Thursday, November 6, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with prayers at this time.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Tribute to Jan Ogilvy
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I rise today to pay tribute to a woman who many have called "the keystone of the Yukon government", Jan Ogilvy.
Jan has faithfully staffed the government's inquiry centre for the past 17 years, and now, after much thought and deliberation, she is stepping down to join her husband, Cam, in retirement.
She began working for the government in 1970 for a 10-month stint in what was then the territorial secretary's office. Four years later, she started working at the Whitehorse Public Library, where she remained until 1980. In that year, she took up her familiar post at the front desk of the main administration building, where she has been answering questions and solving problems every since.
Jan has certainly fielded her share of questions of an unusual nature along the way. For example, one day a man called from Japan and asked to speak to Pierre Trudeau. Without missing a beat, she provided him with a phone number at the Prime Minister's office in Ottawa and wished him a good day.
Jan has also helped people in crisis situations, who didn't know who else to call. She has put calls through to lawyers from prisoners who are phoning from detention cells, and has even given advice about what to do about a dead horse on the highway - a very useful bit of information, particularly regarding the debate we've been having recently.
Just recently, Jan not only helped a member of my staff plan her holiday trip to Spain, she even advised her how to cook her first Thanksgiving turkey. Jan has been the helpful voice of reason for members of the public struggling to find the right person in the right department. She's been the friendly, welcoming face to people who wander through the front doors of the building seeking assistance, and she's been the informative tour guide for thousands of visitors who come here to see how our territory is run.
We have all come to rely on Jan so much for her knowledge of who's who and what's what, that I seriously considered asking my colleagues to pass an order-in-council to prohibit her from retiring.
But her mind is made up, so all we can do now is thank Jan for her excellent work over the years and wish her well as she focuses her energies on her hobbies, her volunteer work, her love of foreign travel and her grandchildren, who are in the public gallery with her mom today.
Tomorrow is Jan's last day on the job, Mr. Speaker, and I ask all members to join me in saluting her for her many years of dedicated public service.
Mr. Phillips: I hope, Mr. Speaker, I get that kind of a reception when I announce that I'm going to retire. I know there'll be at least half of this House that will applaud.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute as well to Jan. I happen to know Jan and Cam fairly well, as they are constituents of mine in Riverdale North. I have stopped at their house on numerous occasions for not only an inspiring conversation but also a great glass of wine, and it got to the point where I made sure that it was my last visit of the night because it wasn't a good idea to go door to door smelling as if you'd just been into the sauce.
So, at the end of the evening, I would stop on Alsek at Jan and Cam's and just go in and sit down with them for sometimes maybe an hour or more and we would solve almost all the problems of the world - not all of them, but most of them.
I would like to pay tribute to Jan for her outstanding 17 years of dedicated service to the Yukon. Jan put a real human face on our government and for many Yukoners trying to figure out the maze of government - who they should call for help - there was always one person to direct them in the right direction.
I spoke to her daughter earlier today, and one of the things that amazes me about Jan more than anything else is that whoever called the Government of Yukon and wanted some information, you really just had to kind of have an idea of where you wanted to go and even if you named the name, Jan would say, "No, I don't think that's who you want to talk to. The information that you need is from this person who has it," and away you go. It got to the point where you could almost recite a number and Jan would know who was at the other end of the number or that they'd actually moved from one department to the other two weeks earlier.
So, she had an amazing knowledge of where people were in the Government of Yukon and I know that she has helped me on numerous occasions and she guided many Yukoners through the bureaucracy and helped them find solutions to their problems. Whether it was directing traffic to government offices, providing information or simply being able to purchase a stamp, Jan was always there and we're all going to miss her very much.
Mr. Phillips: We on this side, Mr. Speaker, would like to wish Jan all the very best in her retirement. She gave the real meaning to public service. She really did serve the public in the Yukon and served them well, and we thank Jan for her efforts over the years.
Mr. Cable: This is partly a tribute and partly an exposť.
In the spring of 1970, there was a young couple with four kids who lived on Klondike Road, and this house that they lived in backed on a house of another young couple who lived on Teslin Road who had three kids, and this family on Teslin Road was quite noisy, so the neighbours started building fences around their various properties to keep the Ogilvys out, and I can remember being out in the backyard - I think it was in May or June of 1970 - putting up the barbed wire, and this gentleman came over and introduced himself, and this turned out to be Cam Ogilvy, and one thing led to another, and I had the distinct pleasure then of meeting his wife, Jan Ogilvy, and meeting their kids, and over the years, the friendship has grown.
Now, as part of this exposť, I should tell the members that I had the pleasure of travelling around England with Jan and Cam a few years ago. I made the discovery about something I hadn't realized up until that time, and that is that Jan has a photographic memory. She can remember everything.
We went into supper into an inn in this obscure English village. It was the White Horse Inn, quite coincidentally. Jan, who had been there four years previously, could remember what she and Cam had had for supper. It was amazing. This repeated itself all over England.
I say this to you: anyone who has spoken to Jan over the last 20 years, I say beware. She will remember it.
I have to say that the government has benefited from having Jan as the first public servant on the greeting line, whether personally or on the phone. Jan is invariably polite and gracious, and I have to say that I've never heard her say anything negative about anybody or anything. So, the government's loss and the front desk's loss I think will be the community's gain when she does retire and goes out into the community and gets more involved with the community interests that she has.
Thank you, Jan, for being our first line of defence against the people who come in here and want to talk to us.
Tribute to Trans North Air
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I rise to pay tribute to Trans North Turbo Air, a company celebrating 30 years of business in the Yukon, and introduce Ron Connelly, Gordon Davis and Al Kapty, the founding members of the company who are with us here today.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In their early years, Trans North offered fixed-wing, scheduled service and helicopter charter service and pioneered scheduled service into Faro and Ross River. They were known then as the Yukon's community air service. In 1968, Trans North was one of two rotary wing companies who introduced turbine-powered Bell Jet Ranger helicopters into the Yukon. In 1986, Trans North changed operations to concentrate on helicopter charter and contract service.
In their early history, Trans North established the most modern and complete helicopter maintenance facility north of 60. Over the years, Trans North operated bases in the Northwest Territories, working on the Mackenzie River pipeline feasibility study, Port Alberni, Dease Lake, and Atlin in British Columbia, as well as various locations throughout Alberta in support of the oil and gas industry.
At one time in their history Trans North was the Yukon's second-largest private sector employer.
Trans North pilots have also brought recognition to the organization over the years. In 1983, Ron Eland, based at Haines Junction, received worldwide recognition as pilot of the year from the Helicopter Association of America for a helicopter rescue he performed in Kluane Park, and in 1993 Doug Makkonen, also based in Haines Junction, received a Commissioner's award for a high-altitude rescue also performed in Kluane Park.
I ask all members of the House to join me in congratulating Trans North Turbo on 30 years in the Yukon and wishing them well in the future.
Mr. Ostashek: The Yukon Party caucus would also like to join with the government in extending our congratulations to this great Yukon company.
I can go back to 1973, Mr. Speaker, when I first came to the Yukon and established my business here, and first went to Trans North Air to fly my clients into the mountains. They were in the fixed-wing business then and we made arrangements for them to move my clients with a single Otter. I think what I remember most about that is that, back in those days, they were turning a great profit and a single Otter trip was, I think, $500 to Burwash and back - quite a change from today.
When they moved to scheduled service and went to all the outlying communities, my company tried to support them, as did many other companies, because we thought it was a great thing that was happening in the Yukon. We had our clients come to Burwash and we picked them up there. But, things changed, times change, but one thing that hasn't changed is that Trans North has proven, to all Canadians, and to people worldwide, that they are a company that can compete in any environment. It's a major accomplishment for a company that started up 30 years ago in the Yukon, with an idea and a dream, to be surviving today and to be providing competitive service to all facets of the Yukon economy. I would like to take this opportunity to wish them the greatest success in the next 30 years of operation in the Yukon.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to Trans North Air.
TNTA, as they have been known affectionately by many of us, is one of those truly unique Yukon companies. They have survived the fortunes and the somewhat less fortunate times in the Yukon economy over their 30-year life in this territory. They have also, in one form or another, served every community in the Yukon. I think every Yukoner has a link in some way or another to TNTA.
This company and its employees have donated time, services and countless hours to many, many organizations and individuals throughout the territory. Few, if any, could equal their commitment to the Yukon.
I'd like to offer our congratulations and best wishes to the company owners and the many employees that have been associated with Trans North over the years and today. Good luck in your next 30 years, and thank you.
Tribute to community participants in National Crime Prevention Week
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise today to pay tribute to community members across the Yukon who are participating in National Crime Prevention Week. The Department of Justice provided $7,000 in funding to Crime Prevention Yukon to coordinate and support community activities related to National Crime Prevention Week. These activities include displays of crime prevention materials in libraries throughout the Yukon, community crime prevention tips in the Whitehorse Star and Yukon News, interviews and talk-shows on CHON-FM, CKRW and CBC Radio, crime prevention booths and displays in the Qwanlin Mall.
In addition, groups in the communities of Carcross, Faro, Ross River, Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Carmacks, Teslin, Mayo, Kwanlin Dun and Whitehorse received funding to arrange safe Hallowe'en activities.
A Yukon 2000 mediation conference and volunteer training for the RCMP victim assistance program are also a part of Crime Prevention Week.
Crime prevention begins with individuals taking action. Yesterday, I hosted a lunch to honour the many volunteers who are supporting justice projects with organizations like Crime Prevention Yukon, the RCMP Auxiliary Police, the Salvation Army Adult Resource Centre, and the Whitehorse Correctional Centre volunteers.
Tomorrow, I'll be in Watson Lake, Upper Liard and Ross River to recognize the youth and adult volunteers who made the youth leadership pilot project such a success and are working hard on other justice programs.
At this time, I want to publicly thank the members of Crime Prevention Yukon for their volunteer efforts to make our communities safe. I am very encouraged to see the many ways that Yukon people are working together to take action on crime and to foster healthy communities.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, we would like to join with the government to pay tribute to community members across the territory with respect to National Crime Prevention Week. There is a lot of talk in our community these days about crime, and many people in our communities throughout the Yukon are now getting more involved and want to bring the Yukon back to the way it used to be a few years ago. It seems now that, every day, the lead story on our news or one of the stories in our news are the break-and-enters or the violent crime that is going on. There are a great many people now in the general public who are concerned about this.
We want to thank the people who are getting involved, encourage more people to get involved and take back control over your communities and get involved in crime prevention projects in your community.
I would also like to thank the government on the other side for providing us with advance notice of this tribute.
Mr. Cable: My comments are brief. I would like to thank the minister for bringing to the public's attention National Crime Prevention Week and thanking those participants who are involved in a very serious societal problem. I know that all levels of government and community groups are much involved in the issue of crime prevention and dealing with crime after it has taken place. I'm sure that this sort of public tribute will not completely acknowledge all the work that's done by all members of the community who are involved in crime prevention, but it will go a long way to telling those people who are involved in it that we appreciate their efforts.
I thank the minister for bringing it forward.
Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McRobb: I would like to introduce Mr. Godo Stoyke, a consultant from Edmonton, Alberta, who specializes in the energy field. He is with us today. I would like to invite other members in welcoming him to this Legislature.
Mr. McRobb: As part of Energy Awareness Month, Mr. Stoyke gave a rather interesting presentation to the Yukon public earlier this week on the topics of global warming and how to save money on your energy bills. So, thank you, Mr. Stoyke for coming to the Yukon and providing us with your insight on those important topics.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have for tabling a document, entitled Yukon Protected Areas Strategy Discussion Paper.
Mr. Fentie: I have for tabling today the Yukon forest strategy's draft statement of vision and principles for managing Yukon forests, and an accompanying letter from the chairman of the Yukon Forest Advisory Commission. Thank you.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 22: French text
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, under introduction of bills, I would like to table a bill which combines what I believe to be a true copy of the English text of Bill No. 22, Oil and Gas Act, which was introduced and given first reading on November 3, 1997, with a true translation of that text into French.
Bill No. 46: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 46, entitled An Act to Amend the Partnership Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 46, entitled An Act to Amend the Partnership Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 46 agreed to
Bill No. 41: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that Bill No. 41, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that Bill No. 41, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 41 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motions for the production of papers?
Are there any notices of motions?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, (MAI), sponsored by the U.S.A., supported by Canada, and currently the subject of secret negotiations by the 29 industrial nations in OECD, (the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), represents a major attack on the autonomy and self-determination of governments at all levels; and
(2), the democratic process which Canadians so value is seriously threatened by the MAI whose aim is to remove control of the economic process from the people's elected representatives and to consolidate it in the hands of trans-national corporations; and
THAT that this House calls on the Federal Government to cease all negotiations on the MAI and to facilitate full participation of all Canadians in major decisions affecting our economic future.
Mrs. Edelman: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) alcohol abuse is a major problem for Yukon society;
(2) alcohol abuse is destructive to personal relationships and contributes to domestic violence;
(3) alcohol abuse is a significant factor in health care costs to Yukoners;
(4) impaired driving is a serious problem for Yukoners and alcohol abuse is a significant factor in the commission of other crimes; and
(5) misuse of alcohol during pregnancy is causing increasing concern among Yukoners, because of the disabilities that those persons suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects encounter, and because of the effects on our education system; and
THAT recognizing the seriousness of alcohol abuse in the Yukon, the Yukon Government should create a Task Force composed of all affected government departments to recommend a specific and immediate action plan to be implemented by the Government of Yukon to mitigate the detrimental effects of alcohol in the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) when the Crown attorney function is devolved to Government of Yukon, the Government should set up an Independent Director of Public Prosecutions system similar to the Nova Scotia model; and
(2) the Independent Director of Public Prosecutions should, by legislation, exercise the duties and responsibilities traditionally accorded that office, subject only to those guidelines and specific instructions as are made public, in the manner set out in the Nova Scotia legislation.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Protected areas strategy: public participation
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to a policy of public involvement in major initiatives. Today I rise to advise members of how we will continue to link this policy with one of the major initiatives of this term in office - setting up a system of protected areas for the Yukon.
A year ago, the people of the Yukon gave this government a mandate to set aside representative areas of each of Yukon's 23 ecoregions and to protect critical wildlife habitats.
As a result, the territory has embarked on a project that will benefit all future generations. We are working with Yukon people to protect the natural and cultural values that sustain our environment and contribute to much of our quality of life.
In setting aside protected areas, we must carefully consider the Yukon's economic future and work to produce a balanced outcome that would provide a level of security to all interests that derive benefits from the land.
The protected areas strategy discussion paper that I just tabled lays out some of the principles we intend to follow through in that process. It also raises issues that need to be addressed before we can adopt a plan to identify, select and ultimately protect special places. These are places that Yukon people agree should either be preserved as they are, or carefully managed for future generations.
The discussion paper is a work in progress. It represents the efforts of many partners across a wide spectrum of Yukon interests. These include the Yukon, federal and First Nation governments, renewable resource councils, conservation and industry representatives, and others concerned about the use and protection of the Yukon landscape.
A number of principles and issues outlined in the paper were identified in the course of last spring's protected areas workshop. On the recommendation of the workshop, an 18-member public advisory committee was set up and has overseen the preparation of this discussion paper that explains the process we intend to follow.
Several basic decisions have emerged from the workshop so far.
The strategy itself will set up guidelines and a "how to" book for identifying and establishing protected areas across the territory. It will not be a set of protected area proposals. The strategy will require us to draw on all the resource information available to guide the selection of protected areas. This will include local and traditional knowledge, as well as scientific and heritage information gathered by governments and non-governmental organizations. It will also include information on economic resources compiled by governments, mining and other industrial interests.
The public will be fully involved in setting the guidelines for the selection of protected areas. In fact, starting next week, the department will be going to the communities to host open houses and public discussions about the strategy.
Recognizing that we have been leaning heavily on the Yukon public for their advice and views on many public matters, at the request of the communities we will be teaming up with the forest commission on some of those meetings.
Early in the new year, we will hold a public workshop to hash out answers to some difficult questions, such as the kind of interim protection we should be giving to candidate areas, as well as how the strategy will link with other land and resource management processes, and the type of values to be considered in selecting protected areas.
By February, we intend to produce a draft protected areas strategy. We will seek further public comment on it before amending and adopting the strategy in the spring, with implementation to follow. In traditional areas, where agreements are in place, we will sit down with the public in the communities, the renewable resources councils, as well as people involved in mining, forestry, tourism, recreation and conservation, to identify and select candidate areas for protection.
In the meantime, consistent with the umbrella final agreement, Yukon First Nations will continue to negotiate special management areas as part of their final agreements. Using the information and general principles now available, the Department of Renewable Resources will continue to provide information to the negotiation tables on proposals that support our protected areas goals.
At some point in the near future, we expect that the Tron'dek Hwech'in final agreement will be ratified. This will trigger the creation of a public working group to finalize boundaries for the Tombstone Park and develop a draft management plan. People are now working to collect and organize information that will be needed to support that process. Over the next while, we hope that people will take a moment to look through the paper and come to a public discussion or pass on their views in writing.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave a magnificent legacy for our children. Our successes or failures will be obvious to all 100 years from now, and we owe it to our grandchildren to do it right.
I will respond to the ministerial statement.
I thank the minister for giving us this update, but I really wish he would have said something new. There is absolutely nothing new in here and this statement is following a trend that is becoming more and more conspicuous as we go through this session.
All of the statements that are being given by ministers and commissioners say we're going to move very quickly in the new year to do something. They've been in power for one year and we see very little, if anything, that has been accomplished in one-quarter of their mandate. In fact, all of the legislation we're dealing with this session is Yukon Party government legislation. There is absolutely nothing new.
We, as all Yukoners, are waiting for some new initiatives from this government. We haven't seen anything yet.
Mr. Speaker, I also must take exception to the minister identifying the protected areas as a new initiative by this government, when in fact this has been an ongoing initiative for many, many years with a target date of the year 2000 for the implementation of a protected areas strategy.
I can go back to a couple of years ago when the Yukon Party government was given a failing grade on protected areas strategy as was this administration in its first year in office, and the minister of the day said then that we were moving carefully and cautiously to be able to protect areas that could stay protected forever. That was our minister, Mr. Speaker, so for them to take credit that this is a new initiative just shows how much of a lack of ideas they've had for their first year in office and haven't been able to come forward with anything new.
I just want to go on, Mr. Speaker, to say that, while I commend the government for the public consultation, they ought to have done some of that before they withdrew a large area from staking in the Tombstone area that has caused them to be chastised by the mining industry and mining companies that are working in the area. They didn't think of public consultation at that point.
Mr. Speaker, we must strike a balance between protected areas and economic development for the future of the well-being of the Yukon, and I agree wholeheartedly with the minister that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave a magnificent legacy for our children, but I believe that this is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to leave some jobs for our children.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to the ministerial statement regarding the protected areas strategy. I believe, as members of our party and many, many Yukoners believe, that there are certain areas in the Yukon where we must simply say, "no" - "no" to development, "no" to unlimited access, "no" to activities that would pose a threat to unique and fragile ecosystems - and "no" has to mean "no", not, "Maybe; just depending". At the same time, there are areas where we must say, just as strongly, "Yes, we welcome the development and the restoration following the extraction of resources or use in wilderness tourism," and where we must leave the campsite cleaner than we found it.
That being said, Mr. Speaker, the very real difficulty is: which areas are which? Where do we decide to say no, and where do we say yes, and that's the real point with the protected area strategy.
How do you reach a consensus on this subject? How do you balance the variety of competing interests that may or may not agree? I noticed that, over the summer months, there's been some discussion following the workshop. There's been criticism from environmental groups that the government is moving too slowly, and I'm sure if I dug through the files, there would be just as much criticism for moving too quickly.
I think that perhaps the chief of the Nacho Nyak Dun said it best when, in a news report this summer, he said, right now, it's like 10 spiders trying to build one web. It's a difficult process.
Nothing worth doing is very easy, and it will not be easy to reach consensus on this issue. An advisory committee of 18 people is quite a committee working on one subject, and I recognize that all the interests needed to be represented.
That being said, this is a task that must be done. It must be achieved by consensus; it must be done well, and I wish the minister good luck with this process. We're very interested in it. We'll be watching it and participating where able.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It's good to hear the comments coming from the Liberal Party in support of this strategy that we have here. We understand that it will take a lot of hard work to make it work right, and that's why we're proceeding with caution and taking our time to make sure that all industry is involved in guiding this strategy and putting it together. We did say that the strategy will require us to draw all the resource information available to guide the selection of protected areas and putting together an 18-member advisory group from all aspects of the industry is quite a task for consensus on that board and, so far, they have been working well together and they have made some recommendations. It led to this discussion paper.
So progress has taken place. We've had internal working groups within the department, within government, and among the three governments in the Yukon - the First Nations governments, territorial government and the federal government.
A lot of resources and a lot of energy have been put toward this already and, as a result, we have some dates in mind that we could look forward to. This is not an easy task; it involves a lot of planning and local involvement and this cannot proceed unless the local people can have a great deal of input into this, especially when it comes down to selection of a protected area that's either critical to habitat or critical to the recreational or cultural values of that area.
I'm quite surprised that with all of this coming into place, with us announcing that we're working on this strategy and pulling together this type of information for the public to now look at and have discussion about, that the Yukon Party is saying that we're doing nothing. We've been working on this for many years. We haven't seen any results in the past four years, so I don't see how they can say that it was an initiative launched by the Yukon Party. Our government, the NDP government, had started this many years ago and we're continuing with that line of work and we're going to show results in the term that we're in office.
In regards to Tombstone and the jobs that the Yukon Party say are going to be lost on this, we're involving the mining industry and all the affected people in this decision making. It's going to take into account the economic values when doing selections of protected areas and it doesn't mean that if a park is created that jobs will be lost. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of opportunities for creation of jobs in parks.
It seems to me that Haines Junction is doing quite well with the park that they do have. They have increased tourism. We don't have a whole lot of area in the Yukon protected right now and we aim to have areas and ecosystems protected. Anybody who cannot see the need for protection of ecosystems in the Yukon, well there is something wrong there.
The Yukon public has given us a clear mandate to do this. They voted us in as a big government and we have a lot of support behind us. We have lots of support from the general public, the First Nations and organizations out there and we will continue to do the hard work that we started and we'll show results.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon excellence awards
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Education on the student recognition report that was released yesterday.
Yesterday in the House, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education put a very negative spin on what is a very positive report by saying, and I quote, "Nobody's convinced, nobody's convinced, that the Yukon excellence awards are the most effective way of recognizing student achievement. People think they don't work and need to be fixed."
That's what the minister said, but the report states, "The Yukon excellence awards program is supported by some 84 percent of the parents who responded to the student recognition survey. Given this strong survey response rate, this opinion is most likely generalizable in the population of the Yukon parents of students in grades 8 to 12. As such, the Department of Education received a clear and unequivocal answer to the fundamental question of whether or not the Yukon education awards program should be maintained."
Will the minister now apologize to those parents and students - 62 percent of the students, by the way, agreed with the report, Mr. Speaker - for implying that they were opposed to Yukon education awards when, in fact, a majority, a large majority, were in full support?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I think it's the questioner that needs to be apologizing. I think they need to recognize that they made a fundamental error when they refused to consult with the education community before they implemented the Yukon excellence awards in the first place.
What this report shows us is that people support the concept of student awards but not one that is only Yukon excellence awards. I think that a program is needed, and the public has clearly said they want to see a program that reflects the fine effort and the improvement that all of our students and teachers work so hard to obtain.
Mr. Phillips: Yesterday, the minister tried to put a different face on a report - in a report, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the parents where, in seven questions to the parents regarding the Yukon education awards, in six of those seven questions 69 percent or more of those parents supported those awards. There was only one question in the negative, where only 40 percent supported the minister's argument.
I'm asking the minister this: would she now apologize to those parents and those students who agree with the Yukon Party's initiative that the Yukon excellence awards was a good program and they want it to continue? Would the minister apologize to those people at this time?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member is standing opposite and twisting my words and twisting the facts.
I clearly said yesterday that, while there is support for the Yukon excellence awards, people also believe that there needs to be some changes. People want to have input into how to recognize the work and effort that all students put into their studies. The Yukon excellence awards, in that it only gives money to students who achieve over 80 percent, is a very limited, narrow program, and students and parents both indicated that they support a broader recognition program.
Mr. Phillips: That is not what the minister said yesterday. I will quote her again for the record. The minister said: "Nobody is convinced" - that's "nobody", Mr. Speaker, "Nobody is convinced that the Yukon excellence awards are the most effective way of recognizing student achievement." She said, yesterday, "People think they don't work and need to be fixed." That is not what this report says. The minister owes it to the people who were questioned in that report to come back in here and give a ministerial statement that reflects the results of her consultation.
I am asking the minister to apologize for what she said yesterday and admit that the majority of people in the report who responded were supportive of the Yukon excellence awards. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think maybe the member opposite needs to read his copy of the Hansard and the ministerial statement, and re-read the report. This report indicates that there are concerns about equity, elitism and narrowness of scope in relation to the Yukon excellence awards.
What were the major findings? The major findings were that education partners indicated that they support the Yukon excellence awards program and that they do not believe that the Yukon excellence awards program are effective in responding to the public's concerns about the student mastery of basic skills. There are many aspects of this report. There are many concerns about improving a recognition program to indicate that when students put out an effort, even if they don't achieve an 80 percent, they deserve recognition for it.
The member is twisting the facts.
Question re: Yukon excellence awards
Mr. Phillips: I ask the minister to go back and read Hansard. The minister said, "Nobody is convinced." Mr. Speaker, question one reads: "The Department of Education should continue the Yukon excellence awards program." Eighty-four percent of the parents said yes. That is not nobody. That's 84 percent.
Question 2: "The YEA program is effective in encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence in Yukon students." Mr. Speaker, 69 percent is not nobody. The minister can't come in to this House and misrepresent what people have said.
I'm asking the minister to withdraw what she said yesterday and apologize to those parents and those students who do support and did respond to the minister's consultation.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I can't believe that the member is standing there and asking me to withdraw what I said, when I said that people recognize and support the Yukon excellence awards program. People also have concerns about whether the Yukon excellence awards program is too limited - limited in that it doesn't do anything for identifying how to reward student effort and student improvement over and above achieving 80 percent on a departmental exam.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, let me simplify it. Let me ask the minister why she said yesterday that nobody is convinced when in fact the facts and figures in here show that 84 percent of the parents are convinced, 64 percent of the kids are convinced.
Why did she misrepresent what was in this particular document? That's the question. I don't want any other discussion from the minister about why she said this or why she said that. Why did she say yesterday "nobody"? And that means nobody, Mr. Speaker. That means not even one person. The minister has a responsibility to rise in the House and accurately reflect things that are in a document that she tabled, Mr. Speaker; and I ask the minister to tell me why she said "nobody was convinced" yesterday?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, let me repeat clearly for the record what our position is regarding student achievement. The public has told us - and unlike the previous government who didn't listen to the public, who didn't ask school councils, who didn't ask the Yukon Teachers Association, who didn't ask the Yukon public - what they would like to do in achieving recognition of students' efforts. We have asked the public what they would like to see. What the public would like to see are student recognition programs that help acknowledge what effort all students put into their work. We have asked school councils and the Yukon Teachers Association to come back to us with their recommendations.
Mr. Speaker, a number of parents have said that they want to see programs that recognize the efforts of students, that recognize improvements for students. Students have mixed feelings about the value of Yukon excellence awards.
Students themselves are saying they think programs should recognize effort. The majority of student respondents reported that they had never received Yukon excellence awards. The member opposite is taking a very narrow view of the issue here.
Mr. Phillips: The minister has to be responsible for what she says and, Mr. Speaker, what she said yesterday and what came out in a report that she released, are two different things. That's my point. Sure, some of the students want to see improvements and some of the parents want to see improvements, but yesterday the minister said that nobody is convinced.
I'd ask the minister today, does the minister still believe today that nobody is convinced that the Yukon excellence awards was a good program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What I said yesterday and what I say again today is that the report of the review shows several major findings. It indicates that while our education partners generally support the Yukon excellence awards program, they do not believe the Yukon excellence awards are effective in responding to public concerns about student mastery of basic skills. They do not believe that the Yukon excellence awards are doing anything for students who are unable to achieve 80 percent on departmental exams.
Members of the public, members of the education community - because we asked them what they thought, Mr. Speaker, unlike the previous government - have said that they want to see recognition programs that acknowledge all students' efforts.
Mr. Speaker, we're going to continue working with the public and asking school councils and the Yukon Teachers Association, as important contributors to education in this territory, how they think we can improve on a student recognition program, and I'm proud of that work, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Contaminated sites
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. The minister is no doubt aware that the Environment Act spells out the definition of a contaminated site. It's described as "A place where the surface or ground water, which flows from the site, is used for aquatic life or drinking water, and the concentration of any contaminants in the surface water or ground water is greater than, or equal to, the concentration of the contaminant specified in schedule 3."
One of the contaminants in schedule 3 is lead. Paint is flaking off the Lewes Bridge - the Yukon River bridge at Marsh Lake - directly into the water and the land around the bridge. The paint, Mr. Minister, contains lead. Has the minister's department conducted an investigation into the situation to determine whether or not it is a contaminated site?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I am the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and I will respond on behalf of the Minister of Renewable Resources, if I may.
Certainly, the Department of Community and Transportation Services is well aware of the problem of the Lewes River bridge. I was contacted by a gentleman earlier this afternoon from the bridge-painting community and he made me aware of the situation on the Lewes River bridge.
Ms. Duncan: Again, I'd like to question the Minister of the Environment. The federal Department of the Environment has conducted an investigation, as they are required to do under the Fisheries Act, into this flaking paint.
Two warning letters have been issued to the Department of Community and Transportation Services to clean up the flaking paint. One of the lab tests conducted by the Department of the Environment officials, before they issued the warning letters, is the LT50 test, or the lethal time test - that is the same test that was conducted by a mining company this summer; it is the length of time it takes to kill fish - this flaking paint failed the test.
Will the Minister of the Environment fulfill his responsibilities under the Yukon Environment Act and investigate the site and determine if it is contaminated within the definition of the Yukon Environment Act? It's a question for the Minister of the Environment.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: When these complaints and concerns do come in, we do respond to them. We do start investigations, but as she well knows, the regulations that we pass here are strictly focused on Commissioner's lands.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to remind the minister that there are over 143 bridges on Yukon highways. Many of them have paint. Many of them have flaking paint, some of which may or may not contain lead.
Is the minister going to conduct an investigation into this issue to determine whether or not there is a problem, whether or not some, all - maybe some - bridges have used lead-based paint, whether or not it is flaking into Yukon rivers and waterways? Is the minister's department going to conduct an investigation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This is in the area of the federal department. They have processes in place that deal with water. We're not involved with that right now. The regulations that we have put in place focus on Commissioner's lands.
Question re: Devolution
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on devolution. We got into it briefly last night and I think it would be useful to get an update in view of what was said last night.
In the summer, the federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development minister was quoted, and this is in July, saying that she had talked with the Government Leader about getting a workplan on devolution in place by the end of August and hopefully a transition document available by the end of the year.
Would the Government Leader provide the House with an update on the workplan and transition document? How far are they along? Have they been signed? And if not, what are the expected dates for completion?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. The assessment by the federal minister on devolution this last summer is still accurate. We do believe that we can have a transition document to sign by the end of the calendar year. A lot of work has been undertaken by the two governments - both federal and territorial governments - as well as with representatives from CYFN in the work planning process. A lot of issues have been addressed and are being addressed with respect to the one-time costs associated with the transfer. We are pursuing related items such as the negotiations around the PSTAs and the funding of self-government that I raised last night in Committee for members' information.
Generally speaking, the process, although complicated and highly technical, is going along reasonably well and I'm very encouraged by it.
Mr. Cable: The federal minister spoke about a spring 1998 target date for devolution and she said at the time that she expected land claims would be finished at the same time, and this was in response to some First Nations' concerns that devolution shouldn't precede the completion of land claims.
Is the spring of 1998 now a realistic target date for the completion of both devolution and land claims?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The spring of 1998 is probably a good target date - still remains a good target date - for the completion of the devolution agreements. I am hopeful that we can achieve those targets. With respect to the land claims, I expect, as Mr. Mitander has suggested on the radio, I would agree that there are probably three further land claims that may well be settled in the next month or so. There still remains, of course, a number of others to be settled.
We are trying our best to proceed with all of the final agreements. Some are easier to achieve than others and, of course, there are some notable concerns about the readiness of all parties to come to at least one negotiating table. That remains a concern of all orders of government. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that the settlement of land claims can proceed expeditiously, as well.
Mr. Cable: I am sure the Government Leader has heard the reports on the New Brunswick court case that related to aboriginal rights on the forestry resource in New Brunswick. There is a likelihood that this court case will drag through the courts for many years. Does the Government Leader anticipate that resolution of this issue in New Brunswick will, in any way, slow down the devolution of the forestry resource in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't believe so. In the first instance, the situation in New Brunswick and the situation in the Yukon are fundamentally different. In New Brunswick, there was a court case that surrounded what was in - or perhaps what was not in - a treaty in that province with respect to the surrender of aboriginal rights. In the Yukon, of course, we have an umbrella final agreement. We do have a treaty, which has very specific language on the subject of forestry and ownership and management of forest resources.
I would suspect that the drama being played out in New Brunswick will not affect what is happening in the Yukon at all. We have our own processes; we have our own agreements. We are labouring away at ensuring that the final agreements are negotiated pursuant to the UFA and, on another track, we believe that the devolution of forest resources, forest management and other lands and resource management to the Yukon and to First Nations government can proceed at pace.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, director of patient services
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, on October 10th, there was an advertisement in one of the local papers for a position at the Whitehorse General Hospital for a director of patient services. It is my understanding that four Yukoners, one who is currently acting in this position, applied for the job, yet no Yukoners were hired. Mr. Speaker, no Yukoners were even interviewed. Now I understand the position is being advertised outside the Yukon.
Can the minister explain why Yukoners aren't being considered for this job, especially in view of the NDP position and emphasis on local hire?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm glad to see that the Member for Klondike has finally come to his senses and has come forward with a salient position on local hire, after being so opposed for so long. So we're pleased to see that.
With regard to the Whitehorse General Hospital, I'll just repeat it again slowly. We do not run the hospital. The hospital is a corporation that administers itself. They have their own hiring policies. We support them in terms of finances, but we are not the managers of the hospital.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, but again, the minister is hiding behind a board, as ministers in the government of the day do - hide behind a board - and, yet, when they were in opposition, they severely criticized the Yukon Party for the same thing that is being done now, and it goes on and on, Mr. Speaker.
Once again, it appears that the only one not practising local hire is the Government of the Yukon and its agencies. Where is the MLA for Whitehorse Centre when you need him? He's off hiring. They haven't finished the process. That's why they couldn't hire under it, I'm sure. I'm sure that's going to be the next response, Mr. Speaker.
Can the minister explain why the qualifications for this position, one of which was that the applicant be a member of the Yukon Registered Nurses Association, has been removed and that that requirement is no longer there, Mr. Speaker? Is it to make it easier to hire someone from outside the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that if the member has questions involving the direct management of the hospital, he might be well-advised to direct those questions to the actual management of the hospital. I will repeat again that we do not manage the hospital. It's part of our responsibilities in terms of funding, and it's part of our responsibilities in overall health care, but I do not dictate to the hospital what kinds of administrative, hiring, purchasing, whatever, policies they engage in.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, the minister is hiding behind a board. He stands way back and, when, it's convenient hides behind this board, and says in the House that they don't set policy, they don't set direction, and that it's the board that does all this.
Well, Mr. Speaker, getting back to the position that is being advertised, it's my understanding that the salary range of $57,216 to $71,520 has also been changed, allowing more money to be paid. Is this because the government believes workers from outside the Yukon should be paid more? Is that the reason?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I think the member there is venturing seriously into the land of the delusional.
We have nothing to do with setting the wage schedules. The wage schedules are set by the management. In the case of the CEO, those wage schedules are determined by a board.
Now, I may remind the member that the previous government was notable - notable - for interfering with boards. I have not, however, interfered in any of the decisions of the board. The board does come to us for support. We give them support financially and otherwise, but I do not determine their hiring policies. I do not determine their wage schedules.
As a matter of fact, we went through a labour dispute this summer because I did not engage in some of the nonsense that the member is suggesting in terms of setting wage schedules.
Question re: Macaulay Lodge renovations
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services in something that he is responsible for.
I was over visiting a friend at Macaulay Lodge this morning, and I noted that there were a number of workmen in there starting renovations.
Can the minister give an indication of the time line and scope of these renovations and the approximate cost?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just going to my notes here, at this point I cannot provide details on that but I will get them back to the member as soon as I can.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, in speaking to some of the staff, I noticed that some of the rooms are empty, and I was surprised, because there is such a long waiting list. Now, it seems that the fire marshal from the city came by and said that four rooms at the end of the upstairs hallway were not safe in the event of a fire occurring between the pod of four rooms and the staircase. In other words, nobody could get out if there was a fire there.
Now, Mr. Speaker, has anybody thought about knocking out the end of that hallway, bringing in one of the old ramps from the hospital, and thereby getting easy egress in the event of a fire and saving these vital four rooms for residents?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I suppose the fundamental problem with Macaulay is that Macaulay's characteristics have shifted from its original intention, which was a lodge primarily designed for ambulatory persons, and we've taken on, increasingly, people who have some more difficulties. The fire marshall was very correct in saying that, for some of the individuals that were occupying those rooms, that was not a safe situation in case of an emergency.
I know that they are looking at a variety of options. I'm not sure if putting in a ramp is one of them, but there were some options considered and I know that they are proceeding with considering all the various options that they can.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the waiting list is very long for Macaulay Lodge and, considering that 50 percent of the Yukon population is baby-boomers and we're aging fast, the demand for seniors-assisted living residences is already too high for the facilities we have here, in Dawson, and hopefully some day in Watson Lake.
Has the minister started or will he start a capital planning program for senior care residences, starting with an add-on renovation to Whitehorse's Macaulay Lodge and construction of a seniors facility in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, these are part of the entire program that we have been looking at in terms of a seniors strategy. The member is right when she talks about the increase in, I suppose, baby-boomers, but we are anticipating that there will be demands in that area.
The department is considering a whole variety of things, including extended care, including other kinds of housing for seniors. There's also a variety of issues regarding health care delivery, and this will form part of the seniors strategy.
Yes, additions, expansions of extended care are part of that consideration so we have begun that process already and we will be coming forward in the future with capital plans in that regard.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day. Government bills?
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 22: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 22, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Harding.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that Bill No. 22, entitled Oil and Gas Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Economic Development that Bill No. 22, entitled Oil and Gas Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, it is truly a pleasure today to see this very important piece of legislation come to the floor of this Legislature. It has been a long time coming.
Mr. Speaker, this is an important bill for Yukoners, but I am always struck by the lack of knowledge and understanding by many Yukoners - not all - who don't realize what an untapped resource we have with oil and gas.
I have long been an advocate of trying to ensure that the potential benefits of oil and gas could be achieved by all Yukoners.
I am very, very pleased to have brought a bill forward that I think achieves the end that ultimately we've set out to achieve.
We have worked in partnership with all Yukoners, with First Nations governments and with the federal government, ultimately to achieve the end result of this bill now reaching second reading.
Mr. Speaker, I think it's an historic event, and as Yukoners see over the next few years how this will affect the territory, I believe that more attention will be paid to its origins and to the benefits that will arise from this particular piece of legislation.
The transfer of this resource to Yukoners, I believe, is critical for our future development and our future self-sufficiency.
I am also pleased to announce that the federal legislation, Bill C-50, transferring this resource to the territorial government, has passed committee with amendment and has now returned to Parliament for third reading. So, it is actually happening. A lot of Yukoners don't believe that it is actually happening, but it really is coming to fruition after a very, very long period.
It received a fairly smooth passage through second reading and second reading committee. We had a wonderful performance by Yukoners to the committee in terms of laying out the aspects of the legislation. First Nation government representatives were there. Chief Ann Bayne of the Liard First Nation was there, and I thank her. Victor Mitander, on behalf of the Council of Yukon First Nations and the deputy minister of my Economic Development department, Maurice Albert, were there. I want to take a second to thank them.
I also really want to thank my oil and gas resources branch. They have had to deal with the, shall I say, lack of belief by many Yukoners that this resource can actually be untapped and developed and, consequently, they have not seen the extent of budgetary allotments that I think many Yukoners will understand in the future in terms of why they receive the allotments that they do and why those allotments are going to have to be increased in order to administer and handle the activity that I believe will be created for the benefit of Yukoners.
They have worked very, very hard and I think have done one heck of a job, Mr. Speaker, if I may, to bring this forward. I am certainly very, very proud and thankful of their efforts.
I want to say that this industry, as we envision it, respects the environment and it has the potential to create a lot of new employment and economic opportunities for Yukoners. Every other jurisdiction in this country has responsibility for this resource and has seen it blossom into positive economic and social framework developers. We have to get control of this resource and I think we have to develop it responsibly.
So, I see it as a major piece of a puzzle, in terms of self-sufficiency for Yukon. Now, a lot of people realize that the greatest potential for oil and gas development in the Yukon is in the southeast and in the Eagle Plains area. Those potential benefits are impressive and they come with a lot of issues. They come with a lot of environmental concerns and those particular issues are not unimportant by any means; they're extremely important. It's important that we have good processes in place, like the development assessment process, to deal with those concerns, to put them into perspective and make sure that Yukoners are being heard on how we will conduct responsible development in this territory.
The future is there. That's the fundamental point. This legislation paints a picture for the development of our future with Yukoners in control of our future, and I think that that is a good thing for this territory.
Already the Kotaneelee gas fields, a well-kept secret by Yukoners, generate $1 million a year in revenue, sometimes more. One well has the ability to generate more electricity than the entire Yukon uses in one year. Overall revenues from the field are some $20 million. These are just royalties that I'm talking about; $1 million to $1.9 million, $2 million sometimes. I think the highest was $1.9 million.
We are very, very proud of this bill, and I know the leader of the official opposition will take some issue with me on this, but I do believe that the changes we have made are fundamental to this bill even getting to the floor of this Legislature, and fundamental to the passing of Bill C-50 in Ottawa at second reading and in committee.
We have chosen to take a forward-looking approach. We felt that the benefits that could be accrued for Yukoners by forwarding this legislation, by reaching agreements with all Yukoners, Yukon First Nations governments, have to be untapped, and we have to do it together.
I would say to my good friend opposite in the opposition that it is important that we move ahead. We need not be penny wise, pound foolish with the oil and gas, Mr. Speaker, in this territory. We must see it developed and we must be in control of that process, and we must do it together as Yukoners.
Ultimately, I would say that probably the most important change to this legislation is the creation of a common regime, a common regime that pertains to all classes of land in this territory as they're defined in the UFA - category A, category B and non-settlement lands. We put a lot of effort, and officials that work in the department put a lot of effort, into trying to ensure that we had a bill that gave certainty to industry, but that also gave comfort to Yukoners, and it was a very, very difficult task, and it wasn't without criticism. But we expected that, because we knew we had to move ahead. We had to move this ahead on the agenda.
Mr. Speaker, I feel that the deal that we have reached that has resulted in this legislation being on this floor and being debated today and moving ahead is a good one for Yukoners, which is going to stand us well into the future. The whole promise of the land claims and its implementation is that of government-to-government relationships, of sharing in benefits, of involving people in this territory in a way that has never happened before. We are light years ahead of some of the other jurisdictions in this country.
The Government Leader spoke today about the problems that they're having in New Brunswick as a result of a recent court case in terms of certainty and knowing what is what. The benefit of the treaty that we have struck, although it comes with difficult questions, many difficult unresolved issues, ongoing court challenges at times, Mr. Speaker, I believe it is far better to live under the regime that we've made for ourselves, together as Yukoners, than any other system that could possibly be created by someone else.
I'm not one to say that it won't come with its share of problems, its share of baggage, but I do fundamentally believe that we will work through those problems as they arise and make good progress. I think this legislation is part of that. So I'm very, very proud of it.
So, Mr. Speaker, the common regime is about one set of rules for development and operation of oil and gas on First Nation and Crown lands. It's about establishing common regulatory goal posts, certainty for industry, to ensure that we as Yukoners will be competitive with other jurisdictions. It also ensures a less costly and more efficient administration. It includes mechanisms to resolve land use disputes between Yukon and First Nation governments and the common management on data that will assist companies to learn of Yukon's oil and gas resources in a timely manner. This is very important.
It's not good enough to have the resources. You've got to have a good set of rules and regulations that sets appropriate goal posts for industry, and then you have to go out and you have to market those resources, and you have to let industry know that we welcome responsible development in this territory, and we will work with industry to make things happen. I've heard that from First Nations governments, and you've certainly heard this from the Yukon government.
Mr. Speaker, the common regime we've developed is unprecedented in the rest of the country, and it stems from the landmark memorandum of understanding reached between the First Nations and Yukon governments this past January, and it's set out to have one set of rules for development and operation for oil and gas.
Now prior to the signing of this memorandum of understanding - which, I might add, didn't come without its share of criticism from the Yukon Party - there was serious doubt.
The previous administration, Mr. Speaker, set devolution as it's number-one priority; ours is land claims. But what happened in four years? In four years under that administration, there was virtually no movement on that agenda. None. I think that's because it was a very stubborn approach. It was a very unrespectful approach of all Yukoners' interests. That is why they failed on the devolution agenda, and I think it largely resulted in their inability to deliver to Yukoners what they said they would deliver.
Yukoners want self-sufficiency. They want to be masters in their own house with their resources, and they want their governments to try and listen to all Yukoners, to not be nay-sayers and to try and reach agreements that further that agenda.
Mr. Speaker, a common regime, a clear set of goal posts, was not a possibility without First Nations involved in the process. And let me say that the federal government was unequivocal in their approach to dealing with the issue of devolution of this resource of the territory. They wanted to hear a common approach from Yukon governments.
The common approach by Yukon governments made it impossible for them to say no. But what happened in reality under the previous administration is the combative and confrontational approach to Yukoners left the federal minister with one voice in the left ear and one voice in the right, and they were both saying fundamentally different things.
Therein lay the problem. Therein lay the lack of advancement. For those reasons, Mr. Speaker, we set out very early on in our mandate to try and resolve those fundamental issues. And we have had our problems in terms of dealing with these issues with First Nations governments. We have been criticized, to some degree, by different governments. We've had our share of issues that have arisen and that have been difficult, but I think, at the end of the day, whenever we sit down in a respectful basis, which we often do, we see a common vision for this territory, and it's a wonderful thing, and it's a good feeling.
For all the problems we have and all the difficult matters that we deal with, both their governments and ours, and the politics and all of those things that affect decisions, there's a common vision when we sit down and talk about the future of the Yukon. It involves working together, and I feel very good about that.
So, Mr. Speaker, we managed, together, to convince the federal government that this was right for Yukon.
The second major benefit for Yukoners as a result of this legislation is that we are providing a mechanism for direct benefits to Yukon people. We must be cognizant of the fact that, in this territory, there is virtually no oil and gas industry, with the exception of Kotaneelee. In other jurisdictions, in Saskatchewan and Alberta and British Columbia, they have an established industry and with that established industry has come the ability to provide services to that industry, the ability to be well-trained, to perform the various jobs that are undertaken in the oil and gas business. We were very worried, in the development of this legislation, that Yukoners may not get, at least early on, the benefits that should be accrued to them for oil and gas development.
So in terms of the common regime, we've developed a benefits sharing mechanism - impact benefits - that cut across all types of lands, and they do not include vetoes, Mr. Speaker, for First Nation governments on non-settlement lands, nor do they include vetoes for our government on settlement lands, and that's a very important principle and one we've maintained.
What it involves, Mr. Speaker, is a common approach to trying to make oil and gas development good for Yukon people. The worst thing that could happen in this territory is if we got our industry up and running, we had permits issued, we had the development assessment process in place, leases were issued, and production began, and Yukoners saw little benefits other than the royalties that were accrued - little direct benefit. That was a concern to us. That's a concern to other jurisdictions, and it's a concern to us.
We want to see opportunities for Yukoners, and we are aware that industry must have confidence in our ability to be responsible and reasonable in those impact benefit agreements, because we all know that if the demands are too strong, there just simply will not be any industry here. There will be no royalties, there will be no jobs, there will be no training, and there will be no service contract opportunities.
So we, as Yukoners, got that message loud and clear, both First Nation governments and ours. When we sat down with industry and when we had good advice from people who know industry, they told us, "If you're outrageous, you won't have any development, and you won't have the benefits of development."
So, I think there's a common appreciation of that fact, and a good understanding of it, and I think that's very critical.
Mr. Speaker, this bill addresses that issue of impact benefit agreements. I think that, from the benefits portion of this bill, you will see that we can only help to further diversify our economy. I've always said, time and time again when I speak to people, that our resource sector is a necessary building block. It's got to be strengthened and enhanced as a foundation for the development of the rest of our economy. I fundamentally believe that that's true.
Some Yukoners are frustrated by that, but this entire country - this nation - was built on the resource industry. We can't ignore that, nor should we ignore that. They have provided the basis for all we enjoy today, so we have to protect our resources, but we have to develop them responsibly.
One of the concerns we also had in the development of this legislation, with the benefits portion of the agreement, was that the benefits were not in the form of direct cash payments. We wanted direct employment - training in the provision of goods and services by local companies - to be paramount. We have achieved an understanding on that, and that has come forward.
The priority of the distribution of the benefits will be residents of affected communities first and then other Yukon people. The provisions of impact benefit agreements also include a dispute resolution mechanism, with the owner of the resource having the final decision. That's a very, very important point. There's a dispute resolution mechanism if there's a disagreement, but the owner of the resource has the final decision. That means no veto. That means that if there is a dispute, the ultimate decision will be made by the owner of the resource. For First Nations governments, they will have the final say on their settlement lands, category A. As it pertains to Crown lands, the Yukon government will have the final say.
Because of the overlap on category B lands, subsurface rights and those issues in the UFA, we have decided that the best way to handle that uncertainty is to deal with it through a finite mechanism of arbitration on impact benefits agreements.
We have put time limits on that finite mechanism of arbitration, and we've done that for a reason. We've done it to give greater certainty. It is interesting to also note that the company may apply for that provision. So, if they're adamant about a property, but don't feel that they're getting a responsible deal, and if they're still interested - they haven't walked away - they also can apply. We've tried to make it as friendly as possible for responsible development, and we'll continue in that vein.
Mr. Speaker, the third fundamental important point and improvement in this bill from what was put down by the Yukon Party is that we are out front in this country in terms of protecting the public interest, not just through the common regime and not just through the mechanism for providing impact benefits agreements, but through our concern and our care for the environment.
This resource must respect the environment. This legislation contains many provisions that will help to ensure that this occurs. It has been done in consultation with industry, and I must say that I have been very pleased with their approach.
I think what the oil and gas industry says is, show us the goal posts, set them in cement and we will kick the ball through them. I think it's very important that our legislation and our regime does that.
The Yukon government will decide which land is let for development so that there may be orderly development of the industry and have the greatest return of benefits to the Yukon people.
Also, the First Nations and the Yukon governments will consult on any issues on land development, including surface access and environmental concerns. There are provisions to ensure the efficient use of oil and gas. Every licensee will need an environmental assessment that will eventually be the responsibility of the development assessment process - a very important process for the future of this territory.
This industry is heavily regulated. I know that there are some miners who would take issue with this, but it is much more regulated than the mining industry. The oil and gas industry is used to having fairly extensive regulations, but you've got to let them know what they are in advance and you can't be moving them around all the time. The industry is driven by permits and licences. If they're doing almost anything, Mr. Speaker, it seems that they need that kind of approval.
A very important point in this act is that it will require the companies to post deposits prior to oil and gas activity, in case of abandonment or catastrophes, to cover the cost of those environmental liabilities. Now, the latter has become an environmental issue in other areas of the country, where companies have left wells and cleanup has been a government responsibility.
In Alberta, for example, they had a very serious problem with abandonment. The industry has been supportive with our proposal for upfront deposits. I think it's because they realize that abandonment, as a taxpayer liability, is not good for business for the oil and gas industry in the long term. It does not give them a good name and they want to ensure that these issues are dealt with up front.
I really want to say that this resource is very, very important to Yukoners. It's one that I believe, in terms of fundamental change, will have a dramatic impact in the long term. I see it, given the fact that we have so many land claim agreements settled and we're extremely close in a few others that we will be able to see the benefits of the oil and gas industry in the very near future.
If one looks at central Yukon, most First Nations are finalizing their agreements. Land claims is our priority; we've not shied away from that. However, we have final agreements in many areas.
In the areas of the southeast, negotiations are well underway and are achieving results. Mr. Speaker, the southeast is a very important part of this territory when it comes to oil and gas development in the future, and I think that people from Watson Lake and that area will see the benefits of the oil and gas industry very, very soon.
Mr. Speaker, I would also say that in our approach to this issue, we feel very strongly that it must be done together. We realize that we will have some learning to do as Yukoners, and I think the approach taken by the officials of my department and by Yukon First Nation governments has been very responsible. I think that we realize that we have to be approachable to industry. We have to set good indicators for them, good regulations.
Much of the legislation that we have - with the exception of the made-in-Yukon provisions that I've talked about - is modelled on Alberta, a province that has been in the business for a long, long time. We've learned from their problems, such as in the area of abandonment. We've taken the good aspects of their legislation and incorporated them into ours, and I give credit to the Yukon Party administration for that work that they did.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I think I've overwhelmed my colleagues in the official opposition with my praise, but I mean that with heartfelt sincerity. I do thank them for the provisions in this bill that they put forward that were -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member for Klondike said "doing all the work." Mr. Speaker, the job was far from done. That's why the bill didn't come forward under their administration, and that's why it died in Ottawa. The real tough stuff we did when we took control of the situation, when we seized hold of an opportunity. We made it happen, and I'm proud of that.
Mr. Speaker, another more technical but not unimportant detail, which is a change from the Yukon Party's bill that we brought forward, was an agreement related to pool management. Now, a pool is a body of oil and gas that straddles category A settlement lands and Yukon oil and gas lands.
Both governments are concerned that development by one may have implications on the other. In order to address this problem, the act was amended to include sections 12 and 14. Section 12 outlines the agreements that may be made to deal with the problem of straddling pools, while section 14 provides for a consultation process for both governments prior to issuing dispositions - again, an important and a not insignificant improvement to dealing with the difficult issue of pools that cross different types of lands.
Mr. Speaker, I feel that, as well, a major improvement of a technical but not unimportant nature, is with regard to the licensing review mechanism. The regulation-making provisions were added respecting the review of an important conservation decision made by the chief operations officer relating to First Nations category A lands, and for decisions affecting straddling deposits.
Mr. Speaker, when I add this up, when I add up the changes for Yukoners that we've made to this bill to bring it back to life, when I look at the common regime we've developed between all Yukoners on all types of land, when I look at the benefits agreement that we brought forward to ensure that Yukoners in the communities and the rest of the Yukon see benefits, when I look at the environmental improvements that we've made to ensure that the issue of abandoned wells is handled properly and up front by companies, when I look at the consultations we've done with industry and involved them along the way and with all Yukoners, I feel good about the bill. When I look at the technical improvements we've made as one deals with issues such as straddling pool management, I think that one can only come to the conclusion that a lot has been done in the last year to improve this bill, to gain its general acceptance by Yukoners and to gain its acceptance in Ottawa and to see Bill C-50 pass second reading and pass committee in Ottawa and to see this legislation come forward on the verge of actually becoming law in this territory and paving the way for the future benefit of Yukoners and the allowance of greater self-sufficiency and the ability of us, as one people, to come together to make improvements socially and economically for this territory.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say I'm very proud of my colleagues for supporting me on this initiative. I'm very proud of my department and officials who have worked so hard, and of the responsible approach taken by Yukon First Nation governments to making this a reality. I thank you very much and I commend this bill to the House for acceptance on second reading.
Mr. Ostashek: I am somewhat amazed - I don't know why - that the Minister of Economic Development is so defensive about this bill. I guess I can understand why, Mr. Speaker, with the little that that administration has accomplished in one year to get ready for this legislative session. I guess it would make me defensive as well.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Aside from the kibitzing and the shots that the Economic Development minister took at this administration and all of the good things that he said he did to make this bill acceptable to the public, for some reason I have a little different view of it. Not that we're not supportive of the bill, because the bill is basically our bill. It is basically our bill.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: The minister over there says "Oh, yeah", and the Minister of Government Services is laughing. But, I thank the minister for the technical briefing he provided for us this morning. What we found out, at this technical briefing, is that, fundamentally, the bill is unchanged. The same people that were working on the bill under the Yukon Party government completed the drafting under an NDP government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Now, the Minister of Economic Development, for once in his life, is right. It's an Alberta bill, and they didn't do much with it. They did do some tinkering with it, because they wanted to put their spin on it. They did a very crafty job of moving clauses around. They took some of the areas that we were going to address in regulations and incorporated them into the bill, which is fine with me. I don't have any difficulty with that. We don't have any difficulty with that. But, Mr. Speaker, for them to say that, had they not got elected, this bill would've died on the Order Paper, is nonsense. It is total nonsense. Total nonsense. Let's go back and look at the history of this bill and how little this administration, in their one year in office, had to do with it.
I want to go way back, Mr. Speaker, to the Northern Oil and Gas Accord, negotiated -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: ... and the Minister of Economic Development is right twice today, Mr. Speaker - negotiated by an NDP government, which refused to sign it, and it lay on the shelf. It took a Yukon Party government to get in power and start the process going again, thanks to the Minister of DIAND at the time, the Hon. Mr. Siddon, who signed off this bill in Dawson City with me in 1993 and got the process moving again, got the wheels in motion.
Governments do change, and I know the minister's going to take credit. Fine, I have no difficulty with that. But for him to try to tell the Yukon public that this bill wouldn't happen without an NDP government being elected is pure folly.
As I said, this bill has been a long time in the making, and I guess I want to say to the NDP government today, and to the Minister of Economic Development, now that he is in government, that I am pleased that they finally saw the light, and that this bill will create jobs for Yukoners. Because in opposition, all they did was condemn us bitterly for proceeding with this bill.
Nevertheless, we did. We knew there were problems ahead. We knew that there would have to be negotiations and arrangements made with First Nations. We knew that would happen.
We also knew, Mr. Speaker, when we tabled this bill in the spring of 1996, that this bill, the bill that we tabled then, was not the be-all and end-all to the oil and gas act, as the Minister of Economic Development is trying to portray now. We intentionally tabled that bill in the spring of 1996 so the bill could go out to the public over the summer, could be reviewed by the oil industry, could be reviewed by the First Nations, could be reviewed by everybody, and their thoughts incorporated into the final bill.
Mr. Speaker, I say to the Minister of Economic Development, if his government is as open to amendments to bills that they bring forward as my government was, they will go somewhere in the Yukon, because we accepted a lot of amendments from an NDP opposition in legislation that we brought forward. That's what this Legislature is all about, Mr. Speaker.
And that's what good government is all about, Mr. Speaker: to take good ideas, no matter whose they are and incorporate them for the benefit of all Yukoners. I only wish that the Minister of Economic Development's colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, ran with the ball when we gave it to him on the child tax credit to the benefit of all Yukoners, instead of it being...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: That's the word I'd like to use, but it's probably not parliamentary, and, Mr. Speaker, I don't want you to call me.
But being stubborn and not taking a good idea when we gave it to him at very little cost - that is not good government.
Mr. Speaker, the bill in front of us today, as I said earlier, has our support in principle, and I was very, very pleased at the briefing this morning - and I thank the minister for providing the briefing - that there is no veto for anyone in this bill.
What I will be looking for, as we go through the bill clause by clause, is that the language is strong enough that all parties understand that there is no veto. One of the difficulties that we've had in the past - and I go back to the umbrella final agreement, the model self-government agreements, and agreements in the past - is that we've left them too wide to interpretation so that any party can read into them whatever they want, and that has caused difficulties for us in the Yukon. It has not forced us to work together in the past as we should have. We need to tighten these agreements up. We need to call a spade a spade. We need to involve First Nations. I'll be the first one to stand up and say that a common regime is the way to go. We knew that when we drafted this bill, but we also felt that we had to continue to force the issue to get everyone to cooperate, and I commend this government for coming forward and getting that cooperation. I'm not knocking them for it one bit.
I'm going to have some questions as we go through clause by clause as to where we are in this bill, and one of the things that I want to forewarn the minister now about - and he may want to reply to it in his rebuttal - is that I see some language that I don't believe provides the clarity that needs to be provided. That is when I look at the benefits agreement in section 68 - the wording in the briefing document. I'm not sure that the wording in the bill is exactly the same. Again, it goes back to that issue I said, Mr. Speaker, of interpretation as to what people are entitled to.
What causes me concern is that the government, in presenting this bill, talks about a benefit regime and says, - I will just read from the document here - "In the case of category A, Yukon First Nations can finalize an agreement with the licensee over the objections of the Yukon government, after having first considered and responded to objections of the government."
A reciprocal agreement of the process applies on Crown lands, but the first line of that paragraph says, "It identifies it as a benefit regime, would apply to all lands in the Yukon and will involve tripartite negotiations between the licensee, the government and Yukon First Nations, whose traditional territory is affected."
I would like the minister, in his summation or sometime during the line-by-line or Committee debate, to tell me how he interprets the difference between Crown land and traditional territory. The term that I like to use for clarity is settlement and non-settlement lands, which makes a clear distinction as to the different types of lands.
I believe that phrases such as these leave quite a bit of flexibility for interpretation by parties and could lead to disputes in the future. Now, I know the bill and the people who drafted the bill have worked very, very hard to cover all those bases to put a dispute resolution process in place so that those things can be dealt with.
I guess what we want to make certain about with this bill is that when this bill comes into effect and we decide to issue licences, after whatever consultation and negotiation goes on between the levels of government, that that licence will be processed in a timely manner.
When I say "a timely manner", I mean in a manner that is within a close time frame to other jurisdictions, because time is money to corporations and the royalty fee structure, the benefits package and the all-encompassing issues do not place us in a position where it is far more expensive for an oil company to spend their dollars in the Yukon than in other jurisdictions. We all know there is still a lot of oil in Alberta. There is a lot of oil in British Columbia and there is a lot in Saskatchewan; there is a lot around this world.
If we are going to compete in a world market, we need to be competitive, not only in what we charge but in the time it takes to process applications.
So, no, we are not going to condemn this bill. In fact, we think the legislation is stronger with the changes that have been made. We don't have any difficulty with that. As I said, a lot of them we felt could be dealt with in regulations; this government has chosen to deal with them in legislation - that's fine. I want to see this act pass. I know there are lots of jobs for Yukoners here. I want to see an act that will lead to harmony between governments, not confrontation.
Mr. Speaker, I could stand here and take shots at the minister for all the comments he made with regard to our position on devolution and that, but I think it's inappropriate with a bill that's as important as this for Yukoners. I want to deal with the substance of this bill. I want to see this bill receive timely passage in this Legislature, and I want to see it implemented so that Yukoners can benefit from it.
There will be other opportunities to take shots at each other in this Legislature. I don't believe it belongs in a bill as important as this.
Mr. Speaker, we're looking forward to going into Committee debate on this for everyone in this Legislature to get a better understanding of the bill. As I said, we went through this bill in the bill that we tabled in the Legislature a year ago last spring, and we don't have a whole lot of difficulty with this bill. We support it in principle and we will be looking at the clauses for a better understanding of them and looking for timely passage. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Livingston: It gives me pleasure to rise today and speak in support of the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, an act that has been in the works for some time and has been particularly massaged and developed over the last number of months, over the last year in particular.
I think that this act provides us with a framework in the Yukon for a developing industry for Yukoners to reap some benefits jobwise, and it also provides us a framework for protecting our environment, protecting our workers and moving ahead in an industry.
It provides, of course, Yukoners - this is why it is with particular pleasure that I see this bill come forward - with an opportunity to be in control, basically, of our destiny.
I was somewhat surprised by the previous speaker - by the leader of the official opposition. I suppose I shouldn't be, because we've heard this refrain - it's becoming a rather tired refrain - "this is nothing new, we've seen it all before, in fact we were going to do it, but we didn't quite get around to it." We've heard this refrain before. We heard it in yesterday's motion on telephones and the news release. We've heard it about DAP; we've heard it about YOGA; we've heard it about animal protection; we've heard it about crime prevention. The list goes on. It's with pleasure that I'm part of this government that is in fact bringing these forward - moving from talk to action.
I think some of the new additions are significant. There's quite a number of them. One of the first is the establishment of one common regime. The common regime across the Yukon provides us with a framework that's going to work across the Yukon, both in terms of access to land, in terms of the environmental assessment and in terms of the regulations. It provides us with a common front. I think that this is one of the strengths that certainly has been developed over the past year. It's one of the really critical elements and one of the things that this government has, in fact, been able to bring to this particular bill.
Because we're able to talk with and work with the First Nations in this territory, because there is a level of trust, we've been able to establish one common regime that will provide a good setting for this industry, both in terms of the industry's relationship with government, in terms of the public's assurances that the environment will be protected, and also workers, and concerns about public safety will be addressed. That's the great beauty, I think, of the one common regime, is that people across the Yukon know what the rules of the game are, developers know what the rules of the game are and, of course, they apply across the territory.
Mr. Speaker, this is a direct result of the umbrella agreement with the First Nations and the First Nations' final agreements. It's one on which we heard a tone of fear and mistrust from some of the questioning last night that we heard from one of the members opposite around this whole First Nations final agreement - what's it going to mean and where's it going to take us.
One of the questions, of course, today was about the forest decision in New Brunswick. That's the beauty of having this agreement in place. We know what the rules are. It gives us opportunities, in fact, to establish common regimes in oil and gas legislation, in the development assessment process - to have one regime that works across the Yukon. That's good for Yukon citizens, it's good for the industry, it's good for basically everyone that's affected and involved in this particular industry or this process.
Mr. Speaker, this government's ability to consult, both with First Nations and the general public, has helped to strengthen not only this bill but the public's and the industry's commitment to this bill and what it can do in terms of providing the framework for development of this industry in the Yukon.
As I take a look at some of the different elements in this bill that I'm pleased to see are part of it - the protection of workers and public safety is significant, and there are a number of ways that that will occur, through the setting of standards and rules and codes of conduct, a variety of regulations around geoscience exploration, around drilling and production, and indeed on pipeline and the transportation of oil and gas.
Mr. Speaker, this bill provides for training and technology development. It provides for inspections of facilities. It provides for emergency responses in those rare cases where accidents may, in fact, occur.
This piece of legislation, the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, also provides for an opportunity, of course, as the Minister of Economic Development stated. It seems like every single step of the way there's a new licence that has to be acquired. So this piece of legislation, of course, dovetails with the development assessment process that is being developed and also will be brought forward - an opportunity to assess the economic impact, the environmental impact, the cultural impact, as well as the environmental impact, of any new developments, and to ensure that mitigating measures are taken to ensure that development is a positive thing for Yukon people.
The YOGA accounts for that and provides for that, just as it should. As the minister points out, enforcement is even stiffer than in most other areas, and the different types of licensing around geoscience exploration, around the development of wells, around facilities, establishment of processing plants, pipelines and even exports, ensures that every area will be examined and assessed prior to proceeding.
It will be at that regulatory stage, the issuing of licences, that particular conditions and the examination of the inspection and so on will occur. And I notice that there are some fairly strong enforcement provisions as well.
Mr. Speaker, earlier today we also heard about parks and protected spaces strategy and I note that, within this act, there is provision for the setting aside of lands for a variety of purposes, and that would certainly be one of them.
So I think we've taken account of all of the different types of purposes and concerns that we would want to be able to address through this piece of legislation.
I want to turn, just for a few moments, Mr. Speaker, to the economic opportunities and benefits for Yukoners that I think this offers us. This is potentially a very significant act and I suppose in one sense what it does is - there are no guarantees that come out of a piece of legislation in terms of how things are going to develop - but what it does do is to set the stage. It sets the stage for this opportunity to be developed and to be developed for Yukoners and the benefit of all Yukoners.
The oil and gas industry can be a key addition to the Yukon economy in helping to diversify it and to relieve some of our dependence in this territory on the mining industry. Of course, in any small economy, that's a really key kind of a thing to be able to do - to be able to, if you like, spread your eggs around in a few more baskets because, that way, it will lead to a more stable economy and less boom and bust.
The oil and gas industry is unique in some senses in that it can generate large amounts of government revenue, simply through the sale of lands and through the royalties that we can collect. And that can help either in some form of tax relief or to simply enhance programs or do new programs that we otherwise would not be able to do. So certainly, there is opportunity there for Yukoners to be able to do a bit more on that front.
While the industry is capital intensive, it means a lot of dollars would be spent here if the industry does develop across the Yukon, and of course, those dollars will go into a variety of areas. It will create jobs directly and indirectly. Of course, when the crews are here working on oil and gas exploration or well drilling or whatever, they will have to eat, they'll need accommodation, they'll be travelling and using health care services and other services in the territory, and buying their merchandise here and so on. So, we can expect that the spinoff will be quite significant and, indeed, we anticipate that in the order of almost three additional indirect jobs are created for every job that would be created directly in the industry.
Another area of benefit, I think, for Yukoners, should we see this potential develop, is a benefit in a decrease in local energy costs. Instead of relying on expensive imported diesel fuel, we would have opportunities to rely on more inexpensive and environmentally-friendly natural gas.
Reduced energy costs in the Yukon can mean newer expanded businesses and value added to other Yukon products, because indeed, if our energy costs can be lowered, it gives us opportunity to engage in other secondary manufacturing or even in the shipping of material. We would simply become more competitive, because our costs are lower, and lower energy costs can also mean reduced prices on other goods and services for Yukon consumers, as well as lower energy bills at home and, of course, that will free up additional dollars to be spent in other areas. That's good for all Yukoners.
Another significant benefit - and this is one that I know has been negotiated in just the last year - is around benefits agreements. There is some opportunity here to encourage - to ensure - local hire and purchase, and encourage the industry to get what they need from the local economy, where it's available.
Training and ongoing employment are other matters that might be addressed through benefits agreements.
The stages of development that are outlined through the licensing procedure will monitor and safeguard the public interest as well. I think that Yukoners need to know that those safeguards are in fact there from the initial exploration stages to transportation and export. Each one of those steps is monitored, and it will ensure that the industry is carrying on in an appropriate kind of a manner.
As the minister noted, the oil and gas industry is one of the most regulated industries in Canada, and it looks to me that we've done a good job of providing a responsible framework for the growth of this industry.
I've described this as really setting a potential; we're creating a potential by providing this framework. There's a saying that goes something like, while we can't direct the wind, we can certainly set the sails. I think that what this piece of legislation does, Mr. Speaker, is to set the sails and establish a good framework for the development of an oil and gas industry in the Yukon. It's a piece of legislation that I'm proud of and I look forward to supporting it in this House. Thank you.
Mr. McRobb: There are a few things I'd like to cover on this act. Part of the information package we were provided with is a booklet called Yukon Oil and Gas Act fact sheets, and it has in section 4, protecting the public interest, and section 5, protecting the environment. What I'd like to do is review, from this booklet, some of the points for the benefit of those who don't have access to the booklet.
One of the major responsibilities of this government is to protect the public interest. Although the definition of public interest has and will continue to change over time, simply put it means the best management of the resource by the government on behalf of Yukoners.
It may not, for example, be in the public interest to sell off Yukon's oil and gas resources as fast as the industry can get them out of the ground, leaving the Yukon without any ability to provide for its own energy needs in the future.
Other public interest concerns include safety, environmental impact, land usage, direct and indirect benefits to Yukoners from an activity, waste, conserving the resource, et cetera.
How will the public interest with respect to oil and gas be protected in the Yukon? It will be protected in two major ways. First, through specific policies and, second, through public processes.
On policies to protect the public interest, protecting the public interest means maximizing the benefits and minimizing any downside.
Some of the highlights of the policies to protect the public interest are: economic benefits, combined with social benefits, will carefully be looked at; each oil or gas licence application must be accompanied by a benefits agreement, which spells out the company's commitment to hire or buy locally.
A company may also agree to train a number of local workers, preparing them for direct employment in the industry.
Satisfying Yukon needs first is important to our government.
Maximizing the benefits includes ensuring that Yukon has an opportunity to benefit from the lowest possible cost of energy. Yukoners consume a fair bit of energy from petroleum products such as operating vehicles and machinery, generating electricity, heating homes and other buildings, et cetera. That energy is currently all imported and thus expensive, but it may be possible to lower the cost by replacing some of those imports with local resources. For example, Yukon oil and natural gas instead of imported diesel could be used to generate electricity.
I'd like to add in, as mentioned by the Member for Lake Laberge, that the potential for natural gas would be something desirable not only in the Yukon but in the rest of the world as well, Mr. Speaker. I can recall the World Watch Institute's State of the World Report for 1992, which featured the issue of energy. They were speaking in terms of both the short-term and long-term future, and they saw the potential for hydrogen to be the panacea of the world's energy problems in the long term but also recognized the need to lower our carbon dioxide emissions and other oxides in the atmosphere by trying to convert our fossil fuel electrical production to natural gas as a source, and I believe the figures were somewhere in the neighbourhood of 45 percent as much CO2 results from using natural gas as compared to normal petroleum products such as diesel fuel.
The government also places high importance on efficiency and conservation. It may well be in the Yukon public interest to conserve oil and gas resources both to maximize Yukon's opportunity to benefit from having oil and gas and to give it the chance to address it's own long-term energy needs.
For that reason, the government will decide how quickly its oil and gas may be produced and sold. In addition, the government will keep a close eye on the efficiency of oil and gas operations both to prevent waste and to minimize the environmental impact. If more than one company has rights to drill within a small area, for example, the government may order them to work together through pooling or unitization, reducing the number of wells being drilled.
If more than one company has rights to an oil or gas deposit, they too may be ordered to work together, both to minimize the service activity and to ensure that the resource is produced in the most efficient way. Efficient operations mean less waste and less environmental impact.
In the area of processes to protect public interest, in addition to policies, the public interest will be protected through several public processes, firstly the referral process. Before oil and gas rights are issued, the Yukon and First Nation governments will consult on a government-to-government basis to identify any issues or concerns. In addition, each government will initiate an internal referral process to determine any environmental surface access or other concerns.
On public consultations and the development assessment process, the single biggest concern for Yukoners may be environmental impacts. The Yukon Oil and Gas Act and regulations reflect that concern. Environmental protection and the benefits to Yukoners will be considered carefully, situation by situation, under the new development assessment process - a mandatory review of activities and projects.
Meaningful public consultation will be included at key stages of that review, as I'm sure my colleague from Lake Laberge will ensure.
Finally, the licensing process: the Yukon Oil and Gas Act and regulations provide for a series of steps to consider each aspect of oil and gas activity before allowing it to occur. Allowing a company to explore for oil and gas does not mean they will automatically be allowed to produce what they find. While recovery of the resource is the ideal situation, all other issues must be considered.
Each stage will be reviewed before a licence is given to drill to produce the oil or gas, to store, transport or export it. Each time the question will be asked: is this the best way of doing this? Is this in the public interest? So you see, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of measures accompanying this act to protect the public interest.
I would like to turn now to section 5 on protecting the environment. One consideration in developing Yukon's oil and gas resources is the risk of environmental damage. Oil spills, air pollution or roads through sensitive wilderness may be part of some people's image of the oil and gas industry. Yukoners want to safeguard their traditional activities and their enjoyment of the Yukon landscape.
Tourism operators want to protect their clients' experience of the wilderness. Everyone wants to ensure that wildlife is protected. These concerns have been at the top of the Yukon's and First Nations' list of considerations in designing the Yukon oil and gas regime, as well as in designing an approval process that will give appropriate weight to these issues.
On the question of who is responsible for environmental protection, the answer is responsibility is shared among governments. On the sharing of responsibility among governments, there are a few points I'd like to make. The federal government's environmental responsibility regarding oil and gas is exercised under several acts. The Canada Environmental Assessment Act, or CEAA, the territorial Lands Act, the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act and the National Energy Board Act.
Secondly, First Nations can, under the self-government agreements, pass laws relating to the environment. In addition, they are partners in the development assessment process.
The underlying premise for environmental protection in the Yukon is that activities in nearly every sector, including oil and gas, will be subject to the Yukon Environment Act and the development assessment process.
In addition, the Yukon Oil and Gas Act and its regulations will cover specific technical aspects of environmental protection, such as well abandonment and spills.
Fourthly, when considering whether to dispose of oil and gas rights, the Yukon government and the relevant First Nation governments will consult with one another to see if there are any anticipated concerns. Yukon and First Nation governments, each in their jurisdiction, have the right to prevent any oil and gas activity in an area they believe should be left untouched. Subject to paying appropriate compensation, they also have the right to close an area after activity has begun if they feel it was a mistake to allow it to occur.
How will the environment be protected? As in the whole of Canada, there are six ways: one, the setting of standards; two, licensing of oil and gas activity; three, environmental review and approval of oil and gas activity; four, setting financial and legal liability; five, self-regulation by industry; and, six, setting offences and penalties. For obvious reasons, the main emphasis is placed on preventing environmental damage through proactive measures, such as items one through five.
The standards for environmental protection are set in law, regulations and guidance notes. Standards for procedures, equipment and performance are spelled out clearly to ensure that there is a consistently high level of environmental protection. Governments have the power to stop activity that does not meet these environmental standards.
On licensing, nobody will be able to carry out any kind of oil or gas activities, from exploring to exporting, in Yukon, without a specific licence to do so. A company must get approval at each stage of the development process. Getting started does not in any way indicate that the next level of activity will be allowed to proceed. A company may be given the right to shoot seismic, for example, but later may not be allowed to drill a well if it is considered not to be in the public interest.
There are various types of licences that will be required. Some examples are: a geoscience exploration licence, which would cover the activity related to exploration, including seismic not related to drilling wells; there is a well licence covering the activity related to drilling operation, suspension or abandonment of an oil or gas well; another licence for an oil and gas facility allowing to construct, operate or abandon an oil or gas facility such as a battery tank farm, water disposal unit, et cetera; another licence is required for gas processing plants - this would allow to construct, operate or abandon a gas plant; another licence for pipeline to allow to construct, operate, upgrade or abandon a pipeline; and an export licence to export Yukon oil or gas from the territory.
On environmental review and approval, all jurisdictions review proposed oil and gas activity to determine the risk of the activity before it starts. The proposed activity is then rejected, accepted, or conditions are added to it to minimize the risk of environmental impact.
I'd like to review a few points to illustrate these reviews and processes here in the Yukon. First, when an oil and gas company wants any kind of licence, their application must be put through the development assessment process, a new process which considers any environmental, economic and social impact and requires meaningful public consultation before approval can be given.
This is the point where conflict in land use, such as ecotourism versus development, will likely be identified.
Secondly, it is up to the company to adequately address all questions and concerns at that stage for approval. The government must follow the recommendations of the DAP advisory board or else give the public a full explanation of their actions. An exemption to following DAP recommendations would likely only occur where new information has come to light.
Thirdly, under the territorial Lands Act, the federal government controls land use on territorial lands, ensuring that any disturbance of the environment is within acceptable limits.
Speaker: The member has a minute and a half.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
A land use permit issued by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, DIAND, is required for any project involving one or more of these activities: explosives, drilling, campsites, fuel caches, earth moving and clearing, preparations of lines, trails or rights-of-way, use of vehicles, et cetera.
Finally, when a company finishes operating an oil or gas well, it must abandon the wellsite according to strict regulations. All surface equipment and materials must be removed. The well casing must be removed, and the well has to be permanently plugged.
In addition to these measures, Mr. Speaker, there are others regarding financial and legal liability, self-regulation, offences and penalties, transporting oil and gas, and many more that have been touched on so far here this afternoon, and I'd like to urge anyone wanting more information on this to contact the government to obtain some of this excellent material that is available on the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. Especially for any constituents of mine who wish to discuss the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, I'd like to invite them to call me, and I'd certainly make myself available or perhaps set up a meeting with the minister to discuss their concerns.
On that note, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity, and I am in support of this act. Thank you.
Mr. Cable: I hate to speak ahead of the Government Leader because he sometimes disagrees with my comments, but I'll take the chance today. It was an interesting display yesterday, I should say.
The Northern Accord was signed in May of 1993, and it moved forward slowly but surely over the last four years. I think we should all bear in mind that there three elections - two federal elections and one territorial election - in the meantime. So, there were a number of changes in the negotiating players.
Now, the federal legislation will be moving forward through the House of Commons, and hopefully through the Senate in the near future. I gather that the local government and some members of the CYFN have made submissions to the standing committee and, as far as I am aware anyway, there are no serious objections to the federal counterpart bill. So, it's a reasonable expectation that the resource will be ours in the near future, that our government will be controlling oil and gas in the near future.
So, the question we have to ask ourselves is this: what will we have? What will we be, in fact, controlling? We know there's gas in the southeast of the Yukon, and we know there's gas and oil in the Eagle Plains area, but I think it's safe to say that the Yukon is basically underexplored with respect to gas and oil. It may be interesting to hear - not particularly on the mechanics of the bill, but on the potential for revenues and economic development - what is coming out of the minister's department on whether the resource will be a major source of revenue before the end of the century and what the minister and his officials see in their ministerial crystal ball.
Now, the bill is complex. I thank the minister and his department for the briefing that was given to us this morning, both the opposition parties and their researchers. I think it would be an exaggeration to say that any member of this House fully understands each and every clause. It's a very complex bill.
I do look forward to the minister telling the House in some detail what consultations have taken place, particularly with respect to the industry and the industry's comments on the everyday mechanics of the bill - not on the principles of the bill; those are fairly readily comprehensible - but on the everyday mechanics of the bill.
I was in discussion with a local gentleman recently about power development in some of the Yukon river valleys. He has a strong environmental strain. His position was that those persons most likely to be negatively affected - those people living in the immediate proximity to the energy development - should be the ones who should most immediately benefit. This theory, I would suggest, applies to a large extent in relation to oil and gas. I think this is the way the minister has structured the bill, that those people most immediately affected by the gas and oil development will be the first in line to receive the benefits. I have to say that that is a theory that I agree with.
It will be useful, when we get to the Committee discussion on the bill, that we hear where this theory came from. I am told - at least I gather from the comments - that this bill is essentially a rewrite of an Alberta bill. Whether or not that benefits the theory that is put in the bill is in the other jurisdictions' bills.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: The minister is saying that all the good stuff is made in the Yukon. It will be useful to see and to hear what was the genesis of the benefits clause.
We can hear it in back and forth discussion. I am sure the minister is chafing at the bit. He wants to present this idea, and I'm anxious to hear his thought on it. To me, this is one of the most key areas of the bill - the benefits agreement. After all, if we are to develop gas and oil, there should be some quid pro quo for any environmental downside, should it take place.
I don't intend to go on any longer. I think we are looking forward to the discussion on the bill. We will be supporting the bill in principle. I think it's worked its way through some consultations, both in its first form under the Yukon Party and, I gather, in its subsequent format under the present NDP government. I'm looking forward to hearing from the minister just what consultations he has had from the industry on those clauses, which will determine whether or not the bill will work in practice with the industry.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It's a pleasure to stand today to say a few words in support of this particular piece of legislation. I believe that the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, as presently conceived, is an example of good law. It's gone through a fairly laborious process in its development, and I know a lot of good people have spent long hours working on its every detail.
I'd like to thank the Member for Riverside for taking a position on this bill. I think that he left us hanging right until the very end of his remarks. I couldn't quite figure it out until he actually said it, but let those words go down in infamy: "We will support this bill."
I appreciate what will probably be unanimous support, Mr. Speaker, and I think it might be worthwhile to take a recorded vote for the sake of just simply demonstrating that fact, so that history can be a little less obtuse, or the historians will see a little clearer record of who did what and when did they do it and what were their intentions.
Like the leader of the official opposition, I'm not going to take a lot of time talking about who was responsible for what in the context of the development of this legislation. It must be a joy to the draftspeople, the people in the department who worked so hard, to see politicians of all ranks arguing about how much hand they had in the development of the bill. That is testimony itself to obviously a good piece of legislation.
Perhaps when we get into Committee, I can trade a little bit of history with the leader of the official opposition, who wasn't here before 1992, but appears to be an expert on what did happen, and talk to him a little bit about what was going on in those days, just to get a little bit of an historical perspective of the matter before us today.
I think the one feature about this bill I find to be particularly appropriate for us in our time is that this bill was worked out between governments in the Yukon - the fact that, over the last year or so, particularly, governments, both First Nation and the Government of the Yukon, worked very hard to find a common regime.
This, of course, will not only help with our competitiveness in terms of setting up a regime that will attract responsible development, but it also will promote administrative simplification, which any good taxpayer, any sane citizen, would want to promote in any case.
But I'd also like to make one other point about this and that is the fact that, because the administrative responsibilities for oil and gas are already being transferred to the Yukon government, because the discussion took place in the Yukon, we were able to reach these arrangements together with First Nation governments. The federal government's involvement in resource development policy making is not necessarily ill-intended but, because there is the long arm of policymakers in Ottawa being involved, it is often very complicated and counter productive for future development. And I say that in the most non-partisan way. It would happen with any federal government.
The point is, Mr. Speaker, Yukon people can work out these issues on their own. We do not need the friendly or otherwise assistance from other orders of government. And I'm proud to say that we can come to very, very attractive conclusions, as this bill demonstrates, when we are working on our own. But it is in part because we have the ability. With these resources being under local control, we have the ability to work out management regimes that will not only work for us now but for future generations as well.
So, I do consider this an example of good law making. I think the people involved and the minister involved are due a lot of recognition for a job well done. I do expect that there will be many detailed questions in the Legislature about the individual provisions of the act, which will be nothing but a healthy discussion. But because this has so much of an impact on the future development of this territory, one way or another, and perhaps even the financial health of this government, I would suspect that this is a labour that is worth every minute.
So I of course support the bill and look forward to its unanimous passage.
Mr. Jenkins: I, too, rise in general support of the oil and gas bill before us. I look forward to going through it line by line and debating some components of the bill. I look forward to having this act given assent and bringing forward the resulting jobs and opportunities that I believe we are all interested in encouraging to develop here in the Yukon.
With that, Mr. Speaker, we'll look forward to proceeding.
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to rise briefly in general support of this bill, and I would like to express for the record my appreciation to the minister and his staff, who provided an excellent briefing to our caucus this morning. It was greatly appreciated and very helpful, and I am looking forward to the line-by-line, clause-by-clause debate of this bill. I was particularly interested in the discussions this morning about the consultation that had taken place with industry and the working with industry, and I was also interested in the discussion by the staff of the impact-benefit agreements and of how those agreements are going to be reached. There was some discussion about a boiler plate or a sample agreement, and I was interested in how that would work with the local hire commission, and - I use the term "cross-pollination" - for the record, what good ideas or less-than-enthusiastically-received ideas might be shared. I look forward to those discussions and also further discussion of this sense of a common regime. It's an interesting proposal put forward, and I look forward to further debate on this particular piece of legislation.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to this bill. I rise to speak in support of this bill. I think this act is a wonderful bill. I think this bill is long overdue.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Act, pardon me. Bills, acts - I thank the member opposite for that clarification.
There's much more to this Yukon Oil and Gas Act than what's portrayed here. What is, in essence, portrayed here is the document, A Better Way, Mr. Speaker.
My government said that we're going to build relations - government to government - and form partnerships and diversify the economy. This certainly is typical, I think, of this government and what we are doing and how we are going to continue to do it.
My government - this government - believes that if the Yukon is to have a healthy economy, that certainly we must diversify. Again, I reiterate that this is exactly what this bill does.
It's over the past 10 years that the federal and the territorial governments and the local First Nations governments have worked together to transfer responsibility for the Yukon's natural resources to the Yukon. Ten years, Mr. Speaker - not a short process by any means, but certainly a process that proves that governments can come together with common objectives and work toward goodness for Yukoners. This act will pass, create jobs and open up the country. Of course, it will be done through the development assessment process. I can see nothing but good coming out of this.
We've worked together toward a common management regime with the resources in the Yukon. What this does, I think, more importantly than anything, is it sets new standards for Yukon and First Nations governments to work together. It proves that it can be done. It is arduous, certainly, and difficult, long and maybe tedious at times, but is it fruitful? Absolutely. Will it benefit? Absolutely it will.
Oil and gas has been found predominantly, I would say, in the southeast sections of the Yukon, but certainly it is believed that there is more to be found. It's very difficult to predict the activity in the oil and gas industry, but certainly as I've said, Yukoners will benefit. They will benefit through a growing economy, which will affect everybody in the Yukon Territory. It will create jobs and it certainly could, in the future, result in a decrease in local energy costs - all good things. All these things are what all members of the House here wish to have for Yukon people, no matter what side of the House you sit on. That is what we have in common. How we go about the process to get this in common is what politics is about.
I reiterate, Mr. Speaker, that we have brought all peoples together for the benefit and common good.
The act ensures that before rights for exploration are granted, the Yukon and First Nation governments will consult on a government-to-government basis about concerns. Their concerns are certainly our concerns and concerns that we share in common. As I've said, the environmental concerns will be protected and acted through the new development assessment process that my colleague - wherever he might be - from Lake Laberge is doing, and it's a mandatory review of oil and gas activity.
Certainly, this is not limited to simply the people I've mentioned above, the governments, but it is to include opportunities for the public to provide meaningful input. Environmental concerns are and will continue to be a shared responsibility of the federal, the Yukon and the First Nations governments.
I think, with cooperation and working together, that access to lands will not be a problem where the oil and gas is to be found, but could be treated as very much of an economic boom and done as, for and how the will of the local people of the area would want. It is very, very important, I believe, in my mind that access will only be during certain times of the year that will be beneficial to the environment and to the people and it will be done, again, under the development assessment process. It ensure that there are a number of processes that can be used to resolve the conflicts over land use and if done properly, as it is portrayed throughout this act, it will minimize the conflicts that probably will arise.
This act and this industry, which represents many new challenges to Yukon people - concerns about environmental accidents, wildlife and land access - certainly have to be addressed, but this act, again, says that they can be addressed and will be addressed by all Yukon people.
As has been said previously, it is certainly, I believe, a historic event as it sets out the transfer and the regulation, and again I say that it can be done. I'm just so very pleased to be able to say and to repeat that it can be done for the benefit of all Yukoners with a good relationship that we're defining now, at this point in time, with the aboriginal, the original peoples of this territory. Mr. Speaker, they were a full part of this process in bringing this to reality and to bear fruit for us, and I think that as we proceed with other ventures, acts, bills, what-have-you, with commonsense development of the Yukon, all peoples can work together for the common good.
Mr. Speaker, I do not think that that can be underplayed. I think that that certainly cannot be overplayed, that it has to be stated again so that we can know that there is a will and a way to create jobs, to diversify the economy, to make the economy certainly better for all Yukoners. The regime, of course, is a regime that will set the standards and the rules for the development of it and it will be done in conjunction with First Nations for and on First Nations' and Crown lands.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I just have to say that I'm very pleased and very proud to have been a small part of the creation and the development of this act. It ensures certainly more efficient and less-costly administration costs. As I said, it resolves land use disputes. It just does so much good. The benefits are for Yukon people - and again I reiterate "all Yukon people." It includes important provisions that will ensure that oil and gas development will result in economic and employment benefits for Yukon people. Wherever you are in the Yukon Territory, this act and the creation of this act will benefit all peoples.
We hope that, by maximizing the benefits to the Yukon people, it will increase the skill levels and spur on the development of the service sector specializing in this industry.
So, from the delivery of the specialized services to the flipping of hamburgers on the grills in the small communities and along the highways, it's going to prove to be a very fruitful act.
So, Mr. Speaker, I can only say that I hope that everybody will rise and speak to this and approve the passage of this and support this. I do believe it is a good example of cooperation and of working together.
I, too, look forward to line-by-line debate. I, too, see the benefit of the process of this House as we go through it, but I would encourage people not to treat this politically because you are on the left or the right or stuck in the middle or wherever we are, but to certainly look at what the benefits of this act will do.
This act will do many good things common for all people - as I said, the creation of better jobs, a dollar on the street. Maybe lunchbuckets is a better way to say it, so that people can pack lunches and go happily to work, and if you look at that - not only creation of the jobs through this act - what does it do to help families and to cut down on abuse - elders abuse, child abuse, wife abuse and all the abuses? When you have people working, you have more in tune to family life, and it would certainly encourage people to work together and to have a family life, and to be proud to get up in the morning. It will help to dissipate social problems. It will just help to create so much more goodness for the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
So I certainly encourage all members of the House to speak, and to look at it in the light that I've just tried to state - the goodness of it - and to work cooperatively for that, because I do believe that as politicians of whatever stripe and from whatever geographic location, we are bound together for the benefit of the people of the Yukon, and I do believe that is what is portrayed in this act if we look at it in that light. So, I thank you very much for your time and energy.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this bill as well. This is one of those bills, I guess, when we pass legislation in this House, sometimes as soon as it comes into force, we can see immediate results, and many of the bills that we've got before us in this legislative session are bills that most of us won't see results from. A lot of them are housekeeping bills. They're not major pieces of legislation. A lot of the legislation that we see here most of the general public won't be affected by, but this is one of those pieces of legislation that I think in the long run - maybe five years or 10 years from now or 20 years from now - could have the most significant impact on Yukoners than most other pieces of legislation that we deal with. I'm hoping that's in a positive way, and I'm sure it will be. This is one of those pieces of legislation that, when I'm sitting out there in my rocking chair, hopefully quite a few years from now, will give me cheaper fuel costs.
Cheaper power costs - one would be able to afford a chicken coop for all the chickens that I've had to free range for years. It's an inside joke that came up yesterday, Mr. Speaker.
On a more serious note, this is one of those things that, once the regime is in place, once the oil companies come and the exploration starts, the economic benefits will begin to flow to Yukoners. I think that this is one of those things that can involve training and other initiatives by the Government of Yukon and others to get more and more Yukoners involved in the oil and gas industry.
I know Alberta, right now, is booming with the kind of exploration that is going on there, and the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country because of the economic activity. The Yukon, for the most part, is virtually untapped or unexplored.
I think there will be interest in some areas of the Yukon and there will be some benefits that flow from that.
Mr. Speaker, I can see down the road one day that we will have natural gas here in the Yukon. Possibly, we will be able to not only heat our homes with it, but it might produce power for us, as well, at a more efficient cost. Maybe we'll be able to, as I think the Member from Teslin commented, see lower gas prices. That's something that I think all Yukoners and the visitors that come here would greatly enjoy. We just have to look to our neighbors to the north, to Alaska, to see what has happened in Alaska with the development of their oil and gas and the gas prices that one has to pay up there.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Totem Oil.
I wanted to keep this a really positive debate, so I don't think I want to follow the bait by the Minister of Economic Development about Totem Oil. I think there're still a lot of Yukoners who are still concerned about Totem Oil.
I want to extend my gratitude and thanks to the drafters of this bill - the people that we brought in from outside the territory, the experts who had a great deal of knowledge of how these bills are drafted - the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Justice and anyone else in the government who played a role in coming up with the effort and the work to put this all together.
I think this is one of those things that we have to be careful of in politics. I heard the opening remarks by the Minister of Economic Development talking about how all the easy work was done under the Yukon Party government and all the hard work was done under his regime. Well, I don't think the drafters would think that. I would think that there was a lot of hard work done under both governments.
The member is now saying, it wasn't the drafters, it was the political work he was talking about. Well, I can tell the member that there was a lot of hard political work done by both sides as well. I give the minister credit for following through on this.
I give Mr. Penikett some credit for initiating it in the beginning and Mr. Ostashek some credit for signing the agreement. I mean this is one of those things where it's not going to matter much down the road who puts the feather in their cap. I think the feather is going to be in the cap of the Yukon people, if it works out, and the Yukon people are going to be the beneficiaries. We should treat a bill as important as this in a non-partisan way.
There was a lot of work done. There have been some changes made. The bill has been improved, but that was the reason for tabling the bill in the context that it was in the spring and allowing people to go out and look at it and change it. That was the purpose of it. That was the consultative process, and I think that it paid off. We've got in front of us here today a better bill than we had then, but that was the intent: to improve the bill. That's why it was tabled and that's why it was sent out for consultation and that's why we asked the industry, "What do you think?" I think, overall, we do have a better bill.
I think, along with the local parties who were involved, we also have to give some thanks to the federal Liberal government in Ottawa, who saw fit to devolve this responsibility to the Government of the Yukon. We've sought these kinds of responsibilities for a long time. This is significant, and I think that it's a positive move. I just wish that the minister who saw the light in this particular move - the federal minister who saw the light - would speak to some of his colleagues, for instance, in Justice, about the Crown devolution, and in forestry about forestry, and in Health about health. I think that that would help.
I think the Liberals were a bit optimistic for a minute, thinking I was going to leave them completely alone. I couldn't resist that.
I think a lot of thank yous have to go to everybody involved. There was a lot of hard work. Even I played a small role in looking at this bill. I mean, I think everyone did, and it's positive that we're all speaking in a positive way toward the bill here in the House today. It will benefit not only us, but it's going to benefit our children and grandchildren and other Yukoners down the road.
I'm looking forward to the bill receiving speedy passage in this House. I'm looking forward to the work that has to be done and getting the regime up and going, and I'm looking forward to the first moves to ask for individuals to look at searching for oil and gas in the territory so that we can get on with it and provide some jobs for Yukoners. I think that's what it's all about in the long run for everybody. It will not only provide jobs, it'll also provide more cost-efficient fuel for everyone. In the long run, we'll all benefit.
So, like I said in the beginning, probably in the things that we've done in the past few years in this House, this is one of the more significant initiatives. Yukoners may not remember who we are, but certainly history will show that this is a very positive move for the Yukon in setting up this regime and accepting this responsibility.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'd just like to make a few comments on this bill that's before the House right now. Much has been said by a number of people here today, and I would like to, in a sense, echo a bit the comments from my friend from Riverdale North in some of my comments.
This bill is being primarily looked at from an economics point of view and, to another degree, from an environmental point of view. I think both are keenly important to this House, but I'd just like to refer, perhaps a little bit more, and make some reference to the idea of where I think this bill takes us in terms of political development.
We have been evolving in this territory over a number of years to gaining more and more of our own responsibilities - if you will, in a sense, moving toward a greater degree of responsible government in, at least my time in this territory, and I think that's how we're evolving.
We're also in a very unique situation, I believe. The situation is sometimes very difficult to convey to people outside, in the fact that we're working in an environment where we're taking tentative steps. We're working with the umbrella final agreement, working out arrangements with another level of government.
It is sometimes tentative. Sometimes it's somewhat difficult because, in many sense, for both parties, we're working in areas where we've never gone before.
I think what is striking to me about this bill really rests in what I consider to be the centrepiece of this whole legislation, and that is the landmark memorandum of understanding that was reached between First Nations and the Yukon government. I think what this does is set out a blueprint - a map, if you will - about how things will develop in the future, how we can go in terms of devolving powers to this territory, how we can work on sharing arrangements, how we can work on common, mutual economic and social development in the territory.
I look upon this in a similar way that I saw the phase 2 transfer of health. I think these are interesting and, quite frankly, I find them rather exciting times to be involved in the government in this territory, because I think we do have the ability here to make some history.
I don't use that term lightly. I think we are developing here new modes of government and operating that are going to serve us well in the future and will chart the history of this territory 50 or 100 years down the road. This bill is one of those steps. We perhaps may not see, as the Member for Riverdale North said, the historic impact immediately, but I think it has very, very significant developments in the future.
I guess what I'm most proud of is that this was an act which was evolved and developed with the coopoeration of First Nations. It was not an agreement imposed. It was not an agreement that was reached by any means of coercion. It was an attempt by different levels of government to reach an accord on the sharing and development of a resource. As I said before, I think this in a sense a map for us to go in the future.
So, what can we look at in terms of benefits that we can expect to flow out of this? Clearly, there are some political benefits, I think. As well, there are some benefits in terms of economics and employment benefits that will come to people, no doubt in the exploration, the development and infrastructure that goes into developing oil and gas fields, pumping and transportation, and so on. I think it will have some rather salutary effects on our infrastructure here.
As well, I think, as the member has suggested, it will increase our economic base. We are extremely dependent on fossil fuels of one kind or another in this territory. That has been one of the things that I think has stymied in many ways some of our future development areas up to now and, having this accord, having the ability to develop, having this ability for the industry to develop, I think will be positive because not only will there be benefits flowing in terms of royalties and jobs, et cetera, et cetera, but I also believe that the products themselves can be adapted to the needs of Yukoners. For example, if there were oilfields developed, this may reduce our dependence on imported fuels from the south. That would have an advantage in terms of price and in terms of what we could do as far as developing other areas of our economy.
I think that out of this will flow the need for supplies, machinery. I'm surprised that my friend from Riverdale North didn't mention this, because I know his keen interest in tourism, but as well I think just the demands of perhaps exploration crews that come in would have a benefit, particularly on communities where the hospitality industry has largely been dependent on a tourism season. I can see where, in terms of perhaps greater exploration, there would be a chance to extend that season. There would be a chance for greater benefits to flow into the areas of accommodation, meals, things of that nature. Of course, I don't think we can underestimate how those benefits flow down, because they do. There's a multiplier effect. Jobs and resource industries tend to multiply. They tend to move into such areas as wholesale and particularly retail. So I think there are benefits which will flow out of this that cannot be diminished in terms of our particular economic benefits.
As well, I think there are going to be opportunities here for local companies to move into some new areas of expertise. I think there are going to be opportunities for perhaps expediting companies, perhaps exploration companies, to move into a new field. They'll be able to diversify. They'll be able to expand their sort of repertoire of skills, and that's also very good, because it makes us more diverse, it makes us more capable.
As I said before, I think one of the things that I'm looking forward to is the decrease in local energy costs. I think this is a very strong benefit. Of course, I don't want to diminish the importance of cycle-generated power, as my friend from Klondike has reminded me, but for example, I think the opportunity in locally produced natural gas can some day heat our homes at a fraction of what perhaps propane or oil or perhaps even firewood costs.
I know that in my riding, one of the major concerns that has occurred in the last couple of winters has been the fluctuations in propane, and people have been particularly impacted, because many of the new residential areas are on propane. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get the major propane companies up here to go for laying in lines so that that gas can be delivered directly to the home; rather, it has to go in a liquefied form and be delivered into tanks. So I am particularly hopeful that natural gas will produce a benefit in terms of competition.
I certainly don't want to diminish the opportunities here to earn revenues, and those revenues that I'm specifically referring to now mean revenues that would gravitate toward government - for example, the sale of oil and gas rights, rentals of land, licensing of activities, royalties and, of course, the corporate and personal income taxes that flow from greater economic activity.
I'm particularly hopeful that royalties are going to be a major way that we can benefit from this. I don't expect that we're going to become Kuwait or Qatar or any of the Gulf States overnight, but I think if we can bring in royalties, it will certainly improve our economic position here. That in turn will flow out to other things that government can do. There'll be greater security of programs - a concern certainly of mine - as well as, hopefully, the expansion of necessary infrastructure as we go along.
I think it is significant that we have two natural gas wells here already contributing $1.8 million in royalties, and that particular gas field, I understand, is quite large, and it could support additional wells.
I think these things have a domino effect. As one gas or oil field is discovered, I think it creates interest in other potential areas. I think there is a multiplier effect. I think from there, we can move out to perhaps previously unthought of areas in the territory. So, I'm quite hopeful in that regard.
I think, as well, when we talk about revenues, we have to realize that we're not the only players in the revenue market. We're not the only group - we, being YTG - for whom these benefits are going to flow. I can see, for example, that oil and gas revenues can form the basis for many of the First Nations. I think we're into a new era where First Nations are actively seeking economic opportunities, actively seeking how they can diversify their economies as they move out of their traditional relationship with the federal government.
I see First Nations becoming more and more entrepreneurial and I can see where, as revenues flow to them, they will begin to say, "There are things that we can do, even maximize. There are things that we can do to develop our communities to an even greater degree." I think when we speak about revenues, we have to take a look at revenues to both levels of government and not just confine ourselves to the prospect of YTG.
This isn't going to be, I think, an easy step. I think we've not only achieved one step, but I think we're on the cusp of others. I think we're moving out in other areas.
There will be challenges. There are going to be challenges that we will have to balance out between the possibility of environmental degradation, and perhaps there are things that sometimes we confronted in the north, oil spills, things of that nature, perhaps well blowouts. Those are all challenges that we're going to have to deal with and we're going to have to balance a good deal of development with the challenges to pollution.
As well, I think, there are going to be challenges in terms of social development. There will be impacts on communities and I think, perhaps for the First Nations, some of these impacts are going to have to be very, very measured. I think they're going to have to really look at how development occurs in their own traditional lands, and these are going to be issues that they will have to work out.
I think we, both levels of government, are going to be facing challenges because even though we have an accord, even though we have an act, any act, any piece of legislation cannot always anticipate all issues that arise.
I think there will be points at which we have to work with our other partners in this. There may be impediments and blockages. There may even be moments in which there could be some degrees of conflict, but I think those can be worked out. Those can be evolved. This is part of the process.
I see this as a rather exciting development. I see this as a chance for us to move ahead in our own political, our own socio-economic development and our own environmental development. I look forward to this particular piece of legislation being the foundation for other acts and other areas in which we can work cooperatively with all levels of government. I see this as a start. I see this as an important step. I would urge that all members of this House give it their full support. I would like to commend all those - and, in fairness, all those in previous governments and present governments - certainly the individuals involved in Economic Development, as well as individuals in First Nations governments and also our federal partners, who worked so tirelessly to bring us to this point today.
I would like to conclude by commending this bill to everyone in this House, and I look forward to its passage. Thank you.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm pleased to rise and speak in support of the Yukon Oil and Gas Act that's before the House today. This is a historic event for the Yukon, because it sets out the transfer and regulation of oil and gas from the federal government to the Yukon.
We're happy to know that devolution is proceeding; that it has finally gone beyond the stage of something that's being talked about to something that we're going to be able to do.
The development of an oil and gas industry in the Yukon has to respect the environment, and the provisions of this act do deal with that.
There are economic benefits to having oil and gas development and in having this act passed by the House.
I think that one of the best provisions of the Yukon Oil and Gas Act is that there has been a memorandum achieved between First Nations and the Yukon government. This act sets out a common oil and gas regime. First Nation and Yukon governments have come to agreement so that there will be one set of rules for development and operation of oil and gas development on First Nations land and on Crown lands. This provides certainty for the industry and will also ensure that the Yukon is competitive with other jurisdictions.
Prior to the signing of the memorandum of understanding reached between the First Nations and the Yukon government this past January, the transfer of oil and gas to the Yukon was in serious doubt. Without First Nations being involved in the process, the federal government was not in a position to transfer the resource to the territory.
Mr. Speaker, this Oil and Gas Act will have a lot of benefits for Yukon people. It can lead to economic and employment benefits. There is an impact benefit agreement for each permit or licence that will be issued under the bill. We want to focus on direct employment and training and the provision of goods and services by local companies. Most important, though, is to protect the public interest in the development of any resource. The Yukon government will, in the provisions of this legislation, decide which land is let for development so that there can be an orderly development of the industry and the greatest return in benefits to Yukon people. The First Nations and Yukon government will consult on any issues on land development, including surface access and environmental concerns.
Eventually, the development assessment process will deal with any environmental assessment that is necessary. In the interim, there are provisions in the Oil and Gas Act to assure efficient use of oil and gas. The industry is heavily regulated and driven by permits. This act will require that companies post deposits prior to oil and gas activity in case of major catastrophes and to cover any costs of well abandonment.
Mr. Speaker, I know this has been an issue of serious concern to many of my constituents who want to see those safeguards in place. Posting a deposit to cover any cost of well abandonment has been an environmental issue, not just in the Yukon but in all areas of the country where companies have left wells and the cleanup has become a government responsibility.
There are provisions here to fine companies who violate the legislation and the regulations.
Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to be supporting the Oil and Gas Act before the House. I think it holds the potential to create well-paying jobs, new economic opportunities and economic diversification. It holds the possibility of providing cheaper energy, which will make Yukon more competitive and allow for revenues to be used to improve the lives of all Yukon people.
Mr. Fentie: I, too, rise today to support this bill. It's indeed a monumental legislation for the Yukon, and it is true that there was much good work done by the federal government, by the former Yukon Party, in regards to this legislation, but a point has to be made that the legislation that the Yukon Party was bringing forward was lacking in many areas, and this government took the time and put forward the effort to bring forward substantive changes to this legislation to ensure that it did benefit Yukoners and that it would have the full support of all Yukoners in passing this House.
Some of these changes are reflected in common regimes, agreements to pool management, involving the First Nations as governments, making sure that we capture benefits for Yukoners - and that's all Yukoners - and financial responsibility in other important areas that was lacking in the former legislation.
So, Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to support this act, and I look forward to more of these in regard to our resources here in the Yukon.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this act, and it's really wonderful to see it come forward, and I also have to recognize the various agencies and governments that worked on this. It's nice to see it come to fruition under the NDP regime at this time. I also believe that there have been a lot of changes made that are going to make it more beneficial for people in the Yukon.
When I hear of oil and gas, I often think of a leading visionary - a long-time Liberal candidate - who always talked about the fact that we're sitting on a field of gas and that Whitehorse is floating on a field of gas, and I guess now we can be assured that, if there is actually a field of gas underneath us or spread throughout the Yukon, the people of the Yukon will benefit, because first and foremost, before we start to explore and allow exploitation of the gas and development of the gas, we must have this act in place. I commend the work done by the Member for Faro and his departments, and I believe it is an excellent piece of work.
Going through it, there are a few highlights I'd like to make, points that jumped out and some wording that I found very refreshing to see. The common regime. I think it's a wonderful piece in this act and, reading here, it says "would be a foundation from which the regime would be developed." The Yukon Oil and Gas Act, YOGA, would be the foundation from which the regime would be developed. That's very heartening for me, and I believe bringing all parties together, working together in commonality for the people of the Yukon, the benefits we receive, is only going to ensure a long-term, productive and environmentally conscious act and development in the territory.
Opportunities and benefits. When I see that, from a person that has worked in this area in a small amount in Alberta, all I can think of when I hear that is jobs, jobs, jobs. That's been promised before by federal governments but, in this case, I believe if our development goes ahead we will see lots of jobs, direct and indirect jobs.
I believe another benefit in that area, of course, is the decreasing costs, hopefully through the energy bills, the benefit of small business throughout the territory, as there's development in those areas that have been identified now and new areas - hopefully that will be identified - and the benefits to the levels of government, the First Nations, the municipalities, the territorial and, of course, there will be benefits to the federal as well in the development of this.
Workers and public safety - that's something that we can never ever neglect, and we always have to keep that foremost in our minds. No one wants to see the abuse of working people, nor do we want to see deaths and injuries on the job, nor do we want to see abuse to small businesses when they are contracting to the larger corporations that often finance these major explorations. We want to see them all protected, and we want to see it advance forward with rules and standards and codes of conduct. I see it's listed well in here, along with training and technology - licensing of activities, financial and legal liabilities, inspections, which are so important, enforcement of course, which we have to have, and emergency response, which I'm really glad to see.
Under the enforcement, I see a section that lays out very clearly stiff penalties. When we're dealing with such a large amount of money that flows in this area, the penalties themselves have to also reflect that, so if people really think that's awfully stiff, no it isn't. This kind of money that they're talking in this, and I know this from Alberta, is not as large as some people would think.
There is a tremendous amount of money that flows with oil and gas. It has to reflect that to ensure that the public safety and workers' safety is ensured.
It is good to see training. I believe that training is key to ensuring employment and a future for the youth as they come out of our high schools. It is great to emphasize that, and hopefully there will be a very good working relationship with all levels of government and the industry to ensure that training happens for the Yukon people and there isn't just a transfer of workers from one province to another that flow around, but that there will actually be development of the workforce here and people will have something to look forward to down the road.
Public interest - it's nice to see that there's going to be specific policies, but even more important, that there will be a thorough, public process used to ensure that Yukon needs are met and that efficiency and conservation is in place.
I want to go back to the emergency response. I think this is essential, because we've all heard the lack, in the past - and it's improved a lot over the years and I believe Canada is one of the leading agencies in the world on emergency response teams - but it's nice to see that that's a priority in the act and we already do have emergency response teams. Maybe there's only a small amount of training that they'll need to deal with oil and gas accidents if they do happen, which we hope will never happen.
Long-term development, safety, environmental impact, land usage - all mentioned, all very important.
Direct and indirect benefits - everyone wants to benefit from this act. Everyone wants to see the Yukon develop. But I believe we want to see the Yukon develop long term, not short term. I notice it's mentioned about ensuring long-term prosperity, so that we don't just open up every bit of land as oil or gas is identified and say take as much as you want as fast as you can to get the short dollar. What we want to see, I believe, is oil and gas there for future generations. We want to see the development flow. We want to see the balance that this will lead toward the fluctuations that we get in our market with the mining industry - there are too many ups and downs in the Yukon - and hopefully this will contribute to balancing that out and ensure a longer term stability for the people of the Yukon and the businesses of the Yukon.
People in the Yukon, most people, I believe, want to safeguard their traditional activities and they want to continue to enjoy the Yukon landscape. Tourism operators want to protect their clients' experience of the wilderness. Everybody wants to ensure that wildlife is protected. Those are wonderful statements and I believe this act will meet those requirements and yet still give comfort to the businesses that want to come in. I believe, very strongly, that business will flourish if they are given a set of rules that are clear, concise and ones that they know they can work under. It's when it gets muddled, when it's not clear that we have difficulties.
I was listening to a man named Martin Khor. He's from Malaysia and he was speaking in Ottawa last week. He was attending a United Nations briefing on the MAI, which was the motion that was given notice today. At that meeting there were many mult-inational transnational companies, and every one of them stood up and said, the first requirement - the absolute first requirement - of their investment in the world is political stability.
Now, it's not cheap labour, so they say. It's not infrastructure. It's not climate. It's political stability. Part of having political stability is having acts that they can work under, acts that are very clear, that spell out very clearly the rules and regulations. If there are strong environmental regulations, they are clear and they can plan ahead, and knowing that political stability means that these acts will not change with the change of governments in the provinces or the territories or the states, but those acts will stay stable and that way they can put their investment in there and know in 10, 15, 20 years there will still be a concise law for them to work under and it won't be swinging all over.
Canada offers that and I believe this act is a indication that the Yukon offers it, and once again I applaud the Member for Faro for that kind of work.
Those are just about all the points I want to make. I would like to go back to the common regime, and just to close up, I believe that's an indication of a direction that we can go in to ensure future development of acts to ensure partners coming together, people working together so that all concerns are addressed and, most important, the environmental concerns are always kept foremost in people's minds, and the opportunity for jobs, training and stability for families and communities. Otherwise there is no reason to take the oil and gas out of the ground unless we can offer those concerns and ensure that they are met in the Yukon Territory. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'll be very brief on this. I rise in support of this act and some of the concerns I've had over the past years of this coming forward. This is a very important piece of information and guidance to Yukon that's been missing for years. It's something that could really build the economy in Yukon.
What it needs and what it lacked in the past is the direction and participation of First Nations across the Yukon. When this was brought forward by the Yukon Party in trying to make this thing work, they never really involved First Nations in the development or involved them in participating in making this go through in Ottawa, and that's the big difference between that party and us. We have involved the First Nations. We've recognized them as governments and included them in this process, and it certainly is consistent with the wording in the UFA, in recognizing First Nations as governments and including them in all that we do and the things that affect them the most.
Oil and gas is huge. It's a big industry and, like many others, it needs full participation by Yukoners and industry, and we cannot leave a major player out in this case. I believe that's what happened and I have first-hand experience of that because, as a former leader of a First Nation, I certainly was not involved in any big way at all in the development of this devolution of oil and gas.
It's important, because there are provisions in there that affect the First Nations tremendously, and we cannot ignore them. We cannot ignore a government as big as they are. They are a major government and one of three governments in the Yukon, and some at time, in the future, they could be a government that's bigger than the Yukon territorial government in that they have the ability to pass laws that can supersede our laws. They are recognized under the Constitution of Canada, whereas the Yukon is developed under an act of the federal government.
At present, it's the federal government that regulates oil and gas, and like many other programs that are out there today, they don't have the local input or local control that should be out there and that we've been asking for for a long time. It becomes confusing at times to deal with these different levels of governments, and it's a concern that First Nations have, and they have always wanted to be part of developments of regulations or anything that is going to involve them at a community level, and that's why they went through the task of negotiating First Nation final agreements and the UFA. It's a long time in the works, and it's finally kicking into gear to the point that we, as a government, must recognize their positions in the things that we do today.
I must commend the Economic Development department for putting this together. It wasn't easy to go in and get everybody together and focused on this. We had to make changes, and the changes enough that both governments in the Yukon agreed. We've signed agreements together to try and focus us down in a common area.
One of the major problems First Nations have had, as with many developments, is in regard to environmental damage, and that continues to be the number one issue when First Nations deals with developers. When it comes to mining, they've always put environmental issues forward as a number one concern and, from that point on, deal with other things like job creation and so on.
First Nations now have agreements in place. They have land selections that they have full control over, and many of these land selections, especially in the southeast Yukon and in the north, may be rich with oil. In other places, they're rich with minerals.
First Nations' intentions are to benefit from these resources. They are certainly going to be playing a big part in how Yukon develops in the future. The environmental issues have played a big role in their participation in the devolution of oil and gas. It's to the point where they had recognized this ahead of time in their UFA, and final agreements resulted in developing a development assessment process, which is now in the development stage and will be in place soon.
All of these thoughts that people had in the past are starting to come into play, and Yukon is becoming a place that sees a lot of change. We must gear ourselves up for that change, along with the rest of departments, local governments, municipalities and people of the Yukon.
We have other major issues that would involve First Nations as governments. We look at devolution as a major issue in the Yukon, along with the devolution of forestry. These are all big industries that we feel that we can benefit from tremendously, and control at a local level.
And what it comes down to many times is where do the local people stand in all of this?
When it comes to the environment, of course, our department has a lot of interest in this. We feel that the act and the industry itself could have a major impact on the environment, and within the act itself, it does take care of a lot of the environmental issues that have been a concern to Yukoners. We feel that with some of the things we are doing in regard to developing regulations under the Environment Act - those are still ongoing - and it's the hope that with all these activities that our government is putting forward, they would blend nicely together in having a good environment, one that is sustainable in all developments, whether it's forestry or oil and gas or minerals.
I do feel that this is an important step that we're taking as government. We're taking on big roles, as we said we would during our campaign and in our platform in protecting the environment, and I'm glad to see that the department, along with the First Nations, have included a good section in regard to environmental protection.
Speaker: If a member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank everybody for their comments and for their support today. I must say that I hadn't expected from the official opposition the level of support for the bill.
My opening comments were quite pointed and the reason for that is simply because I still have the words of the leader of the official opposition ringing in my ears from last January, 1997, when we signed the memorandum of understanding and he talked extensively about selling out to First Nations and giving up the Yukon. We still have editorial writers, at least one, writing editorials and taking his lead saying just that. So, it was reassuring to see him today embrace the principles of that memorandum of understanding that led to this act hitting this Legislature and being passed at second reading.
With regard to this legislation, in terms of responding to some of the questions, the technical guts of this legislation are from Alberta; however, the parts that make it special, the common regime, the benefits agreement, the upfront abandonment deposits are all new and they're all 100 percent made in the Yukon.
I remember dealing with the tough issues surrounding these different matters. We just up until last week were dealing with benefits agreements.
I remember phone calls at two o'clock in the morning during the Christmas season to the Government Leader who was on the Team Canada mission as we talked about the various aspects - he was overseas - of the MOU that we were negotiating. I remember the officials from the Department of Economic Development stuck in the line-ups during that snowstorm over Christmas trying to negotiate with Yukon First Nations an understanding and a common vision for moving ahead.
There was a lot of work put into this in the last year and a lot of new work and a lot of new ideas, and I'm very, very proud of them. So, I'm a little sensitive about the very extreme comments that were made in regard to that MOU that led to this act being created, but I'm happy to see the support today, nonetheless.
Mr. Speaker, in my opening comments, I thanked my officials who worked very hard, but one group I did not thank and I should have, and I'm remiss in not doing it, is the people in Justice, the drafters, who burned the midnight oil to work on changes that we made just up until last week. They've brought down the French translation now and a lot of work that people don't see goes into that. So I think they deserve some credit for that. They've been asked to produce a lot lately and they've been doing just that.
Mr. Speaker, the former Government Leader, the leader of the official opposition, raised some good questions, and I believe that he is absolutely correct. The distinction between settlement A, settlement B and non-settlement lands has to be clear. It has to be clear for Yukon people, and it has to be clear for industry.
The question he raises with regard to 68 and the distinction between Crown land and non-settlement land is a good question. I raised the same one with my negotiators consistently. There cannot be a veto for the Yukon government on the settlement land, nor can there be a veto for First Nation government on non-settlement land. That is a fundamental principle, and I believe, as it was drafted and as I reiterated time and time again, that the language in the bill covers that in clear terms, and I look forward to going through it line by line, and I'll have some officials here, and we'll be able to engage in that debate a little bit, and I hope that both of us, the leader of the official opposition and myself, will be well-satisfied by that.
The time lines that we are looking at for approval have to be industry standards. We have a bill that we believe can accomplish that. As I said, the technical parts of the bill come from being modeled on Alberta legislation. They have a lot of experience, with the exception of the abandonment, upfront deposit.
Mr. Speaker, the question was asked by the Member for Riverside regarding the benefits portion of the agreement.
That didn't come from Alberta; that came from the Yukon, from the First Nations governments and the Yukon government and communities. It's reflective of the situations that have occurred elsewhere when not as many local benefits accrue as are expected for the use of the resource. It's reflected as a result of our ability to learn from those other jurisdictions. So it is 100-percent made-in-the-Yukon.
There are industry consultations being undertaken right now, and there have been over the last year. Even before that, there was industry consultation underway when the bill was tabled as Bill 87. The significant changes to the bill have led to us going back to industry and talking to the Yukon Conservation Society here and other Yukoners. The results have been quite good. Industry basically says, "It looks good; let's get on with it; when can we get a licence." They are keen to explore the Yukon.
When I'm down in Regina at the joint mines, energy and environment ministers meeting, when we'll be dealing with climate change issues, I'll be meeting with David Manning on the 12th, who's the president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. I will be talking with him about the bill. My officials are down there right now, talking to industry about the bill, and the initial response is quite positive.
So they're keen. They think we've got ... the common regime is fundamental to them. It was something that they wanted to see. I think they're happy with that. The other aspect that they liked and that they pushed for was the abandonment deposit upfront, which I think is very credible for the industry.
So, with that, Mr. Speaker, I will commend this bill to the House, and I look forward to unanimous passing.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 22 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move the House to now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 6, 1997:
Protected Areas Strategy (Yukon): discussion paper (dated November 1997) (Fairclough)
Managing Yukon Forests: draft statement of vision and principles (dated October 30, 1997) (Fentie)
Oil and Gas Act (Bill No. 22); French text (Moorcroft)