now, the true value of Yukon's volunteer force will be displayed as we host the Canada Winter Games.
For the past few years, a large number of Yukoners have already been volunteering their time and expertise in planning for the games, and they have done an exceptional job in getting us to this point. Recruitment is now underway to identify volunteers for the many tasks that will be needed during these games. The Canada Games Host Society is seeking around 4,000 volunteers to make these games the best ever.
Working with the Yukon Volunteer Bureau, recruitment is underway, and there is a diverse inventory of jobs that need to be done. There is something interesting for everyone, depending how much time they have or which area they would like to participate in. I encourage Yukoners to get involved and to help play host and welcome the many thousands who will come here to witness the first Canada Winter Games north of 60.
This year, I would like to highlight one particular volunteer group that does not get a great deal of attention unless aircraft are reported to be missing. I would like to recognize the exceptional volunteers of CASARA, the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association.
The Civil Air Search and Rescue Association is a Canada-wide volunteer aviation association dedicated to the promotion of aviation safety and to the provision of air search support services to the national search and rescue program. In times of emergency, these highly trained volunteers fly their own aircraft and provide spotters when asked to search for downed planes.
With the vast wilderness of the north and a significant number of small aircraft flying in remote areas, the value of local expertise in search and rescue activities cannot be ignored. It takes special training, a keen eye and focused discipline to be effective at this kind of work, and the Yukon is fortunate to have a dedicated CASARA team of this calibre. We pay tribute to the CASARA volunteers and the many thousands of other Yukon volunteers for the many important activities they add to the value of our communities and our lives.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: Once again, it is my pleasure to rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to National Volunteer Week, which, this year, is from April 23 to 29. Only one of four Canadians is a volunteer, and 75 percent of all hours volunteered come from less than 10 percent of the population. More volunteers are always needed in our busy world. Half of all volunteers are over 50, which indicates that people who are retired or who have more leisure time away from raising their children donate more of their time.
Why do people volunteer? Many people volunteer to develop skills. Younger people who are looking to enhance their careers should think of volunteering in areas that complement their paid work. Many volunteer positions give on-the-job experience that can be listed on resumés. Supervisors of volunteers can be approached for letters of reference, and hours of volunteer work can give a person the edge they need to enter fields of higher education.
Apart from work-related benefits, volunteering allows opportunities to try something new, to discover talents, to learn and to meet new friends. The self-satisfaction and personal growth that comes with volunteering - especially if it involves directly helping others - cannot be duplicated in any other activity. Looking at a community with new insight brought through volunteering allows a person to reassess past ideas and views. Supporting causes that bring about change in the community gives volunteers an opportunity to be directly involved in change or to give something back to an organization that helped them in the past.
The Yukon Volunteer Bureau brings together people who want to volunteer and organizations that need volunteers. That service is free. Their Web site and printed resources hold a wealth of community information and helpful advice on working with volunteers. They hold regular, free training sessions on issues that volunteer organizations are always coping with, such as writing proposals, evaluating programs, legal considerations and training and recognizing the contributions of many volunteers.
Non-government organizations in the Yukon owe a lot to volunteers who give freely of their talents and time to manage and support programs that make Yukon a healthy, safe and productive place to live. We salute and extend our heartfelt thanks to all Yukon volunteers. Through their vital contribution, the Yukon is a much richer community for all.
I would just like to say a word about this coming Thursday. The Volunteer Bureau is hosting the Mad Hatter Tea Party and it will be at the High Country Inn from 4:30 to 6:00. There will be games, prizes, food, tea and coffee and lots of fun for everybody. Everyone is invited to help celebrate Yukon volunteers.
Mr. Mitchell: I also rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to extend my thanks and tribute to our Yukon volunteers. National Volunteer Week is a dedicated week in April, set aside to honour and recognize Canadians who volunteer. Volunteer: it's a simple word but one of tremendous action that has an extreme impact on all aspects of our society. Volunteering is giving the most precious gift of your time, energy, talent and experience for the benefit of others and, in particular, the benefit of the community.
I know many members of this Assembly have and continue to volunteer in many different organizations in our communities. We can make a difference.
This year and next, literally thousands of Yukoners of all ages will volunteer in some capacity to make the 2007 Canada Winter Games the most successful games ever. Many people have already put in countless volunteer hours on the games and many more volunteers will be necessary.
Events like the Canada Games, the Rotary Music Festival, the National Mixed Curling Championships, the 2008 Junior World Weightlifting Championships, the Yukon Quest and many others that have been held over the years or will be held in the future are dependent upon the hard work of many volunteers.
The Yukon Volunteer Bureau will be holding workshops this week with an international trainer and author on Thursday and Friday. As the Member for Mount Lorne has said, the Mad Hatter Tea Party, to celebrate and recognize the volunteer community, will be held 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. at the High Country Inn.
The celebrating volunteers display opens today and continues through Friday at the Elijah Smith Building. The City of Whitehorse will honour its volunteers at a celebration this Wednesday. So take time out to say a simple thank you to the volunteers who make your group or organization what it is and that you value their contribution. Volunteers are the life blood of our community and by simply inspiring us to make life better for others, they do this. We salute you.
In recognition of National Immunization Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I rise today on behalf of the House to recognize April 23 to 30 as National Immunization Awareness Week. Immunization is critically important in the battle to control and eliminate infectious diseases throughout the world. One hundred years ago, infectious diseases were the leading cause of death worldwide. In Canada , they now cause less than five percent of all deaths, thanks to immunization programs undertaken across the country. Governments, including our own, have over the years introduced publicly funded immunization programs for children and adolescents and some for adults. These programs include diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, polio, mumps, rubella and hepatitis B, as well as the flu vaccine.
Our diligence is paying off. Immunization is necessary for two reasons: it protects individuals and it protects communities. Vaccines can protect an entire population by preventing the spread of disease from one individual to another. The more people who are immunized, the less chance there is for disease to circulate. Immunization has saved more lives in Canada in the last 50 years than any other health intervention.
It is the single most cost-effective health investment, making immunization a cornerstone of efforts to promote health.
There have been stories recently about a mumps outbreak in the United States . I am pleased to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that our immunization rates for infants and children are among the highest in the country. The MMR vaccine, which contains measles, mumps and rubella, is given as part of the routine primary immunization schedule at 12 months and repeated again at 18 months. Our immunization for both MMR doses are at 90 percent, plus it is also given at school entry. We have not had a reported case of mumps in the Yukon since 1999, although there were incidences reported in the Yukon between 1995 and 1998.
We recognize that there are those among us who, because of age or other reasons, did not receive the immunization. We do provide the mumps vaccine to adults, except for pregnant women. We are also discussing the possibility of providing additional mumps vaccinations to university students who may be more susceptible to the disease than other members of society. Last year, this government added a university-age meningococcal immunization to its list to protect young adults. With our territorial advisory committee on immunization in our own health staff, we are working hard to ensure that we offer Yukoners the options to keep themselves safe.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any other tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like all my colleagues in the House to help me recognize several volunteers who are in the gallery here today from the Yukon Volunteer Bureau. They are Lindsay DeHart, the president and chair; Ross Findlater, the past president; Kathleen Coventry, secretary; and Tracy Erman, the executive director. Representing the Canada Volunteerism Initiative are Moira Lassen and Michelle Vainio.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Rouble: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon and Yukon First Nation governments to continue working collaboratively on issues of importance to Yukoners, such as economic development, education, health care, affordable housing and safe drinking water.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to ensure that Yukon people and communities derive the maximum possible benefit from future economic development activities in the territory by examining economic development policies to ensure that benefits accrue at the community level, by developing programs and policies of practical value to Yukon-owned businesses and by ensuring that all economic developments are screened for environmental impacts.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) adequate public consultation and environmental and socio-economic assessments of proposed timber harvesting operations in southwest Yukon have not yet been conducted;
(2) forest harvesting practices and policies in the Kluane region must be fully compatible with the tourism economy that is the region's economic mainstay;
(3) harvesting operations must be carried out in a manner that mitigates negative impacts on heritage values, wildlife populations and the ecology, and contributes to FireSmart practices that communities within the Champagne and Aishihik traditional territory wish to implement; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to ensure that proposed timber harvesting operations in the southwest Yukon are compatible with the region's tourism economy, mitigate negative ecological and heritage impacts and contribute to effective FireSmart practices, such as those recommended in the fire risk assessment report, sponsored by the Village of Haines Junction and the Kluane National Park and Reserve.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to fund and implement best practices on solid waste management throughout the Yukon, beginning with a ban on burning garbage in rural and community dumps.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, over the weekend, I attended a function in which the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation was one of the speakers. The chief is also acting chair of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. During his remarks, the chief expressed very serious concerns about how the Premier is handling the Alaska Highway pipeline issue.
Now, the question: why is the Premier insisting on having a pipeline advisory commission similar to the railroad advisory commission when this clearly goes against the wishes of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think we have to put this all into context. There are a number of First Nations who are members of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, but there are also many First Nations in this territory that are not. That is why it is this government's job to ensure that we represent the broad public interest. We will continue to resource the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, but we will also continue to live up to our responsibility in the public interest in ensuring we engage with all Yukon First Nations with respect to the pipeline project because of the peripheral impacts that such a project would bring to the territory.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, it sounds more like a my-way-or-the-highway kind of approach that the Premier is suggesting.
On Friday the chief raised the same issue during a closed-door meeting with the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. He told local media that there was a great deal of concern about an undertaking the Premier made to the Governor of Alaska, and that undertaking was that there would be no delay on a pipeline due to environmental or First Nation issues. How could the Premier make such a commitment to the Alaskans when he has not had any meaningful discussions with First Nations or the Yukon people on the possible impacts of a pipeline?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The Premier didn't because there is no such thing as that type of undertaking. There is a strategy among Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska to ensure regulatory certainty and expeditious application of regulation in the territory to move and advance the project ahead. That is in keeping with what the federal government wants to do. There is no such thing as an individual undertaking between myself and the Governor of Alaska. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the Alaska Highway pipeline is in the national interest. That is why back in the 1970s a thorough process was conducted with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline. They went so far as to create a federal statute, the Northern Pipeline Act. This particular project is not something any one individual or jurisdiction can enter into as an undertaking. It is a national, and indeed international, project.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, for over three years we have been trying to get this Premier to understand that he can't just act unilaterally on his megadreams of pipelines and railroads. He has been doing that. The Governor of Alaska does not speak for the Yukon, and the Premier does not have a mandate to push the governor's agenda without the approval of Yukon people. The Premier doesn't speak for the Yukon First Nations either. They are self-governing, and they speak for themselves. It is the height of disrespect for the Premier to try to impose his will on them. That is what we've been witnessing.
Will the Premier agree to not make any further commitments regarding either a pipeline or a railroad until First Nation governments and the Yukon public have been fully consulted regarding the environmental, economic, social and cultural impacts of these two projects?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The one thing I will agree with is that the member's assertions are incorrect. No such thing has happened. Nobody is taking unilateral action. I have just informed the member opposite that this is in the national interest - it has the federal government engaged; it has the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta engaged, and it has the Yukon engaged. It has the Yukon taking the initiative to ensure that Yukon First Nations are involved. To that end, we are demanding from the federal government and the minister who just visited that the First Nations in the Yukon are treated as equally and equitably as First Nations in the Northwest Territories.
We are doing our work on the issues of social and economic impact studies and on the overall impact of this project to the territory. That is why we are providing resources to the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, and that is why we are going to do our work in the broader public interest to ensure all peripheral impacts are dealt with, including all Yukon First Nations.
Question re: Education reform
Mrs. Peter: On Thursday I asked the Minister of Education to table the quarterly reports he is supposed to have received from the education reform group. I also asked him to table three draft discussion papers, which I understand have been in his possession for a few months already. In both cases the minister declined. Perhaps he is not aware that even drafts of public discussion papers can be obtained under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. To avoid unnecessary time and costs, will the minister accept his responsibility to the Yukon people and provide that information today?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for the question; however, my position has not changed from the last Question Period. I believe that it would be very unworthy to start distributing draft documents to anyone, because they are subject to change, and it would be fruitless to start distributing those documents that are still in discussion.
Mrs. Peter: I hope the minister doesn't have something to hide. He said last week that part of the education reform process involved reviewing the comments made during previous governments' review of the Education Act. He has had almost four years to review those comments, so what's the holdup? The Education Act review is already five years behind schedule, thanks to this minister and the previous Liberal government.
Will the minister end this secrecy right now and provide the information I requested last week?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased that the member opposite touched on the previous government, because that's exactly what we don't want to do. That's why we are going to take the necessary time to ensure that a proper job is done here. Education is very important to everybody in this territory. It touches all our children and grandchildren, and we want to make sure that the process that is undertaken right now with education reform is done very well.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the minister is spending $1.5 million on his education reform process. It's not his money; it's taxpayers' money. They have the right to know how this money is being spent. I have another concern about the discussion papers the minister is sitting on. They could have a profound effect on people who work for this government - the teachers, the administrators and department employees. But these people have not been consulted and have not even seen these position papers. Why has the minister not included his own employees and their bargaining units in a process that could have a major impact on their working conditions?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would sure like to put the member opposite's concerns to rest, because this government is very aware of its employees. It always was and always will be. The government will work in the best interest of all citizens in the territory. The money that is spent on this education reform is to benefit all citizens in the territory. All the different threats by different First Nations to take down education are no secret; however, this process is to create unity - to make sure everyone in the territory is heard and feels they are being represented. This education reform is the exact process that has to take place to ensure unity among all citizens in this territory when it comes to education.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline treaty extension
Mr. Mitchell: I have some questions for the Premier about his meeting with the new Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. One of the topics up for discussion was the Alaska Highway pipeline project. The pipeline is subject to a 1977 treaty between the Government of Canada and the United States. That treaty is still valid today; however, it will not be valid forever. In fact, it expires in 2012. There have been ongoing discussions about the start date for the pipeline. It may or may not be underway by 2012. If it is not, an extension of this treaty will be required.
Did the Premier discuss this issue with the minister? Did the Premier encourage the federal government to discuss an extension of the treaty with the Americans?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It's important that we take note of a somewhat different approach by the new federal government with respect to both the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and the Alaska Highway pipeline. Both these files have been placed within the purview of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. That's a change from the past. Furthermore, the minister has been very clear on the record on a number of occasions, clearly stating that his government's position is that both pipelines will be built. It's the producers who have made the choice they want to build the Mackenzie one first. It's smaller, logistically less challenging, but they can learn a great deal from that project, as they extrapolate that into the building of the Alaska Highway pipeline.
The timelines are consistent with all existing regulatory processes, federal statutes and, indeed, YESAA, the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Act. Everything remains consistent with all those bodies and regulatory regimes we must apply.
The important point is that we have a federal government in place today that recognizes that both projects are in the national interest and want to make them both happen.
Mr. Mitchell: That was a very interesting response from the Premier, although I don't believe I actually heard an answer to the question. Perhaps we'll do this a little differently.
Another issue related to the pipeline is how it will be regulated. This is a decision that rests with the Government of Canada, and there are two options on the table. One is to use the Northern Pipeline Act, which is part of the treaty just mentioned; the second is the so-called “greenfield project”.
In a news release on June 8, 2005, the Premier said, “The National Pipeline Agency provides more assurance that Yukon 's interests will be met. The NPA creates a Yukon advantage; other project proposals regulated by the National Energy Board may encounter significant challenges.”
Mr. Speaker, Yukoners are looking for clarity. Does the Premier still believe the NPA is the best choice? Did the Premier present this position to the minister and what was the response? Did the minister share this point of view?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, Mr. Speaker, we need clarity, obviously. There is no greenfield project. In fact, there is no application for an Alaska Highway pipeline project whatsoever anywhere in the country. There is one application in today with respect to a pipeline project in the north, and that is the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and that is why the hearings are ongoing today.
With respect to this government's position, the Northern Pipeline Act creates something of value to the Alaska Highway pipeline project; that is, an existing right-of-way, border to border within the Yukon Territory. That is the point we make continually and will continue to make, but it is not our choice as a government on what regulatory regime will apply. That's the federal government's choice. All we say is that part of the equation they incorporate to make that decision must include what has transpired here in the Yukon Territory to this date, and that is the establishment of a right-of-way.
Mr. Mitchell: I guess we should point out that the Northern Pipeline Act does provide us with access, so there are some benefits, but I still haven't heard the Premier indicating what his position really is.
A third issue for the pipeline is the socio-economic impacts that it will have on the Yukon . In July of 2005, the Government of Canada announced the creation of a fund to prepare for these impacts in the Northwest Territories. The Government of Canada is prepared to spend $500 million over the next 10 years to create a fund to address socio-economic impacts on communities related to the planning and construction of the Mackenzie gas project. There has been no such announcement of a similar fund for the Yukon should the Alaska Highway pipeline proceed. I know this was on the Premier's agenda last Friday as well. Did the Premier make the request and what was the minister's response?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I hope I don't sound somewhat impatient, but I just answered that to the leader of the official opposition with respect to the very same issue. For the benefit of the leader of the third party, that is exactly what we have been saying. Yukon First Nations and Yukon should be treated fairly and equitably in terms of the federal participation in the Alaska Highway pipeline project as they are participating in the Mackenzie Valley project.
That's a given, Mr. Speaker; and we intend to pursue that to its very positive and constructive outcome on behalf of the Yukon. We make the case always.
But, Mr. Speaker, again I point out for the third party leader that there is no project, there is no application, so our approach is to say to the federal government that this is a great opportunity to begin the process of social and economic impact assessment, to do reviews on certificates of public convenience and necessity that are actually valid and in place today, and to look into all matters related to the Alaska Highway pipeline on the Canadian side. The Americans are doing their work in the State of Alaska and in Washington. It only makes sense that Canada does the same.
Question re: Nurse shortage
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to listen to the Health and Social Services minister speak at the Yukon Registered Nurses Association's annual general meeting on Saturday after he sorted out his scheduling difficulties. He talked about his $12.7-million health human resources strategy but conceded it won't do anything to employ the two Yukon nursing grads who stepped forward last week. Then he conceded that there is currently a shortage of no fewer than 10 full-time nurses in our communities. Can the minister reconcile the luxury of his $12.7-million fund with his inability to find jobs for the two Yukon nursing grads despite the current shortage of nurses across the territory?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Clearly, the Member for Kluane was not listening when I spoke to the YRNA AGM on Saturday. As I identified, we have 10 positions within community nursing that are currently staffed by auxiliary positions. Ideally, we would hope to have full-time, permanent staff in those places, but they are covered off right now with auxiliary staffing.
Again, I'm disappointed to hear the member opposite call the $12.7 million a luxury. Let me point out to the member opposite that although right now we do not have a crisis or a shortage of nurses, we do have some issues we manage on an ongoing basis - but we are generally well staffed in comparison to the rest of the country. The majority of those in the nursing field are nearing the age of retirement. The average age is 47. Within the next five to 10 years, a significant portion will be retiring. We need to act now to be ready. I'm disappointed that the member opposite doesn't recognize that.
Mr. McRobb: That's what we are telling the minister, Mr. Speaker; furthermore, he didn't respond to how he reconciles those facts.
The minister is obviously oblivious to the needs of rural Yukon. Whitehorse doesn't fare much better. The emergency room at Whitehorse General Hospital has experienced a 24-percent increase in the number of patients in just the past two years. The ER is now coping with summer traffic levels, and it's only April. This has increased the waiting time for Yukon patients from about half an hour to two hours, and even four hours on occasion. The message to the Health and Social Services minister is this: the emergency room needs help now. But instead of helping out, staff at the hospital are disappointed to learn that the minister has rejected their funding request for a third position on the 11:00 -to-11:00 shift. For the record, why has the minister decided to reject this necessary request?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I will reconcile facts as stated by the Member for Kluane when I hear any that are in fact accurate. He is acting on inaccurate information.
Again let me state here that the Yukon government funds the Hospital Corporation. We do not have any direct control over their decisions to increase, maintain or reduce the number of positions. In this fiscal year we have in fact increased the contribution to the hospital and, over our time in government, have increased it from a previous funding level of approximately $20 million a year to some $25 million per year, in addition to $10 million we have given them over the past three years outside of that for capital costs.
We are prepared and are more than willing - ready, willing and able - and intend to sit down with the hospital at any time to address any needs that arise. The member is absolutely inaccurate in his assertions that we have decided not to fund that position. We have increased our contribution to the hospital.
Mr. McRobb: It seems the government can pull funding rabbits out of its hat for pet projects like the railroad but falls flat where Yukoners need help the most - in the emergency room. In his speech the minister talked about the need for a mentoring program. The nurses requested this three years ago and the Yukon Party still hasn't delivered. The previous government introduced the very successful Yukon teachers mentoring program, which is managed by the Yukon Teachers Association. The YRNA could be doing the same with a nurses mentoring program now.
There's a pool of qualified people waiting to be interviewed, but the minister can't find the money within his $12.7-million fund. How will he address the problem before summer, or is he content to sit on his hands?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, it's very difficult to respond to the questions from the Member for Kluane when they contain so much inaccurate information, but I will attempt here. To begin with, with regard to the member's comments and suggestions that we should review a mentoring program, as I stated, we are reviewing that. The member should be aware that I have held this post only since the middle of December. I have already demonstrated and intend to continue demonstrating action on files that are of importance and moving forward to address the health care needs of Yukoners currently and in the future.
The member, when he speaks of a mentoring program for nurses, fails to note that his previous party, the NDP, failed to do anything in that regard, and his current party, the Liberals, failed to do anything in that regard. We are moving forward.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Cathers: We will work with - teachers are not nurses, in answer to the member's comments off the microphone. They did nothing to address a nurse mentoring program. We are reviewing that right now. As the members will note, if they've been paying any attention to the news, we made a number of announcements. We intend to make more on how we are moving forward with the health care front-line service providers to address the health care needs of Yukoners right now and in the years to come.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Outfitter concessions
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Now, the Yukon Party approved an outfitters land tenure policy that did not have proper public consultation, and he snuck it in over the past two years. Now there is one outfitter who applied for about 37 leases and licences on camp sites in his concession. Mr. Speaker, it's no secret that the Yukon Outfitters Association contributed financially to the Yukon Party in the past election. It's payback time. Can the minister explain this IOU to other Yukoners, including First Nations?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun's comments suggesting there was a payback is clearly in contravention of our Standing Orders, and I would ask you to have him retract that, please.
Speaker: That point of order is well taken, and I would ask the member to retract that. It's an indication that there is dishonesty on the part of either the Yukon Outfitters Association or the government, and that is not acceptable. The member full well knows that.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fairclough: I retract that, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Thank you.
Mr. Fairclough: My question was: can the minister explain this IOU to other Yukoners, including First Nations?
Speaker: Even to characterize it as an IOU, you know full well that that's out of order. So I would ask you not to do that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I will answer. Mr. Speaker, I think the Member for Mayo-Tatchun should rephrase the question entirely.
However, let me say this: the outfitting industry has been a long-standing mainstay in this territory. Not only have they been an economic driver, but they have shown and proven to be good stewards of the land and its wildlife.
We will always work with the outfitting industry, as we would any other industry in that regard. But we're also very conscious of our obligations under land claims and our final agreements with respect to concessions. That doesn't change regardless of who may be a minister or who, at some point, may have donated to some political party. The government must operate in accordance with the law, policies and regulations and, with the outfitting concessions, we have and will continue to do so.
Mr. Fairclough: The Yukon Party is sounding pretty defensive on this issue. What we have is a government that did not consult on a policy that has lasting impacts. The renewable resource councils are saying the process is not working. Meanwhile, this government is moving ahead on this matter.
Outfitters across the territory will apply for leases and licences on campsites in their concession - that's a given. Is the minister concerned at all about the precedent this will set for the rest of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: What we're talking about here is a policy that allows concession holders to tie a lease to a licence they already have. What is confusing about that? In that particular simple policy, what would be problematic anywhere in the territory? They already have the concession licence. They're tying leases to that licence so that all things that happen must be consistent with the terms and conditions of their licence.
Furthermore, let me repeat: the outfitting industry has been in the territory for a long time. It has been a good corporate citizen. It has contributed to our economy and has been a great steward of the land and the wildlife. This is nothing unusual; it is something that should have been done a long time ago.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier ought to leave the answering to the minister, who probably knows more about this than he does.
Now, in the application for leases on campsites, it was interesting to note that, for example, this particular outfitter identified a trapper's cabin and other spots that First Nations use for camping. There are trails that are traditional trading routes for First Nations. In addition, many of these sites are within the high-water mark. This is a serious matter and is sure to cause tensions with First Nations.
The public deserves better. The public wants respect and certainty, and so do First Nation governments. How is the minister going to ensure Yukoners and First Nation governments that this is not a land grab?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member is right on one thing: the public deserves better. I just informed the member that this is not unusual; it is tied to existing concession licences. How can this be a land grab? They already have a licence on a concession basis, but they have also invested in facilities on the land base. All we are giving them is a lease policy, so outfitters are given at least that right to their investment and contribution. Overall, they do not own the land base; they do not own the wildlife; they only have the concession license with a lease tied to it for immediate facilities and campsites. This is something that should have been done a long time ago.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun is right - the public deserves better, especially from the question.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre rebuild
Ms. Duncan: The lack of an appropriate Whitehorse correctional facility presents many issues for our community, the inmates and for the staff. The Yukon Party's response to this fact of Yukon life was to halt construction on the new facility and spend Yukoners' time and money on a corrections consultation that came to the same conclusion - we need a new facility.
The long-awaited corrections report also came to a conclusion about another Yukon Party problem - the staff morale has been negatively affected by unpredictable work schedules. The Department of Justice has been working on a new work schedule for staff at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre for over two years. Why hasn't this problem, entirely within the control of the Yukon Party, been solved? Even the corrections consultation report highlighted it as a problem. Why hasn't it been resolved?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, in this capital budget we have identified $1 million for redeveloping the Correctional Centre. The correctional infrastructure project involves the planning and design phase for a new Correctional Centre for 2006-07. The target will be to provide drawings and technical specifications to the point of readiness to tender for a standard, stipulated price, general contract construction project.
The issues the member is alluding to are being dealt with by the staff, and I fully agree with the administration - that they will do their best to work with the staff at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. They have a collective agreement and, to the best of my knowledge, it has been honoured.
Ms. Duncan: The corrections consultation report did not reveal information that was new to the minister. It highlighted long-outstanding issues. In fact the report says things like correctional services should work to address long-standing staff and management issues. Staff morale has been negatively affected by unpredictable work schedules. In order to attract skilled professionals, positions must be full-time. Correctional services staff were protesting outside this building earlier this year. Clearly this long-standing issue calls for some hard work on the part of the minister to make sure the matter gets resolved. What is the minister doing to resolve the work-scheduling issues for the staff at Whitehorse Correctional Centre? He has had four years in government and there have been two years of talks with staff, and it has not been settled. What is the minister going to do about it? Are we getting another four years of consultation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe I've already answered that question by stating there was a collective agreement in place that identifies the staffing situation at WCC, and they're being honoured.
I also want to state that a project manager will be assigned to building the correctional facility, which the member opposite is referring to constantly. The manager will work with the corrections consultation action plan to develop a new facility. That again has been the number one request, and it is being taken care of.
Correctional reform is a government priority. It is also a priority for me. Many of this government's plans and initiatives in the area of justice are related to correctional reform.
Mr. Speaker, I mentioned before that this is a Cadillac version of consultation, unlike the previous one done by the Liberal government.
Ms. Duncan: The days of the blame game are over. The member has spent four years of taxpayers' time and money. We have no new facility, no real plans for one, inadequate programs, and the issue I'm focusing on today is a very, very unhappy workforce. The question is very simple. The departmental staff and the staff at WCC are at a stalemate in resolving the scheduling issues. For almost two years they've talked, and there has been no progress. What is the minister going to do about it? Is he simply going to leave it for the next government to resolve? What is the minister going to do about the scheduling issues at WCC?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite spoke of the blame game being over. I think it's important that the public at large really makes a connection here. The previous Liberal government is the one that fumbled the ball on this correctional facility. They had the time to build it, and they didn't do it. They chose to call an election and throw all that work down the tubes. It's not a question of who is right and who is wrong; it's more like the question of the government that failed to come through with the project they started.
Again, we want to help individuals and communities build the capacity and courage to change lives. That's what this correctional reform is all about: doing something about the revolving doors at the correctional facility. I think it has been quite obvious right across the territory that that is what should happen. This government is going to comply with the request of the citizens across this territory and we will do what they are requesting.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07. The department currently under debate is the Department of Tourism and Culture.
Before we continue, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 20 - First Appropriation Act, 2006-07- continued
Department of Tourism and Culture - continued
Chair: We will continue with Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, in general debate on Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe, Mr. Chair, where we left off previously was a discussion with the Member for Mayo-Tatchun on heritage and the contributions that the Department of Tourism and Culture has made and continues to make to heritage in the Yukon. There are significant contributions to heritage - facilities, support and so forth. We have made very important strides over the last three years.
I was looking back to some of the notes on funding assistance that we have made over the last number of years to a number of entities. Actually, the department in this fiscal year will be providing just shy of $7 million in grants and contribution funding through the cultural services branch, as well as the tourism branch, through a number of designated programs.
The cultural services branch alone will be providing just over $4 million in grant and contribution funding. This goes toward enabling and supporting the development of visual, literary and performing arts in the Yukon. Of course, funding will continue to be made to our museums and First Nation cultural heritage centres.
I believe I had made reference to an earlier announcement that our government had made a month or a month and a half ago with respect to new funding being made available to museums, and we will certainly provide added strength to our existing museums in terms of helping to build capacity and in terms of providing ongoing support to staff and furthering the development of - whether it be acquisitions, small capital acquisitions, exhibit artifact assistance and so forth. All told, this year, in this fiscal budget, we will be providing just over $1.5 million toward the further development of our museums in the Yukon . Again, that is all-inclusive of assistance to our museums and First Nation cultural heritage centres in Yukon , as well as interpretive centres in some of our communities.
As outlined in our party platform three and some years ago, we had made the commitment to provide increased assistance to our museums, our heritage community, and we have done just that. We have actually listened to the heritage community over the number of years, and we have been able to enhance funding available to the museum and heritage communities. We have introduced a new funding program of $220,000to support First Nation heritage cultural centres, and that funding is being made available to four existing cultural centres in the territory, of which two, I believe, lie right within the Member for Mayo-Tatchun's own constituency. That is new funding, and I know the member is appreciative of that funding, because he said so earlier.
We are also pleased to again provide enhanced funding to museums. As I mentioned earlier, in just the latter part of March I was able to announce $200,000 in new funding for Yukon museums. This will go toward enhanced current project support for initiatives such as specialized exhibit, small capital projects that may include joint marketing initiatives, artifact inventory and cataloguing.
All told, we are very pleased to provide $1.5 million in government funding for these very important institutions in our territory. Also included in that funding is $400,000, coupled with the $100,000 we have provided to MacBride Museum earlier, for a total of $500,000 for the proposed expansion of MacBride Museum - another great and fine institution in the Yukon and a museum that has been asking for assistance since the 1980s to house many of their artifacts that are currently in storage. This will enable the expansion to take place. It will enable many more artifacts to be housed within their institution and provide the museum with the opportunity to provide the added programming they have been able to expand over the last number of years, thanks to the direction and leadership of the board of directors and staff at MacBride Museum .
As I mentioned earlier, we are pleased to be able to assist the museums community with the development of a museums strategy. That was finalized late last year. One of the things flowing from the museums strategy was the proposed creation of an advisory panel. We have tasked the Department of Tourism and Culture to work with the heritage community to ensure that representation includes our First Nation heritage cultural centres, our museums community - both small and large, to ensure there is rural representation and representation from some of our interpretive centres that we were also able to expand funding to three years ago - institutions such as the Campbell Regional Interpretive Centre in Faro, places such as the Binet House in Mayo, the Northern Lights Space and Science Centre in Watson Lake, and the Miles Canyon Historical Railroad Society. They certainly have been doing a fine job in assisting us with the operation of the Whitehorse waterfront trolley, to which we are all very pleased to assist by expanding the trolley service straight through to Spook Creek in order to enhance travel for visitors throughout the City of Whitehorse.
These are just some of our many contributions that we have been able to provide over the last number of years. We provide ongoing assistance to Yukon Archives through the acquisition and preservation of Yukon's documentary heritage.
Again, we continue to treat the Government of Yukon records in accordance with the Archives Act, and we are very pleased to be able to continue to work with Friends of the Archives and other smaller archival programs delivered by First Nation governments and so forth throughout the communities.
Again, ongoing assistance through heritage resources for the development and interpretation of heritage resources pursuant to the Historic Resources Act and also in meeting our obligations according to the land claims agreements. So all told, we will be providing a significant number of dollars in contribution funding that will certainly benefit all our communities.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for those answers to the questions. I did ask about government support for certain heritage buildings around the territory here. I did ask the minister to get involved in doing the management plan on the Yukon River with First Nations. So far, the one that I'm talking about is from Thirty Mile down to Carmacks and the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation is doing the management plan on the river without government. Basically, it's because they're concerned with the amount of traffic that they see on the river. They also have a lot of concerns in regard to the settlements along the way like Big Salmon Village and Little Salmon Village and so on.
Maybe the minister could answer that question. What is the government doing to get involved in regard to this particular management plan for the river?
Also, I would like to know whether the government is doing anything in regard to restoration work to another part of the Yukon River that was significant. It had cabins and so on. I asked this question before. It is Policeman's Point. That particular settlement disappeared in a forest fire.
I still think the government can do something because this is part of Yukon history that disappeared.
Could the minister tell us what she and her department are doing about doing some preservation and restoration work to the other significant history along the river? I'm thinking about a couple of them. One I don't know of, but it's a steamboat. One of them is the SS Evelyn, I believe. The government has done some work in the past in propping up the boat from falling apart, but it is deteriorating as we speak, although it's a really nice spot to stop and look at the history on the Yukon River.
Perhaps the minister could tell us what they have done. I know there's signage and so on that tells a bit of the history about where this boat was docked. They're disappearing, and I think a lot of the local people would know this best because they're the ones who stop and look at these sites. There's one boat - the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin knows about it, I suppose. There are many of them that have run aground. One is on an island and just has the ribs sticking out. I think the Yukon government could have good signage and the history and find a way to preserve this as a site for the river travellers to see.
There are many of these spots along the river. One of them is just at the outlet of Lake Laberge.
If the minister could answer those questions - I think she has taken care of most of the questions I had on the last sitting day. I'll just let the minister go ahead.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As I believe I outlined for the member opposite a few days ago, there are a number of programs that are available for Yukon citizens to apply to, one of which I was referring to earlier that falls under the historic places initiative - a federal program. They administer the commercial heritage incentive program through the Government of Canada. It is available for commercial property owners to apply for.
Although I don't have any statistics readily available at my fingertips, I know that, as a result of increased communications, thanks to the cultural services branch, we are making known to Yukoners that there are programs available, such as the commercial heritage incentive program, and that they do fall within the historic places initiative.
Other programs, such as the heritage properties assistance contributions program, are also available to Yukon citizens to apply for funding available to restore and preserve their properties. As a result of the historic places initiative, we have adopted the standards and guidelines the federal government has formally adopted or initiated and implemented. As other jurisdictions in the country, we are following suit. It was recommended by the Heritage Resources Board that the Yukon government adopt these standards and guidelines.
As a result, we are able to come through with the adoption of these standards and guidelines and if property owners can show or demonstrate the ability to do this work in compliance or agreement with the standards and guidelines administered through the historic places initiative, then the funding is available for individuals to apply to these respective funds.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the community development fund which has provided a great deal of assistance to a number of different properties throughout the Yukon . Although I don't have a list at my fingertips, the member opposite only has to take a look at the recent news releases and the improvements to trails and existing networks of trails or, for example in the member opposite's own riding, the Mabel McIntyre House. The member opposite knows that that property was designated as the territory's very first historic site under the Historic Resources Act. It has received funding from both our cultural services branch and the community development fund to do some stabilization and restoration work. The Village of Mayo put forward that application, and it was designated. As I mentioned before, it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to designate that property, because it holds a lot of history and heritage, and it certainly has instilled the pride of many citizens of that community.
Since then, we have also been able to designate a couple of other properties under the Historic Resources Act. The telegraph office, for example, in Dawson City has had probably over $300,000 worth of work done on that building over the years, toward its completion and restoration.
It is really a great work of pride in the community. The sawmill was designated at the same time as the old telegraph office in Dawson about a year ago or so. Again, there are many, many, many historic sites registered in our heritage sites inventory. We know that there is much work to be done on all kinds of properties, not to mention historical landmarks in the Yukon . Through our department, we certainly strive to work with the community to recognize the priorities identified in that community and place resources accordingly. Are we able to do all of them? No, but over the years we certainly will be able to work on many of them, and we have been able to garner a number of great successes over the years.
Also, just to remind the member opposite, when it does come to funding for heritage, we have been able to enhance funding, as I mentioned earlier, to some of the heritage-related programs that we administer. The heritage properties assistance contribution - we've actually doubled the funding over the last couple of years. I know that it continues to be well subscribed to. Again, that's one of the results of advertising and raising the awareness of these programs out there. So I think, again, programs such as these and greater awareness initiatives, education initiatives about the importance of history, are what makes all of us very proud to live here and we are also very pleased to be able to promote the Yukon as a destination of choice for many and will continue to work with our respective communities, as I mentioned earlier.
The member opposite did make reference to some specific areas - Policeman's Point and the SS Evelyn, if I'm not mistaken. We'll have to get back to the member opposite on those. I am just not as familiar with those specific points, but we can certainly get back to the member opposite in writing.
With respect to the points raised by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun regarding work along the Yukon River, I understand that as part of the archaeology program administered through the cultural services branch, we have undertaken a number of projects in cooperation with First Nations. One of these includes a heritage-site survey of the Yukon River between Big Salmon and Carmacks. This is a joint project with the First Nation to carry out archaeological work on this section of the river for the very first time for the purposes of documenting traditional historic sites.
Earlier I referred to the historic places initiative. This initiative is consistent with one of the objectives of the historical places initiative program, and that is to increase Canadians' access to - and to help them understand - our heritage by actively engaging them in its preservation. The project will also assist Yukon 's efforts toward increasing the quantity of sites and data already listed in the historic sites inventory.
It also addresses concerns expressed by the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation to better document the heritage sites on the Yukon River, which the member opposite raised, to assist in site management and protection.
Through our cultural services branch, work is taking place on this specific area in the territory. In addition, just up the river there is also some work going on - archaeological, historic and cultural studies - at Fort Selkirk. That's a joint project with the Selkirk First Nation. It is to undertake investigations into the old Hudson's Bay Company post, with which the member opposite is very familiar, at the historic townsite of Fort Selkirk . There are ongoing initiatives with that.
There are other projects in partnership with First Nations, such as the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and so forth. I won't list all of them but, again, just to make the point that funding is continuing to be made available through a number of different programs such as the historic places initiative through meeting our obligations under the Umbrella Final Agreement and the individual self-government agreements, which I just mentioned, and through our archaeological program.
I forgot to mention the historic resources fund that is administered through the Yukon Heritage Resources Board, for the member opposite's information. They administer this fund, and they provide funding as a result of the interest that they accrue over the course of a number of years. They have been able to provide funding to a number of different initiatives as well. Again, I don't have a list in front of me, but I was remiss in not mentioning that particular program.
In terms of signage, I think I mentioned earlier, through the scenic drives program we have made substantial numbers of dollars available. We have made funding resources available for the ongoing implementation of interpretive signage in the Yukon , including maintenance as well as upgrades and new development, newly created highway pullouts in the Yukon . A number of different projects have been identified as priorities, not just over the last couple of years, but into this year. I mentioned some of them, which fall along the Silver Trail. It also follows along the Golden Circle route, the Dempster, as well as the Alaska Highway in the Kluane area.
Those areas have been designated as priorities.
I would certainly anticipate that this program will continue to be administered for years to come. I think it's a good program. One of the items identified as something to look to down the road was signage on our river corridors. Not all our beautiful areas are accessible by highway, but they are really off the beaten path and down some of our spectacular scenic rivers. As long as I'm the minister, consideration will certainly be given to providing monies toward interpretive signage on some of the Yukon River corridors. They are essentially another form of scenic drive.
I wanted to make that point, because I think it's great to see good new investments in interpretive signage, adding to the inventory of products along the highway. They certainly entice people to slow down and spend some extra time on the highway and learn about the heritage and history of the Yukon in those respective areas that they have come across.
There is consideration being given to perhaps making funding resources available to scenic corridors such as our rivers and making signage available on that front.
I think that just about addresses most of the questions the member opposite had raised.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for another 20-minute answer.
I have an issue I want to raise but, first, I want to ask her if she would oblige by providing me a legislative return on some detail of the Klondike-Kluane loop that was announced as part of this budget. I would like to find out exactly what is being appropriated and the timeline for development of this, and what we might expect in terms of marketing and so on.
I mainly want to respond to the comments she put on the record last Thursday regarding the issue of the display at the Mainstreet Visitor Center in Tok, Alaska . The minister raised this issue on her own. I have some difficulty with how she described the matter.
First of all, Mr. Chair, the request that was formally made to the minister focused on the ongoing annual cost. The minister's response flatly refused to provide any such funds - let's make that clear. The request was flatly refused, yet I heard the minister go on and on about how she thought it was a year and a half and hasn't heard back from us. The way it was described made it sound like the ball was in our court and the reason we don't have a display at the Mainstreet Visitor Center in Tok , Alaska, is somehow my fault. I want to address this.
The letter I wrote to the minister was dated May 2, 2005. It followed previous attempts to have the minister address this matter over the previous two years, which all failed. The letter sent to her was copied to the economic development officer at the Haines Borough, the mayor of the Haines Borough, the president of the St. Elias Chamber of Commerce and a worker at the visitor reception centre in Beaver Creek. I also talked to people who work at the Mainstreet Visitor Center in Tok, Alaska , as well as a number of other individuals.
Mr. Chair, it seemed obvious there was an opportunity to partner on this marketing initiative. The mayor's office in Haines clearly indicated a willingness to partner toward the ongoing costs of a display that would market the Kluane region as well as the Haines Road at the Tok visitor reception centre. Now, why the Tok visitor reception centre, Mr. Chair? Well, allow me a minute to explain. For southbound road travellers leaving mainland Alaska, they reach a crossroads at Tok, which is just north of the Yukon border, just north of Beaver Creek by about 150 kilometres. At that point they can decide to either continue down the Alaska Highway through the Kluane region and through Whitehorse and so on, or they can go through the Klondike region, over the Taylor Highway and Top of the World Highway to Dawson City and then down to Whitehorse. So while at that facility a few years back, I noticed - and actually, I couldn't help but notice - a very large and impressive display promoting the Klondike region. This was paid for by the Klondike Visitors Association. Now, the KVA has dozens and dozens of businesses behind it. It has a very prominent support level from the business community in the Klondike region.
Their display contains pamphlets from the various businesses as well as a television with audio-visual promotions for the Klondike area. Being the MLA for the other region - the Kluane region - I looked around for something that would advertise the alternate route, and found practically nothing. Over the years I have made a case to the minister - and I believe the case brought forward through the letter of May 2, 2005 was a very good one, because by that time I had opportunity to discuss this matter in greater detail with the Haines Borough, and clearly received an undertaking for a willingness to partner with the ongoing costs of the display booth at the Tok Mainstreet Visitor Center.
There are several arguments to support this, Mr. Chair. First of all, people in the Haines Borough region believe that the Haines Road is one of the most stunning highway routes in the world. It's really underpromoted and, frankly, I have to agree. In terms of scenery, it is very difficult to top what that section of road delivers. You have stunning mountain scenery, high alpine meadow, wildlife, forested valleys and all kinds of glaciers. There are lakes like Kathleen Lake just off the main road; there are other lakes like Dezadeash Lake quite visible from the highway. The scenery and wildlife abound.
In addition, it's one of the best maintained highways in the Yukon with virtually no frost heaves or pavement damage. Furthermore, under the U.S.-funded Shakwak project, a section of that road will be paved this summer. There are no gravel sections remaining on that road. So it really is a prize for the Yukon and for the Haines Borough. Like the Haines Borough, I believe a lot can be gained in terms of marketing if the Yukon government would get off its hands and do something.
We heard about this Klondike-Kluane loop. This is nothing new. I've heard this for years - 10, 20 years ago I heard this. It has always amounted to nothing. Frankly, without marketing at the crossroads in Tok, it's not bound to get anywhere, because we are marketing only from one end. You've got to market it from the other end.
Another argument is that there is an increasing fly-drive market that is based out of Anchorage , Alaska. As we know, it is common for this clientele to rent vehicles and do loop drives. What is wrong with the Anchorage-Tok-Fairbanks loop drive? Nothing; it is probably one of the best loop drives Alaska has to offer.
While people are driving one of the best loop drives Alaska has to offer, they stop at the Mainstreet Visitor Center in Tok , Alaska. Lo and behold, only one of the two Yukon options is promoted - the Klondike region. I know when the Member for Klondike was part of the Yukon Party Cabinet, he probably opposed the request, but we know things have changed.
Things have changed, and he is no longer the Deputy Premier or a member of Cabinet, so I'm hoping the attitude of the government has changed since the reply dated July 7.
The minister mentioned it was a year and a half, or something. Let's just look at the dates. As mentioned, my letter was dated May 2, 2005; her reply was dated July 7, and it wasn't received in the office until July 14, some 10 weeks later.
I took the letter and showed it to the various people who were copied with my original letter, and I talked with others. The general consensus was, “Forget it: we're beating our head against a stone wall trying to get something out of the Yukon Party government with respect to marketing the Kluane region.” Some people even went so far as to laugh, because they know what's going on behind the scenes. So it was not an earnest offer.
Now, the minister did undertake to pay some of the one-time cost, and that's appreciated but, really, so what? The one-time cost is irrelevant; it's the ongoing cost, and the ongoing cost is approximately $3,500 U.S. per year.
While waiting for the opportunity to ask a question this afternoon, while the minister gave her standard 20-minute reply, I wondered a bit more about this, especially about sharing the cost of the display.
Besides Haines Borough in Alaska wanting to partner, I wondered if perhaps the Chamber of Commerce in Tok , Alaska, may have an interest in offering? So, really, the cost may be about a third of the total, if we're lucky - if somebody's willing to do the work. Now, I feel I've done all I can, and I don't want to raise anybody's expectations and not be able to deliver, because we know only the government side in here has the ability to actually spend taxpayers' money. If it were up to the opposition side, let it be said, Mr. Chair, this issue would have been resolved a long time ago. It's measly in terms of cost. It produces a return on investment. It's partnering with other locations as part of a greater overall regional marketing plan. It attracts new clientele into the territory; it doesn't merely compete for the same visitors. Once again, that is achieved by appealing to people on the Anchorage-Fairbanks-Tok, Alaska loop, to maybe extend their holiday a bit more, by doing another loop. So overall it was disappointing. We're pretty well at the end of this government's mandate. People are telling me, “Good, let it expire; let's hope for an improvement next time. Let's hope for some response from government next time that actually deals with the request and responds to the opportunity before us and does what's right.” And I have to agree with those people, Mr. Chair, because, frankly, after four years of asking questions on this issue, I've had it with this minister and this government.
I've given both all the opportunities to respond in an earnest way, and all we get is only part of the matter addressed in the response - nothing about the annual cost at all. Yet the minister stands up last Thursday and berates me for not getting back to her in some year and a half. Well, it's half the time, and the reason people didn't get back to her - not me - was because the response was laughable and wasn't worthy of a response, and that's the general consensus from the people involved.
I want to put that on record; I believe I have. Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I thank the member opposite for his commentary. I just want to put on the record that the reason this whole issue was raised was because of a question that came forward from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. Perhaps if the Member for Kluane had followed the debate a little bit closer, he would have recognized that I was responding to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin's question with respect to this very issue. I just wanted to put that on the record, if we're trying to get all the facts on the record. I would be very remiss if I didn't respond to the member opposite's diatribe.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I withdraw that comment, Mr. Chair. I just wanted to explain to let the member opposite know that we did respond.
I apologize for not getting the specific dates for the correspondence. If the member opposite would actually follow the date and refer to Hansard from last week, he would have recalled that I didn't have the dates at hand - I figured it was about a year or year and a half ago. I was just putting the facts out there that I didn't hear from the Member for Kluane, and up until today, we still hadn't. I just wanted to put that on the record. If we really want to put all the facts out there, that is what we did.
The member opposite is correct. I had an opportunity to take a look at my file on this particular issue, and I responded on July 7, 2005, referring to a number of things that our department had offered. That was to include our offer to provide half of the initial capital costs, to a maximum of $2,500, to build such a display as the Member for Kluane was referring to, toward purchasing a DVD player and installing a display in the Mainstreet Visitor Center in Tok , Alaska. I should also add that I said in the letter that it would be our preference to have the display built in the Yukon as opposed to being built in Alaska , as the Member for Kluane suggested in his letter.
This would be a one-time contribution toward the construction of the booth and the purchase of the respective technical equipment and so forth. I just wanted to make that known and also as to how the member could contact our respective staff in our Department of Tourism. That offer still stays true. Should there be interest put forward from Haines, Alaska , or perhaps the St. Elias Chamber of Commerce, even the Village of Haines Junction, we would be very interested in sitting down with them. Again, I just wanted to make known what the comments were with respect to the member opposite's questions on this particular issue.
Going back to the scenic drives initiative that our government did announce, I believe, two years ago - I don't have the dates in front of me, so I couldn't actually quote the actual time, but it was approximately a couple of years ago that we introduced it. This has been all-inclusive of new monies. $350,000 was identified, I believe, in a fall supplementary, and then we came forward with $350,000 new monies last fiscal year and $350,000 in new monies for this fiscal year. We're really pleased to be able to build upon the number of programs that we currently deliver, whether in conjunction with our partners from Alaska through the joint Yukon-Alaska marketing program or through the respective jurisdictions of Alberta and British Columbia through the Tourism North program. But this is a campaign specifically targeted to rubber-tire travellers who have indicated an interest in coming to the Yukon .
There are several Yukon scenic drives that we have identified with the long-range goal of positioning the Yukon as one of North America's ultimate road-trip destinations with the primary objective of increasing rubber-tire visitation and length of stay in the Yukon , primarily in the main tourism season. As I mentioned, we have designated funding - over the last couple of years, $700,000. This year we have designated another $350,000 for the implementation of this program.
In 2004-05, in the first year, we did instigate a direct-mail campaign to U.S. and Canadian visitors, the development of the Web site, as well as the very first scenic drive - that being the Alaska Highway - and ongoing associated research.
We also designated a fair amount of money toward the interpretive signage along the Alaska Highway in 2005. We had a budget of $155,500 to go toward signage along the way.
I'll just run through the whole list of signage along these particular areas of the Alaska Highway: starting with Watson Lake, kilometre 980, signage and the signpost forest, replacing the Gertrude and signpost forest signs; Cassiar-Alcan intersection, kilometre 1001.6, we produced and installed regional signage in the parking lot of the service station; Continental Divide, we removed the outdated signs and produced and installed three new signs; Swan Lake, we produced and installed another sign; south Klondike Highway junction, we also produced and installed three signs.
At MacRae, we produced and installed a new sign and reproduced an existing damaged sign that had been there for a long time.
At the north Klondike junction, we worked with Highways and Public Works to construct the new pullout and produced and installed three new signs.
At Takhini Crossing, we worked with our respective stakeholders to produce and install a couple of signs there.
At Canyon Creek, we worked specifically with Champagne and Aishihik First Nations to produce and install a couple of signs there.
At Mount Hubbard viewpoint, which is a new pullout, we worked with Highways and Public Works, Parks Canada, the Haines Junction Chamber of Commerce, the Village of Haines Junction and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations to create the new pullout and to install new signage. We're very pleased to come forward with that initiative.
We installed regional signage in the vicinity of the village square in the Village of Haines Junction. At Soldier's Summit, we removed outdated signage, produced and installed a couple of new signs. At Kluane River , we replaced two damaged signs that have been there for awhile. At Icefield Ranges , we removed and updated an outdated panel and produced and installed a couple of new signs. At Dry Creek, we produced and installed two signs.
That was in 2005. Just recently, on March 13, 2006, we announced the Klondike-Kluane loop scenic drive, and we're pleased to have it on-line right now for the travelling public to view and enjoy.
I don't know if the members opposite have had the opportunity to take a look, but you can log on to www.driveyukon.com and you will be able to choose between our existing couple of scenic drives - the Alaska Highway and the Klondike-Kluane loop scenic drive.
In this year's budget that we are currently debating, we have marked $215,000 for interpretive signage. Regarding signage specifically in the Kluane region, we have installed an outhouse, new signage and landscaping at the Kluane Lake lookout. It is a fairly large expenditure but it is a very important initiative.
We are doing some reconditioning of the Alaska Highway mileposts. We are replacing outdated signage on the Kluane River. At the Yukon River view, we are installing a garbage bin, a picnic table, a conglomerate rock, new outhouses on the installed tanks. These are some of the signage projects we have identified on both the Alaska and Klondike highways this year.
We have also identified $100,000 for the Golden Circle route. At the Takhini burn, we are replacing outdated signage. We have monies identified for some landscaping at the south Klondike-Alaska Highway junction. We are doing some repairs to the Bove Island kiosk and some surveying on Tutshi Lake. The Chilkat Pass and the Haines Summit will get new signage. At Seltat, we are replacing outdated signage. The Haines Junction overlook, Pringle Towers, the Dezadeash Lodge and Mule Creek will have new signage. At Kathleen River, we are levelling the site and producing and installing new signage, which is a fairly significant investment there as well.
So these are just some of the initiatives that we have identified in terms of interpretive signage - building product along some of our scenic corridors in the Yukon - and we're really pleased to come through with some fairly substantially increased dollars.
Again, part of the program of scenic drives is the marketing program - again, building on our Web sites as the major venue for showcasing our scenic drives in the Yukon . Our marketing campaign includes an e-mail campaign to joint Yukon-Alaska individuals and to re-contacting previous scenic drive inquirers.
As I mentioned earlier, we will be able to complete and launch the Golden Circle , the Silver Trail and the Dempster Highway scenic drives and build navigation as well as first-level content for the Southern Lakes circuit and the Canol route. We hope to launch those final two sites perhaps in early 2007. Again, our marketing campaign will continue to provide e-mail campaigns, using contacts that we have recognized through the Yukon-Alaska program. And again, we will explore the expansion of the scenic drives section in the 2007 Yukon Vacation Planner and again we will be also looking at doing a new brochure on the scenic drives collateral piece as a separate stand-alone.
One of the strengths of this program has been the ability to work collaboratively with our respective stakeholders along these scenic corridors - the First Nation governments, the municipality, the tourism organization and so forth. But it is critical that you have that dialogue and you have that exchange of information so that you're able to incorporate the product. Again, we're always looking to update the inventory of products made available within the Web site and be able to showcase the scenic drives program.
I also wanted to say a few things with respect to the questions of the member opposite regarding marketing initiatives in the Kluane area. I have to pay credence to our Department of Tourism and Culture staff, through our senior marketing committee. We have boosted funding to three strategic areas, after recognizing the leadership of the senior marketing committee, by providing enhanced funding to Web site enhancement on all the Web sites delivered through the Department of Tourism and Culture, not to mention familiarization tours and media relations. I think that is a pretty good investment because we get a substantial number of dollars in return.
In the Kluane region, I wanted to say that we have facilitated a number of fam tours over the last year. In fact, just in looking at some of these - Canada Specialist France, the Japanese magazine Be-Pal, facilitating visits from freelance journalists from Germany, Travel Club Switzerland, Canada Specialist Australia, Japanese television programming - we've been able to generate a pretty good amount of media coverage in the Kluane region over the last year. That was just 2005 alone.
We have also facilitated other media fam tours. I was referring to just media coverage earlier. For fam tours, I can actually list probably 20 over the last year and a half.
Again, we are very pleased to be able to assist some of these companies coming here, to be able to facilitate their experiences all over the Yukon, and Haines Junction and the surrounding area has been able to benefit wholesomely as a result of this.
There are a number of different initiatives, again, through the tourism co-operative marketing fund. That is a new funding program of half a million dollars that is available to First Nation governments, to municipalities, tourism organizations and businesses alone, to be able to apply to this respective fund and be able to showcase their part of the world, whether it's an event here at home or whether it's a specific activity that they want to showcase outside of the Yukon to the rest of the world.
These are all some of the programs that are readily available, and our Department of Tourism and Culture officials are always ready and willing to sit down with any respective community or stakeholder upon request to talk about how we can market their particular region as well as the Yukon in total.
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Chair, in watching some American news reports yesterday, there was a great deal of commentary about the price of a U.S. gallon of gasoline approaching $3 U.S. per gallon and in some cases crossing that symbolic threshold. Business people in the United States were very concerned about the impact of these record-high prices on travel plans and tourism as well as other areas.
Now, I did ask the minister last week about what plans, marketing approaches or promotions the minister and the department might have to try to counter the perception that our Yukon gas prices are in fact becoming larger than life?
Because our prices are well over $4 U.S. per gallon and they may be heading toward the $5 mark, and the minister -despite her very thorough responses to a number of questions - didn't really reply with any information on how the department hoped to minimize this impact and what the strategy would be, although I did ask about it twice. I just wanted to give the minister another opportunity today. She has probably had some more time to talk with the officials and consider whether there are any special promotions or information that is going to be used, because I am beginning to hear those concerns from a number of the tourism-dependent business people in the Yukon. They are concerned and no doubt would like to know what the government hopes to do to alleviate those concerns.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, there is no question that increasing fuel prices, not to mention other factors, remain a concern of our government. Similarly, we have been hit over the last several years with a whole host of events outside our control, whether that was SARS, whether that was fuel prices, whether that was 9/11, forest fires, et cetera. I think the one thing that the tourism industry has shown is that it has been able to show resilience over the years and work with industry, and that's what brings me to the next area - by working with industry through our senior marketing committee of the Yukon tourism marketing partnership identifying priorities for this coming year and next, adjusting our marketing strategies that we have built over the years, and looking at where we can reinvest our dollars better or realign our resources accordingly.
Where one market may not be proving to be fruitful, another market may be. It's constantly taking a look and assessing our marketing programs and responding accordingly. We meet with the senior marketing committee on a regular basis. I think one of the things, of course, is the implementation of the new Yukon tourism brand strategy that we were able to just recently announce. That will give us the opportunity to utilize our resources more efficiently, because we will be able to market our programs under one umbrella, so to speak. We will be able to better engage our stakeholders in the tourism industry - whether that be First Nation governments, municipalities, tourism stakeholders, businesses at large or chambers of commerce - enabling the Tourism department to work very closely with our tourism stakeholders to recognize synergies and build on some of our advertising leverage. I think that it is a very strategic and timely move to have a new brand in the Yukon .
The other great opportunity that lies just before us is the 2007 Canada Winter Games. We were very happy to participate in the national marketing campaign that is now up to $5 million. That will really give us the ability to showcase the Yukon to the rest of the country in a manner that we haven't been able to do in the past. We will be able to engage Canadians at a national level through televised media coverage and so forth. You can bet we will be building on the advertising benefits accrued from the games, leading up to the games, during the games and after the games. Certainly we were able to recognize a great boost in visitation as a result of other events in the past, like Expo '86.
So again, I think that $2 million in terms of new funding made available through the Yukon government toward the Canada Winter Games national marketing campaign is a substantial investment. We are very pleased to come through with that, and work collaboratively with the host society as well as our counterparts in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
As I mentioned earlier, through working with industry, we have been able to identify enhanced investments in media relations, Web site enhancement and familiarization tours. That was specifically at the request of the senior marketing committee, and we were able to come through with those enhancements and were able to carry forward with those increases this year as well. I just mentioned the investments made through these particular areas. For every dollar that's invested, we get a $9 return on investment, if I'm not mistaken. So it is well worth the effort. Again, we continue to work with industry to dedicate resources in areas that they deem to be priorities. Similarly, when we were hit with 9/11, we were hit with other factors. We continue to work with industry to readjust our programs, perhaps to reallocate funding to one program that may not have been working as effectively as possible. Again, taking the lead from industry and continuing to work with our partners on the national basis, Canadian Tourism Commission - we're really pleased that they have made the move to Vancouver from Ontario. That probably gives the Yukon more access than ever to the research made available through that particular organization.
Through the Canadian Tourism Commission, they are following this issue very closely, as we all are, although some of their research so far is showing that long-haul travel will not be as affected as short-haul travel, as we have seen over the last few years. We have seen that in other jurisdictions: British Columbia , Ontario and so forth. They've all seen quite a substantial reduction in visitation, particularly by the U.S. market, when it comes to same-day travel and, to an extent, overnight travel - very short stays, that is.
When one looks to long-haul stays and destinations, they are less impacted. That's not to say we're not concerned: of course we are, but we will continue to work with industry and take the lead from them in furthering our campaigns and adjusting our campaigns accordingly.
I mentioned earlier about building upon the Canada Winter Games, conventions, incentive travel, and meetings - that market has been doing very well for the Yukon . The fly/drive market has been doing exceptionally well. When one looks at the travel trends, they are changing and not just in the Yukon but North American-wide. The demographics are changing, and that means we have to be flexible; we have to adjust our programs accordingly in order to make the best return on investment with existing and future campaigns.
I had an opportunity to speak with a couple of representatives of a company in town that make available camper, motorhome and vehicle rentals. Their business is up substantially from last year, which was up substantially from the year before. They are really pleased. Sales have been even better. That's a really good sign and they are already 80 percent into the season for this year. That tells me there is a pretty strong market.
Other companies have also been telling us this and, on the other hand, other businesses perhaps have a different story. Our goal is to work with industry to recognize our strengths and to adjust our campaigns accordingly. We continue to work with our stakeholders in improving product development and looking to further develop some of our niche products. There was a great symposium that was held this spring on health and wellness, which was very well subscribed to. I know there are a couple of businesses here in town that see that as the future for the Yukon .
We're also working with our industry representatives in building industry guidelines to boost the level of product available throughout our respective communities. We're building upon campaigns such as the scenic drives campaign, which targets the rubber-tire traffic market, in addition to campaigns already available through Tourism North, a joint Yukon-Alaska program.
As I mentioned earlier, there's the tourism cooperative marketing fund, which has been a great success in not only enabling businesses to lever some of these dollars - we will match their funding - but in terms of marketing here in the Yukon or outside the Yukon in the national or international markets.
These are new initiatives that we have directly targeted. By building on some of the products and attractions that we have - I made reference to many of them both in the heritage and cultural sectors. Again, in the gateway cities marketing campaign we continue to work with our air partners. Air North's ability to reach out to potential travellers from our gateway cities of Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver over the last couple of years has been phenomenal, especially in what is classified as our shoulder seasons in the spring and fall. They have been able to bring a resounding number of individuals to the Yukon . They also partner with respective organizations such as the Klondike Visitors Association, and are then able to bring more visitors to our communities at a time when we haven't been experiencing as much visitation as we could.
Through the cruise ship industry, we are very fortunate to be located beside a very strategic port that brings many, many visitors to Alaska, and in turn provides land tour excursions throughout the Yukon . They have been doing very well over the last few years. We have great confidence in supplying many visitors as a result of efforts to showcase icons in the Yukon, such as Kluane National Park and the Tombstone Territorial Park. I just looked at Holland America , for example. Their tour catalogues have really been able to showcase Kluane National Park and the Tombstone Territorial Park, right up there with Denali National Park in Alaska and Glacier Bay National Park.
They've been able to showcase those four destinations as icon products that they showcase to well over a million of their clients that they have served over the last number of years. So again, building upon all our diversified markets is, I think, the key to further success. I don't think there is any end in sight where tourism industry and other industries won't continue to be challenged, but thanks to the hard work of industry and the great collaborative relationship we've been able to strike with industry over the last three years, we'll continue to build upon our strengths, and that is diversifying our tourism markets and, again, adjusting our marketing programs where need be.
Mr. Cardiff: I was almost caught off guard there by how soon the minister wrapped her comments up.
I only have, I believe, one question for the minister. It has to do with land use planning. Contrary to the view of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, we did receive a briefing from the Land Use Planning Council, and what they explained to us about the regional land use planning process that's going on with the Land Use Planning Council and the establishment of the two commissions - the one in the north Yukon and the Peel - and the hope that there would be a third commission established this year when the north Yukon plan is complete. What they told us was that regional plans establish a vision for the future of a region.
In creating this vision, planners use comprehensive information, consider options, and provide a document that should be used as a basis for decision making.
One of the key roles, and this seems to be an area where it was my understanding that the council feels that the government could do a better job - and I'll put the other ministers on notice at this point in time that land use planning is something that I think needs to be a priority. It flows out of the land claim agreements in chapter 11 of the Umbrella Final Agreement, so it is important that we take our responsibilities on this matter very seriously and put adequate resources into that.
One of the key roles for the government is providing that information, and I hope that every minister responsible for a department is considering what information their department can provide to the land use planning council. The question to the minister is: what is the Department of Tourism and Culture doing to provide that information, what is the amount of resources the department is putting there and where is it identified in the budget?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Tourism is present. We do participate on all the respective committees that oversee land use planning in the Yukon - and there are a few committees, that is for certain.
Through Tourism and Culture, we help provide research, information we have accumulated and guidance to the respective committees, and we work with businesses, organizations, communities and First Nations in order to use that information to plan accordingly and to provide them with the most recent and up-to-date information. That is working with initiatives through land use, regional economic planning and that is working with our respective departments on multiple planning initiatives that take place.
As I mentioned earlier, we provide planning expertise to clients when they specifically request information in a particular area. For example, as I mentioned earlier, the north Yukon land use plan is one we are concentrating our efforts on right now and have been working very closely on with the proponents of that plan. We hope to deliver a draft copy of that plan in due time.
It has taken some time in the past but it's really important to get it right the first time. As a result, there have been a couple of postponements. It's just to ensure we do planning right the first time.
There are a couple of areas in the operation and maintenance budget where we do have a designated individual in the Department of Tourism to do tourism planning specifically. That individual does a great job, I might add.
On the capital side, for the first year, we have $30,000 available for providing tourism information, expertise and analysis. That is to help us participate in land use planning initiatives. In particular, I would refer to the Peel River watershed and the Northern Tutchone regions. That is housed within the product development branch in the Department of Tourism and Culture, so that is working very closely with our other individuals in providing tourism information and research analysis in response to industry. That is actually another $20,000, I might add. So there are a couple categories there. That is in response to industry and community requests, special management areas, regional economic planning and so forth.
Mrs. Peter: I just have a few more questions for the minister. This department has had many goals and objectives over the past couple of years - more recently, the marketing strategy to promote the Yukon throughout Canada and North America.
Again, recently, the Yukon logo and the Yukon brand have been launched. I would like to hear from the minister how the marketing strategy is evaluated. Is it done yearly or whenever the strategy has reached its goals?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, each year we do work with our senior marketing committee through the Yukon tourism marketing partnership. We sit down and re-evaluate each of the marketing campaigns that we deliver. I don't have a copy of the marketing strategy, but every year we do provide an update as to what we are doing for the upcoming year, and we do analyses as to how programs have performed over the last year, or if they haven't.
As I mentioned to the members opposite earlier, it gives us an idea as to where we should be identifying resources to use otherwise or perhaps how we can better use those marketing dollars to achieve the same purpose. As with any marketing campaign, there is always a required amount of time to ensure that you get things down pat and that they do work effectively. But through the senior marketing committee is where we do take the lead and we take direction from. And we look at specific things like the return on investment, such as spending levels or with respect to visitation - a whole host of various components in analyzing these respective programs. Each year we submit the annual marketing campaign. Again, if a member looks at the previous year's campaign and at this year's campaign, they will see if there are any changes. It is specifically quite comprehensively outlined for each citizen to take a look at and see exactly where those dollars are being spent.
I view it as a report card on tourism marketing, as does industry. Hopefully that addresses the member opposite's question.
Mrs. Peter: My next series of questions is based on how the dollar amount is calculated in the Yukon. My first question is this: what is the dollar amount calculated that is spent by each tourist for each visit, and how does this compare with other jurisdictions?
My next question is this: how much does the territory spend on marketing per tourist, and how does this compare with other jurisdictions?
How does the department determine what amount should be spent on marketing? Is it a percentage of total budget?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, I mentioned earlier that there is a whole host of different attributes that the department does look at. The visitor exit survey, which was issued in late 2004, was a very comprehensive tool for industry over the last - I don't know how many years we have been conducting those visitor exit surveys. They break down by region and provide a good overview of the dollars spent by each visitor and on what. Again, that is based on the information that we take in speaking with the visitors first-hand. Web site inquiries - how many hits, I seem to recall. That is another attribute that the department takes a close look at as well.
By working with industry - I should also mention that we do have a tourism conversion marketing study that is facilitated by a local business, a local polling firm, in each and every year. That information is rendered as a result of the study that is undertaken, using the same benchmarks so there is a consistent feed of data coming forward. I could certainly probably provide the member opposite with a copy of the visitor exit survey. I'll leave it at that.
Chair: Are there any further questions? Hearing none, we'll proceed with line-by-line.
Mrs. Peter: I request the unanimous consent of Committee of the Whole to deem all lines in Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture, cleared or carried, as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture, cleared or carried
Chair: Mrs. Peter has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operational and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $15,300,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures in the amount of $5,935,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism and Culture agreed to
Chair: I understand the next department we will be examining is Vote 11, Women's Directorate. Does the minister need a few minutes to change officials?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: It has been suggested we take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: Order please.
Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07. We will begin Vote 11, Women's Directorate.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I am very pleased to provide for members opposite an overview of the operation and maintenance and capital budgets for 2006-07 for the Women's Directorate. This year's main estimate is $1 million, which is certainly the highest the Women's Directorate has had to date.
The 2006-07 main estimate budget has increased from the 2005-06 main estimate by approximately $190,000. This increase in the main estimates will allow the Women's Directorate to continue to support government initiatives to promote women's equality, which is the mandate of the Women's Directorate. Housed within this budget are a number of ongoing initiatives and some new initiatives, one of which is reflected in this budget. It includes the conversion of the First Nation liaison coordinator housed within the Women's Directorate. That position has become a full-time indeterminate position to better meet the needs of the government, particularly in fostering our relationships with the aboriginal women's community.
As well as this individual, it will also continue to take a lead role in the development and implementation of the long-term public education campaign on violence prevention. For the third time, our government has committed $100,000 to support wellness and violence prevention initiatives designed and delivered by aboriginal women. Indeed, we still believe in the value of the work being done by aboriginal women's organizations and have created an ongoing budget allocation for this very important work.
We are committed to supporting people helping people, and particularly aboriginal women helping each other achieve parity with other Yukon individuals. The increase in transfer payments for $100,000 is to continue the aboriginal women and violence initiative that was first announced by the previous minister responsible for the Women's Directorate and the Premier in 2003-04. These resources are being administered through contribution agreements and are for community-based projects that focus on wellness and the prevention of violence against aboriginal women.
In the last fiscal year, there were four successful applicants, including Selkirk First Nation, the First Nation of Na Cho Nyäk Dun, Whitehorse Aboriginal Women's Circle and the Teslin Tlingit Council.
Again, as I mentioned earlier, in addition to the increase in transfer payments to women's organizations through contribution agreements, there is an increase in the allotment of personnel - that is for the allocation of a full-time equivalent indeterminate position - otherwise known as our First Nations liaison coordinator.
Our First Nations liaison coordinator has been working on the long-term public education campaign on violence against women and children. This individual has also been very instrumental in providing a cultural lens in the department's gender-inclusive analysis policy and legislative work.
This position is very instrumental in leading the long-term public education campaign and, again, will help to garner and solidify further relationship-building with First Nation women in our communities.
Our government has also added an additional $140,000 to community partners through contribution agreements to help several territorial women's groups develop planning in light of the need for action with respect to issues of equity for women. We are very pleased to be able to work with the existing organizations in the Yukon . This has been deemed as an existing need for a number of years. The issue of long-term core funding for women's organizations has been deemed as essential, not just here in the Yukon , but clear across the country and all the way to the House of Commons. We are pleased to be able to work with women's organizations to help secure long-term funding.
We are also pleased to provide ongoing funding for the annual Women's Forum. This is an initiative that is led by the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues, a council that I've had the privilege of being able to meet with four times every year, and they have been very articulate in raising concerns on behalf of women in the Yukon from all walks of life, from every corner of the territory. This is but one of the many initiatives that YACWI, which is the acronym for the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues, has tasked itself to do.
This year's Women's Forum concentrated on women's health. I know the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin had an opportunity to take part in some of the forum, and I was also able to take part in part of the forum. It was very comprehensive, and probably the only negative comment that I heard from the women who attended the forum was that there was perhaps too much information in too little time to address some of these very important issues facing women's health today. Funding did provide for women in the territory from all over to come together and learn about some of the pressing needs of our health care these days and to look at new, and perhaps I should say holistic, forms of health care as alternatives to the delivery of health care services in the Yukon today.
I think there were just under 100 women who attended the forum this year. They represented individuals from just about every community in the territory. It was very well-received, and I certainly thank the members of the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues for their hard work and diligent efforts in ensuring this women's health forum was a success, which it certainly was.
This budget continues to address a number of initiatives that we have had in the works with a number of organizations by way of violence prevention and public education - whether that is providing gender-inclusive analysis, gender-equity sessions in some of schools or providing assistance or partnerships with the Yukon Public Legal Education Association, providing self-advocacy training, working with the Yukon Women in Trades and Technology organization to follow up on some of the recommendations outlined in the Women in Trades report that was issued last year.
We will be following up on some of the recommendations that will probably be coming forward from YACWI as a result of the annual Women's Forum that was held just recently on health care. We will be helping to facilitate community visits with each of our communities and having the opportunity to listen to women in the Yukon and reach out to women in the Yukon , to follow up on concerns in the community - to raise them at the respective levels and begin follow-up.
We have also been very instrumental in working with aboriginal women's organizations and assisting with women in leadership initiatives. I just think of the aboriginal women's forum that was held, I believe, almost two years ago - a year and a half ago - where it facilitated a great discussion about women and land claims, the evolution of land claims in the territory and how women can take more of a leadership role in the implementation of land claims.
More recently, I know that the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women's Circle also took part. They held a wonderful forum, again addressing this issue and raising some very important issues to aboriginal women in their communities and raising them with the Yukon government as well as First Nation leaders in their communities. So, again, building upon the women in leadership series is an instrumental work the Women's Directorate engages in, day in and day out.
Working with other organizations to provide assistance to promote annual events, whether that be December 6, Sexual Assault Prevention Month or Women Abuse Prevention Month and so forth, these are all very important initiatives. If we are to address a problem, it is raising awareness about some of the dire issues in our communities today and helping engage women in the discussion about these problems and assisting them by providing them with some of the tools to talk about these issues and take action.
I am very excited and encouraged by the continued success of the Women's Directorate to address emerging women's issues through the engagement and collaboration of other government departments and stakeholders in other organizations. I'm very privileged to work with a group of dynamic women on a diverse collective of complex issues that are nothing new but are issues of dire importance to women today. By working with the Women's Directorate and our stakeholders, this assists each of us in raising awareness and grasping a much better understanding of the issues at hand that face women and children in each of our communities today.
Mr. Chair, I look forward to questions from the members opposite and in engaging in further discussion.
Mrs. Peter: I appreciate the comments from the minister, and would like to put some questions and comments on record.
The Women's Directorate has an incredible budget this time around. It's a little larger than the last time, and that's encouraging. Any time we spend money in this area and address the many issues that women have to face in the Yukon Territory is always hopeful. However, I have always been an advocate for resources - financial resources and human resources - for our communities, and that doesn't seem to be happening within this department.
When I talk to women throughout the Yukon Territory, they face many challenges and many issues. When we have a Women's Directorate sitting in Whitehorse, and we have a $1-million budget that is allocated to address some of the issues on behalf of women - and we have been talking about this issue in this House for the last six years - but we haven't seen much progress in the communities, the women out there become impatient. They are sometimes not very hopeful that the issues they face daily are going to get any better.
The minister made a reference to the forum that was held in Whitehorse on women's health, and I did attend that, and it had excellent information for the people who were there. There were women from all communities throughout our territory.
Unfortunately, when there is such an excellent conference or forum that's held of that nature and there is a lot of information that can be taken to the communities and there's someone responsible for bringing that information back to the community - whether it's the participant that attends the conference or the forum - communications get lost along the way, and that excellent information that we said here in that room and gathered doesn't sometimes get passed on to the grassroots people in the communities. I just wanted to make that note, because I for one learned a lot in just sitting in that forum for that one day. Unfortunately, I couldn't attend the whole day, but there was some really key information there that I believe the women in the community would be very appreciative to have access to.
When we talk about women in our community, Mr. Chair, we're talking about mothers, we're talking about our aunties, we're talking about our grandmothers and our great-grandmothers. They all play a key role in our lives and also in the dynamics of our communities. The role that they play in our communities is very, very important. Most of the time, the roles that they play are as caretakers, whether it be of the family as a whole, or if a grandmother is home most of the day, her grandchildren are hopefully out working in the workforce or attending school, and she's the one at home who is maybe cooking the family meals and everybody depends on her to go to her home during lunch hour and have a meal with her family.
Most of the time, this grandmother is more than willing to have her family gather at her home. On the other hand, there's the other dark side of that kind of life. In the communities it's very visible, but people are not very outspoken about what happens to our elders after dark. A lot of them face all types of abuse, whether it be from your neighbour or your grandchildren or family members.
A lot of the issues we face in our communities are due to alcohol and drugs and lack of jobs for the younger people. If we don't have work, then we tend to depend on the rest of the family members, and that cycle just goes on and on. It's sometimes not a pretty picture, but the reality is there. Those are some of the issues we face in our communities.
When we talk about family violence, it's still silent in our communities and - I wouldn't say “invisible”. Victims try to make people around them believe it's invisible; however, it's not.
When it comes right down to it, the challenge is how we deal with family violence in a small community, when you don't want your neighbour to know what's going on in your home, when you don't want your family to know that you're not having a very healthy relationship within your own family unit, because they don't want to concern their parents about their children, and it just goes on and on and on. That again addresses the issue of education.
It's like the domino effect: when you don't have a very stable relationship within your home, that affects your children, which affects their performance within the school system, and that affects your extended family, whether it be the grandmother and grandfather or other people in your family. You don't want everybody to become involved, and yet it involves everybody.
So when you're living in a small community and you don't want everybody to know your business and you're experiencing family violence and trying so hard to keep the lid on things and not have anybody know what's going on, it takes up a lot of energy from the victim.
So, we have a victim of family violence in a small rural community in the Yukon Territory , and that victim does not want to be seen at a local meeting addressing family violence for women. They don't want to be seen sitting at that meeting. They don't want to be there for many reasons.
Then, we have resources that come into our community with many of the services that are available outside the community. Some of them are 1-800 numbers and some are phone numbers to shelters outside the community - whether it be in Dawson City, Whitehorse or Watson Lake. The victim is not going to carry this information around, because their children or spouse might find it and that leads to more violence within the home. “What are you doing with this information?”
We have to be very sensitive to what we are dealing with and who we are dealing with in the communities. We have a certain amount of money we can spend to hopefully help empower people to lead a healthier kind of lifestyle and so they don't have to worry too much about having to leave their homes and uproot themselves and their children in order to get away. They face that shame, and then come back to try to make a better life within the family system and community system. We must encourage victims of violence to become stronger individuals within the community without having to worry about the judgements and about having to prove themselves to their community.
It is a real challenge, and the conferences and all the initiatives that the minister spoke to are great initiatives. I don't have an issue with that, but what I do have an issue with, Mr. Chair, is how we get this very critical information and the services and programs to the people who really need it in the communities so we empower those people to be able to live a better life for themselves, their children and their families. We need to encourage individuals to say, “This is enough. I can move on in my life, and this is a place where I can go, and these are the people that I can count on” - and yet do it in a manner that they can hold on to their dignity and self-respect.
When we talk about family violence, there are very few of those nice words. The support that you receive in a community is great but what I have heard from individuals for the past few years is, “I am not going to talk to anybody in my community about what I am going through.” And that's for a variety of reasons.
So the challenge is there for the Women's Directorate. I think it always has been, and I think it's going to be there for a long time to come, until we choose to go directly into the communities. And the Women's Directorate can go into the communities, but again, I have to caution the minister that there are not a lot of people who may be outspoken in coming to these meetings and offering great ideas just because of the whole topic itself of family violence.
Abuse is more than physical violence, especially in the workplace. I know my time is limited here, so the question I have for the minister: what is the Women's Directorate doing about workplace bullying and harassment within the territorial government itself? Because we also have to be role models in what we propose to do throughout our communities. If we want to ask someone to live a healthier lifestyle, then I had better know what I'm proposing, and if I'm advocating on behalf of family violence, do I condone any kinds of these types of behaviour in my own home or in my own workplace and wherever I walk in life.
Chair: We've reached our normal time for an afternoon recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, with Vote 11, Women's Directorate.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin raised a number of very important points. Violence against women in our communities is a dire issue that remains in our communities and is an issue every government of every stripe has worked to address. Through the Women's Directorate, we are adopting a number of initiatives to address violence experienced by women in our communities. Violence prevention remains a priority for our government and is one of the key mandates for the Women's Directorate. We have undertaken a number of initiatives on this front, such as the public education campaign on violence against women and children.
As the member opposite stated, it is critical to raise the awareness of violence in our communities. It is critical to understand how violence affects absolutely everyone in the community and what resources are available and how education and citizens can support victims of abuse.
The good work of our front-line workers within the Department of Justice, through the family violence prevention unit and the Department of Health and Social Services certainly does a very good job making counselling and treatment available and support for victims of abuse.
Our government introduced amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act during the last sitting. As members opposite will recall, included was a broader definition of “family violence” to allow for emotional abuse and it also included stronger penalties for convictions of family violence.
We have allotted increased resources to the family violence prevention unit, whether that be providing additional services to our communities, whether that be training provided in our communities, clinical supervision, trauma intervention and so forth.
We have introduced VictimLINK, the toll-free, 24-hour crisis line, and we have worked to expand the domestic violence treatment option to communities like Watson Lake. We're working on very innovative approaches to violence in our communities such as domestic violence treatment options, which combine therapeutic approaches to the court process.
We have been able to reduce the collapse rate of cases of spousal assault coming forward to the courts. I think that that particular initiative has worked very well. It is in large part due to the hard work and effort of a number of different stakeholders in our communities - the participation of the RCMP, the participation of the courts, participation of our women's organizations. There are so many different individuals involved in the process of ensuring that victims of abuse receive services and support and perpetrators also receive counselling for their wrongdoing.
I was really pleased to see the announcement that was issued last month by the Minister of Justice regarding a new crisis counselling program for children who witness domestic abuse. This is something that has been identified as a priority in the communities, and it will fit in with other treatment services being made available for traumatized children.
We focus more on providing assistance where needed and immediately, as well. There are a number of initiatives, as I mentioned earlier, that we have continued to work on in the Women's Directorate. We work with our community organizations and we work with all Yukoners to address the very serious problem of violence in our communities, such as through public education to break that veil of silence that exists, as the member opposite raised earlier, through the delivery of front-line services and ongoing policy work that we also conduct with our respective stakeholders.
As I mentioned earlier, we did identify new funding for aboriginal women in violence prevention initiatives, and this is funding made available to aboriginal women in the communities. The unique attribute of this particular initiative is that proposals coming forward are made by aboriginal women specific to address the needs in their communities. We have been able to support a number of initiatives over the last number of years that have reached all the way to communities such as Mayo, Pelly Crossing, Teslin and so forth. It is but one of a number of initiatives that we in the Women's Directorate have been working with.
With respect to actual front-line work, through the Department of Health and Social Services we have been able to increase dollars to women's shelters in the Yukon . This was very much needed and it was an initiative that our government was able to come through with. We are very appreciative of those services provided by Kaushee's Place, the Dawson shelter, Help and Hope for Families, and so forth.
As I mentioned earlier, we also make funding available to a number of women's organizations. Through new funding being made available, we will be able to help them build capacity in our respective communities to help get the message out, as the member opposite referred to earlier.
Self-advocacy training for women in the rural communities has been really well-received. It raises awareness of what the legal rights are of women and children in the communities, who might be fleeing, for example, from abusive relationships or having problems with custody-related issues. Again, it is raising awareness of rights, what services are available and how to better represent oneself. This is another initiative that we partnered on with YPLEA over the last couple of years and we are pleased to move forward with this.
With respect to reaching out to our communities, I recognize the challenges associated with getting information out to our communities. This year, rather than having one large annual Women's Forum, we are going to have a whole host of individual meetings in our communities this year. There will probably be members of YACWI, as well as our First Nations liaison coordinator, going out to each of the communities to meet with women on a one-to-one basis and identify the pressing concerns and ways of better addressing some of these issues. We look forward to hearing from the women's community in all the Yukon . It's a way of us reaching out to them.
In turn, we'll be able to accomplish much more by going out together and meeting with women in the communities, instead of pockets of our office, as well as YACWI, going out at two different times. We hope to have that underway sometime this summer.
Regarding the crime prevention and victim services trust fund, as members opposite will recall, we passed amendments about a year and a half ago that saw an increase in the amount of resources available to programs that address victims and crime prevention needs. There have been a number of very worthy initiatives sought after by women in the communities to address initiatives specific to their communities.
As I mentioned earlier in my opening Budget Address, we hired a First Nations liaison coordinator to work on the violence prevention campaign. That individual has been very instrumental in reaching out to women's communities, particularly in rural Yukon , and will play an integral role in the upcoming months when they meet with respective communities to discuss issues and about making resources available.
There have been other initiatives that we have adopted over the course of the last number of years in all the respective departments. I could go on, but I don't wish to belabour the point. I think it's really critical to recognize that family violence is not simply a government responsibility. It takes the efforts of the entire community. I think through our departments working with the stakeholders and women's organizations, we will continue to come up with creative ways to address this very complex and horrible issue that confronts our communities on a daily basis.
I also want to make mention of an initiative that we undertook about a year ago, and that was the creation of safety kits as a means of taking proactive steps to support women in crisis. The safety kits were developed to assist women in planning for their safety - to help a woman who was experiencing abuse, provide her with resources and contact information - as well as providing her and friends and family with the tools to support that particular individual experiencing abuse and providing emergency planning and to help take steps toward independence.
A few months ago when the safety kits were first launched, I received a note from a member of the Yukon Family Services Association who wanted us to know how appreciative she was, as a front-line worker who works with all our communities, and that the kits were well received and it is a good initiative. She urged us to continue the distribution. In fact, they were so well received that we had to go into a second run of printing shortly after the first run finished.
So again, there are a number of initiatives that we have taken in working with our women's organizations, for them to work with women in the communities. These are all very important initiatives and ones that we support.
The member opposite referred to questions - I guess it was referring to respectful workplace initiatives: what is the Government of Yukon doing to encourage respectful workplaces, and what are we doing to hinder violence in our workplaces?
Through the Public Service Commission, I am quite familiar with this issue. As a government, we support the right of our employees to work in a harassment-free environment that respects the self-esteem and dignity of every employee in the government. We encourage mutual respect and the cooperation of all parties involved, and this perspective is reflected in our policy on workplace harassment and prevention and through ongoing activities in the workplace harassment prevention office.
There are also a number of provisions on harassment investigations in both collective agreements with Yukon Employees Union and Yukon Teachers Association, including letters of understanding coordinating policy among the various departments. We have also continued to deliver a couple of separate courses through the Public Service Commission, entitled “Respectful Workplace” and “Promoting a Respectful Workplace.”
Again, those courses are delivered through the workplace harassment prevention office. In the next coming months, we do have a number - over several offerings of having these courses delivered in each of our communities. They are also open to other employees and First Nation governments. We do serve to deliver, to meet the specific needs of our departments, and we work to deliver and modify these courses, according to the specific needs of the departments.
In this regard, we have enhanced funding for the workplace harassment prevention office, with funding for a couple of coordinator positions, as well as a manager. Last year, there were a couple of workplace relations consultant positions that were established - again, to enhance conflict resolution capacity within the government. Through the staff development branch of the Public Service Commission, as I mentioned earlier, we also offer tailored services that can help facilitate conflict resolution on a more ready basis.
There are a number of initiatives we have undertaken through the IPS initiative - investing in public service, promoting workplace health and safety and grievance procedure training. We have developed training and support of a new grievance procedure that was jointly developed by the YEU and the Public Service Commission, which builds upon principle of respectful, non-threatening workplaces in the government.
There is also a letter of understanding in the YEU collective agreement that specifically addresses workplace violence and how we can prevent this from happening further.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for her very detailed answer. Earlier I referred to a part of our community population as perhaps suffering from silent and invisible abuse. That population is the older women who live in our communities.
The women of our community, in history, have always worked behind the scenes and kept our communities going. They were actually the key drivers and decision-makers within our communities. Today we have many women in leadership roles.
The challenge that we face in our communities is how to shift and change that attitude from being behind-the-scenes workers to blazing the trail, so to speak. The trailblazers I have been very blessed to know in my own life were not behind-the-scenes kind of people; they were definitely trailblazers in our communities and they always played a leadership role. However, today, in facing the different challenges we have, how do we instill this type of attitude in young men and women growing up in our communities, after having witnessed family violence? How do we encourage and empower the young men and women of our society to lead responsible lives after witnessing family violence?
The minister made reference to the Justice department taking leadership and having a workshop, I believe, for children who witness violence. I support that but, again, the workshop or conference that was held on that topic was held in Whitehorse , and many of the resources are needed in the community. Those are the kinds of initiative we need to see driven at the community level, so all people can have access to the information and the materials that are being distributed at these conferences and the resources that we have within our own First Nation departments.
I'd like to hear from the minister what the statistics are for Silent and Invisible, the older women's program at Kaushee's. Is the money for this in this budget, or is it added to the Kaushee's agreement? Will it be considered an ongoing program? Is there consideration to have the Silent and Invisible program expanded into rural Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, the older abused women's program is a program that is being delivered by Kaushee's, and that is reflected in the Department of Health and Social Services budget. I don't have a line or a number for that. But perhaps I'll raise that with the Minister of Health and Social Services and he can be prepped on that question when it comes forward.
With respect to the member opposite's comments, I agree with her wholeheartedly when it comes to talking about advocates in our own community and providing examples of healthy relationships and healthy behaviour.
Abusive behaviour, whether it be emotional, violent, or physical abuse, is a learned behaviour. Sadly, I think many don't realize that. That is why it is so critical that, when we reflect upon abuse in our communities, we continue to portray messages, pictures and examples of healthy relationships in our communities and that it is not a normal behaviour. It's not normal to abuse one's partner or anyone, for that matter, and it should not be condoned.
I just refer to some of the contribution agreements that we've had with aboriginal women's groups over the last number of years. In this respect, they've been able to support a number of healthy partnership-building exercises, in terms of being able to provide that peer counselling and to almost train the trainer by encouraging advocacy and peer counselling, and by developing networks among our women's communities in order to reduce that sense of isolation and to strengthen the community violence prevention programming.
I'm very supportive of these initiatives. No matter which way you look at it, by providing examples of healthy relationships - what those look like and how one emanates them - we only stand to benefit. It is so very important to keep that in mind.
In terms of working with other departments, the Women's Directorate, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, is hosting a workshop through Circles of Respect and Equality - which is the group of stakeholders who are overseeing the public education campaign. They will be hosting a five-day, front-line abuse workers' training. This is being provided by a First Nation training organization called Nechi.
Helping to build capacity and building on that experience, and passing along that knowledge to other communities, is but another example of some of the things that we are doing.
Mrs. Peter: I appreciate that answer from the minister. That was just leading to my next question. How do we go about giving this type of support to the communities? If we can't have the resources and help with the financial resources in our communities, the next best thing would be to offer training to the resources we have within our communities.
I was very fortunate and honoured to have been invited to share with a circle of women about a month ago about my own personal experience. Within that group of people, there were many different ages, from youth to middle age to elders. After sharing my story I had to sit there for an extra two hours just to make sure that everyone was okay before I left, because it was a domino effect what happened in that circle. What we talked about was family violence - the very real horror of those experiences. Yet, when we walked away we left people in the circle more empowered by what we all shared. That's the spirit of hope and that family violence is not acceptable by society itself.
To be able to do that, we have to take it a little further. If we're not going to be able to get the resources we need in our communities, then we need to have people who have more training, working in our communities. That's the community itself taking the responsibility, again, as usual, and building our own capacity in that way, whether it be taking life skills training or taking training in the various different areas that will help this resource person in our community to address the violent situations that we have, and be able to build the kind of support in our communities and build some kind of a trust so people will be able to call on each other and help those who feel isolated move forward in their own lives.
When I was sharing with this circle of people in that room, one message that came out of that very clearly was that we need more people to be more outspoken about their personal experiences and that it encourages women who are in a situation like that to start that dialogue among women. That message was very clear in that room.
It was the very first time that elders who shared in that circle some of their own experiences had ever talked about their own personal experiences. Even though it was very challenging for everyone, it gave each of us a source of strength. We definitely need to build on that. And each of them, I believe, will go back to their own communities and will take what they got out of our sharing circle to move forward and help other young people in their respective communities to come out and share their experiences so that they can move forward.
Having said that, there is a women's advocate position at the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. I am hoping the minister can tell this House how many cases the women's advocate at the women's centre works with and what were the categories of advice. Was it childcare, violence or child protection? And do these statistics indicate an approach to some sort of funding in the Women's Directorate?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I don't have that information at my fingertips, nor do I know if that information is even public. Because it is dealing with individual personal matters, it probably wouldn't be made available, but certainly we can endeavour to see what we can come up with.
Mrs. Peter: Thank you, Mr. Chair, I appreciate that.
I know that on the information that is gathered, especially at the women's centres and the safe homes we have available, they have to be very sensitive as to who comes through their doors. However, with the women's advocate position at the women's centre, I believe the information gathered on a daily basis as to the needs of the clients that they do see - not on a personal name basis, but by the need that each individual has when they walk through the door - would actually give us some key information on what that position is and how that position is used within that centre. I believe it is only a half-time position. Is there a need for a full-time position? That kind of information would be very helpful. I believe the minister is saying that those kinds of statistics are not available from that position. If so, then I would appreciate having an answer from the minister.
There is another area that we would seek information about, and that is the current statistics for the Domestic Violence Treatment Option Court. This option is used to refer family violence charges to counselling at the family violence prevention unit. I would like to hear from the minister how this program is being evaluated, and will it be a model for the problem-solving court that is recommended in the substance abuse action plan?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, it's my understanding the women's advocate position housed in the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre is a full-time position. With respect to the information requested by the member opposite, I'll endeavour to see what I can come up with for the member opposite.
Regarding the question of the domestic violence treatment option, the member opposite is correct. There was an evaluation taken of the domestic violence treatment option. It is quite a thick document, to say the least, and it did take a rather long period of time to complete that evaluation. I don't have the information, again, at my fingertips, because this is something that is housed through the Department of Justice. They do administer the domestic violence treatment option, and they did certainly commission an evaluation of the DVTO. But, certainly, I'll speak with the Minister of Justice so he can have that information readily available when it comes to that.
However, on that note, the Women's Directorate did play a very important role in providing comments, feedback and input to the committee. There was an advisory committee that oversaw the evaluation, and I understand that recommendations as to how we can improve the court itself will be forthcoming pretty quickly. So I guess I'll leave it at that.
There is discussion, however, about the problem-solving court as proposed under the substance abuse action plan. As I understand it, while there may be some similarities, there are also some differences. Again, the Minister of Justice would probably have a little bit more information to provide in this respect.
But I think that, in my brief experience and the bit of knowledge that I do have as the former Minister of Justice, these specialized courts are something that are being very well received throughout the country. The problem-solving court - again, if you can combine the court process with alcohol and drug treatment services, then that's a good thing, if you can provide the treatment along with the court-administered process. I think it's an innovative way of reaching out to individuals who may not necessarily have reached out in that regard. Again, I will have to defer to the Minister of Justice in this regard.
Mrs. Peter: I'd like to also hear from the minister what the current statistics are on using the Family Violence Prevention Act, if there is use for this act in the community, and if the RCMP, JPs and people who have to use this act get the necessary training that they need. Also, how have the amendments that we passed affected the use of the act?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: That actual act falls within the Department of Justice. It is the lead department, so I don't have that information at my fingertips; again, I'll endeavour to raise that with the Minister of Justice.
I do know that, through the family violence prevention unit - as I recall - training is made available to new members of the RCMP at every opportunity. That was one of the recommendations that came out of the Family Violence Prevention Act review, which was by Nick Bala a few years ago, in 2002. Since then, there is even a CD developed by the family violence prevention unit that provides a training manual regarding the act and its application, and it has been distributed. That said, I know that training is made available to members, and particularly new members arriving in the Yukon.
Mrs. Peter: I appreciate that the minister would try to get that information back to me. I'm asking questions in the area of Justice and we're in the Women's Directorate, but they are definitely connected.
This one is definitely in the Women's Directorate, so I'd like to hear from the minister what the statistics are for VictimLINK, the help line. How many calls do they receive in what categories, and how is that program being evaluated?
I believe VictimLINK is still connected to B.C. How many calls did they receive from the Yukon and in what categories? How is that program being evaluated?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The VictimLINK crisis line is something that is administered by the Department of Justice. But that said, a formal agreement was struck between the Yukon government and the Government of British Columbia - I think it was two years ago, if not longer - so we would receive the services for free to administer VictimLINK and, in turn, we would provide victim services through the Department of Justice to residents of Lower Post and Atlin, British Columbia. That is still the case, as I understand. In fact, we have received some dollars from British Columbia for actually providing victim services to these communities - I refer to Lower Post and Atlin.
We have partnered with the Department of Justice to provide more dollars, readily available, for advertising VictimLINK. That was one of the criticisms launched when VictimLINK came out - how we could make it more readily known to the communities for individuals to use. We have been able to advertise through newspapers, as members opposite have probably seen, in public transit locations, such as buses, in public service announcements and also under the abuse help lines in the telephone directory.
We also continue to promote it extensively through the long-term public education campaign on violence prevention against women and children.
Between August 2004 and July 2005, VictimLINK received 91 calls. That is the information I have. I don't have anything more current. Perhaps the Department of Justice would have that. I will certainly endeavour to talk to the minister in that regard.
Mrs. Peter: Moving on, the money that is being allocated to the communities through a proposal-driven initiative is great. However, from what I understand, only women's groups that are formally established can apply for this funding within this department. What about other groups in our communities that are not formal organizations? Most of the women's groups are very informal. What happens to those groups of people needing the financial assistance but aren't recognized as a formal group?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I'm not certain as to what the member opposite was referring to. There are a couple of things in terms of funding made available to women's organizations, one being the $100,000 aboriginal women and violence prevention initiative that the Premier initiated and announced a couple of years ago.
That has been made available to a number of different entities over the years. It has reached out to a number of different communities - I mentioned before Mayo and Teslin and so forth. They have all subscribed and been able to receive funding. This year we will be - if we haven't already - issuing a call for interest from women's organizations to subscribe to this kind of funding. Last year it was made available to four proponents, and I think the year before that it was five or six, if I'm not mistaken. It is somewhat fluid, depending on what comes forward.
The other funding is the funding to the women's organizations - the new funding that was being made available. We are addressing specific concerns or items that were raised by women's organizations in the communities. We are pleased to respond to women's groups, and these are established women's groups in the Yukon, including women in trades and technology, Status of Women Council, Yukon Aboriginal Women's Council, Whitehorse Aboriginal Women's Circle, to name but a few.
In women's organizations, I have heard about concerns regarding the need for increased sustainable funding in the long term, and so funding will be made available for this year, in this budget, either to prepare a long-term strategic plan that will address requests for long-term stable funding in future years or to use dollars available for a women's equality project - that is at the discretion of the organization applying.
As the member opposite referred to, there is no question that there are other communities out there that may not have a designate or an organization in place to date. I think that through building upon capacity within our communities and raising awareness about programming that is being made available, this may be subject to change as well. Through some of the community visits coming up by the Women's Directorate and by members of YACWI, that will be raised and addressed at that time, as well.
Mrs. Peter: We always say that communication is the key between governments and organizations. When you have our rural communities throughout the Yukon needing information - whether it be printed or through other types of resources - then definitely the communication needs to be there.
For many years, we have had a newsletter that came directly from the Women's Directorate office, called the OptiMSt. It was a well-acknowledged paper for women throughout the territory. They would receive a lot of information about what was going on and meetings that were happening in Whitehorse. It gave the information to the communities and it was a good resource for our communities. I am just wondering if there was any support for the Women's Directorate contributing to publishing this highly successful newsletter, because it was definitely a prize-winner for a long time.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The publication the member opposite raises is a very good one. In fact, the Yukon Status of Women - I was just reading their insert in the paper earlier today. It is an excellent source for getting information distributed out to our communities. As I understand, we do provide support to this publication. In fact, I think this time around - without actually having seen the publication or seeing it in front of me - we do provide dollars to incorporate messages or pieces within the publication. So, the support is certainly there.
Ms. Duncan: My understanding from my staff who attended the Women's Directorate briefing is that the Women's Directorate intends to apply for funding under the substance abuse action plan monies that are housed in the Executive Council Office. What is the money being applied for? Who is doing that application? If the minister could provide an outline of that initiative, I'd appreciate it.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The substance abuse action plan - there was a significant amount of consultation held with respective stakeholders, including women's organizations, and that did take place - I can't recall; I have a lapse of memory, and I won't attribute that to anything in particular - but a significant amount of consultation did take place between the Women's Directorate and the women's organizations, including other groups, as I understand. Through the Women's Directorate, we did undertake that discussion.
Through that discussion, there was a lot of heightened awareness about young women at risk - young women being those under the age of 25 - and how we can address or assist young, high-risk women in following a harm reduction model, for example, which would be carried out by the Women's Directorate in conjunction with women's organizations. That was but one of the areas that was raised, as outlined within the substance abuse action plan.
So we will be working with our stakeholders. Once we have a better semblance, then we will go to Management Board for those monies. But as outlined in the substance abuse action plan, there was actually an initiative outlined - a fund that I believe was to the tune of $100,000 for specific projects involving young women at risk.
Ms. Duncan: If I heard the minister correctly, if I go back to the substance abuse action plan documents it would be further outlined there. I am happy to do that. I appreciate her pointing me in the right direction.
I have two other questions with respect to the Women's Directorate. One has to do with the organization itself. I noticed that there is an organization chart in the budget documents that we have on page 16-3. To whom does the director report?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Effective April 1, 2003, the Women's Directorate was fully restored to its previous status prior to renewal. This means that the director of the Women's Directorate reports directly to me as the minister responsible for the Women's Directorate on all program matters and has full financial responsibility for the directorate. The director of the Women's Directorate also has the delegated authority, in accordance with the Public Service Act, to administer personnel matters.
Ms. Duncan: Does the director attend the Deputy Ministers Review Committee? The reason I'm asking this is that there are a number of programs that relate to the Department of Justice, for example, as we've learned at length this afternoon. There are other programs that relate to the Department of Health and Social Services. I'm not suggesting anything nefarious, Mr. Chair, but it can be that departments can suggest that the Women's Directorate can fund certain programs, as opposed to funding them from their own existing budgets or directing funds from their existing budgets. The Women's Directorate, for example, can fund the family violence, as opposed to the Department of Justice funding it - some programs.
Now, I understand there is funding for that particular program in both, and we also want to avoid duplication as well, as there are only so many resources. So, my question: does the director attend the Deputy Ministers Review Committee in order to ensure that the needs are looked after and, at the same time, ensure that there is not any unintentional duplication of programming - necessary programming?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, the director is a full member at the former Deputy Ministers Review Committee, so there is that ongoing collaboration. And certainly, while I can appreciate the member opposite's comments, there is a great degree of interdepartmental collaboration on all fronts, whether that be the Children's Act review or the corrections reform process or the education reform process, and even at the pipeline committee and so forth, we are there. Although it's sometimes difficult to be everywhere, we are certainly engaged in that discussion at all levels through the Deputy Ministers Review Committee.
Ms. Duncan: I have one final question for the minister, and unfortunately it directly relates to only three members of the Legislature. There has been a concerted effort in the past. In part, it was a Women's Directorate initiative of political action in, I think, the 1992 territorial election campaign. The Women's Directorate, with the help of the - I'm not sure if it was Kaushee's Place or the Status of Women's Council - initiated a paper called the “black and blue” paper, and it heightened the awareness of political candidates to the issue of spousal abuse in the election campaign. It was a result of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women's shocking pink paper, which was - the director is nodding her head in agreement and is aware of these past initiatives and perhaps the minister is, as well. The shocking pink paper was a small handout that people could keep in their purse or suit pocket that asked key questions of federal political candidates. And out of that pink paper came the “black and blue” paper, which I believe it was, in part, a collaboration of the Women's Directorate.
I've heard through other sources that there are some political initiatives underway - not associated with any political party - to encourage women to enter the field of politics. I understand there was some initiative underway in the Women's Directorate, and I wonder if the minister would elaborate on that point as our final topic of discussion for this afternoon and in this particular department, because I believe all of us, regardless of our party affiliation, encourage the participation of women in our Legislature.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, the funding that has been made available to women's organizations this year - new funding. There is a choice as to what funding could be made available, for example, to help create a strategic, long-term plan, or it could go toward a women's equality project. Certainly one of those projects could be to raise awareness about political process and urging more women to get into the political process on all fronts - whether that is territorial, municipal, federal, you name it.
What I was also going to say is there is an option for a combination of both. An organization could choose to do some long-term strategic planning as well as conduct the women's equality program. I would certainly think that underfunding is probably on the minds of some of the women's organizations out there.
I also have to say that when I was at the status of women ministers meeting last fall, there was some good feedback about what other advisory councils are engaging in and how they can strike more discussion in the women's community on getting the information out about what the political process is and what the statistics are of women engaged in politics and how more women can engage themselves, stepping up and running for a nomination, for example.
I know that through Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues, this is another area that I've heard one or two of them talk about before - you know, about pursuing that as an initiative - as a priority as well.
I think that, again, giving women's organizations that are established - on the ground, up and running - the opportunity to take leadership and to raise this issue is a good thing. We could all stand to have more women represented in this Legislature.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
We will proceed with line-by-line examination.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would request the unanimous consent of Committee of the Whole to deem all lines in Vote 11, Women's Directorate, cleared or carried, as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 11, Women's Directorate, cleared or carried
Chair: Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 11, Women's Directorate, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I believe we have unanimous consent. That concludes Vote 11, Women's Directorate.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $1 million agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
Women's Directorate agreed to
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Cathers that we report progress on Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Cathers has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.