Wednesday, November 17, 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?
Tribute to Circumpolar Women's Conference
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise today to pay tribute to the steering committee and organizers of the Circumpolar Women's Conference, "Different Lives, Common Threads", which begins tomorrow and continues for three days. Close to 400 women from northern Canada, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Greenland arrive today to participate in this major event. Women from all ethnic origins and from every walk of life are taking part.
The goal is to enable women to share their experiences and successes as northern women, while discussing issues facing women in the north.
More than 50 workshops will cover such diverse topics as violence prevention, herbal healing, addictions, humour and activism, shamanism, business networking, tourism, oral history, indigenous languages and youth, from women's perspectives.
There is no shortage of cultural and arts events. A multicultural program is planned for a gala evening at the Arts Centre on Friday night. A business and craft fair runs throughout the conference, and a traditional First Nations feast will be held at the Nakwataku Potlatch House in Kwanlin Dun on Saturday night.
I would like to thank Audrey McLaughlin - the Yukon circumpolar envoy - and the several committee members who have been meeting every couple of weeks over the past two years.
A special thank you to the four coordinators and interns: Natasha Phillips, Rebecca Wong, Tiffany Tisane and Rosemary Asp; and the staff of the Women's Directorate, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that this conference is a success.
I would like to welcome them into the gallery today, as well as Bertha Norwegian, the senior advisor to the Northwest Territories minister responsible for the Status of Women.
Our government is proud to contribute to this event. It should be fun.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it's going to be a very, very big event for the Yukon Territory. Women from all over the north are coming to speak about issues that matter to them. Workshops at Yukon College will be offered on spirituality, cultural issues, leadership, justice, peace and security.
Representatives from the Yukon Liberal caucus, which is, of course, three-quarters female, will be attending the conference. On behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus, we bid the delegates to the "Northern Women: Different Lives, Common Threads Circumpolar Women's Conference" bonne chance.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I am pleased to also pay tribute today to the Circumpolar Women's Conference to be held in Whitehorse this week.
Over the next days, the conference, entitled "Different Lives, Common Threads", will seek to provide a forum for northern women of every stripe to address common issues. It will be the first of its kind in the City of Whitehorse, and it will bring together academics, indigenous people, homemakers, professionals, healers and spiritual leaders, to name but a few.
While the core of the conference will be to share information and expertise about issues and problems common to women, the celebration of circumpolar art, indigenous and otherwise, will also be a big feature. Here in the Yukon, we are fortunate to have such a large number of talented artisans among us. Whether it involves painting, carving, sewing or sculpting, the conference will present numerous opportunities for both the artists and the public to see what each country in the circumpolar north has to offer with the indigenous materials and local talent.
A tremendous amount of planning and organization has gone into the conference over the past two years, involving women representing government, First Nations, the French community, and women's groups throughout the Yukon Territory.
At this time, I too would like to join with the other members of the House in taking the opportunity to thank the members of the steering committee and all the volunteers who have given so much of their time to make this conference a success.
Mr. Speaker, I'd also like to make a special thank you to the group of individuals who work in the office, who have been working so hard over the last few months. I have a little bit of a bias here, Mr. Speaker, because one of the coordinators happens to be my daughter.
I would like to wish them well. I know there's a lot of anxiety out there, and a lot of late hours and midnight oil has been burned over the last few months and weeks. I know the conference is going to be a success, and I wish them well in all their endeavours. Enjoy the conference.
Tribute to Restorative Justice Week
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise today to also pay tribute to National Restorative Justice Week, which has as its theme this year, "Restorative justice begins with you and me".
Restorative Justice Week raises public awareness of a more holistic way to meet the needs of all those who are affected by crime: victims, offenders, criminal justice officials, and the families and the entire community.
Yukon people have been working on restorative justice in a very concerted way. In May, I visited every Yukon community with the commanding officer of the RCMP to hear what Yukon people had to say about future directions for justice in the territory. Targeted consultations with interested organizations are scheduled for this month to follow up on recommendations from the community tours. These consultations will also help identify real alternatives for correctional reform in the territory. Last night, I was pleased to attend a dinner honouring the volunteers and managers whose dedication is making community justice projects work throughout the territory.
Yesterday, one of my constituents, Mr. Don Smith, was honoured as a recipient of the first annual Ron Wiebe Award. This national award, sponsored by Corrections Canada, recognizes people who have advanced the philosophy of restorative justice, as Mr. Smith has done in Old Crow supporting community members to live healthy, substance-free lifestyles. Our government works in partnership with restorative justice projects in Haines Junction and Dawson City, and with the Southern Lakes, Kwanlin Dun, Teslin Tlingit Council, Liard First Nation and Skookum Jim justice groups. We're also working with the people of Old Crow, Carmacks and Ross River to help deliver community justice projects. These projects offer alternatives to the mainstream justice system, such as diversion, mediation and community conferencing.
I look forward to the next national meeting of ministers of Justice in a few weeks' time, when I will have an opportunity to highlight the efforts of many Yukon people who are working to make restorative justice a reality in the Yukon.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to also pay tribute to National Restorative Justice Week.
I think it's safe to say that practically all Canadians are of the opinion that the Canadian justice system isn't working well, and that we need to spend more time on crime prevention to deal with crime before it happens, and we need to spend more time on dealing with criminals and their victims after the crime has been committed. There is no point in recycling people back through the system. Without rehabilitation and restoration of the criminal to society, there is no point in the whole exercise. This is not in the victim's interest, it is not in society's interest, and it is not in the criminal's interest. The various facets of restorative justice that are now being tried cannot help but yield some useful product.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I rise as well to pay tribute to National Restorative Justice Week.
As Canadians have come to see, our justice system does not always work to serve justice. Here at home, Yukoners especially have come to learn all too well that there has been very little justice in our legal system at the best of times, and we've come to learn the hard way that the system does not always work.
During the previous Yukon Party government, extensive consultations were held with Yukoners in every community in the territory regarding crime and the Yukon's justice system, which led to the Talking About Crime report.
Among concerns that were raised, Mr. Speaker, were Yukoners speaking of the need to be involved in crime prevention initiatives, the need to address the root causes of crime and the need to hold offenders accountable and, as well, to provide the victims with more of a voice in the system.
A different way of delivering justice services, restorative justice looks at the effect that criminal behaviour has on victims, the needs of the community and offenders, and attempts to respond to their needs - a different way of delivering justice, Mr. Speaker.
It's clear that Yukoners want a voice now to make the territory's justice system work better. While this is a major undertaking, I believe Yukoners have the will to make it work and wish to be involved in every step of the way.
As legislators, it's our responsibility to support community involvement and involve people directly in the design and delivery of justice services, so that we may actually address the root of the problem.
Mr. Speaker, we can do that by becoming more involved in working together, and we can effect a positive change in our justice system.
It's fitting that we take this opportunity today to pay tribute to the National Restorative Justice Week.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have an Exploration '99 report on the oil and gas trade mission to Calgary, conducted in June, by our government in partnership with the local business community. Together with the 25 businesses that participated in this mission, we've raised over $30 million in investment in this territory in oil and gas since June of this year.
Speaker: Are there any returns or reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Training trust fund for oil and gas industry
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to advise the House of a major new development in our government's policy of providing training opportunities so that Yukon people will be in a position to take advantage of emerging jobs in the new Yukon economy.
As members are aware, the supplementary budget introduced by the Minister of Finance on the first day of this sitting includes an additional $400,000 for training trust funds.
These funds play a dynamic role in bringing together the needs and interests of workers, industry, non-governmental organizations and communities. Such funds are integral to the Yukon training strategy.
Just as integral are the number of industry-specific training courses that are offered through Yukon College and advanced education in various Yukon communities. I am pleased to advise members of the introduction of some new courses this fall to provide both entry-level and advanced training for Yukon residents who want to work in the Yukon's emerging oil and gas industry.
Yesterday's announcement by my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, that bids have been accepted on two parcels in the Eagle Plains basin, make these courses particularly relevant. With the potential of more than $20-million worth of oil and gas exploration activity in these two parcels alone, it is important to make sure that Yukon workers are well-positioned to take up jobs in this industry.
This month, Yukon College is providing such training to 12 students in Dawson City, 10 students in Old Crow, and an estimated 12 students in Ross River. Three other entry-level training courses are also being provided at the end of November in Whitehorse and Watson Lake, involving an estimated 80 students. It is significant, Mr. Speaker, that these courses are being offered by industry itself, by Arcis Corporation, Anderson Exploration and Akita Drilling.
The partnership of industry, Yukon College and the departments of Education and Economic Development guarantee that this training will be timely, practical and relevant to the needs of the marketplace.
I would also like to point out that some of the skills for which the training is provided are transferable to other emerging industries, such as forestry. This provides students with a wider range of employment options in the resource sector.
Mr. Speaker, this new round of training courses is a direct result of a needs assessment conducted by the Department of Education last January by the Northern Research Institute. The report stressed that the failure to provide training could result in frontier communities being unable to participate in oil and gas development in a meaningful way, should opportunities arise with little notice.
Training also opens up opportunities for Yukon people to gain work experience in the industry outside the territory if they choose to pursue that course. I am sure that members will support this important initiative in providing Yukon people with the tools they need to take part in the economic growth of this territory.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to the ministerial statement regarding training trust funds for the oil and gas industry.
I'd like to state at the outset that our caucus is pleased to note the reference to the partnerships in education, between industry and those who will take the training and Yukon College.
Mr. Speaker, this government has made substantial use of the trust fund method of funding different training, and we'd be hard pressed to note a specific industry without one of these training trust funds at this point.
Our caucus has expressed concerns and questions about this method of funding and its accountability to this Legislature and to the public as a whole.
I'd be pleased to review this in debate with the minister, and I look forward to her providing me with the actual training trust fund documents as soon as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I am pleased to take this opportunity to respond to the minister's statement on training for the oil and gas industry.
While we on this side of the House support training trust funds to ensure that Yukon people have the skills to take advantage of emerging job opportunities, we believe it is every bit as important that there are jobs waiting for Yukoners at the end of the day.
Mr. Speaker, over the last three years we have seen record levels of unemployment and a large exodus of Yukoners who have left the territory because of this government's inability to create an economic climate that will attract, among other things, mining investment to the Yukon. While this government continues to blame the demise of the mining industry on low world metal prices - the Asian flu - this government must be held accountable for its unwillingness to provide an economic climate of stability and certainty to attract investment to the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Speaker, low world metal prices and the Asian flu have affected all jurisdictions throughout the world, yet places such as Alaska, and our neighbours to the east, are doing much better than both Yukon and British Columbia in encouraging investment, which indicates that it's the governments' policies that are discouraging development, both here and in British Columbia. Housing starts are down some 50 to 60 percent, mining is literally in the toilet, many of our skilled tradespeople have chosen to leave the territory, and many more, as we speak, are ready to move.
So, while training is a good thing and is something we need to build upon, training will not be very relevant if there are no jobs available for Yukoners, as is currently the case across the territory, thanks, in a large part, to this Yukon government's policies.
Mr. Speaker, the purpose of a training trust is to lever either in kind or financial contributions from other participants. We'd like to know what level of involvement industry is contributing to this program, either in kind or financially. Over the last three years, this government has announced a large number of training trust funds. Could the minister provide a detailed breakdown of each training trust fund, including such things as per diem, travel expenses, the number of students who have enrolled and completed the training and entered into the workforce? We'd also like to know the current financial status of each training trust fund that is in place today.
It's interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that, as we speak, the training going on in Dawson - it's a three-week training course that's just about complete - of the two individuals from Yukon College, one is laid off and the other one was terminated. I don't know how we're going to be delivering programs of this nature when we terminate those individuals.
I'd like to know, Mr. Speaker, if there's a process for monitoring the success of these funds in providing training opportunities that have led to employment opportunities for Yukoners, and how these training initiatives may be improved upon. I'd look forward to the minister tabling this information in due course.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the real issue is that the opposition parties voted against training when they voted against the supplementary budget in this House yesterday.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party and Liberal doom-and-gloom attitude is not promoting a healthy investment climate and it's holding the Yukon back. Unlike the opposition parties, the Yukon government believes in investment in Yukon people. We know that they can do well in the new economy and they will do so with our support of training activities. We've seen some examples of that. Sixty-nine out of 75 employees of the South Yukon Forest Corporation are trained Watson Lake people who took advantage of a training opportunity through training trust funds. There were a number of native and non-native people who successfully completed oil and gas courses this spring, who were among those hired by Chevron Canada Resources Limited and Explor Data Ltd., the two Yukon companies involved in the seismic work in southeast Yukon.
We anticipate that the people who will be part of the training that's undergoing in the next couple of months will also be finding employment with the companies that they're taking training from.
Training trust funds are a good vehicle for partnership.
The opposition also voted against the immigrant investor fund, and the $26 million that is in that will support the Connect Yukon project. We're putting $11 million of the immigrant investor fund into supporting telecommunications infrastructure throughout the Yukon. That will make training easier. There's an additional $1.2 million in the budget for distance education. They voted against that, too.
The value of retail sales is up. The size of the Yukon workforce is up over the last year. The value of building permits is up $6 million over last year, and the gross domestic product is starting to grow.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are saying they would like some accountability on the training trust fund. I've provided that here in this House and will be pleased to continue to do so. If members opposite had participated in the debate in this House on the economy, they could have heard the accountability and the reporting of the jobs that are being created through training trust funds and this government's investment in Yukon people and Yukon jobs.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Education Act review
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. It concerns the minister's stalling on the review of the Education Act.
In a news release on September 20, 1999, the Minister of Education said, "for a review of the Education Act, which will start a year from now." On April 8 last year, the minister said that we will open the Education Act for review in 1999 and look to conclude that process in the year 2000.
Mr. Speaker, the review of the Education Act, which is a requirement of the act itself, appears to be stuck in neutral under this minister. Why has the minister gone back on the legislative and public commitment to partners in education on the review of the act?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I was beginning to wonder when the Liberal Party was going to have some questions about education. We have had a considerable interest of the Yukon public in Conversations in Education. There were over 450 people at the first event. There were 185 on a Saturday morning who turned up for a panel discussion that engaged the public in looking at education in the future, without an opposition member anywhere in sight.
Mr. Speaker, I haven't gone back on anything. The Education Act review process is being designed by a committee of partners with representatives from First Nations, from the Yukon Teachers Association, from school councils and from the Department of Education.
Ms. Duncan: The partners in education, like the YTA and school councils, have working groups on the Education Act. These working groups were hounded last spring to name a representative to a steering committee - coincidentally, the last time I raised this issue with the minister. The YTA working groups have gone through the act; they've already done that. School council working groups are scheduled to meet. There's an all-day session planned for the school council conference chairs later this month. The partners are ready to go. Why was the decision taken by the minister to delay the review, and why is it done without her partners?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member is completely wrong in her facts. Under the Education Act, there is a requirement to have a review process in place within 10 years of the Education Act coming into effect. That review process is, at the present time, being conducted by the members of the partners who have been invited to design the review process itself. Nobody hounded them, Mr. Speaker. They're working to design the review process and, when they have completed that, they will be presenting the consultation plan and their recommendation on the review process to me for further action.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, no matter how she tries to paint it, the minister substantially delayed changes to the Education Act, delayed them until after the next election in fact. Does the minister have any idea when a summary of suggested changes to the actual Education Act might be complete?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Yukon public is participating already in conversations about the future of education in this territory. The partners in education are hard at work at the committee level to design a review process. I'll be happy to take that review process forward. I'm looking forward to the good work that they will do.
Question re: Education Act review
Ms. Duncan: My question is again for the Minister of Education, and it concerns the Conversations in Education, that's the stalling tactic by the Minister of Education to delay the Education Act review, which is required by law. Departmental officials have stated that the Conversations in Education are expected to cost $200,000 and will continue through to the end of this school year - halfway through the year 2000. The minister is spending $200,000 to delay the review of the Education Act. Can the minister tell this House how many educational assistants could have been in our children's classrooms for that amount of money?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the Education Act is about education, and the Conversations in Education activities are also about education. This is not a stalling tactic.
Mr. Speaker, this is something that Yukon people are really excited to be participating in. They want to share their vision for the future of the Yukon education system.
We're happy to provide an opportunity for different points of view to be expressed, and it's exciting to see the public getting ready to also participate in an Education Act review, so that we can move forward into the future.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, what the minister has just said is that we're spending half of the money allocated for a complete review of the Education Act itself by chatting with the folks. However, we're not going to end up at the end of it with any actual proposed changes or improvements to the Education Act.
Mr. Speaker, these edu-chats were launched without consultation with the minister's partners in education. They were launched, the minister has noted, with a well-attended visit by a Canadian entertainer. However, attendance has diminished rapidly. The last edu-chat was attended by less than 10 people. The next edu-chat takes place tomorrow. It's called, "What do we do about a teacher who is not meeting expectations?" Why is this edu-chat on teachers scheduled without consultation with the YTA, and why was it scheduled when teachers can't attend?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I'm really disappointed to hear that member's attitude. The fact that she is not recognizing the value of small groups of Yukon people discussing what's close to them and the issues that matter to them about education is very disturbing.
She can't mock the participation of 185 people who are interested in what six panelists had to say on various topics in education. This is continuing the dialogue that began with the Education Act itself in the late 1980s and early 1990s. People are happy to do it. This is laying the groundwork for an Education Act review, and it's an important and productive exercise. I think the member should support it and participate herself.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we've established that the edu-chats are costing half the money allocated for the actual, entire Education Act review. We've established that topics and timing have been set without consultation with the minister's partners in education. We know that the last edu-chat was attended by fewer than 10 people and, in a weak attempt to boost interest, the government has sent a newsletter home with every student in Yukon schools.
Mr. Speaker, Yukoners want to talk about reviewing the act itself. What professionals, school councils and parents want to be working on, and talking about now, are changes to the make the Education Act better. When will the minister focus her time and her money on that issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We are putting our attention and our energy into making the education system better. That member has been wrong before, and she is wrong again. It is right to involve the general public in these discussions, and the value of a discussion is not measured necessarily by the number of people who participate. Ten people at an edu-chat can be a very productive and useful discussion, whether that member wants to recognize it or not.
Question re: CAT scanner for Whitehorse General Hospital
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Yesterday in the House, I tabled a motion urging the government to purchase a CAT scanner for the Whitehorse General Hospital. Other communities of comparable size to Whitehorse have CAT scanners, as they have become standard medical tools that aid doctors in diagnosing ailments leading to earlier and better decisions on treatment.
It was reported that only 238 scans were performed on Yukoners in 1998-99, when a normal number should have been in the order of 1,000. While the cost of a scanner is around $1 million, it would soon pay for itself if the government had to pay the outside travel costs for approximately 1,000 Yukoners each year who should be receiving scans.
Would the minister not agree that a cost-benefit analysis based on these numbers would justify the purchase of a CAT scanner?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, I think we need a bit of clarification. When we were first approached by the hospital on this issue, the figure was not $1 million. It was actually $2.54 million for capital and approximately $625,000 for annual O&M. So, naturally, given that, and by taking a look at the possible savings, the possible savings would have been approximately $100,000, which is far less than the O&M operating costs.
Subsequent to that, we met with the hospital. This was one of a number of, I guess, areas where they were seeking our support. We met with them, we discussed it, and they came back with a proposal. We've asked them further questions and that a business case be made for this, as well as some other issues. We've asked them to come back. We've also asked them, for example, about such things as some alternative funding, possibly utilization by the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. So, we are continuing to discuss this with the hospital, and we are continuing to have, I believe, productive and meaningful discussions.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the number being bandied around in the news media, from what I've been made aware of, is approximately $1-million capital costs and O&M.
I'd also like to remind the minister that his government is sitting on a $82-million surplus. Rather than squander it on political pre-election goodies and other political slush-fund projects, I would encourage the minister to spend this surplus of millions on this very worthwhile medical tool that will ultimately help promote the health and welfare of Yukoners. Will the minister make that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, a good deal of our efforts over the last few years have actually been to improve the somewhat chaotic situation at the hospital that was left by the previous government, which underfunded it - staggeringly. Since then, we've managed to return the hospital to function on a sound operational and financial basis. We've also done such things as relieve the pressure on acute care by opening up extended care beds. We've also made a significant contribution to the development of mammography. We've done a variety of things, in terms of providing additional services at the hospital.
The hospital itself has a capital replacement budget of some $300,000 a year. We have attempted to work with the hospital, and we will continue to work with the hospital. I can tell the member that I have met with the hospital chair, the hospital chief of staff and the CEO, and we discussed this, along with many other issues dealing with the hospital. So we're continuing to discuss. We're continuing to look for solutions. I guess there's probably a bit of sensitivity, Mr. Speaker, given the absolute shambles that the member's party left the hospital in, and part of our effort has been to try to bring that hospital back to good operational use.
Mr. Jenkins: Here we go again. A minister who cannot address his responsibility, and everyone else is to blame, from the senior level of government to the previous government, probably the previous and previous governments. Everyone but this minister. Now, this minister, Mr. Speaker, has been in his portfolio for three years. He's had three years and, currently, he has got an $82-million budget surplus. Can the minister advise the House how far along he is with discussions with the Hospital Corporation to acquire a CAT scanner, and when can we expect a positive government decision in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This member is really quite amusing in many ways, because here they are trying to cover their tracks. When I came into this portfolio three years ago, one of the first things we had to deal with was a hospital that could barely make payroll. We spent a considerable amount of money and effort getting that hospital operational, restructuring it. I think, with the good work of the staff there, the excellent work of the board and the management, we've managed to return that hospital to a good, sound operational basis. It has not been easy.
We have had discussions - I continue to have discussions - with the hospital board and the hospital chair. We've asked them for some further information. We've asked them to do some developmental work. We've asked them to create a business case and come back with this and discuss it. They have made a fairly cogent argument on the idea of standards of care. It's something that we're willing to look at and we're continuing to discuss with them.
The member seems to be hung up on this fictitious $82 million. The last time I looked in the closet, I don't have $82 million in small bills, so if he can help me find the money, I will be more than delighted. And perhaps while he's on this little tirade, he can whisper a few words to the federal government so I can have my Canada health and social transfer restored.
Question re: Fuel prices
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question on fuel prices for the minister responsible for gas, and I would ask that not all the ministers rise at once.
In April of 1998, the Minister of Economic Development issued a news release stating that he was seeking fair fuel prices. In July of 1998, this minister went to Calgary proclaiming he was going to tackle high gasoline prices. In November of 1998, he had two representatives from the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute come to tell Yukoners, "Don't worry; be happy, while we continue to hose you at the pumps." That was a year ago, and ever since there has been a very deafening silence on this issue of high gasoline prices coming from this normally talkative minister, and I would like to know why.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know quite where to begin my answer. The member's preamble is typical of his animated and nonsensical style and fashion in this Legislature, but I won't rise to the bait. I will just say that this issue of gasoline prices has been one that we have raised at both the national level and have raised with other ministers who expressed similar concerns across the country. It is a difficult problem in the territory because of the volumes that are involved here in delivery. The situation is even worse in the N.W.T. The pricing is much higher there. We have raised issues. We brought the people up to talk on behalf of the industry, not in agreement with them but so that they could have a dialogue with Yukon people about costs so that Yukon people could put some pressure on.
We are now publishing the average costs of fuel prices in the Yukon. I think we do it every week so that consumers know where the prices at different gas stations fall within the pricing arrangements in the territory. The price of oil is now over $26 a barrel; the price of natural gas is extremely high, and that further complicates the pricing issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the information of the minister, the third-quarter profits of oil companies are up anywhere from 70 percent to 90 percent. Government royalties and taxes on the oil industry are the lowest that they've been in decades. The price of a barrel of oil goes up, the price of gasoline rises almost immediately; but when the price of a barrel of oil goes down, it's a long time before that price is reflected at the gas pumps.
Can the minister explain what happened to the national study of high gasoline prices in rural and remote Canada?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I've told the member that we're obviously concerned about the gas prices in this territory. We've taken much action and we've taken much pain to raise the issues both with my colleagues, with the federal minister. We've raised it in terms of competition issues on a national level. We've raised it in this territory. We've asked the petroleum industry to come here and dialogue with Yukoners about the issues pertaining to why the prices in the Yukon are higher than they are in southern Canada. Of course, they always point to the Northwest Territories where the prices are higher yet again than they are here in the Yukon.
But, you know, Mr. Speaker, one of the issues that I find ironic coming from the Yukon Party is that it was actually them who raised the price, or the taxes, on gasoline in this territory in 1993-94 when they brought in large hikes to the gas taxes in this territory. Of course, our government's been lowering taxes in the territory, and our government was the one that cancelled the off-road fuel tax.
So, Mr. Speaker, our record is solid. We're fighting directly to deal with these issues, to raise these issues on behalf of Yukoners, but the members opposite's criticisms are kind of hollow given their poor track record.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister could start by rescinding more of the taxes on gasoline here in the Yukon. It's in his domain, Mr. Speaker, but all he chooses to do now is publish the weekly price of gasoline at the pumps, and all that does is serve to remind Yukoners how badly we're being hosed at the gasoline pumps.
Mr. Speaker, the Province of Ontario has begun an inquiry into fuel prices. Will this government be following suit and commencing an inquiry into high fuel prices here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I would remind the member that the Yukon NDP government has, in the past, responded to inquiries into this issue, and if it were determined that it could be useful, then that might be something to pursue.
Mr. Speaker, the inquiry isn't the panacea. We've taken much action on a whole host of areas to try to address this issue.
I also want to tell the member that we're working very, very hard to try to turn around the dismal record of the Yukon Party - not just in the areas of taxation, but in the areas of health care, with the Minister of Health and Social Services. Their record on economic diversification was dismal, where all the eggs were in one basket, where we were depending completely on the London Metal Exchange for our economic futures.
We've been working extremely hard to turn around a whole bunch of misery created by the Yukon Party government. We can't do it all overnight, but we're working extremely hard to try to straighten things out from the mess that was left by the members opposite...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: ...economically; in the education system, where they hacked and slashed; taxes, where they -
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Harding: - increased them; in the health care system, where the hospital was taken over completely underfunded - there were no new health programs. On and on again, Mr. Speaker, we've tried to address these situations.
In the area of electricity - where the rates were skyrocketing under the Yukon Party - we invested $11 million in rate stabilization funds of the taxpayer to the Energy Corporation.
Mr. Speaker, we are trying to turn around the dismal record of the Yukon Party government, but it's going to take us time, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Drug and alcohol addictions, services for youth
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services, and it concerns the inadequate services for youth who are battling drug and alcohol addictions. There are 5,000 youth in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, and the Yukon government currently has one alcohol and drug treatment counsellor for youth.
In February of this year, the caseload for this one worker was 56 youth, according to the minister. What is the current caseload, and does the minister think that this one person can provide adequate treatment service for over 50 youth?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the things that we have done, as the member has indicated, is that we have assigned staff. We have two staff assigned, targeted at youth: one is a prevention and one is a treatment worker. We have been able to get access into the high schools to provide more service directly - I guess, on site with young people. That's always been a priority of mine, and I've taken the time to speak to particularly the schools about the issue.
It's something that we're hoping to do to a greater degree. We've identified the youth as a target population where we want to focus some of our energies, and we'll continue to do so.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, that speech was almost word for word the same speech we heard this time last year.
Now, I've heard from families with kids who need to be assessed and treated for drug and alcohol addictions. They are waiting, and waiting, and waiting. How long is the waiting list for assessment and treatment for drug and alcohol addictions for youth in the Yukon? And does that minister think that that long a wait is adequately serving the needs of Yukon youth?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we are continuing to push our efforts there, and we're continuing to work. As the member has noted, we have a number of youth on the waiting list. We have a number of youth that we're working with. We've been focusing a lot of energy, in terms of prevention. We've been focusing on primarily the grade 1 through 3 areas. We've had a pilot program established by ADS in the Elijah Smith School to offer alcohol and drug prevention for primary children. We've been working with Porter Creek, and I imagine that the member's question is prompted by the P.C.S.S. wellness fair that was on today. That's an example of where we have been cooperating with our friends in education on such things as tobacco reduction and other issues.
We're always striving to improve services to young people, and we will continue to do so.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, may I suggest that the best way to improve the service is to get some more people doing treatment for kids, here in the Yukon, who have drug and alcohol problems. It's a very, very long wait for help. The lack of service in the rural areas continues to be a concern, as well. The recent consultation on restorative justice pointed out, and I will quote, "Six communities noted underaged drinking and drug abuse is a concern with youth in their communities."
Right now, the Yukon government has one - one - alcohol and drug treatment worker who works with youth. That person is in Whitehorse. What work is underway to improve services for youth with drug and alcohol addictions in the rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, let me just go through a few of the things that we are doing beyond that. We have, for example, ADS services at the Youth Achievement Centre with our youth outreach worker; we have mandatory alcohol and drug awareness at the young offenders facility; all of the group homes operated by family and children's services have been incorporating addictions programming into their ongoing activities.
With respect to rural delivery, one of the things that we did this summer was we contracted with Ancient Voices, a First Nation-operated addiction wilderness treatment program. We had two 10-week camps this past year. The contractor was the successful bidder, by means of a public tender. We're continuing to work with - when necessary, we'll place people in other areas. And we've been working very substantially with our First Nation partners in trying to bring about community treatment centres. We're at the point right now of being able to have some of those programs out. One of the things we've asked in that regard is to have a particular focus on youth in some of those treatment centres.
Question re: Special-waste regulations
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources on the special-waste regulations. Many Yukon communities are caught in a dilemma because of these regulations, and I will use my own community of Dawson City to illustrate the problem. Presently there is a requirement under the regulations to dispose of used oil only at approved waste oil furnaces or at a special waste receiving facility.
The used oil must be sampled and must be within legislated levels for arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, organic halogens and PCBs prior to being burned in an approved furnace. The City of Dawson recently had three sets of seven 45-gallon drums of waste oil analyzed, at a cost of $200 for each set of seven. Fourteen of the drums failed the test because they were contaminated with lead. The current disposal cost is $500 for each 45-gallon drum of contaminated oil. Dawson currently has 85 such barrels, for a total disposal cost of $42,500, Mr. Speaker.
Now, protection of the environment is paramount, Mr. Speaker, but with these new regulations, all the government has done is downloaded it to the municipal governments. Why has the Government of the Yukon chosen to go this way and simply download this responsibility to municipal governments?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member knows that we have been working on a number of areas in regard to solid waste with communities, putting regulations in place, and we continue to do that with the Department of Community and Transportation Services and to work with communities on other things in regard to recycling, whether it's used oil or tires or whatnot. And we're still working with the communities on that.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister is wrong. They're not working on regulations. Special-waste regulations currently exist. They are in place. The responsibility has been downloaded, in a large part, to the municipal governments. Because of these excessive costs, the City of Dawson stopped accepting any quantities of special waste larger than 20 litres. It's also my understanding that the City of Whitehorse has a similar policy. So the minister can well imagine what is happening to this contaminated waste, because this government has given the public no alternative. It's take them to the dump, but the dumps won't accept them. What do you do?
I'd like the minister to tell us how he plans to address this situation, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member opposite is bringing up an issue that we have been dealing with with municipalities. We have looked further than that in regard to used oil and so on. We've had furnaces that can use the used oil here in Whitehorse and some places in the communities, and have been trying to get them to take this used oil. It has been an issue, and we've gone beyond that in wanting to deal with air emission regulations, everything in regard to the environment, and also the solid waste regulations, which we've been working on with C&TS.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister is missing the point. It's his government that develops these regulations. Yes, they do it in concert with all of Yukoners, but after they're in place the responsibility is effectively downloaded to the municipal governments, and the cost associated is not known until after you deal with it. Now, the costs are going through the roof. Now, I'm looking for the minister to stand on the floor of the House and come and tell us that he's going to develop a more effective way of implementing these regulations, and he will establish these in such a manner that the total cost, or virtually all of the cost, is not going to be borne by the municipal governments. Will this minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I've said to the member opposite that we have been working with the communities. We've done consultation in regard to solid-waste regulations. We have talked with communities in regard to recycling, whether it's for cardboard or used tires, old tires. We're trying to work to find ways that municipalities can handle it in their budgets with the help of the Yukon government. So we're still working with the communities to make it happen.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 184
Clerk: Motion No. 184, standing in the name of Ms. Buckway.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the disrespectful manner that the current government has used to negotiate contracts with its professional workforce, and the two-percent rollback imposed by the previous government, have damaged the relationship between the Government of Yukon and public sector workers;
(2) the poor relationship between the Government of Yukon and its employees has resulted in economic uncertainty and low employee morale;
(3) collective bargaining should satisfy the mutual interests of both the employer and the employees, and recognize that Government of Yukon employees and educators are the government's most important resource; and
(4) interest-based bargaining has proven an effective method of reaching agreement at the negotiating table; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to investigate the implementation of an interest-based bargaining process with the Yukon Government Employees Union and the Yukon Teachers Association.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to speak today on the subject of interest-based bargaining, also called mutual-gains bargaining, and win-win bargaining. The idea, as you can tell from the titles, is that everybody wins, nobody loses. It's a different route for contract negotiations. The interest-based bargaining - IBB for short - is a collaborative process, a different way to negotiate. In the right situation, it is an alternative to traditional positional bargaining, with a process of joint problem solving.
We are bringing this motion to the House today because the relationship between the Government of Yukon and its public sector employees isn't working.
Both the current NDP government and the previous Yukon Party government have an abysmal relationship with labour. I'll just mention a couple of the incidents that have resulted in the noxious atmosphere which exists today: the Yukon Party's two-percent wage rollback; the New Democratic Party's failure to fully rescind the rollback after they had promised in the lead up to the last general election that they would; and the NDP's layoff of certified nursing assistants.
Now, back to the two-percent rollback - the NDP was in opposition at the time. The union wrote a letter to all three parties asking if they were prepared to fully rescind the wage restraint compensation act - the two-percent rollback. The NDP said yes, and the union, thinking they were dealing with a labour-friendly party, believed they'd go back to collective bargaining and revert to where they were financially before the rollback. Once elected, the NDP said that that wasn't what they meant, that they hadn't intended to fully rescind the wage restraint compensation act. They reneged.
As to the layoff of the certified nursing assistants, in opposition, the NDP vigorously lobbied the Yukon Party government to keep the CNAs working. When they became government, the NDP laid them off. Wage negotiations at the hospital resulted in the longest hospital strike to that point in Canadian history. In baseball terms, the NDP are zero-for-four in contract negotiations. They have not managed to negotiate a settlement to any contract in the last three years - strike one at the hospital. One round of bargaining with the teachers went to conciliation. One round went to arbitration.
With the Yukon Employees Union, the bargaining resulted in arbitration. The tone of the last round of bargaining between the NDP and the Yukon Employees Union brought Yukoners the closest they have ever been to a strike by Yukon government employees. The argument presented by the government - the employer - to the arbitrator implied that if the teachers were really serious about their demands, they should go ahead and strike. And I'll quote from that document: "The YTA enjoyed the legislative option to withdraw its services and strike their employer on the outstanding issues without recourse to binding opposition. The teaching profession in the Yukon is not deemed an essential service, and there would have been no legislative barriers preventing the union from bringing to bear its full economic power through a withdrawal of services. That it chose not to do so should not invoke arbitral standards that make allowances for a union's inability to do so."
The Yukon Teachers Association newsletter, which came out shortly after the arbitrator had decided in favour of the government, said: "We have an employer who was, if not encouraging us to strike, daring us to strike, was implying that we didn't have the nerve to go on strike. They in fact came close to scolding us at the arbitration hearing for not striking. When combined with rumours that the government expected to go to binding arbitration from the outset of negotiations, one has to question their commitment to negotiations. Does the government really want us to close down our schools?"
So we can see, Mr. Speaker, that the employer/employee relationship is not healthy. The poor relationship between the Government of Yukon and its employees has resulted in economic uncertainty and low employee morale. The stress of a possible strike is not good for employee morale. Labour unrest in general is not good for employee morale, and bad employee morale is not good for the economy.
In the summer of 1998, Yukon government employees did not know if they were going to go on strike or not, so they didn't spend money. They were not consumers of anything but the necessities. They put off the bigger ticket purchases. They postponed buying a new house. They postponed buying a new car. They postponed buying a new refrigerator, a new vacuum cleaner. Local businesses suffered because of the labour uncertainty.
Collective bargaining should satisfy the mutual interests of both the employer and employees, and recognize that Government of Yukon employees and educators are the government's most important resource. People are your most important resource. The member opposite is shaking his head. They are your most important resource. They're Y2K compatible. They're capable of doing superhuman things in the right circumstances.
Traditional negotiating is often about relative power and the willingness to use it against each other - sometimes at the expense of a better agreement or even the relationship in order to win. In adversarial bargaining, sometimes there is no winner. Sometimes everybody loses.
Interest-based bargaining has proven an effective method of reaching agreement at the negotiating table, and the Yukon Liberal caucus believes that the government should investigate the implementation of an interest-based bargaining process with the Yukon Employees Union and the Yukon Teachers Association. Now, obviously, trying interest-based bargaining requires the approval of both sides. It can't be forced on anyone, and with the level of distrust that exists right now, it would probably take some convincing on both sides that it's worth trying, but it's clear we need something different.
In the adversarial style, I'd suggest that maybe we need a new government to improve the relationship with the unions. In the mutual-gains style, I suggest instead that the government and its employees have to start somewhere, to develop an understanding of each other's concerns and needs, to develop some respect for each other's positions and to find a willingness to improve the unhealthy situation that currently exists.
The basic premise of IBB, interest-based bargaining, is that the fundamental interests of labour and management typically complement one another. Both sides are trained before negotiations start. Together, they learn creative, problem-solving techniques, learn and understand the rules of conduct, discover which issues are open to bargaining, and how to explore each other's interests. Identifying interests is key. It's at the centre of the process. Rather than starting from proposals and seeking justification for them, the process starts from the identification of interests and leads to the joint development of solutions. I'll go into this in more detail in a few minutes.
Here are some examples of those using interest-based bargaining. Tisdale school division in Saskatchewan entered into the IBB process in July of 1999. The Government of Saskatchewan has a whole labour relations and mediation division, which uses this proactive approach to prevent strikes, lockouts, grievances and other issues that disrupt work. The Government of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union first used this process in 1994.
They achieved an agreement in four months, a record time compared to the past.
The parties again used the process in 1997 to renegotiate a new three-year agreement. This agreement, covering 8,800 employees, is the largest Canadian application of the interest-based process. The Canadian air traffic controllers, CATCA, had the entire negotiating committee, both union and management, along with the board, take training. And they used the IBB process in the initial portion of their negotiations in 1998. The University of Alberta used this approach when attempting to negotiate a new contract after the previous round of negotiations resulted in pay cuts for employees. Carleton University and the Carleton University academic and staff association agreed to use this process in their 1998 negotiations. Pepsi-Cola of Canada successfully used this approach in their 1998 negotiations. This was after having recently gone through strike action, terminations, a plant occupation and labour board hearings. Alaska Airlines flight attendants ratified a new four-year contract using IBB just three weeks ago. San Francisco Ballet's current contract was reached using interest-based bargaining. Greyhound, in the United States, recently reached an interest-based agreement, and Northwestel and the CBC have both used the process and found it useful for non-monetary issues.
So, what is interest-based bargaining? A Chinese philosopher, Sun Tzu, said in 500 B.C., "The smartest strategy in war is one that allows you to achieve your objectives without having to fight." Interest-based bargaining, or mutual-gains bargaining, is being used more and more across Canada and the U.S., both in private and public organizations, such as provincial governments, and with educational institutions. Particularly in the public sector, there has been a recognition that traditional bargaining methods are resulting in contracts that are not acceptable to either side.
Greater financial constraints, technological changes, emerging issues and the need for greater flexibility in the public sector has resulted in the need for labour and management to explore a variety of options for their employees and for methods to improve union/management relations. Governments are facing growing pressure from the public to promote taxpayers' interests in negotiations, and unions have a duty to represent their members' interests. This can often lead to ideological fights in negotiations, rather than meeting both the public and the employees' needs in a responsible manner.
Interest-based bargaining is about moving from positions to interests. Traditional bargaining is about power. It is about power struggles, and it is adversarial. Traditional bargaining is where both parties come to the table with predetermined solutions to their problems. Both sides then tend to become stuck on these positions and focus on defending them. They normally start by submitting overblown proposals, hoping to negotiate down to their real, hidden position, appearing as if they have given up something. It is about winning and losing, and normally results in one party being unhappy with the final result, or both parties, being less than satisfied with the final result, or worse yet, it may result in a breakdown of negotiations, where job action or strike action is the potential outcome. Interest-based bargaining is a proactive approach to negotiating collective agreements, which, when done effectively, results in better union/management relations, a clearer collective agreement and, most importantly, an agreement that was reached by consensus. When agreements are reached by consensus, there is a greater likelihood of both parties genuinely accepting and supporting the decisions that have been reached, even though those decisions may not have been their first choice. Both sides can then take ownership of the contract and refer to it as "our contract" instead of "your contract".
I always found that interesting when I was a union member. Management would say, "Your contract says such and such." And I would always say, "Your side also signed it. It is your contract, too."
There are a variety of approaches to interest-based bargaining, but the concept primarily follows the following principles: most organizations and unions that have used this process say that formal training for both parties in the process is critical to its success. A facilitator is normally used in this process as well.
Both sides must agree to the need to focus on interests and solutions, rather than on their positions. The parties agree that the other side's interests are linked to their interests.
The first step is for both sides to put together a list of their interests, or problems, that need to be solved. These usually arise from real problems that either side has experienced. These issues or interests are discussed openly and honestly by both parties. The parties are educated by each other on their respective problems through open sharing of information.
The negotiating team - and this means members of both sides - analyzes these issues and comes up with as many potential solutions as possible. These are options to consider, not positions of the parties on the issues. This is done through brainstorming sessions and fact-finding. The feasibility of the options is not assessed at this time.
The group then agrees on a set of objective standards to use in evaluating the options. This is the stage where the team decides what data they need to analyze the options. The group then brainstorms again to refine the option.
Finally, through open discussion, the team applies the standards to identify which of the options and solutions they can reach consensus on. They also identify which options are clearly unrealistic, and those are eliminated. In general, standards are used to eliminate solutions, and interests are used to evaluate solutions.
There may be situations where any number of options are feasible. These solutions can be evaluated in a number of ways; for example, determining which option is preferred for the group overall, or ranking the solutions according to which satisfies the most interests of both parties. As options are agreed to, union and management team members jointly draft contract language.
So the breakdown of steps: state the issue. Typically, this is put as a question: how can we, or, what can we do to solve, whatever the difficulty is?
Clarify the problem - talk about why this is a problem, present the effects of the problem, the possible causes, and the benefits of its resolution.
Identify the interests of the parties - these are the needs that should be considered in achieving a resolution.
Identify standards - this is threshold criteria that must be satisfied, as in, "A resolution must contain the following."
Then you reframe the issue - to clarify the problem, the interests and the standards, it may be necessary to restate the issue; for example, given what we know now, how can we solve the problem?
Option generation - using a brainstorming process, develop possible solutions.
Analysis of options - evaluate, eliminate, combine and refine options, in order to achieve a solution that is preferred by consensus.
Develop an action plan - who, what, when, where, why and how?
In order to make it work, the parties must agree to adopt a problem-solving approach. This requires openness, trust, candour, information sharing and a willingness to seek resolutions that address the needs of the parties. The parties must have formal training in the process and agree to a defined method that they believe will work for them. The parties must consider the participation of a facilitator who is trained in the process.
The parties must do what they say. They need to follow through on their promises and be open and honest with each other. They need to agree to isolate the problem from the people. If this concept is carried out both during and after negotiations, such as during post-bargaining union/management discussions, there can be both short- and long-term benefits: benefits to the union; increased access to information; increased input, which helps management avoid errors or decisions that may negatively impact union members; work satisfaction may increase; the union may be able to address a broader range of personal concerns; members' concerns may be resolved more quickly and fully. Are these not goals the unions would like to see?
Benefits to public sector management, improved management effectiveness, increased organizational flexibility, improved working environment and enhanced productivity - are these not goals the government would like to see? Perhaps we should look at interest-based bargaining to help us work through our daily debate. We do have common interests, like working for the benefit of all Yukoners; sometimes it seems as though members have forgotten that.
In the Yukon Legislature, we wage war on poverty, violence, racism, addictions; we should not be waging war on each other; there is more important work to do. One of the classic textbooks about interest-based bargaining is, Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and William Ury. It was published in 1981; this concept isn't new. Let me just explain quickly the differences between positional bargaining, and its two types, soft and hard, and interest-based bargaining.
Problem: positional bargaining - which game should you play? Solution: change the game; negotiate on the merits. In positional bargaining of the soft variety, participants are friends; the goal is agreement. In hard, positional bargaining, participants are adversaries; the goal is victory. In interest-based bargaining, or principled bargaining, the participants are problem solvers; the goal is a wise outcome, reached efficiently and amicably.
In positional bargaining, of the soft variety, you make concessions to cultivate the relationship, be soft on the people and the problem, trust others. In hard, positional bargaining, demand concessions as a condition of the relationship. Be hard on the problem and the people. Distrust others.
In interest-based bargaining, separate the people from the problem, be soft on the people, hard on the problem, and proceed independent of trust. In positional bargaining, the soft variety has you change your position easily, make offers, disclose your bottom line, accept one-sided losses to reach agreement. Search for the single answer - the one they will accept - and insist on agreement. In hard, positional bargaining, you demand concessions, dig into your position, make threats, mislead as to your bottom line, demand one-sided gains as the price of agreement, search for the single answer - the one you will accept - and insist on your position.
In interest-based bargaining, you focus on interests, not positions. You explore your interests. You avoid having a bottom line. You invent options for mutual gain. You develop multiple options to choose from and make a decision later. You insist on using objective criteria. In positional bargaining, the soft kind, you try to avoid a contest of will, you yield to pressure. In the hard kind, you try to win a contest of will, you apply pressure. In interest-based bargaining, you try to reach a result based on standards independent of will, reason and be open to reason, yield to principle not to pressure.
The principled or interest-based method of negotiation typically focuses on basic interests, mutually satisfying options and fair standards, and typically results in a wise agreement. Separating the people from the problem allows you to deal with the other side as human beings, not as adversaries. In the collective bargaining context, it assumes that negotiation, like other aspects of the collective-bargaining process, can enhance the labour-management relationship, that decisions based on objective criteria take away the need to rely only on power.
Interest-based bargaining captures some of the highest principles originating, but not always practised, in traditional bargaining, and makes those principles consistent parts of the process. Sharing relevant information is critical for effective solutions - focus on issues, not personalities; focus on the present and the future, not the past; focus on the interests underlying the issues, not only on positions; focus on mutual interests and helping to satisfy the other parties' interests as well as your own.
Brainstorming can generate options to satisfy mutual and separate interests. Options to satisfy those interests should be evaluated by objective criteria, rather than power or leverage.
During the training I spoke about, the facilitators familiarize the parties with the IBB problem-solving process. They lay out a logical sequence of steps to help the parties keep track and reduce the chance of reverting to traditional bargaining: select and focus the issue or issues; identify interests behind the positions; generate options to satisfy those interests; establish objective criteria to evaluate options; apply the criteria to the options; and reach consensus on overall solutions.
The facilitators also orient participants in the tools of interest-based bargaining: techniques and approaches that allow the process to move logically toward solutions; brainstorming to help remove some of the risk and hesitance that can inhibit creative thinking -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Member for Faro on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, section 19.1(d) states that a member may be called to order during debate when, in the opinion of the Speaker, that member refers at length to debates of the current session, or reads unnecessarily from Hansard or from any other document.
Mr. Speaker, the member has been reading from Getting to Yes and other documents. If I want to read those books, she should perhaps refer me and other members to a library. This is a Legislature. It's a place where the member should be putting forward her original thoughts on this idea, not reading those from others.
If she wants to make the point that there are some good aspects of negotiating skills in Getting to Yes, than she should simply say that, rather than reading excerpts unnecessarily from already predetermined thoughts by others.
I would just humbly request that you would respect the Standing Orders of the House in that respect.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale South, on the point of order.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, also referring to the Standing Orders, this member has unlimited time to refer to her motion. She has done research. She is referring to research that's completely within the normal practices of Wednesdays here in the Legislature.
Some Hon. Member: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order.
Speaker: The Member for Lake Laberge, on the point of order.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I have quoted thus far one page from Getting to Yes and two short articles. The rest are my notes. I have participated in interest-based bargaining myself. I thoroughly understand the process, and that's what I'm presenting here.
Speaker: Order please. Order. Since the member is not quoting directly from Hansard or other documents, there is not a point of order, and the member may continue.
Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order. The member may continue.
Ms. Buckway: Brainstorming, which helps reduce some of the risk and hesitance that can inhibit creative thinking because ideas are not owned by anyone; flip-charting to record and display ideas, which helps provide common focus and reduce misunderstandings; consensus decision making, to allow agreements that all negotiators can support when selecting options and arriving at solutions to satisfy interests; closure tools to help the group narrow the number of options so a solution can be selected.
Remember that interest-based bargaining is not the next step in the evolution of collective bargaining. It will not, and should not, replace traditional, distributive bargaining in every negotiation. But under the proper conditions and with the proper relationship between the parties, IBB offers a useful alternative. The benefits of the interest-based bargaining approach can extend far beyond a particular negotiation and help pave the way to a more constructive relationship, which should be of prime interest to everyone - getting along in the interest of a better Yukon. If leaders could lead from interests, rather than from conclusions, we'd have a very different government and a very different Yukon.
"Buy in" is the thing that's missing for most people in most organizations: not just a sense of ownership, and not simply economic ownership, but real ownership - an environment in which employees have every opportunity to get their own interests met while working to meet the interests of the organization. The result is employees who use their energies to accept change instead of allowing change to detract from their energies and their productivity; employees who take personal responsibility for their attitude about change, and effective ways to deal with the resistance, uncertainty and fear that always accompany change.
Changes that dramatically impacted upon industrial relations have taken place in recent years: the emergence and impact of the global economy and an increase in the use of technology in the workplace. Those changes require a greater recognition of human resources and a negotiating style that is reflective of this change in attitude. Workplaces that encourage employee relations issues be dealt with positively and work hard at improving employer/employee/union relationships create a culture where innovation and creativity are more likely to thrive. In a competitive world, where government is forced to function more like a business, this becomes a competitive advantage, Mr. Speaker.
From Getting to Yes again, here's an example where you can see the mutual interests on both sides.
We're dealing with a tenant and a landlady. The tenant perceives that the rent is already too high. The landlady sees that the rent hasn't been increased for a long time. The tenant says, "With other costs going up, I can't afford to pay more for housing." The landlady says, "With other costs going up, I need more rental income." The tenant says, "I know people who pay less for the same apartment." The landlady says, "I know people who pay more for the same apartment." The tenant feels that young people like him can't afford to pay high rents, and the landlady says, "Young people like him tend to make noise and to be hard on an apartment." He feels that he's a desirable tenant with no dogs or cats. She feels that his hi-fi drives her crazy. He says, "I always pay the rent whenever she asks for it." She says, "He never pays the rent until I ask for it." He says, "She's cold and distant, and she never asks me how things are," and she says, "I'm a considerate person who never intrudes on a tenant's privacy."
So you can see that both the tenant and the landlady want stability. The landlady wants a stable tenant; the tenant wants a permanent address. Both of them want to see a well-maintained apartment. The tenant is going to live there; the landlady wants its value and its reputation to increase. Both want a good relationship with each other. She wants a tenant who pays the rent regularly; he wants a landlady who is responsive to his concerns and makes any required repairs quickly. So you can see they do have mutual interests.
Now, how has the interest-based approach worked in a practical sense? I'm aware of one case in New Zealand, where the union presented a claim for standardized sick-leave entitlement instead of the existing entitlement, which increased according to length of service. The employer responded by saying that the cost of sick leave was already too high, and they couldn't agree with the union's claim. An interest-based approach with a third-party facilitator assisting produced a creative solution that met everyone's needs.
The parties agreed there would unlimited sick leave, provided that the use of sick leave across the workforce was reduced. Targets, a decreasing sliding scale with milestones and transition arrangements, were agreed to. In addition, it was agreed the cost savings from the reduction in the use of sick leave could be used to fund other parts of the union's claim; both sides felt they won. It was a win-win outcome. Our Minister of Health and Social Services might call interest-based bargaining "preventative medicine" - it helps to circumvent many of the ills associated with traditional labour/management interaction and allows for healthier, more productive cooperation.
I'm sure my colleagues opposite will now thank me for the lecture on interest-based bargaining and explain at length that the bad relationship between the Yukon government and its unions is not their fault. That is not the issue here. We spend far too much time arguing for our own political purposes and not enough time working for our constituents. The idea is to become less adversarial and more cooperative, to find a way where our government and our unions can reach agreement on a contract to the benefit of both sides, and also to the benefit of Yukon taxpayers - they help to pay for the contract; they should feel they're getting a fair deal, too.
I hope that all members will support this motion. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Last week, or the week before last, we put a motion forward to discuss visions of the future of the Yukon economy and directions, and the opposition parties - Liberals and Yukon Party - walked out in a harrumph, complaining to the media how incensed they were, and indignant that we should actually spend time in this House talking about the economy. The irony of ironies is this motion today because, had the member opposite done a little homework, other that reading Getting to Yes, she could have met with the PSC and talked about what's actually happening. As we discuss pre-bargaining, right now, as we speak - in real life - with our employees, there has been communication about interest-based bargaining.
There have been meetings to talk about interest-based bargaining, and it's underway. So why would I support a motion that talks about doing it and starting it when it's already being done? So I think we'll be proposing an amendment to this motion later, Mr. Speaker. There are pre-bargaining meetings underway right now. We had discussions with YEU on this very issue. Here's the latest newsletter tacked on the bulletin board: "The pre-bargaining session of October 26 was productive and saw the development of a positive working environment." Now, that was put up on the bulletin boards by the Yukon Employees Union, and that's as a result of discussions we've had about interests. And, Mr. Speaker, on November 1, we sent a letter to the YTA inviting them to participate in discussions about pre-bargaining and how we might want to approach the next round of bargaining.
Why didn't the member opposite, rather than taking the last 45 minutes in this House reading from a textbook, take the time to talk to the Public Service Commission or to me, as minister, about the approach to the next round of bargaining? Well, Mr. Speaker, I suspect it's because, even though she talks about how politicians spend a lot of time talking and wanting to get in the media, she's guilty of that very same disease or sickness that she was just bemoaning. The member should do her homework. The Public Service Commission has said that they want to engage in meetings about these issues. Our government has expressed interest in interest-based bargaining, but it's not the panacea. I mean, it's one thing, Mr. Speaker, to read about it from a textbook and pretend that you are all-knowing on the subject; it's another thing to do it in real life when there are real issues and when you have to go out there and really balance needs, when the legitimate interests of the employees are being put forward - and 99.9 percent of the time, they're legitimate - but you just can't do it all.
Because you've got to fund education, you've got to fund health care, and you've got to put funding into the communities for economic development, and you've got to invest in roads, Mr. Speaker, all of these things are balanced through the process, and I want to spend a bit of time here.
The member mentioned the Saskatchewan example, and we've actually brought people up to talk to our employer and others about the Saskatchewan example on interest-based bargaining, and it's had some mixed results, but my point is we're prepared to consider it. But does anybody remember the Saskatchewan nurses' strike of a few months ago? Did that sound like a panacea?
I want to spend a bit of time rebutting. So many things the member opposite said were not the case or were not true when she first came into this debate today. I have to spend a bit of time talking about that.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, let's talk about the Liberal record. What do we know about the Liberals in this territory and their record on public service issues? First of all, Mr. Speaker, let's talk a little bit about their federal cousins because, thankfully, they've never been in government here. Remember that promise about the GST by the Liberal government? Remember the six years of wage freezes that the public employees of the Liberal government have had to endure? Remember the tens of thousands of layoffs that the federal employees, under a Liberal government, have had to endure? Remember the promise to kill free trade and NAFTA? Remember the national child care promise in the red book?
And locally, what about the Liberals here? Well, Mr. Speaker, when the Yukon Party brought in a budget that rolled back wages, what did the Liberals do? Well, the Liberals at that time in the House voted for the budget. I've got an article here from the Whitehorse Star, April 26, 1995, when we were saying our reasons for voting against the Yukon Party budget. The critic at that time, Lois Moorcroft, said the budget was based on ill-gotten gains and on the refusal to negotiate with teachers and public servants. The Liberal member said, when voting for the rollback budget, "'I didn't see any significant reason for not voting for it,' Cable said in an interview Tuesday."
Now, when we have put forward budgets with the increased costs in O&M for negotiating new collective agreements, what do the Liberals do now? Well, they vote against our budgets. So, Mr. Speaker, the Liberal record on labour and free collective bargaining is not a good one in this territory, even though they haven't been in government.
Mr. Speaker, I remember the former Liberal leader saying that one of the first things he would do would be to conduct a Spanish Inquisition into land claim negotiators if he were elected to government. Remember that headline from the Yukon News, if we just look through and venture back into time, "Taylor statement alarming", where he announced his eight ways the party will work with First Nations. So, he's going to conduct these little inquisitions on public employees.
Of course, we have -
Ms. Buckway: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, in the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, chapter 3, section 19(1)(b) - I believe the member is speaking to matters other than the question under discussion.
Speaker: The hon. Member for Faro, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, there's no point of order. I'm speaking to relevant issues that have been raised in this House pertaining to collective bargaining and the records of the respective parties. This is a parliamentary debate, not a library. The member should get used to it.
Speaker: There is no point of order. The member may continue, please.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I hope the member will refrain from any more rude interruptions.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I can remember just the other day in the Legislature when the Liberal Member for Riverdale South got up and accused this government, at a political level, of firing people and saying that something should be done about it by the political level of government. Well, that is an attitude I've seen. I came from a province where the Liberals there have a long history of several hundred years of political interference in the public service in determining who gets hired, who gets fired and who gets promoted.
Thankfully, Mr. Speaker, in this territory, there's a public service act in law that says the politicians don't hire, the politicians don't fire, and they stay out of those issues. There is redress through the courts, through grievance procedures, and a collective agreement to raise concerns about wrongdoing.
Mr. Speaker, those public employees listening to that question must have thought, "Heaven forbid if there were ever a Liberal government in this territory." If you're liked by them on the floor of this Legislature, they'll defend you, but if you make a mistake, and it somehow becomes a public issue, a witch hunt is going to start by that Liberal government, and they're going to take you down, because they don't believe that the politicians should respect the processes in the Public Service Act, and that I, as a minister, or the Minister of Health, should conduct all of the personnel matters in the department.
Mr. Speaker, that is a very scary concept that the Liberals have proposed in this territory, and it's one that we will not respect. We won't respect it through the collective bargaining process, nor through any revamp of the Public Service Act, to allow for political meddling in the public service.
Mr. Speaker, employees who work for us now should feel confident that the government of the territory, the NDP government, will respect the fact that processes are put in place in law, processes are put in place in collective agreements and in the courts for redress, and we will honour and respect them, as difficult as they sometimes are, because they're a much better principle than having political interference and witch hunts on the floor of this Legislature. That's banana republic stuff, Mr. Speaker, and we're not prepared to accept or endorse that concept.
Just in terms of the Liberal record on labour again, just recently, the new Liberal leader said that the Yukon Federation of Labour, one of the largest labour organizations in this territory, which was being given a contribution to work on the formation of public policy - much as the chambers of commerce and the Tourism Industry Association and any other number of NGOs around this territory - was getting a patronage payback.
That was on November 27 of 1997.
Mr. Speaker, we don't for one minute subscribe to the principles that the Liberal Party has put forward in terms of labour management. Mr. Speaker, we're extremely proud of our record and, Mr. Speaker, it is not the case - what the member said - about our commitment in the election. We were crystal clear about our commitment, and we honoured our commitment, and we're extremely proud that we repealed Bill No. 21.
And if the member's correct that public servants were so upset about this action by this government, why do I have a thank you card here that says, "Trevor et al, thank you for Bill No. 21," from Kerry Huff, president of the Yukon Teachers Association. Big thank you, Mr. Speaker.
That was the bill, if you'll remember correctly, that we brought forward to reinstate collective bargaining in this territory after it was killed by the Yukon Party.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have voted against any action we've taken, any budget we've taken, that has reflected the extra cost of collective bargaining.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to say that in the election campaign we said very clearly - and I will take some time to go through it - exactly what our position in a letter to the YTA from the Government Leader. There was a question from the YTA that said, if your party forms the next government, what would your government be prepared to do about reinstating the democratic right to collective bargaining? And we said that we believe a free collective bargaining process is a fundamental democratic right and we were prepared to legislate an end to the imposed settlement replaced by a negotiated settlement at the beginning of the next school year, or calendar year, whatever comes first.
Then the YTA asked us what we would do about the two-percent wage rollback. We said that our caucus opposed the wage restraint legislation and would repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act 1994. We were appalled that the government announced an approximately $20-million surplus on the day that they brought it forward.
One of the commitments that we did make that was a little more specific was about the reinstatement of those teachers who were frozen on the grid for one year. And on that score we said that, as a government, we would give a mandate to the Public Service Commission to negotiate a collective agreement. Specifics of the contract would be negotiated by all parties involved and would advocate that teachers who lost one year on the pay grid had that time reinstated. Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to say that on that score, on the first round of bargaining after we took over government, that issue was addressed and, I think, for the most part, resolved, and we're very proud of that as well.
On other promises about how we would approach this situation, we said, obviously, that we would engage in collective bargaining with the YTA.
It even goes further. I remember the big debate at F.H. Collins, where there was a teacher putting forward questions about teachers' salaries. And they said, "Are you going to reinstate the loss of teachers' salaries." This was, excuse me, by a youth in the community. And the reference at that time was to the wage rollbacks and suspension of collective bargaining being imposed by the Yukon Party. At that time, Ken Taylor, the Liberal leader, said, "You wanted a yes or no, didn't you?" And he said, "Both."
Mr. Speaker, "The Yukon Party has already committed to restoring collective bargaining," said Ostashek. "Yes or no?" someone called out, the article says. This is from the Whitehorse Star on September 27. There was a question asked: "If you're asking if the two percent is going to be reinstated, no," said McDonald. That's Piers McDonald. We believe in collective bargaining. "Yes or no?" asked the moderator. Piers McDonald said, "I guess it'll have to be no."
So, Mr. Speaker, in our election platform, A Better Way, we said that free collective bargaining is a fundamental right in a democratic society. We opposed the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act 1994, which arbitrarily withdrew collective bargaining rights for public servants and teachers. And we said that an NDP government led by Piers McDonald will: (a) begin negotiations with the public service unions on new collective agreements that reflect current labour conditions.
It also said: (b) that we would repeal territorial Bill No. 94, which ended free negotiations, at the earliest opportunity. That's it, period, full stop. Mr. Speaker, if that isn't clear and concise, I don't know what is. And the thank-you card that we've gotten from the YTA says that they also recognized that we were making good on our commitment to repeal the rollback legislation.
There was further news media at that time - Friday, December 6, 1996 - talking about the rollback. At that time, YTA president, Kerry Huff, said he was expecting the legislation to be tabled but he said he was looking forward to renegotiating the two-percent rollback imposed by the Ostashek government. He said, however, the legislation could have offered more. Well, of course, Mr. Speaker. He said, "We would have probably liked to have seen the effects of the legislation withdrawn as well, primarily a two-percent rollback, but since that didn't happen we're pleased that we'll at least have the opportunity to negotiate it at the table." That's exactly what we had promised. That's exactly what we delivered.
Now, of course, Mr. Speaker, in all the rhetoric and the politics that can occur in this Legislature and through collective bargaining, somehow pop culture takes hold and opposition parties grab onto themes and they promote them, and that's fair ball. But the reality is that we, as a government, have an extremely clear conscience about what we said and what we did and we're very proud of it, and the record that we have, I think, is extremely good.
When you compare what's happening in the Northwest Territories, where over 500 public servants were laid off, where they're looking at another round of substantive layoffs, when you look at the situation they've had with health care as opposed to us, we have done an excellent job of managing the public finances, dealing with the legitimate needs of our employees and trying to balance them all out. It's not an easy task.
You can't read it in a text book and just apply it to a real-world situation because, Mr. Speaker, things happen out there. People take positions. There are difficulties with finances. People become firm in their positions. There are issues raised, there are issues debated in this Legislature, there are issues debated in the media, there are interests out there.
That's the real world, and it's a difficult and very time-consuming process to work through them all, but what's the bottom line here? Somehow we've been led to believe by the Liberals that arbitration and conciliation are not a part of the collective bargaining process. Well, I'm here to tell them that it is. It's an absolutely fundamental part of the bargaining process, and bringing in third parties to help resolve difficult issues has been - and, I would argue, in virtually almost all of the collective agreements that I've been associated with, both from knowing or being involved personally - used at some point. There is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you have two parties locked on difficult issues that involve money or hours of work or provisions about terms and conditions of employment; these are not easy issues, and sometimes you needsomebody to come in and give both sides a good kick and say, "Settle these disagreements." That's part of the process.
When we took over the government, the hospital was in a shambles. One of the first things we were faced with was a hospital that could hardly make payroll and a collective bargaining process underway through the Hospital Corporation. Mr. Speaker, we had to inject new money into the hospital; we had to deal with the labour unrest that had been growing in the hospital and, eventually, after a short strike, it was resolved. This was not something that was easy; it was not something that we created but it was something that we dealt with. I think, since then, the atmosphere over there has improved dramatically.
Mr. Speaker, all over this country, governments have seen tremendous labour unrest. Look in Quebec, in Saskatchewan, in Manitoba, in the Atlantic provinces, the federal government - tens of thousands of layoffs. In the territory, what have we seen? We have seen elective agreements successfully negotiated. We have seen increase in wages. We have seen no layoffs in the public service, except for when there is a reduction in the work requirement. But, Mr. Speaker, you haven't seen 500 layoffs like you did in the Northwest Territories, and I think there are probably going to be more.
We have to avoid it through careful management and tough negotiations - those drastic actions. And it has not come easy. Anybody who thinks it's easy is dreaming - absolutely dreaming in technicolour. It's an accomplishment all by itself - the fact that we haven't had to cut dramatically into this public service and lay a bunch of people off with all the demands that are placed on the government. It is an accomplishment that we've reinstated collective bargaining, and we've actually negotiated wage increases. Many people don't realize that a lot of employees get merit pay or long-service pay of four-percent increase per year, as well, as long as they're within the pay grade. Then there are the wages on top of that. So, many government employees have done fairly well, Mr. Speaker, under our government, in terms of respecting their needs to make a decent living and put food on the table and all of the legitimate interests that they have.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say that when you look at the YTA settlements - we've negotiated two collective agreements. One was done through arbitration, and one was done through conciliation and vote by the members. In both cases, we had wage increases: two percent over two years for the first one; and three percent over two years for the second one, which included a restored increment. That was a big issue with the teachers. We recognized that. We tried to deal with it.
Mr. Speaker, there's nothing wrong with that. That's an acceptable settlement we negotiated. It was tough. And remember all the arguments about the two percent? They were all raised by the labour parties before the conciliation board, before the arbitration board, and the Member for Laberge said it: the arbitrator ruled in favour of the government. Why? Because they looked through what we said versus what we did, and they said they matched up. That's what we said we were going to do.
So, we can't stop people wanting to ratchet up the debate and put pressure on the government at the bargaining table. That's normal, and that's going to happen. What I find disturbing, though, is the propagation of what the Liberals opposite obviously know is not the case. They're obviously doing it for political purposes. The former Liberal leader sat right beside our leader at the debates. He knows what our leader said.
There were phone-in shows where we had representatives of the public service unions call in and ask a direct question, receiving direct answers: no. The wording of our election platform is very clear. We repealed the bill.
Mr. Speaker, when we repealed the bill we were congratulated for it - thanked - by YTA. It was only once we got into the discussions and everybody wanted to ratchet it up - because it's a difficult process and they wanted to put pressure on the government - that this side issue came up. We dealt with it at binding arbitration, dealt with it at conciliation. In both cases they ruled that the Government of Yukon - the NDP government - did what they said they were going to do.
And Mr. Speaker, already more has been given back to the process than was taken away by the Yukon Party. Mr. Speaker, that is an accomplishment, and we've done that without laying people off.
Mr. Speaker, just last year we reached a three-year contract with the Yukon Employees Union and Public Service Alliance of Canada - three percent over three years.
And Mr. Speaker, there was a lot of media about that, and a lot of pressure tactics, and normal things that happen through negotiations, because it's tough stuff. People can generalize about labour-friendly governments as if somehow that means you're never going to have disagreements, as if somehow that means there's never going to be an angry word spoken in the media to try to ratchet up pressure. But that's fantasyland.
What's labour-friendly is the fact that we didn't kill collective bargaining like the Yukon Party; the fact we brought it back in; the fact we didn't lay off hundreds of public servants like in the Northwest Territories, like the Liberal government in Ottawa. What's labour-friendly is the work we've done on workers' compensation - the creation of the workers' advocate position; by making changes to benefit workers and labour in the Workers' Compensation Act; the employment standards work that we've done; these are all important aspects of labour-friendly government.
It cannot always be defined by angry words across the table through collective bargaining, which often occur because tensions are ratcheted up. Tensions are high. The unions are political organizations; they have to go back to their constituents as well, and they have to sell, or convince, their members to accept an agreement that they put forward.
So, all kinds of things get ratcheted up. Interest-based bargaining is one area that we've attempted to look at how we can maybe ratchet down some of those tensions, and we've been doing that, and we've been engaging in pre-bargaining meetings, and I think we're on our way to constructive debate and, I think, another successful collective agreement. We may need to use a third party - I hope not, I certainly hope not - but I'm almost sure that at times there are going to be tensions and there will be some words spoken by somebody out there who sees things a different way. We have to respect that reality, and we have to accept that people have the right in this country, thankfully, to do that.
When the public employees voted overwhelmingly to accept the last agreement - the Yukon Employees Union voted to accept the last agreement - I thought that was a pretty good endorsement that, even though there were tough issues, even though everybody didn't get everything they wanted, when they looked at the conciliation board report, they read the issues that were put forward - including the whole debate, the myth propagated by the members opposite about the two percent - they ruled that our offer was fair. They did that as well at the binding arbitration table.
So, we feel very proud about what we've done, feel very good about it, and we recognize that others will at times try and take different positions in this Legislature, and bargaining committees will get very frustrated because they have a lot of pressures put on them by their members, but we have to respect that that's part of the process.
The members opposite have made some bold, sweeping statements about morale in the public service and, just so they know, I want to say that first of all I disagree with their general assertion. Our government has done a lot of work in a number of areas to try and ensure that the public service is invigorated and feels good about what they do, and that's not going - everybody's not going to love their job and everybody isn't going to skip to work every day, but we're trying to give them the tools to at least give them a fighting chance to have that good feeling about what they're doing on behalf of the public of the Yukon.
I'm going to read off a couple of initiatives that we've engaged in. We have, for the first time, developed and implemented land claims training for public service employees, and that's to work with Yukoners, to give them some knowledge of the land claims process, and the changing times that this territory is facing, and the implementation of that process, and what that's going to mean for this territory over the long haul. We've established a protocol with First Nation governments to lead to interchanges between the two governments.
Mr. Speaker, we are continuing to offer training programs to strengthen the expertise in the public service. We've already delivered, in this fiscal year, 105 classes, which 977 Yukon government employees have attended, to try and move toward furthering that aim. We've established an agreement with the federal government to allow the Yukon to participate in the developmental interchange program to provide a diversity of experience for public servants and share expertise between governments - again, designed to try and motivate, give people new knowledge, new tools. We've offered an executive leadership program to prepare current and senior managers by developing leadership practices and exploring team management and leadership issues facing the Yukon's public service. We participated in federal career assignment programs to develop persons with senior management and executive potential through exposure to other programs, personnel and systems. We provided mentoring services to support development of senior and executive management personnel.
We've hired a harassment prevention coordinator. That was brand-new O&M, opposed and voted against by the members opposite. The Liberals voted against it. Yukon Party voted against it - and reached an agreement during the last Public Service Alliance of Canada round of bargaining to fast-track all harassment grievances. Now, Mr. Speaker, that may sound insignificant, but let me tell you that that was something that cost real money to do, but because we had the commitment to do it and it was raised as an important issue by the union, we brought it forward and we've done that.
We think that's a good move, and we think it will be good for morale in the public service when people feel that they've been done wrong by, and we'll give them a good avenue for redress.
On the issue of classifications, we have reduced the backlog by 24 percent. That's just over the last seven months. And we've been reviewing our existing system for classifications with the Public Service Alliance of Canada to ensure its relevance to the changing work environment. So, we're changing the classification procedures, and we're going to have extensive discussions to try and further invigorate, work with and motivate the employees, who are our greatest resource. Mr. Speaker, I couldn't agree more on that point. It's probably the only one that I do agree on with the Member for Laberge, except for some of the readings she read us from Getting to Yes. I do agree with that particular point she made.
Another thing that we did, Mr. Speaker is, in 1997, we patriated the federal benefits plan from the federal government to allow public servants here to manage and control their benefits packages.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP government didn't wait, like the Liberal government did, on pay equity - until 1999. I want to say something about that and talk about the records of Liberal versus New Democratic Party governments.
The NDP government in this territory, astonishingly enough, was so far ahead of the game, and ahead of progress, and ahead of pay equity, that we did that in 1986 - a full 13 years ahead of the Liberal government in Ottawa, which put mostly women in the workforce through the worst kind of court process and political process that many of them have ever experienced. We felt that was draconian, and we did something in 1986, as an NDP government, that was years ahead of our Liberal friends, who claimed to be somehow sympathetic at times to concerns that might be raised by labour.
Mr. Speaker, we have done so much, as a government, to try and ensure that collective bargaining moves ahead properly and the pre-bargaining work that we have underway now, the work that we did in getting rid of the wage restraint legislation - the Liberals said that the two-percent rollback by the Yukon Party was water under the bridge. We also felt that, while we didn't think it was water under the bridge, it was something that we had to deal with at the collective bargaining table and we understand why union members are still upset by the actions of the Yukon Party, and we had to do quite a bit of work. We think it really changed the bargaining environment when the Yukon Party took that action.
Mr. Speaker, we'd seen tough action on budgets by governments across this country when they felt that difficult circumstances had overtaken them and they were looking at tremendously serious financial issues, deficits. We'd seen all that underway in different parts of the country, but here it was unprecedented, where you had a Tory government - Yukon Party/Reform. They came in and, with a $20-million surplus, brought in wage restraint legislation and rolled back teachers' wages. But to us it was never about the two percent. It was about the right to free collective bargaining and how a government would take away that right when they had a surplus.
Mr. Speaker, now of course they'll stand up and say the NDP left them a deficit, which we know was nicely manipulated by them as they wrote everything off but the kitchen sink. Now you see this government has a $40-some-million current year deficit and they are asking us to spend more. They're saying that's not a big enough current-year deficit; you've got to spend more. They're trying to have it both ways in the public debate.
Mr. Speaker, I don't know how high they want us to push it. They keep saying we've got an $80-million surplus - $80 million laying in a closet somewhere. We've just tabled a supplementary that shows we have a $40-million current-year deficit and that we have proposed stable spending plans when you factor in lapses, but it is far from unlimited.
And for them to try to somehow claim justification when, on the same day they table the bill, they announced a $20-million surplus, I think it is weak, weak, weak at best.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say that in terms of the issues that pertain to the CNAs that were raised over at the hospital, when we came into government we decided very early on that it was important - and even going into government - that we respected the autonomy of the Hospital Corporation. And we did that by - when they were dealing with issues related to collective bargaining, and when they were dealing with issues relating to the staff in the hospital and the operation of it - increasing the monetary funds at the hospital by, I think, over $1 million.
Now, the board made some tough decisions about how they were going to proceed. We didn't necessarily like them all, but we tried to respect their autonomy on that score. We gave them the tools to deal with it. We gave them the tools, Mr. Speaker, in another way as well, because when we settled with our public employees, we transferred whatever we negotiated with our employees in an increased grant to the Hospital Corporation for their negotiating purposes.
We also did that with Yukon College, and Mr. Speaker, I think that speaks volumes - that we're prepared to help the Hospital Corporation and the college out, and not ask them to do something that we wouldn't do. So we've transferred that money to them, so that they have the responsibility through the college, through their boards, of dealing with personnel issues, but we're not handicapping them by not giving them extra funding to deal with it.
Mr. Speaker, I think that it's abundantly clear from the motion today that the member opposite did not do her homework. She has read from Getting to Yes, and she's read a litany of other case law and brought up references from around the country of experiences that she's read about.
I just want to say to her that her motion speaks of a subject that we're already engaged in. We are already, and have already, brokered this subject, discussed it, talked about it, acted on it - interest-based bargaining. We talked about pre-bargaining meetings, trying to deal with issues that shouldn't be at the main bargaining table - all of these different approaches. We think we've got an appropriate approach now that will yield a collective agreement, with any luck. We think we are developing a responsible mandate that balances the legitimate interests of the taxpayer with the legitimate interests of our employees, who are very important to this government. And we think that, even though there will be tensions, we will resolve the issues, and that is responsible government.
We don't think that this motion, which speaks of something that's already underway, indicates a good level of knowledge - or desire, for that matter - to even learn about what's really going on at the bargaining table.
We heard a lot of venom in the initial throes of her speech, directed at this government. Most of the things she said were completely inaccurate, but we know that the Liberals are known for saying whatever people want to hear, depending on whomever their audience is, and we know that they're reluctant to put their positions very clearly on the table.
We know, Mr. Speaker, that, for example, when it comes to issues like budgeting and collective bargaining, they've told us they wouldn't even say to the Yukon public what they would do until after the next election, or when the next election platform comes out.
Mr. Speaker, that is completely inexcusable. That's a shell game. That's a dupe and, Mr. Speaker, we know that the Yukon public won't accept that, and we're going to continue to talk about the reluctance of the Liberal Party to take any positions. They're full of criticism, Mr. Speaker, but when you look at their record, when you look at the lack of substance on the economy, or anything else that they proposed, they're simply hollow, empty vessels of criticism.
Look at the Liberal record. No government ever in this territory - they've never been in it, thankfully - but when they experience for the first time a government that, in my experience in this territory, which is only 15 years, brought in wage-restraint legislation and rolled workers' wages back, the Liberals voted for the bill. They voted for the budget that rolled those wages back. When you see that our government restored collective bargaining, brought in budgets that reflected very large increases - we're talking millions of dollars here. A one-percent increase in the payroll of the territory, in the wages in this territory, is a one and a half million dollar increase in O&M, roughly.
Mr. Speaker, what do we see from the Liberals? Well, they voted for the Yukon Party budgets, and they voted against ours. And, you know, when we raised, back in 1995 when this happened, the reasons we voted against the budget and said it was because of those ill-gotten gains and the killing of collective bargaining, the Liberals said at that time - the Member for Riverside, their leader in this Legislature - said I didn't see any significant reason for not voting for it. Completely inexcusable. Mr. Speaker, doublespeak.
We heard more today. Just take a look around this country at what Liberal governments have done in terms of job losses in the public sector. Mr. Speaker, at the federal level, six years of wage freezes. We're talking about rollbacks here, we're talking about freezes, six years. Here's a government here in the territory that has increased wages two percent, three percent for the YTA, three percent over three years for the Yukon Employees Union. These are fair settlements, given the times. They were not staggering. They were not huge. They were in keeping with what was happening around the rest of the country. They were found consistent, to be within the parameters set, in one case by the binding arbitrator.
There was another case by a conciliation board who recommended a package, and it was voted on, in both cases actually, with the YTA and the last round with the YEU, and they didn't make everybody happy by any means, but I want to say that it was, I think, a fair and reasonable approach. It was one that balanced the many needs that we have to balance as a government, that tried to respond to people who were asking for more dollars invested in health care, who were asking for more dollars invested in school construction and education and training, and in road construction - it responded to them - and in job creation - it responded to them. It also responded to the public employees who are an incredibly important resource for this government and for this territory.
So, I thank the member for, in one sense, endorsing a process that we've already started by putting this motion forward, but I just wish she would have spent the time talking to the Public Service Commission officials and talking to me about these issues in advance of trying to grab some media publicity in this Legislature. It would have been far more productive. Now, Mr. Speaker, we will be, I think, prepared to continue on with this approach; we think it will yield good results. I would also say that other speakers from my side also wish to comment on this motion that has come forward that is suggesting something that this government already has underway.
Mr. Ostashek: I rise today to speak on this motion put before us by the newest member of our Legislature. I would like to say that I was somewhat disappointed by the motion and the debate that was entered into the record by the Member for Laberge.
I would have far more listened to her thoughts, rather than articles she was quoting from verbatim. It's all right to quote a line or a paragraph from an article, but from what I could glean from her speech, she was reading verbatim from several articles. This almost sounded like a repeat of a Member for Riverside reading the telephone book into the record of Hansard a few years ago - very similar.
Mr. Speaker, I think what bothers me most about the member's presentation is some of the comments she made as she went through her debate. One of the comments that I caught was that she thought that this interest-based bargaining concept should be extrapolated to our Legislature because we were working on behalf of all Yukoners and that we ought not to be in an adversarial position, and we ought to be working together.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I say to you that she would have had far more credibility for that statement had she really looked at what she presented to the Legislature. If you look at the first two clauses of her motion, I don't recall seeing anything any more adversarial than the comments made in the first two clauses of the motion. Now, if she hadn't talked about what the Yukon Party government had done and what the NDP government has done in their relationship with the public sector employees and started out clause 3 with "collective bargaining should satisfy mutual interests", then I think there might have been some legitimacy to her statement that interest-based bargaining ought to be extended to this Legislature. But when you start out from an adversarial position and then try to preach to the people you're debating with that they ought not be adversarial in their debate back to you, I don't think that holds much credibility.
Mr. Speaker, before I get into the substance of the motion, I just have a couple of comments to make on some of the presentation made so far. I want to speak to some of the comments made by the Member for Faro.
He and his colleague continue to take great pleasure in chastising the Yukon Party for the two-percent wage rollback. That's all well and good, but he also spoke of budgetary problems and everything else that were facing them now. Those didn't count when the Yukon Party was in, even though the Yukon Party did have to deal with a $64-million deficit left by the previous NDP government. He says it was all smoke and mirrors. It didn't happen. There was no $64-million deficit. It was creative bookkeeping.
Well, Mr. Speaker, if we look at the Auditor General's Annual Report on Other Matters for the year ended March 31, 1993, in chapter 1, under cash management, the Auditor General said that at the beginning of the 1992-93 fiscal year, which was the NDP, the government had an accumulated surplus of $51 million and a cash balance of $22 million. By the end of the year, the surplus was gone and the government had ended up with an accumulated deficit of $13 million. That adds up to $64 million to me. For the NDP now to say that this wasn't a credible figure, that it was smoke and mirrors, I just want to remind them that the Government Leader of today, who was the leader of the official opposition and the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, signed that document - signed it as fact. So, they don't have much credibility today when they say it didn't exist.
As for the two-percent wage rollback, as for the tax increases, which they say were not required - they've been in government for three years and they've done nothing to give them back to Yukoners. They didn't give the two percent back that they promised the employees, and they did promise the employees their two percent back. Even though the now-Government Leader didn't do it at the debate at F.H. Collins, their A Better Way is very, very clear. They were going to rescind the wage restraint legislation. They didn't rescind the wage restraint legislation.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, if you'll recall, they first brought a bill in to amend the wage restraint legislation, then they brought in an amendment to change the title to rescind the wage restraint legislation, but the fact is they didn't rescind it, all they did was make amendments to it.
And it is no wonder that the unions were upset. The Yukon Party had said that we wouldn't give them the two percent back, but we would go back to collective bargaining. We said that before we called the election.
The Liberals aren't scot-free on this one either, Mr. Speaker. And I shudder to think of a Liberal government in the territory that would conduct relationships with their employees in the manner that was quoted prior to the last general election, and we look at the eight actions that would be taken by the Yukon Liberal Party if elected as the territorial government in the next election.
This is the paper they put out, the eight actions. And the number-one action, Mr. Speaker, is: "A Yukon Liberal Party government will conduct an immediate review of the performance of all YTG officials who deal with First Nations on a regular basis. This will include final agreement negotiators as well as those responsible for various activities relating to the implementation of the UFA and the four final agreements." Well, if that isn't a pure example of political interference in the public sector, employees of the territory government, I don't know what is. And that's a very clear statement put out by the former leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Speaker.
It's nice for the Liberals to be able to sit here. It's nice for the Member for Laberge, who hasn't had the experience of dealing with budgetary pressures and who hasn't had the problem of dealing with collective bargaining from an employer point of view, to be able to come out and say all these nice, flowing words and to condemn the other two parties who have had to go through the experience of making these tough decisions.
And if the Member for Laberge thinks that there was any satisfaction for the members of the Yukon Party having to cut employees two percent, then she's sadly mistaken; it was one of the realities that we had to face.
Mr. Speaker, that was at a time when the finances of government were nowhere near as good as they are now, and it was an action that we felt was the best action to be taken at the time to keep the most employees working. But the Liberals don't have to be accountable for that, because they've never been there - they can say whatever they like. They can say, like their leader said at the debate in F.H. Collins: "You want a yes or no answer; yes, I'll give it all back to you" - not thinking what impact that's going to have on the rest of Yukoners, not thinking what impact that's going to have on the wages of the people in the private sector, because the wages that are set in the public sector are the driving force between all wages in the Yukon. Our biggest payroll is the public sector; they set the stage for everything that's done, so governments, whether it's an NDP government or a Liberal government or a Yukon Party government, has to be cognizant of that when you're doing collective bargaining, or anything else.
Mr. Speaker, the bill, or the motion, in front of us says, when you get down to the meat of it and get past all of the adversarial comments that are made at the start of it, the interest-based bargaining - I was always of the opinion that collective bargaining was interest-based bargaining. This may be a new buzzword of the 1990s but, to me, it's another word for not bargaining, we go right to conciliation, or mediation, or arbitration - we miss out the first steps. And that might be all well and good. I don't have much difficulty with that. It changes the whole way we go about collective bargaining.
It also, in my opinion, for it to be successful, would mean a complete change of the collective bargaining unit of the public service employees union, the teachers union and the government, to get rid of the old, entrenched positions that have been there for years and years and years. Now, that may not be all bad if it can be accomplished.
The Member for Faro, who is the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, says that they're already looking at interest-based bargaining to a certain extent. So I don't have any difficulty with that part of the motion. I have real difficulty with the first two clauses, which took a very adversarial position, and then the member wanting to put her thoughts on the table that we should maybe look at interest-based bargaining in the Legislature rather than the adversarial positions we take.
Anything that we can do to get a collective agreement that's fair and just for our employees and is fair and just for the citizens of the Yukon, should be explored. I don't believe for one minute that this motion, or this concept - and it's the only concept that's put forward in this motion - that interest-based bargaining is the only way to arrive at a collective agreement that satisfies everybody's desires and interests. In fact, I think it would take a long time to reach that position where we move from adversarial to consensus. I don't believe it's only the negotiations with the territorial government and our unions that are adversarial; I believe that's the whole concept of collective bargaining - an adversarial situation - as our legislatures are adversarial. It's the way they're set up. They're not set up to slap each other on the back and say what a great job you're doing. They don't work that way. They've been set up as adversarial from since time immemorial.
Look at our House of Commons in Ottawa. I think our Legislature is probably a lot better mannered than they are in Ottawa, whether it's run by a Liberal government or whomever. I think that's a very adversarial House.
Mr. Speaker, I don't have any difficulty in supporting anything that will help reach a collective agreement, which is fair and just to all parties, but I couldn't support this motion with the first two clauses in it. If the member would like to remove them, I might be able to support it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm pleased to respond to the motion before us this afternoon.
I must say that, while I've had some notorious disagreements with the Leader of the Yukon Party on many things, including some of the substances associated with this motion today, I agree with his basic proposition that the motion before us today, and the debate put forward by the Member for Laberge, are hardly good examples of cooperative, positive and constructive commentary, Mr. Speaker. The Liberals, in the previous campaigns, have made a point of stating that, if they were elected, they would bring a new, positive and constructive tone to the Legislature. This was the one promise they knew that they would probably have to keep, because the chances of them forming government were so limited. This is the one promise they knew they could probably keep, and this is one promise that they consistently break every day. Every day. And this motion is a fine example of that.
Mr. Speaker, I will get back to the motion and perhaps provide some constructive comments that might help the member to promote a more positive and constructive statement in the Legislature. But first, I'd like to comment a little bit about what has been said by previous speakers and make a few general statements about the appropriate nature of government/employee relations.
I would say, as a general principle, Mr. Speaker, and even in specific action, that a government should: treat its employees fairly; establish fair rules of conduct through collective bargaining between employer and employees; respect employees' rights; and ensure that employees are remunerated fairly for the work that they do. And beyond that, the government has a responsibility and obligation to give people interesting work to serve the public together. And that is what we're here for.
Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Yukon Party attempts to justify his government's actions while they were busily cutting wages and legislating an end to collective bargaining. That's the attempt to justify the impossible. And while, from time to time, governments have to take into account the economic realities they face - not only do they face them in fiscal terms, but the realities that the community broadly faces - and put offers on the table that they think are fair, legislating an end to collective bargaining is at no time fair. And in the case of the Yukon Party record here, we must remember that there was not even a chance for the employees to negotiate what the Yukon Party government at the time wanted to see happen, which was a rollback.
They were simply rolled back in law. There were no attempts to reach out, to hold negotiating sessions, to attempt to lay out a case before the employees that would justify a rollback.
Mr. Speaker, what was particularly bothersome was that, not only were they prepared to unilaterally roll back, but that they had already - particularly with the teachers - had a collective bargaining session, which resulted in a zero-percent increase, and the teachers were saying that they had not even been given a chance to hear the government's case for a rollback. They were just treated with the prospect of legislation, which cancelled their bargaining rights. They had every right to be outraged by that.
And Mr. Speaker, the justification for the rollbacks in economic terms, or for tax hikes, are the stuff of legends in this Legislature, so I won't repeat all that debate, because it probably takes up hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages of Hansard. I'll only paraphrase briefly by saying that, in the year that the Yukon Party claimed that it had a financial crisis and were trying to book everything into that year that they possibly could in order to beef up that year's deficit, they also - within months - were announcing brand new multi-million dollar spending programs. The day that they tabled the legislation in the House to roll back wages, they announced a surprise $20-million surplus, and all to the end of supporting the largest spending budgets ever on record in this Legislature.
So, Mr. Speaker, while I can understand - and I do understand - that governments face tough decisions, I cannot agree with the rationale the Yukon Party prefers to justify its actions in those days.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are putting forward a motion that I find fascinating in its inconsistency. When the Yukon Party was doing its work - and we're all talking here about how the governments reacted to Yukon Party actions and how we responded to questions about how to put together again the broken relationship that the Yukon Party had with its employees - we must remember that, when the budgets came down that reflected a reduction in the payroll associated with the wage rollback, it was not the NDP in opposition that voted for those budgets. It was the Liberals who voted for those budgets.
Now, if the Liberals in opposition always voted for the governments' budgets, then there might be some rationale, but the reality is that the Liberals do not vote for NDP budgets. They vote for Yukon Party budgets. That is a matter of record. So, when we put in our budgets, with increases to payroll, one would think, based on the comments by the Liberal member this afternoon, that they would vote for the budgets. The supplementary budget that's before us today, Mr. Speaker, incidentally, before us now in this sitting, contains $1 million for teachers' wages. This is a budget that the Liberals voted against. This is a matter of public record. They voted against this budget, yet they voted for, and I repeat "for" - F-O-R - Yukon Party budgets with wage rollbacks and tax increases contained therein.
And when the NDP lowers taxes for low-income people, one would think that the Liberals might be tempted at least to vote for that measure, but no, they did not vote for budgets reflecting the tax decreases for low-income people. They voted against those budgets, the NDP budgets.
So I find it fascinating that this proposition would come before this House, particularly fostered by the Liberal Party. Now the Liberals nationally, when they have a chance to be in government, have a very interesting record when it comes to employer/employee relations. Let me just take the issue of pay equity. It's been recently in the news and, finally, the federal Liberal government finally agreed - after much gnashing of teeth and much disagreement, after being forced by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to deal with the matter - that they would do the right thing by female employees in the federal public service.
So, Mr. Speaker, what was the NDP government's record in the Yukon? Well, the NDP government, even before there was a human rights act in the Yukon that made it mandatory to have equal pay for work of equal value, instituted a system of equal pay for work of equal value in this territory in 1986, and I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, nobody in the opposition was demanding it. The NDP government did it because it was the right thing to do. They weren't prompted by anybody. They worked with their employees - and I was a member of the government at the time - we worked with our employees and we instituted a measure that did the right thing by a large percentage of our workforce.
There has been a lot of talk about what was said in the campaign and what we committed to doing. We committed to restoring collective bargaining and we did. When we were asked, pointedly asked - and I was there with the other leaders - whether or not we would automatically, outside the collective bargaining process, increase wages, the Liberals said yes and no. Yukon Party said no, and I said no, because we believed in the collective bargaining process. You cannot fix a mistake, a mistake of taking away the collective bargaining process and forcing something on people by repeating it with another mistake, which is doing something outside the collective bargaining process. And so, Mr. Speaker, we went back into collective bargaining immediately. We've not tried to make cases that there should be rollbacks. We've not made cases. We've not threatened anybody with massive layoffs or any such thing.
We made a virtue of protecting public services. We've made a virtue of ensuring that people do not have to worry about their jobs, that their jobs are important to the people of this territory, that O&M funding is important in this territory. We've heard from both the Liberals and the Yukon Party concerns about the O&M budgets that this government, the NDP government, puts before the Legislature. These O&M budgets are about wages, wages for public servants providing services. And the Liberals and the Yukon Party, of course, they criticize it, because they're being consistent. They rolled back wages; they think that O&M is bad, capital good. But the Liberals, they try to have it both ways. They criticize O&M budgets too. Growth in O&M budgets - how terrible it is. This growth, as I mentioned before, the O&M in this supplementary, reflects increases to public servants' wages. So here we are, soldiering on, trying to make things happen, trying to improve the lot of the public sector workers, and what do we get from the Liberals? They vote against these measures, and they criticize O&M spending.
Then they come along later, on some quiet Wednesday afternoon, and think that through this bogus, negative, destructive statement, they can somehow make it right and walk on both sides of the fence. Liberals have been accused of walking the fence. These Liberals walk both sides of the fence, in both directions, and they're on top of the fence, too - whatever works. And you know what, Mr. Speaker? The last thing that they want would be to have to take a position, because they're used to the whole ground on both sides of the fence, on top of the fence and everywhere. Taking a position would really reduce their operating room.
Mr. Speaker, I, of course, can't support the motion. I think that the member should take some time to be a little more constructive, particularly if she wants to advocate that the Legislature be more constructive. She should show the lead by example. But from the very first question put in this Legislature, it was a negative, critical slam. It was an easy, quick hit. She has followed the lead set by the Yukon Party and by many other destructive members in the history of this House. She has not tried to separate herself from that tradition one bit. She fits right into that tradition. I want to give her a hand by suggesting that there might be a more constructive way of making a statement.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would move an amendment, and I'll give you a copy and read it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move
THAT Motion No. 184 be amended by
(1) deleting the words "the disrespectful manner which the current government has used to negotiate contracts with its professional workforce, and the two-percent rollback imposed by the previous government, have" and substituting for them the following: "the two-percent rollback imposed by the previous government has";
(2) deleting the words "the poor relationship between the Government of Yukon and its employees has resulted in economic uncertainty and low employee morale";
(3) deleting the words "an effective method" and substituting for them the following: "one of many positive methods"; and
(4) deleting the words "to investigate the implementation of an interest-based bargaining process" and substituting for them the following: "to continue to investigate the use of the most effective bargaining process including interest-based and situational bargaining".
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader
THAT Motion No. 184 be amended by
(1) deleting the words "the disrespectful manner which the current government has used to negotiate contracts with its professional workforce, and the two-percent rollback imposed by the previous government, have" and substituting for them the following: "the two-percent rollback imposed by the previous government has";
(2) deleting the words "the poor relationship between the Government of Yukon and its employees has resulted in economic uncertainty and low employee morale";
(3) deleting the words "an effective method" and substituting for them the following: "one of many positive methods"; and
(4) deleting the words "to investigate the implementation of an interest-based bargaining process" and substituting for them the following: "to continue to investigate the use of the most effective bargaining process including interest-based and situational bargaining".
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I realize that the amendment before us has a number of different suggestions or different changes, and it will take the members a few moments to understand the impact of the changes so, while they're reading it, I'll just close by saying a few things.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, it is important to treat public servants fairly. It is important to explore negotiating methods that will produce fair and reasonable results for all parties. It is important to treat both parties with respect and to understand each party's needs, and that is the responsibility of every employer, including the government. I would say, indeed, especially the government. The government is the most visible employer in this territory. It sets a standard for many others.
Mr. Speaker, I think that this particular NDP government has started with the restoration of collective bargaining so that we can even have these discussions and explore new methods with our employees. And I think the fact that we have shown respect, settled with our employees, sometimes with the help of conciliators, which is a normal process - I was on the union side of the negotiating table myself, and we did have conciliation support on a couple of occasions and were much the better for it, frankly, in those days at that time. The fact remains that the public expects that public services will continue to be employed and that public servants will continue to do valuable work, and that the services that we provide will continue unabated.
Mr. Speaker, I think that the members opposite would do well to think carefully about what they say today. There may be a time when every word they say will be very, very closely scrutinized and, as much as they've tried to avoid taking positions on things, I think even they, at times, will not be able to do that.
So, I support the amendment. I think it's a sound one. I think it reflects reality, and it will reflect the good working relationship that we have with our employees.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to rise to speak to the amendment. The amendment reflects the sensitivity on the benches opposite to previous Yukon history and version of Yukon history. Our caucus has no difficulty in supporting the amendment. It doesn't destroy the motion, which is what occasionally happens sometimes on Wednesday, Mr. Speaker. We are pleased to support the amendment, and we look forward to their support for the amended motion when they rise to speak.
Mr. Speaker, the amendment and the motion today are very timely, and they're very appropriate. In the near future, the current New Democratic Party government will be, we hope, reaching negotiated settlement with Yukon's professional workforce, an end to their zero-and-four record, which caused the Member for Faro such consternation earlier today.
After what we hope will be a successful devolution process, the size of the Yukon workforce will increase. There are federal government employees who would like a very clear signal of the type of negotiators this smaller, closer-to-the-people government will be. A change in that signal from what has gone on in the past three years is appropriate. A discussion of the way one negotiates agreements with one's employees is very important.
Mr. Speaker, there has been much discussion this afternoon about the dismal record of previous governments when it comes to labour relations in this territory.
I've asked a number of questions since I became a member in Question Period, and we've discussed it at length in general debate.
Things kind of went from bad to worse when the NDP replaced the Yukon Party. You know, you think it couldn't get any worse than unilaterally rolling back wages, but it could. There was arrogance and there was disrespect; there were words like "betrayal", "abandonment", "strike", and there were fine individuals that suffered from the intransigence of the minister currently responsible.
Interest-based bargaining could help bring the parties together; it requires a measure of trust. I don't know if that level of trust exists currently. It's up to the current government in the remaining, waning days of their mandate to improve things, to try new ideas.
The Yukon Liberal Party presented such an idea today. The response from the minister responsible for the public service - personal attacks, belittling the member for bringing it forward, claiming that, well, she read it in a book last night, and that's all she knows about it. Well, if the minister wants to know, the minister should do his homework, just as he challenged the member to do, because that member has done her homework. For the minister responsible's information, the Member for Laberge knows whereof she speaks, more than from a simple textbook, more than from one course.
You know, Mr. Speaker, I won't get into a discussion of the members opposite's performance today.
It relates to the whole idea of interest-based bargaining, the level of trust, and the requirement that parties be able to work together. The minister goes on and on about non-confrontational Liberals. The minister should stop and consider his belittling personal attacks sometimes.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'm challenged by the Member for Watson Lake to read the motion. It's the amendment that we're discussing, and the amendment put forward references the two-percent rollback by the Yukon Party and their relationship. The minister responsible for the Public Service Commission quoted extensively and selectively, I might add, from media. He missed the comment by the former president of the Yukon Teachers Association that today; they felt tricked - "Today, we feel abandoned by the NDP." He missed the comment by the former opposition critic, the current Member for Mount Lorne, who went on and on, urging the government to change the CNA decision. And he missed the headline about arrogance - stalling the teachers.
Mr. Speaker, if we're going to move forward, we have to get past their version of history, and we have to get past whatever news clips whatever side chooses to read. We have to talk about what the Member for Laberge set out to do, which is to talk about the fundamental principles of interest-based bargaining, to talk about this as an idea, and something that we, in the Yukon, should be doing.
Our party believes the idea has merit and it's worthy of discussion. That's why we brought it forward.
Mr. Speaker, the old-fashioned way is to go into negotiations with a preferred solution. It's just like coming into this House with, "This is the legislation, and that's the way it is, and no, we won't look at an amendment", arguing over whose proposal is best, when nobody's prepared to give an inch.
Arguing on positions in that manner results in one of four options: I win, you lose; you win, I lose; we both compromised, we lost; or, no deal.
The final contract is determined by power struggles, concentrating on personalities and anecdotal data - just like what we heard today, Mr. Speaker - rather than on the issues. Traditional bargaining is adversarial, the approach is to beat the other side. And pardon me for that use of violent language.
Most people do not thrive in this competitive an environment. Interest-based bargaining is a different way of thinking. It's a different approach. It means what it says. Contract negotiations are based on the interests of both parties - both sides gain. They gain a better understanding of why certain issues are important - why certain issues are important to the union, why certain issues are important to the government - and how different solutions would impact each side, and both sides find points on which they agree.
In interest-based bargaining, the makeup of a negotiating team changes the process. It's common in IBB negotiations to agree that there are no attorneys present - no disrespect to the Member for Riverside.
People who live by the contract and actually work for the government in management and at the union level negotiate it. They look at the issues that are important to the union members and to the government, and they work toward a contract that benefits both. When that happens, all the people of the Yukon benefit. A less adversarial approach to contract bargaining can only be beneficial. A less adversarial approach in a number of areas would be beneficial, Mr. Speaker.
Agreements can be and should be reached collaboratively and within a reasonable time frame. That benefits both parties and, in turn, would allow the government to focus 100 percent on doing the best they can for the people of the Yukon.
Interest-based bargaining is not a cure-all. It's used in a variety of ways. It's a tool to effective negotiations. In some instances, it is used as one of several approaches during the negotiation process; in others, it is used until economic increases are negotiated. In other words, it's used to resolve the non-monetary issues only. That has happened as well. In other circumstances, it's used for the whole process.
Another reason why this motion has been brought forward and another very positive reason for discussing it today is the way in which we view employees and, as I noted at the beginning, Mr. Speaker, if devolution is successful, as we hope it will be, a large workforce.
Mr. Speaker, this professional workforce is one of Yukon's most important resources.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes, it is. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is right. It is.
You could name any program in the world. It's not going to be a good program if the people that are delivering it don't believe it in and don't share the view that it is a good program. If we feel this way about employees - and we on this side do - they need to be treated that way. There are a number of ways to do this, and it's most successfully done by creating an atmosphere in the workplace where the philosophy is clearly demonstrated. This is our workplace, and as the employee, so to speak, of the constituents of Porter Creek South - and the Member for Faro noted this need for greater respect in the Legislature, with his motion, which I don't immediately have in front of me, Mr. Speaker.
Creating an atmosphere in the workplace where we treat employees as our most important resource would be a very positive step forward.
Government employees are represented by the Yukon Employees Union, Yukon Teachers Association. An open and constructive relationship with these groups is another way of demonstrating that the government believes that its employees are its most important resource, and that permeates everything the government does, Mr. Speaker. It means when the government has something like an edu-chat about its professional workforce, it gives them the courtesy of some advance notice and a heads-up, maybe even structuring it in such a way that they can attend. That's the sort of positive working relationship that should be generated from the government.
It could be, if there was a respectful environment. Negotiating a collective agreement is about setting the terms, conditions and benefits that an employer and employees require to have a productive and fair workplace. It's one of the single most important documents for union/management relations.
Mr. Speaker, this motion and the comments, the information presented about interest-based bargaining, about the importance of Yukon's workforce - of extreme importance to all Yukoners and to Yukon businesses. The Member for Laberge has touched upon the negative aspects of a poor relationship, such as increasing the possibility of strikes, job actions and work disruptions. The member from the other opposition party, the government members, and the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission have gone on and on and on about the past. This motion is also about the future. It's about the way the government should conduct its relations - one of the options - and the way the government should conduct its relationship in the future with a much larger workforce.
Contract negotiations between management and union have traditionally been done under a cloud of distrust and a win-at-all-cost strategy. The adversarial tradition can be broken with interest-based bargaining. We have urged the government to try it. The minister responsible for the Public Service Commission has told us ad nauseum to do our homework, and, Mr. Speaker, I have suggested that he do the same prior to making personal attacks on the Member for Laberge.
Now, that being said, perhaps we could move forward and enjoy their support for the amendment, the amended motion, and perhaps, Mr. Speaker, all of Yukon could move forward.
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all with the amendment, I want to take issue. I didn't do it on a point of order, but I want to take issue with the Liberal Leader's comments about belittling, personal attacks. I made none whatsoever. If I would have made them, the Speaker would have called me to order on that point, and I would have apologized. I think what the member has said -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I didn't make any belittling, personal attacks. You know, the Member for Laberge can't come into this Legislature and put forward a motion that starts with section number one, which says the disrespectful manner which the current government has used to negotiate contracts with the professional workforce and the two percent imposed by the previous government have damaged the relationship between the Government of the Yukon and public sector workers. You can't spew political venom in this House and say, "Oh, but we were just putting forward an idea, Mr. Speaker." The opposition and the government and the Yukon Party shouldn't be able to react to what we're doing.
I'm surprised she actually read Getting to Yes before she brought this motion forward, because that's not the way you put a constructive, positive motion on the floor of this Legislature as any kind of alternative to the politics of confrontation. So when I stand up and say that that's hogwash - the first five minutes of her speech where she spewed out all kinds of stuff that wasn't accurate in any case, whatsoever - she's going to get some back. That is parliamentary democracy, and we are allowed on this side to react to the attacks of the Liberals and to rebut the attacks of the Liberals and, make no mistake, that's exactly what they were.
And then to say, Mr. Speaker, that we shouldn't somehow take any issue with that. Well, they now claim that they've suggested an idea. They haven't suggested anything - it's already being done. When will the Liberals have an original thought? Lightning bolts will strike this Legislature when the Liberals actually have an original thought. You know, reading Getting to Yes, and then reading from another document - you know, Mr. Speaker, I felt like I should run up to the Yukon College and grab some of the negotiating handbooks in their resource library, and perhaps compare notes with the Member for Laberge, and then perhaps I could put a motion forward next week and read for an hour or two about - in theory - how negotiating works.
Mr. Speaker, when you come forward with bluff and bluster, you have to expect you'll get a response, and we gave a response. It was not a personal attack; it was a response to the attack on the government by the member opposite. She was mouthing all kinds of things that are precisely not the case and have no bearing on reality and are just politics - pure politics. So Mr. Speaker, that's the way it is.
Now, the Liberal leader said that she hoped we'd reached negotiated settlements. Well, we've reached three. We're batting 1,000 - three for three.
And, Mr. Speaker, you know those issues about comments in the paper that she read by the now-president of the YTA about the government being arrogant and that kind of thing? Well, all those arguments were taken before a conciliation board, and the board made a recommendation, which said that we as a government - an independent third party, something the Liberals always want, to solve every problem - was reasonable.
And, Mr. Speaker, we said, "Okay, we'll support the recommendations of that reasonable, independent third party." It was put to a vote and was accepted by the teachers, and accepted by us. How is that arrogant?
You know, then we talk about binding arbitration. Again, another settlement was reached with the teachers through binding arbitration. All the arguments were made about what the governments did and didn't do. The binding arbitrator said the government's offer - I think it was within, on the whole package, something like $60,000 of what they eventually recommended. That was a fair settlement in the mind of an independent third party.
But suddenly, after the Member for Riverside - for my five years, six years, seven years in this Legislature now - wants an arbitrator or an independent third party to resolve everything that comes forward in this House, the Liberals don't care about what they say. It's not accurate, it doesn't reflect anything.
You know, Mr. Speaker, to the Member for Riverside and the Liberals, you'd swear that arbitrators, ombudspeople, conciliation boards, independent third parties, audits in Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board are the messiah for everything. Yet when this government gets two rulings - three rulings - in three respective negotiations from conciliation boards and from binding arbitrators that say that we as a government will pay up even more by the results of those rulings, but we're prepared to accept them, the opposition says that's no good.
Those are ways to resolve collective bargaining processes.
So, Mr. Speaker, it's just not credible that they come in here now and say this motion was all about just putting forward an idea. Read the motion. Two problems: it's full of political venom and, number two, we're already doing it. So, do their homework. They're not suggesting an idea here; they're making a political attack. When we respond to the Liberal attack, they say it's a personal attack. That's completely ludicrous.
Mr. Speaker, this amendment that we're talking about clearly points out that we've already engaged in discussions around alternative practices. We're already doing alternative practices. We're having pre-bargaining meetings where we're resolving issues and trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, trying to be constructive at the table, trying to live within our means and the taxpayers' means, but also respond to the real issues that the union members have, because they are critical to the public of this territory and the performance of their duties. We have tremendous respect for the public employees of this territory, and that's why we didn't remove their right to collective bargaining as the Yukon Party did. And that's why we objected to budgets of the Yukon Party that contained the gains of the wage restraint legislation, even though the Liberals supported them.
Now, we see budgets before us that have million dollar line items in them for teachers' salaries, as a result of collective bargaining, and the Liberals vote against them. Mr. Speaker, figure that one out. They say that you've got to have all this respect for employees. The Liberal leader said we had intransigence at the table, even though that's not supported by independent third parties in three cases - that we weren't being fair, weren't being respectful. I don't accept that - quite the contrary. We were prepared - in advance of knowing what the order was of the conciliation board - to live by the results of that board.
So Mr. Speaker, I don't think the member's comments were accurate. She also said, in the debate on the amendment, that it has gone from bad to worse in terms of labour relations under the NDP. Well, I think that that is complete bunk. How can that be argued with any credibility?
Mr. Speaker, three collective agreements have been signed. The only labour action that was undertaken was between the hospital employees and the Hospital Corporation, who did the negotiations. In order to try and help the Hospital Corporation, this government injected over $1 million of new money into that hospital's budget. And when we settled with our employees, we added whatever increase we gave our employees to the Hospital Corporation so that they could try and factor that into their negotiations.
Mr. Speaker, collective bargaining is not a big group hug. It's not through interest-based bargaining. It's not through adversarial bargaining. That's just not the way the real world works. Where do you see that? Do you see that in Ottawa with the Liberals? Well, Mr. Speaker, when they're not rolling back and freezing for six years and cutting thousands of people, do you see group hugs all over the place? I don't think so. And when you look at Atlantic Canada where we've seen successive Liberal governments just target dramatically the public servants, do you see group hugs there? No. But here, where we've negotiated three collective agreements, we haven't taken the measures of laying off hundreds of workers like they have in places like the NWT who are financed by the same method we are, by Ottawa. We don't have group hugs here either. We don't expect them. But we do know that we can look in the mirror and say that our record of dealing with our employees is respectful, we put forward reasonable offers that have been confirmed by third parties in three cases to resolve disputes and issues.
We hope, at this round of bargaining, through pre-bargaining, through a good mandate, through good work at the table, through ensuring that we whittle down the issues to what's really important, we won't need a third party. I seriously hope so, but, Mr. Speaker, that may not be the case because these are tough issues, and you can't read it in a book and just think that somehow the answer's going to drop from the sky or be written on stone tablets for you.
It just doesn't work that way. It's not real life. So, as much as I want to believe all the platitudes about what the Liberal leader had to say about how she cares so much about people in the public service, the Liberal record doesn't support that. The actions of the Member for Riverdale South, who was asking for political intervention into the public service, in terms of hiring, firing and promotions of employees. Mr. Speaker - it's an outrage -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale South on a point of order.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I think that the Member for Faro is making less-than-accurate comments.
Speaker: The Member for Faro, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, there's no point of order. There's a disagreement between two members.
Speaker: There is a dispute between two members. There is no point of order. The member may continue.
Hon. Mr. Harding: As I was saying, it's an outrage that the Liberal Member for Riverdale South would ask for the politicians on the floor of this Legislature to directly hire, fire and promote people and disregard the Public Service Act of this territory.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale South, on a point of order.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this member constantly - constantly - revises history. I'd like the member to prove that I ever said that.
Speaker: There is no point of order. The member may continue.
Hon. Mr. Harding:I'd like to ask the member to respect parliamentary democracy and allow the debate to continue and to not belittle this place, this hallowed hall, with such spurious points of order. It's an outrage.
It's an outrage, Mr. Speaker, that she would ask the political people on the floor of this Legislature to hire, fire and promote people. We are charged with negotiating collective agreements, ensuring that the Public Service Act law is respected, trying to ensure that there is good provisions for redress for people who feel they've been harassed. That's why we hired a harassment prevention coordinator, to try to ensure that there are accurate, solid grievance procedures, to try to ensure that people in management have processes through the courts, and, if they feel that they've been wronged, they can somehow find justice.
It's not for Mr. Sloan from Whitehorse West, as a politician, to jump into a department and say, "That was a wrong move, I think you should put that person in that job, or I think we should promote that person; I think that person needs a raise as a result of what some manager did in a department."
Or, conversely, one has to wonder what the Liberals would do to people they don't like, what they really believe, if they were politicians and they didn't like somebody. It's pretty obvious that their tenure in this government would be very, very short, because if something became a public issue, they'd bail on it in a hurry, and there'd be a witch hunt - banana republic government. It's like when Nova Scotia was governed by the Liberals for so many years. You know, when the Liberals came in, they hired all the grader operators; the Tories would come in and they'd fire them all. That's how they ran government there.
You know, the Member for Riverside can personally insult me all he wants, and heckle, and you know, throw his personal attacks at me, but I will stand in this House and I will defend the actions of this government, because they're solid; I believe in them.
Mr. Speaker, we'll be supporting this amendment.
Mr. Cable: Oh, the Member for Faro has spurred me on. I hung on his every word. You know, Mr. Speaker, there was a by-election not too long ago in Lake Laberge, which I found very interesting. The NDP put out this press release, saying the fight was between the NDP and the Yukon Party, trying to encourage strategic voting, trying to get the anti-Yukon Party vote to coalesce. Well, it did. They knew the NDP was going down. The NDP Titanic had all its holds full of water, and it was sinking beneath the waves, and it happened - the vote did coalesce behind the Liberals.
The people saw through the NDP then, as they have since the NDP came into power. When the NDP were in opposition and we had this bill, whacking the management members, and the Clerk and everybody else for a wage restraint, what did they do? They introduced an amendment and then very quietly sat on their hands, so there was not a recorded vote. They rolled back the management wages - I mean, management employees don't count; they're not unionized; they don't have any power, and they don't count. But they went along with whacking management.
Then what do we have now? During the last election, after I had fought for months against the wage rollback legislation - there were speeches, there were press releases, there were articles in the newspaper that I and the Liberal Party had fought against the wage restraint legislation - what do we have? We have the members across the way, who remember that propaganda minister from the very dictatorial regime of many years ago - about 50 or 60 years ago - whose favourite saying was, "If you say something often enough, you'll get some of the people to believe it."
Now they were caught, after they found out that the people knew I had voted against the wage restraint legislation. So now they've got this clever ruse - oh, he voted for the budget; now we've got him; now we've got him - and the people might believe it, if we say it often enough.
I've seen the members over there reading their cuffs - say he voted for the budget that brought in the wage restraint legislation.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: What we have forgotten - I'll tell you what we've forgotten, is that party over there ...
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Cable: ... said that they wrote to the Public Service Alliance ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Cable: ... during the election and said they would fully rescind the wage legislation.
They smoked them. They smoked them. Anybody in their right mind would think that fully rescinding meant ...
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: ... rolling it right back and restoring the two percent. That's what we have, Mr. Speaker. That's what we have.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Order please.
Mr. Cable: We have a party that believes that you can fool some of the people all of the time, but I've got news for you. You cannot fool all of the people all of the time. They're too smart for you and they have proved that in the Lake Laberge by-election, so give it up. You're wasting your time.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order. Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Amendment to Motion 184 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order please. Order.
Mr. Hardy: The Member for Riverside really took it to us and it was quite inspirational listening to him. In my own very humble way, I will make some points, but I definitely am not going to get that 9.9 performance that I just witnessed.
Like many other members in this House, I also am very, very concerned about the language that was put into the original motion, but also by the language that was used by the Member for Laberge when she stood up.
We're talking about interest-based bargaining, something that I participated in on occasion and took some courses in.
And never in all the courses that I took in interest-based bargaining did you use words like "nauseous" and "abysmal" and "poisoning" and stuff like that. You never used those kinds of words, because right away you're back in confrontation when you use those with the party that you're trying to come to some kind of agreement with.
And I think in this House what we're trying to do is come to some kind of agreement about a motion, and in one instance, I totally agree with this motion, that interest-based bargaining does have a place. But how it was presented was like the old type of bargaining, the traditional style bargaining, where you take positions, opposite sides. You take big positions, extreme positions, and you work your way to compromises, or you work your way to a strike or a lockout, as often happens on the federal scene with the Liberal government.
There are also comments she used - the Member for Laberge - a comment that I've heard before, and it's called "labour-friendly". Now, this is a term that's been coined by many people as describing the NDP. In this House today, I heard it today as just the opposite - that we weren't a labour-friendly government. So I thought what I could do is try to describe a scenario - maybe a couple of scenarios - of what a labour-friendly government is. Maybe I'll paint a picture of a government - the federal government. Let's use them as an example, and maybe she can just tell me how they can be a model that she would follow, since she's in the same party.
You tell me what party would do something like this: stole $30 billion in pension surplus funds. No discussions with the pensioners, no discussion with the unions even though the unions made significant overtures to the government that would have seen the surplus shared between plan members, and the government overtures are repeatedly rejected, ignored and pushed aside.
They approached the federal Liberals on trying to resolve it - what I would consider an interest-based solution - and they were rejected. Fought pay equity during all their terms that they've been in power - the Liberal government federally has fought pay equity; 13 years. Now the Tories as well did - the Yukon Party's buddies as well - they fought pay equity as well, and they were so minor for - they weren't around very long; kind of like the Yukon Party's term in office in the Yukon. But, that's another example; why would you want to give people an equal pay? That's terrible. They fought it all the way and fortunately, through the determination of the working people, they managed to win.
They brought in back-to-work legislation; is that a labour-friendly move? Is that interest-based bargaining, where you actually bring back-to-work legislation in? How about Bill C-76, which is back-to-work legislation? Now, I know some parties fought that in the federal scene; the NDP, the Bloc and even the Reform argued against the government wage freeze and negotiation strategy. And how recent was this? March 26, 1999.
A government that implemented the workforce adjustment directive - now the union said no to the directive. They said no because it removes employment security rights, it changes benefits, including pension entitlement, and a removal of those. They said no to a package that was clearly detrimental to the employment and economic security of the employees. Is that a labour-friendly government? I don't think so. A Liberal government has faced massive demonstrations and walkouts through their history. A Liberal government that has introduced quotas in employment insurance policing, with a threat of lay-offs if the people that are employed there do not meet those quotas. Can you imagine working in an environment like that?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: I'm going to get to the NDP Government Leader, don't you worry. I just can't wait to get there.
We've got to talk about labour-friendly governments, and a Liberal government - get this one - that has suspended interest-based bargaining - exactly what this motion is about. Did you know that? I'm just wondering if maybe the Member for Laberge is in the wrong party.
They did this years ago. The union sat down and tried to introduce interest-based bargaining to them and they rejected it - well, they suspended it. They started along the path and suspended it, because they didn't want to bargain in the first place, and they've maintained that position today. They don't want to bargain, and it has only been within the last two years that they've actually allowed bargaining to happen again.
The people have lived under a wage freeze for quite a few years. It's a Liberal government that has gutted contracts, job security, rights to severance and had massive layoffs by privatization, with a Liberal Prime Minister who would rather throttle a citizen and spray them with pepper than negotiate or talk to them.
That's enough of what a Liberal government does. Now I'll read you some accomplishments of a true labour-friendly government, and these are recent accomplishments. I'm not going to go back into the tremendous history of the NDP governments throughout this country, but the ones here recently.
As its first legislative act and as a fulfillment of its election commitment, the New Democratic government restored the collective bargaining rights to public servants and teachers by repealing the wage restraint legislation that the Yukon Party brought in, negotiated two collective agreements with the Yukon Teachers Association that resulted in respective economic increases of two percent over two years and three percent over two years. Now, don't say, " Shame, shame," that we gave them so much money.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Which they voted against - reached a three-year collective agreement totalling three percent over three years with the Public Service Alliance of Canada; patriated a benefits plan in 1997 from the federal government to allow public servants and teachers to manage and control their own benefit packages; strongly opposed the wage rollback and revocation of collective bargaining rights by the Yukon Party government; implemented pay equity in 1986.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: I don't live in Saskatchewan. I'm sure I'm going to hear about it, though.
No, I'm not going to talk about that any more. I think the message is very clear - where the Liberals stand and where the Yukon Party stands. They were very, very clear about where they stand when it came to working people, and where a true labour-friendly government stands.
I'm also concerned about the allegations in the motion: "the disrespectful manner which the current government has used to negotiate" - I don't see any proof of it; "the poor relationship between the Government of Yukon and its employees has resulted economic uncertainty and low employee morale." Those are fine things to put down if there's some proof, but I don't see any proof of it, and I really wonder why anybody would write this down unless they can bring forward proof.
I know a lot of people in the labour movement, and as many people around here have said today, the minister of this department and the Member for Faro has said, bargaining is not easy. Even interest-based bargaining is not easy. Interest-based bargaining often only works as long as it's not an economic issue, and that's where it has problems. And maybe out there there is a solution. Maybe there is a combination that works better. Maybe there's a different way of approaching bargaining, but it seems, as soon as people get down to the crunch of dollars and cents, that it stalls. And often what happens is you go back to the traditional type of bargaining. You deal with a lot of the non-economic issues very well. And one of the aspects that it has, one of the strengths it has, of course, is that it builds a relationship. In all the years of my bargaining and representation of working people, I have always found that the most important ingredient that you can have when you go into a bargaining session is trust.
It doesn't matter the format you use. I have sat across the table from contractors whom I didn't know very well, and who were very, very straight in their comments and very hard-nosed about bargaining and, in four hours, we had an agreement because there was a basis of trust between us. I trusted that what they were saying was a fact and what they could work with. They trusted what we were asking for was something that our people needed. They recognized that they also wanted to ensure that the workers were treated fairly, and we would come out with a good agreement within a short period of time. When there is an erosion of trust, then you have a lot of problems, and you have to build that trust back up.
I believe this NDP government is rebuilding trust after what happened during the Yukon Party reign of power and abuse that they brought down upon the working people. It takes time to rebuild that trust, but I see signs that it's happening.
There's a lot of talk about strike-outs: four nothing - stuff like that - four and zero. Well, the truth of the matter is that the people aren't tabling, they're bargaining, and as long as they're talking and bargaining, you will get results, and there have been results. The employees of this government have been getting many of their issues recognized. They have been listened to, just as we have brought forward our issues and concerns and have been heard by them. I believe that's a building of trust.
So, I don't believe there is any fact in the former resolution. Personally, I believe that if this resolution had been brought forward in good faith, without the attack upon this government, this would have been a resolution that would have passed very easily, and it would have been something I could be proud to say that I voted with the Liberal Party on this.
But not when you have the wording as it was put - basically an attack on us before they asked for something that actually is very good, and something that we are implementing - or investigating, I shouldn't say implementing - but are investigating with the working people.
Now, there is a difference. The leader of the official opposition made a comment that the relationship is worse than when it was with the Yukon Party - the relationship with the NDP. And I have to disagree with her. How can it be worse when there are not people out picketing, which they were with the Yukon Party? How can it be worse when they're not demonstrating right now in the winter, as they did with the Yukon Party? How can it be worse when they have the right to negotiate but, with the Yukon Party, they never had that right?
How can it be worse when they had their wages cut back - what they based their lifestyle on, what they based their payments on, what they based their ability to ensure their families can live comfortably, their children can participate in this society, in sports and arts if they want to - to have that cut out from underneath them?
How can it be worse when we have allowed them to bargain again and regain some of what was taken away from them by the Yukon Party?
So on those points I say it's not worse, and from talking with my brothers and sisters in the labour movement, it is not worse. At least the channels are open for discussion, and they are talking, and they are working together, and they're working with us. They work with us through the Yukon Federation of Labour, through the building trades councils, through the YEU, through the PSAC, through the Teamsters. The list goes on and on and on - the CAW. And they are being listened to, and they are participating, and I know for a fact they appreciate that. That's something they never had with the Yukon Party.
Now, speaking of the Yukon Party, I know the Member for Porter Creek North - leader of the third party - didn't seem to understand really what the motion was about, when you talk about interest-based bargaining, and I know that the Member for Laberge gave us a lesson from interest-based bargaining 101, but I don't think he heard it very clearly, so I thought I'd try to find a sentence that could assist him here, so listen closely please - from the Yukon Party anyway.
It is an attempt to move labour and management from traditional confrontational and positional bargaining to problem-solving bargaining by identifying issues and exploring the different possible solutions.
One sentence, I hope that helps. You could add it to the course as well, if you wish, but maybe it won't help, maybe you have to have a climate of negotiation and work representation, which I do know the Member for Laberge has from her union that she was a member of, and maybe that's why she's bringing it forward, from her past experience. I do know there were many, many years of negotiation when probably she was a member - I think she was a member of CP -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: News Guild? OK, I'm sure they had many years of bargaining, and I thought she had mentioned that she had actually participated in interest-based bargaining. I hope it was a good experience. I know it is different, but it doesn't always make it to the end, does it?
Anyway, my feeling is the Liberals are really serious about passing this motion, and maybe they didn't think about it that way - think about it down the road, how it would be received by the language that was put up front. If that hadn't been in there, I think we could have had a consent on this one quite easily.
As it is, we've had to amend it because I personally don't believe that the first part of the motion is reflective of the work we've been trying to do.
So, on those points and those points alone, I support the amendment, and I hope the amendment is recognized as an attempt to bring this around so that we do have the direction that was brought forward by the Member for Laberge on interest-based bargaining, so that we can have a vote on it that supports it.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm pleased today to rise and speak to the motion as amended, Mr. Speaker.
The issue before us is a very simple one, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, it's complicated by the interpretation of history and the desire of a number of people in this House to rewrite history.
The issue that we look at is one of the business of government, which is the business of people. That's what we're responsible for. That's what we're charged with. They say that there are two things that you never want to see being made, Mr. Speaker. One of them is sausages, and the other one is laws. Both of them, when you look at what goes into the pot and what comes out, they're not always tasty, and if you watch the process, you shake your head. It's a confrontational world out there and tempers do run high, emotions very, very high, but at the end of the day, hopefully, we achieve a measure of success that will provide the rules, the laws, that govern and direct our territory.
Mr. Speaker, one only has to look back a few years, when the NDP were in charge of the Yukon, and the dilemma that they left the newly elected Yukon Party with. There was an overdraft at the bank of some $42 million. The Auditor General's financial statement showed a tremendous deficit. This is what the Yukon Party inherited.
It required prudent management and a number of decisions that were very, very tough to make. In fact, some of them are very, very hard to support. Hindsight is always 20/20 vision. But, based on the financial dilemma that the Yukon was left in by the previous NDP government, the Yukon Party made changes to bring the financial well-being of the Yukon into line with the fiscal realities - that is, the money that was being taken in from the federal government and from its own resources.
They were tough decisions that were made by the Yukon Party - raising some of the taxes so that there was more money to spend and, rather than looking at a layoff of a number of individuals within government, to look at sharing the load equally across management and labour, and reducing the wages.
Those kinds of decisions are not taken lightly, but for any of those of you that have been in the private sector, and met a payroll and anguished over how you were going to do it sometime, it's a real tough road that one is travelling.
We contrast that position that the Yukon Party was found in to the position that the newly elected NDP found itself in three years ago. The financial picture of the Government of the Yukon had changed significantly by some $100 million, going from a deficit to a surplus. That's virtually 20 percent of the total annual budget of the Government of the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, that the financial position had changed under the Yukon Party. And if you don't have a handle on your financial position, sooner or later you have a problem. You can't go to the bank with your VISA card and take a loan out to pay off your Mastercard. Sooner or later, you're going to max out. As the previous NDP government was finding, they couldn't borrow very much more in the way of money unless they found another area to borrow it from. It could have been done. It could have been continued, but the wage restraint legislation was a tough one that the Yukon Party faced and implemented.
Now, you look at how it was supported and how it was not supported by the other parties in the House at that time. And we can't really rewrite history.
But, as the NDP always point out, you didn't vote for the financial budget so you are opposed to all of these other areas. Well, Mr. Speaker, that is never the case. Usually there are some specific areas of the budget that the parties in opposition disagree with, and that's why they choose to not vote for that legislation. It doesn't mean, Mr. Speaker, that we disagree with the entirety of the budget.
Mr. Speaker, collective bargaining is a fundamental right. Having been on both sides of the equation, I am fully aware of what it takes to negotiate a contract, having represented a couple of unions at the bargaining table with my co-workers, and then having represented management in the negotiating of a contract. And it's tough. It's very, very tough to negotiate a contract, but I'll give credit to the Member for Whitehorse Centre when he said it takes trust. That's one of the main ingredients. We can have all these fancy words, all these great clichés, all these various methods, but when you sit down opposite someone and you're there to bargain in good faith, the major ingredient that is required is that trust. Without that trust, we go nowhere. We sit there and spin our wheels.
But at the end of the day, if that trust is there, you can usually come to an agreement very, very quickly, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, that trust is usually also demonstrated when political parties go back to the electors and ask for their support. When we look at the way that the NDP went back to the electors, their literature said that they were going to rescind the bill - rescind the bill, Mr. Speaker, fully rescind that bill, that horrible wage restraint legislation.
The Yukon Party's position was that we were going to go back to the bargaining table forthwith and negotiate a new collective agreement, and that was a prudent move, Mr. Speaker, given that the financial well-being of the Yukon had turned around and turned around significantly under the capable guidance of the Yukon Party leadership.
Now let's contrast that with the trust that the people of the Yukon gave this NDP, and what they did. The first act that they brought forward into this Legislature, Mr. Speaker, was seriously flawed. It said that they were going to amend the bill, so we went back and forth - amend, rescind. The people out there who had voted the NDP in were fully of the opinion that the legislation was going to be rescinded and that they were going to recover their lost wages.
All one has to do is look into the dictionary and see what the definition of "rescind" means, and put that before a lawyer as to how it would apply to an act, and you can see the outcome of it; but that wasn't what happened. We went back to collective bargaining, but the bill was amended; so much for promises, so much for rescinding a bill.
If we can go on from there to the many, many ways that the message delivered by this NDP government has been interpreted - different ways by different people - the spin doctors are alive and well in the NDP caucus, and I must compliment them because they are doing a very, very good job of spelling out what they're doing, putting a very interesting spin on it. The reality is usually something else.
The economy of the Yukon is in the toilet today, as a consequence of - here in the Yukon - as a consequence of policies and decisions made by this NDP government.
And, at the end of the day, they say they're a labour-friendly government. That's the public perception of the NDP. It's supported by the various trade unions. I really don't have a problem with that. That's admirable but, after they destroy the economy, there is such a decrease in requirement for labour that I don't know how the various labour organizations can support that kind of a government - that virtually destroys their livelihood in a lot of cases.
We can look to many, many examples of this in British Columbia and in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
We can support many aspects of the motion as presented and amended, Mr. Speaker, but we cannot support it unless there is a further amendment to that motion.
Mr. Jenkins: And I propose to amend that motion further, as follows:
THAT Motion No. 184, as amended, be amended by deleting the first paragraph, which reads "the two-percent rollback imposed by the previous government has damaged the relationship between the Government of the Yukon and public sectors workers."
We're not going to say that it has been good for the relationship. We're just going to say that, if that was removed -
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Klondike
THAT Motion No. 184, as amended, be amended by deleting the first paragraph, which reads "the two-percent rollback imposed by the previous government has damaged the relationship between the Government of Yukon and public sectors workers".
Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment, Mr. Speaker, it is quite specific what we are aiming for. We are aiming for a motion that can be supported by all parties. We are aiming for a motion that is not confrontational in any respect whatsoever.
We are looking for a motion that will serve the interests of Yukoners well. When you look at the various areas of this motion, there are many, many harsh words in there that are not only confrontational but they're pretty hard to accept if we want to accomplish anything at the end of the day.
And like the Member for Whitehorse Centre stated previously, it all comes down to trust. This less adversarial motion, Mr. Speaker, should be readily accepted -
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 amended Motion No. 184 and second amendment accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Mr. Fentie: 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. Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 19, the supplementary estimates.
Bill No. 19 - Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd like to begin the general debate this evening by referring to the formula finance funding arrangement with the Government Leader.
I understand from the debate that's gone on in the House previously that the present perversity factor has dropped somewhat. Can the minister outline what it is presently?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It's about $1.04.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, does this leave enough room in the formula finance funding arrangement for tax reduction?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, there is a perversity factor now, so obviously there is some - in terms of the effect on revenues, any reduction of our tax revenues, of course, would have an impact on the perversity factor, but the tax expenditure, like anything else, is an expenditure. And one can choose to do what one wants, in terms of balancing out expenditures of various sorts. It could be a tax expenditure, it could be an expenditure in health, it could be an expenditure in road construction, but it's a matter of choice.
Ms. Duncan: Does the Minister of Finance anticipate a choice leading to a tax reduction for Yukoners in the near future?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I presume the member is referring to the choice that the government might have to supplement the already proposed and implemented tax reduction measures that the government has already undertaken. There could possibly be further tax reduction measures.
This is one of the options that the government has that they can employ if they wish.
The federal government has indicated that they may be moving in this direction themselves, and that may also have an impact on the thinking of provinces and territories.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we've seen the effect of recalculation of the Yukon's population. We noticed the effect on the formula finance funding agreement. The Yukon's population has decreased, according to the statistics. When would we feel the impact of that on our formula financing agreement with the federal government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, we're feeling the decrease now, but I would remind the member that the calculation is based on a three-year, moving average. We don't feel all the pressure in one year, but we are feeling some pressures now.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Finance minister has discussed the idea of a national infrastructure program. What is the Government of Yukon's position with respect to a national infrastructure program? Is the government in favour of it, and is the minister planning any discussions on this subject in the future with the national Finance minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the provincial and territorial Finance ministers got together this week. I wasn't able to join them, because I was obligated to be here for these estimates. The provincial and territorial Finance ministers got together this week in Ontario, and they resolved to pursue the course established by the premiers - a meeting that I also attended, which was essentially to seek a balanced approach to pursuing a combination of some tax reduction and some expenditure increase. The expenditure increase area included, of course, continued restoration of the Canada health and social transfer, which for us would mean real increases as well to restore some of the cuts that were applied to provinces and territories originally. It also included a desire to pursue an infrastructure program, and that message will be carried on to the federal Finance minister at the federal-provincial-territorial Finance ministers meeting in December.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Minister of Finance made reference to the CHST payments, and the Minister of Health and Social Services made reference to them in the House in that this would make a substantial difference to Yukon. I believe the words the minister just used were "a real increase". Exactly how much are we talking about in dollars? What's the estimate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As the member knows, the CHST real increase to the Yukon as a result of the new federal commitments to restore CHST were applied over a two-year period. The total, once fully implemented, is $2.1 million per year.
Ms. Duncan: Last year, there was quite a discussion about the outstanding money from the feds that was owed to the territorial government in terms of child welfare payments. This has been going on for far too long, and the House was, I believe, unanimous in the motion to call upon the feds to pay that, and there was a discussion - my understanding is that there were some payments made this summer, so that outstanding money has been cleared up. Has that all been resolved, or is there still an outstanding amount?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I understand it, there are still some outstanding issues, but the debts owing to the Yukon as a result of these outstanding accounts with respect to First Nation health care, et cetera, are largely collected. That doesn't have any impact, of course, on our balance sheet, because these monies were already booked.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I recognize its impact on the current situation; however, I am sure that the Auditor General will be pleased not to have to write about it in his next report.
Last year, the Finance minister provided - in addition to the budget, there was a booklet with the budget speech, which included the long-term plans. There was a long-term capital plan project listing on pages 1 and 2 of that subsection, and page 3 noted the Government of Yukon projections. Would the minister outline if there have been any changes in terms of the long-term capital plan or any changes to the projections? If so, if we could have an update of those additions to the budget, I'd appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald:Mr. Chair, we haven't changed our projections, except insofar as the supplementary changes - projections for the current year. We feel we're still pretty much on track.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would take it from the minister's answer that there are no updates available then for page 3 as well - the projections.
Does the minister have any current figures on the uptake on the mineral exploration tax credit program?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have no way of knowing, Mr. Chair, until the middle of next year for the first year, I believe, and the middle of the following year for the second year.
However, we can get a pretty good idea, based on the projections that the federal government makes on the amount of exploration spending that is undertaken in a given year, and we can guess as to a percentage of that amount that might qualify for the tax credit. So, once we have a clear read from the federal government on the amount, we'll have a sense of how much the cost might be.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I understand the minister to have responded then in that last question and the previous question that there are no significant changes - other than what we have before us on the supplementary - anticipated before year-end.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, of course the supplementary shows a deficit - $39 million. I will say what every Finance minister always says: there will be lapses, so the deficit probably won't be as high as currently projected.
I don't anticipate any other significant or noteworthy funding expectations on the expenditure side, beyond what we're budgeting right now.
Mr. Ostashek: As I get into the debate tonight, I want to go back to some of the comments that the Finance minister made in his second reading speech about the substantial investment this government has made in the economic fortune of the Yukon, and economic fortunes are now turning around, and if you exclude zinc and lead exports, our exports are increasing, and how the government has used the tax system to spur on investment in the territory.
Let me just start on some of those comments that the Finance minister made and look at the statistical information that's put out by his stats branch. In October of 1999, where it says that the population of the Yukon in June of 1999 was 31,305, and a year ago, in June of 1998, it was 32,209, which meant a decrease of 904 individuals - a 2.8-percent drop in the Yukon's population. The stats go on to say that the median rent in Whitehorse has dropped by $25 a month, or 3.7 percent from September of 1998 to September of 1999, and the vacancy rate in Whitehorse increased from 15.8 percent in September of 1998 to 19.7 percent in September of 1999, which I understand, Mr. Chair, is the highest that has ever been recorded.
The report goes on to say that retail and wholesale trade, clause 8 the stats - the preliminary value of retail trade in Yukon for August 1999 was $30,600,000. The figure was unchanged in value of retail trade from one year ago. It was the same in August of 1998.
If you compare the wholesale trade of August of 1999 to August of 1998, it has decreased by $1.4 million. The statistics go on to say, Mr. Chair, when it comes to employment - and these figures compare September 1999 to September 1998 - the following changes can be seen: our labour force has decreased by 100; the number of Yukoners employed is unchanged at 14,600. The only thing we see that has increased is government employment. The total government employment increased by 120: federal government increased by 16, the territorial government increased by 75, and municipal by 30. We also can look at a report on public school enrollment, which has dropped by a decrease of 2.7 percent from last year to this year.
Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the Government Leader if he believes those statistics are a ringing endorsement of his economic policies in the territory.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I certainly seem to remember that when the Yukon Party was in government and Anvil Range mine shut down, and the GDP took a drop that was greater than the drop the Yukon suffered this last time around, the Government Leader of the day - the member who just spoke - clinging to one statistic alone as being the indicator of an endorsement for his economic policies, which at the time was, I believe, road building. And that one statistic seemed to hold his gaze for a very long time.
Mr. Speaker, what we have seen in the last little while in terms of renewed growth and activity in the economy includes new activity in the oil and gas sector; we see export trade rising in the last two years, much more dramatically than its levels in 1995-96 for non-lead and zinc exports. This is a sign that new things are happening, and this is a good sign. We see the GDP growing from a negative position resulting from the loss of the Anvil Range mine. I see this as a good sign.
There's no doubt, Mr. Chair, that the loss of the Anvil Range mine has had a significant impact on the economy, and the decline in mining generally - thanks to the decline in world metal prices - has meant that this economy, which has been focused on servicing the mining sector, has had a severe hit. Consequently, people around the territory have been looking to pursue new opportunities, and the government has been doing it with the business community, with community governments, with First Nation governments and with industry associations for the last couple of years. The actions taken by the government, and the strategic investments in infrastructure, have been the result of a lot of discussion with the community at large, in order to build a broader-based economy - an economy that we've not experienced, we've not enjoyed before.
So, I would say, Mr. Chair, based on the new investment that's coming into the territory on a series of fronts - everything from private sector construction in Whitehorse, to interest in the immigrant investor fund, to new oil and gas interests, to new private sector investments in the forestry sector - I say this is a signal that things are starting to turn around.
It is not as gloomy as the member insists he wants the picture painted, and it's a disservice, in my opinion, that this member - and his colleagues in the Liberal Party - continue to dismiss the efforts of so many people in this territory, who are working so very hard to improve the economic fortunes and diversify the economy.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's not me in the Yukon Party - or the Liberals - who paints the gloomy picture. It's the statistics of three years of NDP government. Almost 1,000 people have left the Yukon again, in the last year. The Finance minister says people are looking to pursue new opportunities. Well, they are, but they're looking to pursue them in other jurisdictions, not in the Yukon.
These are very devastating statistics, and for this Finance minister to stand in this House and say that things are improving in the economy is just smoke and mirrors. There's no validity to it - none whatsoever.
In fact, any Yukoner you talk to, when you knock on doors, when you visit communities, the one and only subject that comes up is jobs and the economy. And nobody out there tells me it's going well.
They all tell me that they're worried about what's going to happen this winter. We're going into this winter, this October, two percentage points higher in unemployment than we went in last year. That is not a good sign.
I want to turn now to the growing exports, as being spun by the Finance minister and his Economic Development minister. If you exclude lead and zinc, they're increasing. Things are going great. Well, let's look at them. We have the stats here in front of us, and if you look at the second quarter of 1999, you see that supermarkets and grocery stores accounted for $25 million in spending. If you look at the second quarter of 1998, you see that they accounted for $24.5 million, a difference of $500,000. Now, if you look at recreational and motor vehicles, you'll see that in the second quarter of 1999, they amounted to $22.2 million. If you look at the second quarter of 1998, it was only $16.5 million, somewhere in the neighbourhood of almost $7 million in difference. And these are the exports that this government is spinning as creating jobs in the territory, where, in fact, these goods aren't produced in the territory. They're sold through the territory because of the free trade deal. They're sold to customers in Alaska, and I think that's all well and good, but you can't smoke this by the people and tell them that this is because of the efforts of this government and that this is creating jobs in the Yukon and that everything is getting better when, in fact, it's getting worse.
Mr. Chair, the figures speak for themselves. We heard all the rhetoric from the Minister of Economic Development on the contract for garbage cans for the North Slope. I'd like to know how many of those garbage cans that went to the North Slope were built in the Yukon.
I'd like to know how many of them were built in that contract, because I understand that none of them were to be built in the Yukon in that contract. There are some smaller ones that are being built, but not for the North Slope contract that this government has funded day after day after day. Would the Finance minister not agree with me that the increase in exports is basically in recreational and motor vehicles?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The gloom and the gloomy message is coming from the mind of the member who just spoke. The Yukon Party has got gloom and doom etched on its soul. It's in part a reflection of its own dismal fortunes, but it's a reflection of their desire for things - they want to see things not improve. They want to will it to happen. They want to will the economy down. The gloomy picture is a reflection of the Yukon Party's attitude and perspective, and it is a complete disservice to the dozens of people working in the Watson Lake mill who are producing lumber and exporting it.
And what's so wrong with exports? Most of this country is based on an export economy. And if one includes lead, zinc and silver, the mining community has been completely dependent upon exports in the past because they didn't sell those into the domestic market.
So, I don't see what's wrong with exports. There are real jobs in Watson Lake; there are real jobs in Haines Junction; there are real jobs in Teslin, and that's just in lumber. That's reality. Why can't the member accept that? If there are people in the industrial area of Whitehorse - a site that I visited a number of times this summer - who are actually building homes that are actually exported to another jurisdiction, and they're getting paid for it, what's wrong with that? Why dismiss it? Why belittle their effort? They're not making up the full difference of the loss of the Anvil Range mine. They're not doing that. They're doing these things on their own. What's wrong with those things? When someone gets a furniture-making contract to sell furniture to Juneau, what's wrong with that? If people are selling doors and windows - these are all export growth areas, Mr. Chair, and areas that the member does not choose to identify in his very selective statistics nor to identify them as items that are showing growth in the last couple of years.
If people in these areas are in prefabricated buildings or into making doors, windows, frames, et cetera - if these people were actually working and building a product that they sell to Alaska, for example, what in heaven's name is wrong with that? What is unreal about that?
I visited the site this summer in Beaver Creek with the Member for Kluane. They're building log homes for the community. This is a new venture. They are planning to sell log homes outside the community. What is wrong with that? If some oil and gas companies want to invest $20 million to open up and do some seismic work in an area that's currently not being developed, what's unreal about that particular commitment and that expenditure? What's phony about it?
Mr. Chair, there are numerous examples of people going out and doing new things. I know that probably Matthew Lien or some local recording artist selling CDs to a foreign country doesn't cut much mustard with the leader of the Yukon Party, but that is a contributing element to our economy. It's something that is helping to support the economy.
The member has often suggested that we should spend more money. He said last year in the budget estimates that if we just spent $15 million more, he might be tempted to vote for it. Now, we came close to the $15 million more, Mr. Chair, but he had to hedge near the end, because I don't think he was really serious about voting for the budget. But his point was that government has an obligation, that government's response here should be just in raw expenditures - get out there and spend.
Well, we are spending a lot of money on necessary infrastructure, on traditional building infrastructure, roads - in many different ways. But that - as much as that is - is not going to turn around the economy.
And so the question is, what will? Now, I know the member pretends that if he were in government the world metal prices would just turn around. Well, that is a fantasy. That is a fantasy.
Mr. Speaker, there are many people who have faith in the economy. Just take a drive down - just the street outside the building here - and just drive down the street, and you'll see construction. Not government-funded construction, but construction. That construction has to total $30 million, $40 million easily.
So I don't share the member's pessimism. I see people in this territory working hard - trying to do new things. Not maybe in as impressive numbers as the member might want, but I have to congratulate them on their hard work. They're working with us, in partnership with the government. They've asked the government to do a number of things - everything from the tax side of the equation to convening meetings to promoting trade. And we are doing all those things.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: And we are supplying necessary infrastructure, necessary tools to make things happen. So the member's gloom is very much in his own mind, and people's anxiety is certainly there about whether or not we're going to actually make it, because we're trying new things. We're making opportunity. We're not feeding off government public work. We're making things happen. It's exciting, but it's essential for the future of this economy. And, Mr. Chair, we will continue to work with people and take their advice and do new things, because that's that they want. I don't share the member's gloom.
Mr. Ostashek: We don't have to will the economy down; this government's doing a good job of keeping it down; they are doing a really good job of keeping it down. And there's nothing wrong with exports, but if you listen to this Finance minister, you'd think that there was no logging in the Yukon before he came along. You'd think that there were no exports before he came along. I asked him a specific question. He conveniently avoided answering it, because he knows that I am right and he is wrong. In fact, if you look at those statistics, the durable goods dropped from the second quarter of 1998 to 1999. The only thing that's up is the sale of recreational vehicles and motor vehicles, and that's what accounts for the 8.7 percent increase from the second quarter of 1998 to the second quarter of 1999. What I'm trying to point out is the spin that this government is putting on something that really isn't creating any jobs in the Yukon.
Now, I understand that people are working hard out there - harder than they've ever worked to try and keep their heads above water. But there were a lot more of them working three years ago than there are today. There were a lot more of them working a year ago than there are today. At the rate this government's going, there will be a lot less another year from now. That's what my problem is, and that's the problem Yukoners are telling me about. I'm not making this up. This is what Yukoners are telling me. These are what their concerns are, and I'm bringing their concerns to this Legislature. But this government isn't listening - hasn't listened and is not listening.
Mr. Chair, I want to move on to the perversity factor, which I believe the Finance minister just told the leader of the official opposition was $1.04, which means that for every $100 we collect from taxes, the federal government deducts $104 in transfer payments. Am I not correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, when the Yukon Party was faced with the closure of the Anvil Range mine, what did they do? They raised our taxes. They raised gas taxes. They raised personal income tax and business tax, and they supported big-spending budgets. We had a drop in GDP that we have not been able to match since.
Mr. Chair, what did this government do? We have introduced new tax measures, specifically designed at the request of the business community, at the request of the mining community - specifically designed to increase investment in small business, specifically designed to increase activity as much as we possibly can in mining exploration.
When we were faced with a challenge on the tourism side, what did we do? There's a whole list of new initiatives, ground-breaking initiatives, that are changing the face of the tourism industry today. They're bringing new people in all the time.
Mr. Chair, we have made deep investments in everything from energy infrastructure, energy rates, to the runway extension at Whitehorse Airport, new charter airlines coming in. We've put training funds into helping forest mills get started. We didn't throw up our hands and say that that's a federal responsibility. We've been trying to help and encourage things to happen in the forest sector. Oil and gas development is not an illusion.
Just to say and dismiss the whole list of activities - 99 percent of which come right out of the suggestions and the mouths of citizens of this territory - as being nothing stacked up to policies practised by the Yukon Party, which were so passive, was painful.
Mr. Chair, there is no comparison between the relationship that we have with the business community and with the community at large in terms of our partnerships and the things we're doing together and the new things that we're exploring, and that of the Yukon Party. There is no comparison. So when you compare the two times the mine was down - so you compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges - we have a better situation today than we did then.
And, Mr. Speaker, the difference, fundamentally, is not only the partnerships with the community but a sense that we can do new things. We can build on our old strengths and do new things. That is the difference between this government and his government.
And in answer to his question, the answer is yes.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the Government Leader may have perceived that the actions the Yukon Party was taking when it was in office were passive, but I'll say this, "They worked." Yukoners were working. The population was growing, not shrinking. Not shrinking, Mr. Chair.
But let's just talk. He wants to compare apples to apples. Let's compare apples to apples.
When the Yukon Party came to government, we had a $64-million deficit and the Faro mine shutting down. When the NDP came to power in 1996, they had a $60-million surplus - a cash position that was about a $124-million difference.
The perversity factor when we came to power was $1.56, or $1.57. This government's enjoying a perversity factor of $1.04. Why are they enjoying that? Well, several reasons, but let's just look at what that alone does for the finances of this government.
If you were to take the $72-million territorial revenue here, and with the perversity factor today, we'll lose about $75 million in transfer payments. If you took that $72 million under the Yukon Party government - and even took $1.50 perversity factor - you would have found that we'd have lost about $36 million. This government has about $30 million a year extra coming in. They are not faced with cuts from Ottawa; they have excess money.
They have population adjustments because of the actions of the Yukon Party government while they were in power and raised the population in the Yukon. More people were coming to Yukon than ever before. He doesn't believe that, though.
But what I'm saying is that this government has had lots of money to work with. Why have they had it to work with? Because they haven't kept the taxes in Yukon in line with other jurisdictions in Canada. That's the biggest part of it. There have been tax cuts in almost every other jurisdiction, and this government has been dragging their feet on tax cuts. That has been the biggest increase in their financing. That's what has eliminated a lot of that perversity factor, along with an expenditure base going up in the provinces - I'll give them that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: "Ask that one in Question Period," he says.
Here's a government that sits there and said when they were in opposition that tax increases weren't required, even though they left a devastating financial mess when they left office in 1992. They weren't required, and the two-percent rollback wasn't required, yet they've sat there and used that money. They've never offered to give it back to the citizens. Even today, they haven't offered to give back the tax increases, and yet they said they weren't required. Those kinds of statements lack credibility.
So, Mr. Speaker, there's a lot of difference when you compare the Faro mine going down under the Yukon Party government and the Faro mine going down under a NDP government in 1996. They have a lot more money to do a lot more things, and I don't believe they have done a good job of spending the money and putting Yukoners to work. They could have done much better. And the money they are spending, they aren't spending wisely. Because if everything is as good as this Finance minister is saying, and all of these initiatives are taking place, then clearly, they had better go back to the drawing board because they're simply not working. Yukoners are still leaving the territory.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I've never heard such nonsense. The actions of the Yukon Party increased the population. Let's put it this way: when the Faro mine was attempting to reopen under his administration, there were reports out of Toronto, from the mine operators, the chief executive officer, that said there was more interest in getting that mine reopened in Toronto than there was in the Yukon. There was virtually no interest, from his government, in assisting or aiding or helping the mine open at all. It opened all on its own. All by itself. Because metal prices were high. There was nothing that the Yukon Party did at all to help that mining company - nothing at all. The member should be embarrassed by making such a claim. I can tell by the way he's reacting now that he is embarrassed. It must be just painful for him to think that the mining growth was his doing. It had nothing to do with the Yukon Party cabinet. Good heavens.
Mr. Chair, you know, it's interesting that when it comes to the prescriptions that the Yukon Party puts forward, only last spring, it was, "Spend more." Didn't even ask for tax cuts last spring. We've been trying to reverse the Yukon Party record for the last three years. It's hard work. We had a whole motion debate on it this afternoon. The member's government was a complete disaster. It was a disaster zone. Just destroyed relations with First Nations, destroyed relations with their own employees. It takes awhile to resurrect the situation. The member doesn't even want to recognize that, in the last budget, this government provided for $4.25 million in tax breaks.
There are tax breaks to low-income people, tax breaks to the mining industry, tax breaks to small business - $4.5 million dollars.
Yes, we have been trying, Mr. Chair. We have been settling with our employees and providing economic increases every year we've been in office. The last budget already involved significant tax breaks for people, for citizens, for business.
It is hard work to reverse his record, the Yukon Party record, but we're trying hard.
Mr. Chair, when the members opposite were in office, they had some big capital projects. They had nothing to do with negotiating the hospital project. That capital construction project was decided. And they didn't have anything to do with the negotiation of the Shakwak project. That project was already negotiated. When this government came to office, there was no renewal of the Shakwak project. This government negotiated that, too.
Mr. Chair, I think it's irony or ironies that the Yukon Party is criticizing the NDP for dragging its feet on reversing the Yukon Party record. We're not dragging our feet. We're doing new things: tax breaks, economic increases for employees, major capital works around the territory, new investments in health care. We're doing many things. And on top of that, we're working with the community.
So, Mr. Chair, whether the member wants to admit it or not, not only are people working hard, but they're showing results, and this government's proud of their effort, proud of our partnership, proud of our investments, and we know that with hard work, we can turn the situation around, and we are turning the situation around.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, the more this Finance minister talks, the bigger hole he digs for himself. He's turning things around. Let's really look at that.
In 1992, when the Yukon Party came to power, exploration was less than $10 million. Grassroots exploration was less than $10 million.
In 1996, when we left office, it was in excess of $50 million - $50 million. Three years later - as of a couple of days ago - I understand it's $7 million. That's with tax breaks and everything else. This government can't say that their policies aren't having a major impact on the amount of exploration dollars that are being spent in the Yukon, because they most certainly are.
And we've seen another open letter to the Government Leader in the paper tonight on this government's policies and what they're doing to curtail investment in the Yukon in the mining industry. It's a message that we've tried to give this government for three years and they haven't been listening. They haven't been listening at all.
And they talk about us, with the biggest budgets ever - $512 million, I believe the biggest budget in the territory. And at the same time they can't put Yukoners to work. We have Yukoners still leaving - 1,000 Yukoners in the last year. And this government doesn't seem to care - doesn't seem to care at all.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Well, this is the caring government. This is the caring government. This is the caring government - unbelievable. Unbelievable. Unbelievable.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: That's what you guys are accused of all the time.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Let the member speak.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, we'll move on in this budget. The Finance minister, when he was speaking, said that the outstanding monies that rolled from the federal government were largely collected for the First Nation welfare.
I'd like to know what the Finance minister means by "largely collected". And also, has the outstanding bill for the forest fire evacuation in Old Crow and Pelly Crossing been paid by the federal government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, you know, just listening to the member speak, after all the meetings I've had with people around this territory, in all the communities, and after all the discussions I've had with the business community, with the Association of Yukon Communities, First Nation leaders, Yukon Federation of Labour, Tourism Industry Association, and all the members about all the initiatives that are being undertaken on all of the fronts, from telecommunications to tourism - it's mind-boggling how much people out there are actually doing, and much of it with our support and encouragement. But this member, even by himself, sitting alone at his kitchen table, staring into his coffee cup, he must actually believe that nonsense he just uttered. He says it with such conviction.
But Mr. Speaker, I take strength from the conversations, discussions and partnerships that we have with the people of this territory.
I take strength from the progress that is being made in everything from the forest sector - obvious progress - oil and gas, tourism, light manufacturing, cultural industries, even bottled water, because I know people are working hard, and I know they are trying to develop a true private sector economy in partnership with the government. And, you know, Mr. Chair, whatever the member seems to think he did to start the Faro mine is his own private fantasy. It has no relationship to reality.
Mr. Chair, with respect to the outstanding invoices to Indian Affairs, $10.1 million was received in August toward the 1995-96 and 1996-97 child welfare claims. This reduced the claims from $37.9 to $27.8 million.
A total of $18.8 million has been received from DIAND since December 1988 for outstanding child welfare invoices for fiscal years 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98. A further $5.4-million payment for 1998-99 has just been received, and I will find out more about if there are any outstanding invoices owed to the government from the Old Crow fire.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: Yes, just before the break I was asking the Finance minister about - he related for me the monies which he collected, and I thank him for that. Does he have a figure now of what is still outstanding on those billings? And I had the other question about the evacuation of Old Crow and the evacuation of Pelly Crossing in 1995, I believe.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't yet have the information on the outstanding amounts for the previous fires. I will find that information.
With respect to the outstanding amount, I was told by the Health minister that there has been agreement that the disputed amounts will be paid and by the time we get to the Health estimates, he will be ready.
Mr. Ostashek: For the Finance minister's information, the reason I'm raising the evacuation monies for Old Crow and Pelly is because I believe, in previous debates in this Legislature, we raised the issue that those were going to be cleared up before devolution or, if they weren't cleared up, we'd probably end up having to eat them, and so that's why I've raised the issue again with the Finance minister. I want to know what the status of them is and what agreements have been made on them.
In discussions with the leader of the official opposition over land claims, the minister laid out land claims that were settled or just pretty well settled. I didn't hear anything said about Kwanlin Dun. Where are we at in negotiations with Kwanlin Dun?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the situation with Kwanlin Dun is basically that we are restarting the negotiations that were relatively - completely - quiet on community lands and reviewing the work that had been completed in the mid-1990s on the R blocks and the rural lands near Whitehorse, and we are engaging in self-government negotiations.
Mr. Ostashek: If I can recall accurately, Mr. Chair, I believe that when negotiations ceased with Kwanlin Dun, the land selections were almost completed. Are we going back and doing them again now?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there was a dispute, Mr. Chair. The government negotiators indicated that they approved those land selections on the grounds that those land selections for community lands would be subject to the laws of general application, with a couple of exceptions for seat of government lands. That is the position that we're taking, that is in dispute. But the basic land selections for the community are still on the table, and there have been no significant changes as of this date. There are still issues to address, though.
Mr. Ostashek: There was some talk with the leader of the official opposition on the mandate for negotiation of land claims, which expires on March 31, I believe. Have there been any discussions - and the minister may have answered this, and if he has I'll look it up in Hansard - but I just want to know if there have been any discussions as to what the federal government's position is. Are they going to stand firm on March 31, or is it going to be extended again, because there are several options that are available to the federal government, but I understand that the federal government is having some difficulty making any move on them with the outstanding court challenges that are in place. What can the Finance minister tell me? We can wait until we get to Executive Council if he likes.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I can answer it any time, Mr. Chair. With respect to the end of the federal mandate, which is March 31, 2000, the federal government's position right now is that they would prefer to put energies into negotiating existing claims, rather than negotiating extensions. I think it's probably realistic that we can conclude a number of those claims very quickly. Probably Ta'an, Kluane, Carcross - and perhaps Liard - could all be finalized very quickly. I think it would be optimistic, frankly, to conclude Kwanlin Dun's claim by March 31. But at this point, the federal government has not, that I know of, expressed a position on the issue of extension. They may ask for my opinion, but they have not expressed an opinion to me.
Mr. Ostashek: That's fine. If I have any more questions, I'll wait until we get into the Executive Council debate.
There was a report in the news media this morning about a trust company that was planning to come to the Yukon and has now decided not to come. Apparently, there had been some negotiations - or some discussions with government, at least, on some tax breaks for trusts being set up in the Yukon. Can the Finance minister enlighten the House at all about what was under discussion? It appears that there is now an obstacle with Revenue Canada not collecting Yukon taxes if we go ahead with this arrangement. Can the Finance minister bring us up to date?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Department of Economic Development, in concert with the chambers of commerce and those interested in promoting new trust business in the territory, had discussed options for a legislative framework and a tax framework that would attract new business to the territory.
The feeling was that, essentially, on the tax side, the Yukon could levy a tax because trusts are taxed as though they're individuals. We could levy a tax that was at a much lower rate. This has been disputed by Revenue Canada. They believe that this is not appropriate, and they will not collect the tax for the Yukon, and that essentially puts an end to the project. I think it was a proposal that probably conceptually had some merit for further review. I know a number of people put a lot of work into it, but in the end, a convincing argument could not be made to Revenue Canada to collect the tax.
A letter was written by Revenue Canada to Yukon basically outlining that - and I can provide it to the member if he wishes - and stating the reasons why they will not collect.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that and would appreciate a copy of the letter. The reason I raise this is because I have been approached by some members in the chambers of commerce to raise the issue, and they want to urge the government to continue to lobby Revenue Canada to see if an arrangement can be made.
So, I want to ask the Finance minister, if he says this is basically the end of it. Is it the end of it, or could we be successful if we were to lobby Revenue Canada for a special tax rate? Or is it just out of the question? I don't know, that's why I'm asking.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: My reading of the letter, and certainly the advice from the department, is that this seems like a pretty final statement on Revenue Canada's part. As they interpret the situation, this would create a precedent that they don't feel they could sustain beyond the Yukon either. So, I would suspect that it's pretty final unless we can make a major pitch to Finance ministers across the country, which I don't think would go very far with other Finance ministers.
So, I doubt that we could make much headway. But if the member wants to have a look at the letter, or maybe talk to the deputy of Finance for any explanations he may need, he'll probably draw the same conclusions that I've drawn.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I'd appreciate that, and I thank the minister for the information. I would not want to be in his position and approach Finance ministers across the country to try to get a tax break for the Yukon on that particular issue. I don't think he would get very far with it.
I don't have any further questions at this time, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Cable: I'd like to pursue the same issue. When the proposition was put on the table originally, were tax concessions part of the deal, or were there other aspects of it that were being pushed and then the tax concessions were considered later?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think it was a package of items, Mr. Chair. I'm not the best person to explain the packages. The initiative arose out of the Department of Economic Development, but the tax portion was one element of it.
Mr. Cable: Is the door completely closed? I take it there's some arrangement with the federal government whereby we can't say, "Well, if you don't collect it, we'll collect it." Is that not a possibility?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I suppose technically we could get into the tax collection business. I have not contemplated that before, because the costs associated with tax collection in the Yukon would be very significant, and that is why we have - we and other jurisdictions - tax collection agreements with the federal government, and now with the Revenue Canada agency.
So, I think that would probably be a long shot, from our perspective, being the second smallest jurisdiction in the country.
If the member wants I can give him the letter from Revenue Canada. He can get a sense of how final is final. It seems pretty final, and if he wants some explanation from Finance officials, he's welcome to phone them up and ask, if he doesn't understand what's going on there.
Mr. Cable: The reason I ask is, I gather there's a possibility that this initiative could result in a trust company operation being set up here in the territory, where RRSPs and other financial vehicles would be administered for people outside the territory. So there could be 25, perhaps 30 people here in the territory. That's one number that was bandied around anyway. I was wondering just how creative we can get to get around the problem. Has the Government Leader given any thought to, instead of approaching it with an income tax outlook, charging a fee, like $100,000 or something like that? I think that can be done, as long as it's not done by regulation. It can be done by statute. Has the minister thought about that approach to the problem?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't think the member means that the government would charge a fee to the trust company, but is he suggesting that perhaps the government could receive a tax return and then grant the trust company the equivalent in a tax break? Is that what he's talking about?
Mr. Cable: I'm just trying to get creative here. What I was saying was, instead of saying, "Look, you're going to pay income tax; we have a problem here; we can't do it this way," you simply say, "If you want your office here, there's going to be a trust company fee of $100,000," or whatever.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the difficulty, Mr. Chair, is that we can't just not - part of our tax collection agreement, in this particular case, means that individuals who earn so much have to pay income tax. We either make it a conscious effort to lower the tax rate or give a tax credit. I think that there are limitations to us simply not collecting a tax or simply informing the federal government that this person is tax-free. I think that that would be very difficult to achieve.
I don't want to sound like a wet blanket, because we certainly have been trying to work around, as much as we can, the restrictions, and we have not come up with anything to this point. It was certainly an intriguing concept, and that was why we were involved in the project in the first place. In fact, we invested - you'll probably find out in Economic Development - a lot of time and energy to try and make this thing come about. But in the end, we did not convince the tax collectors that this was something that they would be prepared to sanction.
This may not be the best place to explore options, but upon reflection, after what the member reads in the letter from Revenue Canada and perhaps talks to finance specialists, if he has further suggestions, then perhaps we could explore those suggestions and see whether or not we can do something. There doesn't seem to be a lot of daylight at this point, in my opinion.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps I've misperceived the concept, from what the Government Leader has just said. Is the tax that we're concerned about the tax on the trust company's Yukon operations, or is it the tax on the individuals that we're running into problems with?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The taxes on the trusts themselves, not on the company.
Chair: Is there further general debate? Seeing none, Committee will now turn to the estimates book. We will be starting with the Department of Renewable Resources.
Department of Renewable Resources
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'll be very brief in my comments in opening remarks.
This supplementary adds a total of $231,000 to my department's O&M budget and $551,000 to capital. These additional expenditures are offset by additional recoveries of $42,000 in O&M and $288,000 in capital.
In O&M, a total of $94,000 is the result of the revote of two items: $32,000 has been revoted to recover a carry-over of unfinished work in conjunction with the state of the environment report, and $62,000 is being revoted to cover habitat protection work in conjunction with the protected areas strategy.
The remaining $137,000 is new money and covers four items: $15,000 is being used in partnership with the Department of Economic Development and the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs to undertake a feasibility study to identify timber supply required to support some timber harvest agreements; $30,000 is being used for forestry consulting work to prepare for devolution, including taking a leadership role in developing short-term actions to enhance the forest sector, obtaining expert advice and developing policy options for a post-devolution regime; $50,000 is being used for the Thandlot ice patch studies, and $42,000 is being added to the Inuvialuit final agreement as a result of the application of the cost increase formula included in the agreement. This $42,000, of course, is also an increase in our recoveries from Canada.
The increase in capital of $551,000 consists of a total of $263,000 revote of capital monies previously approved by this Legislature to cover incomplete or unfinished projects, and $288,000 additional money.
The $263,000 revote is going into the following projects: $2,000 into office furniture and equipment; $9,000 into state of the environment reporting; $46,000 to the Greater Kluane land use plan; $5,000 to the energy management project; $52,000 to the park systems plan; and $29,000 to resource assessment; $25,000 to Coal River Springs; $12,000 to global warming/climate change project; $37,000 to capital works and campgrounds; and $12,000 to outdoor recreation system plan; $13,000 to the Yukon heritage river Thirty Mile section; and $16,000 to the Tatshenshini heritage river; and $5,000 to agriculture infrastructure facilities.
The $288,000 additional monies will also be fully recoverable and are going into the following projects: $153,000 is going into the global warming/climate change analysis, which is in turn being turned over to Yukon College for operations of the Climate Change Centre, and these funds are fully recoverable from the federal government; $30,000 is going toward the production of a safety-in-bear-country video, which is being produced in conjunction with a number of jurisdictions, and is fully recoverable from the State of Alaska.
$105,000 is going to agricultural land development to make land available for agricultural purposes, and these funds would be fully recoverable through sale of the land. The only other capital project being introduced in this supplementary is the outfitter compensation for which we are requesting a $1.00 vote. One application for compensation is presently under review and in the negotiation stage. Those are my brief comments for opening.
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for the information that has been provided. One of the Auditor General reports that have been presented - certainly since the time that the minister and I have both been in this Legislature - notes environmental liability in the overall Yukon balance sheet. There was some comment that we haven't taken this into account, and the state of the environment reporting is included in this minister's budget. I note that we've voted some to date, and there's an additional sum required. Yet I can't recall seeing anything to date on this reporting. Can the minister advise what work has taken place since the amount we voted to date and what precisely the additional funds are required for?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There are two sets of monies that I stated in here. One was with some O&M and capital, but both of them are to finish up the project. What does the member want to see? Whether or not there is another finished document?
Ms. Duncan: I'd just like a greater sense of what the reporting is entailing. For example, one of the subjects I've asked about before is the state of the assessment of the bridges in the Yukon and what we're doing on various situations where we might encounter environmental disasters, potential disasters. Touch wood it doesn't happen, but what exactly is this line item? What precisely is the minister's department doing? Who is doing it? When will we see the finished products for these monies expended?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I can bring details back to the member. Some of the work that is being completed on this is to do more of the research work that has been carried out from the spring.
Ms. Duncan: More funds are going to be required for the Kluane land use plan. As I understood, there was quite some concern from the Kluane area with respect to the number of ongoing consultations, and there was some feeling that this land use planning exercise was causing concern for people, and we're voting additional funds for it. What is the minister's intention?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: These are not additional funds. They are revotes from 1998-99, and things have not progressed as quickly as we originally thought. But it is moving along okay now.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister says things are moving along. Is there a plan for a series of consultations in the Kluane area for this winter - say, January? The minister says it's moving along now. Could he be a little more precise, please?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, work has been done with the Kluane land use plan. It didn't go as quickly as we thought it would. There were some delays. The people in Haines Junction particularly wanted a little bit more input, so the department has been trying to accommodate them by having a few more meetings. Basically, what that did was to slow it down a little bit. There was a lot of interest in things like agricultural activities that could take place within this plan, and that type of thing. So, they have been working with the community, and the red group had voiced some interest - basically, what they wanted us to do is not take the plan and adopt it with minor changes by just looking at it. They wanted more input into trying to make some of those changes, so it kind of slowed the project down and we didn't spend the money right at the beginning to complete the project. To carry it out through this year and this winter, we're asking that the dollars that were voted for in the 1998-99 budget be brought back and to use that money to complete the project or continue to work on the project for this year.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister will recall that in my second reading speech I noted the new funds for a bear management project, and I didn't quite catch, when he was giving his introduction, precisely the details on that project. If the minister wouldn't mind, could he just outline that for us?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What I said was that $30,000 was going toward the production of a safety-in-bear-country video, and we've been working on that with Alaska, B.C., Alberta, N.W.T. and Nunavut. This is a fairly big project. It's about a $200,000 project. We're all throwing a bit of money into it, so actually we're coming out with a product that's much more than what we've put into it.
Ms. Duncan: And presumably that would be available next spring? The circumstances in dealing with bears is quite different between Nunavut and Porter Creek South, for example. Quite different. So presumably this is going to have application and will be ready by early spring next year?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We believe that the video would be completed in late spring of 2000. Yes, you are correct.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister and I have enjoyed many conversations about the campground facilities over the last three years, and I'm curious to know how the new system went this summer in terms of implementation and the reaction from the public. Unfortunately, I don't notice a large increase in the revenues, so I'm assuming it was a standard or slightly better summer. Can the minister give an update on that project?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: When we first introduced it, it took a bit of time even for local people to get used to. People weren't used to buying these permits right out of the stores where they buy fishing licences and so on.
There were some concerns people had when they were in the campgrounds. They were not able to purchase a permit, although I think there's a bit more education to come forward on this. Those who have bought permits can actually pass them on to other people and sell them if they have extras. As before, we do have seasonal passes and that type of thing.
It's coming along, I think, fairly well. We don't have the problems, of course, of collecting cash and that type of thing any more. We don't have the final figures back to us yet. The department hasn't compiled all that, but we should have that fairly soon, although I do think the system, being that it was introduced for the first time this year, went along fairly well.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, unfortunately one of the problems has been with the number of Yukoners who have used the campgrounds and not paid the fees. That has been quite a difficulty for the department and an embarrassment for many Yukoners. I realize not all the figures are in, but are we doing better at collecting fees and working with our local Yukoners who use the campgrounds?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, it's not a huge problem. I know that people tend to forget, and the permit system that used to be in place is not there any more, where they could go in and purchase their nightly pass. Our conservation officers have been going in, and campground attendants have been going in and checking and asking people to make sure that they do purchase these and basically, if they haven't, telling them how they can do it in the future.
I think, for Yukoners, it's more of a learning experience, and one they have to get used to. What we would like to do is make sure that we have the system in place, and information available to travellers into the Yukon and make sure that they know the system we're using now.
Ms. Duncan: It's fortunate that we went into Renewable Resources first; we don't usually get this opportunity. I was asked by a constituent last night, who frequently travels the backcountry in various parts of the Yukon, why all of the stoves are now being removed from Yukon campgrounds. Normally, some equipment is taken out when campgrounds are closed, but I understood that all of the stoves were taken out of the shelters as well at a couple of the campgrounds that this particular constituent was at. Is there any reason why we've started doing that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm not aware of that. I'll have to go back to the department and check to see if it's simply maintenance or if they're going to something new. But I can get back to the member.
Ms. Duncan: I would appreciate that. The particular campground where this was noticed was on the South Canol, and, of course, as the minister is likely aware, that's an area that's used a lot by snowmobilers in the winter, and while the campgrounds are closed, the snowmobilers do use the shelters, and I think that's quite useful.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: No, I'm not the guilty party. It was others who have noted it to me. And it's a safety issue as well. I mean, someone out in the back area, if they're building a fire to stay warm, it would be better that they do it in a vessel it's designed for.
There is additional money for capital works in campground facilities, and every time we've had a supplementary budget, we've had additional money for these very good facilities throughout the territory. Would the minister outline where the additional funds are being spent.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I identified some $37,000 in capital works in campgrounds. These are to complete legal surveys in Million Dollar Falls, Tatchun Creek and Nisutlin River campgrounds and the Five Finger recreation site, and also to do some painting.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, a number of the picnic tables that were, I believe, destined to be sold as surplus. They were stacked up at the storage area. What was the reason for the large number of these tables being available?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm not exactly sure what the member is referring to. I know that last year, when a big increase in the one-time funding for campgrounds, we did build some additional outhouses, tables and that type of thing. But what we're doing right now is replacing a lot of the tables with newer ones, basically.
Ms. Duncan: Are these tables just newer and in better condition? There is no other reason for their replacement? It's just the annual replacement of equipment as it wears out.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'll have to find out for the member opposite. One of the things that goes first on the campground tables is the surface. I'm not sure, at this point, whether we're replacing them with newer ones, or just the surface itself with new plywood and paint, or whether it's other things. I'll have to get back to the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm certain that my colleague from Riverside will want to talk some more about the global warming and climate change analysis line that's in this particular supplementary budget. My understanding was that there was quite a great deal of work going on with the federal government, NRCan and the Department of the Environment on establishing a Climate Change Centre at Yukon College. There were discussions about funding it, and there was a proposal. I'm not sure what the final status of this was. If the minister could provide us with some more information on this particular project, that would be very useful.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The $150,000 that has been identified here is recoverable from the federal government, and we've been working with them to try to have a place where we can gather data and which the general public can use and the students can access. We've been working with Yukon College on this and what's going to result, of course, is going to be a Climate Change Centre in the Yukon College, in the northern institute wing. We are matching funds. We are matching it with some dollars and also with staffing to get this up and going. So, this is going to be something new, I think. With all the controversy around what has really taken place in the north in regard to climate change, this would be an excellent place to have all our researchers out there, even students who are doing papers and so on, to have information gathered and put in this centre.
Ms. Buckway: I have some further questions for the minister about campgrounds.
Let me start by saying that I think Yukon campgrounds are wonderful. I use them as much as I can and I find them generally very well-equipped.
Something you said to Ms. Duncan earlier - if a campground attendant or a conservation officer finds someone in a campground without a permit, what happens? Do they sell them one, or do they evict them from the campground or do they just let the situation be and tell them to get one next time?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: They all pack the permits, and they do sell them to those that are camping in the campgrounds. There are occasions when they do ask people to leave or pay up, and if that's not the case, they may work out an agreement if that camper would go into town the following day or whatnot, if he's staying more than one night there. So, at this point they're trying to make everyone aware that there are permits that are being sold in stores and are really easily accessible.
Ms. Buckway: In my travels this summer, I did hear a few complaints from people who didn't have permits. They would have passed a community and not known exactly where they were going to spend the night and then thought, "Gee, here's a campground. We'll stay here." They may not have seen the signs or whatever and may not have been aware of the new program.
I observed in a couple of campgrounds late this summer that most of the campers there - and I guess they were evenly divided between Yukoners and visitors to the territory - had no permits at all, and I would hope that wouldn't mean no fees were paid at all. But I would suspect that some of these people wouldn't have gone the next day and got a permit. Is there any way to enforce that? Do the campground attendants take licence plates? Is there any way to follow up?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, what our campground attendants and conservation officers have been trying to do is to encourage people to go out and purchase these permits. We haven't been writing up tickets for them or anything like that, but I think that as we go into next year and people are more aware of this, it will become less of a problem than it has been in this past year.
Ms. Buckway: I've noticed, actually, on the crawl on WHTV, a Crimestoppers note about vandalism at the Kookatsoon day use area, where the outhouses were shot up rather badly, I gather. Is there any idea how much vandalism there was over the course of the summer at all of the territorial campgrounds and day use areas?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't have the numbers in front of me, but there is normally some vandalism to campgrounds every year. This year, I'm aware of that. There has always been some damage to tables, you know, with vehicles running into them and, also, even with the bricks just from vehicles running over the campfire spots - that type of thing, posts and signs. That's part of our O&M, I guess, on the campground itself. With more damages, there have always been outhouses pushed over, and that type of thing. Sometimes, there is a lot more damage than other times. When we can, we try to find out who has done the damage. At other times, we have to basically replace them ourselves.
Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress.
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 a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 9:30, this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 17, 1999:
Exploration '99: oil and gas trade mission to Calgary (June 6 to 9, 1999) (Harding)