Wednesday, June 7, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: As we commence proceedings today in this Assembly, we ask for divine guidance so that our words and deeds may bring to all people of this great territory hope, prosperity and the vision for the future. May the deliberations in this House be characterized by temperance, understanding and reason to the end that we may better serve those who have made the members of this House guardians of and trustees for all of the citizens of the Yukon. Amen.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Tribute to year 2000 graduating class of Yukon native teachers education program
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House today to pay tribute to the year 2000 graduating class of the Yukon native teachers education program. Eight graduates will participate in the graduation ceremony this Saturday, June 10, on the day of the 10th anniversary of the program.
To date, this program has had 47 graduates, not including the eight who are graduating on Saturday. The names of Saturday's graduates are as follows, in no particular order.
Special congratulations to: Liz Boseley of the Teslin Tlingit Council; Hilda Clarke of the Nacho Nyak Dun; Janet McDonald of the Kaska Tribal Council; Sandra Roberts of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in; Shereen Hill of the Nacho Nyak Dun; and Darlene Scurvey of the Kwanlin Dun, as well as Susan Derksen of the Wet'suwet'en, which is in British Columbia, and special congratulations to Kim Blanchard.
The four-year program that they are completing is done in cooperation with the University of Regina and has been highly successful in meeting the needs of the Yukon communities for qualified First Nations teachers. These graduates are very important to meeting the present and future needs of Yukon schools as a generation of teachers now get ready to retire.
I wish all graduates the best of luck as they begin their new careers. May they have the patience to succeed and wisdom to enjoy their most valuable work.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I would like the House to welcome Isaac Wood, a town councillor from Watson Lake who is visiting us in the gallery.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. Jenkins: I have for tabling three documents that prove that the Premier misspoke herself yesterday in Question Period, when she said that the Liberals never used the term "buyout" in relation to the mining claims in the proposed Tombstone Park.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the settlement of Yukon Indian land claims should be the top priority of the Yukon government in order to create certainty with respect to the management, disposition and ownership of Yukon land and resources;
(2) certainty over land tenure and disposition is essential if a positive economic climate is to be created in the territory;
(3) the Yukon government should ensure that devolution of lands and resources from the federal government to the territorial government does not become an impediment to settling the seven remaining outstanding land claims; and
(4) the Yukon government act as a mediator between the First Nations and the federal government and propose solutions in helping to resolve the major issues of taxation exemption and repayment of land claim negotiation loans.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that there would be significant economic benefits for Yukon should a railroad be built connecting Alaska through Yukon to the southern United States;
THAT this House recognizes that the Alaska House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill setting aside land for a railroad right-of-way up to the Yukon border;
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon and Yukon First Nations whose land the railroad would cross, to express their willingness to consider the Alaskan railroad proposal, including the setting aside of lands for a railroad right-of-way through Yukon; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada, with the full participation of the Government of Yukon and Yukon First Nation governments affected, to commence discussions with the Government of the United States and the State of Alaska about establishing a mechanism, such as an international joint commission, to expedite the development of the Alaskan railroad proposal.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Pioneer utility grant should be increased by 25 percent and be indexed against inflation.
Speaker:Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Speaker: The hon. Premier on a point of order.
Point of order
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I arise on a point of order, or it may be better as a point of personal privilege.
Yesterday in Question Period I was asked about compensations for claims staked by Canadian United Minerals and I pointed out that neither I nor the Minister of Renewable Resources have used the term "buyout" with respect to compensation packages. This phrase has been used by the local media and has been attributed to us. We have used the term "purchase". I personally avoid the use of the term "buyout". I have indicated both privately and publicly that we are interested in a negotiated settlement. A negotiated settlement may or may not include a cash component. The term "buyout" implies only an exchange of money. As a government we are endeavouring to reach a negotiated settlement.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity to make the distinction.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order.
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on the point of order.
Mr. Harding: That was clearly not a point of order. What had happened is, the Premier has been exposed for flip-flopping on the issue of Tombstone for saying that the claims should be bought out, and now, because she doesn't have a position, she's trying to desperately convince Yukoners, using inappropriate legislative tactics - because this is not a point of order with regard to House procedures - to try and convince people that they are doing what they said they would do. Clearly, that is not the case; they are not doing what they said they would do - in this instance and in many others - and we hope to point that out very clearly to Yukoners. This is not a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the documents I tabled clearly indicated that the hon. Dale Eftoda made a presentation spelling out the term "buyout" in a newsletter. The documents that I tabled also clearly indicated by the Liberals that the term "buyout" is the solution. Those three documents - perhaps the Liberals would care to have a review of them before they respond in the manner that they have.
Speaker: Order. Members will recognize that the Premier has provided a correction of the remarks she has made to this House and that there is no point of order.
We will now proceed with Question Period.
Question re: Legal aid funding
Mr. Keenan: Yesterday in this House the Minister of Justice was asked to explain her priorities for funding legal aid services and she was unable to answer the question. Among other things, she said the matter was under review. Now that the minister has had some time to consult with her colleagues and advisors, can she advise the House today of what her priorities are as a minister for funding the legal aid service?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said yesterday, the Department of Justice is assisting in an external review of legal aid. It is intended to look at existing service gaps and pressures on the society, as well as operational efficiencies and to more carefully identify the source of current overexpenditures. The review will also encompass a thorough financial review, which is necessary.
Mr. Keenan: A slightly different tone from yesterday, Mr. Speaker. Can the minister advise the House as to whether there has been any change in the Liberal position on funding for legal aid, since they were sitting on this side of the House, which is completely different from the position she just gave us. Can she explain that to me?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the department has received an interim report on legal aid, addressing a number of issues. We are expecting the final report by early July.
Mr. Keenan: Yesterday it was said by the minister that we can't add any money to the legal aid budget. Of course, in opposition the Liberal caucus said that if the minister would adequately fund legal aid services instead of passing the blame onto everyone else, there would be a real help for Yukon women and children in need. The Liberals are saying one thing and now, certainly, doing another thing. Does that minister intend to help the Yukon women and children in need of legal aid services by increasing the legal aid supplementary, or are you just going to review and sit on it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Legal aid has been determined to have an accumulated deficit of in the vicinity of $500,000. That is one of the reasons why the review is necessary. There is no money tree, and the review must be concluded before we can determine what to do.
Question re: Legal aid funding
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I tell you, it was just two years ago that the Member for Riverdale South was demanding more money for legal aid. Show me the money.
Last year, we had the same demand from the same member. Again, show me the money.
In fact, just this spring, again the same member complained that the NDP's increase of $125,000 in legal aid services didn't go far enough. And now that this government has adopted the budget that included that increase, without adding a single penny to it in legal aid in the supplementary budget, there's an inconsistency there. Please explain your inconsistency.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said that we are doing a review of legal aid, and we will communicate with the members opposite when the review is done.
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please refer to the ministers by their portfolios, through the Chair, not "you". Proceed with your first supplementary.
Mr. Keenan: Certainly.
Another example of saying one thing in opposition and doing something completely different now that you're in government: Yukon families who need that financial support out there to go to court for child custody or maintenance and support need to know where they stand. Can the minister assure the House that the additional funding in the budget bill now before the House will be used as intended to support families in civil legal cases?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, at the risk of repeating myself, there is a review underway and we will determine what we will do with legal aid when the review is completed.
Mr. Keenan: At the risk of repeating yourself, if you would answer the question, Mr. Speaker, there would be no repetition in this office.
Speaker: Order please. Address the minister through the Chair, please.
Mr. Keenan: Certainly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I have a document here, from April 25 of this year, that shows there is a surplus of more than $41 million that we left in the bank account for the Liberal government. That's even before the lapses are taken into consideration. When they put the lapses into consideration, there will be $60 million in the bank, but yesterday the minister was suggesting that the new government can't afford anything - not a thing. They have to review everything and look at it. But if you had an extra $250,000 for grants for prospectors - and that was never identified as a Liberal priority anywhere in the campaign or previously - why can't the Minister of Justice identify additional funding for legal aid at this point in time, because we've heard so often, "Show me the money." It's a matter of choice.
In fact, just yesterday I heard the Premier say, "We're going to do what we said we would do." When are you going to live up to that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the surplus that the member refers to is not, in fact, $41 million or close to $60 million. With the previous government's deficit budget taken into account; it's more like $14 million.
We will, once the review of legal aid is concluded, determine what we will do.
Question re: Fuel taxes, elimination of
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier of Ontario is sounding the alarm bells in central Canada because gasoline prices are nearing 80 cents a litre and they are proposing to increase it five cents a litre overnight. Prices at the pumps in Ontario have jumped 25 cents per litre since June of 1998 alone. Well, let's welcome Ontario to prices Yukoners have experienced all along, and they're going higher here still.
During the recent election campaign, the only political party prepared to deal with high fuel prices was the Yukon Party. We proposed that the Yukon government eliminate its tax on fuel so that government can become part of the solution rather than continue to be part of the problem. We wrote to the hon. Paul Martin suggesting that the federal government eliminate its tax as well, and he has stated that he is willing to do so if the province eliminates its fuel tax.
Would the Premier advise the House if her government is prepared to adopt the Yukon Party's plan to eliminate fuel tax?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I thank the Member for Klondike for that particular question.
The Yukon Liberal government is very concerned about the price of fuel. It has an impact throughout Yukon, as well as, in particular, on our visitor industry. It is an area of concern. It is not an area of concern simply for our government, as the member has quite rightly pointed out; it is an area of concern for a number of other provincial governments, as well.
The question from the member was whether or not we are prepared to adopt the Yukon Party platform and eliminate the fuel tax. We have had no discussions on such an option.
Mr. Jenkins: So, there has been no consideration in the Liberal Party of a major, major economic factor to our livelihoods here in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, it has been stated that the main cause of the high fuel prices was a deliberate cutback in production by OPEC nations. In turn, Premier Harris is pleading with Ottawa, which is the primary jurisdiction, to inject competition into the gas markets.
One of the measures Ontario is considering is to introduce price-notification regulations that would prohibit overnight price increases. The previous NDP government published average gas prices to help Yukoners do some comparison shopping through the Yukon. What does this new Liberal government plan to do? Will this Liberal government be planning to review the fuel tax with a view to eliminating it or reducing it? And, are they planning to do some research into this area immediately and advise Yukoners as to what direction they will take?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons for not considering the option of eliminating the fuel tax is that the fuel tax imposed by the Yukon is not the lowest, but among the lowest, in the country. They generate approximately $6-million revenue, as the member well knows from the financial documents that have been tabled in this House. Looking at a near $14-million surplus and a number of escalating costs within the Government of Yukon, eliminating the fuel tax is not an option that we have considered at this point in time.
I would also advise the member that, in terms of studies and work that is ongoing, in 1999, under the previous government, the Department of Economic Development and Natural Resources Canada cost-shared surveys of gasoline marketers in Whitehorse to prepare data for a national study on gasoline prices. This study was terminated. However, I would like to advise the member that in December 2000, on behalf of Natural Resources Canada and Industry Canada, gasoline markets in Whitehorse and in 12 southern Canadian cities will be analyzed.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it sounds like, during this honeymoon period that the Liberals are enjoying, they are not going to do anything but study, review and study and review. Yukoners will see no benefit of this change in government. They had all the answers a couple of months ago; nothing now. My final supplementary is to the Premier in her capacity as the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation. In view of these increases in fuel prices, can Yukon electrical consumers expect to see an introduction of a fuel rate rider and an increase in their already too high electrical bills in the near future?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I do not anticipate any such initiative.
Question re: Chilkoot Centre, Argus mall development
Mr. Fentie: I'd like, today, to follow up with the Premier on the Argus issue. Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the Premier for the Liberal position on the Argus development. The Premier said very little except, "The position of the Yukon Liberal caucus, the Yukon Liberal government, our party, is and has been, that the Yukon Liberal government will not tear up signed contracts."
Mr. Speaker, my question for the Premier: given the open opposition to the Chilkoot Centre by the Member for Whitehorse Centre and other Liberals, will the Premier tell the House clearly, do the Liberals support this project? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, there are a number of facets to that question. The issue is not whether or not I, as an individual citizen or as a member of this House, support that particular project or not. The issue is, what role does the Yukon government have to play? Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government's role in the Argus project development agreement is absolutely clear. The Yukon government's job is not to enforce covenants of the agreement, nor is it the Yukon government's job to issue default notice under the agreement. Our role is to uphold the agreement that was previously negotiated by the members opposite.
Mr. Fentie: Let me remind the Premier that she has stated clearly to the Yukon public that the buck stops at her desk. This is very much a question about what the Premier's position is as the leader of the Liberal government in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals can't have it both ways. The Premier's answers leave Yukon people with only one conclusion. That is that the Liberal government supports the Argus development. However, in the past, the Liberals, including the Premier, have openly criticized the Argus project, especially the Yukon government's contribution to the city for offsite infrastructure - clear evidence that the Liberals do not support the Argus project.
My question now is this: will the Premier set the record straight, once and for all, and tell this House whether or not the Liberals support the $750,000 expenditure booked in their budget, tabled here on Monday - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member's question is not a yes or no question. The member prefaced the question by asking what the leader of the government's position was, and what the Government of Yukon's position was and is with respect to a particular development project.
Let me put it in legalese for the members; plain English does not seem to suffice. The Argus project development agreement does not contemplate Government of Yukon's involvement in the enforcement of the covenants by the developer, nor the issuance of a default notice pursuant to subsection 2.6 of the agreement. The agreement clearly contemplates that the decision to issue a default notice is that of the city and the city engineer.
The Government of Yukon's active role is in relation to section 3.1 of the agreement, which speaks to the manner in which the city uses the Government of Yukon's capital contribution - the $750,000 to which the member referred. The Yukon government remains committed to ensuring that the spirit and intent of the agreement are fulfilled.
Mr. Fentie: I'd like to thank the Premier for enlightening me on the legalese of this issue, and let me remind her that the $750,000 is an expenditure booked in the Liberal government's budget tabled in this Legislature. The Liberal government is responsible for that expenditure.
Mr. Speaker, let me remind the Premier of what the former Member for Riverside had to say on this subject: "The money given to Argus would meet the additional needs of the Legal Aid Society for two or three years so that family matters could be dealt with, but instead we have money for the glib and greedy but not the real needy." Now that the city has officially notified Argus that the developer is in default, what will it be? Will the Premier maintain the budgetary commitment to municipal infrastructure, or will she "folk the mall" and provide money toward legal aid?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member is quite correct that the $750,000 is booked in this budget document. The member is quite correct in that what we are doing here over the next several weeks is seeking the authority to spend that money. The member's comments with respect to the Member for Riverside - yes, we miss him too; however, I'm certain he's enjoying retirement.
The City of Whitehorse has taken steps that are within its authority. The agreement clearly states that the decision to issue a default notice is that of the city and the city engineer. This government respects the rights of other governments to make their own decisions about the interpretations of the agreements that they are party to. As for this government, I have said prior to taking office and I said it again yesterday: we are not in the business of ripping up agreements with Yukoners. We will live up to the spirit and the intent of the agreement.
Question re: Chilkoot Centre, Argus mall development
Mr. Harding: A question for the Premier on the same issue. It is one thing to respect signed agreements, but if there is a default, the Premier has the right to ask the city for the $750,000 back. There is no question about that.
Mr. Speaker, when the now Member for Whitehorse Centre was in the campaign, he said - and I quote - in a letter to the Yukon News of March 17: "Any opponents to the Argus project should ask their NDP candidates to be accountable for their support of this project." Well, the shoe is on the other foot now, and the Premier has a decision to make.
The question is: is she going to "folk the mall" as they campaigned on, or is she going to continue on with the onsite infrastructure commitment of $750,000?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, as I stated earlier, the Government of Yukon's active role relates to section 3.1 of the agreement. I know that the member opposite knows full well the agreement. He was party to its negotiation. It speaks to the manner in which the city will use the Government of Yukon's capital contribution to the city. We remain committed to ensuring that the spirit and intent of the agreement is fulfilled. We have no intention of breaking agreements or not honouring commitments.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, no one is asking her to break the agreement. It is the Argus proponents who have broken the agreement, thus leaving a decision at her feet. Just to refresh the member's memory, the Premier herself said on February 22 in this House, with regard to the budget that the NDP had brought forward, that two examples proved that the agenda of the NDP was balanced and their priorities were questionable. The first example she pointed to was $750,000 for a multi-million dollar company to develop a mall in downtown Whitehorse and $125,000 to help single mothers deal with custody and maintenance issues through the legal aid office. That was the Premier herself on February 22 of this year. Today we hear, well, they have $250,000 for prospectors to increase their grants, but they are not going to increase legal aid.
Mr. Speaker, they could increase legal aid if they would do what they said they were going to do, and take back the $750,000 because there's no agreement any more. The Premier has a decision to make. Is she going to do what she said she was going to do?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of points in the member's argument with which I would beg to differ. First of all, the member has stood on his feet and said there is no agreement. There is a signed agreement. I may not like the way that agreement was negotiated. I have criticized the government for the way they negotiated that. That's not what's at issue here. What's at issue is, upon taking office as leader of this government, am I prepared to live up to commitments and agreements that were signed by the previous government? Yes. I have said, over and over again, we are prepared to do that. There is an agreement in place.
Again, for the member, it is not up to the Government of the Yukon to enforce the covenants by the developer, nor is it the government's job to issue a default notice under the agreement. It is not our role in this agreement. As the member full well knows, the agreement states that the decision to issue the default notice is between the city and the city engineer. They have chosen to do that. We have stated, over and over again, in this House and elsewhere, that we will live up to the intent of the agreement and the intent of the agreement is to provide money to the City of Whitehorse for infrastructure development. We will live up to the intent of that agreement. We will not be the ones to break it.
Mr. Harding: The Premier's arguing that she's going to live up to the agreement, but the proponents don't have to. The city has already issued that there's default. Mr. Speaker, the Premier has a decision to make. If she chooses to fund the offsite infrastructure still, while there's a default in the commitments that were made to the city and to the territorial government, then she's making that decision and she should declare that openly and honestly before the public. They have got a problem, because the Member for Whitehorse Centre - and many Liberals at the doorstep - campaigned against it. So I'd like to ask the Premier, will she do what she said she was going to do, and will she give some more funding to legal aid to help the single mothers, that she was so concerned about only a couple of months ago, before she became the Premier?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member has asked me if this government is prepared to give more money to legal aid, and the Minister of Justice has already answered that question. We will review it once we have received the analysis of the previous deficit budgets. We will look at that most definitely after we have received spending authority from this House. We have already stated that.
With respect to this particular agreement, which was the initial question, I have stated that it's not this government's job to either enforce the agreement on the part of the developer nor to enforce the agreement on the part of the City of Whitehorse. Our role as a government - and the member's quite correct. We have some tough decisions coming over the next four years. We're not afraid to make them. The agreement states that the decision to issue the default notice rests with the city and the city engineer. It does not rest with us. As a party to that agreement, we respect the rights of other governments, we respect the rights of other parties to the agreement, and we will live up to the spirit and intent of the agreement that the previous member negotiated.
Question re: Kidney dialysis machine
Mr. McRobb: Yesterday, the Minister of Health indicated that he now has the information he needs for Cabinet to make a decision on a kidney dialysis program for Yukon people who need that service. Given his commitment yesterday to do the right thing, can he advise the House when people in need of lifeline medical services, such as my constituent, can expect to have access to this lifesaving service here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, I agree with what you have said. We have pulled together all the information. We are now in the process, as I shared with him earlier, of pursuing the information through the proper channels. As he well knows, this takes time. It's not something you just do tomorrow. Obviously, we have to look at the consequences of where we go with any kind of development and any kind of procedure in the future, and so this is part of it. So, hopefully, that will be where we'll end up: with something that will be in our best interest for the people of the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member didn't answer the question. The minister can run, but he can't hide. He made it clear yesterday that this decision can be made right away: "We are now at the stage where we can do this and complete it." Those are the minister's own words. Now, the Premier can go to Diamond Tooth Gertie's on opening day, lay $250,000 down on the table, and throw the dice. Unfortunately, the Liberal dice came up boxcars for prospectors and snake eyes for dialysis patients. When will the minister be ready to announce plans to order the hemodialysis unit and provide the personnel to run a dialysis program here in the Yukon? When, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As I have shared earlier, there are a range of options that we have been looking at and, of course, the range of options are not with just one type of dialysis. Currently, we have seven people on dialysis. Two of them are outside on hemodialysis, and we have five on peritoneal dialysis. Now, hemodialysis is not just a simple program. It's a program that has both capital and O&M attached to it. Of course, while the dialysis machine is relatively cheap - I have had people on the street offer to buy the machine - it's not just the machine that costs the money. When you start doing the investigation, it's far more than that. If you're going to operate a program like this from the hospital, it has to be done properly and with all of the steps in place.
So, that's basically where we're at - looking at what alternative we can move toward. No decision has been made at this point. The evidence has been put together. It's now being evaluated and assessed, and hopefully, in the near future, we'll have that as part of our plan for the future.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member still didn't answer the question. Furthermore, I'm a little concerned because the minister seems to be backtracking on this matter. Yesterday, he clearly said that he's at the stage where he can make the decision and complete it. Now, I'm getting a technical report on the financial feasibility of the unit. It looks like the government is starting to backtrack on this matter, too. The minister was aware of this issue. I brought it to his attention. I received the letter from my constituent on April 6, and I would like to know, when will the government make a decision to meet the needs of dialysis patients? They have inherited $60 million. It's all about doing the right thing. It's all about the future, Mr. Speaker. When?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Our preliminary estimates suggest that to be able to offer a program for seven Yukon residents currently on dialysis, both renal and hemo, would cost us approximately $274,000 for start-up, and for the hemodialysis it would be $646,000 to maintain. It could take up to two years to put in place.
One of the real constraints is the difficulty in finding trained health professionals. It's difficult enough to attract nurses right now. It's difficult enough to see the problems that our northern stations are already experiencing. To attract a nurse, fully qualified in this type of area - in operations of hemodialysis and the machines - would be even more difficult. Training is also a lengthy process, but we haven't shut the door. I'm just throwing out some of the facts that we have gathered, and hopefully, with having all these processes in place, we will then look at where we want to go with this in the future.
Question re: Yukon Teachers Association, tentative agreement with
Mr. Fentie: My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. Through the unusual means of a ministerial statement, we now have some insight into the tentative agreement that the Yukon government has reached with the Yukon Teachers Association. Can the minister confirm here today that with the exception of the so-called teacher retention bonus, this agreement is very similar to the offer the previous government had on the table.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you for the question. As I stated in the Legislature yesterday, the agreement with the Yukon Teachers Association is subject to ratification by both parties. The statement that I made in the House yesterday did not contain any information that had not been previously released to the media. The statement was made in an effort to be courteous and forthright with all members of the Legislature.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Pardon me. I apologize to the Member for Watson Lake. My mistake. Carry on with your first supplementary.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, we now know that the deal is similar, with the exception of the bonus. We also know for a fact that the teachers have already committed to next year, so calling it a retention bonus is questionable.
So, aside from the Liberals introducing a budget that they vigorously opposed when they were on this side of the House, the Liberal government has also come to realize that the previous government's offer to the teachers was fair and reasonable. Now, the Premier has said the issue in the YTA negotiation was not about money. If that's the case, can the minister explain why the principal difference in the two offers was a $1 million signing bonus for all teachers, administrators and paraprofessionals?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The whole aspect of inviting the teachers back to the table was a measure that the Liberal Party had indicated during the election and post-election. We would respect the teachers and we would invite them back to the table, face to face, which is what we did. We said that we would, in a respectful manner, consider the options that they put forward, and that's exactly what we did.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, it is obviously about the money. Now, given the minister's statement yesterday in this House about new government policy, we can take it that it is the Yukon Liberal government's policy that signing bonuses are now a fact of the collective bargaining process. Is the minister prepared to grant a similar concession to the other hard-working professionals, such as health care workers and to the Yukon Employees Union, when their contracts come up for renewal?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the condition of the signing bonus, as was indicated yesterday in my note to the House, was for the term of three years. It will be reviewed after that period of time. Another consideration that we also addressed was classroom size. We honoured the request that there be a reduction in classroom size. It was just the whole amiable atmosphere with which this government instructed the Public Service Commission to carry on their negotiation with the teachers.
This government had said that we would deal, face to face, in good faith, that we would listen and be respectful and that we would do government differently. That is why we entered into an agreement with the teachers, and the opposition party, after several months, didn't.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
The hon. Member for Klondike, on a question of privilege.
Question of privilege
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, earlier today, I provided your office with notice as required under the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly that I would be rising on a question of privilege.
Mr. Speaker, having reviewed the Blues for Tuesday, June 6, 2000, I would like to raise a question of privilege concerning remarks made about me by the Minister of Education, the hon. Dale Eftoda, in response to the ministerial statement on the Teachers Association memorandum of agreement.
I stated, "As we are all too familiar, teachers also have to contend with a number of learning disabilities, including students with FAS/FAE. In many instances, teachers are simply asked to do too much. They are asked to take over the responsibilities from the parents that have been downloaded to them, and from the whole society. The burden on our teachers today is immense."
Mr. Eftoda, in his closing remarks in his ministerial statement, stated as follows, "With respect to the comments on one small factor as considered by the Member for Klondike that FAS children are burdens, I would like to stand on the record as saying that FAS children are people, not burdens."
Mr. Speaker, I believe there is a prima facie case for privilege in that Mr. Eftoda has imputed false or unavowed motives on me, contrary to section 19(1)(h) of the Standing Orders. In my response to the minister, I in no way referred to FAS children as burdens. I found his remarks insulting and a breach of section 19(1)(j) of the Standing Orders.
Mr. Speaker, I respectfully seek your ruling in this matter.
Speaker: Minister of Education, on the question of privilege.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, and as this Liberal government has said, when we do make a mistake we will stand up in the House and acknowledge it.
I do apologize to the member and I retract anything that may have been derogatory or interpreted to be derogatory toward your character. I am sorry.
Speaker: Order please. I believe the Minister of Education, with his remarks, has resolved the problem raised by the Member for Klondike. For future reference, the Chair will provide members with a statement on questions of privilege such as this one.
A review of the Member for Klondike's concern indicates that it is not privilege, in that the essential element of privilege is the right of free speech in the House. The complaint, while serious, more properly should have been raised at the time as a point of order. The Chair is not now able to deal with it as a point of order, as the proper time for raising such a point of order is when the offending words are used.
The Chair would, however, like to ask all members to give careful consideration to the remarks they make both on the record and off the record.
The Chair would ask all members to use language appropriate to the decorum of this House.
We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Member for Watson Lake on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I rise today on a point of order with respect to the proceedings of this Legislature. The rule book for this House is this document, the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
It is clearly established in precedent that Wednesday afternoons following Question Period are set aside for private members to raise important matters of public concern for debate on the floor of the Legislature. Section 14 confirms this by outlining the order in which the various parties in the House will have an opportunity to introduce motions for debate. While it may be argued, as the government side appears to be doing, that under section 26, debate on government motions supersedes section 14 when it comes to government business, in this case, Mr. Speaker, our caucus believes that it is not appropriate for the Liberal government to invoke that provision.
The government business called for debate consists of a slim and virtually empty throne speech consisting of less than 400 words. It does not even make any mention of the most pressing issues of concern to Yukon people. Yet the government is using the club of its majority to push private members' debate on a very important issue off the floor of this Assembly. By exercising its option to forego private members' business, the Liberal government is using a very heavy-handed approach that seriously contradicts its self-proclaimed intention of being open and accountable.
Mr. Speaker, the private members' business called for today is the issue of land claims, and it is of the utmost importance to the Yukon. The Premier has on many occasions stated that land claims are the top priority for the Liberal government. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the federal Minister of DIAND has recently dropped a bomb on the land claim process here in the Yukon by refusing to address two issues of huge importance to the First Nations in the land claim process: taxation and the repayment of negotiating loans. The Liberal government has said that land claims is its top priority; however, the throne speech gives no indication -
Speaker: Can the member state the point of order?
Mr. Fentie:Yes, Mr. Speaker, I'll be right to it - on how the Liberals intend to deal with this issue. Secondly, the federal government's position has created a great deal of uncertainty regarding land claims here in the Yukon. Given the circumstances, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you for some guidance on this matter.
Speaker: Hon. government House leader, on the point of order.
Ms. Tucker: I rise on a point of order. I will refer you to section 26(1.2). "During debate on the motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and on any amendments proposed, the time limit for speakers following the member moving the motion and the member speaking or replying immediately thereafter shall be forty minutes."
If we move forward, "On the first of said days, if a subamendment is under consideration at thirty minutes before the ordinary time of ad,journment..."
And we move on again, "On the second of said days..."
My understanding is that the reply to the throne speech takes precedence over other business and private members' day is moved back.
Speaker: The opposition House leader has raised a point of order in which he questions the order of the business today. According to our Standing Orders and practice, the call of the motion for an Address in Reply will take precedence over other business. The government has exercised its right under the rules to do that.
The fact that the private members' business is not called on a day when the Address in Reply is debated was a purposeful decision of the Assembly when it made these rules. It was not felt that it would be fair to private members, including those in the official opposition, if the Address in Reply could take up a good portion of their day. Instead, it was decided to allow the private members to have a full day to debate their motions on the following Wednesday.
Accordingly, there is no point of order, and the House will proceed with the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
orders of the day
address in reply to the speech from the throne - adjourned debate
Clerk: Motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, moved by Mr. McLarnon; adjourned debate, Hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As I have pledged to Yukoners, we are a government that does that we say we will do. We heard from Yukoners that the call of the election caused a great deal of uncertainty. Yukoners asked me, repeatedly throughout this territory, if we would honour the budget that the previous government had tabled but not yet passed, so that they could have certainty. Many contractors, non-government organizations and students were left wondering what they would or would not be doing this summer for employment. I committed, on behalf of myself, my party and all the candidates running in the election for the Liberal Party - and very publicly, I made these commitments throughout the campaign - that we would table the budget that Yukoners were counting on. We are doing what we said. The members opposite have criticized us repeatedly for doing this. They have criticized us for providing Yukoners with this certainty and for doing what we told Yukoners we would do. The criticisms that I am hearing are all about politics. They're all about an old style of politics; they're not about the new government.
I have not heard any of the members opposite say that this isn't a good idea for good government. I was disappointed that in all of the options that the members opposite have put forward, passing this budget and providing certainty to the lives of Yukoners was not one of them. I'm disappointed that the members opposite would not seem to want to have us live up to the commitment we made to Yukoners to table this budget. That's not the way that we do business.
We have told Yukoners that we will provide good, open, honest and accountable government, and that is what we are doing. We have told Yukoners that we would provide a government that they could be proud of, and that's what we're doing. While we did not author this budget, we will absolutely be held accountable for managing it. We are prepared to do that, and we want to do that.
Prior to the Speech from the Throne, the members were calling upon us to do what we had said we would do and get on with tabling the budget. Now they seem surprised. We are just doing what we said we'd do. What is the surprise? I don't understand that surprise because every Yukoner expected this. Every Yukoner we spoke with on the street expected this - throughout Yukon communities.
We're delivering on our promise; delivering on our commitment to Yukoners.
I'd like to tell the members opposite we're getting a lot of feedback from the people of this territory, and that feedback is positive about this step. Yukoners are pleased that we're doing exactly what we said we'd do, and they are pleased that we are not pulling the rug out from under anyone - that we're honouring commitments and providing certainty.
The people of this territory who are relying on many of the projects and much of the funding from this budget are now breathing a sigh of relief. They can get on with business, and that's what we're trying to do: get on with business. That's the business of governing the territory. We committed to Yukoners that we would not rush in and throw money at problems, like so many previous governments have done. As I outlined in the throne speech, we intend to review our spending priorities, so that we can put forward a well-thought-out and responsible supplementary budget in the fall. We have outlined this clearly, we have stated we would do this, and we will do it.
As was stated in the throne speech, we are tabling a piece of legislation to amend the Income Tax Act. This is follow-up on another one of our commitments and will result in a two-percent reduction in territorial income tax for the 2000 taxation year.
I will also be asking members of this Legislature to approve a bill to amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, as well as a supplementary budget that targets some of our immediate priorities - some of the immediate priorities, Mr. Speaker.
We have stated clearly to all members that we will take a good, thorough look at spending initiatives and that we will target our priorities. The priorities in the supplementary budget address issues that we made commitments on and that are important to Yukoners. These priorities are about the economy, education and the youth of our territory. This supplementary budget will address some immediate needs that impact upon our investment community, students who are seeking higher education and our youth at risk. These are important issues to all Yukoners, Mr. Speaker - those in outlying communities and those in Whitehorse - and we are following through on these commitments.
We were the only party that spoke about an increase in financial assistance to students. It's something that has not been dealt with by any previous government. I'm delighted that one of the first actions of the Liberal government was to put that commitment in place, so that students have that financial assistance in place for this coming school year. Students returning to the Yukon, who are working here for the summer and worrying about the tremendous increase in tuition costs, can go back to school knowing that, yes, this government, this Liberal government, supports what they do.
And that, Mr. Speaker - fulfilling commitments - is all about building confidence in government. It's about changing the attitude of government, demonstrating that we are a government that hears and responds. It's about building credibility in elected officials, and we are looking forward to providing good government to the people of the Yukon Territory. And by passing this budget, we're looking forward to providing Yukoners the certainty that they asked for during this busy summer season.
We are also putting forward a well-thought-out and responsible budget in the fall that will address more of our election commitments and the priorities of Yukoners. We believe Yukoners want that and, more importantly, Yukoners deserve that. This government is about fulfilling our commitment to have the settlement of land claims be a top priority. We are about finalizing and working toward devolution. We are about the Yukon economy and restoring confidence in it. We are about the health and well-being of Yukoners, and we as a government are about the future. We start that here, in this Legislature, by getting on with approving the spending authority of this government and by passing this budget.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this House to respond to the Liberal government's throne speech.
First let me extend my deepest appreciation to the community and the people of Watson Lake for their overwhelming support for me to be their representative in this House at the seat of government. It is indeed an honour and a task with great responsibility.
It is my hope that I can live up to that responsibility. I would also like to pass on to my opponents my regard for them. Having thrown their hat in the ring is testimony to their consideration of representing the people in their respective ridings. I want to welcome and congratulate all of the members in this House. The task we have been charged with is a great one, and I hope we do it justice, each and every one of us.
Mr. Speaker, just for a moment let me rebut the Premier and her response to the throne speech, because it seemed to me that it was very much about a budget. I think there is some confusion on the Premier's part about what the budget is and what the throne speech is. I would, just for a moment, like to point that out.
This is a matter of choice. The Liberal government had a choice. They did not have to bring in a throne speech, but they chose to do so. Quite frankly, the throne speech does not live up to the intent of that very instrument. A throne speech in this Legislature is an instrument - a window - for the public of this territory to be able to see the path on which the government of the day intends to lead them into the future: the direction, the position and all that goes with it by government. That's what the throne speech is all about.
Well, Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the throne speech tabled and read in this House on Monday does absolutely none of that. All of the Liberals, especially the Premier, have repeated over and over that they are a government that will do what they say they will do.
Well, the throne speech was a 24-karat-gold opportunity for the Liberal government to tell Yukoners exactly how they intended to honour that commitment. That is the fundamental basis of the Liberal commitment: to do as a government what they say they will do. Mr. Speaker, the throne speech shed no light on how they intend to do that.
Mr. Speaker, let's look at the Liberal platform. The top priority, as stated by the Liberal government, is the settlement of land claims. The throne speech did not inform or even give a hint to Yukoners, to this House, to the First Nations about how the Liberal government here in this territory intends to honour that commitment.
This throne speech that we are now responding to here this afternoon, in a matter of choice, could have been stood down, and we could have debated a motion on the floor of this Legislature that is all about land claims, and the Liberal government would have had another opportunity to inform the public through that debate how they intended to lead this territory through the land claim process to a successful conclusion. They chose, in a matter of choice, Mr. Speaker, not to do so, and to simply hide behind the rhetoric that we are a government that says we will do something and we will deliver on that. The throne speech should have - as it is intended to do - explained that very fact.
Mr. Speaker, they go on in their platform to state that they're going to improve the investment climate in this territory and, quite frankly, there is some question already around that commitment.
At the recent gold show, Mr. Speaker, the Premier again had an opportunity to live up to a commitment, to show Yukoners how it is that they intend to improve the investment climate. Now, we all know that one of the areas where we suffer here in the Yukon when it comes to investment is the mining industry. It's not something that just happened yesterday or the day before. It is an issue that has been with us in this territory for quite some time and it is an issue that the Liberal government has committed to the Yukon public to address and bring to resolution.
At the gold show, Mr. Speaker, the Premier had an opportunity, when it comes to investment and the uncertain climate in this territory in the mining sector, to state clearly to the mining industry and to the Yukon public how they would do that in regard to the Tombstone claims. The Premier did nothing of the sort, and has even added to the uncertainty after many occasions stating publicly and for the record in this House and demanding that the government of the day buy out those claims.
Further, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to certainty, the Liberal government put $250,000 into grants for prospectors, and I, for one, am very hopeful that that $250,000 expenditure for grants for prospectors in this territory will, in the fullness of time, produce a product that all Yukoners can benefit from.
But, by the same token, the Premier stated publicly that the Liberal government does not support mining in parks. So, let me point out that, with the position that the Minister of Renewable Resources stated here yesterday, there will be parks in this territory for future generations. The uncertain factor here is this: what happens to those prospectors who may suddenly find that the deposit and the area where they are prospecting has now become a proposed park? There is uncertainty here because the Liberals have put uncertainty out into the public. The mining industry does not know where this government is leading it. Mr. Speaker, that speaks volumes to what we have in the throne speech. That was the instrument, with regard to improving the investment climate, to tell the potential investors for this territory how the Liberal government intends to improve that investment.
On local hire, Mr. Speaker, an issue that has been at the door of successive governments in this territory for a long, long time - there was not a mention in the throne speech of the Liberal government's position and intention on local hire when it comes to government expenditures. There is over $500 million that the Liberal government has budgeted and is spending. Now, they can claim all they want that "That's an NDP budget and we take no ownership," but the facts are that they are the government and that they, the Liberal government, tabled that budget.
Now, the Premier goes on to say that it's the NDP's fault. Ask the NDP. They called the election before passing the budget. But let's be serious, Mr. Speaker, we were in this Legislature this spring to do exactly that.
We were in this Legislature, not only to pass the budget, but to debate important issues here on the floor of this Legislature that pertained to the Yukon public's needs, desires and futures. It wasn't us, the NDP, who chose not to debate those issues. It wasn't the NDP who walked out of this Legislature when there was an opportunity to stand on the floor of this House and debate the economy of this territory, which, by the way, the Liberals stated clearly over and over again was the number one issue they were going to tackle. They had an opportunity in this Legislature to show Yukoners and to tell Yukoners how they would tackle that problem, but they walked out of this Legislature. Further, it was evident, given the fact that the Liberal opposition spent mere moments on the expenditure of literally millions of dollars in departments, that there was no point continuing on with this sitting.
When you talk about open, accountable government, because of the fact that the opposition was not prepared to debate the budget or the business of the House this spring, an open and accountable NDP government dropped the writ and went back to the public. That is the fact, so let's quit this hiding tactic that this is an NDP budget, because it's not any more. You, the Liberals, had seven weeks to come forward with your spending priorities. You chose not to. It's a matter of choice. You now have tabled a budget of over $500 million that you are responsible for.
Mr. Speaker, the throne speech does little to inform the public on how the Liberal government intends to continue with the diversification of our economy.
And there is no argument that says our economy is not turning around, because it is. It is true that the mining sector is down, but we have had tremendous growth in tourism. Our forest sector in this territory has increased its export product over the last year by 400 percent. That is diversification of our economy, and it equates into many, many jobs, and it equates into many, many benefits for the people of this territory. It is a result, Mr. Speaker, of investment in the Yukon. So much for the Liberals on improving the investment climate, as we have just pointed out.
Where, Mr. Speaker, in the throne speech was the Liberals' direction on how they were going to support small business? There is nothing in the throne speech. It was one of their top priorities, or so their platform states. And remember, Mr. Speaker, that this is a government that says they will do what they say they will do. They had a chance to tell us how that was going to be done in a throne speech, and they chose not to.
Another main theme of the Yukon Liberals was restoring confidence in government. Well, with what we have seen here, in the first few days of this sitting - given how the Liberal government has conducted itself, starting with the throne speech, that very important and critical instrument of this Legislature - it is evident that the Yukon Liberal government is doing little to restore confidence.
Mr. Speaker, the issue of labour relations, which we touched on yesterday with a ministerial statement, which obviously provides us with a new government policy when it comes to the collective bargaining process - a ministerial statement is, by definition in this House, a short statement of new government policy.
The only conclusion we can come to, given that statement and the answers we have received in questions around the Yukon teachers agreement, is that now government policy and direction when it comes to the collective bargaining process, is signing bonuses; restoring confidence in government and a government that says they will do what they say they're going to do. Well, the Premier's on record when it comes to the teachers' negotiations that it's not about the money. However, strange as it may seem, we have an agreement with a sweetener of a million dollars and a signing bonus.
Restoring confidence in government? The Liberals have stated categorically, time and time again, their distaste and disagreement with deficit spending and that O&M spending must be put in check. Well, that one simple decision, of throwing a million bucks into a signing bonus through a collective bargaining process, has resulted in a trajectory of O&M spending rising dramatically in this territory. It's a matter of choice. Restoring confidence in government, Mr. Speaker? Questionable, so far.
Advancing partnerships with First Nations and other governments. Well, let's consider the relationship between the Yukon Liberal government and their federal counterparts, the federal Liberal government. I know that, during the election, there was much talk about how, if the Yukon Territory had a Liberal government as a territorial government, that connection with the federal Liberals could very well improve our relationship with Ottawa.
Well, we all have experienced - and I'm sure we all realize - that Ottawa is simply not responsive to the Yukon desires and needs. So what does the Yukon Liberal government do? During transition they brought in a couple of suits from the PMO's office to help them through the transition period. Now, I don't have a quarrel with the Liberals seeking professional assistance in setting them up to become the government of this territory after the election. However, it is evident by the performance to date that that inability to respond to Yukon issues in Ottawa is now part of the Yukon Liberal government's approach to things because their throne speech didn't respond to anything. Is that something that they have taken from the PMO's office?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Pardon me, Mr. Speaker, is that something the members on the Liberal side have taken for advice from the federal Liberals? One would only wonder, Mr. Speaker.
Protecting our social programs - well, if we wanted to, we could spend weeks in this Legislature reciting the Member for Riverdale South's constant demands for money to social programs. There are piles of it, Mr. Speaker - demand after demand after demand. Now, when the shoe comes to the other foot, when the Liberal government again is given the opportunity to prove to Yukoners that what they say they will do, what happened with the legal aid issue? They brought in a supplementary for the $250,000 to prospectors, which, as I explained, has also created more uncertainty because of the no-mining-in-parks position taken by the Liberals. What happened to their commitment to legal aid? The Member for Riverdale South demanded on many occasions that the government of the day increase the money for legal aid. Why did the Liberals not, in their throne speech, explain to Yukoners how they intend to live up to the position taken by their colleague from Riverdale South?
Again, there is nothing in the throne speech that would reflect who they are, what they are, or if they have any positions. Obviously, from the throne speech, they don't.
Mr. Speaker, we could spend a long, long time going through all of these things, but I feel that, at the end of the day, we have a reprieve because the Liberals did choose to table a budget in this House, which they are now responsible for - a budget that was constructed, to a great degree, by the Yukon public. So, I do take some solace in the fact that, for at least the next fiscal year, some things will happen in this territory. But it certainly isn't based on the leadership of the Yukon Liberal government, because so far, in the throne speech and in other examples, we have not seen any.
Mr. Speaker, I represent a riding in the southeast Yukon that overwhelmingly supported certain aspects of the Yukon economy, social programs, environmental positions, and so on and so forth. The community of Watson Lake is waiting to see how the Liberals intend to improve the economy. The Liberals call it rebuilding. Well, that's a slap in the face to all of those hard-working people and investors who, when the mining industry went flat in this territory, tried other things. The community of Watson Lake is a prime example of how diversifying an economy can improve the well-being of a community and the people in it. Watson Lake is waiting to see how the Liberal government intends to live up to its commitment.
The throne speech again was an opportunity for the Liberal government to tell Yukoners how they intend to keep the forest industry in this territory going. The forest industry can't wait until next year and the next budget, for the Liberals to finally get it together on who they are and what they are and present a budget that they have constructed. The forest industry needs to know yesterday what's going on. It's a resource-based industry, and it's totally dependent upon government decision and regulation. Where in the throne speech was the Liberal government's position and direction on forestry? Today in this territory, there are millions of dollars of investment and hundreds of jobs at stake.
On devolution, a very important facet of the future of this territory, there is not one indication in the throne speech of what the Liberals intend to do about devolution - nothing.
Mr. Speaker, I think, for all intents and purposes, that we would have been better off, on behalf of the Yukon public debating the land claim motion today and standing down on these responses, because there's nothing really to respond to in the throne speech.
And I'm disappointed that we didn't get into a debate in this Legislature, and it falls right under that statement by the Premier of improving how we operate in this House. I am disappointed that we did not choose to debate the land claims issue. It is the Liberal government's top priority. It is an issue that is wrapped in uncertainty. It is an issue we have a federal government that is unable to respond to the needs of this territory, and they have proven it time and time and time again. That's what we should have done in this Legislature today, Mr. Speaker, in the context of restoring confidence in government.
Mr. Speaker, I'm going to close by saying that I'm hopeful that the Liberals spend this summer getting their act together because, if they don't - the Premier is right. They have four years to do things but, in most cases, people can't wait four years. This territory can't wait four years. It needs to know now.
And the Premier should be careful with the patting-on-the-back syndrome, about Yukoners having given the Liberals a mandate. There is a very important point here to be made. Rural Yukon represents a vast area, and the people in that vast area in this territory did not, in any way, shape or form support the Yukon Liberals. Whitehorse did. All you have to do is look at the election results. The Liberal leader has to also get a grip on that situation, because there's much more to the Yukon Territory than Whitehorse. I am hopeful that the Liberals do, in the next little while, explain to us and Yukoners how they intend to live up to their many, many, many commitments.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker,
Mr. McLarnon: I understand that the opposite side has a difficulty with throne speeches, since, during their entire four-year term that they were in power, they presented one speech, and they haven't lived up to it. But what this throne speech does, Mr. Speaker, is present the Yukon people with immediate stability and immediate certainty. What this throne speech does, Mr. Speaker, is address the fact that we have ended the hostage taking in the everyday life of Yukoners due to political whims. We have now presented the ability for us, as Yukoners, to get on with our lives. I appreciate the fact that the throne speech was small and short, but it stated the fact that we need to address the fact that we have appropriated no money, and we had no operation or authority to spend that money. This was the fault of the opposite party in the fact that they did not pass this, and I would like to commend our government for presenting a short throne speech, presenting the ability to get on with our business.
I move that this debate now be adjourned.
Speaker: Order. It is not proper to move adjournment of debate at this time.
Motion No. 14 agreed to
Motion to engross Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be engrossed and presented to the Commissioner in her capacity as Lieutenant-Governor.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be engrossed and presented to the Commissioner in her capacity as Lieutenant-Governor.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 2: Second Reading - adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 2, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan; adjourned debate, Mr. Harding.
Mr. Harding: I want to congratulate the Liberals on bringing forward the best budget they ever will, but I have to take some issue with the Liberals on the manner in which they brought that budget forward.
It's pretty much the biggest joke on the street right now, when you talk to people - the throne speech and the manner in which the Liberals have handled bringing forward the NDP budget, acting in a very sneaky manner and not being open and honest with the public. That's completely contrary to what they said they would do.
Mr. Speaker, they haven't brought forward their names in the budget. When I asked the Premier, who, only three weeks to a month ago, told the public that the buck stops with her, she said, "Don't blame me. Blame the NDP." But what do we see in reality? We see Liberal ministers out cutting ribbons, handing out CDF money, attending the sod-turning of the continuing care facility and going up to meet the new charter airplanes that the former Minister of Tourism worked to negotiate to bring into this territory - marketing monies that were put in this budget that have helped to bring that forward and make it a reality.
Mr. Speaker, what do they say, though, when asked to defend their budget on any particular point? They say, "Don't blame us. It's the NDP's budget." This is not accountability. This is a complete betrayal to those voters who thought this was a new kind of government. What have we seen in this Legislature from a supposedly open, honest and accountable government? We've seen evasiveness, avoiding the question and not answering the question. Two ministers today read their briefing notes out verbatim - the Minister of Justice on legal aid and the Minister of Health, as if he's a program manager. These people have made commitments to Yukoners. They are the politicians. They are in charge of the finances.
They are accountable, but, Mr. Speaker, they don't seem to realize that. The election results must have taken them by surprise. That's the only explanation, because one could not see such incompetence if they actually expected to be in government.
Mr. Speaker, we have no problem with them bringing forward the budget, and we have stated that. We think it's a good move. We think it's a heck of a budget. What we have taken issue with is the fact that they refuse to be accountable for it, and secondly, we have taken issue with the fact that they did not do what they said they were going to do to many Yukoners in terms of funding their priorities, and I'm talking about the supplementary to our budget, which said a lot about their priorities when they put $250,000 into more grants for prospectors but nothing into more legal aid. And the Member for Riverdale South had told Yukoners that she really believed legal aid was a crisis. The Liberals said that the money in the budget that the NDP had put forward was not enough. She has demanded that there be an immediate increase to that funding.
Mr. Speaker, it's true - as the Member for Riverdale South laughs about it now - that they had raised false expectations of Yukoners who believed that they fought for and really wanted to increase funding for FAS/FAE services, for alcohol and drug services. People in the Yukon believed them. Certainly they did in Whitehorse. But it's a sad, sad day now that we find out that it was just a joke to get elected. She thinks it's funny.
Mr. Speaker, -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale South, on a point of order.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is referring to the Member for Riverdale South laughing at such issues, these issues that I took very seriously when I was in opposition.
Mr. Speaker ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: ... he is casting aspersions upon my character and I resent that, and I'd like the Speaker to rule on that issue, please.
Speaker: The hon. Member for Faro, on the point of order.
Mr. Harding: I'm just stating the truth with regard to the laughing that was being conducted by the Member for Riverdale South about these important, serious issues, and she's taking offence to the fact that she has been caught.
Speaker: At this time it appears to me that there is a dispute between two members and there is nothing that the Chair can do about it, so I would ask the member to continue.
Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by the Member for Riverdale South - who, as I was saying, has shown no validity to her heartfelt statements in this Legislature about her concern for these issues - it's obvious, on legal aid, that she's had no clout in Cabinet whatsoever with regard to this issue that she so piously chastised the NDP government for not bringing forward. I think it sad and frankly very wrong how they played on people's emotions in this territory, shedding their crocodile tears on behalf of people out there in bad need of service, saying that they would just do more, more, more.
Mr. Speaker, they weren't just going to stop there. They were building extended care facilities all around rural Yukon, increasing home care; they were going to bring in all kinds of programs for alcohol and drug counselling, but what have we seen in this budget and the supplementary that is attached to it?
Well, Mr. Speaker, you have seen a good balancing act by a previous New Democrat government that was completely chastised by the members opposite who, with a supplementary, had a chance to change that and be truthful to what they said they were going to do.
Now, Mr. Speaker, it is clear that they are not going to do that and that they would say anything to get elected. And, Mr. Speaker, this is a government that absolutely does the opposite to what they said they were going to do.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit about the finances of the government. I have in my hand a document from April 25, a week after the election from Management Board, that indicates, from Department of Finance officials, a surplus of $41 million. That does not take into account the lapses, which officials told us would probably put the surplus somewhere in the vicinity of $57 million to $60 million. That's lapse funding. That's as of March 31, 2000. What the members opposite don't seem to believe, because they don't want to be accountable, is that when they talk about the $14 million, they are projections not including lapse funding, and it's as of March 31, 2001. They will already have been the government by that time. They're responsible for what happens in this fiscal year. They had $41 million as of April 25, a week after the election, in this fiscal year - the new fiscal year, April 25. The year-end here is March 31. They're the government now, so whatever the surplus is as of next year is their responsibility; they created it.
When they see that there is going to be lapse funding in this fiscal year, even with the new spending they have been doing - and I want to talk about that in a minute - you'll see, and I'll bet that when the Auditor General reports in the fall, we're going to catch them in the misstatements that they have been making. I don't know if they're doing it on purpose, or they're just uneducated on the budget process, or don't know how to read the budgets yet; but, Mr. Speaker, something is amiss here. I'm looking forward to the Auditor General's report in the fall, very much.
This is a government that is not prepared to be accountable for the decisions they make. On one hand, we were lectured incessantly by the new Premier about households and how important it was to manage money and how you couldn't spend more than you took in. Instead, the NDP put the government into a sea of red ink. But yet, Mr. Speaker, what did they do with this budget to reduce the current-year deficit that they said they were concerned about, but they didn't do anything about what they said they were going to do something about?
Mr. Speaker, they said they didn't like red ink, but, in the budget supplementary, did they reduce spending, reduce any red ink? Absolutely not, quite the opposite. I would point out that there's nothing in there to even reflect the half-a-million dollars this year in the signing bonus for the teachers, which is going to happen in this fiscal year. There's more spending in the supplementary budget for last fiscal year: $250,000 in more grants, some money for youth programming, money that has been recycled from previous NDP programs. But the fact is, they haven't done anything to reduce spending, which they said they were going to. They have only increased it. And Mr. Speaker, we already have commitments for a new dialysis machine and the associated O&M from the Minister of Health and Social Services. We have what looks like tacit commitments from the Minister of Justice for more legal aid funding. She has been telling us, "Just you wait, just you wait." Well, we're waiting. We're waiting.
Every day, ministers are in the paper telling us about how they are looking at these issues and how they are going to come forward with spending proposals. Mr. Speaker, some day these reviews are going to have to end. The honeymoon is over, Mr. Speaker.
And, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that, when they talk about red ink - and the Premier is on record many times saying she is against spending the surplus - she's going to have some very tough decisions to make. If she wants to do what she said she is going to do - which she likes to say is her mantra and which is rapidly becoming quite a joke out there in the public - she is going to have to make some very tough choices.
Just today in Question Period, we saw an example of just how bad it is and how hard it is for this Liberal government to make a decision. They want a review and a royal commission and to set up some kind of arbitrated process for everything - unless, of course, they want to throw some cold cash on the table and settle the negotiation. As was pointed out in Question Period today, they are not prepared to take responsibility for their actions. It was pathetic to listen to the Premier today trying to say that when a three-way agreement has been violated, she doesn't have the ability to ask the city for $750,000 back - someon, who three weeks ago, said, "The buck stops here"
People aren't going to buy that. Mr. Speaker, they could buy a dialysis machine. They could increase legal aid funding - so said the former Member for Riverside, Mr. Cable. Why aren't they listening? Why aren't they listening to their former Liberal colleagues? Why aren't they listening to the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who campaigned, gave speeches, wrote letters to the editor, calling this "corporate welfare"?
Mr. Speaker, we'll make sure his constituents note the flip-flop of his new Liberal colleagues and this government, because now the decision is in their hands and they have to be accountable for it, just as we were for the decision we made to proceed with the offsite infrastructure. We were accountable for it, Mr. Speaker. We take responsibility for it, and we stand by the decision. However, they now have the decision to make because they are the government, and they have to learn that. It's going to be tough for them and, given the last couple of days' performance, it's clear that it's going to be a tough road for them on their side.
Mr. Speaker, I would also say that, when you look at what's happening with this budget and you look at what has been happening in Question Period with ministers just ignoring all the statements of the past, laughing about issues like FAS/FAE when we bring them up, it's clear that they're not taking seriously the responsibility they have been given by the people of this territory. They think it's all a joke that they put out press releases and that they belittle the previous administration for more funding; $150,000 more for legal aid, even though the Liberals in Ottawa have cut back, is a joke, according to the Member for Riverdale South. It was an insult to single moms.
The Premier had all kinds of spending suggestions when she was the leader of the official opposition, but now, what a difference a few weeks make, Mr. Speaker - what a difference. One thing they said over here in opposition is something else in government. And I don't blame the new colleagues, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini and the new member for Riverdale. They weren't here, and they don't know all the things that their colleagues told the people of the Yukon.
But we have an obligation to people to remind them of how they played on people's emotions to try and earn votes. I don't blame the Speaker; I don't blame the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and I don't blame the member from Riverdale, because they didn't know what their colleagues were doing in here. They didn't know how they were prepared to say anything to get elected.
Mr. Speaker, this government has a wealth of financial resources behind it, because we managed the books in a very prudent and fiscally responsible way, and we maintained a bank account - a solid bank account. We look at our neighbours to the east, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and compare the finances of this territory, after three and a half years of our stewardship of them, and our record for the north is unsurpassed. Our record for Canada, in fact, is unsurpassed when we brought in a budget time and time again that maintained a healthy surplus.
Normally, when we factored out the current year deficit at the end of the year with the normal lapses that are received at the end of the year as a result of money that's not spent, at times we ended up with even bigger surpluses than we expected, because we budgeted very conservatively to ensure that we left a good legacy. And we have left that legacy to this Liberal government, which has now decided to spend the money in our budget and must be accountable for it. That means they'll take the good with the bad. And when I say bad, I mean tough decisions. For me, it's just part of being in government. For the Liberals, decisions seem to be bad, because they're not prepared to make any.
It's important that the Liberals recognize the consequences of their actions. The Premier likes to stand up and gloat and remind people that that's why they are on that side and that's why we're on our side. She likes to rub that in everyone's face - ha, ha - the people of Whitehorse put 10 members in here. You guys lost. We won. Ha, ha.
She told people that's not the kind of leader she was going to be. You know, I can remember Glen Clark doing the same thing down in B.C. and look what happened to him after the last election. It's not something we did when we were in government, we didn't gloat in their face, but anyway that's the kind of government that the Liberals have. We were humbled by the responsibility we were given. Mr. Speaker, by nature we are a humble people, the New Democratic Party, but Mr. Speaker, we didn't stand up - I'm surprised the Premier didn't get on her desk the other day as she chided across: That's why we're over here and you're over there. And we were right and you were wrong. And we are good and you are bad. And we are virtuous and you are unvirtuous.
Mr. Speaker, time will tell just how good the members opposite are. Given the last couple of days, there are a lot of conclusions already being made. The chaos on the Liberal side is almost painful to watch, and next week the Premier is gone. Yeah. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, we look forward with a lot more vision than the Liberal government as to what will happen in the next three and a half years. And I want to say, it's going to be a pleasure, because the Liberals have already made some commitments that they haven't honoured yet, and they could have honoured. They have made further commitments now to honour them in the fall.
What were we promised? A strong legislative agenda and a good, strong budget and a further supplementary reflecting their priorities.
Mr. Speaker, I have got to say to the members opposite that they are going to have some difficult decisions to make, and so far they have avoided them in perpetuity for the last two months.
But the wolf is going to be at the door, and they will have to make decisions. They can't continue to flip-flop. "We didn't say we'd buy out the claims. Well, we should buy out the claims. Well, they're nuisance claims anyway, but maybe we shouldn't buy them out. Maybe we didn't say that, but some members in the Liberals did, but some didn't say it."
Mr. Speaker, it's a sad state of affairs and it's doing nothing to create any certainty in this territory. They are doing nothing to improve the investment climate.
Look at the debacle we now have on our hands as a result of the bomb dropped by the federal minister after the election. A year ago, he came into town as a new minister. He had his chest all pumped up and went to the CYFN meeting and said, "Well, I'll look at the issues of Section 87 and loan repayment. Absolutely. Let's take a fresh look at this." Of course, that dropped two grenades on the table, and we lost a year of any negotiations as people waited to see what good, old Liberal Bob Nault would do - this tough-talking new minister. Then what happened? He went back to Ottawa, went up to Paul Martin and said, "Listen, we need some more money for that Yukon land claim." Paul Martin fell out of his chair and said, "You're out of you're mind; take a hike. That's all you're getting." Mr. Speaker, he then came up to the gold show and dropped the bomb on the floor.
So, now you have First Nations who are looking at negotiations for years on end. As Bob Nault phrased it, "In the coming years, we're going to have difficult decisions at the land claims negotiating table."
Mr. Speaker, I don't want to pre-empt some really good issues that the Liberals are going to have to face in the next little while, but I want to say that it's not going to cut it - the gloating about the election and the way they have seen fit, in a new legislative session and with a new Premier, to be above accountability, and leaving the Legislature while they are still in their first trial run - her dry run - while they're still in their honeymoon period.
She has decided to leave for the entire week next week. Again.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Premier on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I am certain that the member is fully aware that it is inappropriate to comment on a member's absence in this Legislature, and I am certain that rule simply slipped his mind, and I am certain he would like to withdraw that.
Mr. Harding: That parliamentary reference is with regard to pointing out when a member in a debate is absent from her chair or his chair at the time of the debate. It is not unparliamentary to state that the member is going to be away from the Legislature next week. That is not unparliamentary.
Speaker: There is no point of order.
Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Liberals campaigned on bringing dignity and decorum to this House, but we have already seen them have to get up and apologize for improper remarks and we have seen two spurious points of order this afternoon from them. Far from dignity, they are dragging down the decorum of this House, gloating from one side to the other about the election results in Question Period, with all watching. Mr. Speaker, you don't know how many comments we have gotten from people on that particular performance by the Premier.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Oh, the Member for Riverdale South says ditto. I saw the colleagues over there. They were all smiling; they thought that was great. I just say keep it up, keep it up. I hope so. Keep it up. We'll see if she does it again. She's gotten all these good comments. I challenge her to keep doing it. I love it. So keep doing it. Keep doing it.
The Premier, in her desire to not be accountable for anything - as I was saying before I was interrupted - doesn't see fit to attend the Legislature. I want to say to her that it's important for her, particularly with a new government, to be a leader, to set some tone for the government, and to show the Yukon people - who are all watching, particularly in rural Yukon and who have a lot of nervousness about this government - that in the first two weeks she will not plan to be away. Granted, I'm sure the business there has some importance.
You have to take that very seriously. You have to weigh that against your ability. The very few times you will be - for the first probably six months of this government, you'll only be in this House a few weeks. To be away should be weighed against the benefits of any particular business trip. And, Mr. Speaker, we will recognize from time to time that there is going to be, and should be, ministers away on business. Absolutely. But it's a questionable move at this point in time.
Mr. Speaker, I also say to the member opposite, the Premier, in her desire and zeal to be unaccountable, that the move she made to publish the names of previous ministers on a budget that she brought in a new bill to table was, I thought, a fairly surprising move because I thought that they had a little bit more credibility and integrity on that question than that. But it's clear that, in the act of tabling this budget with the names of previous ministers, it was the desire to take the good of the budget and avoid any decisions or accountability for it, but it won't work.
Mr. Speaker, it's not the kind of government they promised. It's not fair to the former members to have a bill retabled with their names in it. And what did she say on CBC Radio at her interview the other morning when the Member for Klondike and myself were listening to her, awaiting our turn at the microphone with the CBC interviewer? She said, "Well, it's an ego thing." I don't know who gave her that advice. I hope it wasn't the PMO's office. If it was, they have to get rid of those folks. They have to burn that red phone.
Then she said, "Well, it was too expensive." Mr. Speaker, the throne speech they tabled, how much did that cost to print? What price accountability in this territory? What price parliamentary accountability, the principle of governments rising and falling on financial bills, and issues of ministerial responsibility? They seem to have absolved themselves of that already.
There is no sense of who they are, what direction they are taking this territory in, or what policies and procedures guide them - hollow and shallow. Mr. Speaker, if they didn't have the NDP agenda and budget, they might as well hang a "We're closed" or "Gone fishing" sign on the door. They didn't want to do that, so they put up an "Under review" sign on the door, because it looks a little better to the public, in their minds.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to talk to the member about this budget and the positions that she has taken to kill the tax cuts that the NDP was going to bring in. With the whopping surplus that they have - some $60 million, a week after we left office - for her to take those modest tax cut measures and throw them in the garbage is an affront to Yukoners, I think.
Mr. Speaker, she liked to say that the tax cuts were too modest when we brought them in. Well, I don't think that, when she said the tax cuts were too modest, Yukoners expected her to kill them altogether when she got into government. When she said they're too modest, I thought Yukoners probably thought, "Well, that means Liberals would increase the tax cuts." But no. What it means is that she's going to kill the tax cuts the NDP proposed and brought in in their budget. Again, they do not do what they say they were going to do. They do not act upon the impressions that they left in the minds of Yukoners. They said one thing in opposition, and now they say something else completely different in government.
Mr. Speaker, Yukoners are cottoning-on to that pretty quickly, and I can hardly wait for the next throne speech and the next budget, when they actually have to make some decisions. We're on a honeymoon; they're on a honeymoon; we're not on a honeymoon, Mr. Speaker. We're licking our wounds.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite will be granted some time by the public, and they'll get congratulated by their supporters, and the support was quite extensive in Whitehorse and around the territory. And people will be cheering them on, and they'll hear that, but the reality is that even those people, come a day, will say, "Where's the beef? Where's your ability to govern? Where's your vision and sense of direction?" Mr. Speaker, they may even get lucky. Metal prices might rebound, a mine might open - say Minto - and they'll go to the ribbon cutting and say, "Well, you changed the government so, you know, therefore the investment climate has changed." I can see the press releases now. They'll have their welcome-back-to-the-Yukon night, so cleverly devised by the former president of the Chamber of Mines and the now EA for one of the ministers upstairs, the one that clapped like a trained seal at the mining debate in the front row. He'll know what I'm talking about. It will be clear that you've got to do more than have a welcome-back-to-the-Yukon night. You have got to do more than throw $250,000 more in grants on the table.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals will have to deal with the issues around mine permitting in this territory. They are going to have to conclude devolution. They had better not lose devolution because that's very important for this territory. I'm concerned, given the level of competence they have shown thus far and given what Bob Nault has recently said with regard to land claims, that they are going to blow devolution. Mr. Speaker, I hope not. Truly, for all Yukoners, I hope not.
And, Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the members opposite that they are going to have to do more that just saying that land claims is their top priority and then do nothing about it. We tried to bring in a debate today on land claims because we think it's a preeminent, paramount issue in this territory - much bigger than the reply to the throne speech that they used their legislative majority to take precedence over us on today - by choice. They didn't have to do that. They did it because they used their big majority- because they won and we lost - to have a debate about a throne speech that you could write on a recipe card.
Land claims are second fiddle, according to the Liberals, again. And what have we seen in statements from this Premier since Bob Nault's comments? Well, now she says she's going to be a mediator. Can you imagine if Piers McDonald would have said he was going to be a mediator in the land claims process? We would have heard, "Well, that's just an excuse. You said you were going to settle them. You're not a mediator. You're the Government Leader. You had better settle those land claims. Don't tell us about these niggledy piggledy details about loan repayment and section 87. These aren't big problems. Settle them."
Now the Premier tells us she's going to talk about it; she's going to chat, but, Mr. Speaker, she doesn't even take the time in the budget speech or in the throne speech to mention the issue. Absolutely mind-boggling. What an empty vessel.
Mr. Speaker, what are they going to do about the development assessment process? They said they were going to make that right. They were going to use their special relationship with Ottawa to make it right. Well, not one word about DAP and their vision, how they're going to do it, in the throne speech, nothing in the budget, no funding afforded to it. No more funding for the mineral strategy. No more funding for important projects like the blue book. No more funding for anything other than grants. I guess when you're stuck for something to say, go up to Dawson, throw some money on the table, and see if it helps.
Mr. Speaker, I'm going to be curious about a whole range of issues that I don't really want to get into now because there are other, more appropriate times to discuss them, but it's pretty clear that the Liberals are all over the map. It's pretty clear that, in terms of their budgetary priorities, they don't really have a sense of what they want to do or how they're going to fund it.
They have made commitments they weren't serious about. To call the legal aid situation a crisis, to say the previous government was ignoring it with the extra budgetary commitment we put in, and then, Mr. Speaker, with $60 million in the bank, with a stroke of the pen, to give $250,000 more in grants to prospectors and ignore those single mothers, is tantamount to, I think - and I'll have to watch myself here because I don't want you to rule me as unparliamentary - a betrayal of the Yukon public.
We had wanted to come into this session and not have to view the government in such a light. Their actions speak louder than any words about doing what they say they're going to do. I mean that's becoming a complete hardy-har-har laugh in the public everyday - doing what they say they're going to do. The Liberal Premier said that these negotiations with the YTA aren't about money, but yet she put another million dollars on the table in money.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Presto, amazing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Now of course, we have signing bonuses and I'm sure the college employees, and the hospital employees, well-trained professionals, who are all funded by the Premier because the buck stops there, are going to be eyeing this with glee. Of course, the Yukon Employees Union, who didn't know signing bonuses were a new policy announced by the government yesterday, didn't know that they could have gotten a signing bonus. So, I'm sure they'll be wondering if that's in the cards for all those government employees. So, when you start that up, all the comments and commitments and the increased spending and more and more red ink, it's hard to know where this Premier is going to take the finances of this territory. She did signal she's looking to end the tax cuts, and I think we're going to get a bunch of health cuts, which is something that the Liberals are good at; they have done it to every province and they have done it to this territory.
We will see. Time will tell how hard they're going to cut health care. Are they going to increase taxes, maybe? It's a possibility. Given the tone coming from the Premier, they might even increase taxes. Today, we learned that she's eliminating any potential for a fuel-rate rider. I was glad to hear that, Mr. Speaker. That's going to be difficult. She might want to get a briefing on that. She might want to read what the Yukon Utilities Board approved and the rulings.
But anyway, Mr. Speaker, she had all of the answers when she was on this side of the House. Day to day to day, we heard the commitments. We were berated by the Liberals. We were accused of not doing enough in so many areas when we tried to come up with a balanced agenda. I mean, she so eloquently pointed out, "Why would you put $750,000 into offsite water and sewer, when companies will be using it that are very wealthy companies? Why wouldn't you give that money to those poor, single mothers in legal aid?" But today, when it was clear she has a decision to make on the $750,000 because tenets of an agreement have not been lived up to by another party, and she can ask for the city to get the money back, and she could apply it to those single mothers she used to care about, she skates around it, over and over, and not very well, I might add, because things will come home to roost.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Only one skate, yeah. Maybe it's one of those long-bladed, old-style ones, and she's tripping over them. I don't know.
Mr. Speaker, I'm looking forward to the debate next week. There's lots to go over in this legislative session. We didn't think there would be, but the absence of material has given rise to more questions and issues. And the inability to make a decision and the review of everything have raised all kinds of questions. There is no decisiveness in this government. There's no certainty. It doesn't matter whether it's legal aid, the dialysis machine, Argus, or Tombstone - no decisions.
Whether it's how you're going to handle land claims or what you're going to do about mine permitting, there are no decisions. When it comes to putting money in the budget for what you said you cared about when the Liberals were in opposition and could have put in the supplementary with a stroke of the pen, there are no decisions. Mr. Speaker, that will last for awhile, but they are quickly gaining a reputation as being do-nothing and indecisive and, dare I say it, somewhat incompetent.
So, Mr. Speaker, when they decided to kill the tax cuts that the NDP wanted to bring in, when they decided to criticize red ink and overexpenditures but then spend more, when they say they are going to fund the dialysis machine and then they hedge, when they say they believe in legal aid and yet don't do anything about it, when they laugh and chide members on this side of the House when we accuse them of having played on people's emotions on issues like FAS/FAE, they chuckle about it because they're in and we're out. They're the government. The Premier likes to taunt, and I hope she keeps taunting. But she won't, because I'm sure someone has advised her by now that that's probably not a good idea. Maybe she got a call on the red phone from those high-priced advisors.
So, Mr. Speaker, it's also unclear in this budget what is going to happen, what certainty there will be on the issue of tax cuts. Will people know how much money they're going to have in their pockets at the end of the day after the Liberals are done with them? Will Yukoners know how much they are going to have left over for groceries, and will they be able to buy a new washing machine, or will they be able to go out and enjoy a show?
They won't know because again in that area they floated a trial balloon. I was just reading the article in the Yukon News today that the Liberals plan to trim the tax cuts.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this level of uncertainty is something they campaigned about ending, and of course they couldn't do it all in the first couple of months since the election, we recognize that. But surely they could have sent some soothing signals. Surely they could have announced in the throne speech a plan as to how they intended to resolve some of these issues. Our motion we tried to propose today before they heavy-handedly kicked us out of our spot in the opposition debate today - the one chance we get as opposition members to put forward our agenda, which today was land claims. All we asked for was that they come forward with a clear action statement on their plan for resolving the issues, given what Mr. Nault has just done here in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, we can't get that from the Liberals. We can't get anything from the Liberals, because they don't have anything. They haven't had one new legitimate idea that the NDP hadn't already started. We haven't had any new economic initiatives. Has anybody seen any new economic initiatives? They are going to take about six months to study it, I guess. During the election campaign they were going to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Oh, of course, they were going to do everything. They had all the answers, it didn't matter what it was, this was not a problem. There are going to be lots of tea and crumpets, lots of little receptions in the foyer with the Liberals. There are going to be lots of pretty little speaking engagements and photo opps.
Mr. Speaker, are they going to take any shots at the big issues out there? Are they going to deliver on land claims or devolution? Are they even going to advance it? Because there are four claims that were advanced by the previous NDP government to the point where if the back breaks on two outstanding issues, they are going to be concluded.
Mr. Speaker, I'm interested in the budget and how they are going to deal with the Kwanlin Dun land claim. I'm really interested in how they are going to resource that and what decisions they are going to make, because, Mr. Speaker, that's going to be a difficult one for them - very, very difficult.
I'm interested in how they're going to deal with the transboundary claims and the Kaska. There is no sense from them that they have even the foggiest idea about how to deal with those issues. There is no sense from them about economic diversification, no sense how they're going to handle forestry, no sense what they want to do with mine permitting, no sense even this far in, two months since the election, of how they're going to tell Yukoners what they're going to do with their taxes at the end of the year.
Mr. Speaker, I remember, just from today in Question Period, the former Member for Riverside, Mr. Cable, standing up almost daily sometimes, when the issue was hot in the public, and going after me on gas prices. He had lots of ideas then, but what did we see today when the Member for Klondike questioned the Premier on gas prices? Not one new initiative, no sense that she had anything to do with the issue. It was quite the contrary. She basically skated around it and said that wasn't her problem.
Some would think - I'm sure she's got some more of those high-priced advisors upstairs patting her on the back, saying, "Way to go. Keep not making any decisions. That's what got you elected." But, Mr. Speaker, that's going to come home to roost because she's the Premier now. The buck does stop with her.
Everybody is still on a high over there from the campaign and the numbers coming in that night. I kind of remember something like that once before. It doesn't last long, though. You have that swearing-in ceremony and then it's all work from there, if you want to work, but apparently this government isn't interested in working. Otherwise they would have had some more meat in their throne speech and would have done some more in the supplementary to reflect what they call their priorities in the budget.
It's going to be interesting when last year's year-end comes out from the Auditor General. This is their budget. This is their year.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Well, they're going to try and spin it. It will be interesting to hear what their new spokesperson upstairs comes up with for that one, but we'll diligently ferret out the reality. You can't argue with the Auditor General. He's going to report on March 31, 2000. There's going to be a good surplus.
Mr. Speaker, any additions to the spending will be theirs. Any tabled in this budget will be theirs, regardless of the names on it, because, as of April 25, a week after the election, there was probably between $40 million and $60 million in the bank. It's probably about $57 million or somewhere around there. $40 million; $60 million - it doesn't matter; it's still an incredibly healthy surplus and is more than anywhere else in the north at this point.
So, it's all about choices. They are going to have to make choices. At this point, they either haven't been willing to do that, they are not prepared to do that, or their strategy is simply to absolve themselves of being responsible for the budgets of this territory. We believe strongly that the people of this territory elected a government because they wanted change. They wanted a fresh approach; they wanted a new vision and they wanted something different. It was all about the future - I think that was the slogan of the Liberals. What are we getting from this government? We are getting indecisiveness. We are getting an inability to establish any vision beyond the New Democrats, in terms of budgetary priorities - any strategy for dealing with the tough issues and policy questions out there, beyond what the New Democrats were doing - whether it's trade investment, trolley cars or Connect Yukon or many of the other things that the NDP were working on and doing.
They seem to be quite happy just to carry on like that and put an "Under review" sign on the Cabinet offices - "We'll come back in the fall, and we'll think about it a bit, and maybe we'll have some new ideas." That certainly wasn't what I think the Yukon electorate voted for. However, they got fooled by the members opposite, who told them that they cared about FAS/FAE. They told them they cared about alcohol and drug services. They told the private day home and group home workers that they were going to increase their salaries. They told them they cared about that. We will see, Mr. Speaker. I think they're going to be much more like the federal Liberals, who, on everything from NAFTA to the GST to national child care to the CBC, have not done what they said they were going to do. They have actually broken all of their promises - broken them all. And it's only by the greater graces of a divided Conservative Party in Canada that they managed to cling to power. They are devoid of vision. They are devoid of credibility. They are devoid of coming through on the promises they made, and I think this government is starting to develop that mantra very quickly - a lot quicker than I thought. I thought they were going to have more of a chance with the Yukon public, and I thought that they would have their act together somewhat more, but it's not to be the case. The chaos on the other side is becoming more and more apparent every day.
Mr. Speaker, the fact that they are so indecisive is opening the door to so many more questions that we didn't even think would be out there for us in this legislative session. I can remember once when I was in this House for a 76-day sitting - straight. Now, we just do 35- and 25-day sittings, broken up by quite a long break. And at that time, Question Period was 40 minutes long, and not the half-hour that we presently use today. The government-of-the-day at that time was going through similar things to what I see is going on with the members opposite.
And it was very easy to go 76 days straight because indecisiveness - one minister saying one thing, one doing another, like we are getting from the Liberals opposite - the Premier contradicting her ministers, then getting up and making it worse, as she did today - when it's clear she's totally at odds with her Renewable Resources minister and the Minister of Tourism, who has gone out on a limb on the Tombstone issue. It's clear that there are going to be lots of questions. There is going to be lots of accountability because, in the absence of decisiveness for the Yukon public, it is up to the opposition to ferret out direction and vision and accountability and honesty from the government - which is so sadly lacking right now.
Let me just say with regard to this budget, it's a heck of a budget. I commend it to this House. I only wish the Liberals would do what they said they were going to do with regard to the supplementary. I only wish the Liberals would take accountability for it, because they're certainly going to try to take the benefit for it and avoid the decisions. But, Mr. Speaker, Yukoners will see through that.
So I say, Mr. Speaker, that I'm glad the Liberals have finally seen the wisdom of our ways and are fully endorsing the budget of the Yukon New Democrats, that they believe it's the right direction and the right approach. I'm glad that they feel so strongly that they would come in and retable this budget, that it was the right balancing act for Yukoners, that they were the right choices. The tough choices were made. I'm glad they're so caught up in the ecstasy of their win that they saw through the bitter temptation they must have had not to come forward with the best budget tabled in this territory in many, many, many years. But they did the right thing in that case, but, unfortunately, by absolving themselves of accountability - or trying to, because they won't be able to - and by not reflecting, in the supplementary, their spending priorities and their criticisms of the budget, they failed Yukoners.
So, I urge the government to work harder, to get their act together, to deal with tough policy issues, to think things through, to deliver some certainty to Yukoners, to carry through with the tax-cut agenda that we proposed, and to be more open, accountable and honest with Yukoners about what they intend to do.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. This is indeed a very sad day for democracy here in the Yukon. The failure of this newly elected government - its members here - to rise and speak at second reading on the second largest budget ever presented in Yukon's history clearly shows that the Yukon Liberals are attempting to avoid the responsibilities and accountability for tabling that budget. They just want to distance themselves from the reality of the offices they hold. I'm extremely disappointed for all Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, let's just look at the Yukon today. Most jurisdictions in Canada are looked to for their economic viability. When we look at a recent news release that was tabled in the House of Commons by the official opposition, the critic for Indian and Northern Affairs went on to say that the Yukon economy is in ruins, a victim of total mismanagement by Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault. It went on to say, "Consider these facts: Since 1996, the mining industry has declined by an incredible 87 percent. It is currently sitting at a 30-year low and it is expected to drop even further this year. The population has dropped 10 percent and the stagnant economy is imploding. The Yukon is rapidly becoming almost entirely dependent on government transfer payments and a short tourism season that contributes little to a sustainable economy."
Mr. Speaker, what the Yukon needs is a government with vision and plans, one that has a majority position and that has money in the bank. What we have elected here is a government that is lacking in the two most important parts. Yes, it has a majority. Yes, it has money in the bank - lots of money. The paper I recently reviewed showed that the accumulated surplus at the end of the year - the fiscal year - will be quite substantial. Majority government and money have been major reasons why the economies of various jurisdictions in Canada have slid backwards. The lack of those two - majority government and money - has been the main reason in part for jurisdictions sliding back. But the biggest reason that the Yukon won't move ahead is that this newly elected Liberal government has no plan and no vision.
Mr. Speaker, you will recall that on June 5, I rose in this House on a point of order. In response to the first question that I raised about subsection 6(2) of the Financial Administration Act, and the responsibility of each member of the Executive Council, and how the previous ministers could be held responsible for this budget that this Liberal government tabled, you ruled that the previous members whose names appeared could not be held responsible. You ruled that the ministers of this Liberal government are collectively responsible for answering to the House for the contents of Bill No. 2, the 2000-01 budget.
Mr. Speaker, my second question raised the legal issue involving section 73 of the Financial Administration Act, the section dealing with offences. It states that a public officer, which includes a minister, commits an offence who: (a) in connection with the performance of his duties respecting public money wilfully makes or signs a false entry, certificate, requisition, return or any other document.
Mr. Speaker, you were not able to respond to this legal question, nor did I expect you to. It is my contention that the budget document supporting Bill No. 2 is a false document that the Liberal government wilfully made in order to attempt to distance themselves from the previous NDP budget bill that they adopted during the election campaign. They voted against it in second reading as the official opposition, but now they table it again. It would be interesting to learn if the Liberal government did obtain a legal opinion on this question. I'm sure that if they did, you can rest assured that we will never be told by this supposedly open and accountable government what that legal opinion was.
Mr. Speaker, in response to the question that I raised about precedents for the actions and proceedings of other legislatures in Canada, you indicated that you had found a precedent in a review of the proceedings of the Yukon Legislative Assembly in July 1985, when a new government introduced year-end supplementary estimates that included the names of the ministers of a previous government. Mr. Speaker, you pointed out in your ruling, however, that back in 1985, it was a different situation from the one that the House faces today, in that all of the expenditures had already taken place under the previous government. Mr. Speaker, it is my contention that comparing a supplementary bill for money that was previously spent by a previous government is totally different from the main estimates of a previous government being adopted in total by a new government for money that has, in a large part, yet to be spent.
It's like comparing apples to oranges; they are both fruit, but they are different. I guess the fault is mine, Mr. Speaker. I should have stated in my point of order that, if there was any precedent for new governments adopting in total the main estimates of the previous government, I am unaware of any such precedent.
This is a fundamentally important issue because it lies at the very heart of our parliamentary system. The issue is ministerial responsibility and accountability. The action by this government in tabling the identical main estimates of the previous government speaks volumes about the current Liberal administration and their respect for our parliamentary system of government. According to the Premier's principal secretary when asked if the new Liberal government would defend the budget that the Liberals criticized three months before, his response was, "We don't plan to". That's a direct quote. He went further, Mr. Speaker. He stated, "It's not our choice. These aren't our spending priorities, it's their budget."
So much for good government. So much for accountability and doing what they said they were going to do.
Mr. Speaker, I would now like to review what the Premier said about the budget in February when she was leader of the official opposition. One of her first criticisms of this budget was that there was a lot of red ink in this NDP budget and in previous NDP budgets. She pointed out that there had been four budgets in total presented by the NDP governments and all with deficits. By implication, therefore, one would presume that a Liberal government would be opposed to any budget that had a deficit, even though the government may have a healthy surplus, as the current Yukon government has.
The Liberal financial plan is to have only balanced budgets. There will be no deficits. That's it, period. Well, why do governments have a savings account? Why do governments have reserves? Those reserves are for those rainy days, and if you want to look at the economy, it can be described as a typhoon. It's not just raining out there on our economy; it's devastated. This is when governments have the opportunity to dip into those reserves, spend that money for the betterment of all Yukoners, to create wealth. It's probably something that both NDP governments and Liberal governments don't understand. Government is a great big horse that has to be fed. It's not a cow that you can continually milk. Wealth has to be created in order for governments to operate. This government has failed to address that issue.
Mr. Speaker, I had a briefing this morning from the Executive Council Office. The most important issue facing Yukon today is the settlement of the seven remaining, outstanding land claims. We all agree that is of paramount importance, and yet, when I asked if the department was considering putting additional resources toward this initiative, no, no, it's fully staffed, there's a slight increase, no change.
The officials are not involved in answering policy questions, but they certainly have to provide the information and advice to the Premier, who is responsible for that department, to get the job done.
Now, if we look at the Liberals and their past election - and I compliment them on their win, but they were elected in part because of that subtle platform that they have a close working relationship with the federal Liberals - a very special relationship - yet we see, with the first visit of the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to the Yukon and his attendance at the gold show, the bomb that he dropped on Yukon First Nations that he wasn't even going to consider the two issues that are of paramount importance to the Yukon First Nations for success at the land claims table - those being the taxation issue and loan repayments for negotiating purposes.
When you look at some of the funds that would flow to the First Nations should they be - I guess they'd have to be foolish to conclude the arrangements where they currently are with respect to loan repayments because the amount of money that would flow to them would make the whole process redundant. We'd be moving our First Nations society backwards, if they accepted the amount of money that was left after they repaid the loans to Canada.
That wasn't the whole purpose of the land claims negotiation, Mr. Speaker.
So, I'd like to know why this special relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals hasn't been called upon to deliver what we all expected it would. It was implied extensively during the election campaign, but it never happened.
When we start looking at what the leader of the official opposition said back in February of this year - the leader of the official opposition at that time is currently the Premier of the Yukon - she went on at great length to discuss the tax cut, describing it as one basis point this year, or about two percent. The reduction in revenue is $750,000. She went on to say, "What does it mean to the average Yukoner earning about $45,000? It means a tank of gas. To a single mom or dad, depending on where you shop and which Yukon community you live in, it is one or two packages of disposable diapers. For a Yukon Quest musher lucky enough to earn $45,000 in the non-mushing season, it would buy a lot of dog food - not much."
Well, where are we today with respect to the income tax reduction? Instead of reading what she said back in February, there's a new tack. We're going to start rescinding some of these income tax reduction initiatives that were proposed by the previous NDP government.
Tax rates will remain artificially high in the Yukon compared to where the tax rates are headed in the rest of Canada. If we look at where we were on the scale five years ago or 10 years ago and where we are today, Yukoners are and will continue under this Liberal government to pay a higher portion of their income in taxes than Canadians in the rest of Canada.
Shame, Mr. Speaker. Here is a government that could have done something about it.
I can recall when our current Premier was the leader of the official opposition. She went on at great length about the juice-box tax - how it was going to impact on the cost of lunches for children here in the Yukon. I haven't seen anything in the supplementary or in the mains that indicates that there is going to be an initiative in this direction to reduce what we affectionately call the juice-box tax, or at least make the deposit on the Tetra Pak equal to the refund. That is something that this government could do with the stroke of a pen, which would impact on Yukoners by effectively reducing their cost of living.
We look back to the days when the Liberals were in opposition and they, along with our party, were constantly hammering on the government of the day - the NDP government - about the fuel costs here in the Yukon, about the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel at the pumps and how it was increasing at an alarming rate. The NDP took it upon themselves at the time to bring up the officials. They did a very good PR job and tried to explain that the high price of fuel is a consequence of all of the taxes that Canada has. That's why we are higher priced than the U.S.
But upon analysis, that is not the truth, Mr. Speaker. The high cost of fuel here stems from a number of reasons - the low volumes that we use - but of more importance is the complete vertical integration of the fuel companies. The oil company owns the product from the ground to the stem. There's no competition in-between. When you look at what the Premier of Ontario is contemplating and what he has suggested, he is proposing and requesting that Ottawa must inject competition into the gas market. Now, the only way that that can take place is if Yukon would start the ball rolling by removing themselves as a taxing authority on the product. That could no longer be used as an excuse, and it would have an immediate impact on Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, that would result in savings of some $6.60 to you and I every time we fill up with 100 litres. We're talking pretty serious money when you recognize that, north of 60, the distances we have to travel are considerably longer and our per capita consumption of petroleum products is one of the highest in North America. We have to rely on it more.
We rely on petroleum products to power our vehicles. We rely on petroleum products to generate electricity in a lot of rural parts of Yukon.
Even in Question Period today, the Premier, when asked by me if the fuel prices were going to end up with a rate-rider increase on our electrical costs, she said no. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier have a briefing from her officials with respect to the Public Utilities Board and its last ruling with respect to fuel costs. They are at the level where a fuel rider could be implemented by the two main utilities here in the Yukon very, very quickly.
So much for good government, Mr. Speaker. So much for a lot of hopes - hopes that appear to be dashed at this point. We have and enjoy one of the most pristine areas in North America. Some of us were born and raised here. Some of us moved here and settled in this region, in large part because of employment opportunities and our love for the outdoors. The Yukon is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, minerals, oil and gas, and forestry. The mining industry gave birth to the Yukon as a distinct region of Canada. Resource extraction has been the backbone of our economy, up until a few years ago. Yes, there have been boom-and-bust cycles, but mining exploration was consistent over the years.
In the last few years, virtually every major mine in the Yukon has closed for one reason or another. The only remaining one of any significance is Viceroy, and we'll be lucky to see that in existence a year from now. Placer mining is sitting on the edge. Its economic viability is seriously in doubt as a consequence of the price of gold, the high price of petroleum products used to extract the gold, and the regulatory burden - the impact and consequence of that tremendous amount of paper that now is duplicated and duplicated again for every mining operator who has to apply for land use as well as water licences today.
You should have a look at some of the documents associated with those initiatives, and just see how thick they are, and go through them and see how repetitious they are in many, many areas. Now, I realize that area is controlled by the federal government, but there are initiatives that can be taken here by this government with their close relationship with the federal Liberals to reduce and assist. I haven't seen any indication of that in this budget, Mr. Speaker - none whatsoever.
We look at forestry and the forestry programs. About the hardest thing to do is to go logging. At one time in the Yukon, the amount of timber cut just for heating purposes or to fire boilers on various pieces of equipment in sternwheelers was tremendous compared to what we do today.
We don't log any more. I guess the federal program calls for just burning it. Let the forest fires take over and we'll consume our forestry that way. That seems to be the initiative the last few years by this federal Liberal government and now I'm sure that that's going to continue under this extension of the federal Liberal government: the Yukon Liberal government.
Some of the other initiatives that must be addressed are health care issues. In opposition, the Liberals had all the answers with respect to health care, justice and drop-in centres for our youth. Why is there not one new initiative or one new indicator that they're going to be spending some of that $60 million surplus on these initiatives? Are they just void of ideas? Are they afraid to govern? Are they afraid to make a decision?
It's sad. It's very, very sad, Mr. Speaker, that we have come full circle. We have created a new monster on the block. I guess we'll refer to it as the NDP-Liberal government to the Liberal-NDP government. I don't know which way you want to go. It seems to be a blend of both. Where it's going to take the Yukon and where we're going to end up, I don't know.
I am seeing an increasing exodus of my friends and working colleagues from Yukon as a consequence of the deteriorating economy.
Even in the visitor industry this year, it appears that we have missed the mark. Probably the only area that will see an increase is the traffic coming up to Carcross for the few hours of the day that they spend there, coming off the cruise ships. The majors have concentrated on going across the gulf. Their passengers disembark in Seward and go up into the interior of Alaska. Yukon is out of the loop in many respects. I don't know if we have done a poor job of marketing it, or if we haven't concentrated effectively on the areas where we should be concentrating, but the bottom line is that our visiting industry is going to suffer again this year. We have made strides in the European market. Why don't we just look at where our visitors are coming from and concentrate on, number one, maintaining those visitors, ensuring that they continue to come our way and spend both time and money here - we have an excellent product - and then go into the other markets where we just have a small amount of return, where the conversions aren't able to justify a major expenditure? But before we take a leap of faith into some of these new markets, we have to make sure that we maintain our existing visitor markets. We are not doing that. This budget doesn't identify any changes. It's not even addressed or recognized as an issue.
So, as we run down the list of areas that has driven the economy of the Yukon previously, what are we left with? Basically, we're left with federal government transfer payments. Of this half-a-billion-dollar budget, they are the largest component. And what are we doing to ensure that there are jobs and opportunities for our children here in the Yukon? I can't find very much - or anything - in this budget to address that issue. We'll have them all trained and send them off to university. They'll be well-educated, but they'll have to move somewhere else to get a job. It is a shame. And that needn't be the case.
In conversations with my colleagues in some of the industries I'm associated with in Alaska, they are all enjoying double-digit increases in their businesses this year. For most of us in the Yukon, we're witnessing a decrease. The same holds true in the Northwest Territories, Mr. Speaker. They are showing an increase in growth. Oh yes, you can say it's associated with mining exploration. But boy, that has been the backbone of the Yukon for many, many decades, but it's no longer the case whatsoever. Mining exploration will probably hit an all-time low this year, as will mining activity. Oil and gas activity will probably be non-existent this year.
Those who have acquired the leases here in the Yukon are not going to do anything more than just maintain them. Northern Cross has pulled out all of their equipment, mothballed it. There is no incentive for them to stick around. In fact, I'm sure all they're waiting for is a U.S. major to buy them out. There's a little hype surrounding the pipeline. That's all it is - a little hype. There are no new initiatives in this budget in any of these areas.
It was kind of interesting. I came back from Vancouver just after the Christmas holidays and jumped into a cab at the airport and was talking to the cab driver. I said, "Well, what has been happening? What has been going on in the last little while?" And she indicated to me, "Gee, nothing. My husband had to move to Alberta to find work. I'm just driving cab to keep my head above water." She said, "But there is some hope. There is an election coming, and if you can't do anything else, run for political office." Well, that caused a laugh from me and my wife. But the bottom line is that there is not much going on in the Yukon, and a large part of that has to do with government, government policies, government direction and the enthusiasm for government to get involved and make things happen.
What has to be created is investor confidence in the Yukon. That does not exist. It doesn't look like it is going to be rekindled very quickly, if at all, in the next period of time.
I'm extremely disappointed. Half a billion dollars worth of budget, the largest ever in the Yukon Territory and, really, what have we got at the end of the day? There are many, many initiatives that this government could have put in that throne speech and could have had in this budget to put Yukoners back to work and to get this economy going again. But this Premier has to come to some agreement with the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs on the most important issue of land claims. To date, the track record is not just dismal, it's non-existent, and Nault's bomb is going to be remembered for a long, long time by members of Yukon's First Nations. A lot of members of the Yukon First Nations bought in to this Liberal platform that there will be a special relationship between the feds and themselves, and that will get things done. We haven't seen that demonstrated, Mr. Speaker.
In conclusion, I just wish to reiterate that accountability is of paramount importance and the responsibility associated with the office that the officials in this Liberal government now hold means that there is a great deal that they have to be accountable for.
I don't know if that message is sinking in, but, over the next period of time, I'm very hopeful that it will. The eyes of many, many Yukoners are looking upon this government to provide some leadership, to provide some direction, and to provide some hope. We haven't seen any of that demonstrated yet, Mr. Speaker. I only hope that the backbenchers in the Liberal caucus will start thinking for themselves and standing on their feet and spelling out where they feel the Yukon should be headed, what should be in this budget, and speak to the budget. Perhaps we'll get an understanding of where this Liberal government wants to take us.
The fence that they're standing on is getting awfully thin, Mr. Speaker. They can't come down with a foot on either side of it all the time. They are charged with the responsibility of governing, and I'm hopeful that they will provide that in the next period of time.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'll just make a few points, if I may, and speak mostly about my disappointments if I could, in a way, and try to offer again some constructive types of initiatives for the new government, the new Liberal government.
Within the budget, I've got to say that I've been scratching my head here, on both sides and all over as is probably evident, as to why, you know, so many things have been said in the election campaign, over the past year since they have been the official opposition in our government, and in the seven weeks that you have had - nothing. Now, I don't mind that. I don't mind that at all because I think the budget, as our leader has said, is the best budget they ever could table. It's just a natural given because it's our budget.
I still do not understand why you have not put your stamp on it. Ego and cost - those two words have been used in defence of that decision - just don't quite cut it. So, I come down to a couple of reasons that have gelled in my mind. Firstly - and I think the first one is correct - is that you just don't know. I'd like to also say that if the inexperience from across the floor is so rampant, then go ahead, take the budget because it's a heck of a good blueprint. It's a wonderful blueprint to go into the future with because it touches a lot of bases.
But I'm wondering if that is the only reason. Is there another reason back in there, that you're being shrewd, that you're buying some time for yourself? You're being politically astute - that's what you're attempting to be, and that's just not going to cut it here. You can't be politically astute, so that for the first year you go through and you'll - they will be repeating - bear with me; I'm trying - the same things I have been hearing today. And the caucus on the opposite side will be attempting to - well, again, I don't know to do what, really. But you're wasting your time by sitting there. You have four years to prove yourself.
Speaker: Please refer to the members by their title or constituency.
Mr. Keenan: The government has four years in which they may bring about change, and they have cut that down to three. So, within the three years, I hope you do learn some things, but I don't want to hear the same things you're saying now next year, and that's what you're setting yourself up for.
Speaker: Refer to the members by their title or constituency, please.
Mr. Keenan: If I may ask the Speaker, how would I generically refer to the government?
Speaker: "Government" is fine.
Mr. Keenan: So, the government, I hope, will not re-recite excuses, and that's exactly what the government is attempting to do at this point in time. It has set itself up for recycling, so it can say the same-old, same-old.
So I think ego and costs just don't cut it. I think that if the government wants to stand and be able to defend the budget, which they're going to have to at this point in time, they're going to have to understand the budget and they should have put a mark on it. And by putting a supplementary in, this is not a mark.
Now the campaign theme of the government before was all about the future, and as I have looked through the document, all about the future, again I see my fingerprints all over this document. My fingerprints - is it all right to say, my fingerprints? My fingerprints are all over this document and a lot of Yukoners' fingerprints are on this document, because we went out and we consulted and we talked about it, so when you say it's all about the future, well, it's our blueprint.
They said that they wanted elected representatives that will do what they say they will do. Oh, I take offence to that because we have done exactly that. The government talks about rebuilding the Yukon economy. You talk about making the settlement of land claims your top priority. Well, I expect that the government would be able to use their relationship - their special relationship - with the folks back east that govern this place, because it truly lies within their bailiwick at this point, and I do hope that they do do the right thing.
And I think that certain members in your caucus, who have started this initiative, should take it personally upon themselves to lobby and find leadership, because you just don't find leadership; you have to provide it. You can't go look behind the south side of a spruce tree and it's there. It's not. You have got to provide that leadership, and so I would expect that you would, because there are precedents that government would. There are precedents within Canada that can be used, and if you have the political clout and the political relationships, then use them.
Talk about creating certainty - well, that is certainly one of the issues that has to be addressed. And when people say "creating certainty for investors", well, you know, doggone it, it kind of upsets me a little bit - certainty for investors - because there's a whole different equation for it, and I think that the government has to understand that equation. The people, the Yukon First Nation people, absolutely require certainty. Our people have been going through years of building capacity now, as evidenced by this room and the people in this room. And it cannot come shattering down. It must go forth, and it's going to take all efforts to massage that and to make it go forth. So I expect you, the government, to be able to create that certainty through the land claim initiatives.
Creating certainty, again, by creating and supporting a buy-local campaign. Well, been there and done that in tourism. Look at the snowflake campaigns, look at our logos there - good stuff that has benefited a lot of local businesses in the Yukon territory, small business people, very much so. So we have been there and this side of the House has done that.
Rebuilding the Yukon economy - well, by gosh, I'm sure looking forward to this fall's budget session - I guess it will be a supplementary budget session - because it says in infrastructure development that over the last four years, for example, highway capital spending has been cut in half. Well, I guess we can expect a road-building budget next year of close to $50 million or better, and I'd like to see where we are going to get that. You talked about construction and engineering companies being able to find work here at home. Well, they are finding work here at home. They're all busy right now, and this caucus, when we were government, had the foresight, the initiative - the jam, if I may - to be able to think of new ways to assist these people.
We created the trade and investment fund; we created the tourism marketing fund; we created the CDF, which, to my chagrin, members on that side do not appreciate.
So, if you say you're going to do these things, you've got to start putting an implementation plan to it - not just make motherhood statements. Implementation plans. Because it's happening now. You talk about focusing trade missions closer to home and ensuring that they are cost effective. Does that mean you're going to fly in the hold? Well, I'm going to be watching for tickets, I guess. I'm going to see, because we sure went through it, and it is with great pride that I clap for our Chinese visitors yesterday here, because that told me that you have seen the merit of that. You have seen where we're going.
Speaker: It might help if we refer to the members opposite in the third person. I would like to try and get everyone used to that, or address it through the Chair and refer to them by title or their constituency, please.
Mr. Keenan: So, I'd certainly like to see how government is going to be able to do that. As I look around my riding, with the tools that we, as a government, have put into place, the people in my riding are busy. We had no control over the pricing of metals, but if you look to the communities, you would see in the communities that there are thriving people, thriving economies that are going on, and that's through initiatives that we, as a government, put together.
So, I'd like to see what the alternatives of this government will be for that.
When I go through the tourism section, I see there is going to be support for an industry-driven tourism strategy. I just tabled one here in the fall. We're going to partner with the Yukon Convention Bureau. Been there, doing that.
Again, I really want to see the numbers. I really want to see these because, if you compare mains to mains, heritage funding is up. You're going to restore heritage branch funding. It's down. I say it's not. I know that government is going to work toward those ends and I appreciate that. I hope that they do it through a consultation manner. I hope that they include all stakeholders, all partners.
I like the ideas promoting the growth of wilderness tourism to ensure that the Yukon is competitive in adventure tourism markets, because certainly that is what the tourism marketing fund was for. I would encourage the Tourism minister to very much look at these programs that we put into place. The Tourism minister has a challenge on her hands, because if you look at the pillars that the Yukon is made of in terms of promoting and marketing the Yukon Territory, there are basically four. I know that the members opposite know those pillars, so I won't bore them with that, but those pillars need resources put to those pillars. If you start to qualify those pillars or qualify the tourism marketing fund, you are going to have to find something else to live up to your statement about promoting wilderness tourism. So, don't qualify one thing as a government and leave a hole. That is exactly what has happened as I see it now, in that one particular segment.
I appreciate that you think that by restoring confidence in government - there was confidence in government, but when we were in government, we had initiated the community tours. We had Cabinet meetings in the communities, so I very much appreciate that you would follow through with that lead.
To get back to advancing partnerships with First Nations and other governments, I am very proud of the work that has been done with the Municipal Act, in developing partnerships and assuring that there would be funding into the future for the Association of Yukon Communities. I would encourage the government to continue with those initiatives, to be flexible, and to talk to people and work with people, so that people will be able to make their own decisions.
The government has said that they are going to start to do that. Well, it has already started, so I would just continue that relationship.
When you look at land claims again, and the completion of land claims, it is a vibrant industry in the territory here. It certainly never started off to be as an industry, but the federal government has certainly turned it into an industry.
So, I would appreciate again that this government, who has a special relationship - the red phone connection - would promote the right, and not just the recognition and the right of self-government, but the actual implementation of that, by taking in some new ideas.
We as a caucus had many ideas. I am very interested to hear what your ideas as a caucus are going to be, to be able to develop and implement those special relationships. You have a unique challenge ahead of you. I guess, not just a unique challenge, you have a very unique opportunity.
So, I would encourage the government to put their minds to that and find ways, because it is going to take effective implementation plans and not just motherhood statements. Talk about annual meetings.
I'm surely glad to see that this document here is just a mirrored reflection of our thoughts. On protected social programs, it says here that the NDP reaction has been to insult the medical profession. That is absolutely not true. The only people around here that are insulting the medical profession are the federal government. I've heard it from the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who talked about people staying here, grandparents staying here with their grandchildren, et cetera. That didn't come by chance. Cautious, no; that comes through thoughtful, careful, deliberate planning and by our making it our priorities.
So, in light of the federal cuts, we have still maintained a very lucrative and healthy place to live. Is there more work to be done? Yes, there's more work to be done and I think that the folks across the floor have very much the opportunity to do that with their special relationship.
So, when the federal government comes up with these unique little formulas, which always sound so great - in the billions of dollars for social programs - and Yukon ends up with a little less than a million, I'm hoping that your special relationship will be able to massage some new life into the formulas that the federal government uses, because the federal government takes so much out of the Yukon Territory - this very day - and I think it's time they put things back. I understand that, with your special relationship, you will be able to do that.
You talk about the youth, community wellness, and all of the wonderful things you're going to do. Well, this government has gone out and put together local-hire initiatives that are good for all people, like people who are qualified, but maybe not certified. We looked at special ways and incentives for the youth through CDF projects to provide business incentives to get hands-on learning skills. I would encourage the government across the floor to continue those types of exercises.
Education. In my home town of Teslin, as in any Yukon community - or I guess not. I won't restrict it to Yukon, because in any Canadian or world community, there are people who suffer from FAS/FAE. We certainly need some new ways of looking at these. It's not just an education problem. It's not simply a family or health problem. What I have found is that it's all of those problems. In the Village of Teslin, the Tlingit Council of Teslin and the Teslin community at large are looking at ways to weave that together, so that there's not just a burden on teachers for six or eight hours a day, or whatever the size of the class is or the number of hours are. They are looking at new ways of doing it and stretching it into a real way of life, a healthy way of life. There's a good challenge there, and I'd really encourage the government to continue to look at those types of initiatives, if at all possible.
I'll certainly be watchdogging. I'll certainly be watchdogging, and I'll be putting forth my suggestions here.
Talk about justice - the government talks about community responsibilities and healing initiatives, and encouraging the federal government to develop circle sentencing guidelines. Be very careful. And I'll leave it at that. Check it out and touch bases with First Nations and find other ways so it's not just a justice initiative or this departmental initiative or this government's jurisdiction. It is all. And if you have the chance and opportunity to do it, well, do it.
And on the Yukon protected areas strategy, well, I still go back to what the Member for Riverdale North said about the protected areas strategy - the best doggone protected areas strategy. I think that's what I got out of him anyway. He didn't say it in that way, I'm sure. But the member had said it in that light, so I'm very pleased to see that they would be continuing with that initiative, because I think that what we really have here - and what the government has - is an opportunity, and I said it yesterday a little bit to show the Yukon that it truly can be. Is there a need for resource extraction and gold and forestry? You bet there's a need for that. But there's a need for it to be planned, because the people that I've talked to in my excursions around the world just love to hear of our homeland - and it's all of our homeland here. And they just love to hear of our homeland. But if we continue in this non-planning way and, you know, the buck comes first - well, you know, the buck always does come first, I guess, in some manners but not in all manners. Let's do it in a very thoughtful way. Let's not be clear-cutting.
You folks, as a government, are going to be travelling in airplanes an awful lot, doing your jobs, and I encourage you to maintain your relationships with your families, for sure, but, at the same time that you're flying in those airplanes, and in your four years - on the flight from Vancouver to Whitehorse - you're going to see visible scars on the land. And it's going to continue. And it's coming this way. It's coming this way. And I don't want a British Columbia. I want a Yukon Territory. I want logging; I want mining; I want tourism; I want cultural industries. I want all these wonderful things to happen, I want it to flourish, but I don't want one over the other, and I think that we, as a group of Yukoners, have the absolute opportunity to be able to put that into place.
It's a very special place. It's not a place where you just come to pillage and leave. There isn't that type of initiative here any more. People are staying and desirous of living here, so we must protect our environment and we must protect our renewable resources.
So, is it about the future? Yes, it's definitely about the future. That's why this caucus of the new government put into place those long-range visions.
I'm upset that the government could mislead by saying a lot of different things - restoring highway construction, restoring O&M to the highway maintenance and capital and heritage. It's not there, and I'm going to be calling you on that. I'm going to be calling you on that in the fall, because we'll just wait and see what your staff comes through with.
I think what the government could do is go away and create your vision, because this is not a vision. This is a mirror of what's happening. And I'd like to see a vision, because, as my leader said earlier, you think your phone is ringing? Mine rings, too. People say, "Oh, God, what do we do?" It's happening. And that's across my heart. So, it could be a short honeymoon. Develop your vision and let people know what you're all about. Don't be lazy about it - that's for doggone sure. You can't be that way.
You want ideas? Talking about gas prices and whatnot? Well, we have a lot of people in this room, I guess, and other people throughout the Yukon Territory, certainly, who don't work 12 months a year, 11 months a year, or 10 months. They work as much as they possibly can, but it's seasonal work. A lot of that is based on trapping or fishing or, as I like to say, just working for the belly - just working for the belly. You go and set a fish net, you go and shoot a moose, you plant a garden - those types of initiatives. Why don't you look at ways of passing on breaks on gas for those types of people?
All Yukoners are rural - all of us. Even the Member for Riverdale South loves to get out on Marsh Lake and rip around the lake on her Bombardier. I know she has a great, good time on that Bombardier out there. But that would be passing on a break to people, people who deserve that type of break, need that break, enjoy those breaks. So, use your initiatives; put a vision together; talk about it.
Be very careful, again, with devolution. Be thoughtful and make sure that our forestry initiatives do come, but make sure that our planning initiatives come at the same time, or first, so that we don't get into just strictly clear cuts and just logging for the sake of a dollar, because it takes trees. The mountain behind Teslin, Chuk N Sha, means grass mountain. It has been named that since time immemorial. You drive by there and you can still see why it is grass mountain - Chuk N Sha, it's called, because you can't grow trees on it. And other areas around there have to be uniquely recognized. You have to get into the basic traditions of harvest by the First Nation people and incorporate that into the devolution process so that, yes, devolution can happen; we can provide certainty to the loggers, but not to the detriment of the people of the Yukon Territory either. So I'd encourage you to find some new initiatives, to use your imagination, and I'll even put the offer out to call me any time - 2M3126, you'll catch me on my boat. But if you want advice or you want to talk, I'm a person who likes to help out as much as I possibly can, and I'm sure that's what it is. But you have a chance now to define the new Yukon. I encourage you to do that.
I would like to talk about my riding a bit in this budget.
I placed a phone call and talked to folks - and yes, these are folks - in Carcross. They were pleased about the chipsealing that was taking place there. I much appreciated that, because so often in communities throughout the Yukon Territory, it is said that the best way to find an Indian reserve was to go to the end of the pavement and that's where the Indian reserve was. Well, we work with the people and continue to work with the people - the folks - in the communities. I'm certainly glad that the Minister of C&TS is thoughtful enough to continue to go through with those initiatives.
In Ross River, there are rural roads initiatives. I am going to be asking and writing letters about rural roads - I will put the minister on notice of this - in that Ross River, a special place, needs that ability, through the round-table initiative, to capitalize on work initiatives. The rural roads initiatives were there for them last year, to the tune of $200,000. Their expectation this year again is approximately the same.
When you look at what is accomplished with it, it is not just road building. It is for social conditions and social improvement. I would appreciate it if we could continue with those initiatives.
Tagish is such a wonderful place. It truly is, and the people aren't demanding at all. They are just more-or-less commonsense people. I wrote a letter to the Minister of C&TS regarding some gravel initiatives. I will communicate further on on those initiatives, because everything is not just as rosy as we think. In Tagish, people just like that little bit of certainty. They are a very independent type of people. A lot of folks that live in that area are retired folks. They like to keep busy. They don't like to go out and buy something when they could do it themselves. It is that concept of keeping healthy, working to fill your belly and living to 100 years old because you are active. That can continue.
They want some certainty in Tagish on street clearing, those type of things, and I said as the MLA and as the minister at the time that, certainly, I would look at those initiatives. I pledged to them that I am very open as a minister and, if I was ever so lucky as to be elected again and to be appointed as a minister, that I would continue to be the same way. I found that to be very successful for me, just that open line. And I was always the one who gave out my private line number out there, to anybody, and, you know, it was only rung at certain times and there was never any anger in those voices. They were so happy to be able to talk to me. "Dave, is that actually you?" "Yes. How are you doing? What can I do you with?"
I'd like to see you guys do that. You say you're going to do that. I just notice everybody stays in their seats and is mesmerized by all of us. But those are just little things that I'd like to see done, and that's what the people of Tagish like to do, too. They like that kind of contact, and I've found that people never abuse it. Never abused it.
And in Teslin, they want a safe community. They want a walkway over the bridge. The bridge has ruts and whatnot in it, so I don't know how you can walk a horse or an animal or even a bicycle on it. You have to pack bicycles over that type of thing. That's all they're looking for. Again, they're looking not to be told what to do as a community, I think, because they've gone through a land claim initiative and a self-government initiative. The village is led by Mayor Jim Clark, who is doing a good job of working with the Tlingit Council on a lot of shared areas. All you can do is try to help facilitate those types of initiatives, because there isn't really a blueprint. There is not a blueprint for those initiatives. Those initiatives are going to come up very strongly in that area, of all of the Southern Lakes, because you have one of the largest bedroom communities in Marsh Lake. There you have a First Nation that is very vocal about protecting the resources. Yet, as I've talked to some, people are very committed to working together to do those type of things. I've talked to others and they're very non-committed to doing those types of things.
But I think there are ways. There is a will there. That's what I'm trying to say. So, massage the will. Don't dictate the will.
In Carcross again, as I have said - the Municipal Act is pretty well a wide open thing, you know. It's enabling legislation, as the Member for Klondike said at the time we were debating it. It's a wonderful thing. I think that if there is anywhere in the world, we have a chance - and I say the world, because so many times land claims is done for certainty on one side and not on the other side. But it separates people. If you take the land claims initiatives and the wherewithal of what the First Nations people want, of which I am one, and the non-First Nations people and what they want, of which I am one, it is good, healthy living in communities. That's going to hit out there. That's hitting right now, and the Municipal Act allows that, and Carcross wants some type of hybrid of that. But they want to talk about it. I would very much encourage it, and would like to be a part of that process, if at all possible. Not to be the watchdog or keeper of the process, but just a person who has some input into it because, again, I think there is great opportunity to define a new Yukon.
So, I guess, in conclusion, I would appreciate seeing a budget. I appreciate that there is a supplementary here and three initiatives were brought forth that were the government's priorities. I would very much want to be keeping people accountable for what they have said on this side, which has to be reflected on that side and implemented. I guess that's what we're here for. But I will attempt to work for the benefit of the Yukon Territory. But, by gosh, I'm going to be watching. Thank you.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this budget. It's a very familiar budget;, it's one that I addressed back on February 24, and I wish to review what I said on that day and add a few other comments as well.
ItThis budget - it was good to see this budgetit introduced because there are a lot of very good things in it. It's well- grounded in public support, and it's something that Yukoners wanted. It's not a product of the backrooms, a product of perhaps what the person at the top of the government might have heard from his or her friends. It was something that came out of community meetings, meetings with First Nations, and others as part of the pre-budget consultation process.
And each opportunity to speak in reply to the budget -; I'd like to touch on that process because I certainly am what you would call an avid supporter of the former government leader's budget consultation process in which he toured every Yukon community each fall.
There are a number of reasons for supporting this process. Number one: it provides Yukoners with certainty as to scheduling and opportunity to plug in their budget priorities to the government in what they would like to see in the next year's budget. The government leader scheduled this every fall, usually the end of September and the first half of October.
In the Kluane riding, he would start at Haines Junction and have a meeting with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, the Village of Haines Junction mayor and council, followed by a public meeting. The next day, we would go up the road and have a public meeting in Beaver Creek, another one with the White River First Nation and, on the way back, stop at Burwash Landing and have a meeting with the Kluane First Nation. Then to Destruction Bay for a public meeting, namely with representatives from the Kluane Lake Athletic Association and others. In total, this gave a very good picture of what the budget priorities were in the Kluane riding.
I know this, because I attended each and every one of these meetings over three years. It is an excellent way for the government and the MLAs in each riding to plug into priorities in the riding. I would urge not only this government to follow a similar process in its mandate, but I would encourage each and every MLA to travel with the Premier to each community and attend every one of the meetings.
One example I gave back on February 24 was the difference between that process and the process of the previous government. An example was the subdivision in Beaver Creek that was built, and it is still empty. I still believe the lights come on every night and nobody lives there.
It's kind of like the lights are on but nobody's home, Mr. Speaker, and, to avoid mistakes like that, the government has to plug in to the communities, to find out what their priorities are. We can't always rely on somebody else to do that for us. It's up to the political representatives to be responsible for the needs and priorities of the communities. If the political level is simply dealing with outdated information - something that once was - well, the voters will hold the government responsible on election day. We can't put someone in the department responsible for spending the money, Mr. Speaker. The government of the day, and especially the Cabinet of that government, are responsible. They are sworn into office. They swear an oath of office, something to the effect that they will, through their actions, do their best to uphold the interests of Yukoners and spend Yukoners' money in the best way possible. So, I encourage them to continue this pre-budget consultation process. It's extra work. It means more time spent with constituents, groups and other governments in the ridings, but it's time well-spent.
I would also like to extend an invitation to the Premier that if she does decide to continue these pre-budget consultations, I would certainly be willing to be invited to attend the meetings in my riding. Perhaps other MLAs feel the same way.
This type of process, Mr. Speaker, is certainly an improvement on the willy-nilly type of spending decision making that governments in the years past made a practice of, and it avoids the public perception that government spends money on its so-called backroom friends. It's open and accountable; it's transparent, and it's a process clearly which the public can support and builds trust in government.
So, I would look forward to a mention of this in the beefed-up version of the throne speech that we're expecting in the fall, where the government will set out its priorities.
I would like to personally hear about how the government intends to establish those priorities, because I think the process is very important. Like I said, Mr. Speaker, I address this in each and every budget reply. It's more than just what they spend money on; it's how they spend the money. And if these decisions can relate back to communities' needs and priorities, then it's something that is easier to defend in this Legislature and it's something that we, in opposition, can also better understand and better support.
Some of the projects in the Kluane riding that are included in the budget that I would like to briefly review include a number of expenditures in Haines Junction, starting with $400,000 allocated for the Main Street upgrade and intersection improvements. As I understand it, there has been a couple of hundred thousand dollars of extra money identified from the Shakwak reconstruction project that can also be added to this $400,000, to bring the total to $600,000.
As I indicated on February 24, it's up to the community to decide what it wants to do with the intersection improvements - whether to reconstruct the corner, remove the stop sign or have other devices installed, such as rumble strips, cement islands, overhead signs, or whatever. I understand that some meetings about that have taken place. I'm sure that the department is working toward identifying what project is in the community's interest right now.
The main street upgrade, as I understand it, would be a reconstruction of the Alaska Highway between the intersection and toward this side of town to the gas station, and include ditching, and curb and gutter - as I believe it's referred to - and some widening of the highway, including streetlighting.
I am aware of some people in Haines Junction, Mr. Speaker, who identified this as a concern for them. They'd like to bring Haines Junction into the third millennium and spruce up its appearance as you're driving through town, in the hope of attracting more people to spend time there, and certainly there are lots of attractions to behold in the Haines Junction area.
The visitor reception centre in the community was allocated $25,000 in this budget. I indicated that on February 24. I'm not sure if it's a line item, but I would specifically request the Minister of Tourism to take note of that and ensure that there is no ambiguity between the political level and the department on that expenditure.
The purpose of that study, Mr. Speaker, is to better identify how that facility can serve the interests of Haines Junction and the Kluane area in regard to tourism promotion in the years ahead. Parks Canada is putting money into the study as well, and I believe this is a responsible expenditure of territorial taxpayers' money to partner with them in this study for the betterment of the community.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Speaker: Order please. I will now call the House to order.
We will continue with the second reading of Bill No. 2.
Mr. McRobb: Since I can't remember where I left off, I'll just start at the beginning again. I know you all want to hear about my riding and how great it is and all about the budget consultation process and how great that is, too. So, if there is time left over, I'll tell you about my fishing trip this last weekend. Who knows?
But, Mr. Speaker, I think where we did leave off was talking about Haines Junction and some of the budget commitments. In getting down to some detail, I mentioned the highway upgrade in town and the $25,000 for the VRC study, which I note the Tourism minister did acknowledge.
Next, I would like to move on to the pilot project for recycling. As I stated on February 24, there is $200,000 allocated to Haines Junction for a pilot project. As everybody knows, there are a number of very motivated people involved in recycling in the Haines Junction area.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, the recycling centre there is a big success. This pilot project, I'm sure, will be successful as well. There was some confusion on this matter that was clarified during the election campaign. If the members ever need any assistance from me in clarifying that I'd be only too happy to oblige.
The next thing on the list for Haines Junction was a $150,000 allocated to reconfigure the space in the James Smith Administration Building. The majority of this was the move of the liquor store to the basement to resolve some space conflicts. As the Minister of Education knows, the library board would like to be assured there is money to pay for the move of the library into that building as well. Maybe at some point he can meet with me to discuss that matter.
For the residential lot development project in Willow Acres in Haines Junction - $250,000. That's a significant amount to develop more public lots in that community, which is totally recoverable, I believe.
Not specifically mentioned in the budget, but certainly part of our programs, is that, as the government knows, there are a number of programs in the budget that benefit communities. I know that they are going to be extra sensitive regarding rural Yukon. Certainly I would support the maintenance of these programs. They are sort of a rural suite of community programs, if you will, including the community development fund, training trust funds, rural road upgrade programs and, to an extent, the tourism marketing fund.
I am aware of a couple of applications in the works for the community development fund. One is for icefield recovery work from the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations. Certainly this is an urgent matter. I was just talking to someone earlier today who was out snowmobiling along our glaciers and high snow packs. He clearly indicated that he is quite astonished by the level of melt. Considering the publicity generated by the long-ago person found in the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park last year, such a discovery certainly is important to the Yukon, and it is important to our First Nations and their culture to recover such artifacts and people.
The urgency of this work is quite apparent. If these investigations aren't undertaken very quickly, any recoveries will be hampered through erosion or predation or whatever. These important discoveries could be lost.
The railroad upgrade program is also very important to rural Yukon, and I'm aware of an application by the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation to reconstruct the Aishihik Road. Last year, they were provided with $100,000 in funds to reconstruct that road, and I can certainly attest to the level of work done for that money. I'd like to make the members aware that under this agreement, the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation's road-construction arm, Champagne-Aishihik Enterprises, did not take a profit out of that money. It was all just a straight-cost project.
Furthermore, the members of the construction crew slept at the roadside and kept their costs to a minimum, thereby allowing the maximum amount of construction possible for the dollar on that road, and I know they're quite anxious to get a clear signal as quickly as possible from this government as to their application on that road this summer.
There are other applications as well under the rural road upgrade program. I know that White River would like to deal with the Snag Road and also discuss with the government the completion of the last project.
The training trust fund program, I believe, had $1.5 million in this year's budget and, out of that budget last year was $200,000, I believe, for the Dakwakada forest products mill to provide training for local workers as heavy equipment operators and sawyers and so on. I spoke to Mr. Paul Birckel yesterday, the president of Dakwakada Development Corporation, and he indicated to me that he had currently a couple of dozen workers at both the sawmill and the planer mill, and next month, once they regain access to fibre, that number will jump to well over 50.
And, Mr. Speaker, from my experiences with the mill and the community, I can certainly indicate to this government that that mill and the jobs it provides are very important to the economy in that region and to the families and workers it employs.
The objective of the training trust fund, like any other training trust fund, is to reduce and ultimately eliminate the need to bring in outside workers. The workers are being trained, and the ultimate objective, of course, is to run entirely with locally trained workers. It was also indicated to me that the mill is quite prepared to take on another training trust fund in the very near future because it is much needed, and there are a number of workers who could be employed and trained at both the planer mill and the sawmill.
The White River First Nation also indicated to me a desire to renew the training trust fund for its members, so the Minister of Education, who, I believe, is responsible for training trust funds, might want to take note of that.
Going up the highway to Burwash Landing, the sewage lagoon project will see $100,000 this year for engineering. This is the first of a three-year project, I believe. This resolves a long-standing environmental issue in that area and removes the old lagoon from Destruction Bay. I believe the new site is located midway between that community and Burwash Landing. Of course, Mr. Speaker, people of both communities are looking forward to that project getting underway.
The visitor reception centre in Beaver Creek, which is nearing completion, I believe, is close to $400,000 in project cost. It is a very attractive building. In this budget is $80,000 to equip it. I believe that includes audio-visual equipment and so on. This VRC is very important to the Yukon. It's on the doorstep to Alaska. It's the most northwesterly entrance to the territory, and in that facility there will be brochures promoting businesses and attractions to tourists all over the territory. To a number of our visitors, this is their first contact in the territory. This may be people who have come up on the marine highway to Anchorage or any of the other Alaska destinations and are driving back. It is very important to provide them with information at that point and try to appeal to their interests to stop and spend more time in our territory and, of course, promote small business in our territory.
The $25 million on the Shakwak highway reconstruction project, both this year and next, of course, is the most ever. A couple of months ago, I believe, the largest contract ever was awarded, in the neighbourhood of $13 million. This will cover a very large section of that highway, which will ultimately lead to a modern super highway, if you will, between Haines, Alaska and the Alaska border at Beaver Creek. This project was the result of intensive lobbying, on our part, of the Alaska government and the U.S. government in Washington. On that note, I'd like to express my gratitude to the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services and the former Government Leader, who worked very hard in renegotiating this deal and convincing the Americans that this project deserved the priority it received.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, a couple of years ago, when we visited the Alaskans in Juneau, we received a briefing from the Department of Transportation. The Shakwak project was only one of four or five projects that deserved a lot of their attention. Certainly, it was not clear that the Shakwak project was going to receive the funding - the priority. Alaska's priority was to work on its internal highway system. Another priority under consideration was the road from Juneau to the mainland. To convince the Americans to continue the funding on the Shakwak project - a very expensive project - was not an easy undertaking. So, once again, thank you to the people who put that in place.
On training and that project - I know it was probably two years ago now - we had what we called the heavy equipment operator's training program. I believe that trained at least a dozen local workers to become heavy equipment operators. Most of them, I believe, returned the following year. It was quite a successful program. If the government is looking for ways to spend money, we are more than happy to provide them with some suggestions as to how to do that. Certainly, this is another one that deserves their consideration.
In the five-year plan, Mr. Speaker, there was a commitment to upgrade the Alaska Highway between Haines Junction and the Mendenhall River, at about $1 million annually. This is a fairly major program that is quite costly. We felt that it was prudent to allocate a number like $1 million a year in order to increase the chances of local contractors being the successful bidders, and as a way to continually upgrade that highway in such a manner as to not displace school construction or other projects. So, we felt that $1 million a year was quite a reasonable figure that is quite affordable. I certainly hope this government continues with that commitment.
Some of the other projects in the riding in the last few years include the fire smart program. There were several fire smart projects approved. I suppose the fire smart would be part of the community suite of programs, too, as part of the community development fund. There are several communities in the Kluane riding. It could well be that there are more communities in that riding than any other. I know there are about a dozen, if you count them all up.
They are all situated in the middle of a boreal forest that's very dry. There has been a severe drought out there in the past decade, and many people are very concerned about the possibility of fire. This program is certainly not a complete solution, but it certainly does help. It's intended not to displace federal funding but, rather, to complement it in conjunction with DIAND. The intent of the program is to reduce fuel loading within the communities.
There are several other communities in the riding, such as Ibex Valley. There is a multitude of issues out there that are important to people. I think continuing programs like the community development fund is a good first step because many of their priorities could probably fit within that program. Takhini River subdivision certainly could use a lot of amenities that other communities have, but top on its priority list are telephones. I've written to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services asking her for a schedule on when that would be connected. I don't think I've received a response yet, but my understanding is that it will happen sometime next year. I can certainly vouch for the people being very interested in receiving telephones in the Takhini River subdivision.
A little further to the west is Mendenhall subdivision, and they are in the same boat as Takhini River subdivision when it comes to telephones. They are scheduled for connection next year as well. They just received power through the rural electrical program, which is amortized and recollected on their taxes.
It's quite an active community there. The Mendenhall Community Association is always looking for ways to improve its community and recently was successful in getting a recycling centre and a community pumphouse. So I would urge the government to give due consideration to projects in these communities. They are very important to the people there and certainly go a long way to enhancing quality of life for those people.
A little ways up the road is Canyon Creek. Canyon Creek does have telephones, as does Champagne, which is actually before Canyon Creek. The Champagne-Aishihik First Nation basically owns everything in those two communities. There is a new community hall in Champagne financed through the community development fund - well, at least the kitchen was - and, certainly, Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of use of that building. Canyon Creek doesn't seem to be a community that is really asking for anything specific. A lot of its residents work in Haines Junction, or possibly even Whitehorse, and their input is provided to those communities.
The community of Haines Junction has recently started discussions on tourism marketing and marketing the convention centre. I attended a meeting three or four weeks back about that and suggested to them that they approach the Tourism minister with a proposal to maybe help the facility get up and going with its marketing plan.
I don't know if any discussions have occurred with the minister, but I would certainly urge her to consider something for that facility.
Haines Junction is unique in that regard. It's the only community in the Yukon with a convention centre, and certainly of the magnitude of the St. Elias convention centre. It also serves the whole region of Kluane. A number of outlying tourism-based businesses rely on Haines Junction as its service centre. And certainly, if the building could be marketed to bring in conventions or functions to the community of Haines Junction, that would benefit not only that community but the whole region.
So, I would urge the minister to give that due consideration. I know she is familiar with the building. I have seen her there on a number of occasions and in case you haven't been out there, Mr. Speaker, I would invite you to come out as well. It's quite a modern facility and the community is quite proud of it, and there are a number of functions there that certainly would not be possible without that building.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke about our budget and how it was grounded in public support and the process of the pre-budget consultation process. I went home during the supper break and got a letter, the one from the Village of Haines Junction that responded to our call for budget priorities, and I'd be glad to pass a copy of this on to the Premier. It was out of this October 22 letter that a number of the budget items were developed.
The first priority of the Village of Haines Junction was the landfill site. As the members know, Haines Junction, by policy, has banned all fires at the dumpsite, which is situated just on the north side of town. The Village of Haines Junction is committed to a clean environment, and it acknowledges that increased costs are part of that commitment.
Public awareness of the importance of recycling has resulted in a recycling centre being built adjacent to the landfill. The volumes going through the centre continue to increase on a regular basis. To further reduce the volume of materials going into the landfill, the village has investigated the possible use of a shredder and compactor. Apart from the obvious advantages, this might also allow the village to provide or sell compost material. Unfortunately, the cost to implement such a program would be approximately $150,0000 plus $50,000 for site preparation, and the village was not in a position to do it alone in this situation.
The site services and area, in addition to Haines Junction, includes the Mackintosh subdivision, which is to the west of Haines Junction, the Champagne-Aishihik village, which is adjacent to the community, the Haines Road, to the south, Canyon Creek, to the east, and other residents in the periphery. Council feels that government assistance would allow this to be a pilot project that would serve as a model for other Yukon communities.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we acknowledged the legitimacy of this request, and that's why we put the $200,000 in the budget for Haines Junction.
The second priority would be to see improvements to the highway and lighting throughout the village. As the village stated, this could be accomplished in phases and the council would be willing to work with the Yukon government on this project. The initial phase could be from the FasGas station to the main intersection to address existing safety concerns at the intersection.
Breakaway light standards and better lighting would improve safety, and underground cables would enhance mountain views.
The other highways through the community would be done in subsequent stages. That is the $400,000 that I referred to earlier, and I also indicated that I understand that there is another $200,000 from the Shakwak project.
The third item was a request for a feasibility study of a pool. Unfortunately, we were unable to fit that in the budget. Finally, the council welcomed the increase in the block funding to the municipal block grant in the 1999-00 budget, and urged us to continue this positive action, ensuring that total funds increase on an annual basis to cover both inflation and the additional downloading costs being incurred by municipalities.
So, out of those four suggestions, Mr. Speaker, the three most expensive ones were accepted and incorporated into this budget. That's not to say that there aren't other priorities for the village. These were their top priorities at the time. I am aware of some other ones. I know the village would like to have landscaping for the convention centre. I know residents on the Pine Lake road would like to see a bit more going into the resurfacing of that road, and that is an important subdivision in the vicinity of Haines Junction.
So, Mr. Speaker, in summary, I think I have covered most - hopefully all - of the budget items I was aware of. There are still a few smaller ones like bridge painting on the Blanchard River bridge and so on for $100,000. But, I will leave that for another day and just say that I am happy to be able to indicate all of these to the new government, and hopefully they won't fall between the cracks and they will all get done and in the next budget speech opportunity, I will be able to thank them for following through on all of these commitments.
Mr. Fairclough: It is a pleasure for me to speak to this budget, as it is a NDP budget with a lot of benefits for Yukoners. I will be brief in my response, depending on whether or not I'm having fun. I will be going over some of the remarks that I made earlier this spring in reply to the budget speech, which is basically the same budget that we have here today.
I am disappointed in the Liberal MLAs in government for not responding to the budget. I think there are a lot of good things in the budget that they should express to the people of the Yukon. Instead, basically, they have chosen not to respond, and I think that they might be embarrassed or a bit ashamed of it. I would be, too, if my government leader brought a budget speech that was only two pages long as a response to the budget.
They also voted against this budget, but now they have brought it forward and support it fully, and I would just like to draw their attention to the budget speech, if they would like to follow along in this nice coloured copy.
Turn to page 2, the final page, and it says, "I would further say that while the accumulated surplus is presently in a healthy state, there are challenges ahead, as was illustrated by the long-term projections ..." Well, thanks to the NDP government for leaving a good chunk of money for the Liberals to be able to move a little bit and perhaps fund some of their campaign commitments - a good healthy budget in there, a surplus budget.
If we go further down the page, it says that they would be spending the next number of months reviewing departmental budgets and programs. Now, Mr. Speaker, I would think that that's their job anyway, and that's what they should be doing if they don't want to be caught at not knowing what their departments are all about, come the fall sitting.
And then the final paragraph on that page says, "Mr. Speaker, in spite of the challenges that this budget presents I am committed to creating an environment where Yukoners can move forward with some certainty." Well, Mr. Speaker, as the Premier walks backwards trying to figure out a way to move forward with some certainty, I would suggest that maybe she could start with her own caucus and bring some certainty among her own caucus colleagues.
And she would say that she may not go through with tax cuts. I mean, is that certainty for Yukoners out there? On one hand, the Premier is saying one thing, and her ministers and colleagues are saying another. And we're picking up on that and showing the public the inconsistencies among them. Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Liberals recognize that this is, in fact, a very good budget. It is a budget that reflects the needs and concerns expressed by Yukoners throughout the Yukon, and particularly people in my riding.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader at the time, Piers McDonald, had gone to all communities. He met with First Nations, municipalities and the public at large, and he brought forward their concerns. Most of what they had concerns about are reflected in this budget, and I believe that the Liberals cannot ignore such a powerful document like this. Therefore, it comes out tabled in its entirety, even with the previous ministers' names.
Another thing I was a bit disappointed with is that, as soon as the Liberals got in, there was a name change from Government Leader to Premier. The Yukon was always looked at as a bit special. When we had national meetings and all the premiers were introduced - the premiers of Saskatchewan, British Columbia and so on - and when it came to the end - and Yukon is closer to the end - it was the Government Leader, the leader of the Yukon government. It always brought attention to the Yukon. I think that the federal government was successful, again, in assimilating the Yukon. We're no different than the rest of the provinces; we do have a premier. We're stuck with that for four years.
There is nothing special about it; they've got their thumbs over us.
Well, Mr. Speaker, here's one program that the Liberals wanted to scrap and do away with - and they said they would when they were campaigning all across the Yukon and Whitehorse and in my riding of Mayo-Tatchun - and that was the CDF program. I believe, partway through the campaign, they started to pull back because they saw that this was of benefit to the Yukon, not just the communities outside of Whitehorse, but to the community of Whitehorse also. Many projects in Whitehorse have gone ahead, and the only way they would have gone ahead was through the CDF program that was introduced by this government and scrapped by the Yukon Party.
The community of Carmacks has benefited tremendously from the CDF program, from small projects to bigger ones. The one that I have mentioned before was a very simple one. Most of these CDF projects are priorities of the communities, and most of them are funded by the sponsoring department or the organization that brings it forward, so it is not 100-percent sponsored by the CDF program. I think it is important to know whether or not the Liberal government reviewing the programs in the department from now to next fall will see the importance of this particular one, and, hopefully, they will keep it going and not cut back the dollars that were put forward to it in this budget or in years to come.
The one that was quite small was a $2,500 project in the community for Internet access to the library in Carmacks. That's why I couldn't understand why the Liberal government MLAs won't speak to this budget, because you could be telling Yukoners a lot of good things that are in there. You don't need to hide it. Is it because you are going to change it or, in some way, eliminate it in the future? I think these small things go a long way in the communities.
We have had a cooking course put on through the community campus in Carmacks, which was partly funded through CDF. It brought students from Carcross, who went through this program. They really liked it. Since then, other communities have wanted to do the same thing, because it was important to a community like that.
Another program that was extended from part of the CDF project is the fire smart program. I know that the previous opposition leader expressed a lot of interest in having fire protection around communities. Communities outside of Whitehorse have benefited from the fire smart program. They have had a scare several times. There have been some fairly big fires since 1995, such as the Minto fire, which I would say has brought on a lot of concern from a couple of communities. It is not often that we have communities evacuated. When the fire moved from Minto Landing north toward Pelly Crossing - it was very hot that summer, as most could recall, and it was described as a huge fireball moving toward Pelly Crossing.
By midday, the smoke was so thick that it blacked out the whole community. It looked like it was pitch black at night. The streetlights came on, and people had already left the community - some north toward Mayo, and others had made it through on the highway to Carmacks. It was evacuated. That community has experienced, several times, close calls to being destroyed. If you drive through there, it is evident, with burnt timber that you can see that is from 50 years ago and even earlier.
With these important types of programs, when the Liberals were in opposition, they didn't even see them as important to vote for. They clearly voted against them. I think the community people were taken a bit by surprise that these good programs were not liked very much by the Liberal Party.
With regard to the community development fund, the community of Carmacks put together a ball diamond, but they didn't finish it off. They just wanted to put some bleachers up. Well, who would pay for such a project? Would it be the municipality, taking the money out of the recreation funding? Would it be the First Nation? Or would they find some pot of money from the federal government to do this? I could tell the members opposite that communities have worked hard and they know how to find funding. They are better at it than we are. They find every way to get monies out there, but a lot of these projects fall to the side. They do not get funded, and they never happen. A project is identified as a priority of the community. The one program that has come to their rescue is the community development fund.
There were also monies that went to the First Nation for the renovation of a building that was not used, to gut it and turn it into office buildings for the social services side. Because the First Nation, similar to the Yukon government, had one office over here and another social department over here in another building, they wanted to put it together and they found monies in their First Nation and applied to the CDF program for some monies to see if we could help out with that. And they were funded about $200,000 toward this program. It was a $600,000 project. And they wanted to do more than just that. They were looking at central heating, and I hope the Liberal government will take their application into consideration. There's probably one out there. They wanted to tap into this boiler system in the First Nation administration building and pipe it down maybe quarter-of-a-mile to this building and heat three buildings off of one boiler system. It was a wood-chip boiler, and I think that, for energy efficiency, it would be an excellent project and one that wouldn't cost a lot of money.
I would like to see this government continue to fund projects like that.
Now, most of you know that the Northern Tutchone have been using Tatlmain Lake as a treatment centre. They've been sending people outside to get trained as qualified counsellors so that they can actually counsel people who have problems with alcoholism or sexual abuse - that type of thing - and the only way they get out there is by snowmobile or four-wheelers, or they could fly in a float plane and land on the lake.
And when it comes, when the snow is melting, it gets pretty tough to go through those sections of the trail with snowmobiles. They applied to the community development fund for $20,000 - it wasn't a whole lot - to fix up a bit of the trail. It probably needs a whole lot more work than what they put into it, but it made life a lot easier for them. These are small things that I think are quite important. We need to support that type of program.
If you are driving down the highway and you're driving by Pelly Crossing, you can see that they're putting up a building between the old store and the old gas station that's there. There's a big log building - beautiful logs that came up from Liard. What's going to go into that building is a store. They're going to have a post office, bank and a bakery in there and, in behind it, some motel units, which, of course, Pelly Crossing doesn't have. I think that the Liberal government needs to pay some attention to communities like Pelly Crossing, which isn't a municipality. A First Nation runs that community on their own. They have their First Nation final agreement. They have their self-government agreements in place. They have got their lands offices set up. They have been working at trying to manage their lands a bit better, and if you are ever up that way, take a little trip downstairs and walk through their offices, because I think you would be impressed about how far First Nations have gone. You will see that, yes, they are up to date with computers. They have maps that you would never see anywhere and that they can produce right in their own offices. It is the same as in Mayo and Carmacks. They negotiated with their own maps. They're unique maps. One good thing about maps and something that makes it easy to read is the legend on it.
First Nations are developing maps that are comparable, if not better, than the government's maps, but they have symbols on it that are unique. For example, for hunting areas, they have little bows and arrows that are on there. You don't see those on government maps. For camp sites, there are little teepees and so on. It makes them unique and easy to read. I think they have gone a long way with their GIS system, even though they are not compatible to governments yet.
But I'm sure that they will be soon finding a program that can speak back and forth to make it easy for both of us. This building that is going up had some dollars from the community development fund program - $175,000 toward training, log building and so on - but, again, it didn't cost $175,000 to put up. Of course, a building that size would be quite a bit more. The First Nation went out and used dollars that they could gather from the federal government and their own monies, and I'm not sure if it's this one or the Carmacks one, but one of them has dollars that are going into this project from revenues that were generated from the Kotaneelee revenues in southeast Yukon.
So, First Nations are putting those dollars to use, and I think there are a lot of good ideas out there. You're starting to see in the communities right now that they are building up. They are getting a bit more healthy, and they're looking at things like alcohol and drug programs a little more closely. They are looking at community healing and taking more responsibility into their own hands. I think in years down the road this is going to show quite a bit more clearly than it is today. And there is a lot that we can learn from them as a government, and we should be working closely with them.
In my riding, of course, I have Mayo, Pelly, Carmacks, Keno, and Elsa, which only has two people living there, but there's always potential for growth. I have the other two highway camps. But I have three First Nations that I work with, and I go to their general assemblies and meet with them. That's more First Nations than the whole government side has under their belt. They're looking at two. But we're working with a whole lot. So I hope the government really takes into consideration some of the things we say and the concerns we bring up, which First Nations want us to bring up and ask us to bring up.
For a small place like Pelly Crossing, there are some pretty good facilities there. You go through there and you look at their ball diamond. It's kept clean. There's nice paint on it. The grass is nicely kept up. There's not a lot of vandalism or damage to them. They built a curling rink and didn't just stop there. The interest of the community and the priority at one time was to put artificial ice in Pelly Crossing. Now they have the annual Northern Tutchone bonspiels in Pelly, where there is no alcohol at all, and it's fun. Those types of things are fun. The community people really like it and they use it.
Mr. Speaker, one of the bigger projects that took place in Pelly Crossing, of course, was the skating rink and the arena that were built this past year. They have always had an outdoor rink. There was nowhere else to go. You can't play hockey on the river. It was 40- or 50-below. It's not like Whitehorse, where you can go to an arena, and it's nice and comfortable going to your dressing room. There was an outside rink for many years. When Carmacks had a roof put over their rink, there was a lot more interest in Pelly about maybe coming up with something similar to that.
I think that now that they have the facility, one of the things they wanted to do with it was put together a coaching program, so that they do not just have the facility and not use it. They want to put together programs that they can use in the school, such as for figure skating or something else, and use that facility more and more. Well, they worked throughout this winter and over Christmas to put up that beautiful building. They got it in there. They negotiated with the contractor and got a good deal. The arena is closed in and has a roof on it, but part of the deal was that they made it bigger, so what they have now are dressing rooms and bleachers that overlook the skating rink. There is a hall in the back now. The second phase of this now, of course, is to tap in and tie into the skating rink, which is right adjacent to it, so that they have even more space, so that they can perhaps put in a fitness room.
They planned ahead and made it an official-sized rink. They didn't make the mistakes that Carmacks did. They put in $50,000 worth of piping, so that it is ready for artificial ice. All they need to do is tap into a plant that can handle that, then they can put the ice in earlier in the year and keep it in longer.
Pelly Crossing is one community where - for those of you who have been in the Yukon for awhile - if you drove through it 10 years ago, there is a tremendous amount of difference in that community right now and what it has. I guess the people there are no different from people in Old Crow, in that they do run the community. They house the teachers, they build all of their own buildings, the contractors are right there at the First Nation for work, and there is a lot of work. People were kept very busy this past winter in Pelly Crossing with the programs that we ran in those communities.
I'll go on to Mayo and some of the things that have happened there. Again, some of them are not huge projects. There was one that had some money put into it. It wasn't a whole lot of money - just over $10,000 - and it was for a reprint of a tourism brochure. As many of you know, Mayo is an end-of-the-road type of community. Keno is really the end of the road. They went from being mining communities - mining started in the Mayo area before Dawson, and it was a mining community with Keno Hill. When that shut down, it was dead. There are not a lot of people left there. There are about 500 people there. But they want to tap into something new. They want tourists to come to their community. By doing little things, like printing tourism brochures, it helps a little bit at a time. Some monies went into improving change rooms at the swimming pool in Mayo. Some monies from CDF went into building a community playground. Some monies went into putting together a youth centre by renovating a house - this was all done in the last three years - and they never had one before that.
There are dollars that went into the foot trails and improvement of the foot trails and travel routes around Mayo. It's important to those communities that these are kept up and not overgrown. They are another community that benefited a lot from the fire smart program.
Just a year before that, there was a fire up on the hill from Mayo. You could see it. It was just on the other side. That was a bit of a threat. The people wanted a little more certainty and wanted some protection, possibly, from what a fireguard would do.
I think places like Pelly Crossing could also benefit. I don't know if they've put an application in again to the fire smart fund. They have, similar to Haines Junction, a problem with spruce beetles in their community. The Selkirk First Nation has spent something like $60,000 of their own money to cut down the trees dying from beetle kill. I think that the fire smart program could be used for that type of thing and they should not have to dip into the First Nations dollars for this. I think the Yukon government can play a role with Pelly Crossing.
Also one, I guess, that was quite important to the community of Mayo was some $20,000 that went into the reprint of Gold and Galena. This is something the community wanted to do for a long time; they wanted to continue with this. There are dollars that went into the Stewart River watershed wetland assessment. There are monies that went into the stewardship program. And also, dollars that went into the upgrade of the Binet House for exhibits and photo displays.
Anybody who is going up toward Mayo should go through this building and right on into Keno, which I think would surprise a lot of people who haven't been there before.
Over the past years, there was a lot of money that did go into Keno for buildings and to house artifacts, and this was one that the Liberals kind of laughed at, particularly the Premier. The Premier said we were throwing money at useless things like butterfly management, but I know the Minister of Renewable Resources is going to be dealing with things like this - priorities of the communities and the RRCs. Now, of course, the community of Keno is a special place. They have really unique butterflies and we have Asian people coming over, catching these things, and selling them for $200 per butterfly. What the RRC did was the right thing to do - catch it right now before you destroy this habitat, recognize it a little bit and make it another unique thing that we have in the Yukon.
Most recently, last weekend, I was up in Keno and on the building they put up the year before with the CDF monies to house some old artifacts was a mural that they unveiled. It was painted by a local artist, Lillian - I can't remember her last name. She painted this beautiful mural of Keno in the 1920s, and I think it's going to be there forever. People are going to see it and really see Keno in the 1920s compared to what it is right now. Some buildings, of course, are still there that were there in the 1920s, but they can see when the prospectors were there, prospecting on horseback.
A thing that was important to Keno was their water truck. They had to deliver water to homes and they wanted, for a long time, to put new tires on it. It was hard enough to do, but monies went for new tires for this truck and the tank. They got the tank sand-blasted out on the inside, repainted, and it's all rusty again, and they wanted it replaced. Those things got done this year.
Mr. Speaker, there were dollars that went into Tatlmain Lake, not only for the trail but $60,000 went into the addictions treatment fund, and I think we need to concentrate a bit more on this type of thing. One of the things that Mayo said to me for many years, basically from the day I got elected, was the fact that the hospital is no longer a hospital. It is now a nursing station, but they have always had a doctor there and they wanted a doctor again. I worked with the Minister of Health and Social Services to look around and try and recruit someone, and we almost missed it but we did get a doctor into the community of Mayo and they're very appreciative of that.
Other things, of course, that Yukoners are going to benefit from are things like the CAT scan, which has a fairly hefty operating budget on its own, but I think it will pay off in the long run. There were monies that went into healthy family initiatives to help children at risk. There was $300,000 going to a community addictions treatment fund.
We had monies - again, I think this is important - to try to attract tourists to different parts of the Yukon. One place they don't like to travel to are places like Ross River and Faro, on the Campbell Highway, because it is gravel. It is a fairly rough road when it's raining. There's a lot of mud on it for those of you who have driven that road. Well, the NDP started to do some chipsealing from Carmacks out, and it was committing every year to doing a bit more work on that highway to try and get a better road up toward Little Salmon Lake. It is a beautiful lake, but not too many people go up that road, up toward Ross River and possibly all the way around. There is a lot of money that could be sunk into that road.
If the Premier is talking with the federal government about attracting money to the Yukon for roads - because I know something they wanted to do was look at new roads - the Campbell Highway would be a good road for upgrades. It is not a new road, but it could be a good project for upgrades to attract tourists to that section of the Yukon. The communities would respond a little bit if they have tourists going there as a destination, and they could work on these projects in these small communities, like Ross River.
One very important program that maybe surprised me a little bit about how well people liked it was the rural roads program. There are places that had money sunk into them, like the Duncan Creek Road, the old Keno City road that goes from Mayo to Keno. There was $50,000 put into that road to straighten out some corners and put some surface on that. Those types of roads are in existence and people could certainly use more money out of that program to upgrade those roads.
Carmacks, of course, enjoyed some of those dollars that went into that for the Frenchman Lake-Tatchun Road, which is another road that not many people use, but are used, more or less, by local people, but could be used a lot more. We have three campgrounds on that road. If we took some of the bumps and washboards out of there, we could get more motorhomes on that road. They could be heading up the Campbell Highway, and if they wanted to take a shortcut, they could go through that road to the Klondike Highway toward Dawson.
Another road that had some maintenance done to it - removal of snow, and all that, which I think is important and actually attracts tourists is the Signpost Road in Keno. In order to get motorhomes up there, you have to clear the snow off so that there's not such a big runoff that it has ruts in it and it is hard to get traffic up there. It's a very beautiful place. Not many people go there.
One project that is important in this budget is Connect Yukon, and many of the communities are going to benefit tremendously from having the same type of Internet access, as do Whitehorse residents.
In conclusion, I have quite a bit more that I would like to raise, but maybe I can raise it in the supplementary. One I would like to raise with the government opposite is the long-term capital planning commitment that is in this budget. I do hope that the government looks at this very carefully, because there are capital commitments in there for projects that go over a couple of years.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and it was a pleasure to speak to some of the initiatives the NDP government's budget, adopted by the Liberals, has brought forward. I will certainly be supporting this budget.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it will come as no surprise to my esteemed colleagues across the floor that I will be supporting the budget that the Liberal government tabled in this House Monday. I simply couldn't find myself voting against this budget after having already, during second reading earlier this spring in this House, voted for the budget.
A voting record is an extremely important part of what we do here in this Legislature. A vote cast is a clear position taken, so I find it a little confusing how the Liberals can vote against something mere weeks ago, taking that clear position that they did not support the $500 million plus in expenditures with this budget. Then, after an election campaign in which they probably heard loud and clear from the Yukon public that the budgeting that the NDP government had been doing was actually working very well in the Yukon and that they should continue with it, it seems to me that the Liberals have simply attached themselves to this budget like a barnacle to a boat.
So, I would ask the Premier, when she gets up to close debate on the budget, to maybe shed some light on how it is that in such a short period of time the Liberals have completely done a 360 - gone from voting against all the expenditures from front to back in this budget to fully and wholeheartedly supporting it.
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things that we must look at when it comes to this particular budget and also the budgeting that the NDP government has undertaken over the last three and a half years. It's all about pay-as-you-go budgeting. It's about budgeting in a manner that takes this territory away from boom-and-bust cycles and provides a sustainable and stable spending approach.
It's about budgeting and balancing our social and economic needs in this territory. The NDP managed to do that. This budget, I believe, is the second highest budget ever tabled in this legislature with absolutely no tax increases or extra costs to the Yukon public. In fact, we are setting the stage with this budget for significant tax decreases should the Liberals wish to continue down that road. We have also done it, Mr. Speaker, with absolutely no cuts to health care and education. I think that was a noble accomplishment for a government here in the Yukon Territory when all other jurisdictions were actively cutting health care expenditures and expenditures to education. We here in the Yukon did not do so.
We also took a budgeting approach that would target expenditures - target government expenditures so that we could drive benefits to areas were they were most needed. For example, in my community, Watson Lake, the $5-million expenditure on the recreation complex was exactly that: a targeted expenditure. I say that because it provided the biggest percentage of benefit and job creation for people right there in the community, where it was most needed. That's the type of budgeting approach that the NDP government brought to this legislature and to this territory. And now that the Liberals have decided that they would continue with this budget, I would ask the Premier, when she gets up to close debate, if she would explain to this House and to Yukoners if it is the Liberal government's intention to continue to budget in a sustainable, stable, spending manner, to do their best with government expenditures, to address boom-and-bust cycles, and to do it in a targeted manner so that we can address the needs out there, especially in Yukon communities.
This particular budget, Mr. Speaker, is a responsible budget and it is in keeping with the NDP commitment to manage the public purse in such a way as to stimulate growth - and that is using government expenditure to inject monies out into the economy to do exactly that.
There are a number of areas where we can show examples of that happening. The training trust funds are an example; capital expenditures are an example and yes, those words hated by the Liberals: O&M. We all know their aversion to O&M spending and O&M costs. However, it has done much to stimulate the economy in this territory in a time when we face some very, very huge obstacles, predominantly in an area of the territory that was very, very dependent on mining. Unfortunately, at this time, mining is not a very viable industry in this territory and in fact, it is questionable whether it's very viable across this country. Canada is losing market share of investment dollars in the mining sector - not just here - everywhere.
It might be a different story in mining if we had found diamonds, but we haven't. So, those are some of the problems that we faced and yet we budgeted in a manner that did not - did not - decrease our spending in health care and education - and did it in a manner that would decrease what the taxpaying public puts into the public purse through tax cuts.
It's also a method of budgeting that provides the public a great deal of input. This budget, in particular, to a great degree, was constructed by Yukon people. The budget tours that former Government Leader Piers McDonald had undertaken are throughout, and the product and the findings and the requests that were received during those tours are sprinkled throughout this budget.
It is, to a great degree, a budget that is created by the Yukon public. We're very proud of that fact and that may be another reason why the Liberals have chosen to table this budget in its entirety. It would only make sense, but again I ask how can they vote against it and, in mere weeks, do a complete flip-flop and support it?
Mr. Speaker, there are so many questions that come to mind about the Liberals around budgeting. It begins for me with what the Liberals are going to do with the community development fund. A previous administration, the Yukon Party, in 1992, immediately upon taking office, cancelled the community development fund. Now, the community development fund is a vehicle that allows government in this territory to make those targeted expenditures specifically in the communities, so that they address the needs that are most pressing. Secondly, the community development fund allows communities, community groups, agencies and organizations to come forward with projects that they desire and that they believe are the best for their respective communities.
The Liberals, even though they tabled our budget in its entirety, did table a supplementary, which, according to the Premier, contained a few of their spending priorities. What is the Liberal government's view when it comes to the community development fund?
Mr. Speaker, the fire smart funding, which is housed within the community development fund - and the Liberals who were in the Twenty-ninth Legislature can attest to this fact - is a product of an event that took place right here on the floor of this Legislature, and it began with a motion debate. The motion was tabled by the NDP side of the House, stating that the Yukon government should, even though the jurisdiction in our forests and firefighting and all that goes with it lies within the purview of the federal government - we, in this Legislature, unanimously agreed that the Yukon government should do something about the danger of wildfire.
So, the fire smart fund became a reality from that very point - an example of this Legislature working together and producing a product that, right now, all Yukoners are benefiting from. And yet, when $500,000 was put into the fire smart fund, the Member for Riverdale South immediately countered by saying that it's not enough. Well, given the fact that the Liberals unanimously supported fire smart funding in this territory and took the position that $500,000 simply was not enough, could the Premier please explain to this House, when she closes debate, why, when they had the opportunity in their supplementary - where this is an obvious priority, at least as far as the Member for Riverdale South is concerned - they did not put more money into the fire smart program? They had a choice, they had that opportunity, and they did not do so. We know, given the facts, that the surplus is, right now, without factoring in lapsed funds, in the neighbourhood of $40 million. So there was ample cushion for the Liberals to address such a high priority for the Member of Riverdale South, and one that I would assume is a priority for this Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals also talked a great deal, when it comes to expenditures of government, about highway maintenance. Highway maintenance has been an ongoing issue in this territory since the Alaska Highway was built. We have been maintaining highways year in and year out, so it's not a new thing. However, it is an obvious spending priority for the Liberal government. And they again had an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, through a supplementary and through tabling this budget, to address that priority - and to address that commitment to the Yukon public - of highway maintenance expenditures. I would ask the Premier if she could explain to this House, when she gets on her feet, why more money was not put into highway maintenance.
If the Liberal government is going to do so, what does that mean for the rural roads program? Therein lies another budgeting process that targets expenditures. The rural roads program is for small operators - the little guys in the communities, who have a piece of equipment and the capacity and ability to do roadwork, but can't play with the "big boys" in your traditional earth-moving, highway-building bidding process. The rural roads program, for which, I believe, we have $1 million in this budget, is an important facet of government expenditure, especially in the communities. That's where it does the most good. What are the Liberals going to do with the rural roads program?
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to know how the Liberals intend to implement their budget - the NDP budget, but now that the Liberals have tabled it - their budget. They are responsible, and they must take ownership.
When it comes to the economy, Mr. Speaker, a great deal of this $500 million is directed toward improving our economy. Much of what economy is all about is cashflow. If there is no money moving, chances are you're not going to have much of an economy. Again, budgeting has to be done in a manner that creates that cashflow - creates cashflow for small businesses. Now, the Liberals, with a motherhood statement, "supporting small business" - the Liberals will support small business. How, beyond this budget, does the Premier and the Liberal government intend to do that? We don't know. We didn't witness or get any indication from the throne speech, and we have absolutely no indication in the budget speech. After tabling the budget on Monday, they have done nothing but try to distance themselves from it.
Those are questions that the Premier and the Liberal government are duty bound to answer for the Yukon public. That's why we are all elected here. We're here to do the job for the public. They need to know.
It wasn't that long ago when the Premier today was asked what some of the Liberal initiatives are when it comes to the economy. The Premier's answer - at that time she was the leader of the official opposition - was, "You'll have to wait till the election, then we'll provide our initiatives."
Well, Mr. Speaker, the election came and we have those initiatives. They're all motherhood statements. Now, when it comes to budgeting, the Liberals again had an opportunity here to at least show, in some cases, how they intended to show the public what initiatives they were bringing forward as it relates to the economy in this territory. They didn't do that. So, when asked here in this House how they intend to do it, we've now been informed that we'll have to wait till the fall. The Liberals still aren't going to let us know or let the Yukon public know how they intend to live up to these commitments.
Mr. Speaker, there's another important facet of budgeting, and that is our social needs - those in need. Government again is duty bound to ensure that those in need have a quality of life in this territory. Now, the Liberals, when in opposition, made a great deal about social issues and social needs. Again, I point out, the Member for Riverdale South, virtually daily in this Legislature, was demanding money and more money, totalling up probably in the millions, for social programs.
Well, Mr. Speaker, here we are with the first Liberal budget. The first Liberal budget speech and nothing addresses the many, many demands that the Member for Riverdale South felt were a priority for the Liberals, and I assume that all the Liberal caucus and candidates concur that those were priorities.
Where are those expenditures, Mr. Speaker?
Much of the budget tabled by the Liberals also addresses local hire, again targeting expenditures. How are the Liberals going to handle that situation? There is no indication yet on how they intend to address that issue.
More and more issues crop up as we go through the many, many requests and demands that the Liberals have made. I'm only asking that they enlighten us. Share with us at least some of your ideas on how you intend to govern. That's what we're here for. By saying, as the Premier has, "Don't ask me, ask the NDP. It's their budget, they called the election," that's not good enough. That's not why you were elected. You, the Liberal government, were elected here in Whitehorse to do a job. You have to. It is your duty to explain how you intend to do that. That's what budgets are all about. Budgets, through spending priorities, indicate a great deal of the direction a government is going in. Now we can only assume, with what you the Liberals have done here...
Speaker: Please do not use the word "you". Refer to the member as "the member".
Mr. Fentie:My apologies, Mr. Speaker.
Now, the Liberals, having tabled our budget, are sending the signal that they intend to continue with the budgeting patterns that the NDP government began three and a half years ago.
Is the premier going to, when closing debate on the budget, confirm that fact? You have tabled this budget. It is your first budget. Budgets are intended to implement spending patterns. Are you continuing with the spending patterns of the NDP government? Is it the Liberal government's intention to continue with those spending patterns, Mr. Speaker?
Now, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have put on the top of the problem pile - what they deem to be the top priority and, once solved, the panacea to our economic problems - the settlement of the land claims in this territory. I wonder, given the fact that the Liberal leader criticized this budget, criticized this budget that they tabled with regard to that very fact - because, I believe, the Premier of the day today did not believe that there was enough money directed toward land claims. Well, in the supplementary and in the main budget, there is absolutely no indication of monies directed toward this top priority of the Liberal government.
Would the Premier, when she gets to respond or to close debate on the budget, endeavour to explain that fact? It's an important fact because it's the commitment that forms the basis of the Yukon Liberal government's position on addressing certainty for this territory.
Yet you haven't put forward any indication through your budgeting that that is truly what you meant.
Mr. Speaker, I think it's important to note that we have a very unusual situation today in this territory with what has taken place, and I think that the Member for Klondike may very well have hit the nail on the head. You, the Liberal government, are fully responsible for the spending in this territory of taxpayers' dollars. The Liberal government must take ownership of that fact.
Speaker: Order please. I've asked the member several times to refrain from referring to the members opposite as "you" and to please refer to them either as the member for their riding or minister of their portfolio.
Mr. Fentie: Many apologies, Mr. Speaker. It's getting late.
At any rate, this situation, as the Member for Klondike put it, is unique, and I believe that, given how this budget was constructed, given the fact that this budget is very balanced, given the fact that this budget does address our social and economic needs in this territory for the fiscal year 2000-2001, and given the fact that the Liberals have decided to table the budget as the Liberal government's budget, it seems to me that they should be in unison responding to this budget. I believe that they also had a duty to do that. That's why we're here.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to close by stating categorically that I support this budget with pride, and I'm extremely pleased that the Liberals have seen the light and have decided to continue with the NDP budgeting and spending patterns.
I support this budget because of what it does now, but also because of what it does in terms of ensuring that we continue to address our social and economic needs in this territory, that we continue to make every effort using the means that government can apply toward our economy and creating jobs and benefits for Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, I support this budget because it's a budget that consists of a partnership with and input from Yukon people. It ensures a brighter future and a stable future for all Yukoners.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I wasn't going to respond to this budget originally, but, after listening to some of the comments from the members opposite, I do feel that it's important to set the record straight.
Now when this budget was last tabled, our caucus voted against this budget. We voted against it not because it contained items that we totally disagreed with; but rather, we voted against it because we did not believe that the NDP could properly manage this money in the current economy. Most Yukoners obviously agreed with us.
There were many good things in the budget - the extended care facility, for example. We agreed on the importance of those projects, and, indeed, we have continued on with those projects. By retabling this budget, we have added certainty to the lives of Yukoners. NGOs will receive their operating money, projects will be built, and people will keep their jobs.
Over the next few months, we'll be sitting down and looking at our long-term priorities in the Yukon and, in the meantime, we will work within the parameters of the last government's budget. It's not pleasant, but in reality, almost half the money is already spent. I'm looking forward to showing Yukoners our first full budget for the year 2001-02 and, furthermore, bringing forth our supplementary budget this fall.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would like to thank all members, especially the member who just spoke, for their comments with respect to their reply to the budget. I would like to remind members as I close debate of a few salient points with respect to the budget that is before us.
When we took office on May 6, as we were sworn in as a government, we reviewed our options in light of the NDP calling an election without passing spending authority, in spite of the majority that they then held. The options were Commissioner's warrants, Mr. Speaker. This had already been done, and as the member who just spoke pointed out, my honourable colleague for Riverdale South, a tremendous portion of this budget had already been spent through this method. And I would remind members to examine closely the purpose of Commissioner's warrants.
Another option was an interim supply bill. Many of the members opposite spoke about this as an option. An important point with respect to an interim supply bill is that it does not create certainty. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
The third option was to bring forward the budget that we had been in the midst of beginning debate on, express our accountability for it, and put our own stamp on it through a supplementary budget. This is the option we chose, and this is what we have done.
Mr. Speaker, it's fair to say that no matter how many warrants you obtain, and no matter how much interim supply is granted, there is still uncertainty in the public service and among the public and business community if a budget has not cleared the House. It's also apparent that if we were to start a budget from scratch, it would not be exactly the same as the document we were discussing today. However, we have indicated that we can and will live with this budget in order to expedite the public business. And furthermore, Mr. Speaker, we will be fully accountable to the public for it.
There are a few other points that I would like to make as I close debate in reviewing a few points of distinction for the members opposite, reviewing a few of the salient points.
There was much discussion earlier in some of the replies to the budget with respect to the recent negotiated agreement with Yukon teachers. Some disparaging references were made to the retention allowance, which is a sum provided to teachers and paraprofessionals returning in September. I remind members that nurses were provided with a similar benefit, which was referred to as a market adjustment allowance, and this retention allowance is an item that, with all other expenditures of the government, including the recently negotiated Public Service Commission agreement, YEU, and other agreements, and contracts with Yukoners, we will be fully accountable for those expenditures.
There has also been a great deal of reference made by members opposite in their replies to the budget with respect to some of what they have referred to as PMO staffing. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to assure the members - I think they are referencing to two transition contracts issued by the newly elected Government of the Yukon, and I'm certain that not one of those members would intend for their comments to make disparaging reference to the president of the Canadian Institute for Public Policy, the very well-respected David Zussman. I would remind members that, with respect to the public policy forum, the mandate of the forum is to express common ground. Diverse members of the forum share a commitment to promoting excellence in government and in public policy. One of the items they are promoting and one of the activities in their 1999 efforts was governance and accountability, and I'm certain that members would not wish to allow their disparaging remarks about Mr. Zussman to remain without providing also that enlightenment as to his role throughout Canada, as well as his assistance to us. Of course, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Zussman is the president of the public policy forum and not a staff member of any other office.
The other individual to whom the members have made reference is a well-recognized member of the private sector who has provided assistance to such notable transitions as the creation of the Territory of Nunavut.
Mr. Ashworth is employed, as I said, in the private sector and is not an employee of another office. However, much as the members opposite wish to provide their view of it, and this is certainly the place to do that, I would like to ensure that those facts are placed on the record, Mr. Speaker.
With regard to the budget, again, I would point out to members the options that were before us were very clear. We have chosen to provide good government to Yukoners and to retable the budget in its entirety. That budget is something that, while we are not the authors of it, we are fully prepared to be accountable to Yukoners for it.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: One of the members opposite asked about our accountability and I have reassured members on that. Another member has made reference to expediting debate and the business of the House and, for that reason, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to be lengthy in my remarks tonight. I would like to reassure the members, however, who have asked quite point blank, if the Yukon Liberal government intended to do their best - absolutely, Mr. Speaker, we will do our best over the next four years. Thank you.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 13 yea, one nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 2 agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:25 p.m.
The following Document was filed on June 7, 2000:
Tombstone Park: matters relating to (Jenkins)