Thursday, April 11, 2002 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
If there are no tributes, we will proceed to introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Kent: I would like to ask Members of the Legislative Assembly to join me in welcoming to the gallery today Mr. Paul Deulingís social studies 10 class from F.H. Collins.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have for tabling the annual report of the Yukon Lottery Commission for the fiscal year 2000-01.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 64: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I move that Bill No. 64, entitled Spousal Compensation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. minister responsible for the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board that Bill No. 64, entitled Spousal Compensation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 64 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 61: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 61, entitled Electoral District Boundaries Act, 2002, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 61, entitled Electoral District Boundaries Act, 2002, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 61 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 57: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 57, entitled Government Organisation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 57, entitled Government Organisation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 57 agreed to
Bill No. 73: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I move that Bill No. 73, entitled Act to Amend the Workersí Compensation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the minister responsible for the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board that Bill No. 73, entitled Act to Amend the Workersí Compensation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 73 agreed to
Bill No. 74: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I move that Bill No. 74, entitled Act to Amend the Public Service Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that Bill No. 74, entitled Act to Amend the Public Service Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 74 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) education is a major concern of Yukoners, as 7,000 comments to the Education Act review process attest to; and
(2) the Association of Yukon School Councils, Boards and Committees, with the aim of improving outcomes and experiences for all Yukon students, has arranged the return of Canadian educator, author and provocative speaker, Andrew Nikiforuk; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Education and her Liberal caucus colleagues to attend the Nikiforuk lectures in Pelly Crossing on Sunday, April 14 at 5:00 p.m. or in Whitehorse on Monday, April 15, at the High Country Inn at 7:00 p.m.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) Yukon museums are major attractions that help support the tourism industry in Yukon;
(2) Yukon museums have been providing more and more exhibits over the years without receiving any increase in funding from the Government of the Yukon, and in fact the Dawson Museum has recently indicated that its funding has been cut by some 20 percent; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture to increase government funding to Yukon museums in order to help them retain and attract professional staff as well as maintain and improve their exhibits.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Liberal government should bring forward a supplemental budget this spring before third reading of the O&M budget to ensure that they meet their campaign promises in the following areas, by:
(1) providing $2.1 million to meet the commitment made by the Minister of Health for an alcohol and drug secretariat;
(2) keeping the promise made by the Premier at Hellaby Hall during the election, confirmed in the platform literature, to raise heritage funding to 1995 levels;
(3) following through on platform commitments by making resources available to implement the Anglin report regarding child in care;
(4) recognizing the cost associated with implementation of land claims and reflecting those implementation costs in the budget, so that all Yukoners can understand the territorial government's obligations;
(5) reflecting the true cost of the implications of the maximum wage bill brought before the House so legislators and the Yukon public can fairly evaluate this legislation; and
THAT this House recognizes that if the Yukon Liberal government takes these steps, it will prove that a minority government can work and provide balanced government to the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Tourism season, impacts on
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture.
Parks Canada workers may soon be going on strike, unless they can get a reasonable agreement with their employer. This could have a very serious impact on the Yukonís tourism sector this summer, at a time when it is facing so many other challenges.
What steps has the minister taken to inform the federal Heritage minister and the head of the Parks Canada agency of the crippling effect a strike could have on the Yukonís economy?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I appreciate the question. Of course, tourism in Yukon is, this year, anticipating an impact as a result of 9/11. And also, in that consideration, I have been in discussion with members of the union representing our parks people, as I am very concerned as well that an additional impact in some way on our Parks Canada features here in the territory will have an additional impact.
So, yes, I will take under advisement ó and I have advised the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture to do just as the Member for Kluane has suggested.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís encouraging, Mr. Speaker, but perhaps the minister doesnít understand just how serious the situation is for our territory and for our regional economy, such as in Haines Junction, where the townís economy is built on tourism. Businesses will be hit hard with Kluane National Park closed to tours and overnight camping.
To make matters worse, Parks Canada and Tourism Yukon share the same building in Haines Junction. If the federal employees are on strike, the YTG employees will undoubtedly honour the picket lines. That means the closure of the only visitor reception centre in the area.
Yukon tourism operators were already struggling against a wave of additional challenges, such as the expectation of decreased visitation numbers, higher transportation costs Ö
Speaker: Order please. Question please.
Mr. McRobb: Ö a 50-percent increase in campground fees. Will the minister get on the phone right away and tell the Heritage minister and the head of Parks Canada how vital it is to get back to the table and resolve this strike issue before our tourism season starts?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Itís rather interesting that the Member for Kluane is suggesting that I interfere with the collective bargaining process. As the member opposite knows, we respect that process. We are respecting the process, but we are also very, very cognizant of the impact this will have on the tourism industry in the territory, and we are taking effective measures to mitigate that impact.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I think itís disputable that the minister interprets encouraging pressure to resolve the dispute as political meddling. But thatís an issue for another day.
Yukon people want the minister to do more than just travel around in an RV, enjoying our facilities. He needs to show some leadership.
Now, wilderness tourism operators are facing a new challenge from the federal Marine Liability Act. Under this act, all operators who use watercraft must carry $350,000 in liability insurance for each and every seat. The act was clearly designed for larger marine vessels, but the definition of ship now includes motorboats, rafts, canoes and kayaks. Simply put, these mandatory extra insurance costs will put Yukon operators out of business.
Why has this government done nothing to warn Yukoners about this additional incoming threat, and what does this minister plan to do to ensure this badly written federal act doesnít inflict another body blow on the Yukonís wilderness tourism industry?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am also very aware of this federal act that will have an impact on wilderness tourism here in the territory. I have met with members of the Wilderness Tourism Association. I am very aware of their concerns. Again, Mr. Speaker, we are taking action by writing the federal minister to express our serious concerns about the impact that this will have on our wilderness tourism industry here in the territory.
So, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane is a little outdated. I am already acting on that.
Question re: Economic development strategy
Mr. Fentie: Iíd like to follow up with the Premier on our economy in this territory. As our economy continues its downward spiral, the federal government has still not acted on its aforementioned promise of an economic development strategy for the territory. Paul Martin has stated clearly that we should have an economic development agreement. Minister Nault has expressed interest in such a vehicle. Yesterday the Premier challenged this side of the House to bring forward an all-party motion in this regard.
We feel thereís no need to go through that process and wait ó letís get on with the job.
Will the Premier, in the spirit of cooperation, immediately put together a delegation representing all parties in this House, as well as representation from Yukon First Nations, the business community and labour, to go to Ottawa immediately to lobby Minister Owen, the Finance minister and Minister Nault, personally, so that we can address the terrible economic situation we are facing here today? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are a couple of points I would like to agree with the member on, and a couple I would like to disagree with the member on, with all due respect.
First of all, the member and I disagree about his characterization of a downward spiral of the economy. That, Mr. Speaker, is not borne out by the current statistics. In fact, we are starting to see the economy improve. We are starting to see signs of improvement. We agree thereís a long way to go.
I also agree with the member opposite that the Government of Canada has not come through with a specific economic development agreement for northern Canada. On that point, I agree with the member opposite.
The suggestion I put forward yesterday was that we, as a result of devolution, should be able to access the western diversification fund early, and we have already put that case to the Government of Canada. If the member opposite would like to support us and continue to put that case forward to Mr. Steven Owen, of course I welcome his support.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premierís so-called case is not producing results, and weíre saying that we should get on with the job and try to get something done.
Furthermore, the Premierís comments about the economy turning around is nothing but rhetoric. The economy is not turning around. People are continuing to leave this territory, and those who are looking for work are finding work outside this territory, and the Premier well knows that.
This precedence has been set previously, Mr. Speaker, by governments of this territory ó to go to Ottawa and address matters of urgent and pressing necessity. Iím telling this Premier, in the spirit of cooperation, that what this Liberal government has done to date has not produced results. Will she take us up on this offer, show some leadership? Letís get to Ottawa immediately and deal with this issue here and now. Itís a must.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, again, I would remind the member opposite that we have a disagreement with respect to the economic indicators. And, Mr. Speaker, I have to say for the record, again, that there are 100 more people employed in the Yukon this year than there were last year. We are seeing more employed people. Itís a fact, Mr. Speaker.
Weíre also starting to see other signs of economic indicators that are showing that the economy is starting to improve ó retail sales, building permits, a number of other economic indicators. The fact is that we are seeing signs of improvement. The opening of North American Tungsten near the memberís own riding is a key point. Weíre building upon successes. Thereís more work to be done. Again, if the member opposite would like to assist the government and work with us in lobbying Steven Owen so that the Government of the Yukon could access early the western diversification fund because there is no northern economic development strategy, I welcome that assistance. Iíve said that several times.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier is wrong. She is not disagreeing with me, she is disagreeing with Yukoners who know well that this is not a very pretty economic situation, and it is not turning around. It is getting worse. The Premier is losing out to the Northwest Territories, to Alberta, to B.C., to the States, where Yukoners today are working ó even in Russia. People in my riding have gone to work in mines in Russia. There is nothing happening here, that this government is producing for our economy.
I am asking the Premier here and now to use the collective voice of this Legislature, of First Nations, of the business community and of labour, to go to Ottawa and let us address this issue immediately. We can do this if we do it together. Stop playing political games in this House with Yukonersí lives. Will she do this now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, you ask us daily in your opening prayer in this House to treat each other with dignity and respect and to try to do what is right for Yukoners. Iíve said to the member opposite that we disagree. He stands up and says that all Yukoners are telling him that the economy is terrible and this government has done nothing. I am trying to say to him that is not what all Yukoners are saying. We are hearing from the owners of businesses ó some of them have said to members that they have had their best year since 1997 ó retail businesses have said that. Many other businesses are saying that and they are seeing signs that the economy has started to turn around. We are working on that.
One of the ways we can continue to work is by accessing federal economic development money, and I have said repeatedly that I welcome the support of members opposite in that. If they want to travel to Ottawa to meet with Steven Owen and discuss the access by Yukoners to the western diversification fund, then letís do that. Iíve said many, many times, in fact six, seven, eight, nine times now to the member opposite ó we welcome their support.
Question re: Community service centre
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Premier.
The Premier, in her budget address, chose to highlight government renewal rather than economic renewal. In fact, she never even mentioned rebuilding the Yukon economy in her speech at all. The central focus of the governmentís renewal exercise has been this service centre ó the one-stop shop where the people of Whitehorse can go to have their pockets picked clean by these new government fee hikes.
Can the Premier advise the House about the size of this government one-stop shop? Iíve heard reports that some 80 government officials will be working at the service centre. It will be the approximate size of the Canadian Tire building and that the government is even considering leasing the Qwanlin Mall. How large of a building is required and are any of these reports true, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: You cautioned us yesterday about the use of that word. I would like to say to the member opposite that, first and foremost, this is the operations and maintenance budget; itís about people. The economic indicators that the member opposite is looking for ó many of them are putting people back to work. We tabled the fall capital budget ó which is about buildings and roads ó early this year, which is what the contracting community asked us for. They are putting people to work as we speak and improving the economy by so doing.
With respect to renewal, the goals of renewal were to prepare for devolution and to deliver better services to Yukoners. One way we have selected through the process is this development of a community service centre which builds upon services that are provided using a similar model in rural Yukon ó including in the memberís own riding.
The tender documents for the service centre are to be released ó they may even have been put out in the last day or so. Iíll confirm that and get back to the member opposite. The tender documents will answer all the member oppositeís questions.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, weíre quite pleased with the government one-stop service centre in our town. We just go to the liquor store, whether we want our health care or our driverís licence or anything. Itís all contained in one building, which is great.
Mr. Speaker, itís little wonder that the budget contains little money for economic review, in view of the costs of rearranging government.
Can the minister advise the House if the government has any preference as to where the service centre is going to be located in Whitehorse, and has she consulted with the business community about its location, in view of the controversy that she created by giving taxpayersí money to develop the Argus property?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I thank the member opposite for his complimentary comments about this government choosing to develop a service centre in Whitehorse. It is indeed a service that is appreciated by Yukoners in communities outside Whitehorse, although there is some disagreement around where those services should be accessed. There are some concerns about the liquor store being the way to access them. However, the point is that that model works very well, and we are using that model to build a service centre in Whitehorse. The business community that currently rents space to the Government of Yukon was advised of the moves, because itís related to the health centre move, as well as the liquor store warehouse expansion.
The Government of the Yukon is putting out, or has put out, a tender document that broadly defines what is required, and we are looking for expressions of interest from the Yukon business community to provide that service.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we have all the government offices moving out of downtown Whitehorse. Weíre attempting to create a ghost town in downtown Whitehorse, for why I donít know. We have created the Argus mall ó controversy surrounding that.
Can the Premier advise the House if she is going to talk to the business community and the City of Whitehorse about the location of this new service centre, or is it going to be located in the industrial complex as part of the new Whitehorse liquor store?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, not all government offices are moving. The moves that are being contemplated ó for example, it is contemplated that the Whitehorse Health Centre moving to the current liquor store site will enable Energy, Mines and Resources to then occupy the third floor of the Shoppers Plaza in downtown Whitehorse, and that may, as we complete the renewal process, enable the Government of Yukon to then deliver the lands process in one stop in that location.
The fact is that the service centre is designed like a model that is currently delivered in rural Yukon and is delivered in the Maritime provinces by Access Nova Scotia, Access New Brunswick, places like that. People can go in and get one-stop shopping for their health care card and their driverís licence. The tender for where that is located either has just been released or is about to be released, which specifies the space and size requirements, as well as that it must be easily accessible with plenty of parking. Where it is ultimately located will be up to the best tender. And, Mr. Speaker, Iíll be happy, once the public tender is available, to provide the member opposite with a copy, and it will answer most of the questions heís seeking.
Question re: Village of Teslin, capital funding to
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Finance, if I may.
Over the last few days, members of the Finance ministerís government have been responding to the budget with their well-worn mantra. Of course we all know that theyíre saying that weíre open, that weíre accountable, that we consult communities about their priorities. Well, Iíd just like to point out that saying it does not make it so.
Now, the minister has received a letter from the Village of Teslin, the Teslin Tlingit Council, and Iíd like to quote from that. The letter came in March 22, and as a quote, "Öour extreme concern and frustration over capital budget allocations to our communityÖ", and they also said in that letter, again a quote, "We have written you, we have met with your staff; and still there is no proper consideration of our needs and our requests. This lack of consideration has been the norm ever since your government came into power ."
So, Iíd like to ask the Finance minister: how many more times must Teslin state their priorities to this government before theyíre acted upon and reflected in a budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member is quite correct, in that it was a stinging rebuke from the Village of Teslin and the Teslin Tlingit Council. Their particular project was not funded in last yearís capital budget. Thatís not to say it was not given consideration. It was given consideration. Those criticisms are taken to heart by our government, and we take them very seriously.
Mr. Keenan: Well, that doesnít quite cut it. I mean, not only last year but the year before, since this government has been in place, the entire budget allocation for capital has been $7,000, which doesnít put anyone to work. It bought a computer, and that computer is out of date as we speak.
Now, there are many capital priorities that need to be funded, and continuing to make people wait for an election ó is this just an election war chest that this government is sitting on, or is that what theyíre trying to do? Are they actually trying to lead electors with a carrot before them? Itís just not right. Itís just not fair. It would be fair if other communities received the same, but other communities do not. Some communities have received 15 times more than the community of Teslin.
So, when will Teslinís priority ó their number one priority, as has been stated continually ó the extension of the sewer project, be reflected in a government budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As I stated in my budget speech, the water and sewer infrastructure needs are taken very seriously by this government. We have been working, both under the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services, as well as the current Minister of Infrastructure, on determining how and when we will be able to work with communities to meet those water and sewer needs. Clearly, they are an issue and a priority. They are very expensive, as well. They are something that has to be met, and we have to be able to work with them, just as we have worked with the community of Carmacks on their water and sewer needs ó as well as the City of Dawson on their water and sewer needs. There is more work that needs to be done.
We know that the ageing infrastructure in communities ó or lack of infrastructure in communities ó is very important in this most essential area of water and sewer. Weíre working on it, and weíll continue to work with all parties in trying to meet the needs of Yukoners.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, a lack of jobs is certainly all over the Yukon Territory, and this deplorable ó although the minister is in denial ó economy that we have is not just centred in Whitehorse. Itís also in rural Yukon. I would also point out that Yukonís bard, Robert Service, said, "A promise made is a debt unpaid." Iíll close the quote on that, if I may.
So I have a suggestion for the minister. The Chief of the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Mayor of Teslin stated their priorities many times. In the spirit of cooperation, will this Finance minister take the time to sit down with the governance of Teslin and explain timelines so that we might be able to get something into the community of Teslin for not only jobs but also community prosperity and community health also? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, absolutely, and Iíll take the Minister of Infrastructure with me. Thank you.
Question re: Alcohol and drug abuse programs, cost of services
Mr. Roberts: My question is directed to the Minister of Health. Would the minister please inform the House what it costs the Yukon government to deliver drug and alcohol services to Yukoners for each of the past three years?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, there are some capital costs. All I have with me is O&M figures. I can get that figure to the member opposite, although I would imagine that heís quite familiar with it, as he was the Health minister for two years of the three. But if he would like to have those figures given to him again, I would be happy to provide them. It is in the region of around $6 million.
Mr. Roberts: During the last election and for the past two years, the Liberal caucus, including myself when I was on that side ó and when I was a Health minister as the minister has just said ó told this House and all Yukon communities that this Liberal government was going to put substantial funds into additional alcohol and drug programs.
A month ago, there were going to be no funds put aside, the rumour has it, and then magically in this past week, money is coming. This demonstrates to the Yukon public how a minority government can react quickly to a very serious problem in many of our communities.
My question to the minister is this: could the minister tell this House where these additional dollars are going to come from?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Letís go back. First of all, I think the member opposite should probably base some of his questions on something other than rumour. It makes sense that members of this Legislature speak about the facts, and especially the facts as they know them.
The money that is going to be allocated in the future to alcohol and drug services, in whatever form that is, will come from general revenue as it has in the past. Now, the member opposite says that there has been a commitment made on behalf of this government toward alcohol and drug services. That has always been the case, Mr. Speaker ó always. And what has been released recently is the model that we have agreed to work toward, and we have also agreed to find funding for that model.
Mr. Roberts: I guess Iíll change my rumour to a fact. That was the fact that there was no money a month ago.
When this Health minister was sitting on this side of the House, she railed against the government of the day to put more money into drug and alcohol programming. As a matter of fact, one of their favourite expressions was: where is the money? I am pleased to see that the Liberal government has seen the light and is going to provide additional funding to fight drug and alcohol addictions in our communities this year, in the next two months.
We are very fortunate in the Yukon to have a very knowledgeable CEO and a staff who work very hard, and I am sure that they are very pleased that additional dollars are going to be put forward to this very important issue. I think it is very important that we work very hard at trying to meet the needs of all Yukoners, and I am glad to see that the government has found the error ó
Speaker: Order please. Question please.
Mr. Roberts: My question: will she place the additional commitment in a supplementary budget and adjust the accountability plan so that we can all be assured of this governmentís commitment and that the results are measured?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Any additional funding for the alcohol and drug secretariat will have to come forward in a supplementary budget, unless itís at the time when the regular O&M budget is to be tabled in the House.
Question re: Fee increases
Mr. Fentie: Iíd like to ask a question of the minister responsible for small business. Today, in questioning the Premier, it is evident that we may have a bit of a breakthrough when it comes to cooperation in this Assembly on a trip to Ottawa, and I would ask this minister to also reciprocate, as his Premier has.
The Liberals have made much about the tax breaks they have given Yukoners recently ó approximately $1 million of tax breaks, putting money back in Yukonersí pockets. But now they have taken that money right out of their pockets and put it into fee hikes. Translation: less money in Yukonersí pockets, less spending power, diminishing economy.
Will this minister now lobby his colleagues to take back those fee hikes for the sake of one million bucks that the government does not even need? Will he do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, I would remind the member that there was no breakthrough today. I had said yesterday several times, in response to questions, that we welcome the support of the members opposite, and I am sure that if the member looks back through Hansard, he will see that recorded many times. The member is asking about fees. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, the tax cuts that this government put in place put a lot of money into Yukonersí pockets. We went from 50 percent to 44 percent of the federal tax rate. That put money in the pockets of Yukoners.
As a Yukon government, we are paying a lot more in O&M. In fact, health care is going up and has gone up in this operation and maintenance budget by some $14 million. Mr. Speaker, itís things like booster shots that are given to students for tetanus ó they used to cost $9; now they are more than $20. We are paying those costs. The modest fee increases that have been put in place are for things like a driverís licence. Instead of being $3 a year, it has gone to $10 a year.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Premier please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. That is a modest fee increase by any standard.
Mr. Fentie: I would urge the Premier to deal with the facts. The facts are that youíre taking money out of Yukonersí pockets, as you say, in modest increases in fees, but what itís doing, Mr. Speaker, is diminishing spending power of the economy, for absolutely no reason. And we have offered a constructive suggestion: go to Ottawa and have them honour their commitments to an economic development agreement for this territory, not take money out of Yukonersí pockets to shore up the costs of the government.
I asked the Minister of Tourism ó because this fee hike is going to directly affect an industry that is already facing skyrocketing costs in transportation and fuel and need not pay more money for licences and insurance, et cetera, et cetera.
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Fentie: Will this minister lobby his Premier to shelve the fee hikes now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, I have to advise the member opposite that these are the fees that a small tourism business might be affected by: for a bus, less than 15-passenger, the registration has gone from $132 to $150. Any other charges in the community service motor vehicle fees would just be the ordinary costs such as a driverís licence. They wouldnít be paying the corporate fees as these are only if they should decide to incorporate a new business. Itís not an ongoing cost to the business. The security fees are largely paid by businesses outside the territory. The land titles fees are not paid on a yearly basis by small business. The campground fees that have gone up are the annual resident camping fee, or the daily resident and non-resident campground permit has gone up from $7.48, excluding GST, to $11.21, or $12 including the GST. Those are the only fees that a small business owner might pay and they are very small increases, and that is more than offset by a substantial personal income tax cut that this government put in place.
Mr. Fentie: So what? The issue here is that this Liberal government has taken $1 million out of Yukonersí pockets, which translates into $1 million out of the Yukon economy, which is already using millions of dollars, which have gone because of people leaving this territory under this governmentís watch.
Now, the Premier said that cooperation coming from this side of the House is accepted by that side. Well, itís a two-way street. Will the Liberal members opposite, the government, cooperate with this side of the House and Yukoners, put that $1 million back out on to the streets into circulation by cancelling these fees? Itís a simple decision. Mr. Speaker, that is $1 million more in the Yukon economy by that one small decision.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that operation and maintenance money spent by this government is money that is spent in the Yukon economy, and we cover such items for Yukoners as booster shots, for which, I will say again to the members, the cost to us has gone from $9 to $20. And unlike governments in southern Canada, we donít believe in charging Yukoners for that. We donít believe in medicare premiums. Weíve said that. We would not reinstate them. We also are paying, for example, $4.5 million on medical travel alone. Those are the sorts of costs that government has to pay and that government believes is a good use of taxpayersí money.
Mr. Speaker, these modest fee increases involve some fees that have not been changed in 50 years. Yukoners I speak with recognize the growing cost of health care and costs, for example, to heat our schools, and they are more than prepared to pay them. And I remind the member opposite also that the one-stop service system that we were credited with earlier, 77 percent of Yukoners said itís a good idea. And the income tax cuts imposed under the NDP ó none. Under the Liberals, Yukoners are paying $8 million less in taxes.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 9: Second Reading ó adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 9, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan; adjourned debate, Mrs. Peter.
Mrs. Peter: In continuation of my response to the budget, I would like to refresh your memories as to some of the issues I addressed on Tuesday afternoon, that we are living today in the Yukon in challenging and changing times. The Liberal government needs a vision for a strong economy for the territory, working in partnership with all people to follow through with a vision and plans that they have for our growing communities, and that we do need support and resources to move forward in our economic times.
Families today are torn apart because they have to leave their homes to work elsewhere, in other parts of Canada. First Nation governments are working in conjunction with their economic development corporations to help try to stimulate the economy in our communities. This Liberal government is missing out on many local opportunities to work in partnership and to be helping the First Nations be cost-effective in partnering with projects at the community level.
The cost-effective projects are unique, not only to our communities, but also to the Yukon as a whole.
Air North is an excellent example of a successful small business. The money ó the dollars that Air North generates stay in the Yukon Territory, not like the huge corporation of Air Canada, where they only hire a few local people and the rest of the dollars go south. We need to have successful small businesses in the Yukon so that our people can benefit from that small business success.
If this minority Liberal government wants to help build confidence in the Yukon, they need to again look at the partnership and different business sectors throughout the territory and be accountable to the Yukon people. They need to provide clear direction and offer clear leadership, so that we may have some hope, not only in our communities, but here in the City of Whitehorse ó in our capital city.
You walk down Main Street, and you see many of the small businesses with "closing" signs on their doors. We just finished hearing how we need to keep people in our territory. In order to do that, we need to provide jobs, so that the people donít have to leave, or leave their families behind.
Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is partnering with the federal government for a plan to build a visitor and cultural centre in Old Crow. This great economic opportunity will open our doors to the world so that we can share our unique and beautiful culture with people. They can learn from our culture and we can share with them how it is we will keep our language. By doing that, we will continue to keep strong our language that is also so unique to the rest of Canada.
I mentioned the other day that there was a study that was done and, within 10 or 15 years from now, there is only going to be three languages that survive, and one of them is not ours.
When we look forward and speak about our generations to come, language is one of the highest priorities for us, so that we can teach our young children, our grandchildren, how proud we are to have a unique language. When we have an economic opportunity, such as the cultural centre, we need partners, such as the Yukon territorial government. Is this going to be another missed opportunity? They have come to the many departments and offered to be partners, and that opportunity has not been taken.
They will move ahead with this project. They are in partnership with the federal government and I ask, again, that we take advantage of these opportunities while they are here. I ask this Liberal government to step back and look at what is important. The First Nation people come forward with their vision; they have a plan for their people, and they need the partnership of this government and of the federal government so that they can reach the vision for our children, not only today but for our generations to come.
Another priority for the Gwitchin people that we have heard, not only in this Legislature, but at all levels of government, is the continued pressure that we face with a decision that is going to be made in another country, and that is in the United States. And that is our concern for the Porcupine caribou herd. Right now as I speak, there is double the pressure in Washington again, because of the price of oil and gas and because of other factors from other parts of the world, that they have to place a vote. And that voting is taking place very soon. And when that voting does take place, our very lives, the lives of the Gwitchin people, are at stake.
And for the past 20 years, MLAs before me have stood in this House and asked for support for our issue with the Porcupine caribou, and I appreciate the support that we have had from this Liberal government and from the federal government, but we need to do more. We need more resources, and we also need a stronger voice in Washington, D.C., not only from the Yukon territorial government, but also from other voices in Ottawa. We would appreciate that that be done on a continuing basis. This issue is not going to go away any time soon, and we need to let the decision makers in Washington, D.C., know that we will not repeat history as we know it, and that we will stand together as a territory and as a unique people to not allow those decisions to move forward.
The traditional land that we speak about is in Alaska. The only way that the Gwitchin people can address this issue is by education, travelling throughout our own nation, travelling throughout the United States and saying this is what is going on.
This is how your decision is going to be able to affect our people, and we need your help. Many of the people in the general population of the United States support us in that way, and we are very grateful for that. It is in the place of Washington where we need more voices so we can be more effective in protecting that area forever.
We have talked about the Womenís Directorate for the last week. There have been some changes from moving the Womenís Directorate unit from one stand-alone department into a different, larger department. That is only one issue. My concern with that is that, in becoming part of a larger department, the issues of women and children in this territory are not going to be heard, because they do not have access to key meetings with various departments that they had access to before.
We know only too well the crime rate that involved women in the last couple of years in this territory. Women and children in this territory need to feel safe, they need to feel secure, and they deserve to be supported.
I know that from my own personal experiences in life, having been a single parent for many years and living almost in poverty in this territory, and through those struggles and hardships finding that strength to keep going, to offer the best that I can for my child. There are many women in that same situation today in this territory.
There are people living in poverty, there are people who are homeless, and we hear those stories every day ó whether it be affected also with addictions and lack of resources out there. We urge this government to take a very serious look at our issues that we bring forward to you, and we do that, not only to make you aware but also to lend a helping hand and offer creative and helpful suggestions and ways we can do that and address those problems for the Yukon people.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mrs. Peter: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I have other questions that I would like to address within the departments of Education and Justice; however, I will ask those in line-by-line.
Mr. Jim: Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker. Today I woke up, and I said it was going to be a beautiful day. I said it was going to be a beautiful day until I looked into the 2002-03 O&M budget. What a paint job. Iíve never seen such paint work like this applied on a budget before until now ó a paint job of smoke and mirrors.
This is not a budget painted by Liberals. It is a budget that was painted by the Premier and four people, and Yukoners know exactly who they are. They are the young guns who are constantly playing West Wing with the Yukon ó young guns who are playing West Wing with peopleís lives. This budget was painted behind closed doors and then rubber-stamped by the rubber-stampers over there. There is no collectivity in this budget. There is no shared vision in this budget. There are no economic drivers in this budget. There is nothing in this budget ó nothing that reflects the day-to-day needs of Yukoners. Nothing to improve the social infrastructure of Yukoners. Nothing to improve the economic lull we are in ó nothing.
Oh, this budget does have one thing in it. It has more words than numbers in it. It is as though a lawyer were writing their closing argument on why this governmentís budget should look so good.
This budget is a novel. It is not an O&M budget. When I first got into politics or decided to run in politics, I said that I would be making the best representation for my riding and for people in the Yukon, and I believed that. I believed in what the Liberals stood for ó "itís all about the future". I believed that we could make a difference, and I believed that we could help people in the Yukon.
I want to quote her from the first page here, from the leader of the Yukon Liberal Party, the welcoming address: "This election is all about the future of our territory. It is about creating the type of government we can all believe in. People have become frustrated with their elected representatives who promise one thing at election time and do something else after taking office." Wow, itís funny how promises quickly turn around and sit on your laps. It's funny how things quickly change within government. We said we would do government differently. We are not doing government differently at all. We are doing it exactly the same as the other parties.
I want to quote again from the welcoming address: "Our plan is about restoring your confidence in government. It is about rebuilding the Yukon economy while protecting our social programs and respecting our environment." Have we forgotten? As government leaders, has this government forgotten what the promises were that were made in this booklet? A book of promises?
Weíre dealing with peopleís lives here in the Yukon. Far too often we makes promises that we canít keep. I can go through this. And just under "trade and export" ó support in trade and export initiatives of local businesses. We donít have any trade and export. We have no products to trade right now. How can we fulfill that promise? I can go on and on about this booklet, promises that are not met.
My belief was that we could try to help people here in the Yukon, we could help the economy, we could help with the social infrastructure. And I truly believe that we can make a difference and that we will restore the confidence in government and that there will be an open and transparent government, that there will be an accountable government. Itís too bad now ó weíre sitting on this side here, but it has to happen. It has to happen for the betterment of Yukon, for the people of the Yukon.
I look at the budget, and I look at it, and I say, well, whatís the point? We could sit here all day long and debate what the issues are in this budget. But will they get it? Will this government get it? Will they actually get what we are saying here on this side to help Yukoners economically, socially? Itís nice to paint nice big, thick pictures of smoke and mirrors, but it would be nice to apply it to action.
Far too often, one of the biggest problems that we have in government today ó and I have to commend my colleague on this side here from the NDP for putting a motion together of having an all-party economic summit, so that we can look at the problems with the economy, how we can solve them, and can bring some solutions forward, table some solutions ó fair play and equal participation on developing our economy here in the Yukon.
One of the biggest problems that we have in government right now ó and I have to steer toward that, because thatís the source of this thick booklet of reasons why this budget should look so good. Far too often, government has been steered or driven by partisan obligations and beliefs. In the partisan system of government, it doesnít matter whether thereís a practical solution to government issues or situations like the economy or social infrastructure. What matters is that the government decision is made within the confines of party obligations and beliefs, and the Grey Mountain School is a perfect example of political party promises. It doesnít matter that another existing school can accommodate students from that school, and we could steer those monies. It doesnít matter that the government can actually free up monies and apply them to improve educational, economic or social infrastructure situations that the government is faced with, moreover that Yukoners are faced with ó people.
What matters to this government is that itís a political promise, and a promise is a promise. We canít break a promise. Where is it? It may be that whoever is the most influential in the political party can get their promises applied in this budget.
You know, Mr. Speaker, the other day I watched another First Nation child go off on a plane, and their family crying. This child will spend probably another 18 more months away from his mother.
When we first came by here and we said that weíd do something different, Iíve always tackled social infrastructure. What can we do to help people here in the Yukon? What can we do with their health? What can we do with the alcohol abuse? What can we do with the separation, or the severing, of the family circle?
Iím not impressed one bit with this budget, but we have to go on. Government has to go on. This boy is going to be leaving the Yukon for probably another 18 months. He has been severed from his family. This social injustice ó are we really helping people here in the Yukon?
Are we not trying to provide programs here to help the families ó to help programs to educate our younger children?
We said weíd do government differently. This government said they would do government differently, and I truly, truly believed them.
Being a First Nation Yukoner and someone who was born and raised here ó many, many generations ó I have to say, in response to the budget, that I have spoken to a number of Yukon First Nation community representatives throughout the Yukon. Their comments to me regarding the 2002-03 budget have been consistent ó that there is neither the financial nor human capacity to thoroughly analyze this budget and respond to it in such a quick time frame. They do not have the capacity to adequately deal with a response to budgets and, at times, to adequately negotiate a land claims settlement.
The Kaska First Nation are currently at the table meeting a deadline to complete their land claims and self-government agreements. The Yukon First Nations that have just recently initialled off their land claims agreements are very hard at work on the outstanding issues that have yet to be negotiated ó the development of their PSTAs, the preparation of ratification, et cetera, et cetera.
The time and capacity requirements by a number of First Nation governments does not allow for them to have direct, thorough response to this budget.
I have reviewed this document and would like to make the following comments. Under the Executive Council Office, intergovernmental relations was increased by maybe four percent. The First Nations relations was decreased by three percent. The Womenís Directorate was decreased by seven percent.
I question the fact that four Yukon First Nation communities recently signed their Yukon First Nation final and self-government agreements. I would like to know why the government in power chose to decrease their funding in the areas of First Nations relations? It is my understanding that a great deal of work still needs to be completed. For example, two outstanding land claims agreements are still being negotiated. The legal and technical aspects of program services and financial transfer agreements need to be completed by the remaining six Yukon First Nation governments.
Why then would this government cut back on the cost while recognizing the need to increase the need to develop stronger government-to-government relations? Is this creating a closer working relationship from government to government?
The land claims implementation secretariat has no change. The development assessment process has an increase of two percent.
Noting that there are only two outstanding Yukon First Nation final and self-government agreements to be signed off and noting that there is no change in the area of land claims and implementation funding, would the government in power like to say where all of the funding will be spent after the last two agreements are signed off?
The five-year review of the umbrella final agreement implementation plan, and the Yukon First Nations final agreement implementation plans for the first four Yukon First Nations, listed a number of recommendations to both YTG and the federal government on serious shortages of funding to implement the agreements ó program and service transfer agreements for one.
Noting this, did the Yukon government take into consideration the recommendations when reading the five-year review?
Intergovernmental relations, an increase of four percent. Your Liberal political promise before being elected that Yukon Liberals would institute an annual intergovernmental consultation process on all issues related to First Nations self-government. Further, you state, ". . . hold an annual meeting that brings together representatives from all levels of government . . ."
For the record, I ask the hon. Premier, how many of these annual intergovernmental meetings has your government held since being elected to office? The self-governing Yukon First Nations secretariat has been structured and is ready to work with other orders of the government. I would hope that the increase within this department is to give adequate recognition to the implementation and ongoing needs of the First Nations secretariat.
Under First Nations relations, a decrease by 20 percent. After experiencing what it was like to be the only First Nation MLA within your caucus and Cabinet, the way that my views and political ideals were not taken seriously, the fact that I did not have a say in the development of land claims decisions made within caucus ó
Speaker: Order please. The member has slightly more than a minute to conclude. Iím sorry, 40 minutes. My error; I apologize for interrupting.
Mr. Jim: The fact that I did not have a say in the development of land claims or the decisions made within caucus regarding my own constituency. I was given a task as a token First Nation representative of the Liberal government to attend First Nation functions. It doesnít surprise me one bit that you would cut the funding toward First Nations relations.
For the record, once again, I would ask the Premier of the Yukon to explain to the Yukon First Nations people why she cut funding to the activity of Yukon First Nations relations.
The Womenís Directorate ó public education decreased 63 percent; violence protection decreased 50 percent. I find it hard to believe and, like many of my constituents have stated clearly to me, why would the Premier ó with a number of the Cabinet ministers being female ó slash the Womenís Directorate budget in such a crippling way. Why? What statement is being made by the government to the rest of the women in the Yukon? Public education and violence protection ó I ask the Premier to explain to the Yukon people the intelligence behind this decision.
I can go on and on with a number of issues in this budget. Moreover, there is nothing but smoke and mirrors in way of economic drivers in here.
We have economic drivers. But the simple fact of the matter is that people are going off to Alberta, to the Northwest Territories and to Inuvik ó looking for work elsewhere because there is no work here. We can continue to write books ó nice, wonderful booklets and a novel about how wonderful this budget is ó but Iím pretty sure theyíll still be sitting there wondering how wonderful this budget is, and trying to complete reading it.
I think the one thing I have to point out ó and I always believe there are solutions out there. There are solutions to problems. My colleague on this side from the NDP hit on one of them. There has to be a collective and shared view on how we meet the needs of the people in the Yukon, be it economic, social or infrastructure. We have to start somewhere. We have to work together to create some solutions ó be it the First Nation governments, all the partiesí governments, and maybe even have an economic summit so that we can sit down and start talking about solutions ó Yukon Chamber of Mines, Yukon Chamber of Commerce. Get all of the NGOs together. Letís start being collective about our solutions to the economy. Letís not worry too much about our prestige in our political party or our obligations to our political party.
Because there are children out there who are suffering now. Unlike yourselves, unlike the ó
Speaker: The Chair has been rather patient today; however, I would like to remind the member to please address his comments through the Chair, and try not to personalize them by the use of "you" or "yourselves" or similar words like that.
Mr. Jim: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is in a moment when we need to express, and Iíll certainly keep that in mind for sure.
Unlike this government, there are people out there who are suffering, who are wondering what they are going to do about their light bill, or what they are going to be doing about the next payment of their monthly rent. And worse yet, moreover, there are children going to school without their lunches. There is a Third World out there in the Yukon. And, if we are going to do something to improve the social infrastructure of the Yukon, if we are going to do something to improve or help the well-being of people in the Yukon, then we have to work together on this. It is our duty as leaders. It is our duty as family members.
We know that today this budget will more than likely go through because this side of the House doesnít want to see an uprising.
This side of the House wants to see something work. Moreover, we want to see the government become more and more accountable for their actions.
The ride stops here, today. Now itís time to roll up your sleeves, get down to it and say, "Letís work together. Letís solve some of the problems with our economics."
I truly believe that we definitely have to look at our political structure here, and I truly believe that is one of the problems for our lull in our economy. Because party politics doesnít work. Not here, our numbers are too small. Far too often we get into this kaleidoscopic realm that we have to go on in accordance to the political promises and political beliefs, or party obligations.
To the person who walks the street today and looks at this booklet, they say, "Wow. Boy, isnít this budget booklet a little thick?"
Economic drivers ó I donít know what we have for economic drivers in this booklet, because I certainly donít see any. I think we can work on solutions together to address our economic lull, our non-existent economy. Moreover, to address our social infrastructure, families that are suffering from alcoholism, drug addictions, we have no centre, no professionally administered drug abuse centre here in the Yukon. With 30,000 people in the Yukon you would think we would have a facility in place already to address this need, and that is one of the pillars which the Yukon Liberal Party has promised. Itís all about the Yukon. Itís all about the future.
I donít know what more I can say about this than just express my concern, I guess, to put it mildly, about what we can do to work together on solving some of these issues with the economy and social infrastructure by becoming accountable to the people of the Yukon and by trying to have a shared vision of what it is weíd like to see happening in the future.
I hope that in my sitting, in my time, we can change the way we provide services to our children here in the Yukon. I hope that we can change the way we provide service to those who are abused from alcohol, from drugs. I also hope that we can work together on resolving our economic lull.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, this operations and maintenance budget was prepared with guidance from our caucus, which at the time included the three independent members opposite. As an operations and maintenance budget, it provides for the day-to-day work of government and supports non-government organizations. As the Premier said in the budget address, the overall increase in O&M is held to one percent.
Education increased two percent; health care increased five percent. That means most other departments are reducing their O&M.
Mr. Speaker, you would not spend your savings all at once. At least Iím assuming you wouldnít. It wouldnít be fiscally responsible. The Speaker is going to tell me he doesnít have any savings.
Mr. Speaker, we canít spend the surplus all at once, either. That wouldnít be fiscally responsible. What opposition asks for, in addition to what is already in this O&M budget, is not one-time funding. Itís continuing funding and, as the Premier has said over and over again, we cannot continue to spend more than we take in. This is a responsible O&M budget, and I am happy to support it, as I support the Premier.
Combined with the capital budget that we passed in the last sitting, the operation and maintenance budget thatís before us helps fulfill the commitments and support the priorities of this government. Iíve been very proud, Mr. Speaker, to be a member of this Liberal government, even more so in the last several months. Our hard work over the last two years is showing results that will improve the future for Yukoners. Weíve made real progress on issues that have been on the agenda of previous governments for many years.
In the fall of 2001, we signed an agreement with the federal government that will see management of our natural resources devolve to the territorial government. This is something that successive Yukon governments have worked on but have not achieved. The authority and responsibility for managing the mineral, forest and water resources of the Yukon will rest with the government directly elected and accountable to the Yukon people.
I know that my colleagues, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and the Minister of the Environment, welcome the opportunity and responsibility that this will bring.
A new Yukon Act was introduced last fall and received royal assent a very short time ago. Devolution is no longer a far-off goal of Yukoners, but a reality that will come to pass in less than one year.
This reality was made possible by the hard work of this Liberal government. Two years ago, we said we would focus our efforts on devolution. We did what we said we were going to do, and we have succeeded.
First Nations, the federal government and the territorial government have been working on land claims for decades. The signing of the umbrella final agreement in 1993 was a critical step, and seven individual land claims had been signed and ratified between the signing of the umbrella final agreement and April 2000, when this government took office. We recognized the obvious importance of settling land claims and made it our number one priority when we took office.
Iím especially proud, as the MLA for Lake Laberge, that early this year the Taían Kwachían citizens ratified their final agreement. And just last week, on April 1, 2002, this final agreement took effect. First Nation chiefs and councils, as well as negotiators from the federal and territorial governments, have worked tirelessly over the last several months. In a historic signing ceremony in the wee hours of the morning of April 1, 2002, four separate land claims MOUs were initialled. Representatives from Carcross-Tagish, Kwanlin Dun, Kluane and White River First Nations initialled their agreements, and all parties will continue to work toward ratification over the next year. As everyone is aware, the Liard First Nation and the Ross River Dena Council have a few more days of negotiations ahead of them, and we remain hopeful that a resolution to their issues can be reached, as well.
Once again, Mr. Speaker, we made a commitment to Yukoners that we would place a priority on settling land claims. We did what we said we would do, and we have seen the results.
The members opposite have commented that they do not see the economic development initiatives in this yearís budget. The budget before us is an operations and maintenance budget. There were many, very positive economic initiatives contained in the capital budget last fall. The opposition parties like to remind us that they were elected to hold the government accountable. They chose not to debate the capital budget.
That capital budget is putting Yukoners to work right now. As the Minister for the new Department of Community Services, it was with a certain amount of regret that I watched the transportation component of the old department become part of the new Department of Infrastructure. I enjoyed working with all the members from the transportation division, and I am sure that the new minister will enjoy the same positive relationship.
I would like to focus for a few minutes on the capital spending that I had the pleasure to introduce last fall, which will be carried out by the new Minister of Infrastructure. The Shakwak work on the Alaska Highway this year will total over $23 million. Of this money, contracts totalling over $13 million have already been awarded, including $7.4 million to Golden Hill Ventures of Whitehorse for work on the Alaska Highway north of Haines Junction. The Yukon government is putting a further $9.3 million into work on the Alaska Highway, as we try to compensate for years of neglect of the infrastructure of the Yukon under the previous NDP government. Pelly Construction of Whitehorse has already been awarded a contract of about $3 million from these funds. Including bridge work, we are spending another $3 million on highway work on other roads around the territory. This includes work on the Klondike Highway, the Campbell Highway, the Dempster Highway, the Tagish Road, the Top of the World Highway, and the Silver Trail.
A number of projects that I announced in the capital budget last fall that remain with my new Department of Community Services have also been tendered already. Skookum Asphalt Ltd. has been awarded contracts totalling about $800,000 for work on phase 1 of the Carcross sewage project and work on the Copper Ridge subdivision. Another local company, Norcope Enterprises, has already been awarded a contract worth over $1 million for work in Copper Ridge as well.
If the opposition had taken the opportunity to debate the capital budget last November, they would clearly recognize these and other real job creation projects that are a part of this yearís budget.
These positive contributions to the economy are having an effect now, and we are beginning to see the results.
Mr. Speaker, the unemployment rate has been declining for months. Beginning in June last year, the unemployment rate began to drop and continued to drop for eight straight months. Recently, the rate has continued to hover under 10 percent. That is not good enough, but itís far better than the 17 percent seen under the last government. While the opposition will claim that this reduction is only the result of a declining population, let me offer some facts. Statistics show that the population of the Yukon has actually increased since last June. The increase is small but again weíre heading in the right direction. The actual number of jobs is up as well. There were 100 more jobs in the Yukon in March 2002 than there were in March 2001 ó another modest but positive step. In fact, almost every economic indicator available shows that we are heading in the right direction. Total retail sales in the Yukon increased from $343 million in 2000 to $361 million in 2001. Wholesale sales for the same period show an increase from $117 million to $123 million. Real estate sales were $110 million in 2001, and this is a significant increase over the $100 million in sales in 2000.
The year 2001 represents this Liberal governmentís first full year in office. When we came into government ó we were elected in April 2000 and sworn in in May of that year ó we inherited an economy that resembled a sinking ship. Mr. Speaker, we have plugged the leak and bailed out the boat. We have not yet reached our destination but we are moving forward again.
In my capacity of Minister of Community Services, I am responsible for sport and recreation in the territory. In this role, I have had the opportunity to be involved in another initiative that will provide an economic stimulus to the Yukon Territory. The territorial government committed $9 million to build the aquatic centre now under construction. We have pledged a further $10 million for infrastructure to support the 2007 Canada Games bid, as well as $2 million in O&M.
This money will provide important jobs over the next several years. It will help the City of Whitehorse and, indeed, all of the Yukon to host a spectacular event that will increase our exposure across Canada and will provide a legacy for future generations.
In concert with the mayor and council of Whitehorse, the bid committee and our Member of Parliament in Ottawa, I have been lobbying the federal secretary of state responsible for amateur sport for a federal contribution of $20 million that is necessary to allow us to host these games.
There are several initiatives in the departments that I have been entrusted with that I would like to mention. Yukon Housing is continuing to work on the seniors action plan by increasing the funding to the seniors home and yard maintenance fund. This program was developed last year with significant input by seniors to help our ageing population stay in their own homes longer.
I am also pleased that we will be looking at ways to expand this worthwhile program into the communities this year.
The Yukon Liquor Corporation is in the middle of a review of the Liquor Act. As part of this review, we heard a call for shorter off-sales hours. The board of directors of the Liquor Corporation, supported by the RCMP, made the decision to shorten the hours, effective April 1, 2002. The new hours are from 9:00 a.m. to midnight. This will be a positive small step toward more responsible drinking in the Yukon.
In another new initiative at the Yukon Liquor Corporation, the government has decided to relocate the Whitehorse liquor store. The retail outlet will be moved from its present location to the warehouse location. This is another decision that is consistent with comments received during the review of the Liquor Act. We are a government that listens to Yukoners.
Moving the liquor store to the industrial area site not only centralizes liquor-related services, but also allows us to consolidate many health services that are currently scattered around the city. This approach is consistent with the one-stop shop approach ó a major goal of the renewal initiative.
A major initiative of renewal, Mr. Speaker, is the creation of a service centre. This new centre will combine most of the front-line services that government offers to the public in one location. Program areas within the service centre will include motor vehicles, consumer affairs, corporate affairs, building safety, labour services, property assessment and taxation, and Project Yukon.
Services from other departments also located there include vital statistics, health care registration and the driver control board. We believe that Yukoners deserve better service from government and hope that this will be a large step in the right direction. It was heartening to hear yesterday that the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses agrees. Seventy-percent of businesses surveyed were in favour of the service centre concept. As the service centre becomes a reality, we can begin to work on the remaining 23 percent.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, this O&M budget is a teamwork effort from the team on this side of the House, and at the time it was put together, it included the three independent members opposite. We believe it is a good budget, and we hope all members will see it in their hearts to support it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin ó pardon me, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. Sorry.
Mr. Keenan: I feel like a jack-in-the-box, Mr. Speaker, but I certainly appreciate the 40 minutes you have allotted me to speak to the budget and to the Yukon in general, I guess.
Itís ironic that, just a few moments ago in the House, some of the members on this side had to slip out for different business and whatnot, Mr. Speaker, and there was a showing of hands over there saying, "Youíre alone over there. Come on over." It took me back to a friend of mine, many people in this room know him, Mr. Elijah Harper, and the impact that one person can have on a government situation. Of course, we all know that Mr. Harper was standing down the Meech Lake Accord, so certainly one voice can make the difference.
But, Mr. Speaker, one voice, a lot of times ó except in the case I just spoke about ó is just a drop in the ocean, but if we pull together and have many voices ó I guess thatís what it is, many voices, many concerns, many directions ó going in the same direction, we can create a tidal wave of action. We can create that positive energy to move forward for the betterment of the Yukon. So, one person can make a difference. Three people make one heck of a difference but, certainly, one can, but three can do even more.
This budget reply has been going on for the last few days in the Legislature, and I listened with intent to hear what people say, what people have to say and what peopleís feelings are, and so many times, just by observing a person, you can understand where theyíre coming from, you can understand the dynamics, you can understand the relationships that surround them and make them the person they are.
As I listened to the gentleman from Klondike speak the other day, it showed me that politicians can be chameleons. We can change colours, because the gentleman from Klondike was speaking of some of the social goodness that the individual feels should and could be done. What happened underneath the Yukon Party regime from 1992 to 1996? Mr. Speaker, I must point out to the Yukon public that it was during that tenure that more women in the history of the Yukon marched on this Legislature than ever before. So that tells me that there is a chameleon in our midst ó there is.
Iíd also like to point out, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon Party, in their tenure, did nothing but build roads. There were no schools. There was a need for schools. And now we donít have a need for schools but weíre building schools. There is a commonality there. I think itís called being misguided.
The Yukon Party attacking citizens groups during their tenure ó did you know the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre didnít have a home? They were just like that boll weevil. They were looking for a home. They eventually found a home in a closet ó in a closet.
Well, Mr. Speaker, that was corrected in 1996, upon the election of the New Democratic Party. The Yukon Party believed in megaprojects ó absolute megaprojects. And they had that dream of megaprojects because it would build the economy and the infrastructure of the territory. Yet one of the biggest megaprojects to ever hit the north, and which needs continual massaging as it goes along, is the Shakwak project, and the Yukon Party, in its tenure, had never renegotiated it.
Mr. Speaker, it was the New Democratic Party ó the New Democratic government ó that stepped to the table, saw where we had to go, recognized that the time frame was there and proactively led a contingent to garner over $100 million U.S. for input into our economy. Now, thatís leadership. Thatís leadership that the New Democrats have proven and others have not.
Mr. Speaker, I find this Liberal government of the day in the same situation. We can crow about SHIP, strategic highways infrastructure program, but it was under my tenure as the transportation minister ó because it takes that long. It takes a couple or three years to get these things mobilized and moving. It wasnít under the tenure of the government of the day; it was under the tenure of the previous government that that program was put into marching orders and moved on, and I remember speaking to the transportation minister, David Collenette, about that very issue.
So, Mr. Speaker, is governance about good direction, or is it about spin and wiping out fingerprints? Well, by golly, I have to wonder about that. Now, of course, during the Yukon Party, what did they do? They rolled back wages. I didnít hear the leader of the third party crowing and bragging about that. They rolled back wages, and Iím here to remind folks, not just the civil servants but Yukon at large, because the civil servantsí pay cheques affect Yukon at large.
I can remember so many years ago in government when folks out in the communities thought Faro was a distinct territory by itself and a distinct mentality, and I used to have to take the time to slow them down and talk about what Faro means. Faro might mean that you donít have a job there, or you might not have an active job because you live in Teslin or where I live at kilometre 1331 of the highway, but did Faro affect us in the economy? Absolutely.
Mr. Speaker, we have to think territorially in the big picture in this situation, all ways.
The Yukon Party had their one big project, the hospital, which I do believe was brought forth through a devolution transfer initiated by the New Democrats, but built by Alberta under the tenure of the Yukon Party. Was there local capacity? Were there ideas of building into local capacity at that time? No, no, because they had all the ideas.
Well, the Yukon Party can crow about being the ones who signed the memorandum, I believe, in the protected areas strategy. That was simply public pressure because once it was signed, was there any action by the Yukon Party on that? No. The New Democrats, when we were elected in 1996, one of the first issues we brought up was that and how to do it expediently, and how to work it. So it wasnít them. They had ideas about coal mines and building narrow gauge railway tracks into Carmacks, and just non-thought-out projects. That is what the Yukon Party brought to this. That is the type of attitude that the Yukon Party brought to this territory, and we strengthened what we had left when we formed government and we continued to look at all sectors.
So, I really hope that puts to bed some of the issues of the Yukon Party because Yukon does not need chameleon politicians. Yukon people need leadership ó absolute leadership. Itís pretty easy to provide leadership in good times. Itís very easy to provide leadership in good times, and walk down a street and go to Tim Hortonís and smile around. I mean, I do it every day, but these are tough times. So, when do we need leadership? We need leadership in tough times, and by golly, no matter what spin the Finance minister, the Premier, puts on the economy of today, she is ó
Thatís where she is, Mr. Speaker. She is in the toilet, and beyond, and that is not where our economy should be.
What it takes is leadership to take it out and to move forward. Thatís all that people want. Yukon people are used to the boom and the bust because thatís the way it is. Iíve been a trapper and a fisherman, Iíve even fought fire, I built roads, log houses and did frame construction. You have to be that way. Thatís the way Yukon is. Thatís exactly the way Yukoners are. Thatís the way we think.
So are we going to chase after our politicians, get after them and be angry because the economy is the governmentís fault? Not entirely. There is a lot of tolerance in the communities and an understanding that government cannot be subsidizing gold prices. Thatís a non-starter. But government can do other things. Governments can do things to achieve certainty for the Yukon Territory so that we might have, based upon meaningful process, the ability to extract, the ability to mine, the ability to drill.
Now, weíre not standing on this side of the House saying to drill it, log it, mine it, pave it. Thatís not what weíre saying. Thatís not what weíre about. But we do wish to move forward ó everything in time. Because if we can provide certainty through protected areas strategies and if we can go through processes to make it helpful to the economy, helpful to the environment, then we can go and do logging shows and we can do oil and gas ó if we do it in a meaningful way.
This side of the House is built upon Yukon people. Thatís who we are. Iím not saying that others arenít, but thatís definitely who we are and we listen to people.
As we move through, the opposite side attempts to stereotype us. Theyíll say, oh, youíre a tree hugger or youíre an Indian trapper or youíre a redneck. Mr. Speaker, I want to dispel that. Thatís not at all what itís about. This is about a group of Yukon people who wish to move forward, provide the right governance for this territory and do the right thing and provide the certainty of leadership. And Iíll offer some direction to the Premier opposite: letís get up, and letís get this protected areas strategy just a-kickiní and a-moviní. Letís provide the certainty to the Yukoners that Mr. Ostashek in the Yukon Party bought into, that Mr. McDonald as a government leader bought into, and which this Premier bought into, and letís get it done. Letís provide certainty to Yukoners in general, because itís something that we, as a territory, have bought into.
At the same time, Mr. Speaker, the placer mining motion yesterday was a good example of how we can work together by providing leadership. And a government is elected to provide leadership. Thatís exactly what a government is to do. So letís get on with it.
I guess Iíve had an extensive political career, and I started off as a councillor, and I evolved into negotiations of a land claim and ended up being a chief at the time and working at the land claims. When we did that, we did it for certainty, and we negotiated a land claim and implemented a self-government agreement, and we did it for certainty on our side of the fence, because the issues that affect all peoples affect First Nation peoples, too. So, we knew that we didnít want to go batting things back and forth, that we needed certainty. And so we achieved that through a land claims process.
Now, last year, the federal government thought that some of the negotiators were fat cats, abusing the process. I was appalled when I read that, Mr. Speaker, absolutely appalled, because after 15 ministers, I believe, that some of these negotiators had worked through, there was a minister who massaged new life into their thinking, into their mandates, and for them to be called "at the public trough" was just a terrible insult. It was just a terrible insult to think that they were prolonging a land claim negotiation so they could do it for their personal good.
Mr. Speaker, phooey on that. Those words shouldnít have been said, because they were defining the leadership of the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Kaska leadership and the Kwanlin Dun leadership and the aspirations of the people in where they wanted to go. And now that we have a time frame invoked upon people, as of April 1, we have had something new come out in this process of negotiation ó a memorandum of understanding ó and I canít quite figure where that came from.
Now, Iím not dumping on a decision. Iím asking where is the certainty, or is this just a political façade? Is that what this is? I think thatís exactly what it is. We have drawn a curtain. We havenít built a wall, but we have drawn a curtain, and we can open that curtain at any time.
Mr. Speaker, thereís no certainty in a memorandum of understanding. For something that started from a letter, from Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, that evolved ó after many, many years, after many ministers and many negotiators ó into an agreement in principle, a UFA, an umbrella final agreement, and then into Yukon First Nation final agreements. Nowhere in there was there a memorandum of understanding as to where we were going.
So I wonder about this and ask questions. Iím of the understanding that within the next year ó that certainty hasnít really been finalized, but it is going to be attempted to be finalized in that year.
Now, the Premier stood on her feet in this House and said it was mostly just cleanup, drafting of legal language and errata. I have been involved in that process too. I have been a part of that process, and I donít know whether certainty provisions can fit into that. Itís a stand-alone item. So I just want to clarify that for people here, especially Yukon people, I guess, because the certainty will be there. But I think it was just a way of buying time again, because they knew that they couldnít force the indigenous people of the territory because they are working toward a goal they want. But they had a bit of a club held over them at the time, because he who holds the gold makes the golden rule, I guess. Itís unfortunate that thatís the way because Yukon First Nation people are paying their way through this process. We are paying our way as we evolve through the definition of this self-government model and land claim we have in the territory. As others, I read the paper and question the certainty aspect.
We donít have to put on pretty pink ribbons and things. We just have to use logistics, have good energy and empower the people, and letís go. And that can be done.
I want to talk again a little bit about leadership because certainly, in my mind, leadership is to provide vision, and leadership is to provide hope.
As I said earlier, Yukon people are tolerant; Yukon people are desirous of good government, and I guess weíll continue to wait for it. If government would provide a long-range vision, the hope would be with the people and we could incrementally move through those bust-and-boom cycles. Those are what the aspirations of my people were ó to act and think as a community and work within specific jurisdictions. Never once in my lifetime as a Tlingit from Teslin have I ever seen anybody kicked out, turned away if they were hungry or thirsty or cold. Iíve never seen that done. Never, ever, ever.
My people, as all people, want goodness for the Yukon Territory. We want security for our children; we want a future for our children, for our grandchildren. We want proper health systems put into place. We want a good life. How we live our lives is by our choice, but Yukon people want good lives and deserve good lives.
Yukon people want to understand where theyíre going so that they can buy into where theyíre going, and Iíve had many folks in the communities talk to me about why things are as such. "Dave, why arenít we getting anything in the Teslin region? Weíve talked to them; weíve driven them all around the village. Weíve shown them the dumps; weíve shown them our infrastructure ó why? Is it because you are our MLA? Is it because itís a New Democrat riding?" And I said, "No, at least I certainly hope itís not. I surely hope itís not."
But I couldnít answer the question, so I met with the governance of the Teslin Tlingit and the mayor and council, and they talked about putting a letter together, and they did, and it got some action. Itís unfortunate that it took that type of letter, and the quotes that I brought out, to get some action.
They just want to be involved in whatís happening within their territory. But, at this point in time, when the only economy is government and tourism ó and tourism is slipping on us, as the Member for Kluane spoke about a little bit today ó then weíve got to be proactive and start showing some leadership.
We know that there is money out there; we know. The Auditor General, I believe, said that there is about $72 million or thereabouts out there with lapses. Thatís close to $90 million right there, and it could be over. Now, if you couple that with the funds, the dollars, that have been coming to the Yukon permanent fund ó what is it? $30 million or $35 million that came into the territory last year that was put in a different fund but did not have what they were for or how they were to be accessed. And now, just in the paper, within the last couple or three weeks, Iíve been told that, "oh, some of that funding might have to come out and be put into general revenues."
Why are we building a war chest? Why are we hiding monies? Why? Those monies arenít here to be hoarded until my wallet gets so fat that I fall off my wallet. Thatís not what itís about, Mr. Speaker. Itís to provide good governance and to hold in abeyance; enough money so that we might be able to run our government for a month, I believe it is ó something like $50 million, $35 million, Mr. Speaker ó thatís the norm. So, when Teslin gets $7,000 for a computer over three years ó oh, Mr. Speaker, when the wish list is there, the knowledge is there, the plans are there, they even have money to partner with government ó it tells me that weíre building a war chest.
And that soon ó well, things have changed in the last few days, as we all know. But soon, people will be out talking about, oh, boy, weíre going to spend money here and do this. Itís unfortunate they have to be in the third year, Mr. Speaker, if we get that far.
So we should be talking about what we can do as a group of people of 17 legislators. And you know, Mr. Speaker, you and I have had this conversation before, or at least youíve listened to me in this House before, Mr. Speaker, because I have raised this issue in the House before. I think itís time that we all sat down and defined just what social equality is and how we can work together as Yukon people. Because Iím Johnny and my brother is Fred, I guess, it doesnít mean that weíre any different. It means that we want the same things, and Johnny and Fred should be able to have the same type of access to those things.
So we need to define social equality. We need to create economic opportunity for people. And we should be doing that on a well-thought-out, planned basis, so that itís just not every three years and thereís an election coming ó it goes like that. This ainít Snakes and Ladders, Mr. Speaker; this ainít politics. Weíre tinkering, as this government lays out its budget, with peopleís lives.
Just a couple of months ago, Mr. Speaker, there was, oh, weíre going to do something with the dental, but weíre not going to affect the children in the communities. It will only affect the people here. Thatís division, division between urban people and rural people. I mean, we should be bringing out our sewing needles and bringing people together and sewing up the tattered tear thatís there. Weíre dividing people. I am not here to divide people. Iím here to recognize peopleís needs and to provide the leadership ó not by hiding it in different programs.
It was two and a half years ago, or thereabouts, that the Liberal government was elected on a very slim, flimsy party platform. It didnít say anything, nada, dick ó motherhood statements. That is all it said ó motherhood statements ó and suddenly the government is elected. Weíve obviously done something wrong, but we are correcting that wrong to make it a right. But I said, "Let them govern. They won the election. Let them govern."
Since then I havenít seen any new ideas ó no new ideas. Iíve seen name changes, Iíve seen shifts, Iíve seen an attempt to wipe out the NDP fingerprints on every program that we started. And those are doggone good programs. Those are programs that people miss because they were programs that were developed to allow people, at any time of the year, to access them: the community development fund, the tourism marketing fund, the trade and investment fund. It was made and designed to put peopleís energies into the communities and to give access to resources into the communities so that they can do good things. And I look at what Tagish has done under an advisory committee. They have done nothing but good because they have had access to programs, and through a community club organization and an advisory to the minister, they have done wonderful things in their community, just wonderful things. They have a vibrant community and I enjoy it every time I go through.
So, instead of filing off New Democrat fingerprints, government should be looking to develop programs that communities can access for their goodness.
Mr. Speaker, the New Democrats were in tough times because we knew we couldnít bolster gold prices with what had happened with Bre-X, et cetera, around the world. So we went out to diversify and, goshes sakes, as we went about diversifying the economy through those different programs that we had ó through IT development, through the oil and gas sector, through the development of our forest strategy, through the implementation of training trust funds along with the community access programs I have spoken about ó we were diversifying the economy. By golly, we were doing a good job of it, too, because people have stopped me in the street and said, "I never voted for you but I wish I did." I said, "Thatís okay. Everybody makes mistakes; donít worry about it. Weíre still going to be around." Thatís the kind of leadership we need.
I get an incredible chuckle now, after the fact, especially today when the alliance party to my left tabled their motion. The motion was about Liberal promises, about restoring heritage. I will give the Minister of Finance or whomever ó the minister responsible for heritage ó a heads-up because heritage funding was not slashed. It wasnít. There were different areas where we took heritage funding from, such as the community development fund. If the minister goes through that and looks at all the different programs, not just the heritage line item, the minister will find that heritage funding was there. It was there. And what did it do? Well, look whatís happened in Dawson City just over the last few weeks, and with the film festival. It was all attributed to heritage funding that was directed to it, I believe from the community development fund. Thatís heritage funding.
Mr. Speaker, the previous minister responsible for transportation said, "Restore that. Iíll fight for that if itís the last thing I do." It turns out that, as I check things out, it was a pretty good job. I understand now that the message at different meetings was given by Transportation Services to the governance in the communities, "Oh, maybe we shouldnít expect too much."
A promise made is a debt unpaid. Now, where have we heard that before? So, these governmental groups we have in place today, all eight of them, should be looking to work cooperatively, check out the ideas of others ó not just the official opposition or the three who have left the ranks of the Liberal Party at this point in time ó but to go and consult and, yes, to use the departments. But the departments are not geared to consult; itís the politicanís obligation to go out and consult with the people. And itís not just to pay "listening service", but to provide the leadership as you listen, to talk about what can be done and how it can be done. Itís not so much why we canít do something, because everything is achievable, if we work together to find a way to do it.
Now, certainly, this side of the House is well-practiced in that because that is what we were all about. Itís about going to the communities, talking to them and providing the leadership. Itís not about going to the communities and confusing them. It has been apparent on that side of the House that one of the ministers went to my community, and my community asked the minister, "What do these new boundaries mean in the interim? What does it mean?" The minister who was there said, "Oh, it means that youíre lucky that you now have two MLAs." Well, Mr. Speaker, thatís poppycock. Itís absolutely wrong. We shouldnít be spreading that message out to the communities. It should not be personality-driven. Iím going to be checking travel claims to ensure that a minister is on the business of a ministry, not sidebarring an MLA and looking to use it as a chance to campaign.
Iím absolutely appalled at that, Mr. Speaker, as many in the community are. It has to be brought forward to this House, and it has been.
A lot of it is about attitude, can-do attitude, within reality. If somebody wants a space walk to the moon or something, we know thatís a non-goer. But if something is within our realm that we can help facilitate as a government, then we should try to do it. We shouldnít be writing peopleís ideas off because theyíre ludicrous. People donít have ludicrous ideas always. If you take the time to listen to everybody ó and even some can have good ideas at times, you just have to take the time to listen. And it takes leadership to extract those good ideas and to ignore the rhetoric, to ignore the insults that sometimes surround it.
In Teslin, Mr. Speaker, the wish list is still there. Teslin is still looking for pullout spots to enhance tourism and help diversify the economy. Teslin is still looking for a sewer extension to help cut down our O&M costs at the village and to provide access to healthy living ó those types of things. And we appreciate the direction that our leadership has given and taken, as a citizen of Teslin. We appreciate that, as citizens of Teslin. But what we need here, again, is for the Yukon territorial government to come in partnership, because I can talk more about whatís not in Teslin than I can talk about what is in Teslin. Teslin does not have a swimming pool, Mr. Speaker, and it might be one of the very few communities in the territory that doesnít have a swimming pool.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we understand that swimming pools are not the only things that donít work in Dawson City ó absolutely ó but we will leave that debate for the election, I guess. No swimming pools ó and again, Iíve said to this House, I think this is the third time, for children talking to me about, "Hey Dave" ó because in my community Iím known as "Davey K"; the kids call me that ó "Hey Davey K, when can we have this?" Or, "What are you going to do about this?" But still nothing has happened on those issues, and Iíve brought them to the House. So when the child told me, he was 11, and now heís 13. Maybe his priorities have changed, but there are still generations coming because Teslin is going to be there forever, and it is going to grow stronger and more vibrant.
At the cottage lots ó whatís not down there ó and Iíve talked about this with members of the government, about providing telephones and finding telephones, because itís predominantly seniors who live there. They could use a chipsealed road. Over time, that would pay for itself. They need a well. They need access to water. They donít have it. Weíve worked cooperatively with the Village of Teslin to find ways, and the Village of Teslin embarked on some trial projects to provide water delivery, but it was just too much of a cost to provide that service to the cottage lots.
Now, in Tagish, Marsh Lake and other rural areas of the Yukon, we have wells. Wouldnít that be simple just to drill a well? You can do it for forty bucks a foot. Itís a little expensive, but look what it does. It enhances community living. I donít know if theyíre a commodity or what, because I just donít know sometimes what that means, but the two most precious segments of our society are our elders and our children. So we should be helping to educate and provide safe environments for our children, and we should be showing loving care to our elders.
So I encourage government to look at those issues in Teslin. The Justice minister spoke about the justice initiative with the Teslin Tlingit. .. I guess Iíll always be a part of Teslin, and I was a part of Teslin when that initiative was started. And it wasnít started, as the Member for Klondike loves to shout in this House ó give him a fair trial and heíll hang him. No, no, no. It was developed for social equity. It doesnít mean that because you do something bad you can get away with it and just get a little wrist slap. No, it is a different way of showing you that you have to conform to what our society wants and desires. So I thank the Justice minister for his kudos on that.
And I thank the minister for the energies that the ministerís department has put into developing that, because it has been a long process, and I thank people. In Carcross, it took a petition of the people, it took me to table that petition in this House. I believe they get $60,000 to develop and plan with the community club by the community. And I remember when I tabled it, the minister replied and scolded me, absolutely scolded me, because at that time I should have known better than to bring this forward. There are other ways of doing things. And if that petition did not get tabled in this House, Carcross would still be looking. But, Mr. Speaker, now that the plan is done, should we not be looking at how to allocate funding to develop, in a supplementary budget for the community of Carcross, this most vibrant community? I had the pleasure of going to a curling bonspiel there this year.
And I had to wear my gumboots because it was that spring day, two inches of ice, but people were laughing; people were having fun. There were children involved, there were seniors involved; and it was a good time.
So, Mr. Speaker, we should be moving on to the implementation of that community club. That community club was built by volunteer effort many moons ago ó so many that I donít know how many, but many. Thatís what was conveyed to me.
So how much time do I have left, Mr. Speaker?
Speaker: Two seconds.
Mr. Keenan: Two seconds? Well, Mr. Speaker, Iíve got to talk really quickly. If youíll give me two minutes, Iíll be quiet.
Speaker: All right, I will. Thank you.
Mr. Keenan: So, Mr. Speaker, all I want to do is I want to encourage this government, now that theyíre in a minority situation, to find a way to work with us, find a way to work with me because, Mr. Speaker, I will work with government. I will if they will do the right thing.
If they do not do the right thing, well, we all know what the consequences of that can be. So itís truly up to the government of the day to lead the way, to incorporate the desires of the three or four parties on this side of the House to do the right thing for Yukon.
And I thank you. And God bless you.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this government has put together an operations and maintenance budget to support the good work that the government does offering services to Yukoners.
I think itís time to respond to some of the comments from the previous speaker. The previous speaker accused this side of the House of hiding dollars. Mr. Speaker, would that we had extra dollars. Would that we had extra dollars to spend on the good things that this government does, whether thatís garbage service in some of the rural communities or itís funding for Teegatha'Oh Zheh, whether itís building roads, whether itís going forward in a number of communities with Yukon Housing projects. Those are all good projects that this government offers to Yukon.
The member opposite accuses us of hiding dollars. We have put money aside because, in a very short period of time, we are going to find out what the consequences are of having fewer people in the Yukon Territory during the census. We know that our transfer payments from the federal government will be considerably less than they have been in the past. There will be a consequence to those numbers being lower, and that is a very real problem, which we have tried to deal with nevertheless.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite wants us to interfere with the marketplace to get government to fund business. We donít do that. Thatís called socialism. We believe that the private sector does a much better job of providing work and doing business in the Yukon Territory. Government does not do that well.
The member opposite also said that he wants to work with people on this side of the House. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you of many opportunities that we have had to work with the members opposite, and we have worked well together on a number of occasions and we would like to continue that good work. I have served with members of both the Yukon Party and members of the NDP for the past six years. I respect the work they have done, I respect what they have done in this Legislature, and I respect the fact that they care deeply about their constituents and about the Yukon Territory. Of course weíre going to work with them. We always have.
Mr. Speaker, in the fall of 2001, we tabled a capital budget at the request of the Contractors Association and a number of private businesses in the Yukon Territory. That capital budget being tabled in the fall means that work can be let earlier in the season, that there is no uncertainty about those dollars being released into the economy. It means that there are a number of people in the Yukon who are at work now but who would not have been at work had we kept that capital budget to be tabled in the spring, as has been past practice.
It means that Norcope Enterprises of Whitehorse has been given the contract, worth over $1 million, for underground utility work in the Copper Ridge subdivision ó Mr. Speakerís riding. It means that Skookum Asphalt was given a contract worth almost $300,000 for underground utility and groundwork in the Copper Ridge subdivision. It means that Skookum Asphalt was awarded a $500,000 contract for phase 1 of the sewage treatment facility in Carcross, the previous Speakerís riding.
It means, Mr. Speaker, that in the capital budget in the fall, we addressed a long-time Yukon Liberal Party commitment, and that was replacing Grey Mountain Primary School. Both opposition parties had promised to rebuild Grey Mountain Primary, and both had reneged on that promise.
We could go back, as suggested by the Member for Porter Creek North, to the days when there were 35, 40 and 45 kids in classrooms. That was what it was like when I was growing up in the Yukon. Thatís what it was like when I was going to school here. Thatís what it was like when my family was going to Selkirk Elementary School in Riverdale. We could go back to that, or we could respond to Yukon teachers, parents and students and have a better quality of Yukon education by offering smaller class sizes.
Mr. Speaker, things have changed. We donít do that any more. We donít have ó and weíre fortunate, I might point out because, in some jurisdictions in Canada, itís back to being that way again. But right here in Yukon, we are really fortunate. We have small class sizes, we offer better education, and in no other place can you see it as well at the primary level as at Grey Mountain Primary School. They have small class sizes because there isnít much room in the classrooms. That is a school that has literally crumbled around the feet of those children.
Mr. Speaker, itís a good investment to invest in Yukon schools and Yukon children.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite, no doubt, are going to suggest that the money from Grey Mountain Primary School be used to offset their version of what the capital budget should look like, even though that capital budget has already passed. Theyíre going to suggest that we take money out of the Grey Mountain Primary School project in order to finance their demands. But, Mr. Speaker, that money is already gone, and the only thing that members on the opposite side can do is cut from the operation and maintenance budget.
So these are the choices that they have. They can cut from the child abuse treatment services program. They can cut from the teen parent access to education. They can cut from Skookum Jim Friendship Centre. They can cut from the Child Development Centre. They can cut from the womenís transition home. I know one member on the other side has done that in the past. Mr. Speaker, they can cut from the Help and Hope for Families Society. They can cut from the Dawson City shelter. They can cut from Hospice Yukon. They can cut from the Yukon Council on Ageing. Mr. Speaker, thatís the only choice they have. Members opposite cannot add to a budget. Those are the rules; they can only cut. They can only cut, and itís an operation and maintenance budget that weíre debating, not a capital budget.
Mr. Speaker, I donít want to do that. What I do want to do is offer good services for Yukoners, and we are going to be offering good services to Yukoners through the operation and maintenance budget that we are discussing today.
The capital budget that we passed in the fall means that Vanier Catholic Secondary School gets a cafeteria. Thatís a long-outstanding need, and that was not addressed under previous governments. Needs in Whitehorse schools were generally ignored. Members opposite have often talked about how education has become politicized. May I tell you that there are ridings that were bought with schools? Mr. Speaker, that is the way it has always been.
Mr. Speaker, I donít think thatís the way it should continue. You have to pay attention to the needs. There was a study that was done, and it was done in conjunction with all Yukon school councils. In that Yukon council study, they agreed that the next school to be rebuilt was Grey Mountain Primary. Then there was a fire in Old Crow and the school there was rebuilt. And there was the school in Ross River, there was the school in Mayo, and Grey Mountain Primary was never rebuilt.
Mr. Speaker, we heard that concern and very, very, very late in the game weíre getting an opportunity to rebuild a very good school.
Mr. Speaker, 77 percent of Yukon businesses polled wanted a service centre that included one-stop shopping for services. As part of this budget, weíre starting a service centre at a location as yet to be announced, where motor vehicles, consumer affairs, corporate affairs, building safety, labour services, property assessment and taxation, Project Yukon, vital statistics, health care registration and the driver control board will be co-located, offering one-stop shopping for Yukon government services.
Mr. Speaker, also included in this budget is the move of the Whitehorse health centre to the former liquor store location. It makes a lot of sense. Itís finally on the ground floor, thereís lots of parking, and it offers more visibility and safety for the people who are coming to that facility. It offers an opportunity for people to access health care in a safe, well-lit, well-located place.
We are going to be moving all the services of the Yukon Liquor Corporation under one roof here in Whitehorse. That will be at the industrial area warehouse, and that makes sense. Members opposite, in particular the Member for Whitehorse Centre, thought this made sense when he stood proudly with the Premier this past month to make that very announcement. Promises, Mr. Speaker.
This government has done what they said they were going to do and these are phenomenal changes to the Yukon. This is devolution ó finally devolution. Devolution means so many things to so many Yukoners. It means water licences here in the Yukon Territory. It means mining. It means forestry. It also means access to the western diversification fund. Devolution equals economic development funds. Thatís what it means. It also means that this Yukon government has achieved certainty in land tenure through the finalization of most of Yukonís land claims.
Like many of the members in this House, we grew up going through the land claims process and itís almost complete. Now we can move on to the next step ó the more challenging step in my mind ó and thatís the implementation of self-government. We are growing up, and anyone who wants to stop us had better watch out.
This Yukon Liberal government has been very successful in helping to rebuild the Yukon economy. Thousands of individuals left the Yukon Territory under the watch of the New Democratic Party. Those people are moving back. Itís slow but itís starting to change. The positive attitude that we have as leaders will help that change and will help our economy grow. Itís extremely important that we get that message out to Yukon communities.
We reduced Yukonersí personal income taxes by two percent shortly after we took office in April 2000. We then cut them another two percent on January 1, 2001 and an additional two percent January 1, 2002. The Yukon personal income tax rate was 50 percent of the federal rate. We have reduced that to 44 percent of the federal rate. Translated, that means $8 million more in Yukonersí pockets. That is an achievement.
Mr. Speaker, speaking of achievements, North American Tungsten has reopened the Cantung mine. A total of 130 people have been hired directly by North American Tungsten to work at the mine. Sixty Yukoners are working as employees or contractors, and the Town of Watson Lake has benefited from 20 to 30 full-time jobs. Yes, the economy is turning around.
This government is working very hard to rebuild the Yukon economy. It is what we said we would do. It is what we are doing, and very slowly it is happening, and it is a good thing. People have started to return to the Yukon. The population increased for the first time in many years by 90 people between June and December of last year. There were 100 more people employed in March of this year than in March of the previous year. The unemployment rate has been under 10 percent for four consecutive months. That is one huge achievement for Yukoners. It is starting to turn around.
Retail sales in the Yukon have increased by more than 37 percent from January 2001 to January 2002. Retail sales have been higher than those of the previous year for the past eight months, and it is not about one-time vehicle sales to Alaska. Retail sales have been increasing since last June, and Yukoners are spending more here because of those tax cuts and that extra $8 million that is in Yukoners' pockets. That spending is putting more money into the Yukon economy, an economy that is starting to turn around.
This government, as many previous governments have done, has a commitment to maintaining quality health care, but there is a tremendous cost to that. The five-percent increase contained in this budget of Health and Social Services is part of that increase ó $14 million, a huge amount of money.
Nevertheless, we think itís important. Itís important to every citizen in the Yukon Territory.
Of the increase, almost 65 percent of this new money will go toward the staffing and operating of a new Copper Ridge long-term care facility. The 72-bed facility is scheduled to open in June of this year.
Increases at the hospital and Child Development Centre account for an additional $650,000.
The work of non-governmental organizations has gone up, and so has our support for them. In 2000-01, we spent $4.2 million in the Department of Health and Social Services. In this yearís budget, that spending is up to $4.7 million for non-governmental organizations that work with the Department of Health and Social Services. It is very important to us that we work well with those non-governmental organizations.
Mr. Speaker, that is my commitment as the new Minister of Health and Social Services. It is important to me to make sure that we have a respectful working relationship with non-governmental organizations, and weíre doing an awful lot in that area to achieve that result. Having that good relationship means that everyone benefits ó the staff, clients and others who support the efforts of those organizations. We respect those contributions that are made to the Yukon. We respect what NGOs do in the Yukon Territory.
In addition to the substantial increase to the Child Development Centre, we have also included increases that were brought in part-way through the last year for the Learning Disabilities Association. We are also supporting the Yukon Association for Community Living, Yukon Council on Ageing, the Line of Life and TeegathaíOh Zheh.
We are working on nurse recruitment and retention. We have achieved an agreement with our physicians, and that was quite an achievement.
Over the next year, I have asked the Department of Health and Social Services to work with other unregulated health professionals, such as midwives, speech and language pathologists and audiologists so that I can bring forward new legislation and regulations to govern their professions. Midwifery was a promise that was made and, Mr. Speaker, thatís a promise that is being made and delivered on by the Yukon Liberal caucus.
Mr. Speaker, we are going to be speaking to the commission on health care headed by Roy Romanow over the next month. We will be telling the health care commission about some of the cost drivers in delivering Yukon health care services. Weíre going to be talking about the fact that weíre the only jurisdiction that pays completely for Yukon medical travel. Weíre going to talk about the fact that our drug costs have gone up and that we pay more in retail than just about any jurisdiction in Canada. Weíre going to talk about the fact that we respect our health care professionals and that we feel they should be supported financially for the good work that they do.
Mr. Speaker, our negotiations are continuing with the federal government on funding part of the alcohol and drug secretariat. There will be a full funding picture on that as the year continues.
Since September of last year, the new executive director at the alcohol and drug secretariat conducted 65 consultations, involving more than 240 participants, to determine what our communitiesí needs were. Subsequently, we have developed a model on continuum of care that we think will answer many of the needs that have been expressed to us by Yukon communities and Yukoners themselves about what we need to do to fully address alcohol and drug treatment in the Yukon Territory. What we need and what we have been told is that we need medical support at the detoxification centre. We have been told that we need to have staff who work with people who have a dual diagnosis of addictions as well as mental health problems. We have been told that we need to have more work done out in the communities. We have been told that we need more after-care services.
Mr. Speaker, we have been told that there needs to be a halfway house. We have been told, Mr. Speaker, that there needs to be people who work with fetal alcohol syndrome and with coordinating those services as well as treatment and prevention opportunities. Mr. Speaker, we have been told that Yukoners deserve a better level of care. We heard that. We developed a model, and weíre working on the funding for that model as we speak.
Mr. Speaker, there are so many things that this government works on. One of the items that I am most proud of is our work on substitute and assisted decision making. Mr. Speaker, I heard about this over and over and over again when I was in opposition. There are many, many groups and individuals who have brought that need forward to a number of different governments. Mr. Speaker, in 1990, I believe, it came this close to actually coming forward to the floor of the Legislature. Nothing happened. That need was expressed to NDP governments. It was expressed to Yukon Party or Conservative governments. It never happened. And, Mr. Speaker, weíre the only jurisdiction in Canada that does not have guardianship legislation. Mr. Speaker, we are doing the work right now. We are doing the work right now to bring forward that legislation in the spring of 2003. Mr. Speaker, that is an incredible achievement, and the money for that is in this budget.
Mr. Speaker, if we do nothing else, we need to bring forward that legislation. We need to support individuals, the elderly, who require protection from abuse. And thatís whatís going to be in the assisted and substitute decision-making act. Mr. Speaker, we need to work on this legislation to make the quality of life for Yukoners better. Mr. Speaker, we need to talk to families, and we need to talk to caregivers, and we need to talk to individuals about their needs in this area, and the money for that act is in this budget.
As the Yukon Liberal caucus, we have worked very hard together to build this budget, and I am proud of it. I am proud of our leader. Iíve known her for a long time ó a very long time. Iíve worked with her and I respect the work that she has done over the years. Weíve all had our bumps and our scrapes over time, but weíre there now and weíre developing something thatís very good and weíre offering better services to Yukoners. That is what we should have always been thinking about. We have been working with the members opposite and we will continue to work with the members opposite to rebuild the Yukon economy, to finalize land claims, to bring devolution home, and to offer better services to Yukoners.
Iím proud of this budget and I support it.
Mr. Fentie: Let me begin by saying that I was very hopeful that this sitting would mark a definite turn in events in how this Assembly operated. The Liberal government office, led by their Premier, had a golden opportunity to commence that turn toward a more productive and a more cooperative Assembly by opening this Assembly in the proper manner.
Now, the Premier had every opportunity when it comes to accountability to this Assembly and to the Yukon public, to bring the Assembly in earlier this spring, bring forward interim supply bills and conduct the publicís business in the appropriate manner. Instead, the Premier chose, in a very secretive, very unaccountable approach, to simply go to the Commissioner and have $280-plus million of special warrants signed off and spent.
Now, in essence, to get the road construction community going and to get some capital dollars flowing into the Yukon economy, that in itself is not a bad thing. But the reason in my mind and in the official opposition mind on what is happening here can all be attributed to the renewal project that this government commenced. They commenced tinkering with the government for absolutely no reason. There was no reason to go down that road when there are so many other very high priority policy areas that require a great deal of hard work that would have certainly improved the lot of Yukoners today and long into the future.
Instead the Liberal government, led by the Premier, chose to go naval gazing and tinker with existing structures, mechanisms and departments in the government. And, quite frankly, outside of the accountability issue, which the Premier seems not to really care about when it comes to this Assembly, I think the special warrants also were needed because of the renewal project ó the new departments had far too many empty areas with which to give spending authority. In other words, they were not structured. So things are not going along as smoothly as I am sure the Premier hoped when it came to project renewal.
And, furthermore, letís really look at project renewal as it exists today. Government employees donít call it renewal, they call it project removal. It has removed jobs and people from this territory. It has removed morale from the government employees. It has removed services and programs for Yukoners. It has removed any sensible approach to the hard issues that we need to tackle in this territory, such as our economy, such as our social problems, such as our health care issues, such as our environmental issues and, most importantly, such as the land use conflict issues in this territory that have become a serious impediment to investment and growth.
This, Mr. Speaker, is a fundamental problem with the members opposite and their governance. They care not about accountability at all. They care only about their desire to stay in power at all costs, regardless of what it may do to the Yukon Territory and its people.
I also have heard something else from the opposite side far too often to leave unchallenged, and that is personalizing the debate. The members opposite continually stress to this side of the House that they accept criticism on policy but not personalizing the debate. On the very first day of this sitting, the debate was personalized by the members opposite. They personalized the debate, not the opposition benches. I want to go further into that problem. The members opposite stated here in budget reply speeches that the only reason this side of the House would not vote down their budget is because of a pension, and they directed that comment to the New Democratic caucus. Now, that is implying, Mr. Speaker, that we are here in this Assembly for a pension, and I am disgusted by that comment. If thatís what the members opposite think, I challenge the Premier here and now to shut this gong show down and drop the writ. Furthermore, Iíll take it a step further. I challenge the Premier to bring legislation to the floor of this Assembly disqualifying MLAs from eligibility for a pension and letís see how the Liberals handle that challenge, Mr. Speaker, because those comments are definitely not something that should be brought to the floor of this Legislature.
Those members opposite have a lot to account for in their handling of this Assembly, of this territoryís affairs and how they have managed themselves as a government. If the Premier has any intestinal fortitude, she can lay these issues to rest here and now, and I will support that legislation, and Iím on record stating that. Iím not here for a pension, and never was. Iím here to try to do something constructive and positive for this territory and get us out of the mess weíre in, thanks to the members opposite and their lack of leadership, lack of vision and lack of a plan on how to lead this territory down the road of prosperity and well-being.
Mr. Speaker, far too much rhetoric is coming from the opposite side. They love to quote statistics ó wonderful things to them. What they do is cherry-pick them. Letís look at examples. The Member for Riverdale South talked about the Grey Mountain School. Everybody in this territory understands why they are going to spend millions of dollars on the Grey Mountain School. Itís a political decision.
The Member for Riverdale South quoted all kinds of studies; however, conveniently, she did not quote the enrolment capacity study, which clearly shows that maybe they should rethink their decision or tell us where they are going to bus the students from to fill the capacity of a new Grey Mountain School.
Those are the things the members opposite should be bringing to the floor of this Legislature, not the rhetoric and the cherry-picked statistics that they like to bring here and try to convince themselves of, Iím sure, because theyíre not convincing anybody in this territory that thatís whatís happening.
Letís look at the economic stats. The Premier is very good at saying that the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in years.
If the Premier were accountable to this Assembly and the Yukon public, she would follow that statement up with the fact that ó and by the way, there are 300 fewer people in the work force this year at this time than there were last year at this time. And she would go on to say that, unfortunately, the Liberal government has been unable to create jobs in the Yukon so Yukoners who canít leave here, who donít want to move away, who have kids in school, who live here with their families, who want to stay here and who have mortgages have gone elsewhere to go to work. Those people are in the Northwest Territories, Alberta, B.C., Russia and the United States. Theyíre everywhere but here because there are no jobs here that have been created by this Liberal government across the floor. And itís high time they stop the rhetoric, and letís get on with addressing the difficult issues this territory faces today.
Mr. Speaker, weíre talking about a budget here today. Yes, itís an O&M budget, and the spin from across the floor is that an O&M budget is about people. Again, conveniently ó and shunning accountability ó the members opposite are not saying that itís also about expenditures on government itself. And those are statements that should be made by the members opposite if they truly want to be accountable to the Yukon public and this House.
Mr. Speaker, letís look at some facts here. We have a situation where a majority Liberal government, in less than two years, led by the Premier, the Member for Porter Creek South, is in a minority situation in less than two years. This is not an example of a well-run, organized, focused group of individuals who are in charge of leading this territory.
This speaks of chaos, of disruption, of disagreement. That does not bode well for the Yukon public and for the future of this territory. Now, given the dynamics of what we face today in this Assembly, I have urged time and time again, as my colleagues have on this side of the House, by making suggestions ó positive, constructive suggestions ó to the members opposite to follow through on and they refuse. They refuse because they continue to play politics.
Mr. Speaker, let me give you some examples of what I mean by "playing politics". To have those members opposite stand up and say that they are bringing devolution home is not being accountable to the Yukon public. Quite frankly, the existing agreement that they trumpet as bringing devolution home to this territory is the same one that was negotiated under the former NDP government. What has changed?
Thatís what I mean by "politicizing the debate", by "politicizing the issues". Letís be open and accountable to the Yukon public and tell the Yukon public that devolution is coming home and itís because of all the work that has been done by former governments ó including the Yukon Party government who worked on devolution, including the former NDP government who worked on devolution, including the federal people who have toiled over the negotiations on devolution. It really has nothing to do with what efforts the Liberal members opposite, the government of the day, have put forward to conclude the agreement.
Iíll go on, Mr. Speaker. Land claims ó now, for years, governments in this territory have made the clear statement that their highest priority is the settlement of land claims, and nobody disagrees with that.
Of course thatís a high priority. Itís the highest priority. Itís entrenched in our Constitution. How could it be any different? But Iíll tell you something, this Liberal government making claim that theyíre the ones who settled the land claim are again not being accountable to the Yukon public. The First Nations in this territory are now negotiating land claims with a gun to their heads. Itís nothing to do with the efforts of the members opposite, their mandate, their direction. Itís all being led by the federal minister. This Liberal government led by the Member for Porter Creek South is along for the ride. Quite frankly, weíre a long way away yet from any successful resolution and conclusion to the land claims. Iím talking about being open and accountable to this Assembly and to the Yukon public and, time and time and time again, the Premier and her colleagues continue to show otherwise.
Mr. Speaker, we do want to work cooperatively on behalf of the Yukon public. We believe that there are ways to address immediately some of the very difficult issues. The official opposition, along with the third party and our newest members on the opposition benches, has ideas. We have not been able to get through to the members opposite with those ideas. The members say, "Yes, we want to work with the opposition people." Well, talking about it is fine, but letís do it. Let us work together. Let us tackle our economic problems. There are things we can do immediately to help stimulate our economy, to put Yukoners to work, to set down some foundation for the future, and weíre not going to miracle that to happen.
And we are going to have to make sure the federal government provides its fair contribution to help turn our economic situation around. So when we offer a positive, constructive suggestion to the government opposite on putting together a collective voice with this Assembly, with the First Nations, with the business community, with labour and with representatives from all Yukon communities, it falls on deaf ears. And the Premier politicizes the issue and plays political games by providing answers that are nothing more than rhetoric and have produced absolutely no results for the people of this territory. Consequently, the exodus continues.
Now, it is a well-known fact that recently the CBC attended my community for a day on an open-line show ó I believe it was called Midday ó and interviewed many people in the riding, and I talked to the CBC people about it. And they said to me that they got the distinct impression that once this school year was complete, there would be more people leaving the community of Watson Lake.
And yet we have these members opposite, this Liberal government, telling this House that things are turning around and our population is growing. The only thing that I can think of that has come to this territory are federal Liberal advisors to help get the Premier and her colleagues out of the mess and chaos they have created. That might have increased the population in the last little while, but there is certainly not a lot else. It is time that the Liberal government, the members opposite, took us up on our offers to work cooperatively. Letís do it, not talk about it. And we can. All it takes is the realization across the floor that they are in denial when it comes to some of these main issues, like our economy. Admit it. Nobody is going to fault them for that. In fact, they may increase their support in this territory with that admission.
Letís get on with the job we are elected to do and stop the nonsense or, as I said earlier, shut the whole gong show down, because weíre not here to do what we have been doing. Weíre here to represent the Yukon public to the best of our ability, and the members opposite, led by the Premier, are not allowing this side of the House to do that.
The situation has changed considerably, Mr. Speaker, and I warned the members opposite. I want to impress upon the members opposite that, if they have good intentions, if they have good ideas, if they want to try and implement them, they have to work with the opposition side and do it in a manner that is intended, not a bunch of rhetoric.
Mr. Speaker, the situation weíre in when it comes to budgeting is evident. Now, the members opposite are trying to paint a picture for the Yukon public that things are turning around, things are getting better, and so on and so forth, but thatís not the case. When it comes to the budget, what does the business community say? One of the most important barometers in this territory on what our economy is doing is the business community. They are saying status quo, that itís doing nothing to address the economic problems in this territory. The Premier comes back with one of those stats ó retail sales are up. The survey says retail sales are up. Well, I challenge the Premier to show the Yukon public what makes up those retail sales numbers. Would it be a bunch of skidoos that the Alaskans come in constantly to buy, or four-wheel ATVs, or other items that their spending power, because of the U.S. dollar exchange, provides them in this community, in this territory?
Come on, letís have the members opposite do the right thing and come clean. Letís admit we have a problem economically, and letís do what we were elected to do and address it. There are no political boundaries in economics, but the members opposite are certainly trying to put some there.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier again has tried to deliver what I consider to be an extremely flawed decision. The increase in fees for this territory at this time is simply one of the most ridiculous decisions Iíve ever seen a Yukon government make. What really is astounding is that, in the same breath, the members opposite, led by their Premier, will state, "We the Liberal government have decreased taxes, putting all this money back into Yukonersí pockets." On the other hand, in the next breath, theyíre saying, "Well, we needed an extra million dollars, so we had to take that tax break back." Theyíre saying that while theyíre sitting on millions of dollars of surplus. They did not need the million dollars ó not in the least. Their excuses of why we had to raise the fees in this territory, that it has been so many years since we looked at them, other jurisdictions this, other jurisdictions that ó thatís not how the Yukon operates. We are our own entity. There was no reason to raise the fees and take that money out of Yukonersí pockets, because what the Premier has really done is take another million dollars out of an already struggling economy.
Consider this, Mr. Speaker ó what if that million dollars was left in the economy in Yukonersí pockets. Each time they spent that dollar, and itís circulated and spent again, and spent again, itís a multiplier for our economy. That multiplier is spending power.
That is a fundamental mistake made by a government, at a time when Yukoners can least afford an increase in fees. The Premier talks about driversí licences. Well, I wanted to say something, Mr. Speaker ó the seniors in this territory must get a driver's licence every year. That means that every year they have to pay more for their driver's licence. Many of our seniors do not have that ability. Many of our seniors struggle day to day. Fuel costs are going up for our seniors, and we have challenged this government opposite, time and time again, to increase the pioneer utility grant to help seniors and elders in this territory heat their homes. Itís ignored.
My point is, Mr. Speaker, with all the surplus money this government has available to it, what is it doing with the money? Itís not in the budget. Itís not in the O&M budget, the budget the Premier calls a budget thatís all about people. If it were all about people, there would be a lot more expenditures in there for the people of this territory.
I challenge the Premier to stand on her feet in closing debate on the budget here in second reading and tell us exactly how much money this Liberal government has squirreled away. Thereís no doubt in my mind ó there is a lot of resemblance to the federal Liberals in how these members are operating. We are going to see, no doubt, a massive budget coming forward in an election year.
This is a Premier who stated on the floor of this House, "The Liberals will not buy votes." Thatís exactly what theyíre going to do, and at a time when we, in this territory, needed the government to expend its monies in a manner that would help to stimulate the economy and help people, the government squirrels it away for its own self-interest. Itís a despicable way to treat the Yukon public.
That is not good governance. That is bad governance and itís high time this Premier woke up to that fact and changed the ways her government operates.
The government also ignores the arts community, the cultural community, the heritage community ó downgrades those areas. The Womenís Directorate ó downgraded. This is not the sign of a government thatís building confidence in the people and in the public. This is the sign of a government that is overcome with power. The lust for power is so great they will do anything to stay there. There is absolutely no other conclusion that we on this side of the House can come to. The money is squirreled away while they are stealing, pilfering $1 million out of peopleís pockets in this territory. Itís all about an election and buying votes.
Now, Iíve got to get into something here that really irks me. The constant yammering by the side opposite about how they are the ones that got the Canada Tungsten mine up and running. What a farce. Thatís not why that mine is running. That mine is up and running because of a bunch of small junior companies that got together and decided they were going to take a chance. Furthermore, the only thing this government has done is maintained the road. By the way, itís a Yukon highway, Mr. Speaker, and under the law this government is liable to maintain that road regardless of what Canada Tungsten is going to do. So the real story is that there are no jobs being created here by this government. They have to maintain that road by law. Here we have another area where Yukoners have to go to work in the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Speaker, I could go on ó not for 40 minutes; for 40 hours ó on what this government has done in terms of damaging this territory in less than two years. And the evidence is clear all around us, including the members of the Premierís own caucus who couldnít take it any more and left. I call that principled. They left because they saw that these things were happening. They realized that what was promised to the Yukon public is not being delivered. They came to the realization that, if they were going to be effective in representing their constituencies, they needed to have a voice, and they walked across the floor, because in that caucus they had no voice. That meant many, many Yukoners had no voice in that Liberal government. And that is a shame, because thatís not what we were elected to be, and thatís not what we were elected to do.
Mr. Speaker, an economic development agreement in this territory is something that would be immediately beneficial. And one thing I canít understand is why, after hearing Paul Martin two years ago say we must have an economic development agreement, why Minister Nault has signalled heís interested in doing something and has already moved dramatically with the First Nations in developing a capacity in economic development expenditures, why is this Premier and her government so unwilling to take a contingent of Yukoners, to go to Ottawa, to sit down with the appropriate department ministers, and lay on the table our issues and demand that the federal government act in the appropriate fashion?
Why is that? Itís happening in the Northwest Territories. Millions and millions of federal dollars are being poured into the Northwest Territories.
In the Yukon? No, not happening. To say things are turning around, Mr. Speaker, is simply an erroneous statement. Though Iíd like to be much stronger in my response, I know I cannot be so. It is an erroneous statement. Things are not turning around. They are getting worse and worse and worse. This territory is in a complete spiral downward on all fronts. Not only is our economy heading in the wrong direction, government is upside down, the delivery of programs and services to Yukoners is being compromised, nobody knows where theyíre going, so we might as well go on holidays. There are empty desks all through the government, throughout all the departments, where people have just decided, "We give up. We donít know what weíre supposed to do so why are we even here? We might as well go on holidays until somebody figures this mess out."
We are offering the members opposite ways, and we get political rhetoric in return. If they want to play politics, thatís fine. Letís vote on this budget, then weíll play some politics. Or, if the Premier would be accountable to this Assembly and to the Yukon public, she would stand up and admit here and now today that she can no longer govern, and the Premier herself would call an election immediately. Thatís what would be accountable to the Yukon public, not the rubbish weíre hearing and not the manoeuvring and the stick-handling that the members opposite are trying to conduct here in trying to survive and maintain power.
I challenge the members opposite to look in the mirror. Itís not a pretty picture, believe me, Mr. Speaker.
Another issue that I think is quite important here, Mr. Speaker, is why our MP is not also lending his voice to this. Why hasnít the Premier and her colleagues contacted our MP about our economic problems in this territory?
Why has our Premier not gone to our MP and demanded that he do something about it? Itís evident that Premier Kakfwi has a way to garner an injection of capital and support from the federal government. Whatís happening here?
Now, when the Premier is asked those types of questions, far too often I hear this comment ó and I stand, if ruled out of order, corrected, Mr. Speaker. The Premier says: I worked so hard for two years to correct that glitch in the formula financing agreement ó I want to repeat that she said "I" ó so that the federal government provided the monies that reflect that glitch. Thatís not the case, Mr. Speaker. That glitch has been worked on for a long, long time. We all know that. There have always been issues with the formula financing agreement. The officials in her own department did the work.
We donít have a problem with the Premier taking credit for that, but what did she do with the money? I mean, seriously, with that kind of windfall, as the Premier puts it, can you not tell me why the Premier didnít say, okay, one of the best programs we have going in this territory is the fire smart program. Out of $41 million, is the Premier going to say to this House that we couldnít have taken a $500,000 program that exists today and top it up with a couple of million dollars? Do you realize how many person-hours of work that would create in this territory, not just in one spot, like the Arctic Winter Games or the Canada Winter Games, but in every community in the Yukon? And at the same time it stimulates our economy, it does something else very important: it diminishes the risk of wildfire that most of our communities are facing.
The cost that goes with a wildfire, should it get out of control and reach one of our communities, is going to be exorbitant versus what we could expend today to alleviate that danger. Again I repeat: it would also help to stimulate our economy in the short term.
The members opposite have not done any work in the hard policy area. They have not accomplished anything when it comes to land use conflict issues. They have not done anything in forestry. They havenít done tweet in oil and gas. We have the lowest bids on a land sale in this country. Why donít we just give it away? Whatís the point of having a land sale bid? Just give it all away. Surely, the Premier must realize that there is a requirement ó that that resource, because itís not renewable, provides a lot more to this territory and its people, or leave it where it is.
Iím trying to point out ó and I apologize if Iím somewhat emotional about all this ó but Iím frustrated. Yukon people are frustrated. The members on this side of the House are becoming frustrated. We are not addressing the problems of this territory at all, and when we come to this Assembly, instead of doing constructive, positive work that helps move this territory forward in a manner that would improve its well-being ó no, we play politics here.
Itís a disgusting situation, and I am going to point the finger at the members opposite. It is their fault that this is happening. They are the architects of this mess. They are the architects of the downward spiral, when it comes to the population. They are the architects of the mess the economy is in. They are the architects of the antagonistic way groups of citizenry deal with our government.
The members will fight with almost every group in the territory. Constantly, they tell the media, "You are not allowed in." You know, is that open and accountable? No media allowed. I must say, beyond any doubt, that things could be done better, things could certainly be done a lot better. And, as far as this budget, I donít dispute for a minute that it may do some good in some areas, but it is not what is in the budget that counts; itís whatís not in the budget that is the real issue. And, as far as the capital budget that they, through a very, very, very shady manner, passed in this territory with special warrants ó
Deputy Speakerís statement
Deputy Speaker: Order please. So far today we have heard words like "thief". Weíve had motives imputed of taking money out of pockets, and now we are imputing motives of shadiness on the government. I will ask the member to ensure that his language does not incite disorder or impute false or unavowed motives in accordance with the rules in the Standing Orders.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Fentie: My full apology, Mr. Speaker.
In a manner that is not conducive to the intent of this Assembly, $280 million was spent. There was no spending authority for these new departments after the capital budget debate last session ó none whatsoever. The whole purpose of this Assembly is to provide that spending authority through debate, and through a vote. That didnít happen. There were no departments to debate. There was no way to debate spending authority for these new departments and project renewal, which, by the way, again I repeat, the government employees call "removal". I can see why. It is not what is in the budget; itís what is not in the budget. It is not what the capital budget is doing; itís what it is not doing.
Thatís the problem here. The blueprint that a capital budget should be laying out is the wrong blueprint, because it isnít helping this territory. It may be putting people to work in areas like highway construction, but itís not turning the economy around. Weíre not getting investment; weíre not experiencing growth. Weíre not experiencing an increase in spending power in this territory under this Liberal governmentís leadership. Thatís whatís not here, and thatís why we cannot vote for this budget.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if I speak now I close debate.
Deputy Speaker: Youíre the only one left.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Iím honoured to serve the people of Porter Creek South, and I would like to express my thanks to my constituents for their support and for their advice and for their work with me in the last five and a half years. They have spent time explaining their issues and their concerns to me. I have worked hard on those issues, both in opposition and in government. In this, the most public of all Yukon places, it has been my honour to serve them.
Mr. Speaker, one of their cares, one of their concerns is how taxpayersí dollars are spent, or not. That sort of information is in the budget documents that we debate and are debating. Some of the other concerns of our constituents that I have proudly worked on, as Iíve stated from both sides of this House ó Iíve been joined by my able colleague from Riverdale South and the Member for Lake Laberge, both in opposition and in government benches. We have worked on things like guardianship legislation, like the conflict-of-interest legislation, like fair wages for workers.
Those tasks, seemingly dry at times for the reader, are important to people and are good legislation.
It has been my honour and privilege to work with individuals on that ó individuals on both sides of the House on occasion, Mr. Speaker.
There have been many examples cited when there has been willingness to work with one another for the betterment of the Yukon. There have also been rather strident examples where that is not the case, where gestures have not been made in good faith.
Mr. Speaker, this afternoonís closing debate is about the budget. Itís about how taxpayersí dollars are spent. Yukoners care where these dollars are spent, how theyíre spent, what services their government provides. Our priority in the capital budget for the second straight year was to use the capital budget to maximize the creation of jobs, to use wisely and well taxpayersí dollars on capital projects that would generate work on our economy ó work for Yukoners, build infrastructure, recognize the needs of Yukoners.
One example in that capital budget was a continuation of $7 million worth of work on 14 kilometres of road, generating 80 jobs. In short, finally straightening out the corners between Whitehorse and the other side of Champagne. That decision was first taken by the Liberal caucus in a meeting in late August 2000.
That, for the first time, involved an entire caucus and the deputy heads that serve this government ably and well, in a constructive discussion on the capital plan and on how wisely and well taxpayersí dollars should be spent. That was in August of 2000. Government, Mr. Speaker ó and this has been extremely difficult for all of us to work with ó moves somewhat slower than the private sector. It took a long time. It is the capital budget in 2002-03 where that very direction of caucus is starting to be realized. It takes time. Itís time well-spent, working together, Mr. Speaker.
At that budget meeting, there was also the lengthy discussion about Grey Mountain Primary School. And, Mr. Speaker, I have to say over and over and over again, this replacement of a school is about children. Itís not about political careers. Itís not about egos. Itís not about anything more than children, and how they learn. The fact is that we know well, from Dr. Fraser Mustard and others, the benefit of smaller class size and how important those primary years are, how critical they are. A small community school like Grey Mountain Primary is right for children. Itís the right thing to do. Itís the right expenditures. Why should those children, any more than any other Yukon child, go to school in anything less than a safe, clean environment, not mouldy portables that, with all due respect, are older than the Member for Riverside? Thatís not fair and itís not right for kids.
Every single government has had this argument of declining enrolments as an excuse not to build it. Mr. Speaker, it is a wise expenditure of $3.2 million ó a very, very small price to pay in a budget in excess of half a billion dollars. That $3.2 million is long, long overdue.
Mr. Speaker, whatís more than that, itís the advice of every school council in this territory that made that recommendation to government. We are the first government that has listened to what they had to say, and that wasnít some political report, as the Member for Watson Lake has dared to suggest today. That was the advice of school council duly-elected parents who gave successive governments that advice. We listened to what it was. We will do the right thing by children.
The capital budget, members opposite have dared to suggest today, wasnít passed. Take a look, Mr. Speaker, at the record of the House. They chose not to debate it, and the unfortunate stance taken by some, although they are duly recognized in it, is that they have chosen now not to support it.
I would like to cite an example of it. Yukoners have more confidence in spending their money when theyíre protected from unexpected increases to their cost of living. Some individuals have suggested today that Yukoners are unable to pay their light bill. The capital estimates that passed this House include a direct cash contribution of $3 million to continue the rate stabilization fund. That money was part of a $12-million plan announced recently by the former minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, which, up until the end of March of this year, that member was proud to support.
That major investment allowed local businesses and Yukon families to continue to take advantage of some of the lowest power rates in Canada.
Other capital projects, and there was a great deal of discussion about the economic generators ó some members in this House have chosen to forget that part of the capital budget in the fall was also the reconstruction of the Mount Sima Road, which is a result of our working relationship with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. This undertaking and partnership with the First Nation provides safer access to Mount Sima ski hill, established a new subdivision, created economic opportunities for Kwanlin Dun First Nation. This government identified $1.65 million for that, and that progress dealt with an outstanding public safety issue as well as economic development for all Yukoners.
We also gave our commitment to the health care system, both in the capital budget and in the operation and maintenance budget that is before the House today, and the economic indicators are showing the results of that effort. The economic indicators suggest the business community is feeling optimistic about the economic future of this territory, contrary to the rhetoric and shouting from the Member for Watson Lake. The fact is that our population increased between June and December, that there are 100 more people employed in March this year than in March of the previous year. That is 100 more people and those 100 more jobs are directly attributable to the private sector.
That is private sector employment. Thatís Yukoners with belief and faith in this territory. Retail sales, Mr. Speaker ó and the member opposite accuses me of quoting statistics. Well, the fact is that retail sales have increased by more than 37.5 percent between January of 2001 and January of 2002. Itís the largest increase in the country. Itís not about a one-time run on vehicle sales or about the opening of a major store in Whitehorse. Retail sales have been increasing since last June. The information I have provided is from individuals speaking with me. Members of my riding, Porter Creek South ó members of all of the ridings ó have spoken with us. And when we ask them how their business is doing, as all of us make a point of doing, they respond, "Well, you know, we hear what some members of the House say. The fact is weíve had the best year sinceÖ." And pick a year, Mr. Speaker. Sometimes itís 1997; sometimes itís older than that. The fact is there are real results out there ó real results based on consumer and business confidence.
And one of the reasons Yukoners are spending more is as a result of the tax cuts by this government. They were talked and talked and talked about by the NDP. The fact is that this government did that. We provided Yukoners with a real, substantial tax cut that put money in Yukonersí pockets. And they in turn spent that money in the local economy. Weíve seen the results, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the other point that has to be debated at length in this Legislature, and which must be debated based on the facts, is what the financial picture of the territory is. The fact is that the operation and maintenance budget I tabled contains a financial summary. We will receive $529,213,000; we are spending, or proposing to spend, in excess of $565,183,000. The deficit for the year is $41,470,000. We are spending far more than what we take in. That is a situation that no family, no business, no government can withstand for very long. Itís not sustainable indefinitely.
Now, contained in those figures that are presented ó before I enter into that, Mr. Speaker, just a word for members about the special warrants. The fact is that special warrants are a housekeeping issue. They are a matter that every government ó and they go years and ó
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. The Chair must be able to hear the member with the floor. Please continue.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, warrants issued by this government and requested by signature have been no different than any other government has done ó no different.
The reason warrants are there is to have the spending authority to allow the government to continue to operate. It means, Mr. Speaker, the very real reality of people on social assistance getting their payments; it means the hospital having enough money to continue to operate; and it means government employees, teachers and nurses continue to receive pay cheques. It also means that transfers to organizations can be made in plenty of time for those organizations to begin their new fiscal year.
Mr. Speaker, there has been a great deal of discussion about the surplus by members opposite. In fact, I believe one member stood on their feet and indicated that they didnít understand the surplus and why the census ó what exactly would happen.
Iíd like to take a moment, as the figures are contained in this operation and maintenance budget, to go through them.
Results of last summerís census, the preliminary results, were released in March, and that censusí preliminary figures show the population of the Yukon ó and this was last May, Mr. Speaker ó at 28,674 people. Thatís a drop of 2,092 people since the 1996 census. This population census number is a very, very preliminary number, and the final numbers wonít be available until the fall of 2003. Thatís a really important date to us. There are always some people who are missed during the census count; these people are referred to as undercounts, and the size of the undercount has to be determined before Statistics Canada will release the final number. So, weíre not going to have the final population number until fall 2003.
We donít know the size of the undercount. We donít know how much thatís going to be. The census is a really, really important factor in the formula, because the population sizes calculate the size of the transfer payments from Ottawa.
And so a small fluctuation up or down can have a really dramatic effect on the formula. If the monies in the formula ó the transfer from Canada, which is $346,004 this year ó goes up or down, it affects the programs that this government is able to deliver. Assume ó and for the sake of argument, we will today ó that we receive about $13,000 in transfer payments for each individual. Suppose when the final numbers are in that our population ends up being 1,000 fewer than it was in 1996. That means that future transfer payments could be cut by $13 million per year. The fundamental point that members may not be aware of and may not appreciate in that is that it doesnít stop there. Itís not just about a $13-million cut in that year. If the population has been declining steadily, it would mean the transfer payments had been calculated incorrectly for each of the past five years and that we had been receiving more money than weíre entitled to. The federal government calculates the overpayment and this money would have to be repaid in a one-time adjustment to the transfer payments.
I have a graph that I have used in explaining and working this out with Yukoners, and I would be happy to discuss it at greater length with any members of the opposition who are interested in this vital factor of our formula. It is, not just the year-1 issue, which, using the figures that we have used as a hypothetical ó you go back into year 1 and a loss of 200 people is $2.6 million. A loss of 200 people in year 2 is not just the $2.6 million in that year; itís plus the $2.6 million in the year before.
It is only sensible, wise and prudent of any government on this side of the House, no matter what their political stripe, to make absolutely sure that money is set aside to deal with this. I know from having spoken first-hand with Finance ministers in the provinces that have been affected by the recent overpayment that Ottawa has brought to light, how difficult that is if there is no census-type reserve. We must set aside money for this. Anyone who looks at the calculation of resource revenues or any other types of revenues, realizes ó or anything for that matter ó what can go up, can also go down.
Yes, I have publicly said that I travelled to Ottawa and lobbied the Minister of Finance, Paul Martin, on getting back the $42 million from Ottawa. And, while members opposite have chided me for taking credit for that, the fact is that yes, working with officials, I was able to do that over the course of a year in meetings with Paul Martin, meetings that, with all due respect, the previous government leaders did not have.
That $42-million adjustment, which I explained to the House last April, is money that a portion of which we set aside for this census, this contingency reserve, knowing very well that what can go up, and what can take years then to get back from Ottawa, could also go down. We need to be prepared. That is only prudent and cautious. As soon as we are able to know the extent in fall 2003, absolutely, then we are better able to plan, but it is only prudent and smart to set aside that money today.
Of that $42 million, $6 million is reflected in ongoing operations and maintenance. So that has gone into projects such as the member has suggested; $8 million was set aside for Canada Winter Games; there have been a number of endowments by this government; and there has also been money set aside for the Yukon permanent fund.
Now, the fact is that some members have criticized us on the floor for those endowments. I would like to suggest that contributing $750,000 to the Yukon Foundation to provide scholarships, bursaries and project grants to assist deserving Yukoners in pursing their dreams of a better Yukon is an ideal location in a way that Yukoners could expend money that rightfully belonged to them.
The Government of Yukon supports the goals of the foundation. We support educational advancement, scientific or medical research, territorial cultural heritage, contributions to the mental, cultural and physical well-being of Yukoners. It was the right thing to do.
There has also been some criticism with respect to fees. I would just like to point out that in this operations and maintenance budget, the costs for many of the programs and services paid for by government have seen significant increases. The amount of money we spend for operations and maintenance on health care has increased by about $14 million this year. Booster shots given to grade 9 students for tetanus, diphtheria and polio used to cost $9 each. Now those shots cost more than $20 each.
The cost of medical travel increased by almost 400 percent between the years 1990 and 2000. Last year, we spent almost $4.5 million on medical travel. That was ensuring Yukoners receive the appropriate medical care they deserve and that government should ensure is provided and is there.
The Department of Education is spending half a million dollars more a year on heating oil than it did two years ago. Textbook costs have increased significantly. No government can continue to absorb increases and costs like these.
We examined all the fees that are charged by the Government of Yukon ó everything from drivers' licences, security fees, filing of affidavits, fees for photocopying legal documents, campground fees and the ambulance fees we charge non-residents. Residents donít pay them. Some of these fees, like land titles fees, have not been increased in more than 50 years. In 1996, in his Report on Other Matters, the Auditor General strongly recommended we examine all of these fees.
Securities fees had not been increased since the 1970s. Some fees had never ever been increased. In most cases, fee increases are modest and are in line with other jurisdictions. In some cases, there are fees that this government works with other non-government organizations and boards to determine if the fees should be increased. We have begun that work, Mr. Speaker.
Campground fees are increasing from $8 to $12, which includes the GST, and thatís per night. Of course, the campground fees on an annual basis have gone from $40 a season to $50 a season. Thatís not a great increase, and seniors are free, and Yukoners remain free for the month of May.
Approximately $1 million will be raised through these modest fee increases ó $1 million, Mr. Speaker, when we are spending $41 million more than what we take in as a government.
There are ongoing challenges to government to spend more, to do more, to help citizens more, and government must make decisions.
Members opposite have suggested today in their discussions that we have somehow not met our obligations for implementation of land claim funding. I would advise members opposite that Yukonís implementation obligations and activities under the umbrella final agreement and under Yukon First Nation final and self-government agreements are set out in each specific implementation plan. And, of course, in some cases that implementation plan work has now begun.
Canada provides the Yukon with implementation funding to assist with the incremental costs of implementation. Yukon receives one time an ongoing funding under bilateral agreements. The adequacy of the funding that we receive from Canada remains unproven. The current funding levels do not address all the needs identified by Yukon government departments, and there are many First Nation final agreements that have yet to be implemented. We are monitoring the funding. Again, Mr. Speaker, this is a bilateral agreement, and Iíd be happy to provide the members opposite with some more information on it if they would like to discuss this.
Weíve also achieved a resolution with Yukonís health care professionals. I noted and listened with interest to the president of the Yukon Medical Association talk about an era, from this government, of cooperation, consultation and working with Yukonís health care community. We support our minister in achieving this. It is, nonetheless, also a cost that is borne by government. We also transfer to non-government organizations, municipalities, and others who are providing very valuable services to Yukoners and to our communities, $95 million to carry on their good work. Requests are always more than what we can fulfill. Again, we are spending $41 million more than what we take in.
Theyíre tough, tough choices that have to be made. When we look at those choices and how money must be spent, we must be mindful of a number of things: why each of us stood for office and why we knocked on doors. We did it to make a difference in our communities. We did it because we believe in our children growing up with opportunities that we had, with the sound, good education system that we had, with good medical care services and with a sense of opportunity, because thatís what the Yukonís about. That opportunity is in the public service, itís in the economy throughout the Yukon. We believe in the Yukon. We believe in providing good government to the people of Yukon.
Another challenge before our government, another challenge to the funding of government, is our children in care. A previous minister working with members of the community commissioned Professor Jim Anglin, and I trust that I am pronouncing that correctly, to review the Yukonís group home program. That report was delivered in December of 2001 and is readily available to the public. There is a second part to that review that looks at services for children and is being carried out by the Child Welfare League of Canada, and that report is expected in April of this year. I am advised itís later than that ó it is expected now in June.
The initial cost indicates that about $3 million would be required to fully implement all the recommendations. We do not yet have this other report. We have to work with our government partners on these issues, because they are all of our issues. There isnít a Yukoner I know who doesnít care about these specific issues and who does not believe we should be doing our best to ensure the government provides the best care we can because, as one constituent from Riverside pointed out to me, if you, as a government, do not do your best for children and for all Yukoners, it is on your head, and she is right. We have to do our best, we have to do our best in light of all these fiscal challenges. This is but one of them. We have to do our best with the budget and the realities that are before us.
And those realities are quite clear. We are starting to see a turnaround, albeit slow. We are starting to see a turnaround in our economy. We need to continue to build on that. We are seeing enormous health care cost pressures, no different from any government throughout the country.
We believe that we must continue to provide good, quality health care, and we must find a way to work within those costs, to try to meet them. We want to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure to make sure that we have safe drinking water and good sewer systems, and that we continue to ensure we have the infrastructure we need.
And we must continue to recognize the needs of people, as well ó the very real needs of alcohol and drug programming. Members opposite ask where the money is. Well, take a good, hard look at the budget. Take a look at the fact that this government is spending $41 million more than we take in, and where do members suggest that cuts be made? We have to build on a solid foundation for our alcohol and drug programming. Thatís what we committed to do in the capital budget. Thatís what the Minister of Health has continued to do. The previous minister said we will build upon a solid foundation; the current minister has said we have made a choice in programming. This is the next level. We are working on the funding for it, Mr. Speaker.
The choice of the model has just been made. There has been a great deal of comment about devolution, about what this government has or has not done. There have been comments about the initialling of memorandums of understanding. There has been too little celebrating of the successes; too little celebration of the fact that Yukoners have achieved devolution ó that the transfer will take place on April 1, 2003. There has been too little celebration of the fact that the Taían Kwachían effective date was April 1 of this year, and that the hard work by negotiators of all sides ó by the chiefs and their councils, by the federal negotiators, by the Government of Yukon, including negotiators and, yes, including the political level ó has reached this milestone. There is more work to do ó absolutely. Itís a significant achievement nonetheless, Mr. Speaker.
The operation and maintenance budget that I tabled on April 4 is about rebuilding the Yukon economy; itís about maintaining quality health care; itís about addressing alcohol and drug addictions; itís about settling outstanding land claims; itís about achieving devolution; itís about developing infrastructure; and itís about restoring confidence in government. The members opposite have suggested, publicly and otherwise, that this government lacks courage or that this government, and I, as its Premier, would walk in here and say, "No, we donít want to do this." Mr. Speaker, the fact is that we do.
We were elected by the people of Porter Creek South and throughout the territory to do a job.
We have done a good job so far. We know thereís more work to do and we are more than fully prepared to do it, Mr. Speaker. Whatís more, we look forward to continuing to do it.
My colleague, Patricia Nelson from Alberta, in her budget speech, quoted Winston Churchill and said, "Thereís only one duty, one safe course, and that is to try to be right." Mr. Speaker, we have tried to be right for people and we will continue to try and do the right thing for Yukoners, and weíre proud of our work to date.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Keenan: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Mr. Jim: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 11 yea, 5 nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Bill No. 10: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 10, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It is moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a second time..
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to the Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02, or Supplementary No. 2, 2001-02.
These estimates for the year just ended total a little over $1.2 million and are necessary for several reasons. Three departments require additional operation and maintenance vote authority and one department requires more capital monies. The largest sum, $764,000, is required in the Department of Finance.
This is necessary in order to make a full bad-debts provision for property taxes that were accrued on the Anvil Range property at Faro. We do not take this provision lightly. It is, however, likely that the Auditor Generalís office will comment upon it, if we were not to take this measure, in his audit of public accounts for the year. We all know that these taxes are long outstanding and that the likelihood of collection is obviously becoming slimmer as time passes.
There are also funds required for Renewable Resources, and these funds simply reflect fully that there is a recoverable project that this government has just entered into with Canada. Despite being recoverable, we still need to obtain appropriation authority for such expenditures from the Legislature.
Tourism supplementary covers a variety of items, including recoverable projects and support for the purchase of the films electrics package, in conjunction with the Northern Film and Video Industry Association. The purchase of this equipment will go far to enhance the growing competitiveness of Yukon as a location for the filming of commercials and feature-length movies, a growing part of our economy that Yukoners are rapidly becoming more and more trained in and more and more appreciative of. These funds spread throughout our economy from the electricians to others.
These are a small sum, $1.2 million, and the necessity for them has been outlined fully to the House. I would be happy to entertain any questions from the members opposite. I understand, at supplementary reading, that we commend these to the House and then move them on into Committee. So, I look forward to membersí support for the supplementary budget and commend these appropriations to the House.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Iíll be brief in my response.
Mr. Speaker, weíre talking about over $1 million here of spending that government did not get any spending authority for and, normally, when you bring a supplementary budget to the floor of this Legislature like this for the previous years, itís to cover things like unforeseen expenses and so on ó or unforeseen expenses in regard to wages and so on. Itís not to give spending authority for new initiatives.
I would like the Premier maybe, in her closing debate, to answer the question of whether or not any of these expenditures are for new initiatives. I realize that, for example, the Faro mine needs to be taken care of, but I have also seen increases, large increases, for example in the film industry. It has gone from $62,000 to $238,000.
Was this not something that the Yukon government could have seen and budgeted for or have reflected in their new budget, or find it internally, which normally happens in a lot of the departments? We do have lapses and Iím just wondering, is this just numbers for us to look at here or are these new spending authorities? If thatís the case, if these are new initiatives, it should have taken place in the broader budget, not a supplementary budget such as this.
So if the Premier can answer those questions, I think we can just move this through quickly.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have some concerns with how these expenditures that weíre asked to rubber-stamp have come about. It would appear that two are new initiatives and weíve known about one for quite some time. I refer to the write-off for the taxes that were anticipated to flow to the government, which is the taxing authority for the Anvil or Curragh or Anvil Range mine site. This has been on the books for an extended period of time. I donít know why it suddenly crops up at this point. It appears that probably the Auditor Generalís office, in their last audit, made mention of it or something, and what the Premier, the Minister of Finance, has indicated is that if itís not identified as a write-off, the audit will be qualified, or if it is, it will be qualified. It just doesnít appear to make much sense. Itís a cost we knew was virtually uncollectible and has been uncollectible for quite a number of years. That gives rise to the question about a number of other mine sites where the same situation is occurring, Mr. Speaker. We have BYG; we have Elsa. We have quite a number of placer operations where, only recently, the Government of the Yukon has deemed it appropriate to tax for both property taxes and improvements. When you look at the amount that is being collected and you ask for the amount that is being invoiced, this is rearing its ugly head throughout the Yukon.
Granted, Mr. Speaker, the largest single amount stems from the mine site in Faro, but what is going to be the treatment of all of these other mine sites that have outstanding and past-due taxes to the Government of Yukon? The amount isnít as significant as this one, but the treatment should be the same, because many of the dollars have been outstanding for a correspondingly similar length of time. We donít hear anything about those amounts.
Then, we look at the new initiatives ó the electrics package for attracting the film industry here. I have previously supported this initiative and welcomed it. Itís part of the equipment necessary to support the film industry selecting this location. Itís a very worthwhile investment, Mr. Speaker. I only hope that the government, in its wisdom, is not going to deem the Mayo-Dawson transmission line part of the electrics package and amortize it in this kind of line item in the future. I donít know how theyíre going to pay for that, or whoís going to pay for that, but itís either going to be the taxpayer or the ratepayer ó one of the two, and theyíre both the same.
But this is an initiative that has been known about for quite some time, as is this renewable resource initiative, which is a relatively new initiative. So, why it couldnít have been dealt with up front ó because we have to spend the money to recover it from Canada, I understand. Why it canít be identified and treated within existing budget funds, I do not know. Why it just canít be carried forward as an account receivable ó is the treatment of it because weíre not going to recover it from Canada with it being done this way? Previously, the way these kinds of funds have been treated is that it just sits on the Government of Yukonís books as a receivable from Canada.
In fact, when you look at the amount due to Yukon from Canada ó especially in the Health portfolio ó it has, at times, been quite significant, and the total amount is, overall, extremely significant. So there appears to be some new accounting treatment of these kinds of funds, which can only lead one to conclude that weíre probably not going to recover them from Canada and we have to treat them differently.
So I donít know if anyone else is going to speak to these issues, but I would certainly like to hear from the Minister of Finance in her rebuttal as to why weíre treating these funds due from Canada in a different manner from how they have been treated on other occasions in the past. I would see the treatment being a similar type of treatment. Why are we changing? And why at this juncture we are writing off the Anvil taxes or the Curragh taxes, or whatever? And what is going to be the treatment of all the other mine sites that have past due and outstanding taxes?
I ask the Minister of Finance to provide that information about outstanding amounts across the entire Yukon ó specifically in the mining community ó because it is significant, Mr. Speaker. Granted, the largest single amount is from Faro.
Mr. McLarnon: There are a few brief comments that we have ó that I have, at least ó on this. I would like to know ó and I will be asking in Committee of the Whole ó the urgency of paying this $765,000 ó whether itís absolutely necessary that this be budgeted this year.
Weíve just gone through a session where weíve heard a government cry poverty ó even though they have over $89 million in the bank ó at a time when they are writing off something that looks like an accounting term. That $765,000 may have a number of different uses that affect peopleís lives. Iím looking at and asking the question very simply: are we doing this to make an accountantís life easier at the expense of maybe making somebody suffer in a community that could use programming there? So thatís the question I will be asking.
The other statement weíd like to make on it is on the electrics package. We do commend the government for bringing this forward, and Iíll just be asking the government for policies on how locals can use that package and access it so that we can grow our own film industry here. It is adequate for outside use, but I will definitely be putting questions to the minister on the policies of using that ourselves ó what kind of development we have of our own film industry, where weíre going. The minister is certainly familiar with it. We have had a meeting on this already. So we will be asking these questions to try to make sure that the film package we have is suitably used to grow what we have in terms of very good seeds and very good creativity in the Yukon Territory. I do look at this as a good economic initiative and I will be supporting that part of the budget, but I just need to have some questions answered on this.
Just again, as a lesson to the government across the way, this is how the people in my riding listen to government and this is the disconnect that they have: $1.2 million is not a small amount of money. In government terms, it is, but for many of my constituents that is a lifetime of earnings. So, when we discuss this, letís please understand that every dollar we spend here is possibly a dollar that could be spent somewhere else, and $1.2 million is not a small amount of money. I have asked the government to start recognizing the fact that, for people who are living below the poverty line, that is an unimaginable amount of money.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Iím going to respond to the questions that some of the members have posed with the full knowledge that we will get into a lengthier debate, I am sure, in Committee of the Whole, or perhaps they will accept the good faith in which my explanations are offered. That will speed up the debate in Committee of the Whole.
First of all, with respect to the Department of Finance and the bad-debt allowance for the Anvil Range property tax and other minor bad-debts expense, that money is, yes, in accounting terms, the bad-debt allowance for Anvil Range.
It is well known and understood by the government. It has just been there for some time. The reason for doing it now is the recognition, in going through our financial year, that it was time to make a decision on this or we ran the risk of having the Auditor General qualify the statements. So, in other words, Mr. Speaker, we could bite the bullet, so to speak, now, or do it later. There are some issues around the formula and so on, which I could get into greater debate on in the Committee of the Whole. The fact is that the government, in being responsible, open and accountable, determined that it would be better to do this now than to leave it off and leave the issue unattended to. Also reflected in the supplementary, there are lower banking service charges, I might add. And I respect that the Member for Klondike has asked for some more information, and that is being developed as we speak. The research is being undertaken.
In the Department of Renewable Resources, there is no change in the way we account for money from Canada. That has not changed. What is reflected here is a variety of contribution agreements with Canada, where everything from forage crop losses to air pollution monitoring ó where what has happened is that the Government of Canada has indicated they would provide more money. So the territory has spent more money in the fiscal year, and the Government of Canada has said we will pay that. So itís recoverable. But we have vote authority for a certain amount. Weíre getting more. So thatís why itís in this particular budget and that particular item.
The film and electrics package is not a new initiative. That is an initiative that was much discussed by the former Minister of Tourism. What has happened is that it has been able to move ahead in a public/private partnership with the film community, the Northern Film and Video Industry Association. And the Member for Whitehorse Centre has asked specific questions about policies, and the Minister of Tourism will be more than prepared to provide those either in written form for the Member for Whitehorse Centre or will provide them by way of legislative return or in Committee of the Whole debate.
And, again the supplementary estimates total a little over $1.2 million. They are necessary for several reasons. I have responded to the questions the members have asked because Iíve taken notes. The sum, while not large compared with the $500 million plus budget, it is none the less significant and I commend it for debate to Committee of the Whole.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 10 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good evening everyone. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will recess for 10 minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will begin debate on Bill No. 10, Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 10 ó Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02 ó continued
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have outlined the reason for the request of the sum of $1,227,000 more appropriation authority for the year just ended. I have answered the questions, I believe, of the members opposite in the remarks on second reading, and I am prepared to answer any general debate questions.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím somewhat concerned with this write-off of the taxes on the Faro mine site and was curious about the governmentís policy. How long do they sit on the books before we write them off? Whatís the average age before we take the position and write them off?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, normally we write off 25 percent of those that are a year old and, following that, itís dependent upon specific circumstances.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister be more specific as to what the specific circumstances are?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The specific circumstances might, for example, be dependent upon the possibility of collection. This is in large part not solely the Department of Finance, it also involves what is now the Department of Community Services.
In this particular case of the Anvil Range mine in Faro, the potential for collection was felt to be not possible and thatís the reason for the write-off.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, coupled with the write-off of this amount, does the government take the position and register a lien against the claims in case, down the road, they eventually are purchased by a subsequent mine operator and opened up? Are we going to protect our write-off somehow?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, yes. If the property sold, that would be the first charge.
Mr. Jenkins: So could the Minister of Finance indicate to the House that, coupled with this write-off, the Government of Yukon will be registering a first position charge against the property so that, in the eventuality that it is sold to a future mine operator, our position is protected and we could actually recover this money?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. The answer to the question is yes. It is not the responsibility of the Deputy Minister of Finance to deal with property taxes per se, and the reason for this is the sense that the likelihood of the mine being sold, or this property being sold, is less than what it might have been some time ago. Thatís the reason for the sense that there is little likelihood that this sum will be considered collectible, given its age, and to not make provision for this by writing it off as a bad debt would likely draw comment from the Auditor General.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, Iím not looking at just the comments from the Auditor General. Iím looking at what the mine site currently costs the Government of Yukon to maintain. From memory, I believe every fiscal year, Yukon throws in about $200,000 to maintain the mine site. In addition to that, there is the cost the Government of Yukon incurs to maintain the road from the Faro townsite turnoff up to the mine site that was only recently turned over to Yukon from the mine owners and operators. I believe that the road itself was transferred to Yukon before the last operator came into existence, and itís still being maintained by Yukon.
Is there any way that we could eventually recover these costs from the security that is in place for mine reclamation and shutdown? If so, whatís the potential for reclaiming it, because DIAND is currently in charge? How is it going to work when we assume responsibility for these areas from DIAND, or will DIAND continue to be in charge of the mine site and its shutdown procedures? Whatís going to transpire, and whatís it going to cost Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite has asked a couple of questions with respect to the cost of maintaining the mine site and the cost to the Government of Yukon of the road, and what the hope is of recouping these, as well as details around the mine reclamation, which is covered in the devolution transfer agreement, in the terms and so on. I donít have either of those pieces of information in front of me. I would be happy to respond to the member opposite in detail, in writing if he wishes, or at another point in debate. I have the general details around the DTA in my head, but I would like to have it in front of me before I start to answer that question around reclamation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we have a number of mine sites in the Yukon that are in a similar type situation. BYG has a similar situation. The road into BYG ó Mount Nansen ó was maintained most of the winter to my recollection. The cost to the Government of Yukon to maintain the road so that DIAND can get in there and do whatever work they are doing at the mine site, is quite significant, and the taxes due to the Government of Yukon on that mine site are also in arrears.
We have the same situation in Elsa, where taxes were due. Were we able to recoup the taxes when the mine site was sold, or did we take a write-off on the taxes due when the mine site was sold in Elsa? What has transpired there?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Off the top of my head, I donít know the answer to that. I have already indicated to the member opposite that I would provide him ó and officials were working to provide him ówith a list of the questions he had asked about outstanding sites and their taxes.
With respect to the reclamation, and who has responsibility, and how the transfers of former sites will take place, that information is all within the devolution transfer agreement, and I would be happy to provide the member opposite with that information.
Mr. Jenkins: Whatís the impact of this write-off on the formula financing agreement?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As I believe I mentioned in my opening remarks, it is an issue under the formula. What happens is that we have listed this particular amount as part of our tax revenue. Accordingly the formula was adjusted, yet we havenít collected it. So, now having written it off, of course, this is an issue, and it has been raised with the Government of Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: So, has anybody calculated the impact on the formula financing agreement? What is the impact on it? I know it impacts, but what is the financial impact?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Revenue times the perversity factor is the way to calculate the impact on the formula, and the estimate at this point in time is about $1 million.
Mr. Jenkins: So it sounds like the perversity factor has changed, because it used to be about just over $1. Whatís the current status of the perversity factor for Yukon for the last fiscal period, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As I suggested, the taxes have been calculated over a number of years, and the member opposite knows that the perversity factor has gone down over a number of years. It is now, within a penny, about $1.
Mr. Jenkins: This is the first time, from my recollection, that tax write-offs have been brought before the House. How have they been dealt with previously? Has it just been a Management Board decision?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, property tax revenues are included on our bad-debt expenses every year. They are listed. This one is a large one, and that is why it has drawn the memberís attention.
Mr. Jenkins: So, in previous years, what the Minister of Finance is saying is that itís just included in the bad-debt expenses?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Okay.
What Iím looking for, Mr. Chair, is the consistent application of a set of guidelines. Are there specific guidelines in place as to what point in time we write off the taxes when theyíre uncollectible? Does the government have a policy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, they are always brought to Management Board. Yes, there is a policy. That policy, however, is still dependent upon the circumstances.
That is the answer for the member opposite. If there are some other questions, I can deal with them in general debate.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím just looking at what has transpired in the past and how it has transpired, and translating that to what Iím seeing brought before the House today. Iím aware of a lot of the placer mining operations where the Yukon deemed it appropriate to start taxing them just a short number of years ago, and I know the receivables for Yukon with respect to the taxes there must be quite significant in that the improvements tend to move around.
Depending on where they are mining, they pick up their camp and keep moving it up the claim in a lot of cases. I just question the rationale as to the time and effort we spend doing the assessments when they move as frequently as they do. Has any cost benefit analysis been undertaken of the whole exercise with respect to the placer mining industry on taxes, on the improvements, given that they move so frequently, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we will discuss this with Community Services and see if there has been a cost-benefit analysis done on the particular property taxes that the member opposite is asking about. Again, in relation to the sum thatís before the House, this is specifically the amount with respect to the Anvil Range mine in Faro, and I think the memberís question is also related to the fair application of policy, and we will ensure that the information that is available is given to him as soon as possible.
Mr. Chair, in light of the time, I would move that we report progress on Bill No. 10 and that the Speaker now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 11, 2002:
Yukon Lottery Commission 2000-2001 Annual Report (Buckway)