Monday, May 6, 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.
In recognition of National Nursing Week
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask the hon. members of this House to join me and the people of the Yukon in recognizing the week of May 6-12 as National Nursing Week.
Each May during this week, we have the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the contributions that nurses make throughout the year.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that we must take advantage of this time to tell both the public and our nurses that we respect the significant contributions they make in this territory and throughout the country.
This year, the theme of National Nursing Week is, "Nurses: always there for you; caring for families". That very phrase illustrates the integral role nurses play in meeting the health needs of Yukon people.
Each and every one of us in this Legislature can probably tell their own story about how nurses provided care and assistance for us and our families.
Nurses have a long tradition of caring for families, as well as the patient. I know that our nurses are deeply committed to ensuring that people receive quality health care when they need it.
In the Yukon right now, we have more than 240 nurses in a variety of situations. They work at the hospital, in our continuing care facility, in public health, in home care, doctorsí clinics, corrections, mental health, at Yukon College, family counselling, at the Teen Parent Centre, and at community nursing stations and health centres across the territory. They are professionals, involved in every aspect of the care system ó in our homes and institutions, caring for family members, friends and neighbours in the community.
In recent years, nurses have witnessed changes in the health system. Within the last month, this government announced the appointment of seven Yukon nurses to the Yukon Nursing Advisory Committee. This committee will fulfill an important role in helping to create and maintain programs and initiatives to attract and keep nurses in the north.
We have in place financial assistance for refresher courses for nurses wishing to return to the profession after time away, and a bursary program to encourage young Yukon residents to enter this caring profession.
Our nurses do so much more than dispense pills and plump pillows. They are actively involved in programs to encourage healthy living, promote illness prevention and increase the publicís awareness of the role of nurses in our society.
Nursing Week is a time to celebrate the achievements of the nursing profession and recognize the dedication nurses have both to their patients and to providing them with quality health care. Yukoners respect the work they do. We should all take a moment this week to reflect upon the valuable contribution that nurses make to the health and well-being of all Yukon people. I would like to say thank you to Yukon nurses for the care that they provide.
In recognition of Emergency Preparedness Week
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Legislature to pay tribute to the many men and women throughout the Yukon who play a role in delivering our emergency response services. May 6 through 12 is Emergency Preparedness Week across Canada. This annual event is an opportunity to recognize the diligence and professionalism of the many people who care for our well-being each and every day of the year. Ambulance attendants, firefighters, police, hospital staff, search and rescue teams, and medevac crews are on the job every day.
Behind the scenes are many people who develop emergency response plans, coordinate responses among the many agencies and departments, design and conduct a wide variety of training exercises. And coordinating these agencies as they perform their roles in emergencies is an equally important group of people who provide administrative support.
Apart from the regular staff positions within these agencies and departments, there are many volunteers throughout the territory who also heed the call of the alarm bells when they ring. In every community there is a group of volunteer people who play a very valuable role in dealing with emergency situations. The events of September 11 did focus more attention on emergency preparedness and response capabilities here in Whitehorse and around the globe. New threats mean new planning and training. Today many more Yukon families and businesses have developed their own emergency plans because of what we learned last fall.
During the month of December, Yukonís emergency measures organization conducted a territory-wide awareness campaign designed to encourage Yukon families and businesses to develop their own emergency plans and make preparations for emergency situations. During the campaign truckloads of information packages were picked up by Yukon people, and we hope this information has greatly increased the number of Yukon households and businesses prepared for emergencies. After all, emergency planning is key to mitigating the impacts of emergency events, whatever the potential threat may be, and emergency preparedness begins at home and at work.
Yukonís emergency response community has been busy updating emergency plans and providing new training. New partnerships have been formed among some of these agencies to cross-train and share plans, ideas and efficiencies, and to find new ways to maintain the safety and well-being of Yukoners and our visitors.
A number of activities are planned for Emergency Preparedness Week. Our local Canadian Red Cross chapter will be taking centre stage by launching a new educational program called "Expect the unexpected". They will be delivering personal disaster preparedness workshops during May and June, open to all Yukoners.
The workshops will explain the big picture of emergency management, review typical disasters and explain who is responsible for disaster management in Canada and the Yukon, who responds to disasters and how disasters affect our communities and our people.
There will also be a family disaster preparedness workshop, where Yukoners can learn about family reunification systems, dealing with insurance and important papers, minimizing injury and damage, evacuation methods, living with the aftermath of a disaster, and how to assemble survival kits.
A great deal of information will be available, and I encourage all Yukoners to take advantage of these extremely valuable workshops. These sessions can help protect our families from disasters.
Emergency Measures has sent posters and brochures to all communities to encourage public awareness, and the City of Whitehorse will be advertising the availability of preparedness information at city offices, so I urge Yukon people to take the next step toward being prepared for emergencies.
Another focus during Emergency Preparedness Week will be on training. Communications officers from across government and other agencies will be participating in two 2-day emergency public information courses.
In addition, this weekend search and rescue volunteers will gather to participate in an emergency preparedness training session.
On behalf of the people of the Yukon, I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to our emergency service organizations and workers on the frontlines and behind the scenes, and also to the many community volunteers who work hard to ensure the continued safety of their neighbours and friends.
To each of you, thank you for your compassion and dedication in keeping Canadians safe.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like all members to join me in welcoming the former MLA for Mount Lorne, Lois Moorcroft. Sheís in the gallery today. Please join me in welcoming her today.
Speaker: Are there any further introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I have for tabling the annual report for 2000-01 for the crime prevention and victim services trust fund.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon governmentís partners in education deserve to be fully and fairly consulted whenever significant changes that affect them directly are being considered;
(2) school councils are publicly elected to act as the voice of parents in educational matters at the individual school level;
(3) the Yukon Liberal government has recently announced plans to move some Whitehorse school programs to different locations without first seeking the input of parents, students, teachers and administrators who are directly involved;
(4) combined with the collapse of the Education Act review process, this situation demonstrates the need to restore damaged relationships between the Yukon government and its education partners; and
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Liberal government to demonstrate goodwill toward its education partners by:
(a) abandoning its efforts to recover funding provided to the Association of Yukon School Councils;
(b) postponing any decisions to shuffle programs from the Wood Street Annex and Whitehorse Elementary School until meaningful consultation takes place with those directly involved, and
(c) commissioning an independent operational review of the territorial educational system with a particular emphasis on improving decision making and communications.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the experiential science program was operating effectively at the Wood Street Annex and should be allowed to continue; and
THAT this House urges the minister responsible for youth and the Minister of Education to reconsider the decision to turn the Wood Street Annex into the Whitehorse Youth Centre, causing the expulsion of the experiential science program.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon government should
(1) take advantage of fare restrictions on airlines to offer Yukoners better options for medical travel; and
(2) institute a policy that would encourage travel with weekend or extended stays to Yukoners while travelling for medical travel with a portion of the savings realized being passed on to the patient.
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government immediately investigate any opportunities that can be garnered for the Yukon by the drastic cuts to health care by the B.C. Liberals and to take, at the very least, the following two steps:
(1) immediately reallocate money in the budget to enhance the recruitment dollars to attract B.C. health care professionals north to the Yukon Territory; and
(2) work with the Yukon Hospital Corporation to develop a full equipment needs assessment and allocate money to the corporation to ensure that timely bargains on much needed health equipment are not missed.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Whitehorse schools reorganization
Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Minister of Education. In the last week, we have seen another classic example of Liberal top-down decision making ó act first and consult later. It is now obvious that the plan to shuffle children around Whitehorse does not have much support. On Thursday, the minister said that this scheme was only a proposal and that they would be looking at other various options. What other options is the minister now considering?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The Wood Street Annex ó the majority of the area has been given to the youth centre. That is a fact. We are looking at other options because what Iíd heard from a lot of parents in Whitehorse is that they were concerned about having some of these youth joining them at Whitehorse Elementary.
These youth are dedicated, hard-working, committed, community-minded youth. We will be looking at a variety of issues and a variety of potential solutions with the school councils, and that information will be coming forward later.
Mrs. Peter: This method of decision making before consulting has insulted a number of people. Students are demonstrating against this decision. School councils are holding public meetings to discuss the impact this has on them, yet the minister said she supports the parents and the students. Can the minister elaborate on how this type of action supports parents?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Throughout this territory we have heard a great concern about youth in the territory, and how many of these youth end up in downtown Whitehorse or in Whitehorse proper, with no place to go. The concept of having a youth centre in the downtown to service youth has come from the youth themselves. We want to provide outreach programs. We want to provide an alternative school for children who arenít doing well in our current school system.
This youth centre is about serving youth in Whitehorse and youth all over the territory to give them some opportunities that they donít currently enjoy. The experiential programs are wonderful programs, and the success of those programs is because of the students, because of the teachers and because of the programs themselves. It is not just about a building.
Part of the role of the minister is to try to ensure the maximum benefit for the most people, and we are trying to do that.
Mrs. Peter: Last week the minister made an announcement; then she backtracked and said it was a proposal; then she said she would consider options. Now the department is saying that parents need to make some hard choices. Talk about mixed messages, Mr. Speaker. How can parents make choices when they arenít even involved in developing any options?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: One of the difficulties in providing options is that you have to have the information to create the options. I have tasked the department with finding a series of options that specifically address the issues that were raised at the public meetings. Many people, as they become more and more familiar with this concept and have more information, are supporting many of these initiatives, and Iím quite pleased to see a number of students come out and express their concerns. I heartily approve of their involvement and their activity, and I approve and support parents coming out to clarify for me, as a minister, and other members what specifically the issues are.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline competing with Mackenzie route
Mr. Fentie: Iíd like to ask the minister responsible for our economy a question today ó I might add that itís a very devastated economy that has received another fatal blow.
The minister continues to promote to Yukoners that the two pipeline routes are non-competing. In fact, on May 3, he states in the Calgary Herald, "I donít see them as competing routes." On the very same day, in the Calgary Herald, it reports that a subsidy battle looms in the gas pipeline race.
Mr. Speaker, I would submit that "race" denotes a competition, and the Yukon is losing this race. What is the minister going to do to get the Alaska Highway pipeline back up, front and centre, with the federal government in regard to having it promoted as the chosen route?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We have always maintained that the best choice for the transportation of Alaska North Slope and Yukon gas to market is the Alaska Highway pipeline. I have spoken at a number of conferences about that. The Premier has done the same. The Premier and I, on Friday afternoon, were in contact with the federal Minister of NRCan, and we continue to actively promote the Alaska Highway as the route of choice for the Alaska North Slope gas, as well as the gas that we have in our own basins.
Mr. Fentie: Well, obviously the minister doesnít get what the race is about. The race is about which gas gets the market first ó Canadian gas or American gas. Minister Dhaliwal of the federal government is openly attacking the Alaska Highway pipeline, calling it an American route, and because of probable subsidies is now going to favour the Northwest Territories route, the Mackenzie Valley line.
Will this minister now take decisive action and send a high-level delegation to Ottawa to ensure that the Alaska Highway pipeline route remains as the priority for the federal government, who, I might add, this minister pointed out some days ago was in a neutral position ó hardly the case today.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, weíre going to continue to lobby for the Alaska Highway pipeline route, just as we have been doing for the past two years. We upped the funding of the pipeline unit from $100,000 under the previous government to $750,000 a year. Officials from the pipeline unit, as well as my deputy minister, are in Ottawa right now and will be briefing a number of federal officials on the Informetrica study that I tabled in this House last week. It shows the benefits of the Alaska Highway pipeline to all of Canada, including British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon.
Iím going to continue to lobby the federal government to ensure that they know that two projects are better than one; two projects are whatís good for the north and thatís what we envision happening.
The member opposite mentioned a race as to which one goes first. Our estimates are that the market will be able to absorb gas from both pipelines and both basins, and we certainly expect that to be the case.
Mr. Fentie: The minister is only kidding himself. If thatís the view the minister takes and the Mackenzie line goes first, we may be a decade away from an Alaska Highway line. Thatís the simple fact. What we need in this territory, Mr. Speaker, is a government thatís going to fight for Yukonersí interests, not kowtow to the federal government and the position theyíre taking.
Now, this minister has a duty to fight for Yukoners on this matter. Itís their only economic plank and theyíre losing it.
Will the minister act now? Will he send a high-level delegation to Ottawa to meet with the federal ministers, to meet with committees, to meet with all appropriate people, opposition members, anybody who is willing to listen, to stand up and represent the Yukon Territory in this matter, not allow us to lose out?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, as Iíve said, we do continue to fight for Yukoners with regard to this important initiative, the Alaska Highway pipeline, as well as other initiatives. As I mentioned in my previous answer, my deputy minister and the director of the pipeline unit are in Ottawa right now briefing a number of federal delegates about the importance of the Alaska Highway pipeline to the Yukon, as well as the importance that it is going to bring to the rest of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, weíre working very hard on this side of the House to make sure that this project becomes a reality. Itís nice to hear the Member for Watson Lake get on side with this, because only 18 short months ago in debate, the Member for Kluane referred to the pipeline as a possible black hole. So itís high time that they got onside with this.
Question re: Wood Street Annex, youth centre
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the minister responsible for youth. Now, this minister in his short but eventful term in office appears to have forgotten two fundamental laws in his quest to find a permanent home for the Whitehorse youth centre. Now, the first law is, "If something isnít broken, donít try to fix it," and the second law is, "If youíre in a hole, stop digging." Now, the experiential science program worked very, very well at the Wood Street Annex until the minister and his colleague, the Minister of Education, decided to throw a wrench into the works with a premature announcement of turning the Wood Street Annex into a youth centre. Will the minister now apply some common sense and reverse his decision to turn the Wood Street Annex into a youth centre?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The experiential program moved from F.H. Collins to the Wood Street Annex. Those programs are extremely successful. Theyíre successful because of the students, the content of the programs themselves and the dedication of the teachers. We have made a decision to turn the Wood Street Annex, in part, into a youth centre to try to support all those youth who currently donít have the support they need to be participating, active, constructive members of our society. Itís not about the building. Weíre asking for the opportunity to help more youth and to benefit a greater segment of our population.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Iím very pleased to see that the minister responsible for education must have spent the whole weekend learning some new lines and responses to the anticipated questions here today, and I commend the Minister of Education. But the bottom line is that the experiential science program was working very well where it was.
Whatís happening is that the home of one youth group is being given to another group. Itís simply asking for trouble, and the minister is pitting one youth group against the other ó that being the youth at risk. How much funding and other assistance has the government provided to the Blue Feather Youth Centre?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The Government of Yukon, through the Department of Health and Social Services, has an agreement with the Blue Feather Youth Centre to provide them with approximately $28,000 in funding for their centre. This compares with a $30,000 agreement for the Whitehorse Youth Centre Society, and both groups also receive funding from other sources to support their youth centre.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, letís take the shovel away from this minister before he digs the hole any deeper, because thatís what heís doing. Would the minister not agree that giving the home of the youth involved in the experiential science program, in order to create a permanent home for the youth centre, pits one group against the other? Thatís exactly what it does. The one group was doing very, very well where it was. Why not leave it there?
Will the minister not acknowledge that fact and address it, and just apply some common sense and reverse his decision to turn the Wood Street Annex into a youth centre?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: This decision is to benefit all youth. People from the experiential programs go to the youth centre as well. Itís about trying to do more for more youth. Itís about having a good place for the youth to go at nights, on the weekends and during the day ó to provide outreach programs, to provide an alternative school for them. Itís not pitting people against each other. Itís trying to get all of us to support each other.
Question re: Gas distribution system
Mr. Fentie: I would like to ask the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation a question.
Given the fact that the Alaska Highway pipeline is now very much in question and in jeopardy, and is hardly a blip on the federal radar screen when it comes to their priorities, why is this minister responsible for YDC forcing the corporation to spend Yukoners' money on a regulatory review, on behalf of multi-million dollar companies from outside this territory, for the distribution of gas in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Kent: It is important to note for the Member for Watson Lake that the gas distribution franchise that the Yukon Utilities Board will be conducting a review on will bring approximately $5 million to $10 million in private sector development to the Yukon Territory. And that is very important when we can get that type of development.
We will be able to use the gas distribution template in other communities after the Alaska Highway pipeline project comes through when they are looking for access to gas for their communities as well. So I feel this is a very solid investment on behalf of Yukoners because it will leverage private sector investment in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Fentie: The minister has basically just stated that the Liberal government is willing to sell Yukoners out. These are outside utilities, and if the minister doesnít understand this, let me point out to the minister that the profits, revenues, garnered from the utility established and gas distribution in the Yukon will flow out of this territory. Why doesnít this minister use YDC funds to help a regulatory review to establish a locally owned, a Yukoner-owned utility for gas distribution in this territory? Will he answer that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I find the comments of the member opposite quite interesting indeed. He has to realize that private sector investment like this in a local gas distribution franchise will also provide jobs and opportunities for local business people ó those jobs, such as the jobs that Yukon Electrical Company Limited has now. Those are people who work and live in our communities, and theyíre very important contributors to the local economy. So I think by leveraging the amount of dollars ó the $5 million to $10 million ó in private sector investment that will accrue from the Yukon Utilities Board is very important, and it will provide jobs for Yukoners and will provide opportunities for Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister is wrong ó dead wrong. In fact, there are a lot more benefits that would accrue to the Yukon public if the minister were to take this constructive suggestion ó hold on, on allowing Sask Gas or BC Gas or ATCO to come into this territory and establish a utility, where all the profits flow out. Letís establish our own utility. Letís partner with municipalities and First Nations and create our own utility here so we not only get the jobs and leverage the funds, but we will retain the profits for Yukoners. How about that, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Kent: There are a number of private sector companies that have approached the Yukon government with interest in establishing this gas distribution franchise. ATCO Gas, he mentioned; SaskEnergy, BC Hydro, have all approached us. What weíre doing is trying to leverage private sector investment in the Yukon Territory.
Municipalities and First Nations are more than welcome to participate as proponents in this. Thatís the tack that I want to take and this government wants to take ó to encourage private sector development in the Yukon Territory ó private sector funds flowing in, which will provide jobs for Yukoners.
Question re: Children in care
Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Over the past year, two major reports were undertaken by the Liberal government: the Anglin report on children in residential care and the Child Welfare League of Canada report on children in care. Both reports strongly indicate that much more has to be done for our children at the earliest possible time if we are to avoid major problems as the children get older.
Could the minister inform the House what preliminary work her department has done from the ideas suggested in the Anglin report and the Summary of First Nation Issues Identified in Focus Group Discussions by Shangreaux on how we could improve services for our children? And I donít want to hear, "Weíll get back to you in September." Iím sure there is some preliminary work that has been done already.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite was the Health minister, so he knows that some preliminary work was done.
Letís go back to what weíre talking about, what weíre really talking about. The member opposite is talking about three different reports. The first one is a summary of First Nations' concerns that went to First Nations, and it was a reporting back to them. It was not to the department. It was not to the government. The second report that he is talking about is the Anglin report, which was released in the fall. At that time, the department ó and the member opposite was the minister at the time ó did some preliminary costing. Since then, it has been changed. Initial investment was around $3 million. Now weíre up to $4.3 million to bring in the recommendations from the Anglin report. And the third report was done by the Child Welfare League of Canada, and that report will be on my desk, hopefully by the end of June. At that time, I will be travelling throughout the Yukon, talking to all First Nations about where they want to go with the child-in-care review.
Mr. Roberts: In the year 2000, the Liberal government was forced to assume the operation of 16 Klondike because the contract was not being fulfilled. One of the main problems with the contracting services for troubled children is who monitors the programs to ensure the conditions of the contract are being honoured. My question to the minister is: when contracts are signed by the government, who in the department monitors these contracts and how often are the contracts monitored within the contract year?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Itís an ongoing process. It has been brought to the attention of government ó not only this government, but the previous NDP government ó that there was not enough monitoring of those contracts. Thatís one of the reasons we had to take over 16 Klondike when the member opposite was the minister ó because that wasnít being done. Therefore, there are people assigned within Family and Childrenís Services who specifically go through those group homes and do a regular monitoring of those group homes.
That is one of the problems that has been brought forward again. It was certainly brought forward to the NDP government when I was in opposition, and it has been brought forward again in the Anglin report. No doubt it will come forward again in the Child Welfare League report. This is something that we have to continue to do. It doesnít make sense to wait until things fall apart and the government has to take over the contract. It makes sense for the private sector to go out there and do the good work that they do, and it makes sense to monitor. And thatís what weíre doing.
Mr. Roberts: It is my understanding that one of the main contractors with the Department of Health and Social Services has left the Yukon and is still under contractual obligation with the government. It is also my understanding that a number of the contractorís employees have not been paid by that contractor. It is also my understanding that the contractor, Sandra Gibbs, is no longer fulfilling the conditions of the contract as it is signed by all of the respective parties.
My question to the minister: could the minister tell the House if the contractor, Sandra Gibbs, is still fulfilling her contractual obligations, as many of her employees have not been paid by her? What is the Department of Health and Social Services doing about it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There was a problem with a contractor ó and I wonít be specific about the name ó but there was a problem with a contractor at the end of last fiscal year. That problem has been remedied by retendering those contracts. The people who were offering those services and doing the contract for that major contractor ó the subcontractors, if you will ó are now doing that service for the Yukon government.
We tried very hard to pay everyone we could, but we had already paid once for that service for the month of March and didnít want to pay it again. We did, however, cover wages for at least two weeks for most of the employees. I know there were a couple we were advised by the Department of Justice not to cover.
Question re: Education Act review
Mrs. Peter: I have another question for the Minister of Education.
The governmentís track record in education has not been good. First, the Education Act review was politicized. Then the review process failed to keep the partners on board. Now there is clearly little support for the amendments.
Will the minister agree now to withdraw the Act to Amend the Education Act?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: There were a number of partners involved in the Education Act review. After the consultations were completed, the steering committee sat down to make some decisions as to the direction that the amendments should take. For reasons, some of these people removed themselves from the committee.
When I tabled the act at the beginning of this session, it was to provide information to the public. The public right now is looking at those amendments, and the public will get back to me as to whether they want me to proceed or to defer any further amendments to the act.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the government was pushing to build the Grey Mountain School, and the numbers did not support that decision. Then the minister said she would not have support, so the decision was not to rebuild the Grey Mountain School. The plan to reshuffle the children around Whitehorse has not had much public support either. Things are so bad between the government and some school councils that this Liberal government is suing the parents who have volunteered their time.
Will the minister withdraw the pending lawsuit and work with the Association of Yukon School Councils to set the capital budget priorities for Yukon schools?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: This was the first government in history that supported the creation of the Association of School Councils, and actually funded one.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Nobody is suing anyone. No one is suing anyone. What was asked for by the government was that the Association of School Councils be supported by this government to support school councils directly. It has been indicated by the government that all money that was given to the Association of School Councils go directly to the support of school councils. Every group that receives funding from the government has a contract with the government to provide or perform services. The group is being asked to support directly school councils with the money.
Mrs. Peter: The problems in the Yukon education system are larger than the legislation or the capital priorities. The government has seriously damaged the trust of the partners involved in the education system today. Will the minister put a stop to these plans and legislative changes and arrange to have an independent review of the Yukonís educational system?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: One of the proposals, one of the amendments in the Education Act, is to create an education advisory council, similar to the Health and Social Services Council, so that these issues, the broad issues in education, can be discussed on an ongoing basis. That is one of the reasons why the amendments are a good idea.
The education system in the Yukon is going through a period of change. This is not new. This is something that has been going on for many, many years. The former minister has had difficulty, and the previous minister before that. It is interesting to me that all of these issues in education and all of these problems that come up on the floor of this Legislature ó no previous government has dealt with them. I could sit here as the minister and do absolutely nothing, and I would take criticism for that. We are making progress. We are taking steps. It is really important that we do some things to find out what people actually want.
Question re: Fire suppression
Mr. McRobb: Well, I think the Liberals have created their own problems, and something Yukoners have discovered is that this Liberal government does things backward. They create a controversy then decide to consult. Good government is the other way around, Mr. Speaker.
My question today is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Iím following up on an issue of great importance to Yukoners that I raised last fall, when I called on this Liberal government to take immediate action for the protection of Yukonersí lives, property and resources from the threat of forest fires. Specifically, I called on them to expand the existing fire smart program to areas beyond community boundaries.
The Liberals had a choice, and they decided to do nothing. Instead, on November 6, the previous minister indicated they are developing a draft fire protection policy to put out to stakeholders for comment later that month and, in December ó
Speaker: Order please. Question please.
Mr. McRobb: Did that happen, and what are they doing to combat the threat of fires?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member opposite knows, Community Services is now the department with the responsibility for fire suppression, and fire suppression will be coming over to the department upon devolution next year.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, thatís no answer. This is a serious matter to Yukoners ó darn serious ó and the threat is greater than ever because of the present weather forecast for a prolonged high-pressure system into the summer. The situation is already bad because of recent high winds that depleted our snow packs, moving the snow, because of evaporation and sublimation. The ground is drier than ever. That is snow that wonít be turning up in our water systems this summer.
Now, our five-point economic plan called on this government to increase fire smart by $1 million. Given these severe conditions, will the minister now commit to bringing in a supplementary budget to increase fire smart spending?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane is fear-mongering, and the advertising has gone out to solicit fire smart applications for this season. Thereís a call for proposals June 15, and we are expecting a good number of applications for fire smart. We have $500,000 for fire smart this year, and Iím sure that will be ample.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately what this Liberal government is doing could be too little, too late. Letís hope it doesnít get to that, but this government is doing absolutely nothing new. The minister didnít answer the question I asked about the fire protection policy, and I want to ask her about the fire smart, because that appears to be the only answer they have. We know that this governmentís program was reduced when compared to previous governments' program funding. Itís only $500,000 for all Yukon communities for the entire year.
Now, Mr. Speaker, that has been reduced because this Liberal government found it necessary to apply administration costs out of program funding, so itís 10 percent less.
Will this minister confirm that and explain what else this government is doing to increase the protection against fires for this summer?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the fire smart program is very important. A number of communities have developed their fire smart plans and are working on them. Some communities still have to do their plans, and the fire smart program will continue for a number of years as the clearing goes on around the communities.
Mr. Speaker, itís a very important program. We take it very seriously and we will continue to do so.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and weíll now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. The Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:05.
Chair: I call the House to order. Weíll continue with general debate in the Department of Environment, as part of Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Department of Environment ó continued
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There is one slight correction that I would like to enter into the record. I had reversed some numbers when I was giving my introductory comments on Thursday, and it was relative to the O&M budget figures 2002-03. I had indicated that the total proposed expenditure of the Department of Environment reflects an increase of $60,000, or less than one-half percent of our 2001-02 forecast. The correction is that this is largely due to $239,000, as opposed to the $293,000 Iíd indicated. So, I just wanted to be sure to correct the figure as I had read it in reverse.
So, Mr. Chair, I will continue to complete my comments on the opening for the budget.
The next topic is relative to renewal. I would like to conclude my introductory remarks by spending a few minutes talking about the specific initiatives in my department resulting from the renewal initiative. We provided a reduction of .085 percent to the departmentís O&M budget from the original 2001-02 O&M through consolidation of two directors' positions: the director of YPAS and the director of parks and outdoor recreation into one director position, now called the director of parks and protected areas. The position of assistant deputy minister resource management was restructured to include responsibility for corporate services, including direct responsibility for preparation for devolution, interdepartmental coordination, interdepartmental statistics management and renewal implementation.
This includes development of implementation plans for programs devolving to the Department of Environment in 2003, monitoring and participating in DIAND initiatives in advance of devolution to ensure a seamless transition, to also ensure that appropriate human resources will be in place for new responsibilities acquired through devolution, and forging formal and informal links with other YTG departments, especially those changing as a result of renewal.
The director of the line branches will now be reporting directly to the deputy minister. We eliminated the previous assistant deputy minister of corporate services, an external relations position, which was created early in 2001-02 fiscal year and funded by the vacant manager of planning and resource policy position. The responsibility for Yukon protected areas strategy planning was transferred to the director of policy and planning position, and the name was changed to director of policy and Yukon protected areas strategy planning to reflect this change.
The position of manager of planning and resource policy was also eliminated and the funds used in other high priority areas.
Mr. Chair, we consolidated the park ranger and conservation officer services in one branch to improve the efficiency and effective delivery of conservation education, enforcement and compliance service, and we will be undertaking a comprehensive review of the campground system plan to streamline and strengthen the existing network of territorial campgrounds and recreation sites, including improvements to campsite permitting and fee collection service.
We will be working more closely with Business, Tourism and Culture on improving our service to the public related to Yukon campgrounds. We are creating a customer service unit of three positions at 10 Burns Road to provide a better level of service for people requiring permits, licences and seals.
We amalgamated all the information and technology related positions into one unit to provide a better level of service to internal and external clients and provide additional financial resources to enhance service, especially with respect to Web site development.
The finance and administration branch has been reorganized, with the directorís position eliminated through attrition. The former directorís duties have been distributed to other managers in the corporate service program. A new finance and budget analysis position was created at a lower level to assist with additional financial workloads.
The previous heritage river planner position has been eliminated, and the financial resources utilized to create an additional position in the conservation, protection and public education branch, in order to better service the public through strengthening the delivery of services in parks and wilderness tourism licensing.
We strengthened support in the area of human resource management. A conservation data centre is being established in our fish and wildlife branch to monitor and recover species at risk due to human activities. It is a new initiative that is currently being developed as a partnership between the Government of Yukon and Environment Canada. Additional partners, such as Parks Canada, are anticipated as well.
The centre will be a gateway of information about species and ecological communities of conservation significance, including those that are at risk. It will also be a contact point at which development proponents, resource managers and decision makers will obtain information about the distribution, status and vulnerability of species and ecological communities.
That covers the major new and changing initiatives in this department. It is hoped that in debate in the Department of Environmentís O&M budget, we will engage in positive and constructive dialogue, positive and constructive criticism. I am most eager to hear ideas and suggestions from the members opposite.
So, with that, I will be more than happy to answer questions forthcoming from members opposite.
Mr. McRobb: I welcome the invitation from the minister for constructive input, and we will be getting to that before the conclusion of debate on this department.
There are a number of areas I want to cover in general debate. Of course there is the waffling on the YPAS decision. There are some land use planning issues, wildlife issues, climate change and licensing issues, as well as some of this governmentís spending plans. One of the corrections noted by the minister was the $54,000 less he indicated compared to the figures he gave on Thursday. I am most interested to know if this will be resulting in another month-long motor home excursion for this minister, and I guess we will get into that a little later when we have that opportunity.
Starting with the area of the Yukon protected areas strategy, or YPAS, there are many Yukoners who are beginning to learn about how this government does business. And that is, it seems to create a controversy after promising it wouldnít and then it reacts to public controversy. We see this happening in a number of areas, including our education system with respect to the shuffling of students around the City of Whitehorse. We see it with respect to the Education Act, after the process was politicized by the Liberals hiring a former party president to lead the consultations. These were areas that were initiated under the same minister, I might add. So this minister does not have a very good track record when it comes to doing consultation right. Instead, this Liberal government is becoming known for how it handles crisis management situations.
Mr. Chair, it is not a sign of good government to excite the public, get them worried about particular issues or changes, and then try to react to those concerns as expressed in the media, or, such as today, on the front steps of this government building when we saw the protest by the many students. I recall former Government Leader Piers McDonald cautioning us during our three-and-a-half year term to avoid these types of situations, and as I look back on that, I can recognize now more than ever that it was the voice of experience talking. We know that Mr. McDonald had somewhere in the neighbourhood of 18 yearsí experience in this Chamber and in government, which is more than the grand total of all the Liberal members opposite if you add each one of them up.
The former government leader cautioned us to ensure that we didnít create problems in the public, as we see with a number of the areas this government is dealing with. We were cautioned to go out and consult the public properly to ensure that our decisions are well-grounded in public support, and I think thatís where this Liberal government is failing so far, Mr. Chair, if youíll permit me to put an observation on record.
What I have seen in the two years under this government is the opposite process taking place, where the government does not go out and consult, does not have an open and fair consultation process, but instead derives decisions in the corner suite upstairs, which, as we know now from talking to some of the ex-ministers, involves the Premier and three top staffers ó people who werenít even elected by Yukoners at the last election.
This even excludes members of the government caucus, never mind members of the government Cabinet. These important decisions are made by a few, but affect so many, and they arenít well thought out; they arenít well-grounded in public support. They are quick, knee-jerk reactions to try to resolve problems.
Well, that is not the good decision making we were taught to do by the previous government leader, Mr. Chair. That is not even close. It is a crisis management style that this Liberal government seems to perpetuate over and over. On practically every issue, we see people demonstrating in the public or letters to the editor, or other letters to government ó some form of public outcry against these unilateral decisions.
Now, this should not be surprising, Mr. Chair, because itís a very predictable outcome when government adopts a style of decision making, such as this Liberal government has done, where decisions are made in the upstairs, corner office without public consultation. I really hope this minister and his colleagues learn from some of these mistakes, because we all know itís a mistake to involve the public in this way ó as involved in the YPAS process. These were people who have jobs to attend to, who have businesses to attend to, who are volunteers in organizations that are dealing with a multitude of other time-intensive issues. Itís a mistake to really drain their time and energy on a process that is really wasted, because it ends up for naught. The train is derailed, and it doesnít amount to anything.
And that is of great concern because, on the slightest reversal of the YPAS process, we see a government backtracking on its news release that was dated July 13, 2001. In that press release, it states ó and Iíll quote from it, "Kent and Eftoda are committing to the establishment of a single goal 1 protected area in each of the remaining 13 ecoregions . . ."
Chair: Order please. A member cannot do indirectly what they wish to do directly through a letter, which is to name members by their last names in this House. So, I would ask, even in reference to letters, that we refer to members in their ridings.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. This is a government news release but, even so, I get the point.
Here we have the Minister of Environment and the former Minister of the Economic Development department both making a commitment on YPAS target dates. They further went on to say that, by April 30 of next year, all of the remaining areas would be identified ó all 13 ecoregions.
Now, not long ago ó about one month ago ó the government reversed its decision on that. Now, letís take a look at this and try to figure out why that happened, and ask yourself: was the public consulted on this unilateral decision announced July 13 to identify the remaining 13 ecoregions within about one and a half years? Was the public consulted? I donít think so, Mr. Chair. Was this Legislature consulted? Was I, as Environment critic for the official opposition, consulted? The answer is no.
None of this language of this announcement was known to this Legislature beforehand. There was no discussion in this Chamber with regard to this announcement ó none whatsoever. And it came right out of the blue ó right out of the blue, probably from the corner suite upstairs, and it was going to be the way it was going to be. The ministerís commitment to identify these areas was the final decision, and that type of language is reflected in this news release. The subsequent interviews published in the media afterward further substantiated that firm commitment. Yet, barely eight months later, what happened? A complete reversal; a complete reversal.
Again, Mr. Chair, was there any discussion whatsoever about the reversal in this Legislature? No, there wasnít. Now, there is a point I want to make about that, Mr. Chair. When the minister stands up when there is remaining camera time, he is able to deliver a message to the effect that heís cooperating; he wants to discuss and listen to the opposition members about what they have to say. He really sounds sincere in his invitation, but when it comes to practice, we see something completely different. The minister did not make any effort to contact us in the official opposition about this matter at all, nor when it was announced that it was a firm decision back in July, nor when the decision was erased a month ago ó no exchange or communication whatsoever with the opposition.
Now, is this an issue weíre interested in, Mr. Chair? Well, you want to believe it is. Back in the fall, there was plenty of debate on the YPAS legislation. There was a motion that took up most of the discussion all one afternoon, just on the motion. There was debate about the legislation, which took another couple of days, and there were questions as well in Question Period. So the minister fully knows it was a matter of importance to us in the opposition ó and not just in the official opposition, but the third party as well.
So there really is reason to doubt the sincerity of these Liberals when it comes to inviting us to participate in their decision-making processes, because we realize those invitations are hollow. The decisions are made before they ask for our involvement, if in fact they ever do ask. The decisions are already made, and these examples I pointed out, Mr. Chair, clearly prove that. Thereís no doubt whatsoever. In case anybody ever referring to Hansard or listening to this has any doubts, this also excludes any personal communication in a less formal way. At no time did the minister ever say he was contemplating these decisions and would like our input. There was never an e-mail, for instance. There was never anything informal or formal. It was completely unilateral, excluding our positions totally.
Now, Mr. Chair, a lot of people in the public are confused about where this government stands on the YPAS process, and I would like to ask the minister to start off by clarifying exactly, in his own words, what he has decided to do with the YPAS strategy.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member is absolutely right that, when we began this debate, I was very sincere in hoping that we would have a friendly, positive, critical exchange of information. The member does know, quite seriously, how I feel about YPAS. I have talked to the member opposite from time to time on my personal feelings on YPAS, so he knows exactly what I am talking about.
The member is asking when. Well, that just goes to show what kind of a memory he does have. I was hoping, very seriously, that we could conduct a positive exchange of information here. I am more than willing to provide any answer to the member opposite. The member opposite continually criticizes the decisions that come out of the corner office ó that is false. That is incorrect, Mr. Speaker ó Iím sorry. That is not the way we work upstairs. It is a matter of teamwork. We do exchange ideas in Cabinet and caucus all the time.
I also listen to the member opposite indicate to me that I should have personally talked to him on ideas with respect to YPAS. Well, Mr. Chair, they have not once, on the floor of this House, indicated to the Yukon public what their position is on YPAS over the past two years. During the election, and just before the election, Mr. McDonald, the previous government leader, had indicated in a public forum that they had made serious errors in implementing YPAS ó serious, serious errors ó as did the previous Minister of Economic Development in the previous government indicate publicly ó and I heard him on one occasion óthat they seriously did not follow the process in implementing YPAS on the Fishing Branch.
That was the second acknowledgement by a minister in the previous government. Then the Member for Kluane had also indicated in writing, in the press, during the election, that there had been some serious breaches of process in implementing Fishing Branch. Thatís great, Mr. Chair, and that ó I thought we had left that behind, but the member opposite is not going to let it go. He says that we flip flop, and Iím glad the member has mentioned that, because what it is showing is that we are listening to Yukoners. If there is concern about issues of process, we are finding ways to mitigate that. We are always open to people coming in or asking us to go to talk to them about issues, especially on YPAS.
The fact of the matter is that there was a sector of the Yukon public who participated in the construction of the strategy, who also actively participated in the design of the process for implementing YPAS. When this was handed over to the government, there was a serious breach of trust. I will admit, Mr. Chair, that I didnít appreciate the degree of broken trust that had occurred, and it has taken two years to work on re-establishing that trust.
I have listened as best I could to the concerns and issues that are coming out with respect to process, and I will continue to listen to the members opposite on issues of YPAS, as I will from the public.
So, Iím hoping against hope and, yes, the member is absolutely correct ó I am serious in my conviction to get positive, constructive criticisms on how we can better the process so that we can engage all Yukoners in implementing the protected areas strategy.
And I am most sincere about that. It is rather unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, when the Member for Kluane is indicating that I donít listen to what he has to say specifically. Well, weíre listening to Yukoners each and every day. We have an incredibly wonderful, competent group of individuals within the Department of Environment who are working at re-establishing trust in partnership with members of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and forwarding creating trust.
But I am a little bit disappointed in the memberís comments that I am not listening to him. The fact of the matter is that he is a Yukoner, and I listen to him four days a week right in this House. Iím sure Iím going to get to be able to hear a lot more, because I know the member is now shaking his head. Iíll continue to respect the memberís comments, Iíll respect his criticisms, but, again, I plead with him that we keep it to the issue at hand, that weíre talking about the O&M for the new Department of Environment. Itís exciting. There are some innovative ideas that are being created within the department on how we address the needs of Yukoners with respect to wildlife, the exciting prospects of looking after our special wildlife and species at risk.
I want very much to share with the member opposite the ideas, engage the member opposite, invite the member opposite to talk about the Department of Environment and its O&M budget. We can build for the betterment of all Yukoners, Mr. Chair, if we would just stay on the topic, respect each otherís answers and questions, and focus on the O&M budget for the Department of Environment. I would be more than willing to share the new ideas that are coming out about how we can better manage our natural renewable resources.
Mr. McRobb: It was really interesting listening to the minister give his confession-booth style of statement because, first of all, he lowered the bar of the discussion to a point to re-fight the previous election, and he wrongly attributed comments to myself, at the wrong time. I made no comments about YPAS in the last election, so heís wrong on that front. On a number of other things he said, I will simply say I take issue with them, but then he comes full circle to say that we should rise above the petty stuff and discuss positive solutions, and blah blah blah.
Well, Mr. Chair, I would urge the minister to listen to his own advice and do exactly that ó and answer the questions. The question I asked the minister was very positive and constructive. I asked him, in his own words, what he has decided to do with the protected areas strategy. Now, you heard the answer, Mr. Chair, but there was no answer to the question.
So, Iím fully prepared to have a productive conversation this afternoon, and it doesnít have to be based on an O&M budget. It can be based on policies or positions taken by the minister, department or government. It could be on a whole multitude of issues, so I urge the minister to dispense with the tactics of trying to herd us, in the opposition, down a single path, because the options open to us at this stage are very broad. Weíre in general debate.
Iíd also urge the minister to recognize that he is the minister of this department and he sits on the government side. So, Mr. Chair, itís up to this person to set the direction and answer for the department, not other people. Itís his responsibility.
I do want to engage in a constructive dialogue with the minister, and I hope we can both do that, and Iíd like to ask him one more time if he can answer the question of what he has decided to do with the protected areas strategy. Can he do that, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: What I am proposing, of late, with respect to the protected areas strategy and the process of implementation ó there has been some concern expressed by First Nations, by renewable resource councils, by mayors, by municipal officials, by the public in general, by industry and individuals, that they do have some concerns with the process as it is now.
So, what I am proposing, Mr. Chair, is that we take a slow-down approach to the implementation of areas of interest in respect of the moving forward of four First Nation agreements. The principles within the MOU were initialled off by the negotiators. Itís going to take a lot of work and a lot of resources for the four First Nations to move toward a settlement of claim.
So, we want to engage the First Nations, as has been indicated in correspondence and, to do that, it is going to take a lot of energy. Itís going to take some time, as the Member for Kluane knows, because renewable resource councils are not structured until after the final agreement has been signed, so there will not be four renewable resource councils in the four areas that are moving toward ratification of an agreement.
The remaining areas within the territory are also expressing that there has to be an appropriate level of consultation, in deference to what industry had requested a number of months ago on moving forward to quickly let Yukoners know where the areas of interest would be located. We are finding that balance and slowing the process down. We have had positive response from the resource sector and from First Nations and all the folks that wrote to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and me. It is going to allow an opportunity to get back to the table to really address the concerns relative to the process of implementing areas of interest. We are listening. I hear the member opposite when he says there has been a change of direction; yes, there has been a change of direction. I will be the first to acknowledge that, and that is a result of listening to Yukoners, of listening to the concerns and issues they have on the YPAS process.
In respect of the comments that we heard from the public, we are slowing the process down, and we will not be identifying any areas of interest until the four First Nations have signed off their agreements. I said that publicly as did the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. That is going to give us time to conduct more thorough assessments. I know that industry is somewhat concerned about the assessment process, so we are going to respect their concerns. There are a lot of helpful suggestions that we can get from industry, primarily the resource extraction industry. We want to hear what they have to say. We want to hear how we can better strengthen the process by directly improving on the assessment aspect. We need to hear more directly from these people and we are getting positive feedback on slowing it down so that we can engage renewable resource councils and First Nations and municipalities as well.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I was looking for the minister to identify some timelines with respect to progress on the identification of the areas of interest in the remaining ecoregions. Can the minister give us some idea about the timelines of the process?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair. I thought I had just indicated to the Member for Kluane that we will not be establishing any areas of interest until the ratification of four land claim agreements ó probably within a year, but that will depend on the resources available in First Nations moving to ratification of agreements. So the best answer I can give the member opposite is that we will be moving forward again. That doesnít mean that we arenít moving in a number of areas that I had indicated previously to improve the assessments within the process. I guess the best answer is that we will be moving forward in a year. Apparently the understanding is that the ratifications do have to occur within a year, so at that time we will, again, be forging ahead with the areas of interest identification.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to thank the minister for that information, but it does raise some questions. Letís start with the anticipated timeline of about a year, during which time ratification of the memoranda of understanding would be expected. Does the minister not agree there is potential for not all of these memoranda of understanding to become ratified in the year? As a matter of fact, Mr. Chair, thereís potential for land claims to drag on for several more years.
Now, I would like the minister to confirm that possibility and tell us what he plans to do if that should happen.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, thatís an incredibly hypothetical question, and itís very, very difficult for me to be speculating on whatís going to be transpiring with the MOUs over the next year. The best information I can give the member is that the expectation is that there will be ratification within a year.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I would submit his last statement is equally hypothetical. To base a complete position on the ratification of all four MOUs within the next year is completely hypothetical, because we donít know for certain that possibility will exist.
Now, the minister can play fun and games with the House rules and try to avoid giving a response due to some obscure clause in the Standing Orders about hypothetical questions, but Iím hoping we can have a more direct and sincere conversation here this afternoon to try to glean some of the information the minister is not willing to provide.
Mr. Chair, weíll get back to this in a moment, but the minister also mentioned that each of the First Nations would have to create their renewable resource councils which, of course, are post-land claim agreements, and he would expect those RRCs to have their input in this consultation process with respect to the identification of goal 1 areas, or areas of interest, in the ecoregions within their traditional territories.
Iím well aware, and Iím sure the minister is, that all of this takes time. It takes time to set up local RRCs. It takes time to get members on those councils. It takes time for the members to become familiar with their working environments and to develop all their internal protocols, and so on, Mr. Chair. It takes a lot of time.
Itís not unreasonable to expect that it could take a year or more. If all this is at least a year away, then of course weíre talking about the likelihood that no further work will be identified prior to the next election, which we know must be within two years.
So, really, Mr. Chair, a lot of people are wondering if this latest announcement by the Liberal government is really a manoeuvre to sidestep taking any decision on the YPAS goal 1 areas prior to the next election. This sort of jigs my thoughts back to the recent Liberal annual general meeting, where the guest speaker, Warren Kinsella, tutored the Liberals on his approach to swaying the public, creating perspective, how to achieve the end result of a public opinion on a certain matter, and all the fun and games involved with the political aspects of politics.
I pointed out before in this Legislature that Yukoners donít stand for those types of tactics because, in most cases, they are very anti-productive, and Yukoners want us to work together as much as we can in here, try to resolve issues of importance to them, and try to make their lives a bit better. We know there is lots of suffering going on out there beyond these walls. Better yet, we know there is great opportunity to improve situations for Yukoners if we can all work together to actually produce a product that will make their lives better.
We all know there are lots of opportunities to be constructive but, through approaches such as those I described by political spin masters from back east, Mr. Chair, we see a lot of fun and games going on.
Now, I would like the minister to readdress this issue of the timelines on the identification of the goal 1 areas with respect to the concerns identified about the lag time in getting the renewal resource councils up and running and engaged in the process, and actually giving their positions on the subject matter and then, of course, a conclusion of the overall consultation process, and so on. I see this possibly years away, Mr. Chair. Will the minister not agree that it could be a very distant date where we see the RRCs in all of these areas giving their opinions and this process coming to a conclusion? Is it not very possible it could be years away?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite had alluded to a couple of factors that I donít quite agree with. One is that no work will be done until after the next election. I disagree, as we had indicated publicly. We are consulting quite extensively now with First Nationsí existing renewable resource councils, with municipalities, with mayors, with the public at large, and with the extraction resource sectors. So we are consulting quite extensively with Yukoners and wanting direct input on how to improve the process, which includes the consultation aspects and all that.
We are working most diligently on that as I had indicated to the member opposite. Also for clarification to the member opposite, what we had indicated on this side of the House is that we would identify areas of interest. That is quite a distinction between goal 1 areas and areas of interest, in that the goal 1 area will be located within the area of interest, and that will be determined by the Yukon planning team that will continue its work on an area of interest ó quite possibly from 18 to 24 months after an area of interest has been identified. It is a long process in coming to a final plan that is submitted to government on the goal 1 area. I want to make it perfectly clear we are not working to establish, at this time, goal 1 areas. Primarily we are establishing areas of interest.
The member opposite is questioning my forthrightness in providing answers to him. I am providing the best answers that I possibly can in light of the processes that are going to be required on four First Nations moving toward ratifying their agreements. The best indication that we have at this time is that is going to take approximately a year ó approximately. We donít have any definite date, so I cannot provide the member opposite with a definite date like he is asking for. I canít do it because I donít know. It is dependent upon the ratification process itself and we are respecting that. We will work after the fact, so I am being as forthright as I possibly can.
If the member chooses not to accept the comments I am providing, there is nothing I can do about it, not a thing, but I will continue to provide the answers to the best of my ability. Therefore, the timelines are dependent on other activities here in the territory. Thatís the best answer on time. But the fact is that we are looking to improve the consultation aspects of the process ó how do we include the issues and concerns that Yukoners have with respect to the process ó and we are working full steam ahead on that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: For the ministerís information, I was not asking him for a definite date, so I donít have any idea where that comes from. I asked the minister if he did not agree there is potential for this process to take years. And I laid it all out about all the delaying factors that could amount to this process taking years, so perhaps he could answer the last question when he gets on his feet to answer the next one, Mr. Chair.
The minister, in the fall sitting, talked at length about the need for certainty to improve the investment climate in the territory because our mining industry has all but vanished. We on this side agree, Mr. Chair, that action does have to be taken to show there is a balance between protection and development of our natural resources, and greater uncertainty from a prolonged process simply does not respond adequately to that problem. By delaying the certainty for what could be years, the minister is prolonging the whole question of confusion and uncertainty in the minds of the developers and others in the territory.
What areas, for instance, are the prospectors aware of that they can go and prospect for minerals, if these areas arenít identified? What areas are other Yukoners who value special areas in the Yukon aware of that will be protected for generations to come unless some decisions are made? So the point is that greater uncertainty will prevail for the remainder of this Liberal governmentís mandate. The minister can choose to avoid the question, claiming itís hypothetical or something else, but thatís what it boils down to ó that this government will fail in one of its key election promises of resolving the issues of uncertainty with respect to developers and the protection of our environment.
We know that now. The minister has essentially said that, and thatís fine. Thatís a change in direction from what the minister put on record before, but thatís nothing new. Weíre getting quite used to reversals on positions and decisions on this side of the House, and the active list we are keeping that identifies a lot of these reversals is getting longer by the day. I expect, after the minister meets with the students from Wood Street, the list will be even longer, Mr. Chair.
So this whole issue of certainty and uncertainty seems to be prolonged by the indecision from this government ó and the lack of leadership, I might add.
The minister talks about improving the consultation process to achieve a better end product. Now, this comes after two full years of Liberal process ó one they said they would fix at the beginning. Now, two years later, weíre trying to look for product, and all we have is a new commitment to fix what has transpired in the previous two years.
So, Mr. Chair, there is a whole lot of fixing going on, but very little product. The issue about inadequate consultation has been raised many times in this Legislature. I have stood and raised it several times myself, but the minister stuck to his guns, saying, "Itís a good process," and, "It will result in a product." Finally, that materialized in the July 13 announcement last year, where they made the commitment to identify the remaining ecoregions by April 30, 2003. But, of course, that has all been changed now.
I would like the minister to explain what type of consultation process he envisions will resolve the problems and, if he had to do it all over again, what he would do differently.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, first and foremost, I wouldnít do anything differently. I have confidence in myself, I have confidence in a strong, committed staff, and I have confidence in the fact that Iím a good listener. The member opposite said that this problem began two years ago. Weíre going to disagree on that, and thatís fine.
So the thing is that we are creating certainty. We heard that most recently by the people affected. They feel that taking a little time to strengthen the consultation aspect, which will result in a strengthening of the process, is the right thing to do. We have listened to Yukoners, and weíre going to do that. The member opposite is correct ó during the election, I promised to fix it, and I am working on it. I am working on it, Mr. Chair.
The fact of the matter is that the damage was so severe before that it is taking a little longer than I thought. I had based some of my progress on assumptions that werenít quite correct. What I have done is to evaluate and listen closer to industry and to what they are saying their fears and apprehensions, their concerns with respect to process are. We are slowing down. I am listening longer and harder to what they have to say. We are working at it. The fact of the matter is it is not a reversal at all. We are responding directly to what we are hearing from Yukoners every day.
The fact is that we are enhancing the process through greater consultation with First Nations, renewable resource councils, municipalities, towns, cities, small villages, the public at large, people in my constituency, people from the Member for Kluaneís constituency, every corner of the territory. That can only create a greater, stronger process by respecting what Yukoners are saying, respecting what they feel with respect to their interests. So we are responding to their interests by listening to them.
The member is correct, though, when he says there have been changes in direction, and that is as a direct response from listening to Yukoners. I am glad the member keeps talking about that because changes in direction or changes in policy are the direct result of this government listening to Yukoners at all times, and we will continue to do that.
There are sensitivities that we are very, very aware of. We are aware of the sensitivities of the First Nations and the priorities and the capacity pressures they have with respect to moving forward toward ratifying four First Nations land claims ó a huge exercise.
So, Mr. Chair, we are listening, and there is an insistence that we are going to continue to work at this until we get it right, until all Yukoners are satisfied, until Yukoners are content with the process and participate positively and actively in it.
Mr. McRobb: With all due respect, Mr. Chair, it would be a fair assessment of the ministerís speech to conclude that itís really full of platitudes, apologizing for lack of leadership and severe inaction on the part of this government to deal with a tough issue. Thatís another Liberal promise from the last campaign, that of resolving tough issues with the polarized stakeholders in the Yukon, to try to strike a balance between the two sides ó but we donít see that happening.
When the minister wants us to believe that he is listening to public concerns and trying to be flexible in response to public reaction ó that really understates what is happening outside these walls, and the minister is underestimating public comment for what could be the early stages of a full-out revolution to remove this government from office. Weíre seeing that more and more all the time, as groups from more and more sectors of our society demonstrate against the bad decisions this government is making.
Mr. Chair, this debate goes even further along the lines of what governance model would be best for the territory ó and we spoke at some length about that ó but, more and more all the time, Iím hearing about a need for a revolution to try to overhaul this whole way of doing public business in here.
Mr. Chair, when we hear the minister get up to give poor excuses for why his own process has failed, and try to blame previous governments, Iím beginning to wonder where I sign that petition for a revolution, because I see first-hand whatís happening, and there is a definite need for change in the territory.
This minister can try to fill that void of leadership by standing up for what he believes in, by standing up to the corner office that gives him his marching orders to come down here and say what he does.
Now, I want to question the minister on a particular aspect of this whole decision to reverse his governmentís position on the Yukon protected areas strategy. With respect to First Nation concerns, if we look at his press release of April 24 of this year, it is quite clear the minister is indicating that First Nation concerns are a good part of what drove him to change his mind and to reverse his commitment with respect to the YPAS areas-of-interest target date. Yet we heard the Grand Chief come and speak out against this ministerís tactic of using the First Nations to justify his own failures.
Mr. Chair, Iíve also spoken to some of the First Nations with MOUs, and they have no idea what this minister is talking about.
Earlier this afternoon, he indicated there was correspondence from the First Nations on this point. I would like to ask the minister if he can indicate what the correspondence is, and if he can send us copies of this correspondence.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As the member opposite knows, correspondence on a government-to-government level is private. We have asked the First Nations to allow us to release the letters they have forwarded. I have received permission from the Chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, and I would be more than willing to send that to members on the other side.
The member opposite has indicated that there has been severe inaction by this government. Again, that is a point we are going to have to disagree on. The fact that we are dealing with very tough issues on a daily basis with respect to health, drugs and alcohol ó one of the toughest issues I had to deal with, as the former Minister of Renewable Resources, was moving forward on the Wildlife Act, which was an act that was in a terrible state of disrepair. Itís so large ó the correction factor ó that it is going to take three years to address specific concerns relative to the act. But, in the end, we will have a brand new act that all Yukoners can be proud of because it is an act that they have built on through consultation, and we will continue to do that.
I guess I take a little bit of an exception to what the member is suggesting ó that Iím providing poor excuses. He is certainly entitled to his opinion, but I had indicated at the beginning of this debate that I will respect his comments, and I will.
I indicated to the member opposite that I would give him as complete answers as I possibly can and I will. But if he chooses not to accept them, there is nothing I can do about that. He is suggesting that I am taking my marching orders from the corner office; that is totally incorrect. I have a mind of my own and I ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: If the member is willing to listen to the answers, I would be more than willing but he doesnít have to bring outside aspersions into this House. Mr. Chair, I will not tolerate that. I have indicated that I would respect his comments, but if he wants me to provide those comments in a respectful and diligent way, I would suggest he leave my family out of it.
Chair: I would like to remind everybody that, while remarks said on the other side of the House are not recorded by Hansard, they are certainly heard and the Chair will ask the members to be judicious in their comments, even if they are not in Hansard.
Mr. McRobb: Letís not blow things out of proportion, Mr. Chair. Let us try to keep this to the issue, and the minister was easily sidetracked in his response because he had very little to say.
I would like to follow up on the lack of an answer with the minister, and ask him if the First Nation he did identify as sending written correspondence, and being willing to release it ó is it one of the First Nations affected by the memorandum of understanding with respect to the land claims?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Member for Kluane knows full well that the Chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in is not a memorandum of understanding mover. But, Mr. Chair, we have received a good number of correspondence from renewable resource councils, from First Nations, from across the territory, as well as municipalities, mayors and, out of due respect to their concerns, if they wish for us to share the correspondence, we are more than willing to do that. But I think, out of respect for them, that they have to grant that permission. We have asked and I have received from Chief Taylor of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in in Dawson ó if we get permission, I will be more than willing to share any correspondence that we get.
Mr. McRobb: Well, exactly. The First Nation he identified, the one from Dawson City, is not one of the First Nations affected by the memoranda of understanding. Okay, it appears the minister and I are in agreement on this, yet the ministerís press release indicates an understanding about how the resources of these First Nations with memoranda of understanding are stretched and uses that as justification to delay this whole process. Well, I would like to ask the minister if he heard such concerns from any of the four First Nations that are directly affected by these memoranda of understanding? Has he heard from any of those four?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, with respect to the member oppositeís question, we are taking input from all First Nations, all renewable resource councils, all municipalities. The fact of the matter is we recognize and we realize the amount of work that it takes by First Nations moving from signing a memorandum of understanding to getting their final land claims agreement. It takes a lot of dedicated, hard work, and the member opposite should know that. He has been in government, so he knows exactly what is required and the resources that it takes. So it is out of respect that we are not wanting to tax the resources that First Nations are going to need with respect to ratifying their land claims agreements.
It was rather unfortunate that when Grand Chief Ed Schultz was contacted that the interviewer had indicated that I was blaming the memorandum of understanding process for slowing down. Nothing could be further from the truth ó nothing at all.
In my heart, again, Iím providing the member opposite with the best answers that I can. If he chooses not to accept that, again, thatís his choice and I respect his choice.
Along with the MOUs, Mr. Chair, there are a good number of other factors that helped me in choosing a different direction with respect to the process. In that, we want to hear from all settled and unsettled First Nations. We want to hear from all renewable resource councils, municipalities, mayors, and towns. We want to hear from the public at large, our constituents, and we want to hear more from the resource extraction sector, as well. So thatís why we are listening to Yukoners and we are implementing a slowdown of the YPAS areas-of-interest identification process until we can hear directly again what people have to say and how they feel the process will best serve their needs.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, how acrimonious can the minister get? Accusing me of not appreciating the hard work that is facing the people within the First Nations affected by the MOUs is really a misrepresentation of the facts.
Mr. Chair, earlier this afternoon, I indicated that the resources of these First Nations are taxed. They have their work cut out for them, and we should respond to their wishes, but what weíre discovering now is that the minister is now pointing to First Nations with settled land claims as being the reason for derailing the YPAS target dates.
Well, Mr. Chair, those First Nations with settled land claims are not in the same situation as the minister has set out in his reasons. So, something just doesnít add up. It just doesnít add up. For the minister to deny that he indicated First Nations were a main part of his reasoning, I invite him to revisit his press release of April 24. That press release clearly put First Nations at the top of the list. I see the language used ó "First Nations" is mentioned several times in this one-page press release; "land claims" is mentioned several times. There are other references as well. They are topping the stacking order of the groups represented by the minister as asking for the slowdown in the YPAS target dates. So, clearly, what the minister wants us to believe today is in contradiction with his own news release of April 24, so there is a need for explanation there.
I want to ask the minister to confirm ó because this question was not answered: has he received any written correspondence from the four First Nations affected by the MOU, requesting him to slow down the YPAS process?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, Mr. Chair, I have to disagree with the Member for Kluane, in that he is suggesting I am contradicting my news release. I donít believe that at all, and I donít believe I am contradicting the news release.
Another correction I have to provide the Member for Kluane is the fact that he said, "I accuse him of not appreciating the movement from MOU to ratification of the land claims agreement."
I did not do that. What I had suggested to the member opposite was that he must remember, because he already knows the fact. I know the member knows what it takes for First Nations to sign an MOU and move to ratification. The member knows that, so I didnít accuse him of anything.
Another factor that comes in to the reason we are slowing down the YPAS process is because there has been a direct request from a large number of Yukoners, including members of CPAWS and other conservation organizations working in concert with First Nations, who are indicating they want to be more engaged in the consultation aspect. Weíve heard that time and time again, so we are responding to that in a respectful way. The member says we should be listening to Yukoners, and thatís exactly what weíre doing. Weíre responding to the requests from Yukoners that we slow down the protected areas strategy process so we can better engage all aspects of Yukoners in the process.
We fully understand, as the member opposite has indicated, the amount of work it takes to move from signing an MOU to ratification of a land claim agreement, and that the amount of resources we have in the territory are limited. Weíre very supportive. This government is very supportive of those four First Nations ó four at one time, Mr. Chair ó signing and initialling an MOU and moving toward ratification. That is going to tax all the resources available here in the territory so those First Nations can move to a very strong, sound, responsible, self-governing agreement.
We all want the best, and thatís what weíre moving forward to in support of that issue.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I donít believe the minister answered the question, so Iíll ask him again. Has he heard from any of the four First Nations with MOUs with respect to slowing down this process?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I apologize to the Member for Kluane for taking some time on that question. The fact is, Mr. Chair, that we are in constant contact ó the Premier and the chiefs of the four First Nations moving toward ratification. So we are in constant dialogue on a government-to-government basis on capacity issues, and weíre hearing that on a daily basis, and weíre taking that into consideration on other actions that the government is implementing.
So in direct answer to the member opposite, other than the fact that we are in constant contact with those First Nations, I donít believe ó and I will check and be absolutely sure ó but, to the best of my knowledge, at this point, we have not received a formal request from those First Nations that are moving toward ratification.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Chair. Now weíre getting somewhere. I assume, also, there is no informal request. Otherwise, it would have been a simple matter for the minister to indicate that.
I want to ask the minister why this process of identifying the areas of interest did not proceed in areas that arenít affected by those four MOUs, instead of just derailing the whole process. We know that several of the remaining 13 ecoregions are outside of the traditional territory of those four First Nations. Why did he decide to stop the whole process, and just not the parts of it within those traditional territories?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do appreciate the question from the member opposite. The fact of the matter is that I will again have to disagree with the Member for Kluane when he says that the process has been derailed. It hasnít. We are responding to Yukoners and what they say and how they want to be engaged more in refining the process to meet their needs. I disagree with the member.
The fact of the matter is that, in those areas not affected with respect to memoranda of understanding moving to ratification, the members ó I will share the letter that I got from the Chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, indicating that they feel that they want to review the process, and we want to have them engaged, as we do with renewable resource councils that are there. And I can go through the litany again, if the member wishes, on who wants to be involved in the review of the process, who wants to make sure that the process is addressing their needs and concerns. If the member wishes, I will do that again.
Mr. McRobb: I use the term "derailing" because that in fact might be what happens, but we wonít know until some time has passed and we are able to look back on what develops from this point. But I smell a set-up here, from a political perspective, because I think the next election will occur before we see any progress with respect to identification of these areas. We know, like their cousins in Ottawa, that the Liberals like to campaign on the left and govern on the right. We know from past experience, recent experience, that the whispered campaigns at the doorstep might indicate how they are prepared to govern from the right.
That message can be quite distant from the broader message that goes out to the public, which I can envision now, Mr. Chair, as standing up for YPAS, and how itís good, and that the territory needs certainty, and how the Liberal government has come a long way in terms of process, and everything will be good in the future, and all the problems will be worked out.
I can see the campaign literature now, Mr. Chair, delivering that message, but I can also hear the doorstep whisper campaign saying, "Hey, we derailed YPAS; itís deader than a doornail; you elect us and weíre just going to throw it out completely, because we never really could resolve these issues that are so controversial, and thatís the way itís going to be."
Now, Mr. Chair, my political antenna is picking up that strategy coming from the members opposite, and it just seems very opportune for the government to be taking such an approach.
So, I want to ask the minister if he still believes in the YPAS process. Now, this wonít do anything to alter my perception of whatís about to come in the next campaign, Mr. Chair, because whatever the minister says now really wonít matter when that happens, but at least it will give me something to go on.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Eftoda, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would like to cite section 19(g). The member is implying that I am imputing false or unavowed motives.
Chair: On the point of order, the member has a point of order. The whole speech has been on that, but I have been waiting for a member to raise it. I would ask that to be toned down. Statements like "I smell a set-up" are usually a good sign of that, so Iíll leave it at that. The point of order is well justified.
Mr. McRobb: I do agree that we should be avoiding that type of eventuality from materializing, so I would like to get the minister on record. Iím not sure what good it might do, but I would like to get the minister on record indicating ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Eftoda, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I would like to cite section 19(h). The member opposite has just indicated that in the future, I am going to impute false or unavowed motives.
Chair: I didnít catch that. What I did see was a fine act of walking the line. So continue, Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb: Itís not very often I get credit for my skills in walking a tightrope. I know a lot of members probably wouldnít want to be entertained by that vision, and I can understand that. But the vision Iím getting is the ministerís frequent use of the Standing Orders to try to avoid some of these questions.
Again, I want to ask him what his vision about YPAS is. Does he still stand behind it? Will the Yukon have all these ecoregions? Will this bring certainty? Is it something this Liberal government will absolutely do, no matter what? I want to hear his commitment on this.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I have probably indicated many, many times my commitment to the YPAS process. As a matter of fact, I would like to hear the member oppositeís position with respect to YPAS, but I donít think weíll hear it here.
Mr. McRobb: Well, talk about passing the buck, Mr. Chair. The minister fully knows that our position on YPAS is located in Hansard. There are several references to it. I direct him to the motion debate that I referenced earlier, from the fall sitting, on a motion I sponsored on the protected areas. Our position is clearly set out there.
Mr. Chair, itís not a matter for guessing. Our position is set out. What isnít set out is the Liberalsí new position. I can appreciate how the minister wants to reverse the roles here and how he would like to ask the questions, but thatís not the way it works. As I indicated earlier, he is the minister responsible; he is the one on the government side, and he is the one who should be taking responsibility for matters such as this and setting some direction and showing some leadership. He is not to be asking questions of the opposition that are clearly answered in numerous references in Hansard itself. Once again the minister has failed to provide a clear response to a very simple question, and Iíll let everybody draw their own conclusions, like I have. I see a lot of substantiation here on a feeling I picked up from the members opposite, so I guess weíll just wait for the next campaign.
I see that there are fewer resource people identified in the protected areas branch. I would like the minister to explain why those cuts were necessary and what impact they might have on the overall process.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Chair, I think this government has been very clear in its commitment to Yukon protected areas strategy. As a matter of fact, we have a new Parks and Land Certainty Act, which is prepared to set the goals and principles in law. So that is our commitment to the YPAS process, and I think thatís a pretty sound and resounding commitment to YPAS. The member knows exactly how I feel about YPAS and my commitment to listening to Yukoners at all times and improving the process and moving toward issues of certainty and moving toward involvement of all Yukoners in setting up a system of protected areas in the territory that they can be proud of, which they have participated actively in. If it means that we have to slow things down a bit, thatís fine. Thatís what Yukoners have asked for and thatís what weíre doing so that we can hear more of how they want this process improved so that we can have a well-established, sound, responsible, respectful set of protected areas here in the territory.
Mr. McRobb: In our discussion this afternoon so far, we have been able to glean a few facts, including the one that there wonít be too much progress on the identification of the areas of interest within the next year, until at least these MOUs are ratified. Who knows how long it will take after that, given the time needed to set up renewable resource councils and the time needed for them to engage in the consultation process, not to mention the time needed for government to get around to making a decision on the consultation. We see this will not be a very fast process, and it could very well take years. In the meantime, it is our duty to scrutinize the budget to ensure the greatest protection of the public trust and the wise expenditure of resources, et cetera.
I would like the minister to justify the money being spent in the protected areas branch and indicate what work will be ongoing. Can he give us a detailed list? Can he indicate to us what work is ongoing with respect to protected areas within his department?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Of course, I will be able to provide more information when we are in line-by-line but, again, we are committed to the YPAS process. We are continuing within the department and cross-departmentally with Energy, Mines and Resources, as well as Community and Transportation Services and Business, Tourism and Culture, being involved in the technical aspects of identifying areas of interest or looking within ecoregions for potential areas of interest, and taking into consideration the assessment aspects.
There is a significant complement with solid management within the department that is working toward our commitment to identify areas of interest, and weíll continue to do that. There are such things as the DM task group, thereís the ADM and Energy, Mines and Resources; the director of policy in YPAS planning is involved; the technical working group with representatives from both the federal and the territorial government departments of Tourism, Infrastructure, EMR, Environment. There are biologists and planners; there are geologists and ó so there is still a great amount of activity happening within the YPAS process and Iíd be more than willing in budget to further identify the areas for the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: I think weíll come back to that area later, Mr. Chair. I have a couple of questions with respect to the Eagle Plains protected area.
We are aware there has been some controversy about that consultation and again that comes as no surprise because virtually every Liberal consultation does result in controversy simply because the process used is inadequate, and thereís a real question around the involvement of all interested stakeholders in these consultation processes.
I would like to ask the minister if he can provide us with a complete list of all the groups who were being consulted with respect to the Eagle Plains area and any groups that continue to be consulted. Would he undertake to provide us with a list? Is he nodding his head ó no, he looks undecided, Mr. Chair, so Iíll give him the opportunity to speak.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, I will provide the member opposite with a list.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Can the minister indicate to us how he expects to proceed with the Eagle Plains protected area and give us a status report on where itís at?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: At the moment, we are putting together a Yukon planning team to work toward identifying the goal 1 area in the Eagle Plains area.
Mr. McRobb: Iím looking for some timelines to go with that description. Would the minister provide us with more detail, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I had indicated earlier, that will take 18 to 24 months.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I would like to turn to another area, but not before recognizing all the hard-working staff and dedicated personnel who work within the Department of Environment, formerly known as Renewable Resources. As we all know, many of these people are really dedicated to their jobs. These jobs cover a wide gamut of responsibilities, from enforcing wildlife regulations in the jobs of the conservation officers to park planners to biologists ó all the way up to the administration. There is a very wide variety of experienced personnel in the department. I did want to put on the record that we in the official opposition do recognize the contribution from this team of individuals in the department.
I want to also ask the minister another general-type question. Can he provide us with a complete breakdown of the costs associated with renewal for his department?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The breakdown, Mr. Chair, is that it was $71,000.
Mr. McRobb: That seems like a very light figure. Is that a gross expenditure, Mr. Chair, and can he indicate how it was allocated?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It was the result of one individual who had been assigned as the person to handle the renewal aspects within the former Department of Renewable Resources ó now the Department of Environment.
Mr. McRobb: Well, it will be interesting to find out where all the other costs are hidden with respect to renewal in this department. I probably will find the answer to that in the Executive Council Office, if we ever do get to that part of the budget, Mr. Deputy Chair.
I would like to turn now to the topic of ministerial travel. I know that is one this minister in particular is very favourable with. Can the minister provide us with a complete breakdown of his travel for the past year and, also, what he anticipates in this budget for the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Deputy Chair, I do believe that we have already provided the members opposite with all of our travel for last year and, quite frankly, I am not sure what travel I will be doing with respect to Environment this year. I do know there is a ministers meeting for Environment, Forestry, Fisheries and Parks coming up in September. I will be sitting down with department officials, and also with Cabinet and caucus, to evaluate my need for being there.
Mr. McRobb: The list for ministerial travel that I saw was dated approximately September of last year, and it included such items as his month-long motorhome excursion within the territory, but it did not include the latter half of the year. I am asking for a complete list, a full year list and, while he is providing that, if he could also indicate what we might expect in the coming year. Can he address that question, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I had indicated to the member opposite what my expected travel is with Environment this year, to the best of my knowledge at this point. At the end of September, there will be a trip for ministers of Parks, Environment, and Fisheries. To the best of my knowledge, that is the only trip that is coming up.
With respect to last year, after I had travelled the Yukon, talking to constituents throughout the territory, visiting camp sites, talking to Environment staff in the communities, as well, under my previous responsibilities as Minister of Education ó that happened, I believe, in June or July of last year ó and then earlier this year I made a trip to the joint ministers of Environment and Energy in Victoria.
Subsequent to that, I attended a globe conference down in Vancouver.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to thank the minister for that list, but we do need it in written form, Mr. Chair, because, as we know, when we see it on paper, there is usually other information, such as the cost of each trip and whether the minister is accompanied by one of his assistants and what the costs for the support staff were, et cetera, so Iím looking for a complete year written list. If the minister give a nod to that, we can move on, but clearly thatís what Iím looking for.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Iíll provide that list to the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Iím wondering now about these accountability plans. I have reviewed the accountability plan for the Department of Environment, and itís just as nebulous as the other ones are, Mr. Chair. We see all kinds of platitudes about how things will be better and the government more accountable, but we donít see the full equation on how that will transpire. Iím wondering if the minister can explain how he expects us to measure the outcomes of the performance standards, and so on, without the numbers. Can he give us his feelings on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I have just been advised that all travel to March 31, 2002 has been provided to the members of the opposition. So, hopefully, the member will search his file for the answer on that.
With respect to the accountability plans, the fact of the matter is that it does clearly identify what the goals and objectives are for the department, and then it goes into how we would be moving toward implementing the objectives. I think what the member opposite, Iím sure, is going to eagerly review as time goes on in this fiscal year is to see exactly what we have accomplished with respect to what we have identified. Thatís what accountability plans are all about. We identify and clearly write what we intend to do and, as the member often says in the House, they hold us accountable. Well, now they have something more to hold us accountable for.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister didnít answer the question, which dealt specifically with how we hold them accountable when weíre not provided with any numbers. Again, weíre getting more platitudes but very little with respect to a full equation on how this government will be held accountable. So I would like the minister to respond to that the next time heís on his feet.
In addition, with respect to the ministerial travel, I do not have that material, for the ministerís information, and Iím not sure, even if the material was provided to the official opposition, if it is in the same format as I requested. So I would ask the minister to undertake to revisit the information provided to ensure that it does provide the same information I have requested. Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, I will provide the member opposite a new copy of the information that we previously provided. It clearly indicated near the end of the accountability plan the fact that it identifies output indicators and outcome indicators. So it is going to take an amount of time. We said that weíll indicate the amount of special waste collected annually, but that can only be accrued. This is an accountability plan for the upcoming year, and the outcome indicators will be filled as we move through the year as to the degree of work that has been accomplished.
Mr. McRobb: You can wish us luck, because itís pretty hard to deal with a moving target. Itís like trying to nail Jello to the ceiling, Mr. Chair. When the government has total flexibility on what its performance outcomes will be without giving us any indicators in terms of hard numbers, you can tell itís like a student marking his own report card. I know you, Mr. Deputy Chair, would not agree with that, given your past experience. Iím sure not many Yukoners would agree with that approach either. Again, it really hits on the seriousness of this government with respect to being held open and accountable.
Now, I want to ask the minister about species at risk and particularly the proposed act. Could the minister tell us what provisions will be in the Species At Risk Act for habitat protection?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Those factors are being determined right now, with comments out for review, so weíre still going through the consultation process and weíll wait until we hear back from the public, from Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I guess weíll be waiting for that one, too, Mr. Deputy Chair.
Can the minister indicate what position he has taken with respect to the federal legislation? For instance, has he advocated for stronger enforcement provisions and better habitat protection, and will he advocate for a mandatory five-year review for the federal legislation? Just what positions has he taken with respect to this federal legislation?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I have been in touch several times with Minister Anderson with respect to the SARA legislation that is moving forward within the federal government, as has the Premier, and we fully support the legislation, as forwarded by the minister.
Mr. McRobb: Is the minister prepared to table any correspondence that may exist between himself and other ministers, including Mr. Anderson?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair.
Iíd like to switch gears a bit to climate change and ask the minister if he could inform us on the status of the Yukon climate change action plan. Can he give us an update on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: This is a joint project between the Department of Environment and Department of EMR. EMR is taking the lead on this particular aspect in designing the plan. We are in full support and consultation with EMR on it.
Mr. McRobb: All right, with respect to the consultation process again ó this seems to be a common area we zero-in on ó can the minister identify for us what groups and people he has consulted with in drafting the plan?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I had indicated in my previous response, Energy, Mines and Resources is taking the lead on this project.
Mr. McRobb: All right, that gives a strong signal of the priority this government places on climate change for it to throw this environmental matter into the lap of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. It certainly sends a strong signal on a very pro-development position. Iím sure a lot of Yukoners will be interested to hear that, because itís more along the lines of Ralph Klein and the former Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, and the Gordon Campbell regime in British Columbia. Itís more consistent with their approach of doing away with the Kyoto Protocol, and so on.
Now, I know that the Premier herself tabled some correspondence for my benefit with respect to the Kyoto Protocol, and I have reviewed that information but remain unconvinced that this government is taking a position that is not similar to those premiers I have identified. When we see an important undertaking, such as climate change, being shifted out of the Department of Environment to a very pro-development department, again, that sends a strong signal from this Liberal government that is not consistent with the public messaging.
I would like to give the minister an opportunity to respond to this and indicate for us just how big a priority the climate change is and explain why it is no longer in his Department of Environment. Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The fact of the matter is that we on this side of the House work in team building, team capacity with respect to working.
The Department of Environment is still the lead department with respect to climate change. The Premier has been in touch and is getting ready to work more closely with Premier Klein and Premier Campbell on the issue.
The fact of the matter is that we do not take climate change lightly. In fact, when I was in The Hague, as the member opposite knows, championing Yukonís position ó as a matter of fact, for the whole of north of 60 ó and championing our concerns because of the fact that we are feeling the ill effects of climate change as we speak. We have not been negligent in our efforts with respect to climate change and will continue to do that.
The Government of Yukon has established a Yukon Climate Change Coordinating Committee. It is mainly comprised of representatives from various Yukon government departments as well as the City of Whitehorse, Yukon Conservation Society, the Northern Climate Exchange, the Yukon Development Corporation, federal government departments. And this group will be actively involved in the preparation of the Yukon climate change action plan. But charged with this specific task is the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and we are very aware of where they are going, where our involvement is. We are quite intimately involved. It is a government responsibility and we take it very, very seriously.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Deputy Chair, Iím very impressed with the progress members on the government side have made with respect to their own political development. What I mean by that is how theyíre able to sit on the fence between both areas of concern. That, of course, is the one camp that wants to dispense completely with the Kyoto Protocol and the other camp that is in favour of doing something about climate change and fulfilling commitments to target dates.
Really, what weíre hearing of the minister is how he is able to walk the balance between those interests without really giving a firm commitment. So I could tell that he has really progressed his political skills in the past two years to be able to give us his unabashed version of that today, Mr. Deputy Chair. But I want to put him on notice that we will be watching very closely, along with a lot of Yukoners with respect to further developments on climate change and where this governmentís priorities do lie. Obviously, as mentioned, foisting this initiative on to a pro-development department does send a very clear signal about where this government does stand.
Just to follow up on this a bit more, I would like to ask the minister what exactly he and his government are doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member is aware, as the Premier has announced several initiatives toward the lessening of greenhouse gas emissions, that we basically do not contribute a whole lot of greenhouse gas emissions here in the territory, Mr. Chair, and we are looking at energy efficiencies like the wind turbines on the top of Haeckel Hill and a number of other initiatives that are taking place in the territory. So, we are doing our level best to mitigate any greenhouse gas emission indicators here in the territory.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Weíll move along but weíll definitely be following any progress in that area, if in fact there is any progress in that area.
I want to turn now to the area of fish harvesting. Can the minister indicate what existing regulations govern fish farming in the territory and give us an update on that area?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Weíre working on developing a policy with respect to fish farming in the territory.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Chair, the government is working on it. What can Yukoners expect to see in terms of product and what are the timelines? Can the minister give an update on what this process is and what we can expect to unfold in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I believe the time frame set for establishing the policy with continuing public involvement in the consultation and development of the policy is toward the end of summer.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the minister is not providing the detail Iím requesting, so Iím going to ask him if he can return with some written information on this that does provide the detail requested.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would appreciate an opportunity to answer the member here in the House, so if he can be more specific in his questions, Iíll provide him with the answers.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I thought I was being specific in my question. I asked the minister for an indication of what Yukoners can expect in the short-term future with respect to the development of regulations and in terms of process, especially with respect to consultation. Iíd also ask the minister to provide any information in terms of product coming out of this process and what that might mean in terms of developing a fish farming industry for the territory ó along with the timelines for these steps.
So, Mr. Chair, I want to be quite reasonable on this. I know itís common for a minister to agree to respond in writing on undertakings that go into this kind of detail. Iím very satisfied with getting a written reply.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Iíll provide that.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to thank the minister for that undertaking. At page 9A-7, with his department ó I think weíre still dealing with this so-called accountability plan. It deals with the area of agreements and political accords. I noticed that it says, "Continue to maintain effective liaison with mandated boards and councils."
Can the minister tell us what he means by that? Just how effectively can he expect that he can manage to liaise between these mandated boards and councils, especially with respect to the designation of areas of interest by 2003?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With a most sincere apology, could the member opposite cite the specific clause?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: This is exactly why weíve slowed down. There is a concern with First Nations, renewable resource councils and municipalities who want a more effective liaison in addressing the needs and concerns that they brought forward, so thatís exactly what weíre doing.
Mr. McRobb: Well, is the minister saying that the accountability plans are in need of amendment to account for recent changes in decisions such as the one on the YPAS target dates? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thatís not what the minister is saying. Iím saying we are listening to what Yukoners have to say. That, through the accountability charts, is a main theme ó that we will listen and effect change as we hear what Yukoners want.
The accountability plans are living documents. This does indicate our primary goals and objectives, and we hope that we can follow through on them. As we hear from the public and Yukoners on a consistent basis, there are aspects along the way that will require us to make change.
Mr. McRobb: Well, all right, Mr. Chair. It seems that the minister demands the highest level of flexibility and the highest level of recognition for being accountable but demands the lowest level of examination by us in the opposition.
Clearly, on page 9A-4, in goal 1, under objective 1.1, it says, "Continue identification of YPAS ó Goal 1 areas of interest for unrepresented eco-regions in the Yukon by April 30, 2003". Now, weíve gone through this, Mr. Chair, and I think we can both agree that that key strategy has been changed. A previous question was: is this departmentís accountability plan in need of amending? And the minister again walked that fence between the sides of the answer and did not agree that a change was necessary.
Mr. Chair, Iíve indicated specifically now which particular clause it is that obviously is outdated. I want to ask the minister how he intends to deal with this. Does he expect us in the opposition to pass this budget with such a glaring error contained right up front in objective 1.1, or does the minister intend to amend this accountability plan?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, this is exactly why this government proceeded with accountability plans ó so members opposite can clearly see that if there are changes they can bring it to our attention. Mr. Chair, the fact of the matter is that we have also indicated that we will be reporting back to the Legislature on accountability plans, on the progress, especially in the key strategies areas.
So the member is absolutely correct. There has been a change in the continued identification of YPAS goal 1 areas of interest for unrepresented ecoregions in the Yukon by April 30, 2003. We have publicly stated in a press release that there is a change to that date.
This is a very good example of how the accountability plan will work in the future ó a very good example of how it works. The member opposite can check. He says heís holding us accountable, and weíre giving him the plan to do that. I think this is a great example of how it will work now and in the future.
Mr. McRobb: That would be very sad if it wasnít so laughable. What the government is saying is that the plan by which it will be held accountable in the future is, by example, flawed and, in itself, justifies the need for an accountability plan.
Now, Mr. Chair, I beg you to try to rationalize a good reason for taking this kind of approach. Thereís no reason whatsoever why the minister canít concede that parts of this plan are no longer relevant and that, in order for us all to take the responsible approach, such outdated clauses should be amended to reflect the most accurate accountability plan we can possibly have at the time.
I know there are lots of other areas that can be contested as being flawed, but I think we can agree to disagree on that, assuming, of course, that the minister is defending his accountability plan. On areas such as this that are so obviously outdated and erroneous, I would assume that the gracious side of this minister would prevail and we could agree to fix it and get on with the public business. However, to leave it as a blemish on the record ó donít forget, Mr. Chair, this accountability plan, if this budget is approved, is for the coming year, and this plan is outdated already. You have to ask yourself how many copies of this accountability plan, in an incorrect state, will be reproduced and circulated in the public, and so on. Is this the same accountability plan that will be on the departmentís Web site for the next year or so? By all accounts, the answer is affirmative.
I think the Liberal government owes the public a concession in that it will correct as many of the known mistakes as possible before perpetuating them in documents such as this so-called accountability plan. If the minister is going to remain stubborn on the matter, thatís fine, Mr. Chair. Maybe it will all come out in the wash. Weíll see what happens during the debate when we get into Committee on this department and, failing that, when it comes time to vote on the governmentís budget.
For now, Iíd like to turn to page 9A-5, the area of sustainable development strategy, and ask the minister what kind of commitment it is to, "Explore opportunities to develop a sustainable development strategy by April 2003." Can the minister provide more detail on that commitment for us, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I cannot leave unanswered the memberís preamble before getting to the question on the issue of sustainable development.
Mr. Chair, this is exactly why this government has put forward accountability plans, not only for the members opposite but for the public at large. If they see something incorrect or if there has been a change ó and just for the memberís information, the information that was provided in the accountability plan, in the "objectives and key strategies", was correct at the time of printing, but we know that things affect outcomes later on.
I think that the member opposite should be jumping up and down with glee at the fact that weíre giving him an accountability plan to make his work of holding the government accountable easier. He often stands up and espouses that thatís what the opposition is for ó to hold us accountable. We want Yukoners to hold us accountable.
Often in the past, we have stated that weíll do what we say weíll do. So, Mr. Chair, we have indicated in black and white in printing what we are going to do, and the member opposite can hold us accountable for that, as can any members of the public. All Yukoners can read here what we are and are not doing because we have indicated it right here.
The member is asking for, and it says that one of the key strategies ó to explore opportunities, to develop sustainable development strategy by April 2003. Well, weíre exploring opportunities. Weíre going to find out what opportunities are available to develop a sustainable development strategy. But thatís for April of next year, so there is a bit of time between now and then. So, the fact is that, yes, the member can ask that for however long itís going to take us to go through the Department of Environment in general debate and line-by-line debate. He can ask me at the end of that, or ask me at the end of session this time, or the beginning of session, and weíll be able to provide more detailed information as time goes along because we said that we would be exploring opportunities.
I hope that next session ó or we donít even have to be in session. He can send me an e-mail. He has done it before, and I have responded to all of his e-mails. So, I can give you an update on exploring opportunities and developing a sustainable development strategy. Thatís what weíll do.
Mr. McRobb: Well, more platitudes and acrimony. The minister should be aware by now that his words are transcribed in the Hansard and can be referenced by anyone, either getting hold of a copy of Hansard or accessing the governmentís Web site. Anyone reading that previous answer will certainly no doubt come to the opinion that the government is very evasive in responding to these questions.
Certainly in the area of accountability, it talks the talk but itís not willing to walk the walk, for the many reasons Iíve indicated earlier, such as how do you hold a government accountable using an equation where the formula is not complete and does not exist? Thatís a very good question and I can see us back here in a year or two, unless there is an election in the meantime, attempting to hold the government accountable. I can envision the excuses at that time to the effect of, "Oh, well, that was our first accountability plan and you canít expect us to get it right the first time. After all, look at the other initiatives we have embarked on," and all these types of excuses.
Really, weíre able, in the opposition, to foresee that event and are trying to head it off by having as complete and accurate an accountability plan as possible when we vote on it in this House.
Clearly, the incorrect statements that have been identified so far really should be corrected. I donít support the excuses provided by the minister to not do it.
I believe this government owes it to Yukoners to not keep repeating its own mistakes and information that is no longer relevant. After all, itís like recalculating an old campaign booklet. We know that in the next election, if the Liberals recalculate their last one, they could probably argue that it might complete the remaining undertakings in the next term, but Yukoners presumably would not buy into that and they would simply say, "You had your chance and blew it."
I say the same to the minister. If he is not willing to correct the mistakes in his departmentís plan while he had the chance, he blew it, and we will go on from there, but my questions now relate specifically to the sustainable development strategy. I am trying to ascertain some of the details surrounding this. I would like to ask the minister where this strategy originates, because it appears to be new language and I am wondering if he can indicate where it comes from and where it might be going, and what the process is in-between. I want the minister to explain the process in some detail, especially with respect to public consultation. For instance, right from the beginning, will there be some public consultation with respect to the development of this strategy and, if so, what type of process does the minister envision? Who will be leading that process? I would also like him to indicate what work has gone into this exploration so far. Can the minister respond to some of those questions for us?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: What it says there is to explore opportunities to develop. What does the member opposite not understand by "exploring opportunities to develop"? We donít have a sustainable development strategy yet. We are looking at moving toward that, so it will be through extensive consultation with the public. But I canít let go. With all due respect to the member opposite, I want to try to have him understand what accountability plans are.
The member opposite has suggested that I am blowing it because I am not changing what has happened since this document has been printed. The fact of the matter is that this is what being accountable means ó that at a future time to Yukoners, to the members opposite, I have to provide a reason, with backup or however I substantiate it, of why that comment was not corrected, that itís outdated now. I have to provide that. Thatís how I am held accountable, and I have to provide an answer that will satisfy the public at large, Yukoners. Thatís the whole idea. You canít go around changing the accountability plan every time something comes along that impacts on what you say youíre going to do, because thatís the measure of whether or not youíve done it. So you donít go get a red pen and correct everything that has changed in the accountability plan since the accountability plan came out. And as a government, thatís what weíve committed to Yukoners, that they would be able to measure us against what we said we would do here. And the YPAS is a good example. Weíre not moving forward with it as it has been outlined here because there have been some circumstances that have changed that plan.
From now until this time next year when weíre going through the 2003-04 budget, I will have to explain that in detail, so we are being open and accountable to the public. We say here in writing what weíre going to do and if weíre not ó again, I say that weíre exploring opportunities to develop a sustainable development strategy by April 2003. Well, thereís a time between now and then in moving toward that. I mean, we understand what "sustainable development" means. Itís development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Weíre working toward that end, Mr. Chair, and weíre looking at opportunities to get there. That means going out and dialoguing. That means listening to the member oppositeís constructive ideas and suggestions on how we develop the strategy, and I will be in touch with him on this issue.
Weíll be talking to all Yukoners, and the Member for Klondike, on getting a development strategy by April of next year. Itís going to take a lot of work, a lot of consultation, a lot of input.
I know the member opposite doesnít agree with that but thatís the answer, and thatís the answer on the accountability plan. Weíre not going to be erasing every change that occurs from the time of printing to when something impacts on it.
Well, Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike is chirping his usual chirps across the House that not any reasonable person would want to have over a microphone, but thatís how the member operates.
Okay, thatís my response to the member.
Mr. McRobb: Again, more acrimony and platitudes in that response. Simply, the sustainable development strategy in the Liberal wording clearly says to develop a strategy by a certain target date. I thought I had made myself clear by zeroing in and asking the minister what type of consultation process would be happening with respect to the development of this strategy. His answer was a nebulous, with his arms waving in the air, "Oh, we will listen to all Yukoners and hear what they have to say, including the members opposite, blah, blah, blah."
Mr. Chair, you know and I know and many Yukoners know that that is not proper or good public consultation. First of all, we have to know what weíre dealing with. Does the minister envision developing a draft discussion paper for a sustainable development strategy? Does he anticipate there will be public meetings, and so on?
I clearly asked the minister if he would indicate what type of consultation process he anticipates will be used, and his answer was very nebulous.
I get curious when the minister answers in that way, because he usually indicates, somewhere down the road and after the fact that, really, the Liberals did it their way. This is reminiscent of their budget consultation process where, in the beginning, they felt a need to try to do it right by holding some public meetings, even though it was really too late to change the budget, and even though those public meetings occurred with very little notice. In Beaver Creek, for instance, they received the notice after the meeting had already occurred. That wasnít a very good or thoughtful process.
The Liberals repeatedly claim they listen to some people in the communities and so on. Well, what the Liberals expect from the public is that the public should go to the government ó not the other way around, with the government reaching out to Yukon people in all communities. This is reflected in some of these demonstrations we see in front of this building. People have learned that, to express themselves against some of the decisions of this government, they have to come here, because this government simply isnít going to them.
What Iím afraid of is this exercise in developing this strategy is another one of those examples of this Liberal governmentís bad consultation.
So I would like to ask the minister if he could maybe come back in writing ó maybe he could have a staff person write this up with something a little more substantial to it than the open-arm typical response that will outline what type of a consultation will occur to develop the sustainable development strategy. Will he at least undertake to do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I have indicated to the Member for Kluane that we are just starting this. We are designing the consultation phase, so we are moving to providing the member with the answer at a later date.
Deputy Chair: Since it is 4:30, we will reconvene at 4:50 p.m.
Mr. McRobb: The break has given me cause to reflect on what this department is all about, which is the environment, and how many Yukoners very much appreciate the environment in the territory. When many Yukoners think of the Yukon environment, we know they commonly think of the Kluane area, because it is very representative of what the Yukon is all about with its majestic peaks and great lakes, and so on.
Last week I mentioned that one of the attractions in that area was one of the top 150 restaurants in Canada. Iím very pleased to provide an update to all members, and I understand that now the establishment has been provided with another star. So, for everybodyís benefit, the Raven is now in the top 21 restaurants in the country. You can check the Where to Eat in Canada guide for verification of that. I think we could all appreciate that and, as the members opposite know, Iím fully behind the highway upgrades between here and there, and I hope to see some of the members out there.
I was there with my wife on her birthday for opening night on Saturday night, but was very disappointed because none of the Liberal members were there. I certainly hope they can find reason to revisit this and come out to join all the fine people in the Kluane region and enjoy some of the scenery and wildlife in that area.
Now, after having said that, Iíd like to return to the more unpleasant task of going through these subject matters and trying to glean what this minister is doing with respect to some of these undertakings. Itís not a very easy task because, in many respects, weíre dealing with incomplete formulas that arenít quantified, which the minister is insisting are equations to hold them accountable. But itís like being asked to add two plus three plus question mark and get a firm answer. We know that simply cannot be done.
I would like to turn to the area described on page 9A-10, entitled "Yukon Conservation Data Centre", and ask the minister what he can tell us about this initiative. Can he bring us up to date with respect to whatís happening?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I, too, during the brief break, had time to reflect, and again, I want to reaffirm that we are committed to our accountability plan. We do what we say weíll do. That has been our motto since coming into office, and we want Yukoners to know that we do have a plan clearly outlined in the accountability plan.
I very much like the Raven restaurant, myself, Mr. Chair. I didnít see anything. I was unaware that the establishment was opening up this past weekend. I didnít get an invitation from the member opposite to notify us that this was happening. Iím sure that he would have been more than willing to buy dinner for any Liberal members on this side of the House, but I thought it sounded like it was kind of an intimate thing, being his wifeís birthday and all. I donít think heíd want a group of Liberals around to share and have a good time and party with.
I look forward to the member inviting us down some time soon. As the member knows, we have travelled there. The whole Cabinet and caucus travelled to Haines Junction and have spent some time there. Unfortunately, the Raven was closed at that time of year but Iím very glad to know that itís open and I wish happy birthday to his wife and look forward to an invitation on his part to break bread at the Raven, which is now one of the top 21 in the country.
The member was asking me about the conservation data centre. The Yukon CDC, as itís referred to, will provide a central information support to various programs and commitments, including the national accord for the protection of species at risk, proposed federal and territorial species at risk legislation, the Yukon protected areas strategy, land use planning and major development activities within this territory. Itís going to be a repository of a great deal of data that has been collected by the department for quite a substantial amount of time, and will allow us to serve the public better by providing current, actual information in a more timely fashion. That is our goal behind the conservation data centre.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that information, but really I wonder how hard he was listening last week when I did indicate to the members opposite that opening night would be on Saturday, May 4 and that I was booked in for 7:00 p.m. and invited them to join me. I think we did have an undertaking from the Premier that she would buy, so I am not exactly sure what the minister means by inviting us to buy the Liberals in this case. I would agree with him on his contention that if you are having a good time, you would not Liberals around. I think we can agree to that because ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The Member for Riverdale South would disagree and certainly we probably can buy into the fact that she does like to have a good time.
Back to the budget and more serious matters. Page 9A-11 indicates the transition of water resources. And I know the minister is familiar with this federal department, as he knows I am as well. I would like to ask the minister if there is a plan in place for this transition. Can he give us an update on what the status of that might be?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Iíll even better the offer to the member opposite from Kluane with respect to dinner at the Raven. I will buy the member dinner at the Raven if he agrees to go to the Grey Mountain School open house Wednesday evening, along with the Member for Klondike, the leader of the official opposition, and the Education critic from Old Crow. I will buy the member and his wife dinner at the Raven if they all show up to the Grey Mountain School open house meeting on Wednesday evening. Iíll be there, and we hope to see you there. So, thatís what Iíll do for you.
The member was asking with respect to the transfer of the authority for water from the federal government to the territorial government. The member knows that devolution comes into effect April 1, 2003. Up until that time, departmental officials are in full engagement at a senior level with federal officials on addressing the specific transfer of human resources, of existing data that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has with respect to water, and systems that will be accommodated within current YTG systems.
We are moving forward with that, and we will be ready to assume full responsibility come April 1, 2003.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to remind the minister that we in the New Democratic caucus do not have to be bribed to do our jobs. I am sure that the persons whose responsibility these meetings fall within consider their attendance at public meetings in due course, but the minister knows full well that Education is not within my present critic roles.
Iíd also like to remind the member that, on page 36 of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly ó and Iíll quote from this today, Mr. Deputy Chair, because the minister himself has cited the Standing Orders a few times now ó that section 68 comments on corrupt practices, and Iíll just quote it, "It is a violation of the Criminal Code for a member to corruptly accept or obtain, agree to accept, or attempt to obtain any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted to be done or omitted in the memberís official capacity."
So, Mr. Chair, Iím not raising this concern in an official capacity on a point of order, as I might be able to, but I will just, in friendliness, make the minister aware that the offer of bribes and so on is not only unparliamentary, but it could result in criminal charges.
I want to turn now to the issue of the assistant deputy ministerís office, Mr. Chair. I know this is a line item, but I see an increase here of 45 percent in this line item. Can the minister explain what the increase in the assistant deputy ministerís office might be to account for that huge increase?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is unfortunate that we canít take the opportunity for a little levity in this House. In kind, I was offering the member a little lightening up ó itís getting late in the day ó because I know the member has an incredible sense of humour. In the past, we have had some jocularity that we have shared across the way here. Iím sorry. I will apologize if I have offended the member or if I have offended the House in my offer to buy the member supper at the Raven. He was going on and on about the Raven, and I wanted to get out there, meet some of his constituents and share with the member ó and offer to buy him and his wife a meal.
That said, I would still like to invite all members opposite, including the member ó although he has acknowledged that he is not very familiar with educational issues or that kind of thing ó to come out to the Grey Mountain Primary School open house tomorrow, along with the Education critic from Old Crow, as well as the Member for Klondike. He is waving his arms over there ó yes, heís acknowledging by shaking his left eyebrow.
I openly invite all members opposite to the Grey Mountain open house and look forward to seeing them there, so they can make a very informed decision or opinion with respect to the Grey Mountain School.
I think heíll be pleasantly surprised. The member is asking me a line item, Mr. Deputy Chair, and Iíll answer it when weíre on lines.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Deputy Chair, we got the hors díoeuvres, we got the appetizers, but he missed the main course. The minister is skipping out on the bill here. It would have been an easy matter for him to identify what the 45-percent increase in the ADMís office was at this opportunity, but he opted out. Itís rather embarrassing to contemplate that the minister would stoop to such tactics.
I would like to indicate for the minister that, if he does want to come out and dine at what is now within the countryís top 21 dining establishments, Iíd be more than willing to accompany him to that venue and introduce him to some of my constituents, but Iíll have to warn him that heís not on a wiener roast any more, touring around in the motor home. When he goes into the Raven, heís going to have to kick it up a few notches, as Emeril would say.
So, I guess, in the absence of a response, weíll have to deal with that in the lines. Thatís fine, Mr. Chair. Weíre getting used to the slough-off treatment in the opposition.
I want to turn now to Tombstone Park. Back on May 3 of last year, the minister indicated that $50,000 is the operational cost of the new Tombstone Territorial Park and that a management plan is being prepared. He went on to say the O&M funding for the operation of the park will need to be revisited following completion of the management plan next year ó that would be this year.
Can the minister give us an update on the status of this management plan for Tombstone Park?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do want to thank the member though ó a final comment on the Raven. As the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture, I very much appreciate the Member for Kluane promoting his part of the territory because we are encouraging all Yukoners to travel Yukon this year. In light of September 11, I think that we can certainly promote our own industry and very much look forward to seeing the member visit an establishment in Dawson, the same one owned by the Member for Klondike, and patronize his hotel. In the spirit of business, tourism and culture letís mobilize within Yukon by Yukoners for Yukoners ó thatís a good thing, and I thank the member for that offer. As a matter of fact, I will be getting a detailed update from the planning committee this weekend while I am in Dawson. I am making another trip to Dawson. I will announce that here, and that will be on my travel plan. I will be attending the Association of Yukon Communities conference in Dawson this weekend, as is the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, as well as the Minister of Community Services. The Minister of Justice will also be up there, representing and listening to Yukoners in the fine community of Dawson. We hope to share a moment or two with the MLA up there if he can find the time to go back up; that will be great. We will sit and chat with him. I will be getting detailed update from the members of the committee on the plan.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I thank the minister for acknowledging the fine establishment in Haines Junction that we spoke about. But the minister did not undertake whether he was going to give us an update on the Tombstone Park management plan.
What I would like to know is, after the minister gets updated himself on the weekend, if he can provide us with perhaps a written response. If the minister would just nod to that, I could just acknowledge it and we could move on.
The minister would like to speak so Iíll sit down.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I will be more than willing to provide the member opposite with details as provided me by the steering committee on the plan for the Tombstone. But I want to be sure that my information is up to date, current and right from the people who are doing the work.
Rather than misspeak myself now, I will provide the member with details on my return.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Back on May 3 last year, the minister also spoke about Fishing Branch and said that a plan for the larger area encompassing the wilderness preserve and habitat protection area will be completed over the next year, at which time the O&M funding for the management of this protected area will need to be revisited.
In looking at this situation, itís clear that we donít see a breakdown for Fishing Branch. Can the minister indicate what the status of the plan is and what adjustments have been made to the O&M budget as a result?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The fact is that I did receive the plan from the LPT in November of last year, and there still is a degree of consultation that has to occur with the First Nation involved ó the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation ó and an implementation schedule and budget is also in the works in light of the discussions that weíre having, and the plan that is scheduled will be submitted to Cabinet upon the agreements that we reach with the Vuntut Gwitchin. In all probability, thatís going to happen in the very late spring or early summer.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I just have a few questions remaining at this time. Can the minister indicate whatís happening with respect to moving the library of the department? Does the department have any plans to move the library? Whatís happening in regard to that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The library itself is not physically being changed. The administration and handling of the library, though, will be dealt with by client services within the Department of Environment.
Mr. McRobb: I want to ask the minister about the issue of the game farm on the Hot Springs Road. Weíve heard very little from the minister with respect to this issue. Is he prepared to provide us with copies of correspondence between himself or his department and the proprietor of the game farm or the people behind the initiative to purchase the game farm? Can he table for us any written material, particularly letters from the minister himself, with respect to this issue?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Can the Member for Kluane be a little more specific on the time frames? Are you looking for 10 yearsí of letter correspondence ó two years, two months?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Two years. I will endeavour to provide the member opposite with all correspondence exchanged with the proprietor of the game farm and with the proponents who were involved in the recent ownership ó okay, I can do that. I see the member nodding. Iíll take that as a yes.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, thatís fine. Now, in a recent media article, it was indicated that a certain provision in the newly amended Wildlife Act would be an obstacle to the purchase of the game farm. I think I recollect that it specifically pertains to ownership of the animals. Can the minister enlighten us on this area, and give us an overview of what this is about? Also, can he indicate if he or his officials contacted the owner of the game farm as part of the consultations on the Wildlife Act?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The proprietor of the game farm was given an information package, I believe, on the first set of amendments that were being proposed. Iím going from memory here on the exact chronology. On the first aspect the Member for Kluane asked me about, on the aspects of wildlife on the proprietorís farm, he is making reference to section 101 under the new act, which was virtually identical to section 190 of the previous Wildlife Act.
Legally, nothing has changed. The individual in question has permits for his animals to be kept in captivity, primarily for wildlife viewing business. These permits were obtained to keep wildlife in captivity. The wildlife that are contained within the property can be bought and sold as long as the appropriate permits are obtained and regulations are complied with. So the member has full authority under the permits to dispose of or keep the animals under his care.
I hope that provides clarification for the Member for Kluane. There has been no legal change between the old act and the new act.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I think itís very likely that that matter will be followed up on by my successive critics for this department.
I want to move to what might be the last area at this time. That is the issue of hunting licences and regulations. There are a couple issues here that I would like the minister to clarify.
I have a constituent who is very concerned about his personal case. There seem to be two issues here: one dealing with a shortened licence term as a result of changes to the Wildlife Act, and a second dealing with residency requirements.
On the latter issue, this person is a Yukon resident and has always taken out residency hunting permits and licences in the Yukon. This person also frequently travels outside to various locations and did so this past winter, partly for family emergencies and so on. Recently this person has been subject to rather harsh scrutiny with respect to the 185-day residency requirement rule.
It is my recollection from the discussion here in the fall, while amending the Wildlife Act, that residency requirement restrictions basically exempted Yukoners from outside travel as long as their primary residence was here in the Yukon. So I think the minister should expand on this area for us, and hopefully his response will cover off this area of concern, and then I will move on to the second area. So I will give the minister an opportunity to respond now. I would also like him to indicate how his department monitors people in the Yukon with respect to this rule?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member is citing a specific incident with respect to a constituent of his. I believe it may be more appropriate for the Member for Kluane and myself to get together and see if we can help this individual out with the concerns and issues he has brought to the House via his MLA. I think that might be more appropriate, more expeditious and more helpful to a Yukoner to do it that way than to discuss it here in the House.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for the invitation to deal with this privately, Mr. Chair; however, there are some reasons why I would like some of this on the public record so I would ask the minister again if he could expand on this residency requirement with respect to the 185 days and ask him to explain to this House how this regulation is monitored and enforced.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Iíd be more than willing to provide a written response to that question for the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I was hoping for a bit more at this time. I know the minister has resources at his disposal that can satisfy my question. Perhaps Iíll go to the other issue and he might have developed a more comprehensive response to the residency requirement in the meantime.
Now, on the first concern regarding the shortened licence term, what can the minister tell us in regard to this concern? Was the one-year licence term shortened for this past year because of the act passing? To be more specific, the licences were supposed to extend to the end of July but were shortened to the end of April. What can he tell us about that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I need to know what kind of licence the Member for Kluane is making reference to.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I thought I indicated that it was for a hunting licence, and this is for a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant. What else does he need to know?
Surely he must know what Iím referring to if, in fact, this concern is valid. Surely his official or his notes must indicate something with respect to a shortened licence term because of the Wildlife Act. Iím asking him to be a bit more helpful in providing us with an explanation of what this might be about.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, Mr. Deputy Chair, the member is alluding to and, in fact, is referring to a specific case that he has detailed information on and that I donít have. Itís impossible for me to give him a qualified answer without knowing specifically what heís talking about. Iím going to beg to differ with the member opposite. When he asked me the question with respect to the licence, he said it was a new question on the issue. I didnít know he was talking about a hunting licence. I would very much like to sit down with the member. Itís obvious heís talking about a specific case, a specific individual, a constituent who has approached him on the issue, and I would like to resolve the issue for both the member and his constituent, but we can only do that when we can share the facts. So I again encourage and invite the member to sit down with me, and we can resolve the concern as it is relative to a specific individual.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister is becoming all flustered over this matter, and Iím merely asking, in general terms, if he is aware of any change in the hunting licence terms that shorten it up. But obviously weíre not going to get anywhere here this afternoon on that, and I will take the minister up on his offer for a private meeting. How about tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.? Is the minister available? Iíll meet him in his office to discuss this issue.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No, Iím not available at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, Mr. Deputy Chair. Tomorrow morning, we have caucus until noon, and then the following day, we have Management Board and Cabinet, I believe. So the member is suggesting to me from the House that we have to clear it before budget, Iím assuming, before we get into line-by-line. If this is a personal issue where I can help the member out, working out a problem that a constituent of his has doesnít require reflection in the budget.
I am trying to accommodate the member, so Iím letting him know what, to the best of my knowledge, my schedule is for the next couple of days, and then we have all afternoon in here. So, Iím not quite sure how quickly we can get to it. And, as I have indicated earlier, on Friday morning, I am on my way to Dawson. I would like to help the member to help his constituent, and Iím sure weíll be able to do that. But that is a separate issue from the budget.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister is right ó this is an issue for one of my constituents, not an issue for myself. Now I know how his constituents feel, and why he has to put the ad in the papers with the thin time slot of when constituents might be able to approach him. We have a situation here where his department is up, and I want this issue resolved to my satisfaction, if at all possible, before this department passes, preferably, general debate.
Now, I believe general debate wonít pass today, and it will be on the floor again tomorrow afternoon if, in fact, the House leader calls for the resumption of this department in the budget. I think we have to be more diligent in finding a mutually agreeable time to discuss this matter. I have a meeting tonight after 6:00 p.m., but perhaps in the morning we can find a time. Can the minister agree just to meet briefly with me at 6:00 p.m., and we can try to set a time, hopefully for tomorrow? I think we can resolve this in a matter of maybe five minutes, he can get somebody working on it, and I can get an answer back. If he could just give a nod to that effect, Mr. Chair, we can move on. I know the leader of the third party wants a go at this department as well. Will the minister undertake to meet with me at 6:00 p.m. to try to set a time? He indicates he will be here all of tomorrow afternoon, but heíll be on his feet here answering questions, possibly from other members, and we simply canít have a meeting. He canít be in two places at once.
The minister has refused to discuss this on the floor, so I donít see an opening there.
So would the minister oblige me in a quick scrum at 6:00 to set up a meeting for tomorrow morning?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, I will meet with the member opposite if itís a constituency issue. If itís a member of the Yukon public, I would be more than willing to address any concerns and issues relative to the situation being experienced by the constituent. I do believe though that the budgeting process is separate from an individualís concern relative to the impact of an act or its relative regulation. I would like to find a solution for the member, so we can have a brief encounter at 6:00.
Mr. McRobb: Just one final offer: if for some reason we canít agree on when to meet, perhaps we can go out to Haines Junction and discuss this matter over dinner at one of Canadaís finest establishments and one of the top 21 in the country.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I hope that the member is offering or suggesting that he is going to buy me dinner when we go out to Haines Junction. As the member knows, Iím willing to go anywhere to talk to a constituent and if he feels that one of the nicest establishments in the Yukon is the best venue to do that, yes, we could.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I was sort of paying attention to the debate between the Member for Kluane and the Minister of Environment on their plans to break bread and, as I had more important issues to pursue, I kind of lost track ó my apologies.
I would like to follow up with the minister on an issue surrounding the Wildlife Act and the sections that the minister referred to previously, 101 and a number of other areas. I previously brought the issue to the attention of the minister and it is concerning a well-known outfitter who has had his licence cancelled for obvious reasons and has been dealt with through the courts. He now appears to be facing the "double jeopardy" of this ministerís ability under the act. What we are referring to is a 72-year-old outfitter who broke the law, was processed through the due process of the courts, convicted and his licence suspended. This calls into question the area of the concession. This individual is 72 years old. About all he has left to sell or provide to the next generation is the concession, the guiding area that he had, but the minister appears to be deviating from the norm and what has transpired in the past with respect to a licensed holder who has run afoul of the law. They have always, in the past, been approached and encouraged to sell out, and in many, many cases the department has assisted with that sale.
Or, in some cases, the other option is for the government to buy out the concession. Why, in this case, is Mr. Heynen being treated differently, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I donít believe this is an issue that should be discussed on the floor of the Legislature, but the member opposite feels a necessity to do so, and itís unfortunate because the details and facts that heís asking for are very inappropriate to be discussed in a public venue.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, it is public information ó the member just chatted across the way here. But itís personal information with respect to an individual. He has brought it to the floor of the Legislature and he has asked me for details on what has transpired with this individual and why the decision occurred with respect to the tenure of this individualís concession.
I do have to let the House know, Mr. Chair, that it probably was one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever had to make, as it did affect an individual in a rather profound way. That being said, this individual ó and I had personal discussions with the Member for Klondike on a very personal level where we tried to find a resolution to this issue in a more amenable way, and I said I would go away if heíd give me a few days to think about it. There were a number of aspects that he wanted me to consider. One was the return of this personís concession because of the age of the individual weíre talking about here. But no, the member wants it publicly exposed here, now, which I donít think is being respectful to the individual.
The fact of the matter is, Mr. Deputy Chair, that this individual has violated the old Wildlife Act since 1997. His conduct has been monitored and has been documented by department officials for a good number of years.
The point Iím trying to make here is, between the point that it was discovered that this individual had been violating conditions of the Wildlife Act ó he has been charged in the past ó he has been advised to modify his behaviour. There has been ample time since 1998 for this individual to dispose of his concession as he saw fit. He has chosen not to do that, believing that the department would continue, after numerous charges ó numerous, numerous charges of the Wildlife Act ó to amend his behaviour with respect to a resource that I know the outfitting industry here in the territory respects. They know that itís a public resource. They know they are charged with the responsibility to follow the rules and the guidelines and the regulations of the Wildlife Act, and they all do. They all do, except this individual, who repeatedly violated the act. He was charged a number of times. And we heard, when I took office as Minister of Renewable Resources, that the act itself needed to be updated, and we are going through that.
But the Member for Klondike is bringing a very personal and sensitive issue to the floor of this House to publicly state why I, as the Minister of Environment, acted the way I did on revoking this individualís concession.
The fact of the matter is ó and I would ask the member opposite if he feels itís appropriate that an outfitter disposes of an undersized game animal, then hides it, wasting meat, and then denies the fact when he was observed doing it. That is only one of many charges that he was convicted of. I had no choice but to revoke this individualís concession. Between 1998 and this time, he could have disposed of his concession. He chose not to. That to me indicates that there was a belief that maybe he would get away with it again and that he would be able to operate.
As I had indicated to the Member for Klondike, we are looking at other ways that we can help this individual along, now that he has lost a significant part of his income, his profession ó that we would look at assisting him in creating opportunities for wildlife viewing programs. But the Member for Klondike asked me to reinstate this individualís concession. I canít do that.
I know that I have talked to various members within the industry ó the Outfitters Association ó and they appreciate the difficult challenge that we had. They do appreciate that this individual who lost his concession was duly charged and convicted.
I do appreciate that there are some concerns within the outfitting community with respect to holding concessions, and I will be very diligent in working openly and accountably with the Outfitters Association in ensuring that, first of all, they know the rules, and that we are going to support the industry, as I said that we would do many times. I think itís rather reprehensible that we are bringing this issue to the floor of this Legislature in such a personal way.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I also believe itís quite reprehensible that it has to be discussed on the floor of the House because this minister is not facing his responsibilities.
I believe the minister is dealing with two issues here and is confusing them. There is the issue of the licence, and there is the issue of the concession, and theyíre separate and distinct. This outfitterís licence was ultimately cancelled. He was charged and convicted. I agree with the minister ó the charges he was found guilty of are quite serious, and I donít believe any of the outfitters I have spoken to have any respect for the outfitter or the way he conducted himself. They would certainly concur with the findings of the court.
That said, there is the second issue and that is the concession. Here we have a 72-year-old man, and really all he owns is that concession, but not any longer ó because he has faced double jeopardy. He has been found guilty, he has paid his debt to society, and he goes back hoping he can retire, sell his concession and have a few dollars left over. But the minister invokes powers he has under the act and takes away his concession. Itís precedent-setting in that it has never been done before in similar circumstances.
The individual has been given the opportunity to sell out or dispose of the concession. There are some who do not want a concession in that area, and the government has the option of buying out that concession instead of just cancelling it, or they could allow the concession holder to sell that concession. That has transpired in similar types of situations in the past. What this suggests to me is that this is a severe case of double jeopardy at its best. The minister appears to have just rubber-stamped what was put before him without respect for the individual, without respect for the circumstances. He is taking the last dollars away from a 72-year-old man. Shame on this minister, because the buck stops with the minister and the minister ultimately had to make the decision. He made the decision and now is saying that he really doesnít want to discuss it. I went back and sought some advice with respect to the old Wildlife Act and how it was applied. In many cases, it would appear that the minister has not followed his own rules with respect to selling a concession and, in a number of cases, has encouraged or supported the sale of a concession when all the factors were relatively similar to what we have here today.
Perhaps not so severe, but the fact still remains that the individual had his licence suspended. He was dealt with through the courts, and the minister is going the extra step and really cutting the heart out of the whole industry we have here in the Yukon, because they have the game outfitters really seriously concerned with the action this minister has taken, Mr. Deputy Chair. No one wants to raise the issue with the minister because theyíre afraid to. Theyíll talk in private, theyíll talk to some of the officials but, by and large, they really just want to go about their business, be contributing members to society, and contribute to the economic well-being of the Yukon.
This ministerís own background, his family background, Mr. Deputy Chair ó his parents were in that type of endeavour back in Alberta, so there should be an understanding there somehow of the industry.
I donít know why this minister is reacting the way he is. Iím encouraging the minister, Mr. Chair, to go back, revisit this, and treat this in the same manner and in a like manner as other individuals have been treated in the past ó either buy the concession out or give him a window of opportunity to sell it.
Why is this minister showing no compassion whatsoever for Yukoners? Iíd like to know that, Mr. Deputy Chair.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite has no inkling at all of what the definition of compassion is ó not an inkling ó to bring this up on the floor of the House. As a matter of fact, when we did have our discussion, Mr. Deputy Chair, he threatened me that, if I didnít do anything or did what I did, that he would bring it to the floor.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: He just hollered, "Itís not a threat, itís a promise." Well, Mr. Speaker, he did bring it to the floor, and I think itís despicable.
And then alluding to the fact about my parentsí background, he doesnít have a clue what heís talking about, but thatís usually the case, Mr. Deputy Chair ó not a clue. If he would have done a little more research, he would have found out where my father outfitted. It shows how much you know.
Sorry ó I apologize; I apologize.
As I indicated earlier, though, Mr. Chair, this was an incredibly difficult decision for me to make, and now he has made it a big show-and-tell episode right here on the floor of the House. I have a lot of compassion. The member opposite knows that.
I had hoped, over the time, that the member involved would have, in light of the numerous charges ó this has never been done before. The member opposite is absolutely right. It has never been done in 20 years, but the fact is weíve never had an individual who has violated the Wildlife Act as many times as this individual did, or who has treated his domestic stock the way this individual has done.
Itís all on the record. Heís right. Itís all on the record, and we can go back a good number of years with respect to those issues. Then to bring it up and suggest that I donít have compassion ó like I said, this member has no comprehension of compassion.
But then, weíve seen evidence of that, time and time again, in his conduct with members on this side of the House just to gain a few political brownie points, which is absolutely disgusting in itself sometimes.
The fact of the matter is that, just two weeks ago ó the member has said that the outfitters are frightened to approach me. I disagree with the member opposite. As a matter of fact, just two weeks ago, I did have a meeting with a couple of representatives from the Outfitters Association. They expressed some concerns to me with respect to the future of their industry, and I assured them that I am always willing to listen to them. I want to assure that their business ó which contributes quite significantly to the economy of the territory. I will continue to meet with them. As a matter of fact, I will be contacting each and every outfitter in the territory with respect to the decision I made and would be more than willing, at any time, to answer any questions they may have in respect of their industry, their concessions, their rights. But the fact of the matter is, if youíre caught drinking and driving, you can go to jail.
If you break the law, there are consequences. For four years, with a long list of Wildlife Act violations ó the Member for Klondike has alluded that this individual didnít have opportunities. He had plenty of opportunities to look after his concession, to look after his family. But you cannot continue to break the law. The law is there for a reason, and we as legislators create law.
So the member opposite should understand the consequences of breaking the law. The number of repeated offences this individual did was astounding. And no, there has not been an incident like this in the past because there hasnít been the list of violations conducted by one individual who was warned many, many times. I would like to know what opportunities our conservation officers had to lay charges but then didnít. The most serious ones were most definitely documented.
I do understand what this individual is going through ó 72 years old.
I can only imagine what this individual is going through, but he had an opportunity to modify his behaviour, and the department was more than willing to help and support this individual in showing him what the errors of his ways were before it came down to such a serious decision that I had to make.
But there are consequences ó there are consequences to everything. I hope I never have to make that kind of decision again. I hope I never have to have a debate in the House like this again, with the member being so blatantly disrespectful to an individual, to have his name dragged forward on the floor of this Legislature in such an open way, but then, that is how the Member for Klondike works. If he doesnít get what he wants, he doesnít care who he brings or who he challenges on the floor of this Legislature.
So, Mr. Chair, the time being nearly 6:00 p.m., I recommend that you report progress.
Deputy Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Eftoda that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Deputy Chair: I has been moved by Mr. McLachlan that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Deputy Chairís report
Mr. Roberts: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: Youíve heard the report from the Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 6, 2002:
Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund 2000-01 Annual Report (McLachlan)