Monday, November 1, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS - Member-elect
Speaker: Before proceeding to the daily routine, I would draw the attention of members to the presence in the gallery of Ms. Pam Buckway, who was elected to represent the Electoral District of Lake Laberge in the by-election on October 25, 1999.
Ms. Buckway will be sworn in as a member of the Legislative Assembly on November 8 and will take her seat in the House on that day.
At this time, I would ask members to join me in giving her a warm welcome.
INTRODUCTION OF PAGES
Also, it gives me great pleasure to announce that the following students will be serving the House as legislative pages for the fall sitting. They are Sarah Macklon, Carly Roche and Wade Stewart from F.H. Collins Secondary School and Cathleen Collins, Andrew Craigen, Aimee Griffiths, Kyle Johnstone and Ashley Salé from Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Today we have with us Ashley Salé and Wade Stewart. I would ask members to welcome them to the House at this time.
Speaker's statement re: change in official opposition
Speaker: Before proceeding to the Order Paper, the Chair would also note for the records of the House that, effective today, November 1, 1999, the Yukon Liberal caucus becomes the official opposition.
Although the member-elect for the Electoral District of Lake Laberge will not be sworn in until November 8, the opposition parties have indicated to the Chair that they wish the change to take place today.
The Chair would refer members to the ruling of the Chair on the tie in opposition, which was made on December 9, 1996. In that ruling, the Chair stated that it would respect any arrangement that the opposition parties might reach between themselves. The Chair, therefore, has no difficulty in recognizing the switch in the official opposition being made a week prior to the swearing-in of the member-elect for Lake Laberge. The rotation in Question Period will remain as it was with the official opposition having the first two questions, the third party the next two, and then the remainder alternating. The Chair will review the results of this rotation and, if the ratio of questions over a period of time does not fairly represent the number of members in each opposition party, changes will be made in the future.
For private members' motions, the Yukon Party caucus will immediately take over third party status, and, since we are at position number four on the roster of private members' motions, will have the right to the first motion on Wednesday, November 3.
The Chair thanks the opposition parties for the assistance they have provided in this transition period.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Woman Abuse Prevention Month
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise to recognize the month of November as Woman Abuse Prevention Month. Violence against women is a serious, pervasive problem and an obstacle to equality. Violence against women is a violation of human rights. We all want to create a society that emphasizes equality and respect for all people.
October 30 to November 6 is also Crime Prevention Week. The theme for both of these initiatives is crime prevention through social development. Violence is a learned behaviour, and it can be unlearned. We believe in community solutions that support healthy and safe families and communities.
Throughout Crime Prevention Week and Woman Abuse Prevention Month, we're working to increase knowledge of effective crime prevention measures. I invite people to visit the lobby of the YTG administration building and see the information sessions on various topics, such as healthy dating, law enforcement and woman abuse, alcohol abuse and spousal assault, abuse of older women, and an introduction to the new Family Violence Prevention Act.
There are also displays in rural Yukon communities, and several crime prevention workshops will be held throughout this week and the month of November.
I want to acknowledge and thank the many people throughout the Yukon who are working to end violence to support victims and to prevent crime.
Mrs. Edelman: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus and the office of the official opposition to pay tribute to the many volunteers who, each year, work hard to raise awareness about violence against women. It's my dream that, someday, their efforts will not be required.
Women's groups, in conjunction with the Women's Directorate, will be presenting a number of workshops and activities on the issue of assault prevention. I invite all interested people to take part in these events.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I'm also pleased to join with others in paying tribute to Woman Abuse Prevention Month. It's an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to reaffirm our commitment to prevent and eliminate abuse against women. Whether one has been physically abused or suffered emotional trauma, violence against women cannot and should not be tolerated.
Unfortunately, many women have been subjected to more than one type of abuse over a lifetime. Through combined efforts to introduce tough penalties for offenders, and with funding for much-needed shelters, counselling services, public education and research to help victims of abuse, we are able to come a long way in bringing an end to abuse against women.
As legislators, Mr. Speaker, it's encumbent upon all of us to continue efforts toward ending violence and to protect women in all aspects of their lives, whether it be in their home, their community or in the workplace.
At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the ongoing work of the Yukon Women's Directorate, women's groups in the territory and individuals for promoting women's interests in working toward the improvement of women's economic and social well-being.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling the following documents:
(1) A notice from Doug Livingston, dated August 30, 1999, resigning as the member for the Electoral District of Lake Laberge;
(2) A warrant issued by myself as Speaker, pursuant to Section 15 of the Legislative Assembly Act, respecting the resignation of Mr. Livingston;
(3) A copy of a letter from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to the Commissioner respecting the vacancy in the Electoral District of Lake Laberge;
(4) The report of the Auditor General on the Consolidated Financial Statements of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 1999;
(5) The conflict of interest commission annual report for the period covering July 1998 to June 1999; and,
(6) A report of the Clerk of the Assembly made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have for tabling Preventing Violence Against Women. The document was published by the Yukon Women's Directorate for all federal, provincial and territorial status of women ministers.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Public Service Relations Board annual report for 1998 and 1999. I also have the Yukon Teachers' Staff Relations Board annual report for the same year, as well as the public accounts for 1998-99.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have for tabling Restorative Justice in Yukon, a community consultation report.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have for tabling the government contracting summary report, April 1, 1999 to September 30, 1999.
Speaker:Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 78: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I move that Bill No. 78, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Health and Safety Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 78, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Health and Safety Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 78 agreed to
Bill No. 85: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 85, entitled An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 85, entitled An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 85 agreed to
Bill No. 84: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 84, entitled An Act to Amend the Municipal Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 84, entitled An Act to Amend the Municipal Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 84 agreed to
Bill No. 80: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 80, entitled An Act to Amend the Chiropractors Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 80, entitled An Act to Amend the Chiropractors Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 80 agreed to
Bill No. 81: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 81, entitled An Act to Amend the Management Accountants Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 81, entitled An Act to Amend the Management Accountants Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 81 agreed to
Bill No. 77: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 77, An Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 77, entitled An Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 77 agreed to
Bill No. 19: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 19, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 19, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 19 agreed to
Bill No. 20: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 20, entitled Fifth Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 20, entitled Fifth Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 20 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
withdrawal of MOTIONs
Speaker: Under notices of motion, I wish to inform the House that any items standing in the name of the former Member for Lake Laberge have been removed from the Order Paper. Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Ostashek: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the proposed Yukon Act 1999 should be amended to include provisions that would ensure the people of the Yukon have the ownership of land and resources as well as the recognition of the Yukon's offshore boundary in the Beaufort Sea; and
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon to hold a referendum on the proposed Yukon Act 1999 prior to it being presented to the Government of Canada.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) it is important to expand our traditional resource sector but equally important to stimulate other areas to strengthen and diversify our economy to reduce boom-and-bust cycles,
(2) the success of these efforts requires partnerships with First Nation governments, business and labour; and
THAT this House urges the government to continue to implement initiatives that meet these objectives such as developing our oil and gas, forest and cultural industries, creating trade and investment opportunities for local products and services and expanding our tourism promotion to new markets such as Asia.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that poverty remains an issue in Canada and in the Yukon particularly for children;
THAT this House recognizes that the Government of Yukon has made steps to support families and children through the Yukon Child Benefit, the Low Income Family Tax Credit, the Children's Drug and Optical Program and the Kids Recreation Fund; and
THAT this House urges the federal government to live up to its promise to eliminate child poverty in Canada.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the development of green power sources helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replacing the use of imported fossil fuels; and
(2) the Yukon government should continue to build on the recommendations of the Cabinet Commission on Energy's final report, the Yukon Energy Corporation's purchase of a second wind turbine and the creation of the Green Power Initiative, and encourage the public utility to find additional ways to promote the increased use and development of green power.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Economic forums
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Government Leader, and it concerns the economic forums, a project out of the Executive Council Office and not the Economic Development portfolio.
The economy and the economic record of the NDP are certainly a priority with Yukoners. Yukon residents, those who have not left the territory, have slowly watched our economy go down and down in the last three years. The Conference Board of Canada noted recently that the bottom has likely been reached under the NDP government.
The business community recognized the state of the Yukon economy and the search for new ideas before the NDP did. They organized a business summit in January of this year. Unfortunately, their series of recommendations have been largely ignored by the NDP.
The NDP economic downhill team now has a project to call their own: the economic forums launched in September. What is the total cost of the economic forums project?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, in the first instance, the one thing that I will agree with the member about is that the economy is very important to the NDP government. I'll also indicate that the NDP government has, in fact, been turning the economy around through, I think, good leadership in a number of key areas.
Mr. Speaker, we didn't ignore the business summit report. In fact, there are a number of recommendations coming out of the business summit report that have now gone to the tax table, which we are actually following up on.
And not only that, Mr. Speaker, but the people who were at the business summit - many of whom I met with individually afterwards in various meetings that we had - suggested that we do pursue economic forums as the next step in terms of encouraging good, practical discussion to revitalize our economy.
But we also recognize that everything that we have done, from tax incentives to small business and mining, to the Whitehorse runway extension and three charter airlines as well as Canada 3000 and Canadian Airlines coming in next summer, to new infrastructure to promote telecommunications and high-speed Internet access to every community in this territory, to the devolution of land and resources - we just finished the devolution of oil and gas, and we've seen the first action on that front in 20 years - to the new forestry mills that are starting up, for which we provided training funds to ensure that there was local hire in both those instances, to major new capital works to supplement the investments that we're making in the communities through CDF, to the rural road upgrading program, the tourism marketing program, the trade investment program, stable electrical rates, fire smart program -
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the list goes on and on.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader and I will agree that the economic forums have brought to the Yukon some very dynamic and some challenging guest speakers. In the Government Leader's own words, this series of events is designed to stimulate thought and provide practical ideas about how to make the Yukon's economy work. Unfortunately, the Government Leader has not answered the question that I asked.
What is the cost of the economic forums project?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all, I have to respond to the preambles first, of course. The economic forums are very important in that they are an investment in new ideas for this territory, whether it be work that was done only last weekend on telecommunications where, in one workshop alone that I attended, there were over 20 people working to improve their knowledge and understanding of how to use telecommunications to promote their business.
There is work to be done in mining; there's work in trade; there's work in community development. There are many different initiatives being undertaken in this particular initiative over the course of the next year. Whatever we're investing, Mr. Speaker - it's between five and six hundred thousand dollars - is an investment in us - all of us in this territory. It's our understanding of not only the challenges we face, but the investigation of solutions, so that we can expand our economy and do better in the future.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we've established that the economic forums are about a half a million dollar investment, if you will, by the Executive Council Office, in presenting Yukoners with an opportunity to talk and exchange ideas about our economy.
Yukoners have some experience with this NDP government - and with NDP governments in the past - talking, talking about our economy. The NDP have a remarkable ability to talk about the economy. Unfortunately we haven't seen any results.
How will this round of economic talks be different? How does the Government Leader intend to show Yukoners results from the practical ideas generated at the economic forums?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what the member means by "results". If she doesn't think that wiring the entire Yukon to bring high-speed Internet access to all communities is not results, then I don't know what the member's talking about.
If the member is saying that new - for the first time ever - tax incentives for small business in the mining sector is not results, I don't know what she's talking about. The member doesn't realize that the value of non-mineral-related exported goods has been increasing every year we've been in office. If that's not results, Mr. Speaker, I don't know what she's talking about.
If the member is saying that the work we're doing to bring new airlines to this territory are not results, I don't know what she's talking about. Mr. Speaker, on every front, no matter what the government does, of course, she criticizes it and portrays no new ideas herself.
Question re: Development assessment process
Ms. Duncan: My question is again for the Government Leader and concerns the Government of Yukon position on the development assessment, or DAP, process.
On October 16 at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, the Minister of Economic Development stated, "DAP - we've asked that DAP be put on hold." That's what he said. Less than a week later, a joint media release states that completion of DAP legislation remains a priority for all three governments and that work is continuing.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP government appears to have two positions on DAP, not unlike some other key issues, like the wolf kill. It's on hold, work is continuing.
Who's speaking for the Government of Yukon on DAP - the Government Leader or the Minister of Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, there is but one position. We're saying to the federal government and to all comers that this project is going to be held until we get it right. This project is something that is of incredible importance to all people of the territory, and I'm sure she'll agree with me.
But what we cannot do is allow the development assessment process, this project that is in federal hands, to go forward unless Yukoners are generally in agreement, and we will not support any project, any product, unless it's right. That's our position. That's the position the Minister of Economic Development has taken. That's the position I am taking. That's the position this government has always taken.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there's enough confusion and misunderstanding surrounding DAP without the Minister of Economic Development adding to it.
The news release from October 22 says all three parties are committed to another round of consultation.
Does the Government Leader have new target dates for DAP? For example, when will the next round of consultations take place, and when is the legislation likely to be tabled in the House of Commons? Does the Government Leader have new target dates?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, as the member I think is aware, this is a federal government piece of legislation. This legislation is currently in the hands of federal drafters.
We have no control over how quickly they can respond to the people of the Yukon's advice, but we do encourage them to get on with the project. The federal drafters are working away. I understand that they've been meeting even recently to try to make improvements to the legislation, basing those improvements on the comments that people have made before in public consultations that this government has sponsored.
I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that we will be diligent in trying to encourage a draft from the federal government that meets Yukoners' interests, and that we will be undertaking public consultations when the federal government finishes this drafting, and the question is best put to them.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the uncertainty over environmental assessment continues to scare away potential investors - the Government Leader and I will agree on that point. We've spent some time at developing the DAP. Would the Government Leader please outline what issues are unresolved, what issues are outstanding, in his opinion - in the opinion of the Government of Yukon.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there are a number of issues outstanding, Mr. Speaker, but I can indicate one issue that has been outstanding is the role of CEAA. We have indicated that there should be one assessment process, not a multitude of assessment processes. That was the dream, that was the vision of the land claims agreement, and that dream must be fulfilled in order for us to provide support. But we're not waiting for the development assessment process to be completed, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Economic Development is working with the federal government on the blue-book process to ensure that there is an efficient environmental permitting process for the mining industry. So, we're not putting all our eggs in one basket, in terms of just trying to get it right through the DAP - development assessment process. We're trying to work with the here and now, businesses that are having difficulty today, to ensure that there is an appropriate response from regulatory authorities now.
Question re: Economic forums
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Government Leader also on his economic summit and his lack of any understanding of the seriousness of the lack of economic activity in the territory under his watch of the last three years. After three years, all we get from this government is another set of economic forums - to help what? We've lost over 3,000 people from the Yukon since this government has been in power.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon business summit report recognized the mining sector as very important to the overall economy, and concluded that the problem with mining could not solely be the cause of mineral prices. That's what the business summit said last January, and that it was the actions of government - and especially this government - that were not really supportive of mining in the territory, even though they say so.
My question to the Government Leader: in light of the recommendations that came from the Yukon business summit, will the government, in the present round of economic forums, be hosting an economic forum on how it can dispel the anti-mining image that this government has created?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I know the member is upset that we have not followed all his direction when it came to dealing with the closure of the Anvil Range mine. The members will all remember that, when the Anvil Range mine closed down in 1993, the member opposite led a government that increased everyone's taxes to the highest level in Yukon history.
We did not do that, even though the GDP of the territory at that time dropped 17 percent. We didn't do that, Mr. Speaker. What we've been doing instead is responding with tax incentives, meaning improvements to the tax system. We've been responding by ensuring that there is work being done on devolution to ensure that the regulatory environment is more in control of Yukon people. We've been following up even today, Mr. Speaker, securing port access so that resource developers have access to tidewater into the future.
So we do believe there's a future in the mining industry, Mr. Speaker, and we're doing many things to try to ensure that the mining industry prospers in the long term.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, it's all well and good to ensure that resource developers have access to tidewater, but if you haven't got a climate in the Yukon that's conducive to investment, why do we need access to tidewater?
Tax incentives for the mining industry certainly haven't worked, so it has to be deeper than that. The government came in with tax incentives for exploration this year, and my understanding is that exploration is going to be in the neighbourhood of $7 million or $8 million - the second year under $10 million under an NDP government. The protected areas strategy is another disincentive to investment in the territory - the open-ended protected areas strategy that we have, even though the protected areas strategy calls for multiple use. The government, in setting up Tombstone and Fishing Branch, have abandoned multiple use.
Has the government now got the message that they need to do more to create a climate for investment and look seriously at their protected areas strategy, which allows for multiple use, and start to implement it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, in the first instance, Mr. Speaker, every jurisdiction in this country, every province and every territory, is a signatory to the protected areas strategy, and it is happening everywhere.
What we're trying to do is ensure that the protected areas strategy that we implement is done in a way that is sensitive to both the primary objective, which is protecting various representative ecosystems, and also sensitive to the business climate and the mining business climate of this territory. We haven't stopped just at doing that, Mr. Speaker.
The tax incentives that the member so easily dismissed are probably the best, if not the closest to the best, in this country. The access to tidewater is a critical issue for the future of not only the mining industry but the forest industry, because if there is not access to tidewater, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is land-locked. And we can't be in that position in the long term, or even in the short term for that matter. Mr. Speaker, we've even gone so far as to ensure that there's a Yukon mineral strategy to pull together and ensure that our policies and programs and our support are consistently applied across the board. That work is underway, and we've even set up a new advisory body of mine operators that advises the Minister of Economic Development on a regular basis as to every element of government's policies and programs.
We're doing many things, on many fronts, to improve the fortunes of the mining industry, but the bottom line for the mining industry right now and the brutal reality today, of course, is that mineral prices are down and that is the reason why mines aren't operating.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader has said that so many times he's got himself convinced. He and his economic minister have got themselves convinced that it's mineral prices, and that's all there is to it.
I'd just like to draw the Government Leader's attention to the fact that most areas that have a protected areas strategy have said they're going to live with Canada's commitment of 12 percent. This government has failed to set a limit on what they're going to have in protected areas. That is causing the disincentive for investment in the territory. And no matter how good his tax incentives are, they have not worked to get more exploration in the territory. So, quite clearly, something else is wrong, and I don't know when this government is going to understand that.
I would like to ask the Government Leader, now that he's embarked on a new set of forums, how long is it going to be before Yukoners have to wait? When can they expect a new strategy from this government that's going to help get the economy of the Yukon going before it's decimated even further by this government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the member. The economy of the Yukon Territory is turning around. The member refuses to see it for political reasons, refuses to acknowledge or recognize that fact.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the difficult circumstances the mining industry is facing, I'd point out to the member right now that there are four permitted mines that are sitting, waiting to operate. They've cleared all the hurdles. They've got all the permits. They're not operating. Why are they not operating? They're not operating because mineral prices are down. That's the reality. That is the reality.
Mr. Speaker, if the member just turns his attention to the Northwest Territories and sees the bleak news that comes forward through the media every day, hundreds and hundreds of job losses in the mining industry, because why? Mineral prices are down.
Mr. Speaker, last spring the member had us all convinced that it was the development assessment process that was the cause of all the mining industry's problems and that mineral prices had nothing to do with it. Then, when he realized that the Government of Yukon - the NDP government - was actually managing and leading that issue, they dropped the development assessment process and now it's protected areas.
And, Mr. Speaker, if they thought for one second the protected area strategy was going to be taken from their grasp in terms of some good works there - which they're refusing at this moment to recognize, they find some other excuse to somehow blame the downturn of the mining industry on the NDP government.
The reality that people have been saying, even including speakers who've come to this territory - who have nothing at stake in this territory, other than to come and give their thoughts - they have been saying that the reality is that the mineral prices are down. That's the reality.
Question re: Land claims settlement
Mr. Ostashek: They've also said that the regulatory process is a bigger disincentive than mineral prices.
Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that all people who want to invest in the Yukon are going to sleep easier tonight, after hearing the Government Leader saying that he has DAP under control. I'm sure they're going to sleep easier tonight.
Mr. Speaker, one of the other major problems that's confronting the Yukon economy is the lack of progress that this government has made in the settlement of the Yukon native land claims. One of the first actions of this Government Leader was dismantling the Land Claims Secretariat when he came to power - a secretariat that I would say, Mr. Speaker, was quite successful in reaching settlements with various bands in the territory.
Can the Government Leader advise this House what his new date is now for the finalization of all land claims, as we have passed the December 31, 1998, date that he gave when he was elected, as a reasonable date for settling all land claims?
Can he tell Yukoners now, what is the new date that he has for settling all outstanding claims?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'll point out to the member that in the first instance - to respond to some of the comments that he made at the beginning - the regulator for the mining industry, and for the forest industry, is not this government. I know he wants it to be this government, and we're working hard to see the devolution or resource management to the Yukon government, but the regulator of the mining industry, the regulator of the forest industry, is the federal government, and that's the way it is. That's another reality that the member will have to face.
Mr. Speaker, speaker after speaker in the economic forums has been saying, over and over again, "Mineral prices are down, you must diversify. Mineral prices are down, you must diversify. Mineral prices are down, you must diversify."
That's what they've been saying, over and over again. Some people even call that "the Alberta advantage", because they diversified. So I think it's time that we got the message that we must diversify, so we're putting a lot of energy, a lot of effort, working with our partners, who are a broad cross-section of Yukoners, to do exactly that, and we have, Mr. Speaker, for those interested in performance indictors, good performance on that front, and we will continue to work on that front, as well as do the good work in terms of the mining support that we're already undertaking.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to land claims, we have secured two land claims. We can't settle the Kaska land claims while the Kaska is suing the federal government and the federal government's closed that table. We can't secure the Kluane land claim, or the Carcross land claim, when they've got two major outstanding issues with the federal government. These land claims are virtually complete.
Speaker: The Government Leader's time has expired.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the only thing I'll say to the Government Leader is that, during the Alberta advantage, they didn't kick the oil industry in the teeth while they were diversifying. That's the difference, Mr. Speaker. When it comes to land claims, it's quite funny how this Government Leader wouldn't accept any of those arguments when he was leader of the official opposition. He wouldn't accept any of those. It was all the territorial government's fault. Now it's all the federal government's fault and the First Nations. He has nothing to do with it.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon First Nation governments are going to be key players in the development of the Yukon economy, and many investors are reluctant to invest in areas where land claims have yet to be settled.
Can the Government Leader advise this House what measures he plans to introduce to encourage investment in traditional territories where land claims have yet to be settled, or is this government continuing to advise investors to go elsewhere?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the member can't possibly think that we've kicked the oil industry in the teeth, because we have now, for the first time, got real oil industry active in this territory, and if he's saying, Mr. Speaker, that we kicked the mining industry in the teeth, what did we do it with? Did we do it with a major tax credit? We threw a tax credit at them, and did we hit them in the teeth?
We have undertaken actions to support the mining industry, oil and gas industry, the resource industries - clear, concrete action on those fronts, because we believe they have a long-term future in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, there have been virtually no negotiations on, for example, the Kluane land claim for months, because there are two outstanding issues. One is that they want the loan repayment. That requires a federal response. Two, they want the issue surrounding the rolling in of the implementation of the section 87 tax features to be undertaken. That requires federal response. There are no other issues for us to negotiate, because the negotiations are completed with the exception of those two.
So what we're doing, Mr. Speaker, is that we're trying to work with the federal government and First Nations to bring them together to resolve these so that we can close these negotiations. It's my dearest wish to close those negotiations, but I can't step into the federal shoes to do that. It would be irresponsible for somebody in the Yukon Legislature to do that.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the Government Leader still hasn't given Yukoners a date when he believes Yukon land claims are going to be settled. We're now one year past his deadline of December 31, 1998.
Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that the Yukon economic forums are entitled "Shaping the Future", can the Government Leader advise the House if he will be consulting with the First Nations governments on how to turn the economy around, and is it his intention to have an economic forum on land claims and the economy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, the economy is turning around. That's obvious.
If the member wants an answer with respect to the question as to when land claims will be settled, I suggest he phone the number, 1-800-phone Bob Nault.
Question re: Business summit
Mr. Cable: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, and it concerns what I'm told is this NDP government's anti-business attitude.
Mr. Speaker, the last newsletter of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business contains some pretty heavy criticism of this government. This respected national business organization noted, and I will quote from their last newsletter, "The fact that the business community does not see any evidence of change in the government's anti-business attitude, as was discussed during the business summit, is clearly troubling."
So, the question I have for the minister is, does he agree with the local business community and their assessment of the government's attitude toward business?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, you know, Mr. Speaker, here we have the Liberal member of this Legislature, who stood up and supported the Yukon Party government when they were in power when they raised taxes to small business in this territory. Then we have the Liberal member asking the question who, when we brought in tax incentives and a small business investment tax credit and mineral exploration tax credits, opposed those measures that were designed to support business and job creation.
This Canadian Federation of Independent Business magazine article that he's talking about is kind of like the Alberta Report of some small sectors of the small business community, Mr. Speaker. They are a partisan organization.
Mr. Speaker, we have put enormous efforts into working with the business community. If you look at the trade team partners that we've worked with from the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Industry Association, the Yukon Federation of Labour, the Council for Yukon First Nations, all working together with this government on trade and investment, and it's working. The export results of this government and this business community, when you factor out the Faro mine, are showing tremendous growth, and we're diversifying in the development of mills - $14 million in investment in new mills in Haines Junction and Watson Lake. We're seeing $10 million in oil and gas seismic exploration in southeast Yukon, and the bids are going to be due on November 15 for the first land sale in oil and gas in the last 20 years in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, we've been putting inordinate efforts into upgrading technology so that rural Yukon has high-speed Internet, faster Internet services, so that they have better phone service, so that they're going to have distance education capabilities. Monumental change in rural Yukon and in the economy and the future of the territory. So, Mr. Speaker - to echo the words of the CFIB - I think it was stooping quite low for the member opposite.
Mr. Cable: If you don't like the message, Mr. Speaker, shoot the 300-member Canadian Federation of Independent Business. I'm sorry the minister has taken that posture.
A year ago, the NDP started a red-tape reduction campaign - big photo opportunity for the minister's colleague over there at the end of the row - big media coverage. Let's move the clock ahead. In this recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 82 percent of the respondents said they found the territorial regulatory climate somewhat, or very, unfavourable.
Mr. Speaker, why has the NDP government done nothing to improve the regulatory climate in the territory, nothing to reduce red tape over three years?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to express to the member opposite that the reality concerning the regulatory environment that is most often referred to as a concern in this territory is that in forestry and that in mining. Those are areas controlled by the member opposite's cousins in Ottawa, and Mr. Speaker, we are working with Yukoners on issues such as the blue-book process. This Yukon government is actually funding the federal government to review their mining environmental assessment process. We're paying for it, as Yukon taxpayers and Yukon people, because we're so desperate to see things improve, to become more efficient in that area. In the area of forestry, again, we're working extremely hard to try and ensure that the mills that have started up and have hired over a hundred people, have secure access to timber in an environmentally sustainable way, so that they can continue to employ people.
Mr. Speaker, we've engaged in many different areas, even in the area of the development assessment process - which again is federal legislation. We've taken the bull by the horns, and tried to bring Yukoners into the fold so that they can provide comment, and try and shape this federal legislation, so that it will provide something that we can be proud of as Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, on so many fronts on the regulatory environment, we've been active in trying to have it streamlined and improved. The Yukon Oil and Gas Act we put forward was recently called among the best in Canada by the industry.
We're proud of our record, and we could sure use a little bit of help from the member opposite talking to the federal government in Ottawa, and we could sure use devolution.
Mr. Cable: Let's just work through the verbiage for a moment. The red-tape reduction meter over at the Chamber of Commerce has not moved in over a year since it was put up. The minister's colleague there, he gets his picture in the paper, this great photo opportunity in front of the meter, and nothing has happened. It's still down at absolute zero.
This is just another example of talk and hype winning over action. Is the minister planning to take this meter down, or are there some plans to actually start working on regulatory red tape?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I've said just to the member opposite that, in so many areas - and he's not talking about "verbiage" - I'm talking about concrete dollars and time of this government being invested in streamlining regulatory processes. I think we spent $60,000 in contracting to try to improve the federal government's environmental assessment process - that's CEAA - we're still working on that process with the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee with other Yukoners.
We've been working in a whole host of other areas, from forestry - to try and ensure that that regulatory process responds to Yukoners who are actually on the ground here now, producing jobs and timber for sale and for export. A whole host of areas - in the area of oil and gas, we've been working to try and ensure that our regulatory processes are among the finest, most efficient, environmentally sensitive and competitive in the country.
Mr. Speaker, we've been getting lots of good reviews from industry and from Yukoners on that score. So across the gamut - and even beyond that into the non-resource sector - we've been focusing very hard on trade and investment opportunities, working to ensure that processes are streamlined, that we have access to markets, such as the announcement we made today on the ports.
We've been working to ensure that information technology is closer to our fingertips here in the territory - by a monumental investment of some $13 million in new telecommunications upgrades for the entire territory.
All of these things, Mr. Speaker, we do because we are turning the economy around in partnership with Yukoners to make a better situation for jobs and for quality of life in this territory.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
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 2:23 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 1, 1999:
Resignation notice as MLA (dated August 30, 1999) from Doug Livingston, Member for Lake Laberge (Speaker Bruce)
Warrant (dated August 30, 1999) issued by Speaker Bruce pursuant to Section 15 of the Legislative Assembly Act, respecting the resignation of Mr. Livingston (Speaker Bruce)
Vacancy in Electoral District of Lake Laberge: copy of letter dated August 30, 1999, from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to Commissioner Gingell (Speaker Bruce)
Auditor General: Report on the Consolidated Financial Statements of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 1999 (Speaker Bruce)
Conflict of Interest Commission Annual Report (July 1998 - June 1999) (Speaker Bruce)
Deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act: Report of the Clerk to the Yukon Legislative Assembly (dated November 1, 1999) (Speaker Bruce)
Preventing Violence Against Women: A strategic framework (dated July 1999) (Moorcroft)
Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board 1998-99 Annual Report (McDonald)
Yukon Teachers' Staff Relations Board 1998-99 Annual Report (McDonald)
Public Accounts of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 1999 (McDonald)
Restorative Justice in Yukon: Community Consultation Report (dated October 1999) (Moorcroft)
Government Contracting Summary Report by Department (April 1, 1999 - September 30, 1999) (Sloan)