Wednesday, April 14, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of J. Barry O'Neill
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, today I rise to pay tribute to a very special Yukoner, J. Barry O'Neill, who died in an automobile accident on the Klondike Highway on March 30, 1999.
Barry O'Neill first came to the Yukon with his father in 1935. During the Second World War, Barry served for four and a half years as a crewman on a corvette of the Royal Canadian Navy. These valiant little ships that were so vital to the war effort in Europe escorted the merchant marine ship convoys across the Atlantic Ocean.
Barry, like other distinguished Yukoners, did his part to free Europe from the Nazi tyranny, and was honourably discharged from the Royal Canadian Navy at the end of World War II.
First and foremost, Barry O'Neill was a prospector, having obtained his first miner's licence in Ontario in 1935. His first miner's licence number, M10457, is still active today.
Barry O'Neill was a special breed of Yukoner, the lifeblood of the territory, who was always out there searching for the motherlode and the new discovery.
In 1990, Barry was presented by the Yukon Prospectors' Association with the prospector of the year award, and he remained an active prospector in Yukon and Alaska, looking for discoveries until his death.
The prospector statue on Main Street in downtown Whitehorse, honouring and paying tribute to the illustrious list of Yukon prospectors, could very well have been modeled on Barry O'Neill.
J. Barry O'Neill is survived by his wife, Mary Kay, daughter Roxanne, son John Barry, and many relatives in Ottawa, Quebec and Winnipeg. Our deepest sympathy goes out to them. I ask all members of this House to join me in paying tribute to Barry O'Neill - war veteran, prospector, husband and father, and a very special Yukoner.
Mr. Cable: On behalf of the Liberal caucus, we too would like to pay our respects to Barry O'Neill. Barry was a long-time miner and earned the respect of his colleagues, receiving the prospector of the year award in 1990.
On a personal note, my son, Dan, worked with Barry and his son, John Barry Jr. in the summer of 1988, working Barry's claims on the top of Keno Hill. I had the pleasure of visiting the three of them on top of the mountain toward the end of the summer when the colours were changing. Standing on the top of the mountain, it was easy to understand what drives our miners like Barry and their small mining operations. It was easy to understand the freedoms involved.
So, on behalf of our caucus, I'd like to extend our condolences to Barry's wife, Mary Kay, son, John Barry Jr. and grandson, Raymond and daughter, Roxanne.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: On behalf of the Yukon government, I would like to extend our condolences to the O'Neill family. He was known by many people in Whitehorse, Mayo and Keno. Although I did not know this gentleman personally, I know that he will be greatly missed by his many friends and his family.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return to table.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps is deserving of recognition for the service it provided in supply and transportation for all units of the Canadian Army up to 1976;
THAT this House recognizes that in May 2001, the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps will be celebrating its 100th anniversary; and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urges the Canada Post to issue a commemorative postage stamp in May 2001, recognizing and honouring the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps on its 100th anniversary.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Child benefit reinvestment (national)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, in keeping with our government's policy of fostering healthy communities, I'm pleased to rise and inform members of some significant new investments in children and youth of the Yukon. These initiatives are part of the reinvestment funds under the national child benefit.
First of all, I'm pleased to announce that we're contributing $40,000 to establish a kids recreation fund. This would be administered through the youth investment fund, and is designed to help children from low-income families take part in arts, recreation and sporting programs.
There are obvious benefits to providing children and youth who live in poverty with new opportunities to participate in extracurricular programs.
Thanks to the efforts of many volunteer leaders, coaches, officials and administrators, the Yukon has a very diverse sport and recreation system. More than 10,000 Yukon people are involved in programs at the community, territorial, national and international levels.
We'd like to see many more young people participate in sports and arts activities. To do so, we are providing some financial support. This funding support will help low-income families overcome some of the financial barriers that keep their kids out of organized activities.
This initiative is consistent with recommendations from the reference group on anti-poverty and with the new youth strategy. It also responds to the sport and rec. branch's decision to seek ways of helping children who live in poverty take part in recreational programs.
Funding for this initiative will begin to flow this month, in time for registration for the spring and summer sports season. I should also point out that the benefits aren't limited to sports, but will also include other forms of recreation, such as music, dance and other arts.
The national child benefit reinvestment money will also allow us to make an additional contribution of $30,000 to the Yukon Food for Learning Allocation Board, which funds nutrition programs in Yukon schools. Supporting the excellent work already done by the Food for Learning Board responds to recommendations from the Health and Social Services Council.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, we are investing $20,000 in the healthy families initiative for training and start-up costs.
These new and expanded initiatives are a positive contribution to healthy Yukon communities.
Together with the new low-income family tax credit, the Yukon child benefit, and increased funding for community recreation programs in this year's budget, these initiatives demonstrate our firm commitment to young people, and to the goal of reducing poverty in the Yukon.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I rise to respond to the minister's statement regarding the national child benefit reinvestment.
Healthy families are fundamental to healthy children and healthy communities. Ensuring that children have a permanent, stable and nurturing environment throughout their developing years, that they are well cared for, safe and healthy, is key to ensuring that children have a good start in life that will lead to productive lives in their later years. Children must receive adequate nutrition, shelter and clothing. They must receive adequate social, emotional and spiritual support. In addition to these fundamental needs, children need to pursue an active lifestyle and be part of a healthy and active home and community.
Unfortunately, not every child is able to receive the high quality of life that they deserve as a result of high costs of living and not being able to make ends meet. To deal with child poverty, we have to deal with adult poverty. By this I mean a strong economy with an economic climate that attracts investment and is conducive to growth.
Here at home, the Yukon is experiencing record levels of unemployment, social assistance rates are going through the roof, and more people are being forced to leave the territory as a result of this government's failure to provide a stable economy and jobs that will put the 17-percent unemployed Yukoners back to work. A lack of jobs for Yukoners translates to a lack of jobs for parents and, as a consequence, more children living in poverty.
In 1997, it was reported that some 2,000 children in the Yukon live in families with incomes less than $20,000 a year. In view of the Yukon's depressed economy, I would suspect that these numbers have risen dramatically, as have the number of people on social assistance.
Unfortunately, when we look to the short-term economic forecast, there is not much hope for improvement. If this government did something to stimulate our economy - or, what do we do? Just implement more and more of these types of programs.
While we, on this side of the House, support programs and initiatives that help those in need, we remain of the opinion that the best social program is, in fact, a job.
Before I close, I'd like to take this opportunity to extend our thanks to those individuals who volunteer their time and effort delivering breakfast and lunch programs in many of our schools. These programs are extremely successful and can be attributed to the efforts of the Food for Learning Board and others who volunteer their time in delivering these programs. I am pleased that additional funds are being directed to the board, as these monies will enable the expansion of these programs to be delivered to more schools.
The minister did mention that $20,000 is being invested in the healthy foods program for training and start-up costs. Perhaps the minister, in his rebuttal, could provide more detail and information about this program and how this program dovetails with the Kwanlin Dun healthy families program that was recently announced and which received $520,000 from the federal government.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to this ministerial statement on the national child benefit reinvestment.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Liberal caucus strongly supports the development of a kids recreation fund. Children who are active in sports and recreation are less likely to drink and smoke. Research also shows that girls who are active in sports are less likely to become pregnant during the teen years. Clearly, there are advantages to being active in recreation and sports.
I do have a couple of observations on the subject of financial support for children in recreation, and I'd like to pass those on to the minister. Firstly, for many years, the City of Whitehorse, like other Yukon municipalities, has offered financial help to families in need who want to participate in city recreation programs. That service is done in conjunction with a number of local service clubs.
That offer of financial help is rarely taken up by Whitehorse residents for a number of reasons. Firstly, the only people who seem to know about the fund were people who were either in the service clubs or those who worked in city recreation programs.
The people who most need to know about this financial aid are not likely to read the City Leisure Guide, because they cannot afford to take the classes offered.
The city mentions, usually in small print at the bottom of one of the pages, that this type of financial assistance is available, but there are no details, and it is not clear how you access the fund. You're supposed to phone a number, and that number is for the recreation programmer. Then, presumably, they'll get back to you with the details.
Now, there are a number of problems with this. Firstly, many people find it embarrassing to have to access financial help for their families. There is no indication that the information given to the programmer will be kept confidential, nor is there adequate information given on exactly how it would be fundable. For example, would the program pay for skates? Would it pay for travel? Or does it merely cover the cost of the program itself?
Figure skates now cost in excess of $400. Travel costs for dance recitals or to sporting activities are quite substantial. But what's most important, and the detail that most parents want to know, is, would their child be treated differently by the program if they were there because they were given financial assistance? None of these questions are answered in the city programming guide.
So what I'm saying to the minister is that, if you're going to offer this fund, please make sure that the people who may need to access it get that information, bearing in mind that not everyone who is poor is on social assistance. There are a number of working poor out there who don't have a social worker, and don't know about the programs that are available to them.
Secondly, if this money is going to be offered, let people access it with their dignity intact.
A couple of points, Mr. Speaker: I was pleased to see that the recreation fund was also going to include the arts and recreational activities, as well as sports. We're happy to see that the food for learning program is going to get continued funding, but what has happened to the children's optical program? Hopefully, that's still in existence and that there's some uptake on that program.
Now, I can see that the minister's eagerly waiting to respond to these questions, so I will sit down.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Member for Riverdale South for her positive comments there, and I'll get to those in a minute.
I think what's most interesting is the rather tepid and weak-kneed response from the Member for Klondike. Apparently, the issue of poor people has really only occurred in the last couple of years, according to him - before 1996, we were living in some kind of Arcadian paradise, and no one was poor, and no one had any deprivation.
I would really contend that he needs to take some lessons from other revisionist historians. These are the guys who cut programs for poor people. They did nothing - nothing - for poor people, except sit on their hands. They did nothing. We've come in; we've brought in programs for children for optical and pharmaceuticals. We've begun reinvestment in people, we have reinvested in people, we have returned some money to people. We're bringing in programs for poor children - providing opportunities.
They don't believe in that. We're smoking these guys out. We're smoking these guys out. They're a bunch of social Darwinists who don't believe that poor people deserve anything. That's what they subscribe to. They are just so full of garbage, it's amazing.
They talk about social assistance going up. Social assistance has begun to level off. It's begun to level out.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Oh, so the members over there don't believe in supporting people living in poverty. That's clearly what they don't believe. So in other words, they don't believe that the consultation we did with the anti-poverty people - the consultation that lead directly to programs like this - had any merit. They don't believe that poor people have a voice; they don't believe that we should be listening to them. They believe in nothing.
With respect to my colleague from Riverdale South, who has, I think, added some positive contributions to the debate, I'll perhaps try something a little less spirited.
What I can tell her is that we are interested in working with the city. I've had a preliminary meeting with the city, and we are working with the sport and recreation branch to design a program where we can dovetail with service organizations and so on in trying to deliver this, and I'd certainly be interested in working with the city. I think the ideas of getting information out are very useful. I think they are very productive.
I take the point that not all families who are dealing with difficult economic circumstances are on SA. That's why this program will be for families below the $30,000 range. Children in those families can apply for up to $300 a year to help with registration, supplies or equipment.
We're also hoping that, perhaps by working with service organizations, we can actually maximize this, the same way that we've done to some degree with the food for learning program where our contributions have been matched by, in this case, the Canadian Living Foundation and by a number of our businesses.
I should also just mention by way of interest that we've had very good uptake on the food for learning program, and there has been tremendous support from schools. I participate in the program at Elijah Smith School, and it's one of those programs that, I think, has real merit, and we're very pleased to support that.
With the healthy family initiative, I just want to reassure the member that we're not taking away from the children's optical and drugs program, that that's still there, and we're encouraging greater uptake on that. We began the healthy family initiative program on March 1 in Whitehorse, and on March 8 in Carcross. We've had some good public health screening, and we've had some referrals for services, and we're proceeding with those as we speak. So, I'm very pleased to see this program off the ground, and I'm very pleased to announce these other programs.
I think we have a duty to the children. When I met with the anti-poverty people, we discussed many of the issues around poverty and the entire question of the social aspect of poverty was driven home to me.
The deprivation is not just material, but it is also cultural, and that's why I wanted to have this program in place to provide children with those kinds of opportunities. I believe all children have the right to expect to be able to participate in things the way that our children would, and I believe we have the responsibility to enable everyone to take -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
This, then, brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Tourism on the Beringia Centre. I must say, Mr. Speaker, how disheartened I was yesterday when both the minister and the Liberal leader attacked the Beringia Centre. I was there on the opening day when the minister was literally beaming with joy about the prospects and the future of the centre. I should remind the minister that it was his government colleagues and the leader of the NDP who were opposed to the concept itself. Maybe that's where his comments emanated from yesterday.
Yesterday, in the House, Mr. Speaker, the minister called the Beringia Centre a mistake, on page 4928 of Hansard, and this NDP government and the Liberal leader have done everything in their power to denigrate and downplay the usefulness of the Beringia Centre.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to know why the minister thinks that the Beringia Centre was a mistake when, last year, with the minister's own statistics, the Beringia Centre was the most visited attraction in the City of Whitehorse. How could this be a mistake?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As you know, Mr. Speaker, the territorial government of the day did inherit a mistake, and let me tell you about that mistake, if I may.
As I said yesterday, the Yukon Party had finally seen the light that they had to put something into the heritage community so they just grabbed an idea and they ran with it. Did they sidestep process? Absolutely they sidestepped process. They took out, because they do not believe in them, the partnerships. They absolutely took away the process of community and went single-handedly with one of their own ideas.
The opposition of the day, the New Democratic Party, consistently tried to point that out to them - consistently to get them back on to the process - so that we might be able to, at some point in time, make it a meaningful process. But the process was not followed, Mr. Speaker, and now we have the official opposition sitting back, nattering away, understanding that they had made a mistake as a government, and now are feeling hurt and, I must say, somewhat humble.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Tourism has a distinct lack of memory. It was his colleague, the Member for Whitehorse West, who attended a TIA meeting, where the TIA board and the membership of the Tourism Association of the Yukon encouraged all three parties to continue with the Beringia Centre, and encouraged all three parties to continue with an historic resources centre, which, by the way, the New Democratic Party deep-sixed.
Mr. Speaker, the major complaint by tourism operators in Whitehorse and throughout the Yukon, in our marketing research, tells us that we need more attractions, and the Beringia Centre helped fill that gap.
Can the minister explain why this Yukon Party mistake - or a mistake, as he called it here today - was nominated by an independent tourism jury for the best indoor site award in the Annual Attractions Canada awards program?
Mr. Speaker, did this jury make a mammoth mistake with respect to the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, the Member for Riverdale North is trying to blur the issue. He recognizes that he did, in his own words, make a mammoth mistake on this by not going out and following the process and talking to the community at large because, certainly, I think through that process, the member might have found out that people do want to have input into these types of things, and maybe there wouldn't be mammoth mistakes if input was put into it.
So, the New Democratic government came into power, and one of the first things that was said I had to do was build a business plan based upon their very, very, very ambitious figure. So I absolutely did that. Did our government continue to support the Beringia Centre? Absolutely. We put $250,000 into improving the access to that last year, which somewhat makes a mistake of the Liberal Party, because they do not see that as heritage funding at all.
So, we inherited a mistake. We're a government that will try to best make it work. We're committed to making it work, and that is why we're looking at a community-based management model.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, this government is desperate when it takes credit for putting money into the Beringia Centre and building a road that nobody can use. That's like building a swimming pool and never filling it with water. It's ridiculous.
The Minister of Tourism says there was no consultation. I told him here today that the Tourism Industry Association supported it. Also, Mr. Speaker, on opening day, there were several elders from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation who were in attendance and you could see by the pride in their eyes they supported it. There was a strong component of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in the Beringia Centre.
Is the minister saying in this House today that it was a mistake to put in a strong component of the Vuntut Gwitchin members of his riding who are quoted in the centre and who attended the opening? Is that a mistake? Is that what the minister is telling us?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll tell you what isn't a mistake, Mr. Speaker, is extending a runway. What isn't a mistake is putting money into the tourism marketing fund, developing film incentives and developing heritage tax breaks. Those are not mistakes. Those are well thought out by a government that is moving ahead with tourism.
Are the results a success? Absolutely - absolutely. This is a 12-percent increase in tourism figures, a record since we started. So, yes, Mr. Speaker, we continue to take the mistakes that we inherited and massage them to make them credible by working with people and continuing to work with people. We'll also continue to look for a new way for tourism in the Yukon Territory and again encourage air access, airports, marketing funds and people to come to the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. Phillips: Here we go again, Mr. Speaker. First of all, there's the road to nowhere that you can't use at the Beringia Centre. Secondly, the minister says extending the runway was a good idea but if he'd have done his homework with the runway, he'd have found out that he probably couldn't use 90 percent of it until he had to do a lot more work before it could possibly happen.
Mr. Speaker, once again, the Minister of Tourism on the Beringia Centre, which he and the Liberal leader have branded as a mammoth mistake, despite support from the tourism industry and tourism operators and most who support heritage. Mr. Speaker, the Beringia Centre, from its very inception, had one vocal critic, the McBride Museum Society, which was concerned about the competition from Beringia.
Can the minister confirm he's about to turn the Beringia Centre over to the management of the MacBride Museum Society to run? And can he explain how the society was selected to run Beringia over any other societies in the Yukon, such as the Transportation Museum or even a private sector operator?
Why is it being turned over to the former critic of the Beringia Centre without some kind of competition?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we went through this in debate the other evening. I mean, the member is a master of everything in his own humble mind. Pardon me, there's nothing humble about it. He certainly knows the weather patterns of the Yukon Territory -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Chair made a ruling yesterday about making disparaging comments against members. The member apologized for it the other day, and I expect him to rise to his feet and apologize for it again today.
Speaker: The Member for Faro, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite has no point of order. The member opposite simply said that in the member's mind he's not humble. I hardly think that's unparliamentary.
Speaker: I would ask the members not to use abusive language. The member may continue.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. If I may, I'll continue humbly, as I normally would be.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Riverdale North spoke about the road to nowhere. He professes to have been in the Yukon for all these years. Well, he certainly must know that you cannot build roads in this certain condition in the wintertime.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, we did allocate $250,000 toward the access last year. It's going to be finished this year.
Now, to the specific question, if I could, to the member. We are certainly looking at a community-based management model. That seems to be about the best way that we'll go, and I'll certainly keep the member informed as we progress.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister didn't answer my question. I asked the minister: is the MacBride Museum Society, which has been a vocal critic of the Beringia Centre, the organization that the minister is discussing this joint project with? And why hasn't the minister opened this up to other organizations and groups, if that's what the government wants to do? If the government wants to privatize this particular facility, why isn't it opening it up to other groups? Why is it just choosing the only vocal critic of Beringia Centre, which didn't think it should exist, the MacBride Museum Society? Why isn't it doing that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Riverdale North is saying why, why, why am I doing this. What I have said is that we are talking to the community to look at options and models for community-based management. That is what we are doing.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I'd like the minister again then: who is he talking to in the community? What groups has he been talking to in the community with respect to taking over management of the Beringia Centre? Is it the MacBride Museum? And what other organizations has he been talking to beside the MacBride Museum?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member across - I must say that I'm appalled. Now, at the time that he did a lack of consultation and didn't talk to anybody in the heritage community about the Beringia Centre, and, of course, the MacBride spoke against maybe not the whole concept, but certainly they wanted to be a part of the process and thought that they would be a helpful part of the process.
What does the Member for Riverdale North do now? He turns on the MacBride Museum Society. I cannot believe the level that will be stooped to, Mr. Speaker, for this. It's just getting to the point of being ridiculous.
Mr. Speaker, we are talking to the Yukon Historical and Museums Association. We've talked to the MacBride Museum, and we will continue with best efforts to get in place a community-based management model that will be reflective of the community.
Question re: Youth Criminal Justice Act
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services about the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The federal government recently introduced the new Youth Criminal Justice Act, the act that will be replacing the Young Offenders Act, and the minister told us, during his department's budget debate, that he had a working group reviewing the new act. Could the minister tell us about this working group? Where does the review sit? Is the review completed, and if not, when does he expect the review to be completed?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated, we had done some consultation with our colleagues in Justice on it, initially, when we finally got the bill. We took a look at it in terms of how it met our goals in terms of restorative justice, and I think I outlined to the member that we feel the bill is generally fairly consistent with those overall principles. There are some outstanding questions, particularly with some of the services we will be asked to offer; for example, intensive probation for people released from custody, but as I indicated, we've been doing that since November so we feel well-positioned in that regard.
Our director of family and children services has been down to Ottawa and has met with officials there. We have come back. It's an internal group, taking a look at the next steps that we have to follow through, what kinds of things we'll have to present to the federal government about what we need in terms of, for example, increased resources and be able to present that to the federal government at a later point when issues such as resources and -
Chair: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Cable: Let's explore that for a moment. What the minister had said in the budget debate, and he can reconfirm this today, is that he had no major concerns with the bill, but that the issue of human and financial resources was still up in the air. He confirmed today that his officials had gone down to Ottawa to be briefed on the act and that there was a possibility of a need for a greater number of personnel for supervision of young offenders after completion of jail sentences.
Where do we sit on that? Has the minister sorted that out? From what he has just said, I assume he has not. When does he intend to sort that out, as to whether we will require further human resources to make the act work?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's currently what we're doing right now, Mr. Speaker. Once the director of family and children services had a clear sense of what's being expected of us, of what the possible implications are financially, we understand that it may be something in the neighbourhood of about a two-percent increase overall, and that this will be spread out over, I believe, five years, in terms of the resource that the federal government has allocated.
We have to go back and we have to take a look at the programs we're currently offering and see if we are going to need further resources, or what the demand will be.
One of the things that I indicated earlier was that some of the programs that the federal bill is anticipating, such as attendant centres, we're already doing. We use diversion to a greater degree up here, and that is suggested in the federal bill - and, as well, the intensive probation.
So, the demand on us may not be as great as we initially thought, but that's what we're currently ascertaining now, and when we have a better sense we'll be able to convey that to federal officials.
Mr. Cable: The federal government will be handing the bill over to a federal committee for review. I'm sure the minister knows that. Does the minister intend to put the Yukon's position forward to that committee, or is there some other form of public response that the minister will be making to the act after the review has been completed?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the next step, I believe, is for us to do our own determination here of what the implications are for us and what our timeline is, in terms of implementation, and so on - what services we already have in position - and then we'll be conveying that, I believe in June, to the federal government. I'm not sure if our position, at this point, will be to make any representation, in terms of the committee, because, as I indicated, we're generally in agreement with the basic principles. Our concern is primarily on how the components of the bill can be implemented and what the demand will be on ourselves.
There are also, I think, some other issues that I think we will need to sort of clarify. Are there implications, for example, for First Nations who may be administering some of their own youth justice programs, and how will that dovetail?
Question re: Contracts, sole sourcing
Ms. Duncan: Thanks, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Government Services.
The poor economic climate in the Yukon and a 16.7 percent unemployment rate have increased the scrutiny by Yukon business people of the contracts that are awarded by the Yukon government.
One of the areas under close inspection by business is the sole sourcing by government to contractors. And the issue has been raised with me by a number of contractors that there's no limit to the amount of sole-source contracts that any given business can receive in any budget year.
The result, Mr. Speaker, is that some companies end up with $50,000 worth of work, and others end up with zero. And the result is the appearance of favouritism.
Have the minister or his officials had any discussions with contractors or with the Yukon business community representatives on this subject?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member that the issue of the volume of sole-sourced contracts to any particular group has not emerged to me, as a question. There have been issues around - and I suppose I'd be fair in saying this, that there are always issues around - a particular department - one particular department and perhaps a number of sole-sourced contracts going out to perhaps one company. And sometimes the issue that has been raised with me is the number of contracts that are of a certain level.
But, no, in terms of people saying that company X gets, you know, 25 sole-sourced contracts, no, I haven't seen that, and it hasn't come to me.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister has all kinds of time for photo opportunities in front of the Chamber of Commerce. Perhaps he could put a little more effort into his role as minister.
I'd like to shed a little more light on this issue. Mr. Speaker, let me give the minister an example. In this year's construction contracts - that's the 1998-99 budget year - one Yukon company has been sole sourced in excess of $50,000 worth of work in seven separate contracts.
Now, individually, these contracts are small. In the poor economy that we have in the Yukon, small contracts, when they're shared between a number of companies, can help these companies through rough times. What we have is the appearance of favouritism, because the government keeps going back to the same company.
Is the minister prepared to have some discussions with industry regarding a limit to the total amount any one company can receive before the next contract is put out to tender? Is the minister prepared to have discussions with industry on this subject, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can just refer the member on to the fact that, in general, the cash amount of Yukon content has increased fairly dramatically under our government. With respect to the number of contracts, I should also point out that I've had some concerns raised by general contractors who are concerned about, perhaps, the number of smaller contracts being issued, because they feel that they should be administering them as general contractors, but we're certainly willing to have any discussions with the industry.
I can say that this particular aspect hasn't come up to me before. I can say that there are a number of companies that depend on very small contracts to survive - smaller companies, in particular. So, I'm not sure what the member is suggesting: that we say company A can only have three sole-sourced contracts? I would suggest in some smaller communities where you have perhaps a limited number of contractors, that may be very problematic. You might only have one -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's precisely why I'm raising this with the minister, because it's been raised with me as an issue by the contracting community.
There is another example. There are some fairly specialized industries in the Yukon, and the minister has used an example of small communities. In one specialized industry, there are only one or two companies that can perform a specific service; for example, installing and inspection of fire alarms. There are three Whitehorse companies that do this and yet, in 1998-99 alone, $60,000 worth of the Yukon government work was sole sourced to just one of these companies. That leaves an appearance of favouritism.
One solution I'm proposing to the minister is to put a limit on the amount of money that can be sole sourced to a single company before the next contract that's given out is tendered - say, X amount of thousands of dollars, and then the next contract goes out to tender; it isn't just automatically sole sourced to that company.
The minister says he's willing to have discussions with industry. Will he commit to doing that when the session ends?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I said that we're always willing to discuss with the industry. If someone has this issue that they'd like to bring forward, that they'd like to bring forward to the Contractors Association, whom we have ongoing discussions with, or any other of our forums, I would be more than willing to engage the department in those kinds of discussions, but I can tell the member that for probably everyone who would like to see a certain number of sole-source contracts, you'd probably have an equal number of people who would say, "No, we don't feel that's fair."
The member is quite right. We refer to some businesses in which there is a very limited number of participants, and sometimes in smaller communities that even diminishes - where you've got perhaps one person who will do plumbing or one person who will do cabinetry work. For us to say simply that you can only have so many contracts would really hamstring us and, I would suggest, would probably increase costs because -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Question re: Contract procedures, statutory declarations
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services dealing with false statutory declarations signed for contract payment.
Recently, Mr. Speaker, a painting contractor, Skylight Painting, received a contract to paint the Faro school. They subsequently signed their statutory declaration claiming that all subcontractors and suppliers had been paid when, in fact, the supplier of the paint had not been paid. They were still owed some $6,000.
And when that supplier contacted Government Services, they were told that there wasn't anything Government Services could or would do, as this contractor had signed the statutory declaration. They had, as a supplier, 30 days after giving the product to the contractor to register a lien. The project had just begun and was just in the initial stages at that time. Basically, the government hid and said that all the paperwork was in order, and that's it.
Is the minister aware of this latest contract fiasco? What does he plan to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Here we have Robespierre and the committee of public safety over there, and now they're riding out madly in pursuit of every statutory declaration.
I would suggest that if the person has concerns in this regard, presuming that the company is bonded - the general contractor is bonded - we can advise them to go there. We presume, in terms of bonding, that if a company is bonded, then that's the way we refer them. That's what we did with the airport contract.
In this particular case, this is not something that I've been made aware of. If the company has some difficulty, I would suggest I can raise it with the department, but it is not something that has been brought to my attention.
As for characterizing it as "fiascos", the only fiasco I can really see is the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this minister has a very callous disrespect for the law. These are sworn affidavits, Mr. Speaker. They're legal documents. The minister referred the false sworn affidavit, signed with respect to the airport extension contract, to the RCMP. Will he be doing the same with this sworn affidavit, which gives all the appearances of, again, being false?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that the member has some spotty information. If we have further information, we'll follow up on it. It's not something that I've been made aware of. I would hesitate referring something on to the RCMP until I have the details - until we were satisfied that, in fact, this was indeed the case.
Wherever we have problems with contractors, we always try to ensure that the subcontractors are paid. We've worked with the subcontractors. We've had cases where, in some examples, we've had to actually pursue the general contractor to other parts of Canada to ensure that local subcontractors are paid, and we're willing to do that. We're willing to go to bat for our local subs.
But the member's coming out with information here that I can't comment on here. I will have to take a look at it and see what the issue is.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister's department was made aware of this information. The minister's department was advised of the situation, given copies of all the relevant backup bills, and all the department did was fax over a copy of the sworn affidavit to the supplier and say, "You have 30 days in which to register a lien after supplying this product. There isn't anything we can do."
Now, this is a falsely sworn affidavit. Is the minister not prepared to pursue it and send it over to the RCMP, like he did with the previous one?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I hesitate to comment that probably the member's familiarity with the criminal justice system might be somewhat greater than mine, but I would suggest that, if there is an inference of impropriety or an inference of wrongdoing, we would probably make that reference. However, what we try to do is work with the general company in each case to ensure that people are paid, and we haven't changed our policy actually in that regard since the previous government. Now, all of a sudden, they've discovered something that has just come into existence.
As a matter of fact, just on that, I was obliged to pursue, on behalf of some subcontractors, some payments by the previous government's choice of Alberta firms on the hospital project, and we were willing to do that.
But if we can look into it and we can see -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 163, standing in the name of Mr. McRobb.
Motion No. 163
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Kluane
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
THAT the implementation of the protected areas strategy should continue through the ongoing involvement of the Yukon people.
Mr. McRobb: I'm particularly pleased to be speaking in favour of this motion today, especially since next week is Environment Week, and April 22 is Earth Day.
In what I have to say this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, I want to outline six areas. The first is a review of election commitments made to Yukoners in the 1996 election. The second is an overview of the Yukon protected areas strategy; third, the economic benefits of Yukon protected area strategy; fourth, examples from other places; fifth, Yellowstone to Yukon examples - "Y2Y"; and six, the intangible values of protected areas.
On the first area, Mr. Speaker - the election commitments of the Yukon Party, Liberals, and NDP - in reviewing this material, I couldn't help but ask myself why. Why is the Yukon protected areas strategy so political now, when all parties, at election time, were in support of this initiative? Why has it become so political, Mr. Speaker, when all parties clearly were in support of this?
And at the end of the day today, Mr. Speaker, I hope there's a vote on this to clarify exactly where all parties stand on the Yukon protected areas strategy. And I'm calling for the cooperation of all MLAs to go on the record to clarify this matter for all Yukoners.
The Yukon Party, Mr. Speaker, vowed to increase the amount of protected areas in the Yukon. Although the Yukon Party government talked the talk, they did not walk the walk. It didn't do a thing toward creating protected areas during its term in office - nothing. They were all talk and no action.
Now the Yukon Party has been actively encouraging animosity toward YPAS - a complete flip-flop. Now their true colours are showing.
The leader of the official opposition, when he was Government Leader, defended his view that the Yukon shouldn't set aside land for protected areas by saying, "Who are we saving it for, anyway?" Who are we saving it for anyway, Mr. Speaker, is what the leader of the official opposition said about Yukon protected areas strategy.
Fortunately, there are many Yukoners who can unequivocally answer that question for the former Government Leader. I am but one Yukoner who will attempt to enlighten him today.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, Yukoners were treated to a politically partisan production called the Yukon Party Caucus News and one headline on the front page was, "Tombstone Mountain, Blackstone uplands to be protected". In this production, it quoted the Minister of Economic Development, Mr. Mickey Fisher, as saying, "Also the park proposal will be subjected to a public process in which other resources and interests in the Tombstone area can be addressed and appropriate levels of protection be found."
They were relying on a public process to bring together the views of stakeholders into a management plan for the park, but what is their position today, Mr. Speaker? Quite different - a complete flip-flop.
Day after day in Question Period, I've sat and listened to the criticism from the Yukon Party, criticizing us for not getting into the process and micromanaging it, how we should decide the process before it even happens, similar to the Windy Craggy situation - although I'm sure that their point of view is quite opposite to the final outcome of that process. It still usurps the process. It doesn't give Yukoners a voice in a very important matter.
It's very similar to what we heard this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, from the Minister of Tourism talking about the Beringia Centre. Yukoners did not have a voice in the construction of that facility. The same thing applied here with the protected areas. Their position is very unclear, and, once again, I call on MLAs to cooperate in getting a vote this afternoon.
The Liberals, Mr. Speaker, promised during the last election campaign to establish a comprehensive protected areas system in the Yukon. We were all treated to these campaign productions. That's what it said about the Yukon protected areas strategy. They were completely in favour of it.
Well, it sounds good, Mr. Speaker, but it's very difficult to see where the Liberals are when the going gets tough. Where are they now? Are they still supportive of the Yukon protected areas strategy? And what's their position on Tombstone? We haven't heard much from them, other than the accounts from people who attended the Cordilleran Roundup, where the Liberal leader is purported to have denounced the Yukon protected areas strategy. She has denounced the Yukon protected areas strategy out of earshot of most Yukoners and in the comfort of her friends in the mining industry and well-to-do businessmen.
Yes, Mr. Speaker. Campaign donators - she feels very comfortable in their presence but, here on the floor this afternoon, let's try to find out where the Liberals really stand. Perhaps the Liberal leader can elaborate on these mixed messages when she's on her feet this afternoon.
We're never quite sure, on this side of the House, just what the Liberal leader's definitive view on protected areas is, but we strongly suspect her true colours lie with the party to her right, Mr. Speaker - deep blue. I'm not referring to the powerful chess computer that challenged world champion Garry Kasparov to a very entertaining duel. I'm talking about a very less powerful, less intelligent machine - the Tory machine - when I refer to "deep blue".
What was our position, Mr. Speaker? Well, the NDP committed, and I quote again, "... to initiate discussions with people throughout Yukon, leading to a network of representative parks and protected areas. Some could be established as part of land claims, while others may be established separately."
We have followed through on this promise by engaging Yukoners in discussion in a process for the Yukon protected areas strategy, which included several meetings, workshops and discussion papers. This will soon lead to protected areas for the Yukon Territory, following the development of management plans for these areas.
I'll move now, Mr. Speaker, to an overview of the Yukon protected areas strategy.
I hope the opposition members are listening, Mr. Speaker, because, based on what Yukoners are subjected to from time to time, some of the animosity toward YPAS, it certainly is clear to me there's a failing of understanding on the other side of what exactly the Yukon protected areas strategy is.
Firstly, in response to accelerating habitat loss, species extinction and the human-related destruction of ecosystems throughout the world, Canada and all provinces and territories have joined the global initiative to identify and protect representative portions and special features of all natural regions.
That's significant, Mr. Speaker, and my colleague for Faro adds, "Even in Ontario." Lands for life, or lands for death, as some people refer to it, is an important initiative that even Ontarians have recognized.
Our government developed a protected areas strategy for the Yukon to guide the establishment of a network of protected areas based on factors such as ecosystem management, conservation biology, sustainable economies, and the values and knowledge of Yukon people.
This strategy will assist Yukoners in achieving several goals. First, it will protect a representative part of each of the 23 different ecoregions that scientists have identified in the territory. This will help to ensure that biodiversity in the Yukon is maintained, an important legacy for our descendants and for the planet, Mr. Speaker.
Secondly, this strategy will protect special places like the places wildlife need to survive and the places that lift our spirits.
Thirdly, this strategy will conserve natural processes on other lands and waters.
Fourthly, Mr. Speaker, this strategy will enhance the maintenance of healthy fish and wildlife populations to support subsistence hunting and trapping, which is very important to a lot of Yukoners.
Number five, this strategy will meet Yukon government commitments under the Canadian biodiversity strategy, the statement of commitment to complete Canada's network of protected areas, the national accord for the protection of species at risk and the Whitehorse mining initiative.
Sixthly, Mr. Speaker, it will diversify the Yukon economy. And that leads me into the third area: the economic benefits of Yukon protected areas strategy.
I hear some chuckling, Mr. Speaker, from the leader of the official opposition. We all know how he feels about this. Regardless of their campaign election commitments, we, on this side of the House, know their true colours and we'll get another flash of it today. I think it's a sure bet they'll be voting against this motion. The real question is, where do the Liberals stand?
The economic analysis can demonstrate the multitude of benefits from preserving wild places. Methods have been developed which are suited to the valuation of non-traded or non-market resources or benefits, such as the natural forest, wildlife habitat, a recreation area or a clean watershed. Eventually, these do have economic value in terms of viable wildlife populations, healthy, productive people and clean water.
Protected areas provide a wealth of what may be termed "ecological services" by permitting natural processes to continue unhampered by human activity. Examples of these include circulation and cleansing of air and water, soil formation, erosion control, local flood reduction, and species diversity.
Protected areas can help diversify a local economy by providing opportunities in resource management, scientific research, infrastructure development, tourism, wilderness outfitting, and the service sector.
Rural communities benefit from protected areas because many protected areas will be in rural areas. Jobs and opportunities provided by protected areas help to diversify the economies of rural communities. In my riding, the community of Haines Junction is situated near Kluane National Park and enjoys the economic benefits of direct and indirect jobs related to the park.
Tourism and the service sector in our community benefit from being located close to a protected and very beautiful place.
For those communities now dependent on a single-resource sector, protected areas can be especially important for economic diversification. Protected areas will result in added public sector jobs, in parks administration, operations, maintenance and visitors' services. These jobs increase the employment base in the community and enhance local career and training opportunities. Increases in demand for local services and retail businesses are created by these jobs.
Subsistence hunting and trapping are an important part of the Yukon way of life and the economies of rural communities.
Protected areas enhance the maintenance of healthy fish and wildlife populations to support subsistence hunting and trapping and, wherever possible, subsistence hunting and trapping will be allowed to continue within protected areas.
There are also many tourism opportunities, Mr. Speaker. Existing parks and historic sites in the Yukon are an important attraction for the tourism industry. That has been proven time and time again. It is well-documented that once an area is designated as a park, visitation to the area increases. Additional protected areas will enhance the Yukon tourism industry.
There is growing tourism-market interest in the Yukon's natural and cultural heritage, including Yukon First Nations heritage. Maintaining and enhancing these resources in protected areas will continue to provide the Yukon tourism industry with a quality product on a long-term basis.
One only needs to ask one of the many German tourists who come to the Yukon every year about the value of wilderness. There is little wilderness left in Europe, and it's not taken for granted there any more. I can relate a personal experience a few years back, Mr. Speaker, when I was fish guiding for some German tourists on Aishihik Lake, and I realized at that time just how important the wilderness is to people in countries like Germany, and they told me about very stringent fishing regulations that limit the number of fish caught in a day. Never mind the catch-and-release. These figures included catch-and-release, and once they caught their limit, they could no longer fish in a day.
That's the extreme to which people in that country are regulated now, Mr. Speaker, because of the damage inflicted on their ecosystems over the decades. Coupled with the country's desire to repopulate their fish and wildlife species, these types of stringent requirements are needed to bring back those populations.
They also told me they couldn't believe the amount of unspoiled wilderness in the territory and, to them, this was a very special place. I heard from them about how it's really the last place on this planet they can visit to obtain this type of a wilderness experience.
Others, Mr. Speaker, spoke about, if lakes like Aishihik Lake were in their country or in their state, there would be a chain link fence around it with armed guards. I know that's an extreme example, but it gives us something to think about. We shouldn't take our wilderness areas for granted, I guess the message is.
Also, several business people in the Haines Junction area have related to me the advice of their clientele and how important the wilderness is to the attraction of the Haines Junction area. They have gone so far as to give specific advice that if ever that wilderness were compromised they would simply stop coming. This is something to consider, not to be ignored - not to be ignored, like the opposition believes in, Mr. Speaker, but something to be considered. Once the wilderness is developed, often it is too late.
Wilderness is becoming ever more scarce elsewhere in the world. It is becoming increasingly valuable to the tourism economy.
There are increasing opportunities for Yukoners in the wilderness adventure and ecosystem sectors.
Protected areas enhance tourism opportunities. I'll list a few areas that will benefit from protected areas, Mr. Speaker: heritage appreciation and interpretation; natural history interpretation; wildlife viewing; wilderness guiding and outfitting to support hiking, river travel, fishing, hunting, photography, horseback riding, snowmobiling, skiing, winter camping, and dog-sledding; retailing of supplies, crafts and souvenirs; transportation services; accommodation and food services. Those are sectors of the economy that can employ many, many, many Yukoners and, Mr. Speaker, we're talking about a sector of economy that is practically immune to the boom-and-bust economy propagated by the former government.
Mr. Speaker, this side of the House stands behind protected areas and its many advantages to the economy, including diversification.
On the science of protected areas, Mr. Speaker, protected areas aid scientific research by providing a control area that is protected on a long-term basis from human disturbance. For this reason, they are attractive areas in which to conduct ecological and historical research.
Northern research on ecosystem monitoring and global climate change is increasing. Scientific research provides job and training opportunities for local people and increases demand for local supplies and services, including food, accommodation and transportation.
The maintenance of healthy ecosystem processes, which protected areas allow, have important economic values. Protected areas can help maintain healthy wildlife populations, important for wildlife viewing and subsistence sport and commercial hunting; healthy fish populations that support subsistent sport and commercial fishing; biological diversity and gene pools are important in scientific, medical and commercial research; important wetlands purify water and control water flow during flood period; and soil stability and erosion control in environmentally sensitive areas.
The fourth category, Mr. Speaker, is examples from other places. I'd like to take a moment to explore what is happening in other places that recognize the economic benefits of protected areas.
Research done in 1995 by Coopers & Lybrand, consulting for the Province of B.C., documented several economic benefits and I'll list them now. Visitor expenditures related to parks were about nine times greater than government expenditures on parks operations - nine times, Mr. Speaker. It's a significant multiplier.
I can't help but wonder how the Beringia Centre stacks up to that multiplier, Mr. Speaker.
Maybe it's a negative nine times, in that case.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Yes, Mr. Speaker, as the leader of the official opposition says, they are building themselves a retirement home, not thinking about the greater public good.
About one-third of visitor expenditures in B.C. were made by out-of-province residents, thereby bringing new dollars into the province. Out-of-province residents, Mr. Speaker - very important to economic diversification. Economic activity generated by the provincial park system included about 9,500 direct and indirect jobs - 9,500 jobs, Mr. Speaker, from protected areas in the Province of B.C.
Overall, the parks system was estimated to contribute about $240 million to the provincial GDP. Significant, Mr. Speaker - $240 million. Let's think about that for a moment. We don't have to extrapolate that down to about one percent on a per capita basis, because the Yukon someday could be just as significant a tourism draw as the Province of British Columbia.
Two hundred and forty million dollars is approximately half of the budget of the Yukon Territory, Mr. Speaker - a significant amount. It makes sense to put such laudable goals within our target, Mr. Speaker, when we're looking at productive ways to diversify our economy.
Mr. Speaker, we have also heard a lot from the opposition members about Alaska, about how the mining industry is booming in Alaska. They try to compare the Yukon with Alaska, but what they fail to mention is that Alaska has protected about 39 percent of its land from industrial development.
In Alaska, there is 39-percent protection. It's a significant amount. The Alaska Miners Association is happy with the overall state mineral closing order system and the overall amount of state lands available for development.
Mr. Speaker, I suppose the message here is that you don't get an accurate picture of the overall economy of a region if you just cherry-pick a figure out of the picture and try to rely on that one figure to make a point, because, quite commonly, there are several other reasons that explain what's going on. In this example, I think it's quite clear that protected areas are a significant part of the economy of Alaska and certainly protect them from boom-and-bust cycles.
At noon today, Mr. Speaker, on CBC Radio, Yukoners heard from a mayor from a small prairie town who raved about the importance of diversifying the economy away from a sole reliance on mining. In his example, it was very successful.
I believe the population of the town was about 700, which is comparable to many Yukon rural communities. I'm thinking about communities like Faro or Haines Junction, perhaps Carmacks, Teslin and Mayo. This town has developed other economic sectors that have gone a long way to replace the former mining industry that used to support that town. It has a Web site and all kinds of initiatives, Mr. Speaker.
Listening to the radio, I couldn't help but draw parallels to what this small prairie town has done and what we're doing in the Yukon and what we could be doing in the area of further enhancing economic diversification. I realized that the 50 economic initiatives in our budget will certainly go a long way toward making the best with what we have - the biggest bang for the buck, if you will, Mr. Speaker. Combined with what we're doing in the area of tourism, we're redefining a Yukon tourism strategy based on input from Yukoners.
I think this is the same direction the territory as a whole is headed, and I think we can learn and take some satisfaction from this small prairie town that we can make the territory successful, too, Mr. Speaker, and that doesn't mean sole reliance on mining. It's quite clear the key lies with economic diversification.
Another area I wanted to discuss is the Y2Y example. Research conducted in the Yellowstone to Yukon, or Y2Y, region has documented that the proximity of an attractive, protected natural environment is an important amenity that attracts new people and businesses to rural communities. The service sector now contributes considerably more to the local economy than the resource development sector does in many communities in the Y2Y region. In fact, service sector growth has more than made up for a resource-based sector decline in these communities.
Last week, I was among several Yukoners who attended a presentation by Dr. Ray Rasker, a resource economist at the Sonoran Institute, and I found it very interesting what Dr. Rasker had to say and, in fact, met with him following the meeting for further discussion on what the Yukon could do to capitalize economically on the examples he related at the public meeting.
One of the points Dr. Rasker expounded on that I found particularly significant, Mr. Speaker, was his finding that wilderness areas along Y2Y are growing six times faster than other places - six times faster than other places. How can that be? Is it coincidence? No, Mr. Speaker, Dr. Rasker explained that people want to live in places where they can enjoy healthy lifestyles and appreciate the environment and benefit from economic activities and all the good things in life. In this day and age of technology and the information highway, people have the opportunity to live in places like Yellowstone Park or Haines Junction, for example, yet conduct business in the mainstream, thanks to the information highway.
This, Mr. Speaker, I think is a laudable goal the Yukon should pursue, and try to attract these types of people and this type of industry to the Yukon, which promotes economic diversification.
Another finding Dr. Rasker related - and I think there are definitely parallels to the Yukon - is, over the course of time, he discovered the economies in the Yellowstone community increased significantly, despite the decline in the resource sector.
What his findings showed, Mr. Speaker, was that an emerging, new economy was replacing the old style of economy. Let me just explain that for a moment. The old economy, as explained by Dr. Rasker, centered on the resource sector - whether it be mining, forestry and so on - versus the tourism sector. It was either one or the other, it seemed, Mr. Speaker, in the old economy. You couldn't have tourism plus development in the resource sector. It was the old war - the people who wanted to protect the environment versus those who wanted to develop the environment - sort of the same mentality propagated by some members opposite.
Well, Dr. Rasker found that times had changed. The communities, the economies in those regions, have increased significantly, and it was due to secondary economic activity.
He also found the significant part - the significant message - is that these communities are bordered by protected areas. People wanted to live beside a pristine environment, in a nice community, where they could maybe go out within an hour and see game, catch fish and so on. Lifestyle is a prime, motivating factor behind anyone's desire to relocate to such a community.
The protected areas were a significant drawing card, Mr. Speaker, but were also supported by other infrastructures such as good communications. I spoke about the information highway. It goes without saying, Internet communication would be a good part of that. Transportation and an airport with scheduled service - all of those appear to be key factors for service industries locating in rural communities.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we're very fortunate in the Yukon to have, in many of our communities, all of those infrastructures. Now, with protected areas, Mr. Speaker, perhaps we can find the same successful formula learned in other areas.
The economic certainty and opportunities created by protected areas near rural communities no doubt gave Colorado's governor, Roy Romer, no pause in saying, "America's brightest people are attracted to America's most beautiful places."
Some statistics, Mr. Speaker - in Alberta, the fastest growing sector is services. Between 1986 and 1991, more than 650,000 new jobs were created. Wholesale and retail trade grew by 11,940 jobs - that's almost 12,000 jobs - and construction added 6,900 jobs. Primary industries, including oil and gas, agriculture and logging, grew by only 0.5 percent during the same period, adding only 320 jobs. A similar trend was seen in B.C.
These figures, Mr. Speaker, are taken from an article by my friend, Richard Mostyn, in the paper last week. I see the Liberal leader chuckling at that as if maybe she has some reason to dispute the authenticity behind these figures, but I'll leave that for her and the reporter to discuss.
I'd like to move on now to the last area.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader is continuing to laugh. Maybe it's time to really tell a joke for Yukoners. I remember the words of the Liberal leader during a visit by the Alaska State legislators, Mr. Speaker, and you'll be particularly interested in this because it will affect your constituents, Mr. Speaker. She said that people in Old Crow had too much say when it came to the development of oil and gas. Is that the position of Liberals, that people in Old Crow have too much say in the development of oil and gas? Well, it's another wild card in the mix, and hopefully everything will come clear when the cards are laid on the table in a vote later this afternoon.
Back to the last topic - intangible values. Not everything in life can be measured in dollars, and certainly there is a priceless aspect to protected areas. How do you measure the dollar value of preserving the systems that sustain life? How do you measure the dollar value of leaving a natural legacy for future generations of all species? How do you measure the dollar value of preserving our cultural heritage? How can we measure in dollars today the future value of new, natural cures for disease from plant stock that would otherwise become extinct? How do you measure the reassurance we feel, knowing that some areas are protected in their natural state, and that wildlife, in some places, exists in its own habitat?
These questions are food for thought, Mr. Speaker. They are significant questions affecting the lifestyles of present and future Yukoners, and these questions cannot be ignored in this debate this afternoon.
With that, I conclude, and I'm eager to listen to the members opposite, and particularly find out where they stand on the protected areas strategy.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm looking forward to being able to put my thoughts on the record in this debate today. I really have to question why the Member for Kluane brought in a new motion very similar to the motion that was debated in this House a year ago, but on which debate was adjourned. I know he likes to hear himself talk, and that may be why he brought a new motion in, so he could go and be repetitive, and put the same message on the record as he did one year ago.
I'm going to take a little time in my presentation today, Mr. Speaker, but first I want to just review some of the things the Member for Kluane said. I didn't hear anything too intelligent in his remarks today, or anything too enlightening that we haven't heard before, except the shallow arguments that the be-all and end-all for the Yukon is to create a great big park out of it. That's going to answer all our economic woes. It's going to fill all the jobs. It's going to help to put that 17-percent unemployed to work.
Well, I'm going to take a little time to dispel a lot of those myths this afternoon.
Well, Mr. Speaker, what I found more interesting than anything in the Member for Kluane's presentation was that he got up and asked for the support of the opposition members in this very important motion, in his opinion. He wanted our support for this motion. He wanted to put it to a vote this afternoon. He wanted support. Then he goes on the public record and chastises us. He chastises us. He puts his rebuttal arguments forward before he makes an argument for his motion. I suggest that the Member for Kluane ought to go and take a course in conflict resolution if he wants some cooperation in this House, because he's going about it in the wrong way.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: We get another small country heard from there: the Member for Mount Lorne.
Mr. Speaker, let's review just quickly what the Member for Kluane said, something about this being so political and that the Yukon Party wasn't sincere about protected spaces. He talked about Tombstone. He talked about a public process. He talked about giving Yukoners a voice. He spoke of Ontario's protected spaces strategy. He spoke about the benefits of the protected areas to rural communities. He spoke about how happy Alaska miners are with their protected spaces. He spoke of 9,500 jobs in British Columbia.
Well, Mr. Speaker, what I gleaned from what the minister - heaven forbid, Mr. Speaker - the Member for Kluane said in this Legislature today just showed how out of touch he and his party are with the people of the Yukon - how seriously out of touch they are.
Mr. Speaker, just a week ago or so, we had the Yukon business summit report released to the public. There are 55 recommendations. I'm going to review some of them today.
I do not see any emphasis or any recommendations in this report in these tough economic times in the Yukon today for the Government of Yukon to fast track protected spaces to get the economy of the Yukon working. In fact, it's quite the contrary to what this report says and that's coming from a vast number of people who are in the service industries that the Member for Kluane spoke of. There is not one recommendation in here. In fact, it's quite the contrary. It says that they don't see the protected spaces as the be-all and end-all of the economic woes caused by the minister of economic devastation. They don't see that at all.
Let's just review what some of the recommendations of the report were before we get into the meat of the motion. The report says that the Yukon needs to adopt an attitude that shows it's open for business, that outside investors should be cultivated and encouraged in key strategic areas. That's one of the things it says.
It also goes on to say that the perception of the delegates was that the Yukon does not have a clear, concise plan for current diversification initiatives, and that with the limited resources that the Yukon has, they need to be more focused and more targeted.
They said that the Yukon and the federal government needed to clearly communicate the position regarding responsible mining development in the Yukon. That's what the delegates to the convention said. Many delegates felt that there were conflicting messages. That's the same thing that we've been telling this government for two years: that they're sending out conflicting messages and they're not being consistent.
This is about the most in-depth statement they made on parks and environmental issues. Delegates felt that economic development in the territory is not being held to be as important as environmental concerns. Delegates felt that this attitude is directly affecting the economic situation in the Yukon.
Conveying the message that mining is important and then taking a little action on regulatory processes hampers development. That's what the delegates at this convention said, Mr. Speaker. They went on to express their views that they felt there needed to be leadership and a vision for the economy and economic development of the territory. That's what the delegates at the convention said.
There's one other point they made here that I think I need to share with the members opposite, as soon as I can find it, in what they said about parks, and it certainly wasn't to fast track them, by any means. There were 200 delegates or something at this convention. Many, many Yukoners participated in this.
On page 12, paragraph 1.3, delegates felt that the perception by potential investors that the Yukon is being turned into a park is hurting the industry. That's what the business community thought of this government's track record on putting the economy to work in the Yukon, that they focus too much on the environment and parks and not enough on the economy. That's not to say that parks are bad, not to say that at all, Mr. Speaker, but we need to have a balance. We need to have a balance - that's what the delegates at the convention were telling this government - that they're out of balance. They're totally out of balance.
Now we hear the criticism coming from the government benches. We knew they wouldn't like it. I thought it was a pretty good document.
Mr. Speaker, we gave them the opportunity to show leadership and to call this economic summit, and they didn't think it was required, but the day before, or the morning the summit was going to take place, there was a letter there from the Government Leader trying to get his message out. But they didn't think it was required. They didn't think it was required, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Two-day wonder. We'll send that back to the chambers of commerce and let them see how the Minister of Economic Development feels about their efforts to try to present some message to the government, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: On a point of order.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite is miscommunicating words, attributing them to me, that I have not spoken, neither on the record nor through heckling.
Speaker: The leader of the official opposition, on the point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: If the Member for Faro wants to sit there and heckle, I'm going to repeat what he's saying on the record.
Speaker: This is just a dispute between two members. Will the member continue.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Member for Faro, on a point of order.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I'm not heckling that, so it's not fair for the member to attribute that to me.
Speaker: There's a dispute between two members. Will the member continue.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Faro thinks he can get away with that all the time, but it's starting to come home to roost for him now.
Mr. Speaker, let's look at what this government has done for the Yukon. While it concentrated and focused on a protected spaces strategy, we've watched mineral exploration and development in the territory plummet from $55 million in 1996 to somewhere in the neighbourhood of about $10 million this year. That's what they've done by concentrating on a protected spaces strategy.
Along with that, placer production has plunged 30 percent from last year and twice that amount from the year before.
The message that we have consistently given this government is that they've got to have a balanced agenda. It can't all be parks and it can't all be mining. But the Yukon is a big place. They can co-exist. It's not necessary to sacrifice one for the other.
Mr. Speaker, we're a large land mass in the Yukon. We have 30,000 people here and shrinking, under this government - a lot of room for everybody; a lot of room for all kinds of activities.
What does this government do? No, they are bent on protecting the Yukon. They're focused on the Y2Y initiative by environmentalists and preservationists from around the world, and they care not whether Yukoners are working - care not at all.
Mr. Speaker, this is the first time in decades that Archer Cathro geological consultants aren't drilling one foot of hole in the Yukon. The first time in decades that they're not doing any exploratory drilling. They - like other companies - are doing work in other areas. I just read somewhere that they were doing work in South America and other places. They're raising dollars to work in other areas. They can't raise dollars to explore in the Yukon.
And the mineral prices are the same around the world, Mr. Speaker. It's not just the Yukon that has the low mineral price. The whole world does. But these companies can raise money to explore in Alaska, they can raise money to explore in the Northwest Territories, they can raise money to explore in South America, but they can't raise money to explore in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane spoke of Tombstone, and our dedication to Tombstone. I want to speak about that a little bit later. I'm going to share with the members a letter that was written by a federal land claims negotiator, and a territorial land claims negotiator, in January of 1996 - a long letter, some five pages - to the Dawson First Nations laying out the history of Tombstone park. And I want to dispel some of the fallacies - fallacies that are being promoted by the Member for Kluane and others in his government - that we reneged on a promise on the boundaries of Tombstone, because that's simply not true. It's simply not true. It's not true at all, Mr. Speaker.
The member spoke about what a great job Ontario was doing with its protected spaces strategy, and they are, but there's one fundamental difference between what Ontario is doing and what this NDP government in the Yukon is doing - one fundamental difference, Mr. Speaker, and we pointed it out to the members opposite time and time and time again.
Ontario is not going to discourage mining investment in Ontario because they have a parks system going into place - not at all. But why are they not going to do it? Because industry and investors know, right from the time that that protected spaces strategy in Ontario comes out, that 12 percent of Ontario would be protected after the strategy was completed, the same amount as the federal government signed on to some 10 or 11 years ago.
We've asked this government time and time again to put a percentage on how much of the Yukon will be protected after their protected areas strategy is all in place. What do we get for an answer? We have the minister responsible for Renewable Resources say that he can assure Yukoners that it won't be 50 percent. That's what he said in this House, Mr. Speaker. He can assure Yukoners that it won't be 50 percent.
That's going to do a lot. He's going to build confidence, real confidence, for people who want to invest in the Yukon. It's really going to build confidence with them. That's one of the problems that we have with the protected areas strategy as it is being implemented by the members opposite.
And as I said before, there's nothing wrong with the protected areas strategy. It's good. It's how it's implemented and whether the government follows their own guidelines. And I'm going to point out to the members opposite this afternoon that they're not following their own guidelines in the protected areas strategy. They are circumventing those guidelines, and that is not right. They talk about Yukoners having a voice in this, but Yukoners are having a voice in some of it after the fact, not before the fact, especially in the case of Tombstone.
Mr. Speaker, when we talk about talking the talk and not walking the walk, I suggest to the Member for Kluane that he should be making more noises within his own caucus.
Mr. Speaker, the protected spaces strategy, I believe, was adopted in 1990 in the Yukon. The strategy made a commitment to set aside representative areas of the Yukon's eco-regions for protection and, as the minister stated at the time, in some ways led the country. But at that time, as it was during our watch, it was all focused on 12 percent of the Yukon. It wasn't focused on an open-ended strategy where nobody knew how much was going to be protected.
At that time, we stated that we believed it was possible to have protected spaces and a system of parks without prejudicing economic development opportunities and the mining industry in the Yukon. That was stated in Hansard on November 10, 1993, and, Mr. Speaker, I want to say for the public record that today we remain of this opinion.
The Yukon protected areas strategy was tabled in the Legislature last November and, despite wide concerns expressed by the resource industry over the last two years, the strategy has received conditional support, based on the government's commitment to develop a Yukon mineral strategy - another promise that this NDP government has yet to deliver on.
Mr. Speaker, as members will recall, back in November, I raised a number of concerns about the strategy, and I will just reiterate for the record what my concerns were, because nothing the government has said since then has alleviated those concerns.
Interim protection - how will it be applied in a fair and timely manner so as to ensure that resource development will not be compromised during the planning, selection and approval process? We haven't heard a word from the government on that, not one word. All he said was, "Well, it'll be looked after." The question is with respect to how much area will be protected in the interim. I have a real concern with that. What will that level of protection be, as well as the time frame of three to five years, which was, I think, said by the minister at the time before all the work was done and final boundaries were established. That's a long time for an area to be protected, depending on the size of the area, and it also raises some concerns.
Once again, Mr. Speaker, the fact that this strategy does not provide a target of lands to be withdrawn from resource development will do absolutely nothing to attract further investment to the territory. When you have an open-ended policy like this, where mining companies can come in and spend millions of dollars - and it takes millions and millions of dollars nowadays to find a viable ore body . . .
And let's just take an example. They come and take 10 years - sometimes it's 20 years from the initial discovery by a prospector until an ore body is proven up - and in the interim, millions and millions of dollars have been spent, and here we have this open-ended policy sitting there that doesn't say anything.
It doesn't say whether it's going to be 10, 20, 30 percent. All we know is the minister of the day said it isn't going to be 50 percent. That doesn't mean that the next minister of the day who comes along isn't going to have some other figure in his mind, because there's nothing spelled out in the strategy as to how much. What's the goal and what's wrong with putting a goal?
If the government of the day wants to protect 50 percent of the Yukon, let them stand up and say so. Let the public have a debate about that. If they want to protect 12 percent of the Yukon, let them say so and let the public stand up and have a debate about that. But why come with a wide-open policy that is going to continue to create uncertainties in the Yukon because here's that mining company that's invested millions of dollars in an ore body, and some eight or 10 years later, along comes the government and says, "We're going to make this a protected area."
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, it's probably best that I just ignore that unintelligent kibitzing that's coming from the Member for Kluane.
Mr. Speaker, I think it's important that this government does put a figure on how much of the Yukon is going to be protected when this task they've set out on is completed. There has to be an optimum figure that they have in mind, and they ought to be upfront with it and share it with the general public. I, for one, don't see how the statement from the Minister of Economic Development, saying that he can assure me that it won't be 50 percent, is going to give any comfort to investors in the Yukon.
Compensation - another area that we had concerns about. "Where a proposal for protected area prohibits use for which a previous right or interest has been granted, the interest holder may claim to be entitled to compensation and unresolved legal issues may come out of that." But compensation is not addressed in their protected areas strategy. It ignores it completely.
What about the costs associated with these planning processes for the remaining ecoregions that have not been identified as candidate areas for protection? Is this also an open-ended budget also? Does it name the amount of the land we're protecting? Money is no object - is that the message we're sending out?
Cost of mineral assessments, reviews of history and heritage, cost-benefit analysis - who's going to be responsible for the undertaking of all these assessments? We don't need to worry too much about the mineral assessment because this government isn't doing a lot of it, and they proved that in Tombstone. They just went and expanded the boundaries, regardless of what the preliminary report said, even though they address it in their A Better Way document - this piece of trash that they put out before the last election.
"Piers McDonald and the New Democrats believe it is time to publicly discuss and identify possible parks and other protected areas, in areas where land claims are settled. Parks should be established."
It goes on to say, "We believe that this can be done intelligently, with little effect on future resource development, especially if mineral assessments are one of the criteria for park boundaries."
And what do we have? We have Tombstone that's -overnight - doubled in size. When we asked the minister about doing mineral assessment, he said, you don't have to, because it's done at the land claims table - don't have to do a mineral assessment, because it was done at the land claims table - it was created through the land claims table.
Well, I suggest to the Minister of Renewable Resources that for parks - or any land that was set aside under the land claims process - third-party interests were protected, not tramped on, like this government is doing. They were protected, and all governments bent over backward to protect third-party interests. They didn't trample them, as this government is doing now, and that's unfortunate, because that doesn't give any assurances to investors in the Yukon either.
How will the assessments be conducted? Is this going to be a wish list from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society? Is that how the assessments are going to be done? Or are there going to be intelligent assessments done? Are they going to be done in-house, or are they going to be done by consultants? The protected areas strategy doesn't address that - doesn't address it at all.
Mr. Speaker, those are a lot of the weaknesses that are in the protected areas strategy that we have some real concerns with.
I just want to go back to last November in this House, when the Minister of Renewable Resources brought forward a ministerial statement on the protected spaces strategy, and I responded to it. I just capsulized some of the concerns that I had with it, and I believe a lot of them are in my response to the ministerial statement.
But I want to look at what the colleagues on my left said during the response to that ministerial statement. The leader of the Liberal Party said, "Yukon Liberals are in favour of a protected areas strategy. In the last election, the Yukon Liberal platform clearly stated: "We would establish a comprehensive protected areas strategy."
Mr. Speaker, she went on to say, "Let there be no mistake about my position or a position of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus. Let there be no mistake about it. We support protecting Canada's endangered species, including the Yukon's, and we believe in developing a protected areas strategy." That's what she said then, in November. Then two months later, at the Cordilleran Roundup, she is reported as stating that she has concerns about the strategy - another flip-flop of a Liberal position, but that's not unusual for the Liberals, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, there are numerous concerns with the strategy -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: "Name one," the Member for Watson Lake said. What have I been doing for the last 20 minutes, Mr. Speaker?
Here we have the Member for Kluane, who stands up in this Legislature and says that they're all for economic development and we've got to protect the Yukon and mining isn't everything - mining can be displaced, he said, and that's not where it's at now; it's in the service industries, and these protected spaces are going to create all these jobs.
He goes on to state, and I find this mind-boggling, that he's trying to compare 9,500 jobs in British Columbia that have been created by protected area strategies in British Columbia in a population of four million people. Let's extrapolate that back down to a population of 30,000 people. How many jobs does that create in the Yukon? That's good to compare.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Oh, no, it doesn't necessarily mean - here we've got this government with all kinds of money for some more civil servants. It doesn't really matter if there's any mining in the territory. We'll put everybody to work for the government.
He goes on to say how well the community of Haines Junction has benefited. That shows how out of touch he is with his own constituents, because that's not what they tell me when I go to Haines Junction. They're totally disenchanted with Kluane Park and the lack of access to it. They're totally disenchanted with the spinoff jobs they were promised but never got. This is some 30 years after that park was created.
I believe, when I came to the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, in 1971, there were about 450 or 500 people in Haines Junction. We got Kluane National Park, and this was going to be the big fix. This was going to be the big fix, and what have we got in Haines Junction now? Eight hundred people, after 30 years. That's the impact Kluane's had, and you can't even attribute all that to Kluane. That's the impact that a protected area of 8,000 square miles has had on the community of Haines Junction. My God.
And then we have their member, the member who is supposed to be fighting on behalf of their rights in this Legislature, telling them how well off they are. Well, he ought to go back there once in awhile and talk to them, and he'd find out that they're not so well off, Mr. Speaker.
It ought not to surprise us that the Member for Kluane says those things, because I can remember a debate in this House, and I think it was on this same motion, in fact, Mr. Speaker - I'm just looking for it here now. Here it is. We were debating this motion, I believe it was last year in the Legislature, March 11, 1998.
In his rebuttal - or, at one point, he got up - and this is what he said. I stood here and said that we had to find a balance between mining and protected spaces, and mining doesn't necessarily have to have a negative impact on the environment. I used an example of a backhoe being walked into the Aishihik area, where there was no environmental damage - in fact, they left the area better than they found it - just to make a point that all mining isn't bad for the environment.
The Member for Kluane came back and said the leader of the official opposition also tried to counter the part with the Killermun Lake example, and he stated that I said that the trenches were backfilled, and that, but I really think he missed the point, he said. "The main point, as I understand it from this particular controversy..." and this is the Member for Kluane speaking, Mr. Speaker, "...was that, if they had discovered a resource that was worth extracting, worth exploiting, what would happen if it is economical, where a miner can make a buck, and they end up having a mine there?"
Well, my God - and these are the people who are in power. That's the mentality of the caucus, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Point of order.
Point of order
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, once again, the leader of the official opposition has misconstrued my statements. He's extracting from Hansard, Mr. Speaker, and he's cherry-picking at certain parts of what was said, and he's missing the main point that there were conflicts to be avoided by sending both hikers and developers up the same valley, and that was the point that I made. What if they had found a mine, was related to that point.
Speaker: Order please.
Speaker: There's a dispute between two members. The member can continue.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, the Member for Kluane may think I'm misinterpreting, but I'm reading directly from a page of Hansard of March 11, 1998. The Member for Kluane maybe wants to read the words he said.
His constituents didn't think it was very funny when I delivered this to their doors. They didn't think it was very funny at all. They were incensed that their member would be against them getting jobs. That's why people in the Yukon are having trouble with this government, when the rationale over there is "Protect it; it doesn't matter about mining any more in the Yukon. That's last year's industry; that's last century's industry."
Well, I suggest to the members opposite that they had better sit down and regroup and take a hard look at what they're doing and what a negative impact they're having on the economy of the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, we need only turn to British Columbia where, in January, the B.C. mining industry advised the B.C. provincial government that it was withdrawing from its participation in all provincially sponsored land and resource management planning processes, effective immediately. The reason for withdrawing being that the process has failed to deliver land use certainty.
The members opposite ought to learn a lesson from what's happening there, and they ought to get their planning process on track.
He went on to say, Mr. Speaker, and this is again because of the fact that we have an open-ended policy here, they must've had something similar in British Columbia, the original intent of the process - in British Columbia, I'm speaking of now - was to double the province's park area from six to 12 percent. That was the original intent. Despite this target, the percentage of B.C. now covered by parks or park study areas has reached 18 percent.
As quoted by the president of the B.C.-Yukon Chamber of Mines, "The land use planning process has become a zoning process that effectively prohibits mining." And that's exactly what the industry is worried about here in the Yukon. They were promised a mineral strategy. They haven't got it. They were given that to silence them for their criticism of the protected areas strategy.
And here it is May, and we haven't got one yet. We haven't got one. They're withholding their support now for the protected areas strategy, waiting to see what's in the minerals strategy, because they're very concerned about what the Minister of Economic Development said - well, it's all there already; we just have to pull it into one paper. That's not what they're looking for.
Mr. Speaker, we have heard repeatedly in the industry that there's a need to create an economic climate of certainty and stability to attract investment to this territory. I'm surprised that this government can't get it through their heads that they're not doing all the right things. In spite of how hard they're working or believe they're working, their efforts are not creating the jobs, but yet, what do we get when we ask questions in this House? Instead of some moves to try to look at some different way of doing things, we get a bunch of political rhetoric from the minister responsible for Economic Development and from the Government Leader himself the day before yesterday in Question Period - all the good things they are doing, and people are all wrong, the government is all right. And we hear all of the ministers standing up and reciting the same lines. They must be given to them by their spin doctors upstairs. They don't have any original thoughts of their own, but they just read the political garbage that's being put out by their spin doctors.
Mr. Speaker, members are well aware that investment decisions are risk dependent upon favourable geology, land accessibility, and attractive tax schedules. Now this government has done something on the tax side but, without having accessibility to the resource, I don't think it's going to have a tremendously positive impact on exploration in the Yukon, and I believe the Minister of Economic Development said that himself, that he didn't expect to see a big jump.
In comparison to our neighbours to the east and the west who have been experiencing mining renewal, the Yukon has been experiencing a significant decline in mining development and exploration over the last two years.
Mr. Speaker, their own short-term forecast tells them that Yukoners are continuing to leave the Yukon. And what do we get from the Minister of Economic Development? He comes in here the other day and says, "Well, by the looks of the last unemployment numbers and the size of the workforce, people are deciding to stay in the Yukon." My God, how he can come up with that sort of an assumption out of the numbers that were presented in the jobless rate in the Yukon, I don't know. Maybe it's wishful thinking on his part. The only ones smiling are the moving companies.
Mr. Speaker, we have a protected areas strategy that is causing uncertainty. We have a DAP that's causing uncertainty. We have a government that has failed to make any significant progress on land claims in the two-and-a-half years they've been in office. All these things are causing uncertainty in the territory, as is being borne out by the number of Yukoners who have left the territory since this government was elected, and the high unemployment rate that we have in the Yukon today.
Mr. Speaker, I want to turn, just for a minute, to Tombstone because I think it's important that we clarify the record about what happened in Tombstone, if I can just find my notes here on it. The Yukon Party has been criticized, quite severely, and it has also been promoted by the members of the government that we reneged on a deal on the boundaries of Tombstone park. Since we're talking about protected spaces strategy, and some of the things this government has done on Tombstone park, I want to point out why I believe they're not following their own procedure on protected spaces. But before I do that, I want to share with the members of this Legislature some excerpts from a five-page letter that was written to Chief Steve Taylor on January 24, 1996.
It was signed by the associate chief negotiator for the Government of the Yukon, and it was signed by the chief negotiator for the Government of the Yukon. And I want to dispel some of the myths that have been promoted by members opposite.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the letter - as I said - is very long and it goes on and gives - I'm not going to try to read it all into the record by any means. I just want to take a few excerpts from it.
It says, "As a rule, areas that warrant such protection" - and this is in regard to the proposed Tombstone park - "are generally of interest to all Yukoners, and are best created through a public process, following their designation as special management area; a process which allows an opportunity to all affected interests to have a voice." That doesn't happen at the land claims table.
And it goes on to say that negotiators were given a mandate by the government of the day to propose a park, Tombstone park, as a means of protecting - for both First Nations and all public - that area.
The mandate, however, that was given at the time was very, very general, and it was also conditional. There was absolutely no mandate given to the size or appropriate boundaries for the park. Rather than that, the final decision as to what the Yukon's position would be on those issues would be made by Cabinet itself, only after the completion of a number of studies of the resource potential of the area and corresponding economic value. Those were the terms of reference for the establishment of the park.
This letter goes on to say that this is routine. This is the routine that the Yukon has followed throughout the land claims process - not just the four years the Yukon Party was in government, but throughout the land claims process.
It was the same routine that was used for the establishment of all special management area designations under Yukon jurisdiction. That's what it said about that.
Then, in 1992, prior to the Yukon Party coming into government, Yukon's Department of Renewable Resources hired a local consulting firm - Guess who, Mr. Speaker? J.S. Peepre and Associates - to conduct an overview of Tombstone and the surrounding area and to recommend justifiable boundaries for the proposed park. Now, this assessment wasn't conducted in conjunction with land claim negotiations between the government and the Dawson First Nation. It was issued by the Department of Renewable Resources for the use of the department in what the department hoped would eventually be a public review of the proposed park area.
This letter goes on to say that the contents of that consultant's report was shared with the Dawson First Nation. The consultant's study area recommendation was 2,176 square kilometres, and this was significantly larger than the park notation Yukon had requested in 1974. At that time, they requested it, and it was reserved in 1987. I think what's important about remembering it was the year 1987 is that it was under an NDP government when it was reserved in 1987, and it was 295 square miles to be set aside for a park - not the thousands of square kilometres it is now, but 295 square kilometres/miles. It should be pointed out, Mr. Speaker, that the Dawson First Nation's selection in that area at that time only comprised 155 square kilometres - nowhere near the magnitude of the park that we have today.
This letter, Mr. Speaker, goes on to state that Canada was not in any way supportive of withdrawing, through the land claims process, an area of the magnitude envisioned by the consultant. So, there was no boundary set on the park prior to us taking office. We did not renege on any park boundaries. We went ahead and did a mineral assessment.
My understanding of the history of it is that during 1991-92, the Dawson First Nation tried to get the NDP government nailed down on the park. They were never able to, and at the time the election was called in October 1992, there had been no prior agreement on the area in question.
Even further than that, from what I've been told about the history of this, was the negotiators had not even made any recommendations to senior officials, let alone Cabinet, as to what size the park should be prior to the 1992 election.
So, there are a lot of myths surrounding what the Yukon Party did and did not do with Tombstone park. What we did was work under the same criteria that were set out in the land claims process for setting up special management areas, and that was to go ahead, do a mineral assessment - which we did - and, as the members opposite know, it came back with a very positive mineral assessment of the potential for high quality minerals in the area.
So, what do we have? We have the NDP government getting re-elected and, on a commitment to the Dawson First Nation - in hopes of winning the riding, I guess - almost double the size of the park, don't do anything about having it withdrawn from staking until after they doubled the size. Then, after some claims are put in it, they go along and have it withdrawn from staking.
Why did they do that? Well, I can suggest to the members opposite why they did that. They didn't want to ruffle the feathers of the mining community. They wanted to satisfy their environmentalists. If they were so dedicated to creating this Tombstone park and doubling the size of it, they should have requested that the area be withdrawn from staking, and we would not be in the boondoggle where claims are being staked in the study area, and now we have the government saying that they ought not to be mined.
Well, that's ridiculous, because as I said earlier, the land claims process was very, very careful about trampling on third-party rights. They protected third-party rights. Even down to grazing leases, they protected third-party rights. And now, we have a government who talks about fairness and equality of all people but is prepared to trample on third-party rights. The Government Leader himself admitted that they were legitimate claims but, instead of allowing the process to go ahead and allowing these people to mine these claims to try to prove them up, no, they have their environmental branch trying to shut them down. And I've got great difficulty with that, because I believe the role of the environmental branch of this territorial government is not to shut down projects, but to do everything in their power to work to see how they can make the project go ahead without creating any environmental damage. It shouldn't be their role to shut down the project. It should be their role to make those projects go without any environmental damage and to mitigate that damage. That's what ought to be done, and government ought to have one position, not three positions.
So, Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered regarding the protected areas strategy.
And this motion - similar to the motion we had a year ago - we could not support in its present form because we don't believe that everything is roses, as the government often says. The motion states, quite clearly, that the protected areas strategy is a positive initiative that will protect the territory's ecological diversity. Well, it may be positive to the environmentalists, but it's certainly not positive to anyone who's looking for a job out there, with 17-percent unemployment. It's not positive for them at all.
"Yukon will benefit from a balanced agenda that encourages both responsible economic development and environmental protection." Nice words - here we have the government saying it again, but doing nothing about it. Their actions speak louder than their words. They can stand up and spout off the political rhetoric about all the great things they're doing and the balanced approach they're taking and everything else, but Yukoners aren't buying it. They aren't buying it at all.
Mr. Speaker, we believe we could support this motion, with a friendly amendment. We believe that we do need to continue to work on the protected areas strategy. We need to do a lot of work on it. But if we can get through a friendly amendment, then we could probably support the motion without much difficulty.
I do have great difficulty with the government patting themselves on the back and talking about all the good work they're doing when, in fact, there's a lot more work to do before they should start patting themselves on the back.
So, with that, Mr. Speaker, I would propose the following amendment:
THAT Motion No. 163 be amended by deleting the words "is a positive initiative that" in the first paragraph and substituting them with the following: "should become a positive initiative taking into account the concerns of mining, forestry and other resource industries to ensure that the strategy".
Mr. Fentie: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Deputy Speaker: The government House leader, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would submit that the amendment completely changes the intent and the body of the motion, and is out of order.
Speaker: The leader of the official opposition, on the point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest the Member for Watson Lake ought to at least had a look at the amendment before he jumps up to be so protective of his caucus, and trying to get through a motion is patting himself on the back.
What we're trying to do is strengthen the motion and put forward a motion that we can support.
Speaker: There's no point of order.
The amendment is in order.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition
THAT Motion 163 be amended by deleting the words "is a positive initiative that" in the first paragraph and substituting for them the following: "should become a positive initiative taking into account the concerns of mining, forestry and other resource industries to ensure that the strategy".
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I proposed the amendment because we believe the motion should pass this House, and we believe that the government should continue to work hard to get the strategy right. But to have it portrayed in the positive light that the Member for Kluane tried to do is, I think, wrong and misleading.
I'm not saying the member is misleading the House, but I think the statement could. We believe that it can be a positive initiative, but there's a lot more work that needs to be done and, Mr. Speaker, I think that's borne out by tonight's paper, where the cartoon says the NDP economic strategy is off the tracks, to start with, but then the editorial, based on Tombstone - and I'm just going to read one small quote out of it. The members can read it this evening: "If the NDP had been dedicated to hard-core environmental concerns as his green-meaning critics had wanted, it would have withdrawn the Tombstone study area from staking immediately upon taking power in October of 1996."
It's not only us saying it, Mr. Speaker. All Yukoners are saying it. They tried to pull a Liberal trick of walking down the picket fence. They didn't want to upset the miners. They didn't want to upset the environmentalists. They wanted to see which side they wanted to fall off on before they fell, and they slipped and got a picket in a place where it hurt.
What they need to do now is work a little harder and continue on with the protected spaces strategy, but make changes to it that will make it an acceptable document. Some of those I've relayed to the members opposite.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Oh, he's got a letter from the Chamber of Mines now - the mineral strategy and they're going to table it. I've seen them tabled before, Mr. Speaker, and then had those organizations renege on them because the government couldn't deliver.
Mr. Speaker, the members need to put a percentage of the Yukon - let's not get caught in the same trap as British Columbia got caught in. We need to know how much of the Yukon is going to be protected when this strategy is completed. That is essential. We need to know what's going to happen in the interim, when interim protection is put to an area while we're studying the boundaries of the park.
The people of the Yukon need to have full confidence and a full demonstration by the members opposite that they're going to live up to their election commitment of doing mineral assessments before the boundaries are established, not what they've done in Tombstone, not try to cop out by saying that they don't have to do it there because it was created at the land claims table. That's not acceptable to Yukoners at all.
And, Mr. Speaker, I believe that, if the members are sincere and want the support of opposition parties for their motion, they will agree with this amendment, and we will all work hard to try to get a strategy in place that will not have negative impacts on the investment dollars in the Yukon. In fact, it could have a positive impact by defining the amount of the Yukon that will be protected after it's over, and the mining companies will know that they'll be able to explore in the rest, and if they are fortunate enough to find an ore body that's worth putting into production, we can create a lot of jobs for Yukoners.
So, Mr. Speaker, the amendment is a friendly amendment for the members opposite. I ask them to consider it seriously, and with the amendment, I know that I can - and I know that my caucus can - support the motion.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, that amendment is just about as friendly as the Yukon Party's environmental policy. I think it's fair to say that anyone who cares about the territory's resources - and maybe the fish and wildlife themselves - certainly wouldn't want to meet the Yukon Party's policy in a back alley. That's how friendly it is.
Mr. Speaker, the amendment is bogus. The local planning teams do exactly what the amendment says - take into consideration the views of the stakeholders.
Mr. Speaker, this is yet another example that clearly illustrates that the Yukon Party does not understand the Yukon protected areas strategy or the process built around it.
They do not understand, and instead, they choose to build fears about the strategy, to criticize the strategy despite their own election campaign commitments that spoke in favour of the strategy.
On another point, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Chamber of Mines is in support of the YPAS. We have a letter on file. In addition, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers are also in favour of the YPAS. In a letter dated April 6, 1999, they express their support for the protected areas strategy.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I fail to recognize the validity of any points made by the leader of the official opposition, and certainly there is no validity to this amendment, and I do not support the amendment.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the amendment proposed by the leader of the official opposition, the Member for Porter Creek North.
The amendment does not substantially change the motion, as you have already ruled. The amendment says, as opposed to "is a positive initiative" it be changed to "should become a positive initiative". The Member for Kluane gave the amendment greater validity when he said that this is something that's already taken place in the protected areas strategy.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: That is what the Member for Kluane said in this House - on the record. I would invite members to review Hansard. That's what the member said.
The member may have, in his closing remarks, stated he wasn't prepared to support the amendment; the substance of his remarks said he did.
Our caucus does not believe that the amendment proposed diminishes the motion. It enhances and adds to it. We support the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, we also support the motion.
We have said - I have said, repeatedly, on the record - that the Liberal Party supports the protected areas strategy. I seem to have to do this once a year, Mr. Speaker.
Let me keep it really simple, and maybe this time it will be understood. The Yukon Liberal Party caucus and I support the protected areas strategy. It's not a secret. Our support has been quite public. Our Liberal platform in the last election stated clearly we would establish a comprehensive protected areas strategy. The Member for Kluane has quoted from it extensively.
I said this in the Legislature on March 11 of last year; I said it on December 2; I've said it again today. We support protecting Canada's endangered spaces, including the Yukon's. We believe in developing a protected areas strategy, and we believe in doing it with consultation from Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, we need a protected areas strategy because there are parts of our Yukon that must be protected. That's not a political statement; it's the simple truth. It's the right thing to do, and it needs to be done now.
I've said it publicly, I've said it privately and, Mr. Speaker, I could spell it, if that's what it takes.
In this House, there was a ministerial statement on November 6, 1997. According to the minister responsible for Renewable Resources, and who has repeatedly addressed this issue in the House, the government believed it had a mandate, given by the people, to set aside representative areas of 23 distinct Yukon ecoregions.
The discussion paper set out the principles for the protected areas strategy process.
Now, Mr. Speaker, at that time, my response, on behalf of the caucus, was supportive of the process. The Member for Porter Creek North and the Member for Watson Lake have somehow construed my question of the process, and concerns about the process, as some kind of flip-flop. It's absolutely clear that there are a number of members in this House who somehow cannot hear women's voices. They just don't hear women's voices.
My response said that the process wouldn't be easy. I criticized it at the time, saying that there was an 18-member committee - how were they going to reach consensus? And guess what? That proved to be true. The uproar over the draft of the plan was a cause for concern and still is. The minister said at the end of the day that the public advisory committee would develop a strategy that would be a how-to book for identifying and establishing protected areas throughout the Yukon. It would not be a set of proposed protected areas. The uproar over the draft of the plan and the concerns with the process recognized that the interests weren't being represented at that stage. The re-write is much closer to consensus - much closer to something that Yukoners can support.
I would urge members, out of respect for one another in this House, when they refer to positions taken by members to give them the courtesy of quoting their positions correctly.
Mr. Speaker, I was then, on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party and the Yukon Liberal caucus, in support of the protected areas strategy, and I remain so. The final strategy is a complex set of documents. Most of the stakeholders are now in support of the protected areas strategy. Again, we are among those in support of the establishment of protected areas within the Yukon.
The members opposite seem to have great concern when someone questions or expresses concerns about the process. It would behoove the members opposite, Mr. Speaker, to refer to their leader's remarks in December 1995, when he stood on the floor of this House and said, "Because as a member I ask questions about a process does not indicate a lack of support and should not be construed that way."
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, regardless of the remarks that are made by the Member for Kluane or the Member for Faro that they imagine someone has made, or however they wish to misconstrue and misinterpret or represent them in this House, the Member for Faro has repeatedly made reference to a conversation I allegedly had with the Alaskan legislators. I challenge him to prove it.
The Yukon Party is not in support of protected areas. The leader of the official opposition, the Member for Porter Creek North, three weeks ago in this House, called the protected areas strategy a mistake. He said, and I quote - and I quote correctly, Mr. Speaker - "In commenting to the media, the Government Leader confessed that his government has made a number of mistakes. Will the Government Leader now be willing to admit that his government's conflicting message in relationship to resource development and environmental protection, as witnessed by the failed DAP commission and the protected areas strategy, were also mistakes?"
The Yukon Party has been opposed to parks all along. They don't see wilderness itself as a resource.
In the 1992 election, they stated they were committed to the protection of the environment but no territorial parks were created while they were in power. Then, the then-government leader, the Member for Porter Creek North, said in October 1992 that large parks were a bad idea. The quote has already been made today that the Member for Porter Creek North said, "Who are we saving it for, anyway? I caution Yukoners about what it would mean to tie up vast areas of the Yukon."
Mr. Speaker, I also have to wonder about the NDP government's support of protected areas when they were in opposition. The NDP were prepared to lie down in front of bulldozers to oppose industrial development in protected spaces and parks. Now, somehow that position seems to have shifted somewhat - the responsibilities of government.
Now they talk about compromise. Now they look for a board, a government, somebody else to blame - please, somebody come out of the woodwork.
Recently, a number of environmentalists have been extremely vocal of their support of the NDP in the past. They've been backing away, Mr. Speaker. The entire NDP environment committee has gone - poof, just like a dandelion that's gone to seed; poof, they're gone.
The NDP have come in for a lot of criticism from the very people who were once the backbone of their organization. NDP support for things environmental seems to have slipped.
Mr. Speaker, this motion, which we debated fully last year, is all about the NDP covering a certain spot in their anatomy, trying to woo back the environmentalists. This party can't be trusted about the environment.
I have a number of other concerns about the way the NDP government is proceeding with the protected areas strategy. It's interesting. I referenced earlier that the now-Government Leader when he was in opposition had made some points respecting the questioning of government policy and process. The correct quote is that: "I will not be put off by someone who says that asking any questions about it indicates I am against it." He said this in the Legislature. And the now-Government Leader said this in discussions about the Beringia Centre revenues. I caution the minister and members present to heed their leader's advice on all subjects, including the protected areas strategy.
Mr. Speaker, the concerns that we have expressed and the questions we have expressed are about the process with regard to the protected areas strategy. One concern is with timelines. This is a time-consuming process.
The protected areas strategy is a how-to book for identifying and establishing protected areas throughout the Yukon. It's not about listing off and signing off the areas we wish protected. It will take time to get to that point.
In technical paper No. 3 it says choosing an area to represent its ecoregion, "should not take longer than two to three years from the identification of broad initial areas of interest to completion of the final management plans."
Goal one: areas for identifying areas to represent an ecoregion have to go through the development assessment process, or DAP, before final approval.
Ah, Mr. Speaker, DAP. I don't think we're going to see it this week.
For goal two areas, special places that need protection, no time lines are given. Those special places include: calving areas, wetlands, migration routes, sand dunes, hot springs, places where fossils are known to exist, heritage sites, sacred sites, places that have special value for outdoor recreation and wilderness areas largely untouched by human hands where ecosystems are still intact.
A variety of government agencies are responsible for many of the goal two areas. Mr. Speaker, there could be potential conflicts and everyone in this House can see that.
One of the concerns is that before an area is designated for protection or the decision is eventually made not to protect it, the access to the land remains in limbo and it cannot remain in limbo indefinitely.
There's a process in the strategy to get to the point of identifying the broad initial areas. DAP is part of that process. Once identified - however many years down the road - an area could come under interim protection, according to technical paper No. 6, for a period of three to five years in normal circumstances. During that time, some activities could still take place on the land, depending on the level of protection being sought for that particular area.
So, we're now up to five to eight years, Mr. Speaker, after - after - the broad initial areas of interest are identified and after DAP is finished. Like I said, DAP isn't going to be finished this week. That much is clear. And that's the problem. What's going to happen in the meantime? Are we on hold until the timeline is complete? How do we make plans for economic development, which the "Harding hype" tells us we're going to see? There are more questions than there are answers.
Mr. Speaker, we'd like to see some answers. The lack of completed development assessment process, the fact that a number of land claims are not complete, the time involved in interim protection - all of these things create a great deal of uncertainty. The Yukon Liberal caucus believes, like a great number of Yukoners do, that a balanced perspective is the answer. And there's an attempt to add some balance to the motion with the amendment - to actually spell out the inclusion of the concerns of resource industries, as well as stating, very clearly, the desire to protect the ecological diversity, to provide certainty.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
I cannot state strongly enough, clearly enough, even if I spelled it out - members do not seem to recognize, or be willing to admit, that the Yukon Liberal caucus supports the protected areas strategy. We support that, Mr. Speaker. We have concerns, as it is our legitimate and respected right, as members of the opposition, to do. We have concerns about the process. It would behoove the members to listen to those concerns.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to speak for a few moments on the amendment. Mr. Speaker, I support the amendment that's been brought forward by the leader of the official opposition for a couple of reasons.
I want to go back for a moment to the earlier part of the afternoon, when the Member for Kluane stood up and introduced his motion. I read the motion that was put forward by the Member for Kluane, and it's somewhat similar, if not exactly the same, as a motion that was put forward a few months ago by the same member, which we didn't get a chance to vote on. Members spoke on it all afternoon, then unfortunately we ran out of time.
But it is almost an identical motion that has been put forward by the member. I have to tell the member, I don't have a great deal of problem with the motion as it's worded, but I do think it needs to be amended, as the leader of the official opposition has, in a friendly and minor way, just to send a message out there to all people in the territory that this process will be a reasonable process and take into account all sectors.
I did have a problem with the speech that was given by the Member for Kluane, and I'll tell the member why. I listened intently to the member's speech, and when the member rose, he seemed to be rather upset and angry.
I was wondering what the problem was, and I thought about that for awhile - why the member jumped to his feet and, in this amendment that actually is fairly reasonable - it's not really attacking anybody, it's really pointing out that we should set up protected areas strategy as a positive initiative; it was positive - the Member for Kluane was very negative. He was attacking, and he first attacked, I think, the Yukon Party, and then he attacked the Liberal Party, and then he attacked the Yukon Party again, and then back to the Liberal Party. And I thought to myself, here we are in this Legislature on our motion day, the Wednesday - the one Wednesday where members of the back bench in the government party and members on this side get an opportunity to bring forward constructive and positive motions to discuss issues in the House - and I listened to the member's speech, attacking, with venom, the two other political parties. I thought to myself, "I like the motion, but he doesn't like me. And he's attacking us." This is a member who's seeking my support for a friendly motion and what he's doing to get my support is beating me with a stick.
I thought to myself that this is a novel way to gain support for your motion. And then I thought, I know what's happened. I know what's happened with the Member for Kluane. He's got speech A and speech B. And speech B, Mr. Speaker, is the speech that he would give after we rose and responded to his speech A, which was positive. And then he came back and said, "So you don't like the motion", and then he went after us and said, "You guys are all bad guys," and criticized us. So what happened is, he inadvertently, when he rose to speak today, mixed his speeches up.
He gave his speech B, his speech that it responds to, first. I'm only hoping that, when he rises to his feet at the end of the debate today, he's going to praise everybody in the House for supporting his motion and that he just got a little confused in the excitement. He doesn't get a lot of opportunity to do this so, in his excitement and his nervousness, he gave his I-want-to-beat-you-guys-up speech. That's the only reason I can think of why he would have jumped to his feet in a very positive motion and been as negative as he possibly could to try and get support.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Riverside tells me he was hurt, and he asked me if I was hurt, and I was. I was hurt. My feelings were hurt and, as the member knows, I am a sensitive guy. It made me think twice about the motion that was before us but, despite the negative and vicious attack by the Member for Kluane in his speech to gain my support, I still like most of his motion - most of it - but it needs a little bit of improvement. I think that's evident from what's happening in our Yukon economy at the present time, and I don't think anyone would argue, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon economy right now is on the rocks. It's about as bad as it has ever been in the territory. The pessimism out there is running rampant, and the jobs that are being created are being created outside the territory. People are leaving, and the confidence in this government - the NDP government - to turn this around has gone. Everybody I've talked to says that these folks aren't going to do it. These folks aren't going to do it.
It's unfortunate that the people feel that way, because that doesn't help the Yukon economy. But part of the problem, Mr. Speaker, has been that the NDP government has sent out a lot of mixed messages. I think, as the leader of the official opposition has said from time to time, they have a different speech for every group. They have one for the First Nations; they have one for the environmentalists; they have one for the mining community; they have one for the tourism community. They're all different; it just depends on whom they're speaking to. The problem is that, in the Yukon, because it's a small place, a lot of these individuals talk to each other. They talk to each other, and they're wondering why the ministers say one thing to one group and something entirely opposite to the other group. And that's created confusion. It's created a lack of confidence in this government. It really is reflected now in our Yukon economy with the fact that people are leaving the Yukon to seek jobs elsewhere.
This motion that we have here before us is again a motion that I think needs to be strengthened, and we need to send some messages out to the part of the economy that helps make the Yukon go round - the part of the economy that has been so devastated, the part of the economy that needs a boost in confidence right now. The editorial in the Whitehorse Star that came out today says that it still appears that members of the business community need big-time assurances of the government's commitment to development, trade and commerce. That's what the editorial says.
So, obviously it's not just me who's saying it. It's the editors of the paper, and the editors of the paper are hearing it from business people all over this territory - they need assurances from this government that the economic sector matters, too. That's what we're asking to do in amending the motion. We're actually strengthening the motion in saying that it should become a positive initiative.
I don't think right now the protected areas strategy has been a positive initiative. I think a lot of people would tell you that it's been an extremely negative issue and that it's divided a lot of Yukoners and created a lot of discussion out there and has upset a lot of Yukoners. So, by far, it's not a positive issue and it should become a positive issue.
You know, what I find interesting here today is the Member for Kluane, who rose and gave his speech B before his friendly speech A, did the same thing when it came time to respond to the amendment. He, first of all, jumped up on a point of order, I think, and said that it was out of order and, of course, as we all know in this House, the Speaker ruled that it was perfectly in order within the rules of the House. In fact, it doesn't change the intent of the motion at all. In fact, it strengthens the motion.
Then, because obviously he was still stuck in his speech B that he gave first, which was negative, negative, negative, he never even read the amendment. He just said, "We're voting against this. We're going to go against this. This is what we're going to do." And he jumped up and he said, "Some of the things that are in this amendment are already being done and that's why I'm not voting for it." Well, that makes sense.
First, he said it was wrong. Then he said they're already being done but he's not going to vote for it. Well, if they're already being done, as he said - and I take him for his word that some of these things are being done - this gives assurances in a motion that's coming out of this House to the development community and to others and to the environmental community that we want this protected areas strategy to become a positive initiative and we also want to take into account the concerns of mining, forestry and other resource industries to ensure that the strategy is balanced.
Mr. Speaker, what's wrong with that? I can't, for the life of me, find a reason why the Member for Kluane would be so upset with this amendment, unless it was that he came in here today with a mad on for somebody. That was apparent in his speech B - the speech he was supposed to give later, if somebody attacked him, but he decided to give it first and hurt everybody's feelings. But I don't understand, for the life of me, what the member is trying to accomplish by, first of all, attacking us over here in a motion that he wants us to support, when we actually strengthen his motion - make the motion a little bit better - in the spirit of cooperation. I mean, you know, it's nice that the motion is here in front of us, but that's why we're here - to work together from time to time, and if someone proposes a motion, to possibly make it better and strengthen it. We've done that a couple of times with motions we've sent to Ottawa and other places. We've strengthened them. That's all we're trying to do: help the Member for Kluane. I know he's upset and bitter over something, and I don't know what that is. I hope it wasn't anything we did. But obviously, the member was rather misguided today, when he came in here with his motion and with the hope of gaining support. Or, maybe on the contrary, he wasn't looking for support. He just wanted to present a motion and wanted everybody to vote against it, and then he would run out and say, "You don't support protected areas." Well, we do support protected areas, and we said that a dozen times.
You know, I listened today to the speech by the Liberal leader in the House. The Liberal leader said she was very upset when members in this House take something she has said and misquote her.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: They misquote her, and they should speak the truth. They shouldn't try to misrepresent or misinterpret what members say.
I was this far away from thumping my desk because I was so pleased with the words that the Liberal leader was saying. And then the Liberal leader paused, and went on to say, "The leader of the official opposition doesn't support protected spaces", and went on and on and on, and twisted his words around.
So, I mean, it's strange things done in the land of the midnight sun. This is what happened. I mean, the Liberal leader knows full well that we've supported protected areas and protected spaces, and we have all along. We made statements about that in election campaigns and inside this House and other places.
And so what does she do? She criticizes the NDP for twisting words around and manipulating them in a way to try and turn it around that you don't support it at all, and she does the very same thing - the very same thing. It's shameful, it's shameful.
You know, Mr. Speaker, this has been a tough day. This has been a tough day. First of all, I was hurt by the words of the Member for Kluane, and now the Liberal leader. Now the Liberal leader has cast aspersions upon me as well. It's going to be a tough day, and I know it's going to be a long day, because we have to sit here this evening as well.
But, Mr. Speaker, it's interesting what words come out of the legislators of this House, when they criticize one for doing something, and then turn right around and do the very same thing themselves - not the next day, not the next week, not the next hour, but within minutes. Within minutes, of criticizing someone for it, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, it's interesting. You see how the character develops in individuals in this House as they give their speeches and plan their strategy. It's becoming more and more obvious. Of course, we know where the Liberal Party's been on many of these issues.
I've just been told, Mr. Speaker, that I should lay off the Liberal Party because I understand they're changing their mind and supporting the amendment now. I've hurt their feelings now.
I'm going to appeal to other members of the NDP, aside from the Member for Kluane who didn't get a chance to read the amendment because, I guess, he had a mindset that we would be voting against this thing and he is going to vote against everything we do, no matter what. He was so intent on that that he never took the time to read the amendment, so I'm going to appeal to the Member for Whitehorse West and the Member for Watson Lake, who have unemployed people in their ridings who believe that the protected areas strategy should be a positive initiative and they believe that the concerns of the mining, forestry and other resource industries should be considered. That's what this says. That's all this says. It doesn't say the NDP did a lousy job or the NDP did this or did that. It just says that we should give more consideration, or at least ensure that there is stronger consideration with respect to the protected areas strategy.
I see the reinforcements have arrived from upstairs with another amendment to an amendment to an amendment here. It's damage-control time.
Mr. Speaker, I'm going to be supporting the amendment, because I think it helps the motion go a little further in ensuring that we are serious about this issue. In the words of the Member for Kluane, it does not change. It actually is being done already, so he should have no problem with that. If it's being done, he shouldn't have any problem with that. Mr. Speaker, in your words, it does not change the intent of the motion. It flows with what we're talking about. It strengthens it.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Phillips: It makes it a better motion, Mr. Speaker, and I urge all members in this House to consider this very friendly and worthwhile amendment and to rise in their place, put party politics aside, don't follow the lead of the negative Member for Klondike - I'll correct that - the negative Member for Kluane, who came in here today wanting everyone to vote for his motion but did it in kind of a convoluted way to make everybody mad at him first.
So, I would urge all members to rise today and support this very worthwhile amendment to this motion.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. Livingston: Disagree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, 10 nay.
Speaker: The nays have it.
Amendment to Motion No. 163 negatived
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: A lot has been said on this motion, Mr. Speaker, in the past, so I will try to be brief.
The protected areas strategy has been in the works with our government for two and a half years, and most recently, a year and a half of hard work and a lot of consultation with the general public. It is probably a document that has involved more consultation with the general public than any other document for a very, very long time.
We did get to many people, and we did get comments back from many people right across the Yukon, and there was a lot of direction given to the steering committee who, along with the department, formed the protected areas strategy, for which drafts were produced and sent back out to the general public again for further comment.
At the beginning of our mandate, we were given a very strong environmental direction and mandate from the people and we carried that out.
I was quite surprised with the debate today, both from the Liberal Party and the Yukon Party wanting to amend the motion, first of all. I don't know if they realize how far they have gone with this amendment, but for us, it changes the direction we should be taking with protected areas.
The amendment basically says that the protected areas strategy should become a positive initiative. Mr. Speaker, we have gone to the general public and this is the direction that they have given us, and the feedback we have gotten back from the general public and industry was very positive. We've had support from the Chamber of Mines for the strategy, saying that, basically, it should not impact the industry negatively and, Mr. Speaker, I believe that we can carry out a very good economic agenda and environmental agenda at the same time.
Now, the Liberal leader supported the amendment to this motion, which I think is a huge mistake on her part because, if you read the amendment, it said it should become a positive initiative taking into account the concern of the mining force and other resource industries to ensure that the strategy will protect the territory's ecological diversity, and so on.
What it fails to mention in there is the environmental community, which plays a big part, I think, in this strategy, and many other concerned people in the Yukon, including First Nation people who have been talking about the protection of land for over 25 years now through negotiations of their land claims and so on.
Mr. Speaker, this is not a new initiative in the Yukon, and we've said that time and time again. What we've done as a government is to put it on paper to show the general public what process we can follow when we put together protected areas in the ecoregions that have been spelled out - the 23 ecoregions. And, Mr. Speaker, it involves the local people, the general public, those who are going to be affected by it, whether they are trappers or outfitters. A big part of the strategy is to involve local people, and you'll see this book around for awhile. From time to time it may be updated, but I think that the general concept is going to be there forever.
With this, it involves the local people in forming local planning teams, and it was with that in mind and having local people having more knowledge about their territory and what is surrounding them, that they can put their ideas forward much better than can the department, and so on. And that's the whole idea about local planning teams, so that proper information can be brought forward when these study areas and core areas are put into place.
And, Mr. Speaker, we've had a lot of support for that. Even the petroleum industry supports protected areas. They think that it would not harm them in any big way, and they can carry out their duties, and so does the mining industry. With the many other things that we're doing as government, I'm sure that they see beyond a year away from now, and they know that other things come into effect when the economy is down, such as it is today.
We said to the general public - and they have directed us - that we have to look beyond mining. We have to diversify the economy, and that hasn't been done in the past. The only thing we've focused on is mining, and there are boom-and-bust cycles, and Yukoners don't want that any more.
We've gone to things like the trade and export, which, surprisingly, as soon as we brought it out, created a lot of discussions in the communities about it being a positive way to go, that we should do more of it and look at things other than mining. Of course, before that, we worked hard with the First Nations on putting together an oil and gas accord, which will benefit Yukoners and look at another industry, other than mining.
Mr. Speaker, I know that the Liberal Party had again mentioned that people have left the NDP's environmental committee. Well, we still do have an environmental committee, and I must say we are the only party that does have an environmental committee, which speaks a lot about what people think of our environment in the Yukon with respect to party politics.
The Yukon Party said that we're fast tracking protected areas. Mr. Speaker, everybody knows that they were going to put together the protected 12-percent of Yukon by the year 2000. That's not very far away. The only way you can do that is if you don't involve Yukon people in the process. We intend to use them fully in this process, and we know that getting all the proper information and making sure that we go through the process could take a lot of time. We lay it out in the strategy.
And Mr. Speaker, we know that the agenda is very, very full at this point. We not only have what we would like to do regarding parks and protected spaces, but we've also got commitments that we're following through on through the land claims process, and Tombstone is very much a part of that.
And there are many more - over 20 different initiatives - that we'd have to be working on, through protected areas. There are SMAs still to come with those First Nations that are negotiating land claims agreements. So for us to say that we would have this completed by the year 2000 would not be right at all. We need to take the time, work with Yukoners, and come up with something proper.
We've just adopted the strategy; it's starting to work now. It's only a few months old, and we're getting a lot of good feedback from it, and people are starting to learn exactly how the process is going to work, including the mining community.
Now, we're doing other things, of course, like the mineral strategy, which is being worked on right now, looking at continuing the support of the mining industry, but not losing sight of the fact that we do have an environmental agenda.
Now, we said it was a part of our campaign - protected areas was - and we feel that now that we have a strategy, it would help us fulfill that commitment that we had put forward to the general public. So we haven't wavered from that one bit at all.
Mr. Speaker, I know some people might be negative with regard to protected spaces, but one thing that has always stuck in my mind is what the Government Leader said to us, that in the early 1900s - I'm not sure of the date - but when the city council got together in B.C. and made a bold move to protect a piece of valuable land in Vancouver, which some people thought could be used for buildings or commercial areas, they were laughed at, and people put them down, because they put aside a piece of land for protection of its plants and animals.
Now, if you look at it today, you'd think that was a pretty smart move on their part. It's one of the big features in Vancouver right now if you go to Stanley Park. Everybody loves it. It's a great place to go, and it was very much a forward-thinking council, I would say, at that time. I would think that, once we start implementing the land claims and putting the local plans in place for protected areas, down the road, people are going to be looking back and saying it was a smart move, even though it is very controversial at times because some people in the mining community don't like it and they're voicing themselves on it.
We haven't been giving any conflicting messages at all, Mr. Speaker. We have said the same thing to all sectors of the Yukon economy and the people of the Yukon about what we're doing. We put together the steering committee to put together the protected areas strategy. That was all public and done in a very transparent way.
I think that we've shown a lot of leadership to put this strategy together, and the motion encourages us to act in a responsible way and look at the future and continue to work hard to involve Yukon people in implementing this strategy, and that's exactly what we're doing.
Mr. Speaker, I know that the Yukon Party has problems with the quantum. We would not tie a quantum to protected areas. What we do feel is that we need adequate representation in each of the 23 ecoregions that are in the Yukon, and we're continuing to follow that line. We feel that, down the road, Yukoners would have the same opinion as we do.
Mr. Speaker, the Tombstone park, which has been around now for a number of years, has had a lot of public consultation, a lot of public discussion from its beginning. There is a lot of interest from both the federal and territorial governments and also from First Nation governments, and that's how this whole thing formed - with everybody putting their interest down and starting to negotiate.
This is a special-feature area and we feel that, at this point in time, we've put out a strategy that lays out a process and we would like to follow that process.
That was simply the comment we had made in regard to Tombstone park, not to forget what is laid out in the agreements, because we're not going to be breaching land claim agreements, and to look at all aspects and to make sure that the federal government, DIAND, look at all aspects of the agreement.
That might not be what the Yukon Party wants because how they see the land claim agreements in the discussion with the Liberal Party was that it was already shelved in the archives and that's where it's going to belong, all full of dust and so on.
Well, we feel that the land claim agreements, along with the UFA, is a working document that is forever and it changes the way in which the Yukon government will have to conduct itself with the general public. We have commitments within that document.
Mr. Speaker, we do have a very aggressive agenda ahead of us with the protected areas strategy. I feel that with a lot of hard work we can accomplish some of it in the next little while, in the next couple of years, but I think it's something that would go on for years to come. We've got First Nations that haven't ratified agreements yet with SMAs that have to have management plans in place and we intend to work fully with the general public and the First Nations and so on to get a proper plan in place.
This motion, I was hoping, would be taken seriously enough that we can look at it, and if you don't like it, you can vote against it. I would like to see a vote on this motion, Mr. Speaker, and not change it from its intent to make sure that we continue to involve all aspects of Yukon people, including the environmental community, which has supported this, and it blows me away to hear that Liberal Party not wanting to have the environmental community even consulted in the amendments to the motion.
We feel that it is a very positive initiative, and that's what has been told to us by the general public, and we will continue to fulfill the mandate that has been given to us by the general public.
Over the past little while, the protected areas strategy has created a lot of discussion. Although we are continuing to work hard on places like the Tombstone, which is laid out in the agreements, with the planning team, but we were most recently working with the fishing branch, and with the First Nation to get a planning team set up and going in regard to the fishing branch. We'd also like to start putting in a planning team for the Wolf Lake area, and look at the whole ecoregion to see what needs to be done there. And it goes on and on from there.
We have many, many SMAs that we need to be putting together, and there's a big workload ahead, and the strategy is a guiding document that our department and our government will use forever, and I'm sure that the members will flip through this document and use it as a guide for their discussions with this government.
Mr. Hardy: The human economy is embedded and dependent on the natural ecosystems of our planet, Mr. Speaker. In the past, the scale of our economic activity, relative to the scale of the ecosystems, has been small enough so that we could, to a point, afford to ignore this fundamental fact.
Now, we have crossed an historical threshold. Because of the five-fold economic expansion since the 1950s, the environmental demands on our economic system have exceeded its capacity. The environment has reached its limits, not through - as many believed - non-renewable resource exploitation, which was often spoken about, but rather on the limits to renewable resources and the environment's sink functions. By "sink functions", I mean its ability to absorb the human wastes.
These limits are loss of soils in the prairies, and fisheries on the east and west coasts - we have seen that. The forests - tremendous clear-cuts that are not regenerating and not growing again throughout North America and, in Europe, long past. It is now happening in the rain forests - massive burning in those areas. And there is the pollution of our waters, the absorption of the CO2 emissions, and the destruction of the ozone layer.
On Sunday, I listened to the first part of Dr. Suzuki's radio show, a new show that's come out, called "From Naked Ape to Super Species". One of the guests on the show made a statement that I found quite disturbing, though I believe it is true: "If the human race disappeared tomorrow, the bio-diversity of this planet would flourish. Waters would begin to clean themselves, forests would renew and regenerate, species would come back from near extinction, and the earth would find its balance again."
Last week, I attended a movie. It's quite a stark movie - I think maybe some of the people here went to it. It's called Matrix. In that show, there's a point there where the machine - the computer-animated figure - was speaking to the human and was describing to them what the human looked like from its perspective. And they called the human species a virus - a virus that destroys; it grows, multiplies, eats and destroys.
Now, those are really bleak pictures - very bleak pictures. And I don't want to be a virus, and I don't believe anybody here does, nor to be the destroyer of a planet - especially since we need this planet to survive. It's the only one we've got.
I believe in our future, but we're going to have to change, not continue as we have done in the 20th century. How do we prevent more destruction, and still have a vibrant economy? How do we do it? Those are the challenges for us today.
And in the debate today, I have heard the arguments of forestry/mining as one side, and the environment on the other. Those are old arguments. Those are the very same arguments that have brought us to this situation in the world today. It's always one against the other. It's always people who want to pit one side against another and not work together who cause the problems in this world. That is why we, today in this world, are facing environmental catastrophes. It's throughout the world.
The young people who are still in school, who have come through the universities and colleges recently, are very aware of our situation. But not us. We still cling to "It's gotta be this way. It's gotta be all mining."
Or it's got to be all forestry, all slash-and-burn techniques. It's got to be all fishing. We've got to fish everything out of the ocean. On the other side, everything's got to be a park. Offices. Fighting. Wow, there-eth continues the circle and let the catastrophes keep happening. We continue fighting, not seeing what's happening beneath us, not aware of it, not feeling it any more.
We stand in here today and make partisan comments and take shots back and forth, back and forth, and think it's a bloody joke. It sickens me.
It sickens me, because I want to see a future, Mr. Speaker. I don't want to look back at my time when I was in here, 30 years down the road, on an earth that's falling apart, disease running rampant, agriculture destroyed, no mining, no forestry and no environmental parks, no protected areas spaces, and read the debate that we had in here today and think that we actually accomplished something.
It's no wonder that the public out there has lost so much faith in the people they elect. Scoring points, political points - when we have evidence of ecological disaster in this world and we, in the Yukon, have a chance to make a difference - does not serve the public well.
But we are talking about the protected areas strategy. We are talking about trying to do something here and some people think it's too much that we could actually preserve some areas and have mixed usage, and have some areas, which I'm a firm believer in, in this world where there shouldn't be a human footprint - sacred places. Maybe not many areas, but some. And some areas that allow mining, especially with companies that have a belief and a faith in the environment and protect it through their mining activities, and companies that manage forestry well, working in conjunction with First Nations and the government.
What are the benefits of protected areas? There was a fellow up here last week, who came on Thursday or Friday and gave a public session to talk about the economics that would happen around towns that have lost their base employer, a resource extractor - it could be that mining or farming has dwindled, or forestry - and what has happened to those towns in those areas that happen to have beautiful wilderness still surrounding them. He's an economist, and his name is Ray Rasker. He was mentioned by my colleague from Kluane who talked about it.
His company does a lot of studies around these towns, and their report's findings have challenged the view that wilderness conservation is a financial luxury. Rather, they suggested that preserving a healthy environment along this wilderness corridor - and this is the study that I'm basing this on - and they studied a couple of towns in Canada and a couple in the States along the Y2Y corridor that goes from Yellowstone to the Yukon, and that this is actually the key to its financial health - the preservation of the wilderness corridor. Not preserving the environment, on the other hand, could cause its economy to falter as people pull out in search of better areas.
The report's findings have challenged the view that wilderness conservation is a financial luxury. Rather, they suggested that preserving a healthy environment along this wilderness corridor - and the study I'm basing this on studied the towns - a couple in Canada and a couple in the States - along the Y2Y corridor that goes from Yellowstone to the Yukon - is actually the key to this financial health: preserving the wilderness corridor. Not preserving the environment, on the other hand, could cause the economy to falter as people pull out in search of better areas.
Now, the success of this plan, and what's happened with these communities, rests on local communities along the Y2Y corridor voluntarily embracing the wilderness protected areas. One hurdle has been convincing them that preserving the environment will not force out economic activity.
Dr. Rasker's report, entitled The New Challenge: People, Commerce and the Environment in the Yellowstone to the Yukon Region, said that 97 percent of the growth in personal income in the U.S. portion of the Y2Y over the past 25 years has come from industries not connected with the extraction of natural resources.
In the Alberta region of Y2Y, 99 percent of 65,000 new jobs created between 1986 and 1991, were outside the domain of primary resources. In fact, even in the period when the oil and gas industry did not thrive, the economy of this part of the Y2Y network did and, in British Columbia areas of the region, the report says, service sectors of the economy grew even as jobs in mining, oil and gas and the forestry industry declined. All that is driven by complex demographic and economic factors that Dr. Rusker mentioned. For one thing, as the population of both the U.S. and Canada ages, more people are retiring to places of natural beauty.
They bring along their pensions, stock market earnings, more companies locating there; it's easy to get employees to locate in places of natural beauty.
Now, there are a lot of figures on this, and I recommend that people read this report. I believe, in some cases, it does apply to some of the areas in the Yukon. We do have the natural beauty. But another report I'd like to mention is an April 1996 Coopers & Lybrand report on the current and future economic benefits of B.C. parks. It includes a statement that "in addition to its environmental and social values, the provincial park system is a major source of economic activity for the province." The report shows that $413 million was generated by park visitor spending, while direct operations expenditures by the province were only $35 million of that amount - so it's quite a good return.
Going back to another report that Dr. Rasker had written, it states, "Rasker shows economies are strongest in Montana counties, where there are protected wilderness areas. Power edited..." - Power was his partner, Dr. Tom Power - "...a consensus report by Pacific Northwest economists, entitled "Economic Well-being and Environmental Protection in the Pacific Northwest, December 1995, which concludes, 'A healthy environment provides a quality of life that is a major stimulus for a healthy economy.' The report says that in fact the natural landscapes of the Pacific Northwest appear to be a major drawing card in the promotion of economic activity."
There are lots of benefits from protected areas. The benefits in the Yukon range from ecotourism, the hotels that people stay in, and the restaurants that grow around these areas, the businesses that are set up to supply the tourism market, the services that grow from there, recreation into or around the parks - the outfitting, guiding and trapping all flourish when there are parks.
There are other values, as well. Instead of me saying them, I'll just read a quote from J.B. Harkin. Harkin says the real reasons to have parks were not economic, but spiritual. This is his quote: "If I were to sum up the reasons why we should have national parks, I would say national parks are maintained for all the people - for the ill, that they may be restored; for the well, that they may be fortified and inspired by the sunshine, the fresh air, the beauty, and all the other healing-enabled, inspiring agencies of natures. They exist that every citizen of Canada may satisfy his craving for nature and nature's beauty; that he may absorb the poise and restfulness of the forest; that he may steep his soul in the brilliance of the wildflowers and the sublimity of the mountain peaks; that he may develop in himself the buoyancy, the joy, the activity he sees in the wild animals. He may stuff his mind with the raw material of intelligent optimism, great thoughts, noble ideas, that he may be made better, happier and healthier."
Now, you'll notice I said "he, he, he" all the way through the quote. That was written back in the 1930s. We can, in this day and age, replace the "he" with "she". Back then, they didn't even think of it.
I'm going to just wrap up. I know my colleague wants to say a few words, and I do believe that everybody wants to have a vote on it. All I can say is, let's not waste our time. Let's recognize the way we have been going the last 100 years and let's make the 21st century a little bit different, a little bit more humane, a little bit more compassionate and one for the future of other people.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate.
Mr. Cable: We've indicated previously, through the Liberal leader, that we're in support of the motion, so that is no surprise to anyone.
I would like to make some comments, though, on the way the motion was presented.
Before getting there, though, what I would like to do is refresh the member's memory about the Whitehorse mining initiative that took place a few years ago.
It resulted in a document entitled Leadership Council Accord Final Report, November 1994. It had 31 signatories to the document: politicians, mining people, First Nation people, labour people, environmentalists - right across the board. In that mining initiative, it's clearly spelled out - this is on page 19 of the document - that protected area networks are essential contributors to environmental health, biological diversity and ecological processes, as well as being a fundamental part of the sustainable balance of society, economy and environment. That's a statement of principle that was agreed to by this government, the Yukon government, the government at the time.
Our party is on record as supporting protected areas. The governing party is on record as supporting protected areas. The Yukon Party is on record by its signature to the Whitehorse mining initiative. We've had a debate on this motion once before, this motion in disguise.
So, what we're doing is proving the obvious, and I don't think we had to spend this whole afternoon proving the obvious.
What we started off with was the mover of the motion spending an hour and a half of members' time showing the members how to get to "yes". He started with a generally acceptable motion. It was clear that there -
Mr. McRobb: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, clearly the member opposite is exaggerating the truth. He says I spoke for an hour and a half. It was 35 minutes.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Would the member continue please?
Mr. Cable: Mr. Speaker, it seemed like three and a half hours. I erred on the conservative side.
Now, what we had was a mover of the motion starting with a generally acceptable motion. Then what does he do? First of all, he pokes a stick in the eyes of both opposition parties. Then what does he do? He does his modern-day act, his modern-day Hans Christian Anderson act, by putting out a lot of creative representations of other parties' positions. Then what does he do? He turns around and he asks us for support of his motion.
This government has talked about mediation. It has talked about alternate dispute resolution. I can send the member some literature, if he would like, to find out how to get the "yes". This exercise this afternoon is definitely not an exercise in coming to "yes". All that came out of this exercise was confirmation of the fact that House rules need to be changed to make motion day a productive exercise.
You know, Mr. Speaker, we could smell the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Cable: We can smell the taxpayers' money going out the window with the Xerox juice going on upstairs, the paper just rolling out, the taxpayers' money being burnt up on these phony press releases.
Mr. Speaker, what I would like the mover of the motion to think about the next time he brings this re-treaded, recycled motion forward - I'm sure we'll have to look at it several times again - is how to get support of the members on this side of the House.
He doesn't stand up with his Irish blarney. We're going to support the motion in spite of the mover's comments.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: There's the Member for Faro firing off in every direction. Clearly, the amendment was a friendly amendment: "it should become a positive thing." It wasn't fully appreciated what was meant by the amendment.
Let me just relate to you what I saw. Here we had the ex-government House leader rattling around before he even saw the amendment.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: He got fired from that job, the Member for Riverdale North says.
We had this document in the process of being filed through the Clerk and we have all this knee-jerk operation across the way. They're not going to support the amendment, whatever it says. The amendment could have said that we believe that the streets in Whitehorse should be paved with gold, and he wouldn't have supported it.
We've already had this motion before us once before. What I would like to know from the mover of the motion - and he can phone me up in the privacy of a phone call -
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Debate on Motion No. 163 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will now proceed with government bills.
Bill No. 17: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 17, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 17, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 (No. 2), be now read a second time.
Speaker:It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 17, Interim Supply Appropriation Act 1999-2000 (No. 2), be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the members will be familiar with the purpose of the bill. For the record, it is required to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Let the Government Leader continue.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Klondike has already got something to say, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to it.
For the record, Mr. Speaker, it is required to provide us with the temporary spending authority for the month of May in the event our main estimates have not cleared the House by April 30. The sum requested is far less than that in April's interim supply but still exceeds one-twelfth of our annual expenditures because of the upfront nature of commitments we must make for the year's operations.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 17 agreed to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will now proceed to the bill.
Bill No. 17 - Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 (No. 2)
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 17 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Justice
Chair: We will now return to the main estimates. We are just starting with the Department of Justice. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am pleased to present the Justice department's main estimates for the 1999-2000 fiscal year. Operations and maintenance budget for 1999-2000 will total $31,004,000, representing an increase of $127,000, less than one percent from the 1998-99 forecast.
I'm proud to state, Mr. Chair, that the Department of Justice has been able to maintain its ongoing commitments, uphold a high level of service, and embark on a major restorative justice initiative, with almost no increase in O&M. This is due to their capacity to demonstrate responsible fiscal management.
Before I go into details about this budget, I would like to speak a bit about the restorative justice initiative launched this past December because it is meant to foster meaningful change in the way that government delivers justice services in Yukon.
Restorative justice is not a new concept and has been practised in many aboriginal cultures for centuries. But it is a relatively new way of thinking about justice service delivery for governments.
The principles of restorative justice are ones that our mainstream system also believes in. Restorative justice principles include public safety, accountability, partnerships, community involvement, alternatives to incarceration, the prevention of crime, healing, accessibility, and personal and community responsibility.
Criminal behaviour affects all of us in some way. Offenders and their victims are either members of our families, our friends, or our neighbours. It is in all our best interests to collectively look at methods to better involve communities in reintegrating offenders and supporting victims.
Restorative justice is not, as has been argued by some, a soft-on-crime approach. It is a fresh perspective, focusing on relationships instead of retribution and on progress instead of punishment.
Restorative justice has worked for First Nations. It's time we drew from their wisdom in the management of our justice system.
The restorative justice initiative will affect all aspects of justice programming, including policing, crime prevention, victim services, correctional reform, and court services.
It is imperative that we meet with First Nation and municipal governments, community members, and those people who are currently involved in delivering justice-related services, both within and outside government.
I am pleased to announce that later this spring I will be visiting communities so that I can personally hear ideas from the Yukon public about how services in their community can best be delivered by increased use of restorative justice principles and methods. Together, we will all need to examine ways to provide communities with the capacity and tools needed to implement new service delivery models, while facing the reality of ever-shrinking fiscal resources. This will require careful planning, Mr. Chair, but I am confident that over the next several years it can be done.
The 1999-2000 O&M Justice budget is $31 million, of which $14,028,000, or 45 percent, is personnel costs. This overall percentage remains the same as last year, despite increases resulting from collective bargaining.
The amount of $10,612,000, or 34 percent, of the overall 1999-2000 budget will be spent on policing services. The remaining $6,364,000 represents $2,378,000 in transfer payments to groups or individuals who deliver programs on behalf of the Justice department, with the balance used for program costs.
The department's capital budget for this fiscal year is $735,000. These monies represent costs associated with information systems upgrading and planning for correctional reform and replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
The O&M breakdown for each branch in the Justice department is as follows: management services branch is composed of the deputy minister's and assistant deputy minister's office, policy and communications, the worker advocate, finance and administration and human resources.
This includes the department's system costs. Its budget for this year is $1,844,000, an increase of $175,000. This increase represents additional costs associated with the worker advocate office and the transfer of part of the consumer and commercial services program director's budget into management services.
It is worthwhile to point out that management services has now also created, from the internal reallocation of existing funds, a dedicated line item for all community projects. This will help to streamline the administration of funding arrangements to these important community initiatives.
Court services is responsible for the operation of the Yukon court system and also runs programs such as maintenance enforcement, child support guidelines, witness administration and the sheriff's office.
Its total budget is $3,746,000, an increase of $99,000. The increase represents additional costs to develop a case-management system in the maintenance enforcement branch. These costs are fully recoverable from the federal government. The balance of the increase relates to costs for judicial salaries resulting from the decisions of the Judicial Compensation Commission.
Legal services branch is responsible for prosecuting territorial and some criminal offences. It also drafts legislation, litigates civil matters, is responsible for First Nation administration of justice negotiations, and provides legal advice to the Government of the Yukon. The branch also administers the native courtworker, legal aid, and public legal education and information programs under the access to justice agreement with the federal Department of Justice.
For 1999-2000, the legal services branch has been budgeted at $3,108,000. This is a three-percent decrease from the previous fiscal year, which equates to $104,000. This savings is due to the expected reduction in outside counsel costs, now that litigation associated with Curragh Resources is drawing to a conclusion. I would also point out that the budget for legal aid will not be reduced this year despite the federal government's freeze to its contribution level.
The consumer and commercial services branch administers approximately 50 pieces of legislation, primarily by the consumer services, corporate affairs and labour services units. The land titles, coroner's, and public administrator's offices also form part of consumer and commercial services. The total budget for 1999-2000 will be $2,534,000, which is an increase of $109,000 from 1998-99.
The coroner's office is receiving additional funding to meet anticipated inquest costs. Labour services budget will also be increased to meet commitments related to the Yukon hire policy.
It will receive another full-time position that will be dedicated to performing audits of government construction projects, subject to the fair wage schedule.
The community and correctional services branch operates the Whitehorse and Teslin correctional facilities. It also administers the probation services for adult offenders and the victim services and family violence prevention unit. Its budget is $8,583,000 for the fiscal year 1999-2000. This year's estimates are $87,000 less than 1998-99 because the responsibility for the administration of the federal firearms program has been returned to Canada.
The crime prevention and policing services branch administers programs directed at deterring crime in our communities, including the delivery of policing services. This year's budget is $10,926,000, a decrease of $76,000. The reasons for this decrease are related to savings in personnel costs in the program director's area due to a change in staffing and working arrangements that I referred to earlier.
The Human Rights Commission also falls under the crime prevention and policing services branch. Its budget will be $263,000. The slight increase is to reflect additional O&M costs associated with the commission's new premises.
Mr. Chair, as we approach the next millennium, the Justice department remains committed to the principles of restorative justice set out in the discussion paper released last December. As stated earlier, capital monies have been allocated this year, in order to provide for planning work needed to replace the aging Whitehorse Correctional Centre with an alternative secure custody facility.
This is the beginning of the department's longer term planning for correctional reform and other restorative justice initiatives that will help improve public safety, foster healthy communities and increase public confidence in the justice system.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I look forward to questions from colleagues.
Mr. Phillips: First of all, Mr. Chair, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Department of Justice officials for the very thorough briefing that we were given by the officials on the budget and to tell the minister that they answered almost all of my questions.
I do have a few questions that I saved for the minister so that we wouldn't just be speeding through the budget in 15 or 20 minutes, and we'd have the chance to discuss the matter from the floor of the House.
One area that I'd like to talk about, Mr. Chair, is an area that was in the news today. I received several phone calls on it and two people actually came into my office. It is the news story about the case of Harley Timmers. There was an announcement this morning that the Government of the Yukon is going to be providing some funding to ensure that the Council of Yukon First Nations has representations at a hearing.
It's not clear from the story exactly what the government is doing, and I wonder if the minister could elaborate on who we're providing the funding to, if it's provided in the form of legal aid, how much is the funding, and who requested it? I'd like to get some more information on this.
It's something that's kind of different from what we've done in the past, so I would just like the minister to elaborate on exactly what we're doing here.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the members know, a serious and tragic event occurred when Harley Timmers was shot and killed during a police investigation. There has been a coroner's inquest, which is provided for under our Coroners Act in such cases. The Council of Yukon First Nations is working with Kwanlin Dun First Nation and with the family, and has brought forward requests for various matters to be considered in the inquest. As an example, they brought forward the request that we bring in a judge from outside of the Yukon. We have been fortunate to have Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond agree to serve as the coroner for this inquest.
It's important that all of the issues will be canvassed in a fair and balanced way. We are contributing some funding on the basis that it will be shared. We are anticipating that the federal government may also help.
The relationship between aboriginal people and the police is important in the Yukon. We're presently still in discussions with the First Nation about the details of how we provide funding for them to have representation before the inquest.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, how much does the minister anticipate that the cost to the Government of the Yukon will be with respect to this case?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we haven't finalized an amount. As I've said, we're in discussions with First Nations on that.
Mr. Phillips: So what the minister is saying is that this is an open-ended thing at the present time, that it might go on for - I mean, it's going to go on now for six months, and there's going to be lawyers involved on both sides, so we don't have any idea how much this is going to cost? There's been no estimate given at all, with respect to the cost of this?
And maybe the minister can tell us how much the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Kwanlin Dun Band - a government of its own - is going to put forward into this program as well.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the amount will not be open-ended; we will not be writing a blank cheque to anyone. As I have indicated, we're in discussions with the Council of Yukon First Nations, who are working with Kwanlin Dun and the family to represent their interests at the inquest before the coroner.
We do not have a final amount, and I will be pleased to provide the member with the full details as we reach conclusion on that.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, why did they announce that they're doing it if they don't know what kind of figure we're talking about, or even the arrangements?
Mr. Chair, did either the Kwanlin Dun, the Council of Yukon First Nations, or the Timmers family apply for legal aid? I know there was a public appeal, I think, a week ago, or a couple of weeks ago - I heard on the radio - from the Timmers family for some help. And I just wonder if they applied for legal aid, and were they accepted or rejected? Where's this fund coming from? Is this just a commitment from the government, just something that's extraordinary? Or is it coming from an actual commitment of legal aid funds that we have now?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, under the legal aid program, funding to support having standing to appear before a coroner is not covered by legal aid. This is an unusual and extraordinary circumstance and we're treating it as a special case.
Mr. Phillips: Well, this is kind of an interesting precedent. What happens then in the case of another individual? Is the government prepared to fund another individual's family for something such as this or is this just a special program, a one-time incident? How are we funding this? It just seems to me that this program is out there. The minister said it doesn't qualify under legal aid, though it sounds like somebody applied and got rejected. I'm trying to find out exactly how we're funding this thing and whether others in the future will be able to apply for something under this new guideline or new program the minister's establishing with this case.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, first of all, let me say that this, as I've indicated to the member, is a unique circumstance. There has not, to my knowledge, been any previous occasion in which an aboriginal man has been killed during a police investigation.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Now, I can hear the leader of the official opposition saying, "What does that have to do with it?" Mr. Chair, the facts of the matter have to be relevant.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, maybe the member wants to heckle a little louder.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Let the member speak.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm trying to find out what kind of program this minister is setting this up under. It obviously is a special case. Where do we draw the line on special cases in the future? I mean, this may not be the only incident. An individual, be they First Nation or non-First Nation, might be injured or killed by an RCMP officer when the RCMP officer is in the process of carrying out his duty in apprehending a felon or someone who has committed a crime.
What are the rules for everybody else after this is over? Is this something special, or are we opening up the doors now so that if this ever happens again to anyone in this territory the Government of the Yukon will provide funding for such an incident?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, if a similar circumstance were to occur, then I suppose there is the potential for a similar application to be made. We will draw the line on a case-by-case basis.
If there is another case that has the same potential to divide the community as this one has, then we will be prepared to consider the request for funding.
The Council of Yukon First Nations has approached the government on behalf of First Nations in the Yukon and in the interests of a full and fair hearing to look at any potential issues of race in the events that occurred. It's very important that we have good relations between the RCMP and First Nations.
The request for funding that has been made by the Council of Yukon First Nations is being considered by government. We've indicated that because the issues that they want to raise speak to all Yukoners, we're prepared to help with the funding for the First Nations to have legal counsel and have standing at the inquest.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister said that the Council of Yukon First Nations requested the funding, and the media reports are saying that the funding request has been granted. The minister is saying tonight that she's considering the funding request. Mr. Chair, the media has reported that the Justice department has agreed to give the Council of Yukon First Nations the money, so I would like to ask the minister: how much did the Council of Yukon First Nations request of the government and how much are the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Kwanlin Dun and the family that's hiring a lawyer as well contributing to this, or is the Government of the Yukon picking up the bill for everybody here as a gesture of their sense of fairness in this issue? Is that where we're going?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I'm sure the member is aware, the RCMP will be represented by legal counsel, and the RCMP budget is one that the public at large, that the taxpayers of Yukon, support, and the RCMP budget is in the Justice estimates.
We have agreed to financially assist the Council of Yukon First Nations. As legal aid doesn't apply, they cannot be covered by legal aid. We don't yet know what the full cost may be, but we've indicated to the Council of Yukon First Nations that we are prepared to assist them financially.
Mr. Phillips: Assist them financially - are we paying the whole bill? Is that what they've asked for or are they coming in with a percentage? I mean, the Council of Yukon First Nations is not exactly broke. The other First Nations - I think there are eight of them now that are legal governments and have fairly significant funding as a result of land claims. They have a significant interest in this case. Are they contributing or involved in it, or is it just the Yukon government that is the sole source of funding in this particular case?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I don't know yet what the amount of the contributions of Council of Yukon First Nations and Kwanlin Dun First Nation will be. I know that they have allocated internal resources, with having their staff work on this. The First Nations' land claims agreement and self-government monies are not something that they would anticipate using in a case like this, to appear with standing before a coroner's inquest.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister is on pretty shaky grounds. I mean, there are some funds that they get for specific implementation, but they get X amount of dollars to use whichever way they want. They decide which way they want to do it. Their groups and organizations sit down and decide that.
I'm concerned here that the Yukon government appears to be moving in to pick up the full cost of this particular inquest. Now, is the minister prepared to set a limit on the Government of Yukon's participation at a certain percentage - 50, 60 or 100 percent? What percentage is the Government of Yukon going to agree to pay in this particular case, which could end up dragging on for some period of time? And has the minister got a cap that the department would like to put on it so that at a certain level we will stop paying?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the Council of Yukon First Nations have submitted a budget for $150,000. They have already incurred some expenses that they have covered themselves. They will also be incurring expenses that they will cover over and above that amount. We have indicated that that would be a ceiling on our financial contribution. We're also in discussions not just with the First Nation but with the federal government.
Mr. Phillips: So, if I've got this right, the Council of Yukon First Nations have asked the Government of the Yukon for $150,000. The Government of the Yukon has agreed to that $150,000.
Mr. Chair, how much is the total case going to cost? What I would like to know is what kind of a contribution are the First Nation governments - I mean, if we're going to get involved in this as governments, then all of us should play the role of governments and be in there as governments. So, I want to know what the cash contribution is going to be from the Council of Yukon First Nations and the First Nation governments that feel this is extremely important. I want to know whether or not we're footing the brunt of the bill or whether others feel it's important enough to participate on a 50/50 basis or a better shared basis than that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I'm sure the member realizes, it's impossible to determine the exact amount that a case will cost, whether it's a case before a coroner or before a court. We don't know yet what the exact contribution will be. I have told the member what the budget is and that we've indicated that we'll be assisting. We have also asked the federal government to assist. We not only need a full disclosure of the facts, but there is an important issue that affects all Yukon residents in ensuring that there are good relations between the First Nation community and the RCMP.
Mr. Phillips: I agree. There should be a good relationship between the RCMP and First Nations and governments, but I want to know what the role of this government is with respect to this case.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the minister if there have been any other cases of a coroner's inquest in this territory - and we've had some pretty extensive ones - where it's cost us $150,000. It seems to me to be a fairly high-end figure, and I'd like to know from the minister why it is that high.
And I'll also ask the minister: aside from the cash that we're providing in this - the $150,000 - are we providing any administrative support as well from the Department of Justice, or is it just a contribution in cash as it would be like in a request for legal aid or whatever - we just give them the cash and that's it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, it will be a financial contribution in the nature of a contribution agreement. It would not be allocating administrative support from within the department. When the budget was prepared, they anticipated that there would be two weeks of court time with all parties represented by lawyers. It's not possible to draw on previous experience because we have not had a similar incident occur in the Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: The member said, Mr. Chair, that the First Nations are contributing some administrative work as part of their contribution. We're contributing $150,000. How much cash are the First Nations contributing over and above their administrative support in this particular case?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, what we have done is set the limit on the Yukon government contribution. We have not yet heard back from the federal government what funding they might be prepared to contribute. The costs have not been incurred yet, so I'm unable to answer the member's questions about what the financial contribution of the Council of Yukon First Nations will be.
They have contributed some cash already, to date, with various investigations that have occurred.
Mr. Phillips: Is the minister telling the House, Mr. Chair, that they received a letter from the Council of Yukon First Nations asking for $150,000 for this case, and they didn't specify in there what the overall cost of the case they anticipate might be, how much they're going to contribute? Do they just ask for a blank sum of money?
Maybe I can ask the minister, while I'm on my feet, how are we going to pay it? Once we agree to it, are we going to mail a cheque off for $150,000, or is it going to be based on legal bills that come in? How is it going to be paid out?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I have indicated to the member, this has been the subject of some discussions over the last few months, from 1998 into 1999.
We received a budget that included costs for legal fees and we have not yet sorted out the details. As I've indicated to the member, though, we would be providing a payment on the basis of a contribution agreement and putting specifics into the contribution agreement.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the minister would be prepared to table that budget and the request letter from the Council of Yukon First Nations so we can see what the total budget is estimated to be so we have some idea. I'm still not sure if the $150,000 is the total budget, or whether it's $150,000 plus cash plus administration, or what the total cost is going to be.
Maybe the minister could clarify it by tabling a copy of the request letter and a copy of the budget that was submitted by the Council of Yukon First Nations.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm certainly prepared to provide the member opposite with the information as we develop the contribution agreement. I can provide a copy of the contribution agreement.
The Council of Yukon First Nations has submitted a budget, and it is their budget. I would like to have discussions with them before I release to the members opposite.
Mr. Phillips: With all due respect, Mr. Chair, it's their budget but it's our money. It's the taxpayers' money and we have a right to know - and that's why we're here - what is in that budget and everything that is involved.
I think it's a very simple matter for the minister to get a copy of the budget and bring it into the House tomorrow or later on this evening and just give us a copy of the budget so we can see what people have actually requested.
This is a very unusual request. It's a very unusual circumstance, but it can set a precedent for a lot of other people out there in the future when they're asking for money from the Government of Yukon to help them out in a particular criminal charge. So, I think the minister has to come back in this House and provide the taxpayers with the reasons and a breakdown of the budget so we have a better idea of what we're paying for.
I can tell the minister, Mr. Chair, that I had all kinds of people call me today, and some people came right into my office off the street when they heard the noon news - and these are people I've never seen before - and asked me, "What's going on?"
I mean, everyone you talk to out there knows that the Council of Yukon First Nations is not broke and the First Nations are not broke and that the Government of Yukon is paying for their side of the justice thing and for the RCMP's side of the issue, and now we're being requested to pay for some First Nations' funding. They're asking for funding and I think we have a right to know what they're asking for so that people can feel satisfied that it's a fair and reasonable arrangement.
Right now, the way it sounded on the radio, the Government of Yukon was paying for everything. My personal feeling, and the feeling I got from a lot of the people who I heard out there today, is that there are some First Nation people who are very concerned about this and if they feel as strongly as they do about their concern, then they have an obligation to contribute to it as well.
They are very legitimate concerns that the First Nations have, but I think people expect that they will contribute as well.
I'd like to also ask the minister, she said that they're asking the federal government for some funding. Is this over and above the $150,000 or is the federal funding to pick up part of our share of the $150,000?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we've asked the federal government to join in discussions with us on this, and they haven't gotten back to us yet. The RCMP legal costs are going to be paid for by the Solicitor General's office.
The information that the member has asked for, I have said that I will bring back for him. As a matter of courtesy, I would like to have some time to phone and speak further with the Council of Yukon First Nations before I bring that information into the House.
Mr. Phillips: I hope the minister realizes that what we want here is a copy of the total budget, the contribution by all parties, the total estimate. I would imagine that, if someone is making a request such as this, they would have estimated what the total cost might be of the work that they have to do, and that they would have a total amount. What I want to see is the whole budget, unedited, so that we can get an idea, and also a copy of the letter that was sent to the minister, as well.
Now, the minister said that the Council of Yukon First Nations made a request. Did this come out of the blue or did the minister offer something? How did this come about? Was it simply that? A request or was a letter sent saying, "We need some assistance in this matter and would you help us out?"
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as we've been discussing this evening, this has been a very uncommon event. I'm not aware of any previous occurrence in the Yukon of a young aboriginal man having been shot and then dying while being pursued by the police during the course of a criminal investigation.
The Council of Yukon First Nations, as the member will know from discussions in the media at the time, and many other members of the community were very concerned about this event. There have been a number of meetings requested, where I have met with the Council of Yukon First Nations and others about this circumstance. The CYFN approached the government and requested that a number of interests be considered for the inquest. They've also approached the government with a request for funding, and, as I've indicated, we have agreed to help financially.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, can the minister tell me tonight on her feet what the total budget is for this particular request? I mean, the minister mentioned $150,000. The minister must have an idea what the total budget was. It's a fairly significant event, as the minister says, so I would imagine that it would be a number that the minister might have at hand.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I've indicated, the budget that was submitted by the Council of Yukon First Nations was for $150,000. As I've also indicated, we cannot anticipate the exact cost of the coroner's inquest for individual parties or for all parties in advance of the inquest taking place. We will bring what budget information we have available forward for the member.
Mr. Phillips:Could the minister bring back any other costs associated with the Yukon government with respect to this inquest, over and above the $150,000, and other costs that we may incur?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we are budgeting within the Yukon government Justice budget for transportation and accommodation associated with bringing Judge Turpel-Lafond from Saskatchewan to the Yukon to be the coroner.
Mr. Phillips: Does that include the wages of the judge, or is that just accommodation? There must be some costs. I suppose the judge isn't volunteering her time for this, so is there some kind of an estimated cost for all of this?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We have an arrangement with the Saskatchewan provincial court, which has agreed to provide the time for Judge Turpel-Lafond to be the coroner.
Mr. Cable: The minister, I believe, indicated that the information provided to her was that there be an estimated time of two weeks for the coroner's inquest. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Mr. Cable: Did the CYFN, in making the application to the government, indicate what sort of preparation time was required for the lawyers? So far, we're talking about $150,000.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Council of Yukon First Nations does have one lawyer on their staff who is working on the file and will be assisting with it. There has been some contribution to date for preparation work.
As I've said, the members have requested a copy of that budget, which I've indicated I will make available for the members after speaking with the Council of Yukon First Nations.
Mr. Cable: The number of $150,000 for a two-week coroner's inquest is just mind-boggling. Has the deputy reviewed the application with respect to the preparation time, and has he passed some judgment as to whether this expenditure of $150,000 for one lawyer, I assume, for a two-week inquest is appropriate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I've indicated to the member, the budget that has been submitted covers a number of items, aside from the time for legal counsel to prepare their case, and to appear before the inquest. I've also indicated that I would bring forward further details on that for the members.
Mr. Cable: Well, just in the event that the minister isn't prepared to provide the information from CYFN, is she prepared to present the information that blocks out the time that's allocated to the part that she is, in fact, financing?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have already indicated my willingness to provide the information to the members.
Mr. Cable: I thought the minister had indicated she wanted to clear that first with the CYFN. Is that not her position?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, what I've indicated is that, as a matter of courtesy, I would like to have the time to speak again with the Council of Yukon First Nations, before I bring the budget in and present it for the members opposite.
Mr. Phillips: I want to get back on some of the points that the Member for Riverside was talking about.
When the member saw the request for $150,000 for this inquest, did the government just sort of agree to it right away? It felt that it was reasonable, and that was a reasonable request, and didn't do any assessment whatsoever of the time it might take? I mean, they're talking about two weeks for the actual inquest itself.
Did the government not question the amount of money, and ask for a really detailed breakdown of the whole amount?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I've indicated, we are still in discussions with the Council of Yukon First Nations about this. The member is making it sound as if he does not recognize the value of having a full and fair hearing where all parties are represented by counsel, not just some of the parties.
The budget did lay out details. We did not agree to provide funding on the spot without looking at their budget. That is, in fact, what we did before we agreed to help with the funding.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I don't recall saying at all that I didn't think all parties should have a full and fair hearing in this matter - not at all - but I have a responsibility in this House to stand up and ask the minister questions about a fairly significant and unusual expenditure, and ask the minister to be accountable.
That's what my job is, and that's what the people I talked to today on the phone asked me to do. They asked what was going on. So, I have every right to stand here today and ask the minister all kinds of questions about this matter, and the minister has an obligation to answer the questions. She's spending the taxpayers' dollars.
Did the minister agree to pay the $150,000 already or are we still in negotiations for a total amount?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we have agreed that the maximum contribution of the Yukon government would be $150,000. We are still in discussion about who is contributing what. We have indicated that we have approached the federal government for some financial support and have not received a response from them. The Council of Yukon First Nations are also contributing some support.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister just said the Government of Yukon's maximum contribution will be $150,000. So, what we're looking at then, Mr. Chair - the minister is nodding her head in the affirmative - is that that is the minimum cost. We're not even factoring in the First Nation's cost now and what cash they've spent and we haven't factored in anything the federal government's going to spend on this thing.
Is the minister telling us that we're looking at a two-week coroner's inquest that could cost in the Yukon in the neighbourhood of $200,000 or $250,000? Is that what the minister is saying?
I thought $150,000 was rather excessive for what we're doing and now we're probably in the $200,000-plus range.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, it's possible that the inquest may last for more than two weeks. The member is engaging in some speculation about what the full cost will be. As I have said, we won't know what the full cost will be before the inquest occurs. We don't know exactly how long the inquest will take. We cannot anticipate every cost. We have indicated that there would a ceiling on the Yukon government's financial contribution.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, what gives the minister any suggestion that an inquest like this might take more than two weeks? It seems to me that it's a matter that certainly could be dealt with and is certainly a matter that I know the First Nations and others want to deal with fairly quickly. The government has said that it has put a ceiling on this inquest of $150,000. Now the minister has said that it might take more than two weeks. If this inquest takes two months or two years, is the minister prepared to say that $150,000 is our bottom line and that's it, and no matter how long this thing takes, it's only $150,000? And I'd like to ask the minister if it's less than two weeks, is it going to be less than $150,000?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, if the inquest is completed in less than two weeks, then the cost may well be less than $150,000. I have been told that the lawyers involved intend to take a good deal of time to investigate what occurred. They are investigating a very serious and tragic event. There are a number of considerations that various parties want to have canvassed. The Coroners Act provides that there is a coroner's inquest when someone is killed, and there are some very serious concerns that legal counsel for various parties intend to examine at the coroner's inquest.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Yes.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is in general debate, Department of Justice. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I wonder if the minister could inform the House if the lawyers who are going to be hired by the Council of Yukon First Nations with Government of Yukon money are going to be hired locally or are these going to be individuals who are not from the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I understand that the Council of Yukon First Nations has been in discussions with a local lawyer and has engaged him. I would also like to remind the member, since he doesn't seem to appreciate that this is an exceptionally unusual case, that it's very important that the many significant issues that have already been raised publicly since this death be canvassed. The government has committed to provide financial assistance. Somebody died. We value life, above all else, in our society, and this event has the potential to divide the community on racial lines. The member's comments and questions are certainly contributing to racial division in the tone that he is taking.
Mr. Chair, I'm sure the member must realize that all Yukon citizens, regardless of race, have been asking why this person died, and it is important to have an inquest where all of the parties are represented and able to canvass the issues.
The member has been raising the point of having financial contributions on the part of the First Nations. There have been, and will be, financial contributions. I agree that First Nations should also be contributing financially, and they are.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I understand as well that this is a very sensitive issue, but let me tell the minister where I'm coming from.
This is an exceptional case but, Mr. Chair, I spoke to an individual today who was a woman who was denied legal aid in a custody and maintenance enforcement issue. That was pretty important to that individual, because we've now changed the criteria in legal aid so that, for those types of issues, they can't get legal aid any more.
Now, all of a sudden, we're taking $150,000 of money that we found in the Government of the Yukon and we've put it into this special case. What I heard from this individual today was, "Can't they afford to pay some of those people? Can't the First Nations, who have a lot of money, make a major contribution themselves? If the Government of the Yukon's got money to spend, why doesn't it put it into legal aid for the people who need the legal aid?"
The minister herself, when she was in opposition, and even when she is a minister, probably gets people calling her all the time, as I do, who are concerned that they got turned down because there isn't enough money in legal aid and because they've tightened up the criteria.
As this woman said today, we have an organization like the Council of Yukon First Nations who literally have millions of dollars at their disposal, for a matter that's extremely important to them - and I agree it's extremely important to them; it's important to everyone - but the request comes to the Government of the Yukon for the lion's share of the cost of the court case.
And I might add, Mr. Chair, if you hire a Yukon lawyer, one of the top Yukon lawyers in the territory gets about $300 per hour. Now, at $150,000, it's about 500 hours worth of work.
Mr. Chair, doesn't the minister understand that there are people out there who have been denied legal aid who really need it? Women and children - women who have been abused, and women who have been fighting for the custody of their children? And if the minister's got money to contribute to people in need in the justice system, she should contribute to people in need.
I'd like to ask the minister what I should tell this woman tomorrow - why the Government of the Yukon contributed $150,000 in this court case to a group or organization that for the most part could have funded it themselves. What will I tell that woman?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the funding that we have indicated we will make available for the Council of Yukon First Nations to cover the costs associated with the coroner's inquest is not coming from the legal aid budget. I do not see a fair comparison between the member's representation that funding for legal aid and providing assistance to First Nations to canvass the issues rising out of the death of a member of the aboriginal community as being equal.
The potential of this death to divide the community on racial lines is very real. The media comments that we've seen with the reporting of various people's perspectives have already indicated that. The member's questions are certainly an indication of that.
We do not want to contribute to any division in the community on racial lines. I think it's essential that the coroner's inquest allows for a fair hearing of all of the issues. It's also important that the First Nations have legal representation when the other parties will be appearing before the judge at the coroner's inquest with legal representation. We have indicated that, as a government, we're prepared to assist the Council of Yukon First Nations with their expenses to do with the inquest because of the importance of this case, and it is indeed an exceptionally unusual case to all Yukon citizens of all races.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I can tell the minister that the people that I talked to today felt the government was contributing to division in the community on racial lines by their actions. That's what I heard from people today - that it was the government, by this action, that's created the division.
The minister said that this isn't coming out of the legal aid budget, but let's look at it in a way that an average citizen would look at it. Mr. Chair, legal aid is to hire a lawyer to get legal advice and represent one in court. That's what it's all about, and that's exactly what this $150,000 is for. It's to hire lawyers and represent one at the coroner's inquest.
That's where this woman was coming from today. She said that the government can't find it in their heart to help her keep her kids and feed her kids, but in this case, they can turn around and make a fairly significant contribution. When I tell the individual how much they're contributing, she's going to be absolutely shocked, as we were here this evening.
I'm absolutely shocked. We're looking at an inquest here that could cost in the neighbourhood of $200,000 or $300,000, and the minister herself by her actions is contributing to the problem.
Mr. Chair, this is an extremely sensitive issue and the minister herself, by her actions, has made the problem bigger for a lot of people out there. I had all kinds of people calling me this morning and coming into my office, driving right off the street at noon hour and coming right into my office and asking me, "What's going on? What is this government doing now?"
People have probably been in the minister's office, as they've been in mine, in tears because they're worried about losing the maintenance enforcement that's due to them because this minister's government has changed the criteria for legal aid. Now, Mr. Chair, I'm going to have to tell this individual tomorrow that it isn't just a small sum that the government's contributing to this; it's a significant sum.
I have to agree with what some individuals have said to me today. They fear that the government is creating the divisions in the community. It's not fair to turn around and blame it on us or anybody else or the media. The government's the one that's contributing to this, Mr. Chair.
I would hope that the minister would come in here tomorrow and table the complete budget so we can understand wholly where we're going with this matter and how much it's going to cost the Government of the Yukon to settle this matter.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, first of all, I'd like to respond to the member's comments about legal aid. The board of the Legal Services Society sets the criteria for legal aid. The Yukon government has increased funding levels to legal aid, notwithstanding that the federal contributions, which used to be 50-50, have been frozen. The Yukon Party critic, standing and grandstanding on the basis of unfair comparisons between one kind of case and another, is not helpful.
Mr. Chair, the Yukon government is prepared to provide funding to the Council of Yukon First Nations, so that they can have legal representation at a coroner's inquest. A young man died during the course of a criminal investigation. The average citizens that I've talked to are very disturbed by this tragic event.
What are we doing now? We're trying to do the right thing by making sure that this tragic circumstance is carefully scrutinized at the coroner's inquest and that Yukon First Nations' interests are represented, as well as all parties. It's in the interest of the entire Yukon public.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I'd agree with the minister that it's in the interest of the entire Yukon public that this whole matter is entirely scrutinized - and it will be; I'm sure it will be. But, Mr. Chair, my concern, as I said here tonight, that the amount of money we're talking about that the Government of Yukon has committed to this inquest is, in my view, excessive, and especially in light that it's going to an organization that does have funding - significant funding. There will be a lot of people out there who are concerned now about what's happening.
Mr. Chair, I want to move on to another area. I raised this question in the briefing. It was with respect to the judges and the changes in the judges' salaries. I also spoke about the amount of time that a judge sits on the bench.
I got a response from the minister and it really doesn't give me a breakdown of the individual sitting days on the bench for each territorial court judge. It says they're not available at this time. Are we attempting to do that now, or are we now starting to calibrate that to see what number of sitting days the judges are sitting on the bench, or are we just saying they're not available at this time and we're doing nothing about it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I've written a letter to the Chief Judge and requested his assistance in obtaining that information. I anticipate having a response and will check with the Chief Judge and see if we can make that information available to the member opposite, certainly, since I've requested that information in the interests of the government and the opposition and the public.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, could the minister provide me with a copy of the letter she sent to the Chief Judge and a copy of the reply from the Chief Judge when she receives it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Again, Mr. Chair, I would like to forward the courtesy to the Chief Judge of speaking with him before I provide the correspondence, but I will be very happy to make the information available either in the form of copies of the letters or in a legislative return.
Mr. Phillips: I look forward to receiving that.
Mr. Chair, another area that I want to talk about briefly is C-68, and I wonder if the minister could give us an update on C-68 and where we are at. The appeal was going forward. What's happening with it now?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we're maintaining our position in participating in the appeal of C-68 to the Supreme Court of Canada. I do not believe that the Supreme Court of Canada has set a trial date yet, so the status is still a watching brief as we prepare for the court date.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Has the Province of Alberta let the Government of the Yukon know any anticipated date? Is there any kind of - I mean, is it just out there in limbo land right now, waiting for something to happen? When do we expect something to happen?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, it is up to the Supreme Court of Canada to set the trial date, based on their priorities of which cases they hear, and when. We're in regular contact with the Government of Alberta, and when there is a date set, we'll be aware of it as soon as that is done.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, my concern is that many of the provisions of C-68 are coming into force, on a graduated basis, and it's creating - to say the least - havoc out there with a lot of people who own firearms. My concern is that the longer it drags on, the more confusion there's going to be, whether or not anything's going to happen. So I would urge the Government of the Yukon to keep well abreast of the problem and certainly do whatever they can to make sure that this gets moved ahead in a timely manner.
Mr. Chair, I understand we're not delivering the firearms courses any more, and I have had some concerns from some rural residents about taking the course - the firearms acquisition course that has to be taken. Evidently the course is just being put on in Whitehorse; they're not putting it on in Dawson any more. Is the minister aware that that's happening?
In March, we received a letter from an individual in Dawson City, who was concerned. Times were tough; he didn't have a job, and the individual couldn't come to Whitehorse for the course and, of course, without the course and without the acquisition permit couldn't get the firearm.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the Yukon government turned over the administration of Bill C-68 to the federal government. When the federal government passed the new gun control bill, we decided that the program administration should belong to the federal government.
That was a course of action that, as I recall, the opposition supported. We knew that there was a possibility that if it were the federal government who was administering the program rather than the Yukon government, they might not be as willing or able to offer courses in rural communities as we have done in the past when the Yukon government was involved. Nonetheless, we have turned the program administration over to the federal government. This is a concern. I will raise it with them.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, does the minister get many complaints in their office regarding this? I know that I get a few from time to time in our office, and I just wonder if they receive any complaints about this. I figured that it would happen as well that the federal government couldn't deliver the program as well as we could in the past, but I'm just wondering if we are passing on the complaints or urging the federal government by way of letter to shape up and deliver this program. I suppose in a way that it bodes well for our argument for the overall cost of implementing these programs when the feds have to go to Dawson or any rural community and find out what the costs are to deliver these programs.
I just wonder if we have sent any letters to the federal government, scolding them in a way, I guess, for not delivering the program appropriately.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have not received any letters of complaint or phone calls in my office from people concerned about the lack of courses. The member has indicated that he has received a complaint. This is certainly a consideration that we were aware of and urged the federal government that if they insisted on implementing this bill, they provide the required training and administrative support. They are now responsible for the program and all we can do is to continue to urge them to administer it as fairly as possible.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, a lot of people that I've talked to who own firearms and are not, in some cases, people who follow closely the changes to the law - from my perspective, and from some of the issues that have been brought to me by these people, there appears to be a lack of understanding about the changes that are coming about. As much advertising as the federal government is doing, there are still a lot of people out there that are not quite sure of the dates that they have to register by or are not quite sure of all the implications of C-68.
I'm certain that, along with those who are not going to comply with the registration, there are going to be an awful lot of people who are going to be unaware of the changes in regulations and are going to be in violation of the law and this could, in fact, create all kinds of problems for us in the future.
So, I'm just wondering if the minister has been getting any kind of complaints in that way and if we're conveying that to the federal government and saying, "Look, you might be doing a promotional campaign in southern Canada on the big national TV networks and through other means such as computers and that kind of thing to firearm owners, but there are a lot of people in the Yukon who live in the small communities who don't have computers, don't necessarily watch the national television networks on a day-to-day basis and don't read the big national newspapers that run the ads about it and so these people are going to be unaware of the proposed changes and could be in violation of the law within a year."
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, those complaints need to go to the firearms office and to the federal government, which is responsible for administering the firearms office. There have been some public education activities in the Yukon. Certainly, there were a number before we transferred the program back to the federal government.
I think that most firearms owners in the Yukon are aware of Bill C-68. As the member knows, it's a political debate in the Yukon. There have been a number of rallies and public information sessions and public meetings. There has been universal condemnation of the new federal gun control bill. There is a responsibility for the federal government to do a good public education awareness campaign for firearms owners so that they are not inadvertently in violation of the law.
We are ensuring that the firearms office is aware of those concerns, if they haven't already been brought to their office directly.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm just pointing out to the minister that there are going to be a lot of law-abiding citizens, I think, who are not going to be aware of the changes that are going to be happening in a year or so that are going to make them criminals if they don't abide by the law, so I'm concerned about that.
Mr. Chair, there was some discussion taking place by the Council of Yukon First Nations with respect to developing their own firearms law in the territory and not complying with C-68. Has the minister heard any more about that? Is anything more happening with that? Maybe the minister could bring us up to date?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'm aware that the Council of Yukon First Nations have been working with other Yukon First Nations on a firearms law. I believe they have prepared a draft. I have not received any further updates since learning that, and I'm not aware of any further activities, other than some work on preparing a draft firearms law.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I've talked to a lot of people about this and their concern is that they're wondering how it would work, because, not so much in Whitehorse but in some of our smaller communities, there are integrated families, there are some families who live side-by-each, a First Nation family and a non-First Nation family, sometimes on settlement lands within the band area.
How would a dual law work? That was a concern I raised when I was Minister of Justice and raised to Allan Rock, who refused to listen to anything that anyone said about C-68.
Does the minister see it being a problem in the territory if the First Nations moved ahead and developed their own firearms regulations so that there would be two sets of regulations governing people? In some cases, it could be a spouse - two members of the same family, one First Nation person and one not. I don't know how you'd ever work out a law where one had to abide by one set of laws and one had to abide by another.
I'm just trying to figure out how we would administer it, and whether we're concerned about Council of Yukon First Nations moving in a unilateral way to set up a set of laws. My view is that, if we're going to go in that direction, we should at least be in full consultation so that there's some uniformity, because I think it's going to create problems otherwise.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I do have some concerns about precisely that. The position that I've taken and that the Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief and I have discussed is the desirability of having a firearms law that created one regime for the entire Yukon, but to create one that is based on realities in the north. We have a culture of hunting, trapping, and people living in the wilderness. We use weapons as tools. The best scenario, from our point of view, would have been - and the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations and I sent a joint letter to the federal minister requesting that - we work on gun legislation for the Yukon that would meet all of the interests in the north. We were unsuccessful in achieving that collaboration with the federal government.
The member is asking a hypothetical question now about a First Nations firearms law, which has not been enacted or implemented in any way. I can say that, generally, a First Nations firearms bill would work according to the terms of the self-government agreements, pursuant to the umbrella final agreement.
The First Nations are, and are going to be, developing their own laws in other areas, as well. The interaction with Yukon First Nation laws and Yukon government laws needs to be well done. We have had constructive discussions with individual First Nations which have been developing laws to ensure that as they're created we are aware of and working together on these bills, their enactment and enforcement.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I probably could have recited the answer that the minister would have gotten from the federal government when she suggested a joint regime between a made-in-Yukon law - and I agree with the minister; that would have been the best scenario, absolutely the best - if we could have sat down with the Council of Yukon First Nations and gone to the federal government and said, "Here's what would work in the Yukon. Here's what would keep the firearms out of the hands of the criminals, and here's what would be the best system for us."
We tried that as well, and of course it was rejected by Mr. Rock and his Liberal friends.
My concern is that although it's a hypothetical question it's one that could come to be, because there is some argument - and I'm one who thinks there might be some validity to it - that under the land claims agreements there might be some power within there that the First Nations can create some of their own laws with respect to firearms and with respect to the use of them.
It doesn't solve our problem though, where you have integrated communities, like we have in the territory. And so if it does happen it can create a dual system in the territory, which makes it confusing for everybody, to say the least. I think it would be unfortunate if we moved in that area.
Mr. Chair, one other area that I want to raise with the minister is the Teslin correctional facility. When we purchase food services for the Teslin correctional facility, do we attempt to purchase most of it from the community of Teslin? Where do we purchase the goods and services from?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, yes, we do attempt to purchase locally, where we can, in Teslin for the food service at the Teslin Community Correctional Centre.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I have heard that there's been a bit of a shift in the purchasing - that they don't seem to be purchasing as much locally now as they did before. I wonder if the minister could check into that and just confirm that if - I know in the case of Teslin, I think, in some cases it's been cheaper than Whitehorse to purchase the goods and services from that community. And I know that there are some small businesses in that community that rely heavily on that institution, and that's primarily one of the reasons why it was put in Teslin - to help out with employment and build a stronger, stable base in the community. And I know that it is needed in that community now, and people do depend on it. So I would encourage the minister to look into that and see whether or not we could ensure that in the future, for that particular facility, that whatever we can purchase at a reasonable price we try and purchase within the community.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'm aware of those concerns, and we're looking into that at the present time.
Mr. Phillips: Well, it's not a really complicated thing, but how long does the minister think it will take to look into it and come to some resolution of it? I mean, my understanding is that it was fine a few months ago and it's changed recently, so I'm just wondering how long it will take to change back to where it was, where we purchased what we could in the community of Teslin.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the department is looking into that at the present time, as I have indicated, and I should be able to provide the member with some further information by way of a legislative return in the House next week or the week after.
Mr. Phillips: When I'm down in Teslin, I might as well keep talking about Teslin for a few moments. Teslin was one of the more progressive bands with respect to justice a few years ago, I think, under the current MLA. Mr. Keenan was working on justice issues, and they were looking at drawing down justice as one of the first self-government initiatives, and I just wonder if the minister could bring us up to speed on where we're at with Teslin and any other First Nation that has moved along in that area and are looking at drawing down some of the justice responsibilities that we can under the UFA.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the administration of justice negotiations in Teslin is ongoing. The federal approval to sign the framework agreement on the negotiations of the justice agreement was granted on January 15. The parties have signed a framework agreement that sets out the process for actually negotiating the administration of justice and identifies the subject matters for negotiation. If the member would like a copy of that framework agreement, I'd be happy to provide it to him. The negotiations are proceeding with the federal and Yukon governments and the Teslin Tlingit Council at the table.
Mr. Phillips: Yes, I'd appreciate getting a copy of that agreement. Mr. Chair, wasn't there a timeline at the end of 1999 where they had to draw it down by a certain date, or have we missed it, or are we going to make it by the deadline, or can we be in negotiations, sort of thing, as we pass the deadline? Maybe the minister could tell us when she expects these negotiations to be complete.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the self-government agreements do state that, on February 14, 2000, the first four First Nations with self-government agreements would have the authority to implement their own justice systems. The deadline has been extended by agreement of all three parties, the Teslin Tlingit Council, the federal and Yukon governments as negotiations are ongoing. I don't have the exact date of the amount of time for the extension, but I can bring that back for the member.
Mr. Phillips: I'd appreciate getting that information on the date. That would be useful.
Mr. Chair, I want to talk about one issue briefly. I asked some questions about the number of seizures and that kind of thing with respect to repossession of cars and trucks, and I got that information from the department, but what I would like to know is, have we seen any kind of an increase lately with respect to mortgage foreclosures?
I know that the economy is suffering somewhat at the present time and I know that there are some people who have been in trouble. I just wonder if the banks or others have seen a trend starting to develop over the past few months with respect to foreclosures?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I will have to locate that information and bring it back for the member tomorrow.
Mr. Phillips: I'd appreciate that.
Mr. Chair, the other questions I had deal with circle sentencing and we've debated that extensively in the House here. I just want to get on the record from the minister how the minister sees the review of circle sentencing taking place.
We had a motion in the House, which we amended, which talked about having a full review of circle sentencing. Does the minister have a date for when we're going to do it and an outline of how we're going to do it, how we're going to gather the information with respect to the number of cases - that kind of thing? How thorough is it going to be?
If the minister could provide me with that information, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There isn't enough time left in the evening session for me to respond to that fully. I can begin or, if the member would like, I move that you report progress, Mr. Chair.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: I move 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 the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 17, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 (No. 2), and directed me to report it without amendment. Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and 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.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:25 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 14, 1999:
Bison harvest draw (1998): public access to and harvesting on settlement land, pursuant to the umbrella final agreement (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 4287 and 4316