Wednesday, November 22, 2000 - 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 Bill Wengzynowski
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I rise today to pay tribute to Bill Wengzynowski, who was presented with the Prospector of the Year Award by the Yukon Prospectors Association at the Geoscience Forum banquet held in Whitehorse on Sunday, November 19.
Bill is a sixth-generation Yukoner whose roots can be traced back to trader and prospector Jack McQuesten, who came into the Mayo area before the gold rush. Bill's father Frank had a placer operation, and his grandfather Bill Harris of Carmacks used to prospect.
Bill was a 17-year-old graduate of F.H. Collins High School looking for work in 1983 when he was hired by Bob Cathro of Archer Cathro Geological Consultants of Whitehorse as a prospector. He loved the work and returned year after year to prospect in the Yukon, at the same time earning a degree in geological engineering from the University of British Columbia in 1993.
He has worked for 18 years in the Yukon mining industry, and he was intimately involved in the following discoveries: the Ice copper, gold, silver and cobalt deposit in the Finlayson area; numerous other sulphide occurrences in the Finlayson area; very rare crystals of native silver growing in ice in the United Keno Hill Mine area, only the second-known occurrence in the word of silver crystals of this type; and the discovery of emeralds in the Finlayson Lake area in 1998.
Mr. Speaker, we often hear that the future belongs to those who dare to dream. Mineral deposits are found by people with vision and eternal optimism, people like Bill Wengzynowski. We would like to commend Bill for his dedication to the Yukon mining industry and to its future.
Mr. Fentie: On behalf of the official opposition, I too would like to pay tribute to Bill Wengzynowski on his award. I think we in Yukon know full well the contribution that prospectors have made to this territory, as far back as people like Skookum Jim, George Carmack and Tagish Charlie. These people are the salt of the earth, and I think Bill is well deserving of his award, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavours.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I too would like to join with members in paying tribute to Yukon's prospector of the year, Mr. Bill Wengzynowski, for his long-standing commitment to Yukon's mining industry. It can be easily said that the high standard of living enjoyed by Canadians today stems, in large part, from the development of its rich natural resources: agriculture, forestry and mineral industry.
While we in Canada have been blessed with an abundance of natural resources, we are even more fortunate to have people with the ability to find these resources and convert them from potential assets into useful products. This conversion of potential to actual wealth does not come easily and is based on hard work, determination, skill and, of course, a little bit of luck on occasion.
For these very reasons, I am pleased to recognize Bill as this year's Yukon Prospector of the Year. A sixth-generation Yukoner and a descendant of Jack McQuesten, Bill has earned the distinction of Prospector of the Year for his affinity to rocks and his success in finding what many prospectors would call "the mother lode" of recent deposits in the Yukon, those being the Ice property, a massive sulphide deposit in the Finlayson area, as well as the ever-popular emerald find that was found by Bill single-handedly.
A long-time employee of Archer Cathro, Bill recently became a partner in that company. It is fitting that we pay tribute to Bill, who, like many others, is almost an extinct type of person here in the Yukon as a consequence of both federal Liberal and territorial government policies that are affecting this once great Yukon industry.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon sustainable progress indicators, framework indicators and implementation approach for reviewing the Yukon economic strategy. This was prepared for the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment by the Pembina Institute.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 102: Introduction and First Reading
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I move that a bill, entitled Fifth Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that House leaders' meetings are an important part of the cooperative implementation of the business of this House, and
THAT it is understood by all parties that the content of these meetings is normally not a matter of public record, and
THAT both the NDP and Yukon Party House leaders, as recently as November 21, 2000, have misrepresented the content of House leaders' meetings in the media, and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, if the content of these meetings -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: On the point of order, the member opposite has just stated that we in the official opposition and the leader of the third party have misrepresented discussions and items as House leaders. That would be implying that we have uttered falsehoods, and that's simply unparliamentary in our Legislature, and I would ask the member to withdraw that remark.
Speaker: The leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, the government House leader, the Member for Mount Lorne, has clearly indicated that we misrepresented what was said as House leaders, and that's implying a falsehood. That is improper and unparliamentary, and it should not be allowed on the floor of this Legislature, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Member for Whitehorse Centre, on the point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: "Misrepresented" in this case means taking a fact and putting it in the way that is suitable for representation. "Misrepresented" in this case does not mean "lying". What it does mean, though, is that we were in a situation where facts were taken and twisted, and that is not misrepresentation.
Speaker: Order. I am informed that there are certain times when the language within a motion can have some variance to that which would be normally used in the House. I am unable to rule on it until I hear the content of the motion, and after that, I will take it under advisement and bring a ruling to the House tomorrow.
With that, I would ask the government House leader to continue, please.
Ms. Tucker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
THAT both the NDP and the Yukon Party House leaders, as recently as November 21, 2000, have misrepresented the content of House leaders' meetings in the media, and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, if the content of these meetings is to be used as a matter of public record, then accurate minutes should be kept to ensure all parties are fairly and accurately represented, and
THAT this House urges all members to respect the fact that the purpose of House leaders' meetings is to expedite the business of the House.
Mr. Kent:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) all Members should treat fellow Members of this House with respect and strive to model professional behaviour in this House,
(2) sexist and violent language is inappropriate and has no place in the business of this House, and
(3) references such as "sit back and reload" have violent connotations; and
THAT the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges consider and make recommendations to the Assembly on ways in which the Standing Orders of this Assembly should be amended to prohibit sexist and violent language in this House.
Mr. Jenkins:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that there would be significant economic benefits for Yukon should a railroad be built connecting Alaska, through Yukon, to the southern United States;
THAT this House recognizes that the Alaska House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill setting aside land for a railroad right-of-way up to the Yukon border;
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon and Yukon First Nations whose lands the railroad would cross to express their willingness to consider the Alaskan railroad proposal, including the setting aside of lands for a railroad right-of-way through Yukon; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada, with the full participation of the Government of Yukon and Yukon First Nation governments affected, to commence discussions with the Government of the United States and the State of Alaska about establishing a mechanism such as an international joint commission to expedite the development of the Alaska railroad proposal.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Under introduction of bills, I believe I misheard the leader of the official opposition that that was for tabling, and I would ask if he would introduce it again please.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 102: Introduction and First Reading
Mr. Fairclough: I move a bill, entitled Fifth Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that the bill, entitled Fifth Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 102 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In our throne speech we introduced a new strategy - I am calling it the MINE plan - to guide our actions for restoring a strong mining industry. I am providing this Legislature and all Yukoners with an update on this new program. Our strategy and our priorities are reflected in this plan. It's called the MINE plan because it includes initiatives for management, infrastructure, information, incentives, networking and education.
"M" is for "management" that provides a solid foundation for an attractive investment climate. The best way to promote the industry in the Yukon is to ensure it is managed efficiently and fairly. Much of our efforts will continue to be focused on this point. The work we undertake now is especially important for us as we prepare for the transfer of responsibility of mineral resources to the Yukon government.
Our efforts include progress on fixing the Yukon protected areas strategy, YPAS, and improvements to the administrative procedures for permitting mines and production licences. The second thing we did as a government was to begin a review of how the previous government did not follow the YPAS process. The end result of our work will be legislation that ensures that government follows the strategy. Yukoners want this process to work.
I am pleased to report that an important initiative to address some of the administrative problems in the permitting process is being implemented by the federal government, who remain responsible for mining in the Yukon. Known as the blue book, these new procedures will help to streamline and clarify the permitting process by providing clear rules for miners.
We believe it's critically important that mining investors do not face expensive obstacles due to procedural delays in the permitting process. By clarifying the rules and introducing administrative changes, the processes will be more efficient, more user friendly and will provide more certainty to the mining industry.
The settlement of land claims is also critical to the mining sector and it remains this government's top priority. Many of you already know that Yukon First Nations are already working closely with the mining industry to develop partnerships. The point I want to make is that the settlement of land claims will be a tremendous boost for all of Yukon and also our mining industry.
"I" stands for "information, investments and infrastructure".
Responsible management is not enough. To attract investment, we must provide good information about resources, industry incentives, and our infrastructure.
I recognize that infrastructure is what makes our rich natural resources accessible for development, and I'm happy to report that we're working hard to attract investment in Yukon's infrastructure development. Road, power, rail, communications and energy pipelines are all important components. So is knowledge-based infrastructure. A quality baseline of good, geological information is also essential. That's why we're working on projects such as the Alaska Highway pipeline, an extension of the power grid from Mayo to Dawson and a rail link connecting Alaska to British Columbia.
We already have two major project proposals that would benefit from this work. The Howard's Pass zinc project and the combined Kudz Ze Kayah-Wolverine massive sulphide project could provide the freight to render a first phase - an extension from Fort St. John into southern Yukon - economical.
I am pleased that our joint industry-government effort to convince Finance Minister Paul Martin to implement a tax incentive that benefits the junior mining sector was successful. I discussed the flow-through program with Mr. Martin this summer and was a strong advocate for the program at the recent mines ministers meeting in Toronto with Minister Ralph Goodale.
Our government is also increasing the Yukon's mineral exploration tax credit to 25 percent and extending it for an additional year until April 1, 2002. I have also recently announced that the $250,000 funding increase for the Yukon mining incentives program is to be continued. This program has been well-received by the mining industry and has been successful in helping many prospectors and junior mining companies for both the hard rock and placer industries and helped them significantly advance projects.
"N" stands for "networking" and communications that advertise to the world our competitive opportunities and advantages. We must ensure that information about Yukon opportunities is clearly communicated to industry decision-makers in this globally competitive environment.
My recent visit to Vancouver was a part of that, and our efforts will not stop. You'll see our government at the Cordilleran Roundup and at the conference of Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, as well.
We've also created a new Web site specifically for industry at yukonmining.com. It provides information on the Yukon mining industry, mining potential, properties, programs and mining legislation in the territory.
"E" is for "education" for the public, communities and industry about the benefits of mining. Industry and government must work together to ensure Yukon residents understand the benefits of the mining industry and can make informed decisions when asked to comment on project proposals.
I'll be initiating a new educational program that will ensure Yukoners understand the value and importance of the mining industry to our quality of life.
Mr. Speaker, I'm very proud and pleased with the MINE program. It's our commitment to seeing the mining industry prosper for many years to come.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond today to this ministerial statement, which, unfortunately, does little to help the mining industry in this territory, given the fact that it's just a reannouncement of something that the Liberals across the floor - this Liberal government - have already announced.
Mr. Speaker, the MINE program, as the Premier puts it, is nothing more than components of the already established mineral strategy, which the Liberals have repackaged in an attempt to call it their own, to try to show Yukoners that they are doing something. Unfortunately, Yukoners can see through this.
Mr. Speaker, the minister went on to state that they're working on the Yukon protected areas strategy. Well, it's just another review. There has been no progress. The mining industry in Yukon wants to know what the plan is. What is this government's vision when it comes to addressing these issues for the mining industry?
Furthermore, the minister goes on to state that a new initiative, which is known as the blue book, is being implemented. Well, what's new? The blue-book initiative was developed with the federal government under the previous administration - the former NDP government. The mining industry knows that full well, and so do Yukoners. There is nothing new here. It is just rehashing things that have already been done, and still there's no mining in this territory.
Furthermore, the minister talks about streamlining the process. Why isn't this government talking about DAP and working on the development assessment process? That's what it's intended to do - a one-window approach.
The minister also goes on about land claims. That's delayed, therefore there's no certainty. Also, the minister has talked about First Nations working closely with the industry to develop partnerships. That has been happening for years. An example is the socio-economic agreement at Sa Dena Hes with the Kaska First Nation. There's nothing new again.
Furthermore, the minister goes on to talk about the essential need for good geological information. Well, Mr. Speaker, it's well-known throughout the world in the mining industry that the Yukon's geological information is a leader. We have some of the best information on record and on paper that the industry has access to. It's well-known, and that comes out every year in the Geoscience Forum.
Then we go on to talk about a railroad, an extension from Fort St. John, because Kudz Ze Kayah and Howard's Pass may someday come on stream. Well, I don't want to wake the Premier from her slumber, but why Fort St. John? Why there? The railhead is already built to Dease Lake, a 170 miles from the Yukon border. Mr. Speaker, again, there's nothing new.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the mineral tax credit was an initiative developed by the former government. Again, there's nothing new - the Liberals trying to attach themselves to other people's hard work.
Mr. Speaker, we talk about the Cordilleran Roundup in this statement. That has been going on for years. The Yukon government and Yukoners are represented at that roundup every year - each and every year. That's why we have Yukon night there. The industry is well aware of that. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, there's nothing in this statement that would give credence to this government's ability to address the issues here in mining in this territory.
In summing up, I can only say what MINE - the MINE program - really stands for, when it comes to this Liberal government: "M" is for "mixed up"; "I" is for "inept", which equals no employment for Yukoners in the mining sector.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I welcome this ministerial statement on mining. Many Yukoners have come to believe that the promoting of mining in the territory has become the forgotten object of this government, as the Premier's sole preoccupation has been focusing on the pipeline. While this statement is a refreshing change from the pipeline hype, I suspect the Premier has spent more time developing the acronym MINE than she has actually spent promoting mining in the Yukon. I'm surprised that the Premier can still spell "mine". I thought that this word had been expunged from her vocabulary. Unfortunately, Liberal policies, both at the federal and territorial level, have destroyed mining in the territory, and playing alphabet-soup word games isn't going to solve the crisis in Yukon's mining industry.
Currently, mining exploration and development in the territory are at an all-time low under this Yukon Liberal government, and especially under the federal Liberal government. One of the major hurdles facing mining in the territory is the permitting process, which puts the Yukon at a tremendous disadvantage compared to other jurisdictions in North America.
The Premier was supposed to use her special relationship with her Liberal friends in Ottawa to get things happening in the Yukon, but all the Premier has managed to do in this regard is to tell the Minister of DIAND that he is persona non grata in the Yukon - so much for this special Liberal relationship. Yukon Liberals have effectively become apologists for the actions taken by the Ottawa Liberals to shut down mining exploration and development in the Yukon.
The second major issue confronting miners in the Yukon is the uncertainty over land tenure, caused by unsettled land claims, the seriously flawed protected areas strategy, and the excessive regulatory burden that will be imposed under the proposed development assessment legislation. The free-entry system of miners to Crown land is being constantly eroded. I estimate that at present 30 percent of Yukon is off limits to mining and mining exploration, and with the misuse of the protected areas strategy to create more territorial parks, this percentage could grow dramatically to encompass over 60 percent of the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
The Premier recognizes that the seven unsettled land claims are making mining investors wary of spending any money in the Yukon, but she has done nothing to move the process ahead and has proposed no solutions to overcome the settlement loan-repayment issue or the income tax issues that are blocking these settlements.
The Premier has stated that "I" stands for "infrastructure". Perhaps she could explain in the statement how the Mayo-Dawson transmission line can be called a power grid when it is a stand-alone transmission line? It's not even a grid extension. Under infrastructure, I was somewhat surprised to see that the Premier has now jumped on board the rail link connecting Alaska to British Columbia. She doesn't know that the end of the line is at Dease Lake, though. This is a refreshing change, and I trust the Premier will now support my motion on this rail link that I read into the record just a few moments ago.
Mr. Speaker, time prevents me from going through all the different letters of this clever MINE acronym, but I want to make final point: action speaks louder than words. In the Premier's rebuttal, I would like her to give a report on her attempts to buy out the Canadian United Minerals mining claims in the northern Yukon and, as well, if she could advise the House what she has done to stop the harassment of miners by mining inspectors? Action like this says more about this government's support for mining than a clever acronym.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it's no secret that our mining industry has suffered in recent years, particularly under the previous government. Mineral exploration figures dropped every year under the NDP. We cannot fix all the problems overnight or in just six months. We are doing a number of things. We've initiated a number of actions and, in my responsibilities, I have outlined them in the House.
Industry told the NDP for four years that there were some key problems. There was uncertainty over land, because of how badly the NDP botched the protected areas strategy. They took a good strategy, developed by Yukoners, and then didn't follow it. We're fixing that.
There was uncertainty over unsettled land claims. The NDP sat on their hands and said, "It's a federal problem; we can't do anything about that." Their strategy, which they are so terribly proud of, when the Member for Watson Lake spoke, was referred to by many as "very thin soup".
Our government has done something about a number of issues. We have, with respect to settlement of land claims, a common forum with four First Nations that are close to signing: Ta'an, Kluane, White River and Carcross. That group is dealing with the unresolved Yukon issues that the former government wouldn't even agree existed.
I've met with the federal Minister of Finance, Paul Martin, on the issue of section 87 and, yes, on the federal tax program, as well, for the mining community. We are working with other levels of government - First Nation governments and the Canadian government.
Settling land claims is our top priority and we will continue to focus on settlement of them, because we know what that uncertainty does to our economy.
Another issue is federal permitting. We're working on devolution, because we want Yukoners to be able to make decisions about the resources. Devolution was not a priority for the previous NDP government. It was only in the last year of their mandate that they spent a great deal of time on it. We're working actively toward a 2002 date for devolution so that we can make decisions about resources.
We pushed the federal government to complete the blue-book project, which they have done.
The Yukon mineral incentives program, Mr. Speaker, has resulted in $11.7 million in advanced exploration on over 20 projects. I will be asking the Yukon Mineral Advisory Board for their advice on suggestions for improvements to this program that I heard because I attended the Yukon Geoscience Forum.
We're doing a number of things to improve the mining industry, and the mining industry, Mr. Speaker, is responding.
The members opposite should be reminded of the quote from Vance Loeber, Copper Ridge's vice-president of business development: "The Yukon is a great place to invest," he said. "We find the Yukon, particularly with Pat Duncan coming into office, is a great place to do business. It's a huge untapped resource, and you know where the goalposts are."
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Pursuant to Standing Order 28(1) and (2), I move, as a matter of urgent and pressing necessity, that this House stands down the business of the day so that we may debate the Fifth Appropriation Act to address the hardships and the crisis that this territory and its people are in, due to the ineptness of this Liberal government's economic leadership.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I'd refer the Speaker to the proceedings on bills, under chapter 10, number 3: "Private Members' Bills are bills introduced by members other than Ministers, relating to matters of administration or public policy of general application within the Yukon, and which do not involve the expenditure of public funds or the imposition of any tax.
Unanimous consent re: Introduction of private member's bill
Speaker: Standing Order 28(1) reads, "A motion may, in case of urgent and pressing necessity previously explained by the mover, be made by unanimous consent of the Assembly without the notice having been given." The member requests unanimous consent. Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Speaker: There is not unanimous consent.
Speaker: Order please. As the Member for Watson Lake has noted, the leader of the official opposition introduced a bill which he said was titled Fifth Appropriation Act, 2000-01. A motion to give first reading to the bill was passed.
The Chair has now been informed that no bill of this title has been provided to the House. What was received is a document entitled "Estimates, Supplementary No. 3, 2000-01" and no legislation.
The Chair must also note that it is not possible for a private member to place legislation before the House that would require the expenditure of money. I refer to Standing Order 61(1), which states, "It is not lawful for the Assembly to adopt or pass any vote, resolution, address or bill for the appropriation of any part of the public revenue of Yukon, or of any tax or impost, to any purpose that has not been first recommended to the Assembly by message of the Commissioner in the session in which such vote, resolution, address or bill is proposed."
No such message from the Commissioner has been provided by the leader of the official opposition.
For these reasons, the Chair must find that consideration of the bill introduced by the leader of the official opposition is out of order.
The Chair orders that this bill not be placed on the Order Paper.
We will now proceed to Question Period.
Question re: Economic situation in Yukon
Mr. Fairclough: We knew that on this side of the House.
Yukon is in a recession, Mr. Speaker, and we as the official opposition have tabled a supplementary bill that outlines steps and expenditures to get Yukoners to work this winter. Will the Premier take a close look and support this bill and help Yukon's economy by getting Yukoners back to work now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we are working on the economy; we are putting Yukoners back to work. The member opposite would be advised to examine some of the economic trend indicators that have been put forward. There are a number of strong initiatives that have been done by this government. Some of those initiatives are beginning to show results, and we're looking forward to even better results in the coming three and a half years of our mandate.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked the Premier if she'd take a close look at this bill that we have tabled, Mr. Speaker, and support it. I encourage the Premier and her government to endorse this bill that will immediately put Yukoners to work - this winter; we're talking about this winter. The territory's economy looks very, very bleak this winter. Yukoners in need are looking to the Yukon government for help. Why is this Liberal government ignoring the very real economic crisis and not providing winter works programs to help the Yukoners through this winter, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the bill has not been placed on the Order Paper. It's bogus; we can't look at it. The overall economy this year is better than it was last November. The unemployment rate is 9.3, compared with 10.9 - the October figures. November's aren't fully out. The value of building permits is up 25 percent. The Member for Klondike finds great mirth in this statement, and yet I've been advised by various individuals in his community that people are working in Dawson. There are half a dozen private sector projects and municipal government projects that are proceeding in that community alone, and are providing winter work.
I have suggested many times to the members opposite that there is additional work going on in terms of oil and gas exploration, in terms of filming of commercials. The value of building permits, which is a key economic indicator, Mr. Speaker, is up 25 percent so far this year, compared with last. And other figures have shown that the efforts in the first six months of this government are beginning to take effect.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, 600 people have left the Yukon and this Liberal government is not showing any leadership whatsoever. We tabled a document that shows some leadership and addresses work this winter. I don't sense any compassion across the floor of this Legislature for Yukoners who are truly suffering this winter. There is $7.7 million that we proposed to spend on winter works through the re-establishment of community development fund, fire smart, tourism marketing fund, the trade and investment fund, and things like the completion of the Mayo school.
When will this do-nothing government wake up and realize the harm that they are inflicting on this territory, do something about it, and put people to work this winter?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of points that the member opposite needs to be reminded of. First of all, 3,000 people left the Yukon under the NDP government - 3,000.
The member opposite talks about a supposed suggestion that isn't even valid for the Order Paper of an expenditure of $7.7 million. First of all, that government, in 17 short days before leaving office, spent the community development fund. And if the member opposite would suggest that, where is the member opposite going to suggest the $7.2 million required for health be found? Health care costs are a key compassionate area that this government has acted upon. We're dealing with the expenditures that are required under health, responsibly and reasonably.
The member opposite suggests that we don't have compassion. What we have is not just compassion for Yukoners, but we have a passion for this place that is going to show in results over the life of this government. Just watch us.
Question re: Economic situation in Watson Lake
Mr. Fentie: There was a little déjà vu to when a Prime Minister of this country said, "Just watch me." The Premier is now trying to pick up from old-guard Liberals.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier just doesn't get it. The minister is standing on her feet, trying to make the claim that the Liberal government has improved the economic situation. So the Premier obviously doesn't understand the big picture, so let's narrow it down for her and focus on one sector - one area - such as Watson Lake, in the southeast Yukon.
Under this government - this cold-hearted, vindictive government - 125 workers lost their jobs in the forest sector. With the cancellation of the community development fund and fire smart, in a community like Watson Lake that's another dozen, 15 or 20 people with no work. These programs are targeted expenditures.
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, we now have 15 more people being laid off in the hotel industry. What is this minister going to do to address the problems of the people in a community like Watson Lake?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As I have already said repeatedly in this House, this government is addressing the Yukon economic situation. We are addressing it in a number of ways, but in six months we can't turn around four years of NDP devastation. It's going to take us a little bit longer than six months to do that. The member opposite has suggested, first of all, that there is some action of this government that precipitated the layoff of 125 people. Well, I would strongly recommend to the member to check the facts on that one. The figures given by industry proponents and the proponents of that particular project were not 125. Secondly, this government has not cancelled either the community development fund or the fire smart fund. The NDP government spent all the money. That's what happened. The NDP government, before they left office, in a massive spending spree, spent most of the community development fund money.
We're going to turn the economy around. We've already started. And I would encourage the member to wait and see - the results are becoming more and more evident every day.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the member is entirely incorrect. In the first place, when it comes to the community development fund, we are now debating a $37-million budget, which has not one nickel in it targeted to people in communities like Watson Lake. Furthermore, the economy is turning around - it's turning around and fleeing the Yukon. And that is evident with 600 people gone. We've gone from exporting lumber to exporting people. The community of Watson Lake is in dire straits today under this Liberal government's watch. What is this Premier going to do to alleviate the hardship that the people of Watson Lake are facing now and will be facing through this long, hard winter? What is this Premier going to do?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, 3,000 people left the Yukon Territory and the member opposite is very fond of the word "fled" the territory. Three thousand people left their homes in the Yukon under the NDP government - 3,000 people. We appreciate the economic situation in the Yukon. We also appreciate that a 17-percent unemployment figure, which is what we achieved under the NDP government, was too high. We're working on turning the Yukon economy around. We're working on it every single day - all of us are. We're starting to see results and we are going to continue to see those results over the next period of time.
The member opposite would like to see some kind of a winter works project as a panacea for the economy. There are people working in the Yukon this winter. Talk to a number of individuals. Yes, we know there is more work to be done, but we're not going to rest on our laurels; we're going to keep working on it.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, let's look at the facts. I was talking about Watson Lake. In Watson Lake under the NDP government's watch, people were moving in. People were moving into that community. It was a community that, under the NDP, went from a community of a long list of people looking for work to a list of businesses looking for workers. That's what happened.
In Watson Lake today, the economy is devastated under this Liberal government. This Premier even went so far as to scold proponents of the forest industry for criticizing her. This is a vindictive government that has turned its back on the community of Watson Lake, and it's high time for this Premier to deal with the issues in southeast Yukon and help those people so that they do not face the hardships they're about to face this winter.
When will she act?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, despite the member opposite's passion, I would challenge the facts as the member opposite has presented them.
The reality is that the previous NDP government had four solid years, with a bigger majority than what we were elected with, to fix the economy, to work on the dire economic situation that the Yukon was in under the NDP government. They had four solid years. They did nothing.
In six short months, we have accomplished some things. We recognize there is more work to be done. We have stated that in this House.
Mr. Speaker, there are people working in the Yukon. There is also an unemployment rate now that is considerably lower than what it was under the NDP's 17 percent. We are working on the Yukon economy, and I would encourage the member opposite to examine some of the work being done in individual departments. There's plenty of time to debate the supplementary budget, and I would encourage the members to really take a good, hard look at the work that's being generated in the Yukon economy by this government.
Question re: Circle sentencing for sexual or violent crimes
Mr. Jenkins:That was an interesting response. We all know that the Yukon's economy is in the toilet, and we all know that Yukoners are going back to work, but it's in Alberta, the Northwest Territories and everywhere else. So, let's switch gears. Let's deal with the Minister of Justice.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party is the only political party on record as being opposed to the use of circle sentencing for sexual or violent crimes because its use in these circumstances often revictimizes the victim. While the Yukon Liberal Party didn't take a position on this long-standing issue, other than to state in its platform that they would encourage the federal government to develop circle-sentencing guidelines - now, if we go back to July 11, when I asked the minister a question in this House, if she supported circle sentencing for sexual or violent crimes, she said no. And the minister indicated at that time that they were working on the guidelines to be sent to their Liberal counterparts at that very moment.
I would like to ask the minister if she could table that correspondence or, at the very least, indicate when that letter was sent to Ottawa on this very important issue.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will check with the department and get back to the member.
Mr. Jenkins:Well, obviously the minister doesn't even know if it has been concluded. Back on July 11, it was an issue that was being dealt with immediately and was going to be sent off to Ottawa very, very quickly. It's now after the middle of November. Circle sentencing is still being used to deal with sexual and violent crimes, and I'd like the minister today to indicate when its use for these types of crimes is going to stop in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway:I have indicated that I will get back to the member.
Mr. Jenkins:Well, a novice government, a novice Minister of Justice who doesn't even understand the issues going on in her department, and that's her response. I'm very, very disappointed.
Mr. Speaker, the victims of these crimes are mostly women and children, and I want to see the process of re-victimizing brought to a stop. So, I'm asking the minister when she can give that commitment, in view of the Yukon Liberals' much-touted special relationship with their counterparts in Ottawa. Is she going to make a commitment or is she going to get back to me?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member opposite has heard me say twice, I will get back to him.
Question re: Oil and Gas Supply Industry Association, Premier's cancelled address
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier about her recent travels to Alaska. Last Friday morning the Premier was scheduled to address a breakfast meeting with the Oil and Gas Supply Industry Association in Anchorage. That meeting was cancelled by the organizers because the Premier changed her plans. Will the Premier tell us why she did not follow through on that commitment to the Supply Industry Association?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, what the member is really after is why did I go to Anchorage in the first place and why did I come back from Anchorage in the second place. The members opposite really can't make up their minds on this issue. They can't decide whether they support the pipeline or don't support the pipeline, whether the national party cares about it or whether the national party doesn't care about it. The NDP just don't know where they stand on that particular issue. And, Mr. Speaker, the interim leader of the official opposition can't make up his mind whether I should be in Anchorage or meet with the Prime Minister, because last week, on November 16, he was urging me to meet with the Prime Minister.
The breakfast was scheduled by an organization that came up to me afterwards at the conference and indicated that they had organized that on short notice. They subsequently changed it because of Governor Knowles' address and a number of other program changes and that they look forward to perhaps arranging an additional speaking engagement for me and others later in the new year.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the truth is that the Premier was more interested in aggressively promoting the federal Liberal cause in Whitehorse than aggressively promoting the Alaska Highway pipeline route.
When the Premier came back early for political purposes, she left the MLA for Riverside behind in Anchorage. What part of this travel was done by charter flights, and how much extra did it cost to change her travel plans on short notice?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it was not a change on short notice. The Government of Yukon chartered over to Anchorage and, on the plane, at the request of the Government of the Northwest Territories, the hon. Jim Antoine, Deputy Premier and principal secretary to the Premier of the Northwest Territories, John Bailey, Mr. Paul Birckel, Mr. Don Dempster, who were both working with the pipeline unit, the Mayor of the City of Whitehorse, Mr. Ernie Bourassa, and the chief of staff for the caucus offices, the MLA for Riverside, Mr. Scott Kent and me. That was the passenger list and the plane was originally chartered to go over in order to attend this particular conference. It was a charter originally and it was chartered in order that Mr. Kent and I could be present in the House, because driving would have taken too much time. The charter came back and I came on it, and I met with the Prime Minister, as the Member for Mayo-Tatchun suggested I do, on November 16.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the return on Thursday night was for political purposes only. We certainly can't expect taxpayers to pick up the tab for that.
Again, can the Premier confirm whether or not she will be asking the Liberal Party to pay for those additional costs of the change of arrangements, Mr. Speaker, since she was coming back for political purposes?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I returned to Whitehorse to meet with the Prime Minister of this country, just as the member, on November 16, suggested I do. And I took the member opposite's advice and raised all of these questions with the Prime Minister: land claims, devolution, pipelines. Let's see, what else did he suggest I raise?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Not the Marwell tar pit. That wasn't raised by me.
The member opposite, on November 16, in Hansard, urged me to meet with the Prime Minister of the country. I did, and effectively, I might add.
Question re: Premier's meeting with Prime Minister
Mr. Fentie: I'd like to follow up with the Premier on the same issue.
What the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is asking is this: who paid for the flight for the Premier to come back and meet with the Prime Minister? This is not for the reasons that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was asking before, which would be a meeting with the Prime Minister to deal with very important issues in the Yukon. This trip back to Whitehorse here in the Yukon was to meet with the Prime Minister in a campaign forum, and this was a political meeting. It had nothing to do with issues in the Yukon, and the Premier knows that full well.
Is the Premier going to stand here and say that her meeting with the Prime Minister was strictly business?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Is the Member for Watson Lake going to stand there and suggest that my meeting with the Prime Minister had nothing to do with Yukon issues? Give your head a shake. I suggest to the member to give his head a shake, Mr. Speaker, in order to be entirely correct.
The meeting with the Prime Minister was entirely appropriate and entirely conducted on Yukon issues, and I will defend the Yukon to anybody anywhere. What's more, Mr. Speaker, I will continue to promote the Yukon everywhere I go and at every single meeting I am in, and I will defend Yukon interests. That's my role. What's more, Mr. Speaker, that's what I want to do and that's my heartfelt passion with everyone.
And, Mr. Speaker, the charter flight to Anchorage and the charter flight return were booked well in advance of the Prime Minister's visit. It's part of doing business, and the members opposite have had the travel issues for some time and can't bring themselves to ask about them because we're showing results for what we do.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier can admonish me and lecture me all she wants. The point of the matter is that the Prime Minister was here in Whitehorse, Yukon for one reason and one reason only, and that was to support the Liberal candidate's campaign. He said so himself. He said, "Don't waste your vote, vote for the Liberal." Mr. Speaker, I find that a disgrace for a Prime Minister, and I also find it extremely disgraceful for this Premier to stand on her feet and tell this House that the reason she came back was to deal with business of the Yukon with the Prime Minister. That's not the case, Mr. Speaker. The Premier came back to a Liberal love-in at the Gold Rush Inn, trying to make themselves feel good about how great they are doing, when they have done absolutely nothing.
Will the Premier correct the record and admit that she came back to the City of Whitehorse to meet with the Prime Minister based on the campaign, and that it was nothing more than politics?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Will I stand on my feet and recognize that the Member for Watson Lake is nothing but theatrics? Yes, I will recognize that - that that is an entirely theatrical display. The fact is that the Prime Minister of this country - whatever that particular member's opinion of him is - is the Prime Minister of this country. He was in Whitehorse; he met with First Nation chiefs, the Grand Chief and others, and he met with me as Premier of the Yukon. We discussed Yukon business. We discussed the most important issue to Yukoners: settlement of First Nation claims. That was a good meeting. And if the member opposite doesn't want to take my word for it, ask the Grand Chief. It was a good meeting. It was entirely appropriate that I be there at that meeting and that I should meet with the Prime Minister. Those were entirely in order. The only disgrace is the members opposite and their party's lack of support and lack of understanding of a major, important project to the Yukon - that's the disgrace in this House and outside of it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let's look at the realities. The facts are that we are in the midst of a federal election and the Prime Minister and any minister in the federal Cabinet is going to do nothing or commit to nothing during this period; therefore, there couldn't have been any business dealt with. This was a political meeting and the Premier came back for political reasons. Furthermore, if the Prime Minister were serious about settling land claims in this territory, instead of just saying, "We're going to work on issues," he would have come here and clearly stated to the First Nations that they have solved section 87 - taxation - and they have solved loan repayment. This Premier is not coming clean with Yukoners. Her trip back to Whitehorse was for political reasons, nothing more than support for the Liberal campaign.
Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, anybody who votes for a Liberal in this territory is wasting their vote. Will the Premier now correct the record?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, there was no question. There was a lot of righteous indignation in that, but there was no question. I will remind the member opposite that the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister of this country, and if voters take the suggestions that all of us have made seriously and with recognition and look at the platforms of the parties, then I would suggest that they will take the Prime Minister's advice rather than the members opposite.
Every meeting undertaken by the Premier or the Prime Minister is a political meeting. We're politicians. That's what we do. And, Mr. Speaker, I had a very good meeting, as Premier of the territory, with the Prime Minister of the country. The Prime Minister of the country had a good meeting with the Grand Chief and First Nations chiefs. And I was pleased and proud to be part of that meeting, and I'm very heartened by the Prime Minister's commitment in that meeting to the efforts to resolve First Nation land claims.
The only disgrace on the floor of this House is, first of all, the members opposite's and the NDP's inability to get their facts straight on the pipeline, particularly their leader. And, Mr. Speaker, I would like to know -
Speaker: Order please. Will the Premier please conclude her answer?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'd like to know why the leader of the NDP couldn't be bothered to meet with First Nation chiefs?
Question re: Funding programs, applications and approvals
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier's right about one thing: Liberals will always play politics on the backs of Yukoners. That's what's happening in this territory today. This Premier is sacrificing the well-being of Yukoners for partisan politics.
Let's change up here a little bit, Mr. Speaker. Given the fact that their supplementary budget addresses no winter works, no help for Yukoners, will the Premier then, by the beginning of next week, bring forward a list and provide this House with a list of all community development fund applications received since April 1, 2000, as well as a list of all approvals to date? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we'll do more than that. I've already given a statement to the House on the community development fund. I've given members opposite a great deal of information, and we will be happy to table the information as to all of the community development fund applications, including all of the money that the previous government spent in their spending spree before they left office, as well as approvals that have been made since, as a result of other projects that have lapsed or not used up all of their funding.
In terms of winter works - it's just like the Alaska Highway pipeline. It doesn't matter how many times you tell the members opposite the facts, you give them the facts to read, or you encourage them to electronically read the facts and visit the Web site, there is no answer, Mr. Speaker, for those who refuse to hear.
Mr. Fentie:Well, we're talking about the need to address issues for Yukoners now. The pipeline is a long way away. Yukoners know that.
I thank the minister for offering to bring forward the list on the community development fund. Will she also then - now that she's in a good mood - bring forward a list, by the beginning of next week, of all the applications to the trade and investment fund since April 1, 2000, and also a list of approvals today? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has indicated that I'm a very happy individual, and I'm glad he has noticed. I'd really be happy if there was a new question or one of substance from the opposition.
We have been more than open and accountable with the members opposite, and we will continue to be so. I've already given a statement in the House on the community development fund and our consideration of funds. I will do one better. I'll come back with a ministerial statement, early next week, on the community development fund and the review of that program and the parameters for it, and I will be pleased to provide, in detail, the approvals broken down by community, in as much detail as the member would like, because we are open and are accountable, and we're just delighted to spend the time with the member opposite.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let the trumpets blow and the flags wave. We're going to get another ministerial statement from the member opposite. That will fix the problems.
I asked for a list of all applications for the community development fund and the trade and investment fund and for the approvals to date since April 1, 2000. That's what I'm asking for.
Lastly, the tourism marketing fund - will the minister provide by the beginning of next week, for this House, a list of all the applications to that fund since April 1, 2000, and a list of all the approvals to date? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I've said repeatedly that I will provide that information, broken down, as the member has requested, and in many different ways, as well - such as by community and by sector. You name the breakdown; we will provide it. And I have said that we will be more than happy to provide it. And I'd be more than happy to answer a good question from the members opposite, but we can't seem to get one.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 43, standing in the name of Mr. Kent.
Motion No. 43
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Riverside:
THAT this House recognizes that:
(1) the Liberal Government has followed through on its commitment to reduce Yukoners' personal income taxes by pledging to reduce the tax rate by January 1, 2002, to 44 percent of the basic federal income tax,
(2) the rate, effective January 1, 2002, means the Yukon tax rate will be lower than both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and
(3) the previous NDP government made zero personal income tax rate cuts during its four years in office; and
THAT this House supports these tax cuts, which benefit all Yukoners.
Mr. Kent: It gives me great pleasure to be able to speak to my motion today.
Tax cuts will be very beneficial to all my constituents in Riverside as well as to all Yukoners.
At the risk of swiping a phrase from my friends at Headline Sports, I am going to now present the score on tax cuts in the Yukon Territory. The Liberal score: eight and a half months in office, eight-percent reduction in Yukoners' personal income tax rate, with a further four-percent planned. NDP score: 42 and a half months in office, zero-percent reduction in Yukoners' personal income tax rate. Zero. And the Yukon Party score: 47 months in office, 11-percent hike in Yukoners' personal income tax rate. Eleven-percent hike.
We have also received income tax relief from the federal government. In his economic statements and budget update tabled on October 18, 2000, Finance minister Paul Martin proposed a four-part plan that involves tax reductions.
Speaking to the tax relief measures proposed by Minister Martin: firstly, all personal income tax rates are reduced effective January 2001. The 17-percent rate will be reduced to 16 percent, the 24-percent middle tax rate will be reduced to 22 percent, and the 29-percent top tax rate will be reduced to 26 percent on incomes between $60,000 and $100,000.
The top tax rate of 29 percent will apply to incomes in excess of $100,000. The deficit reduction surtax will be eliminated. The second part of his tax relief measures is enhancement of the Canada child tax benefit for low and middle income Canadians. Effective July 2001, the Canada child tax benefit for low and middle income Canadians will be raised to $300 per child instead of $200 as announced in the 2000 budget.
As a result, the maximum benefit for the first child will rise to over $2,500 by July 2004. Thirdly, the federal minister is going to be increasing tax assistance for people with disabilities. Currently, the amount on which the disability tax credit, or DTC, is based, is $4,293. This amount will be increased to $6,000 effective 2001, which will bring the maximum tax relief from the DTC to $960.
Fourth, increasing tax assistance to caregivers: the amount on which the caregiver tax credit is based will be increased from $2,386 to $3,500 for 2001. This will bring the maximum tax relief to $560. Another point is providing relief for heating expenses - something that all Yukoners are concerned with. The federal government proposes to provide relief from higher heating expenses to those who need it most. It will be delivered through the tax system to individuals and families receiving payments under the GST credit. Each individual who is eligible for the adult entitlement of the GST credit will receive $125 in relief. Individuals claiming the GST credit in respect of themselves and a qualified relation or dependent, will receive a total of $250.
The sixth point is changes to the capital gains tax. The capital gains inclusion rate will be reduced from two-thirds to one-half. Tax-free rollovers will be expanded and made available to more businesses. The size of eligible investment will be increased to $2 million from $500,000, and the size of business eligible for rollover will be increased to $50 million from $10 million.
The seventh point for tax relief is the accelerating corporate income tax cuts. A legislated timetable will be provided for accelerating corporate income tax cuts from 28 percent to 21 percent with a one-point reduction in 2001, followed by a two-point cut in each of the following three years.
Another point is the contribution to the Canada Pension Plan. Effective January 1, 2001, self-employed individuals will be allowed to deduct the portion of CPP contributions that represents the employer's share.
The ninth point from the federal minister, Mr. Speaker, is there is going to be a federal tax credit for flow-through share investors. The federal government has proposed a new investment tax credit for mineral exploration in the form of a tax credit. This tax credit will be available to individuals at the rate of 15 percent of specified surface, grassroots mineral exploration expenses incurred in Canada pursuant to a flow-through share agreement.
Number 10, there are changes, Mr. Speaker, to the education tax credit. The economic statement proposes to help students cope with the rising costs of education by doubling the amount on which the education credit is based to $400 a month from $200 a month for full-time students; and to $120 a month from $60 a month for part-time students.
Here's an overview of the tax relief measures proposed by the federal government. The combined effect of these measures will be to reduce taxes on Canadians by the following amounts: for the fiscal year 2000-01, there will be a $2.8-billion savings; 2001-02, that amount rises to $6.7 billion; in the 2002-03 fiscal year, $8,740,000,000; 2003-04, 9,445,000,000; and in the last year of the tax reductions, 2004-05, $6,670,000,000.
Now, what does this mean for Yukoners? The basic federal tax payable by Yukoners will decrease by an estimated $27 million over the next five years. That's roughly equivalent to $180 per capita per year during each of the next five years. The announced income tax reductions by the Yukon government will decrease the amount of tax payable by $12 million over the next five years. Translated into per capita, that will be equivalent to $80 per annum.
The statement by the federal minister, coupled with the tax cuts that we have announced - right now I would like to speak more specifically about the tax cuts announced by the Yukon government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Kent: The Member for Watson Lake thanks me.
In our June supplementary budget, we cut the Yukon personal income tax rate by two percent, from 50 to 49 percent of the basic federal tax for the 2000 tax year.
And, in our recent An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, we will drop the rate a further six percent, to 46 percent of the federal tax, effective January 1, 2001. Well, we aren't stopping there, Mr. Speaker. By January 2002, we are pledging to further drop Yukoners' personal income tax rate to 44 percent of the federal tax. That would put our personal income tax rate lower than both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. So, since we took office just over eight months ago, we have taken the action to put more money in Yukoners' pockets with this 12-percent reduction in their personal income tax rate.
The territorial tax cuts add even more to Yukoners' pockets. For a family of four, with an annual income of $60,000, these cuts will translate into savings of $235 in 2001, and approximately $1,000 in Yukon tax savings alone, during this government's mandate. This can also be added to the $463 for the same family of four on the federal tax cut saving. That's $1,000 more in these households' pockets; $1,000 more to put away for their children's education; $1,000 more to put away for their retirements; $1,000 more to put away for a rainy day. The total Yukon tax cut savings, over our mandate, will be $11.9 million.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, tax cuts also stimulate the economy, another area we're working hard to fix, following three and a half years of NDP mismanagement. Tax cuts put more disposable income into pockets.
More disposable income translates into more spending, Mr. Speaker. More spending translates into more business. More business translates into a revitalized economy, and that's where we're headed.
We're confident the lower rates of personal taxation will result in the expansion of existing businesses and the establishment of new ones. New businesses bring about new and renewed confidence, not only in government but most importantly, within the private sector. And confidence is what we're all about, Mr. Speaker. We're working hard to restore confidence in government, but we have a deep hole to climb out of - a hole dug by the previous NDP government.
Cutting taxes is a start. This is evidenced in a quote by Royal Bank chief economist, John McCallum, "My own view is that achieving a competitive tax regime, including income tax reductions, should be seen as a high priority," and it is a high priority for our government, Mr. Speaker, as evidenced by the tax cuts we've introduced.
We said we'd look at tax cuts, and we've delivered only eight months into our mandate. The NDP talked about it for three and a half years and accomplished nothing in the area. The Yukon Party, during their 1992-1996 mandate, certainly did something about taxes, but they went in the wrong direction, and that's a mistake they're obviously paying for.
We hear mixed messages all the time from across the floor, Mr. Speaker. "All you're doing is reviewing. Why aren't you reviewing this? Why aren't you reviewing that?" They can't make up their minds, Mr. Speaker, on what they want us to do, so we'll do it for them. And we have, and we will.
Mr. Speaker, we act when it's necessary, as we have done with reducing personal income taxes; and we review and consult when it's necessary, as we are doing with such worthwhile subjects as the Liquor Act and the Education Act.
We are listening to those who empowered us with this healthy majority and we are acting on their wishes and in their best interests. We are cutting taxes at the beginning of our mandate, not to buy votes as has been unsuccessfully attempted in the past, but to help restore confidence in government and begin the slow but steady task of revitalizing the economy, which was left in limbo by the previous government. In short, we are doing what we said we would do, and Yukoners know it and Yukoners appreciate it.
All constituents of Riverside appreciate the tax cuts that we have introduced, and all Yukoners appreciate the tax cuts that we introduced, Mr. Speaker. And with that, I will turn it over to one of the members opposite for their speech.
Mr. Fentie: I'm astonished. The Member for Riverside used to be a pretty level-headed MLA. Obviously the spin doctors have got to him. Unfortunately, he chose to read what they have written for him and none of it is credible.
First off, let's look at the motion. The motion itself states something that this Liberal government had already passed when they passed the NDP budget. What they're saying here is something that's already in progress, because of the former government's budget. Let's look at the facts. The budget included low income family tax credit. It included Yukon child benefit tax credit. It included mineral exploration tax credit. In included small business incentive program tax credit. It included the very same thing that this motion states - that by 2002 we will be 12-percent less in personal income tax. This is what we passed already in July.
Unfortunately, with all the issues and the crisis we're in in this territory, the Liberals have chosen to bring forward a motion such as this, and they have done it in a very misguided attempt to lay claim to these tax cut measures. Well, Mr. Speaker, that is a sad, sad statement.
The realities are, Mr. Speaker, that back in October of 1998, the former NDP government put together what was called the tax roundtable. All the initiatives that the Member for Riverside has just spoken about, when it comes to Yukon measures for tax cuts and tax relief for Yukoners, were developed by hard-working, dedicated Yukoners, not this Liberal government. This Liberal government did no such thing. These recommendations came forward from Yukoners, and I find it very, very distasteful that the members opposite would try to lay claim to the hard work that those dedicated Yukoners put forward in bringing these tax measures to reality.
It is the former government that introduced tax cuts for Yukoners for the first time ever in this territory, not these Liberals. These Liberals, in the six months since taking office, have been stumbling, fumbling and bumbling around and are now in a tailspin into political oblivion.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Riverside - and shockingly the Member for Riverside - stood on his feet in this House and recited all the federal Liberal tax measures and then summed it up by saying, "We do these in the beginning of our mandate, not like the former government to buy votes." Well, I want to point out to the Member for Riverside that the federal government refused to address any tax measures or tax reduction until the mini-budget came forward from Paul Martin and they dropped the writ for a federal election.
Who is zooming whom here, Mr. Speaker?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point or order, Mr. Speaker, this is government motion day and it appears that we do not have a quorum in this House.
Speaker: Order. According to Standing Order 3(2), "If at any time during the sitting of the Assembly, the Speaker's attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker will cause the bells to ring and then do a count."
Quorum count has been called.
Speaker: Order please. I have shut off the bells, and I will do a count. There are 14 members present; a quorum is present. We will now continue.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the government benches don't even put enough merit in this motion to keep a quorum in the House. That's a sad statement. This is your motion. I can't believe that these Liberal across the way have -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, it is inappropriate for members opposite to be commenting on absences in the House - if members of the government side are or aren't here, or if members of the opposition are or aren't here.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I didn't hear any reference such as the government House leader claims. I think this is just another needless interruption. Let's get on with the motion debate. Our side is speaking, and it's good to see enough numbers of the government here to at least have a quorum now. Let's let the discussion continue. There is no point of order.
Speaker: Order please. Member for Whitehorse Centre, on the point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane has just again made reference to absences of members on this side. We'd ask you to please stop this, as it is against the Standing Orders.
Speaker: I find that there was a reference to members of the House being absent, and I therefore, find that there is a point of order. With that, I think the appropriate thing for us to do would be to have the Member for Watson Lake continue.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, let me put it this way, the government members are all dutifully sitting in their seats; however, when it comes to governing this territory, they are absent - completely absent.
Mr. Speaker, this motion is a very disgraceful attempt by the Liberal government to lay claim to another government's initiatives and to the hard work of Yukoners who brought forward the recommendations from the tax round table that resulted in the tax cuts that are in the 2000-01 budget, which this government brought forward and passed. I would point out that, in their zeal to lay claim to the very good tax measures developed by the former NDP government in concert with those dedicated, hard working Yukoners who sat on the tax round table, they left the names of the ministers who brought forward these tax cuts - for instance Finance minister Piers McDonald - are on the budget. There can be no doubt who brought forward the tax measures. It wasn't this Liberal government; it was the former government.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Riverside goes on to say that because they have done this wonderful thing, which is nothing more than try to lay claim to other people's hard work, that is why a majority of Yukoners voted for the Liberals. I would like to point out that, when it comes to the majority of Yukoners, the majority of Yukoners did not vote for the Liberals. To be specific, Mr. Speaker, 57 percent of Yukoners did not vote for the Liberals. So, I would caution the members opposite to get focused on the job of governing this territory instead of still patting themselves on the back for falling into government. They didn't take government; they fell into it.
Unfortunately they landed on their heads. We see no reason to be debating such a motion in this House, given all the major issues that we should be dealing with - for example, this government's refusal to act now and deal with the crisis that this territory is in when it comes to jobs and the economy. They refuse to do so. Instead we debate frivolous motions like SCREP; we have the government House leader constantly whining in the press about how bad we treat the Liberal government at House leaders' meetings. Mr. Speaker, the list goes on and on and on. It's so bad now that the member opposite, the Member for Mount Lorne, brings a tape recorder to House leaders' meetings. What's next? Bugging the opposition offices? Detectives following the MLAs from the opposition benches around the City of Whitehorse? Oh, my, Mr. Speaker, how this government has disintegrated. And this is the same group of people who promised Yukoners that they would restore confidence in government. My, my, what a joke.
Mr. Speaker, we agree with tax cuts; we agree with helping out Yukoners; we agree that one of the measures that will help Yukoners by putting more money into their pockets, therefore, translating into more cashflow in this territory is by the measures that the former NDP government brought forward. And they are now starting to help Yukoners. Thank goodness for the former NDP government because this Liberal government has done nothing. I urge the members opposite to not soil and diminish what those hard-working Yukoners did at the tax round table by trying to lay claim to this. Let's get serious here. Let's give credit where credit is due. Let's move on and debate the supplementary budget so that we can try - try on this side of the House - to help the government across the way address those very important issues to Yukoners.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I propose an amendment that would right the wrong here that the Liberal government has tried to lay upon the Yukon public. This amendment would put this motion back in the context where it should be and give credit where credit is due.
Mr. Fentie: Therefore, Mr. Speaker, my amendment is as follows.
THAT Motion No. 43 be amended by:
(a) replacing the existing clause (1) with the following:
"(1) the Liberal Government has followed through on the commitment made by the previous NDP Government, following widespread consultation with Yukon people, to reduce Yukoners' personal income tax by pledging to reduce the tax rate by January 1, 2002, to 44 percent of the basic federal income tax"; and
(b) removing the existing clause (3).
Mr. Speaker, I move this amendment in the context of expediting the business of this House. With this amended motion, we on this side will support the Member for Riverside's motion.
Speaker:It has been moved by the Member for Watson Lake
THAT Motion No. 43 be amended by:
(a) replacing the existing clause (1) with the following:
"(1) the Liberal Government has followed through on the commitment made by the previous NDP Government, following widespread consultation with Yukon people, to reduce Yukoners' personal income tax by pledging to reduce the tax rate by January 1, 2002, to 44 percent of the basic federal income tax"; and
(b) removing the existing clause (3).
May I remind the hon. Member for Watson Lake that, on the amendment, he is now timed at 20 minutes, as opposed to unlimited time.
Mr. Fentie: We, on this side, and I, as speaker for the official opposition - although I'm sure that I don't speak for the third party - are more than willing to share in these tax measures with the government that is now in place.
All we are saying by this amendment is, let's put all the facts on the table; let's give credit where credit is due; let's amend the motion and pass it so that we can move on and deal with the business that Yukoners want us to deal with.
The tax measures are already well in place. Some of them are over a year old. So let's put aside some of our political wrangling and difference here, and start thinking about Yukoners when it comes to this motion. All I'm saying to the members opposite again - and I emphasize - is that we on this side of the House have no problem with the Liberal government sharing in these tax measures and their implementation.
Well, let's do it in the proper manner. Let's not forget that, at the tax round table, there were a number of dedicated Yukoners who met faithfully on a regular basis to work through the issues and to bring forward the recommendation on tax cuts to the former Minister of Finance.
I urge the members opposite to follow this course. Let's approve the amendment; let's vote on and pass, unanimously, this motion for tax cuts in this territory. Then let's get into dealing with the Yukon people's issues on the floor of this House and see if we can't collectively address some of the major, major problems that we all face. We all have a duty to try and come up with a solution and a resolution.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what we have before us is an amendment that, in my opinion, makes the main motion acceptable. What we don't want to do is extend credit where credit is not due. We want to provide credit where credit is due. And credit is due to a great number of Yukoners who sat in on the round table looking at the tax structure here in the Yukon. The totality of this tax reduction didn't stem directly from the NDP, nor from the Liberal party, who is taking credit for everything now. It came from Yukoners. It came from Yukoners, and it came from the economic situation that has been improving in the rest of Canada.
This type of initiative would never have been undertaken in Yukon, had the economy remained where it was quite a number of years ago - five, six, seven, or go back eight years.
The Member for Riverside chastised the previous Yukon Party and chastised the previous NDP for the way their governments handled the economic situation of the day. The truth is that when the Yukon Party came to power, the Yukon government was in a $60-odd million deficit position. All one has to do is contrast that to when the Liberal Party came to power - a $64-million surplus. Now when you add it together, that's a gap on some $125 million. That's over 25 percent of the total O&M budget of the Yukon Territory today, and it's a significant amount of money.
When situations are desperate, measures need to be taken to address those situations. And while it wasn't palatable to all - the steps that were taken under the previous Yukon Party government at the time - they helped turn the economy around and they assisted in that turnaround.
And the Yukon Party went further. It convened a private/public partnership to address the best ways to spend government funding, the best ways to spend government funding to enhance the economy and provide work. That has not happened under this Liberal regime, in spite of them coming to power with a surplus of approximately $64 million.
We only have to go back into Hansard and look at our now Premier of the Yukon and her response to the NDP government and their tax cut initiative. And I quote, Mr. Speaker, Premier Duncan speaking, back on February 22, 2000: "The much-discussed tax cut is one basis point this year, about two percent. The reduction in revenue is $750,000. What does it mean to the average Yukoner earning about $45,000? A tank of gas. To a single mom or dad, depending on where you shop, which Yukon community you live in, it is one or two packages of disposable diapers. For a Yukon Quest musher lucky enough to earn $45,000 in the non-mushing season, it would buy a little dog food. Not much, Mr. Speaker, but it's a start."
It was a start, Mr. Speaker, but it was a good start, and the Liberals campaigned on adopting the NDP budget and the NDP position. But what do we see? We see that they haven't grasped the fundamentals of government. The fundamentals of government are to provide for the basic infrastructure, ensure it's maintained, and take steps to improve the economy.
The motion we should be debating here today is not one of patting the Liberals on the back for their initiatives in partly carrying through on an NDP platform - a platform they subscribed to, but not entirely - but one to fix the economy, righting the wrongs.
We look at the Speech from the Throne from this government on June 5. Furthermore, members will also be asked to approve a separate piece of legislation that amends the Income Tax Act. The result will be a two-percent reduction in territorial income tax for the 2000 taxation year. That was on June 5.
If we go back to when the NDP budget was presented, within the 2000-01 fiscal year the territorial personal income tax rate will go down from 50 to 46 percent of the basic federal income tax payable. On January 1, 2002, this rate will drop to 44 percent. This means that all Yukon taxpayers will be paying 12-percent less territorial income tax by 2002.
It's amazing the contrast that we have - the then and now. In opposition, there is one position. When a party is looking to be elected, it's another position. When they gain the confidence of, not the majority of the people - but when they gain the confidence of 42.9 percent of the popular vote in the Yukon, we're offered something else. I know that, during the election, our party was of the opinion that a 10-percent tax cut could be effective immediately and could have given tremendous benefits to stimulate the economy, especially coupled with all the other initiatives we had underway, Mr. Speaker.
But why, at this juncture this government chooses to not address the economic situation here in the Yukon, but to address the trivia and the window dressing surrounding a number of acts, a number of housekeeping issues and a number of motions about the decorum in this House - they're not going to create jobs for Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, other than the Hansard office.
Mr. Speaker, what we need is a government that is focused on short-term and long-term economic gains. The only one we're seeing is a pipeline - the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. We know for a fact that on either side of our borders, to the west and to the east, oil and gas exploration activities and production are at an all-time high - an all-time high. In the same period of time that the Yukon may enjoy $20-million worth of oil and gas exploration, the Northwest Territories will be enjoying almost a billion dollars worth of oil and gas activity. That bodes well for the Northwest Territories, in that the First Nations and the Government of the Northwest Territories are not only singing from the same songbook, but they are singing from the same page, and the same chorus and verse of the same songbook. They have their act together.
Here in the Yukon, nothing could be further from the truth. We have a novice Liberal government, running around and patting itself on the back. We have our language cops in the official Liberal government, who focus in on every sentence and every word that is provided in this House. It's going to do nothing to turn this Yukon economy around.
This amendment to this motion, in my opinion, sets the record straight. It focuses where it should focus, where government should be going. It takes a motion that is meaningless, and, rather than taking the opportunity to pat oneself on the back, to actually do something. It's something constructive.
We've yet to see very much that is constructive initiate from of this Liberal government, Mr. Speaker, and I don't believe there's the ability present in this government to do anything in that regard. We have a lot of hype surrounding the pipeline and a little bit of hype surrounding the mining exploration. That's about the extent of it.
The biggest and most profitable area of our economy today is renting U-Haul trailers or moving people south, moving Yukoners to where they can find employment in Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and other jurisdictions in Canada. Yukon's population is down by approximately 4,000 people, Mr. Speaker. The last employment statistics show that the workforce dropped from last year to this year considerably, by some 600, and if you just multiply one worker by the normal three, that's about 1,800 fewer people in one year here in the Yukon.
It's a sad day for Yukon that all this Liberal government can do is bring forward a motion patting themselves on the back, praising the wonderful work that they've done in addressing the issue of income tax.
They haven't even honoured the basic commitment that they set out in the election platform that they provided during the last campaign. And why not? Probably because they don't know how. They need more advice from somewhere. This Liberal government hasn't been weaned from the mother Liberal government in Ottawa. In fact, the umbilical cord is firmly reattached. That's how the substance is flowing to this infant Liberal government here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
And it's a sad day for Yukon when all we can see is a motion before us today that praises the Liberals, pats them on the back. It's a sad, sad day.
I'll be supporting this amendment to this motion, Mr. Speaker, which clarifies the motion and gives substance to it and recognizes Yukoners for their valuable contribution to not only this Liberal government but to the previous NDP government.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Disagree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Disagree.
Ms. Tucker: Disagree.
Mr. McLarnon: Disagree.
Mr. Kent: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Ms. Netro: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 6 yea, 8 nay.
Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the amendment defeated.
Amendment to Motion No. 43 negatived
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion?
Ms. Tucker: It gives me great pleasure to speak to this motion.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Ms. Tucker: Now that the members opposite have had the courtesy to allow me to speak, I'll continue.
I'd like to take the opportunity to speak to this motion on tax cuts. Tax cuts are of immediate benefit to Yukoners. It is real money. It is money in their pockets. The passage of a bill cutting income tax puts money directly into the hands of Yukoners - money that will circulate and stimulate our businesses. Other governments have failed to provide these tax cuts. The Yukon Liberal government has.
We also have a series of initiatives to improve the long-term quality of life of Yukon's people. And by "long term" we mean healthy communities and ongoing jobs and employment opportunities through increased business, activity and opportunity. We wish to create a can-do attitude where people develop opportunities to help themselves and break the cycle of dependence on government.
The NDP considered "government by grant" a wonderful concept. Unfortunately, government by grant creates an unhealthy cycle of codependence and low self-esteem. What the Yukon Liberals wish to see is a thriving economy where people have exciting opportunities.
We are making the hard decisions. We are proactive in dealing with alcohol and drug issues, by the funding of a secretariat for alcohol and drugs. We are developing an attractive business environment. We are making the hard choices and pausing to ask what is working in our economy. What funding mechanisms produce results?
We're working to help create a thriving economy, and we know what does create a thriving economy. We know several things do. We know that tax cuts support thriving economies. We know that the introduction of a trustee act promotes business in the Yukon. We know that a territory that supports business provides a thriving economy. A level playing field supports a thriving economy. Consistent, sensible and easily understandable and applicable regulations support a thriving economy. The provision of new infrastructure supports a thriving economy and promotes prosperity. We are doing all of these.
The Yukon Liberals have started and we are going to continue doing the things that we said that we would do. We're supporting the pipeline initiatives. Not only is that a staggering estimate of 50,000 potential work years along the project's length, but the supply and services industries that are spinoffs of this have tremendous implications for job opportunities for Yukon in the future.
We have exploration, promotion of tourism, student financial assistance, which will help increase people's opportunities for an education; we're putting funding into infrastructure so that we are able to handle increased business; we're putting money into information technology to expedite business that comes to the Yukon.
Every one of these things helps to create opportunity for the Yukon. The people of this territory are working toward financial independence. The NDP had a total of eight years to make some of these initiatives, and they did little to nourish them, and they did little to nourish this economy. The NDP spent; the Yukon Party saved. The NDP spent; the Yukon Party saved. We never got anywhere.
What we are doing is trying to and bring health to the communities and to have a prosperous Yukon. Tax cuts have a great deal to do with that. The health of our communities has a great deal to do with self-image. People of the Yukon are working toward health. People want real jobs, not the make-work fantasies of previous governments. They want a sense of pride in productive labour. Money needs to be spent that will bring a tangible return to us in the Yukon, and this means putting money into the economy that has a growth potential. Our plan is to implement a long-term strategy that incorporates initiatives today for long-term economic benefit and future job opportunities.
The Yukon needs to work together with all members of our society for happy and healthy communities. I was fortunate to hear Mr. Ovide Mercredi speak when he was in Whitehorse. He spoke of traditional values, where every member of the community had a valued role, a job to do, that supported people with a sense of importance and a contribution to the community. We need an economy, we need jobs, we need healthy communities, and we need to work together. And the Yukon Liberals are making it happen; we are doing it.
Mr. McLarnon: I rise in support of this motion. The reason why this motion is giving the credit to the Yukon Liberal Party is for the simple fact that we are the only ones who really can take credit. The reason why we say that: just take a quick glance at what the NDP really thinks about tax cuts. Look at the Web site of the national NDP. On the Web site of the national NDP, it complains about the federal Liberals "squandering" $100 million in tax cuts. We couldn't believe this - putting money back into people's pockets is considered squandering by the other side. So, that's one of the things we look at and say, "Well, we know it was in their budget; would they have done it?"
We, on this side, surmise that no, it was a political stance and it would have been pulled off the table, because tax cuts clearly do not fit into the NDP picture. One of the reasons why I say that as well is that after the mini-budget, the representative - the MP for the Yukon - said the money put into tax cuts would have been better spent on free tuition for all Canadian students. I look at that and say no, it's our choice. This is what we want to do with the money and our personal individual choices will take precedence.
Why do I also stand in support of this measure? Because of the extra tax cuts that will be taking effect as of January 1. Those tax cuts, combined with the federal Liberal tax cuts, will make a clear difference in the amount of money we take home, the amount of money that we can spend and the amount of money that small businesses will be able to continue to put back into the economy.
And this is where I'd like to go on a tangent and talk about small businesses and the efforts they put in, and the efforts they put into our Canadian tax bill. These will help small business. Small businesses are generally sole proprietorships. In addition to the taxes they pay personally, they help to pay the employees' taxes and the credits that go toward that. These will help the economy in two ways. Not only will it give the small business owner more money to invest in his business, but at the same time, it will also allow employees to spend more money in those businesses.
I want to be very brief. I think this motion requires very little explanation. I know that I'm going to get the support of this House, and the motion will. When it gets the support of this House, Yukoners will agree that the Liberals are about cutting taxes and putting more money and choices into Yukoners' hands. So, this is how we stand.
I look forward to the day when taxes are reduced. I look forward to the day when I get a handshake from a constituent - and it has already happened - thanking me and our government for reducing taxes, and thanking us for sticking to our word.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Jenkins: I wish to respond to the main motion that we have before us this afternoon.
The Member for Riverside's motion is nothing more than a pat on the back for the current Liberal government - nothing more, Mr. Speaker.
The issue before us that this Legislature should be dealing with and should be addressing is the state of the economy.
Now, the Member for Mount Lorne said that these tax cuts will have an immediate impact on Yukoners. Nothing could be further from the truth. They will only have an impact if you have a job here in the Yukon. If you have a job and you're paying income tax, your payroll deductions will be somewhat reduced when the new deduction tables hit the employers, not before, Mr. Speaker.
So the immediate impact is not there. An immediate impact would be an initiative by this government to remove the Yukon territorial tax on gasoline and to remove the territorial tax on diesel fuel used for highways. That would have an immediate impact and an immediate benefit for Yukoners. But it's not an area that this government is considering exploring or doing anything with. Shame on them.
One of the other areas that this government could have an immediate impact on the lives of Yukoners is if they used this wonderful relationship that many, many in the Yukon basically bought into between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals. If the Yukon Liberals used this wonderful relationship to remove the GST - the dreaded GST that the current Prime Minister of Canada campaigned on at one time to scrap. Well, we know what happened to that campaign promise.
But if this government were to lobby the federal government to remove the GST on things like electricity or heating fuels here in the Yukon, those kinds of initiatives would be positive. They would have an immediate impact on our lives and the way Yukoners' cost of living is going today. But, no, we don't see anything of the sort.
We see the Member for Riverside patting himself on the back that this Liberal government has followed through on its commitment to reduce Yukoners' personal income tax. Well, at the end of the day, after this debate is concluded, you ask and wait and see in the news media as to how many individuals pick up on this wonderful Liberal motion. Had it been a motion requesting the federal Liberals to remove the GST on electricity and heating fuels north of 60, that would have gleaned the front pages. The only section of the paper the Premier is managing to attract attention to herself with is the cartoon section or the editorial section, and it's not very positive. It's not a very positive light that is being shed on this Premier and this new Liberal novice government.
I would urge the members opposite when they bring forward a motion in this House to focus on the issues that are going to enhance the lives of Yukoners and not be just self-serving, like we're seeing in the whole series of motions coming forward. It's not going to provide any additional benefit to anyone here in the Yukon, other than those wonderful Hansard people who are recording this.
Mr. Speaker, I wonder how many trees we've killed today printing out the results of this debate? It's going to be amazing.
If we look at what some of the Liberal members have said in speaking to this motion, it sounded great. They wanted to create an exciting economy with opportunities, a sound business environment. Those are great catch words, Mr. Speaker, but let's look at the reality of the day as to what this Liberal government has done to enhance anyone of those areas. I can't think of any. I don't believe any of us here in the House can point to any. That's because, Mr. Speaker, there aren't any.
All we have is a lot of pipeline hype - a lot of Liberal gas flowing through this pipeline here in the Yukon, but we don't really have any sound initiatives coming out of this government to provide job opportunities for Yukoners, to provide an incentive for Yukoners or to provide opportunity for Yukoners. All of those exist elsewhere. We have a very highly skilled workforce. There are still some in the Yukon; many of them have left, Mr. Speaker. Many of them left to other jurisdictions - Alberta, Northwest Territories or parts of Canada.
So, if nothing else, we have been a good training ground for a very capable workforce, but because of a lack of initiatives by this Liberal government, many Yukoners have had to move elsewhere to find employment. So, I'd like to thank the Premier and her colleagues for creating employment opportunities in Alberta and Northwest Territories, especially in the oil and gas fields in the Northwest Territories. We could be in the same position. The Yukon could actually be a net exporter of energy. Instead, we import most of our energy, Mr. Speaker.
It's interesting to note the position that the State of Alaska is in and that the Province of Alberta will soon be in with respect to taxation. There's a potential move, Mr. Speaker, in Alberta to virtually eliminate provincial income tax - eliminate it completely. In fact, they're only a few years away from eliminating their total debt load in that province, and they're going to be looking at reducing their provincial income tax levels even further. Hopefully, they'll get into the same position as Alaska, where they'll have a permanent fund, they'll invest it and, instead of paying state tax in Alaska, you get a dividend cheque at the end of the year. Alberta is probably the only jurisdiction in Canada that can see that hope and that opportunity. The Northwest Territories has the potential to come to that point.
Oil deposits and gas deposits don't stop at the N.W.T./Yukon border, Mr. Speaker. They exist here in the Yukon - the same as mineral deposits.
According to the Premier, the Pogo deposit in Alaska stops right at the border.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Hon. Premier, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: On a point of order, we are discussing a motion dealing with income tax cuts and I would suggest that perhaps the member would like to return to the subject at hand.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, all of the areas I am exploring deal directly with the motion we have before us. There is no point of order.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: It is the Liberal government opposite, in debating their own motion, who has alluded to the fact that these tax cuts are directly contributing to their work in terms of improving the Yukon economy. The Member for Klondike, in that context, is pointing out that the tax cuts may not be doing so and has to be able to state his case by using the examples of where our economy is at. So there is no point of order.
Speaker: It is difficult for me to rule whether there is or isn't a point of order before the member has completed. I am sure the member will be showing the relevance of his remarks to the topic. I ask the member to proceed.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Now, before I was so rudely interrupted by the Premier, I was dealing with the motion we have before us, where this Liberal government is patting itself on the back for its commitment to reduce Yukoners' personal income tax. Well, income tax is paid by individuals who are employed. It is usually deducted at source, unless you are self-employed. And employment is directly related to the state of the economy. The employment statistics in the workforce here in the Yukon have all spiralled. Unemployment has spiralled up and down. We've been on a teeter-totter ride. But what is more important are the numbers in the workforce that have left the Yukon. They're not paying any income tax.
When we look at the unemployment rate, we have to take into consideration the size of the workforce and the total size of the Yukon population to get a clear indication of where we're actually at. Because, at the end of the day, a one-percent drop in the territorial government's income tax rate used to translate to $750,000 - three-quarters of a million dollars. It no longer does. It is considerably less than that sum.
So we're teetering on the edge of being totally dependent on transfers from Ottawa. And yes, we have "failsafe" in our formula financing with Ottawa, and we have the wonderful perversity factor. Currently, the perversity factor is very, very fair and reasonable, and it's not because of anything we have done here in the Yukon. It's because of what has happened in the rest of Canada.
The economies in most other jurisdictions in Canada have improved. Their tax rates have dropped. So, Yukon's position on the national average has actually increased insofar as the total amount of taxes that we pay. It has increased alarmingly, Mr. Speaker, and there is room for considerably more tax concessions than what is being granted for the few Yukoners who remain here in the Yukon and who are employed and work here in the Yukon. If we were to keep the perversity factor the same as it was just a few years ago, what would be fairer for Yukoners is if we were treated equally as well as the rest of Canadians insofar as the level of tax burden we carry. And that can only be accomplished by further lowering the territorial tax from what it is here.
Mr. Speaker, it's very, very interesting to go back in Hansard and see what the Liberals in opposition said to this initiative when it was first brought forward by the NDP. What the now-Premier herself said - all we could really buy with the savings was a tank of gas or a couple of packages of disposable diapers or a little bit of dog food. That was then; this is now.
There's a $64-million surplus that this Liberal government inherited when they came to power. They have the financial resources to do more than what they're currently doing. They need a plan; they need some foresight into taking the economy of the Yukon and turning it around. I would urge them to consider a much more valuable motion, a motion to the effect of what we can do to address the economic woes here in the Yukon, rather than this kind of a motion that basically does nothing for Yukoners. All it does is pat the Liberal government on the back for carrying through with something they promised they were going to do. Why couldn't they do something more, something beneficial, given the downturn in the economy currently? No. No. It would appear that somebody is up in the Executive Council Office of this Liberal government, and they have a blackboard with a list of all of the campaign pledges and promises, and it doesn't matter how they accomplish them or what they do, they kind of tick them off, one by one. It looks like kind of an academic approach to the politics of Yukon. But it doesn't really do anything to put Yukoners back to work.
I'm sure that the focus is so that in a few years' time this Liberal government can stand up and say, "This is what we promised, as little as it was, or as poorly focused as it was, and we have honoured all our campaign promises." Mind you, they'll be saying it to fewer and fewer Yukoners, fewer and fewer in the mining community, probably very few, if any, in the oil and gas industry, and probably a few more employees in the government circle. That's about the only area where there has been a concentration of effort and money. The supplementary budget shows six and a half percent in O&M funding for government. No winter works projects. No initiatives. Yet we're told, don't worry, be happy, this reduction in income tax will have an immediate benefit for Yukoners.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's give credit where credit is due - recognize that Yukoners are not as naive as we are being led to believe, for them to swallow this motion hook, line and sinker.
Let's see some initiative from this government, Mr. Speaker. Let's see them address the issues that are going to turn this economy around, and let's put forward motions that are going to have a positive effect on the Yukon, and not just present an opportunity to pat themselves on the back.
I'm sure the Liberals, at the end of the day, are going to have very, very sore shoulders reaching around, constantly patting themselves on the back, because that's about all - or the total amount - who will be patting themselves on the back, Mr. Speaker.
We need work, we need employment and we need the economy turned around. That should be the focus. That should be the initiative of this government, not a motion that just pats them on the back.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise today to speak to this motion.
It's interesting to note the ability of the members opposite to chastise the government. They have a unique ability to get their facts wrong on pipeline and energy debates and their financial facts wrong. When all else fails, Mr. Speaker, they have their own unique ability to engage in personal attacks.
I'd like to speak to the motion today. The motion talks about and commends the government for following through on a commitment to reduce Yukoners' personal income tax. The fundamental, important point to all Canadians - Yukoners in particular - is that when we sit down and fill out our tax form, sometime between now and April 30 of next year, there will be a reduction in the taxes we pay. That is the benefit. We will notice it a great deal at that point. Mr. Speaker, we've been noticing it and we will be noticing it on the paycheques that Yukoners receive.
My colleagues have spoken very eloquently about the ability of tax cuts to be an economic stimulus and about our commitment to restoring the Yukon economy. I'm not going to dwell on those comments, as my colleagues on this side of the House have spoken eloquently on it. The tax cuts were suggested by the previous government. They were suggested in a vain attempt to convince the electorate that, oh, we'll put them in place if you just re-elect us.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite from Ross River-Southern Lakes is suggesting that I am not stating the facts when, in fact, I am. The fact is that the tax cuts were proposed. They were never actually implemented.
And I committed to the electorate of the Yukon that we would look at the books and we would put a tax cut in place if we could afford it.
Mr. Speaker, what I didn't commit to Yukoners, but what we as a government have done, is not only have we done this and acted upon it, but we have delivered in such a timely way that the legislation is before the House now - not next spring so that the tax tables can be reprinted, but in time so that Yukoners will start feeling this and seeing this in January. Yukoners appreciate the efforts of this government in terms of financial management.
I must just, to ensure that Hansard is correct, advise the Member for Klondike that, when he speaks of the situation in 1992-93, while it was a difficult situation, it was not quite as difficult as the member suggests. He is suggesting that the Yukon Party government was facing a $64-million accumulated deficit. Actually that was an annual deficit, which drew the accumulated surplus down to an accumulated deficit of $13 million. So once again, the Member for Klondike is encouraged to review the actual record.
The other point I would just like to note with respect to the tax relief measures by the federal government, which has also delivered on commitments to Canadians, is that the personal income tax rates have been reduced effective January 2001, whereby the 17-percent rate is reduced to 16 percent, the 24- percent middle tax rate is reduced to 22 percent, and the 29- percent top tax rate is reduced to 26 percent on incomes between $60,000 and $100,000. And the top tax rate of 29 percent applies to incomes in excess of $100,000 - not applicable to anyone in this House, Mr. Speaker.
The deficit-reduction surtax is also eliminated. Those are on top of such enhancements as the Canada child tax credit, increasing tax assistance for people with disabilities, increasing tax assistance to caregivers, providing relief for heating expenses, changes to the capital gains, accelerating contributions to CPP, and so on. Mr. Speaker, these measures by the federal government, combined with measures acted upon by this government, deliver to Yukoners real benefit, and I am very proud of our government for having acted and done this.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Kent: Before I close debate, I'd just like to clarify something from my earlier speech for the Member for Watson Lake.
When I said that 67.2 percent of Yukoners spoke volumes on April 17, that represents the number of Yukoners that did not mark an X by an NDP candidate's name.
This motion for me is very important because the tax cuts will be very welcome by all the constituents in Riverside and all Yukoners, and it was my pleasure to speak about them today and how they will stimulate the economy in the Yukon Territory, and I thank members in the House for their support for my motion.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Keenan: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Ms. Netro: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, six nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 43 agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, 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: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are commencing consideration of Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, thank you. This supplementary serves several purposes. In the first instance, it allocates money formerly held as a contingency to departments to accommodate the wage settlement reached with the public service union. Members will know that the main estimates did not include these sums in the departmental votes. This reallocation amounts to about $4.5 million.
The supplementary also contains over $9 million in additional superannuation costs that result from changes implemented by the federal government to the pension plan, of which we are a part. This cost is accompanied by a similar increase in our formula financing transfer and hence has no impact on our accumulated surplus.
As is customary with the fall supplementary, these estimates also provide revote authority for project monies that were not spent in the 1999-2000 fiscal year but which are required now to bring those projects to completion.
Approximately $11.6 million of the sum requested in the bill is for this purpose.
As I mentioned in my second reading comments - and I would remind members - the remainder of the supplementary does two things. Firstly, it corrects some serious underbudgeting, which was incorporated in the main estimates. We have seen how the Department of Health and Social Services was overspent last year, and there is now a final supplementary that has gone through this committee to regularize those overexpenditures. This trend has, of course, continued in the current year, and a considerable sum of money has had to be provided to this department and many others to cover price and volume increases in the services that they deliver to Yukoners.
The supplementary contains funds for numerous new or enhanced initiatives that we are undertaking and beginning this year. I've previously spoken at some length to many of these, and ministers will be expanding on these as their departments are discussed in Committee.
Given the escalating demand for services that we are experiencing in a number of programs, we are fortunate that the latest data from Statistics Canada and the Conference Board of Canada points to a substantial improvement in the transfer payments due us from Canada under the formula financing arrangements.
Were it not for this increase and increases in the Canada health and social transfer, we would indeed be facing some very tight times in the years to come.
Members will recall that the long-term plan, tabled by the previous government with the main estimates, did not reflect this new data and, as a result, the projected net capital spending in future years was very low by historical standards. It's apparent that a severe hardship would have been imposed on the territory.
Our long-term plan, which incorporates the revised projection, permits a much healthier level of capital outlays in those future years - something I believe all members of this House will be pleased about and could support.
We must be mindful of the fact that the demand for virtually every service, provided by the government, continues to rise. At the same time, our resources are finite and we must therefore strive to deliver these services in the most effective manner possible - something we intend to do. I look forward, Mr. Chair, to the support of members in helping us to achieve this goal and in passage of the supplementary estimates. If, prior to getting into the departments, there are any questions of a general nature, I would be pleased to address them
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'd like to respond to this supplementary budget. I believe that the words that have been said on this side of the House about this budget are true. It doesn't seem that the Liberal government is taking any of the comments that have been put forward by this side of the House very seriously.
Mr. Chair, the Liberals made a big promise to Yukoners, and that was to adopt the NDP budget. Being new in government, they did not know, in our opinion, how to put together a budget. This is obviously a budget that was put together by the people of the Yukon, through the many trips made across the Yukon by Piers McDonald and with the advice he was given by people to develop this budget. At that time, Mr. Chair, the budget was voted down by the Liberal government.
They did not like what was in this budget. They didn't like it at the time. Then, come the election, they were going to adopt the NDP budget, do things better - bring certainty to Yukoners, is what they said - bring certainty to Yukoners and make sure that projects that are identified in this budget that are underway would get completed. And ever since the Liberal government has been in power now, we've seen many projects that are being scrapped, are under review, delayed and basically thrown out. And these are projects that could put people to work this winter and projects that would benefit communities.
And also, the Liberal Party and Liberal government cried poverty to Yukoners as soon as they got in, saying there was no money in the surplus, no monies for them to do anything. There's an overrun in the Mayo school. They can't do anything because there is an overrun - basically the contract was higher than expected - and there is no way the Liberal government could find any monies within the surplus that they had.
And we knew differently. We knew that there was going to be a fairly large surplus, and we've been passing that message on to the government over and over again in this House. The Premier herself had said there was going to be $56.2 million - getting advice in this House - and yet she allowed her own backbenchers and ministers to say that there was only $14 million.
It's pretty strange. If they were only talking about $14 million in surplus, why would they have spent six months putting together a supplementary budget that was worth $37 million? That's pretty strange to me, and this is supposed to reflect their priorities and what the Liberal government is going to do this year, which, if it were true and if they really believed that there was $14 million in the surplus, then we would have gone into debt. I know that the Liberal government would not do that because an election would be called right away.
As a matter of fact, as they cry poverty to the general public out there, lo and behold, some actually came forward to help. Nacho Nyak Dun offered some money from their land claims dollars - which they can't touch, but the fact is that they can get it back in the next fiscal year, in a new budget. They were able to convince their members that this was a good thing, it helps out the community, and we can actually loan the Liberal government $500,000 to complete the school.
But they couldn't do that. I don't think there was a lot of thought put into that whole process, and not a lot of attention paid to what was taking place in these contracts and the fallout that there could be for that particular community. Now, what's going to happen with that is that Mayo and the businesses there are going to be faced with a very busy spring and summer with construction of the school, and they're going to have to weigh their options about who they provide service to. Is it the workers or is it going to be the tourists who come to see their community? It's a very few and small number of tourists that do come to the community, so they value that of course. There are a lot of attractions in and around the Mayo and Keno area and that was gone. There was no thought by the Liberal government at all to address that whole situation that was taking place in Mayo.
Not only that, but the community has been working on this for a while and have planned their activities over the next three years in and around the construction of the school.
Now, I did not hear the government make mention of that, even when they were in Mayo, Mr. Chair. What they have done is make some commitments to the community to provide jobs for those who were trained, but that still does not address the workforce in Mayo that could have benefited from this particular project.
Now we're rushing the whole thing, starting in late winter or early spring, and we're bumping up the completion date of this particular project to December possibly - maybe. I mean, that's a commitment of government, but anything can happen between now and then, and it's bringing more and more concern to the people of Mayo.
There was an opportunity for the Liberals to crack that whole thing. I'm sure the Liberal Party knew there were problems with that contract before they brought out this supplementary. They could have reflected in the supplementary budget this $37 million that doesn't reflect work and winter works in the Yukon Territory. What it does do is increase the size of government by 6.4 percent, making government bigger. It's moving in the opposite direction from what they stood for when they were in opposition, when they basically said that O&M was bad and capital was good. Now we see a growth in the size of government.
Then they had another opportunity, when the ministerial statement was read in this House about $500,000 going to IT. Again, those are the priorities. Any projects they feel are right get funded, such as Hamilton Boulevard. But this $500,000 didn't put anybody to work. I would caution government about falling into the hands of the department like that. We spent many years dealing with those small issues. And you watch - all of a sudden, the desks are going to have 21-inch monitors and so on, way above what should be there. And they will do it to you. If they can get it, they will get it. And it's obvious that they're getting it now. It is obviously reflected in this supplementary budget by increases to furniture and equipment. That's a shame because there are monies that a department can move around within its own department to make things happen.
What they would love is to have more money in that discretionary fund to move around. It really tightens up the government's ability to meet the public's agenda.
Mr. Chair, it's a shame that the Liberal government has come forward and cried poverty to Yukoners, saying that there is only $14 million, while being advised that there is $56.2 million. Maybe it was to their surprise, but we have more in surplus than was expected - $63.9 million.
So, we came forward to bring again to the Liberals' attention what could be done to address some situations that we have in the Yukon today - the joblessness that is out there. The economy is what it's all about. We presented to the House today for the Liberals to consider a supplementary budget of our own that was $7.7 million. The reason for that number is the difference between the $56.2 million and the $63.9 million - to spend that down and to have work created in every community in this territory. Every community, and that included the training trust fund, the tourism marketing fund, the community development fund and fire smart.
The government knows there are all kinds of applications within government from the communities that can't go anywhere or have been rejected. But, that's not a priority, because what they would like to do is review. They wanted to review this, Mr. Chair. I don't know where it's gone for a review. Do they have a consultant or a reviewing company in Alberta that's doing the review of these particular programs? Is it internal? How quickly can it get done? Because out in the general public, it's cancelled - these things are cancelled.
It's a shame, Mr. Speaker, because what has become a common move in this House when it comes to a fall sitting is to look at what the Auditor General brings back to this House and see if government has any ability to move forward and try to create some winter works and jobs for Yukoners. That was the practice of the NDP government and that's what we brought forward to try to show some leadership to the Liberals opposite. I hope that they take it, because what has been brought to this House does not address those issues.
The supplementary budget that was brought forward was certainly a budget that Yukoners wanted for winter works. It addressed a lot of different areas. It addressed some safety issues in regard to roadside clearing, which doesn't fall under the normal C&TS programs, where they are restricted as to how tenders could take place. But it is more labour intensive to see clearing take place on the sides of our important highways. And it also addresses some lighting issues in some of the communities, particularly in Dawson.
We think that the $7.7 million we put forward would create hundreds of jobs in every community. Is a $7.7-million budget versus a $37-million budget comparable? They don't compare at all, because the small budget that we brought forward creates work. And that's the bottom line. And it is on top of what I would say is an excellent budget already that was put forward. It still has the ministers' signatures on there.
As a matter of fact, if the government would like to take some time to even read the budget and go through it, they might understand it and really support the issues and items in there that are not supported today - like the CAT scan for example.
I can bet that that's the next motion we debate. I can just go through this list that we have and that was put forward by the NDP, which the Liberal governments are basically following. It says right in there: budget for people. And it was created by the people in the Yukon. It says that, as territorial rates drop from 50 to 44 percent of federal tax payable by 2002, all Yukon taxpayers will pay 12 percent less in territorial income tax. It happens to be the exact same number that the Liberals are talking about today, and it's a shame that it had to even come to that. I mean, just implement the budget.
There are some long-term plans in there. It's a good one. Just say it's a good one and don't waste the time debating this type of motion in this House. Just go and do it. It's all laid out for you. I can bet the next one will be a million-dollar CAT scan unit for the Whitehorse General Hospital. That's laid out next in one of the expenditures.
And I'm sure there's going to be a ministerial statement, Mr. Chair, on increases to social assistance rates. I don't know why the government would wait for seven months into the fiscal year to do a ministerial statement on social assistance rates and announce that there are going to be retroactive payments to those who were on social assistance. Why can't that be done right now, quickly? And what happened to the $70,000 for the social assistance recipients to take part-time training at Yukon College?
Now, Mr. Chair, we can go on and on and on about this whole budget, and I'm sure that ministerial statements are going to come out reflecting the NDP's initiatives again and again and again. And you can bet that it will be reflected in what they do over their mandate that they have been given over the next four years.
And it's a sad thing to know that the Liberal government, in making their promises to Yukoners about certainty in passing this budget, are starting to cut it up and cut some very important areas out of the budget, and are repackaging and bringing it forward as their own initiative, not wanting to look seriously at some of the hard work that was done by the commissions, for example - the mineral strategy that has been put forward, the forest strategy, and so on. That took a lot of time and a lot of energy, and I don't think we need to go back and do more work - you can expand upon it and improve it, but not go back and redo the same work that was done and hire more people for the reviews that have been put forward by this Liberal government.
I think we're fortunate enough to see increases in the federal grant, and it is fortunate for Yukoners. I would like to know - and I will ask this question later if the member doesn't answer - what to expect over the next two to three years of increases or decreases from the federal government.
Now, Mr. Chair, one of the things that I think is of a serious nature that the Liberal government brought forward in their supplementary budget is the O&M increases of approximately 6.4 percent.
I know it's not the position the Liberals took when they were in opposition. They saw growth and were quick to respond and try to beat up government and change their minds about the growth in O&M. Even the spring budgets put forward by the NDP government show an increase in O&M of approximately one to one and a half percent. And a lot of the initiatives and agreements that have been put out there have to be reflected within the department. For example, the collective agreement increases over the next years.
It was said, "Find the money within." I see in this supplementary that additional dollars are put in for public servants. So, right now, the big question is, according to the public servants out there, that this is over and above the agreement. So, the $4 million - are they going to get a 16-percent increase in wages? I would like the Premier to explain that. Is this because there are plans for an increase in teachers' wages and this is to bring them up to equal levels of increase and so on? There are a lot of questions about that, and I hope that the Premier can clear it up.
It's pretty important when direction has been given by the previous government for departments to find those increases within their departments, and they can do that. There is a lot of flexibility there, and they can move things around. All of a sudden, maybe the bureaucrats have a little bit of control here, and it's now reflected here. I see that in every department where there are increases, that in the process of putting this budget together items were taken out - small items, too. There isn't a battle over $100,000. Sometimes, it's over $5,000, and it's put back into the department and called "furniture and equipment".
So, of course the departments will be wanting that. And I think that, in some cases, they are way ahead of government in technology. Computers can't even talk back and forth to offices upstairs because of how far advanced the department is. And if members take the time to go into the different departments - Yukon Housing, Renewable Resources - and look at some of the equipment they have, they would be pretty impressed to see what this government has for equipment, and a lot of people have been, particularly with regard to the GIS and their local networking equipment. And that's always going to be something that they put forward.
It's a tough thing to put together a budget. And the budget that we have put forward as the NDP was a very big one - a very big budget. It has to address the situation of the Yukon. Everybody knows that the closure of the Faro mine had such an impact on the economy, and it has an impact on the economy today.
So I guess what I'll do is ask some questions on this. I can go through every department and ask questions with regard to the increases, but for now, I guess, a simple question that could be asked is with regard to the surplus. The $56.2 million was suggested, and then there were additional increases in federal grants. Is that what brought us up to $63.9 million?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I heard three questions in the member's speech. The first question related to the transfer from Canada. The current formula with Canada continues for three years, and the transfer from Canada is outlined in the Government of Yukon's projections. So in the 1999-2000 actual, it was $309.5 million; the 2000-01 projected actual is $320.5 million; the 2001-02 projected actual is $329.5 million; 2002-03 is $343 million; and in 2003-04 the projected is $356.5 million. So that's the Government of Yukon's projections, transfer of Canada that was tabled in the House in answer to the member's first question.
In answer to the second question, the previous government would have directed departments to find the negotiated wage settlement within existing budgets. I would remind the member opposite that the former Finance minister and former Finance ministers before him had a practice of a contingency fund, and the contingency fund was $5.9 million. And the practice of this House, Mr. Chair, has never been to indicate the amount of an anticipated wage settlement, because that would preclude union negotiations. The former Minister of Finance discussed that with me at some length when I, too, was new to those benches. Now that there has been a negotiated wage settlement reached, the $4.5 million is reallocated from contingency and is outlined in individual departments as the wage settlement is reflected within individual departments, and that's the way it should be and has been done in the past.
The final question related to the figures that are on page S2 of the supplementary budget and the estimated unconsolidated accumulated surplus of the government from March 31, 2001. The accumulated surplus March 31, 2000, is $63.926 million and that is - the member has questioned me as to what that figure is - of course, that there has been more money received in the formula than was originally anticipated.
Mr. Fairclough: Going back to the single sheets that were passed out with the supplementary budget, maybe the government can explain the numbers that have been projected, right to 2003-04. Is this reflective of the Liberal government's plans over the next four years?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, these are the Government of Yukon financial projections for the future, so they are estimated on the - for example, the transfer from Canada is estimated as per the current formula; the territorial revenue that's estimated includes the reductions in income tax as a result of the Liberal tax cuts; the Canada health and social transfer reflects the good work done by the Minister of Health and Social Services and myself in negotiating with the federal government and their increased payments to provinces and territories; and the other financial projections are just the best financial projections. So, in that respect, yes they are.
The only thing that is not reflected here, in these financial projections under territorial revenue, is the recent announcement regarding the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit, Mr. Chair. Those figures come in after - for some time afterwards - and it was an announcement and a decision made after these were tabled in the House. So, the projections under territorial revenue may, depending on the uptake of that, show a decrease.
Mr. Fairclough: Is that not reflected in the 1999-2000 amount of territorial revenue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's reflected in the 1999-2000 actual. What I was referring to was the future projections of territorial revenue. They do not reflect the uptake on the mineral exploration tax credit and we have extended it for a year, as well, so that's why it's not there.
Mr. Fairclough: The Liberals must have had some thoughts about how they would be spending money over the next four years and must have projects in mind to do so. The O&M, for example, is going up from this year to almost $45,000 or $50,000 by 2003, and the capital is going down.
Can the Premier explain what her thoughts are on the capital going down in 2003-04?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the amounts that are shown in the net capital expenditure projections are an increase - a substantial increase over what the NDP had tabled when similar documents were tabled in the House.
The reason for the figure in 1999-2000 and the 2001 actual is that it includes estimated revotes, and 2001-02 does not include revotes.
Mr. Fairclough: What we have is, I think, a very bleak picture from this Liberal government. We have revenue going down over the next four years. We have O&M increasing over the next four years, and capital spending going down over the next four years. We have the deficit, which I don't believe is truly reflective of that, going down over the next four years, and the accumulated surplus, over the next four years, dropping dramatically to $15 million.
Can the member explain this whole movement and why this paper is being given to the general public and why it shows such a bad picture in the amount of dollars we see in surpluses over the next four years?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I must disagree with the member opposite that this presents a bleak picture. What this presents to the territory as a whole is the long-term financial picture that we are ever mindful of. And the total net income revenue for the territory reflects an increase overall. What the member is seeing is that a decrease in territorial revenue reflects the decrease in taxes to be collected. So it's that income tax cut we were discussing earlier today. What is not reflected in the territorial revenue is an increase from oil and gas revenues. To be conservative, it's not included in there. And that is standard practice as well and fiscally conservative. To be fiscally conservative and prudent, it's not reflected in there.
And in terms of the capital expenditures, the previous government's figures were 48 in the columns where the member sees 56 and, as the member knows, we've debated at great length the need to spend funds on our infrastructure and the lack of spending by the NDP government and previous governments on our roads in particular, and the need for spending money on rebuilding those schools in dire need of reconstruction. So what we see is a very positive impact, and we see the results of good fiscal management in terms of being able to put, in that line, 56 as opposed to 48, which is what had been previously tabled.
This document is very important to Yukoners, as it paints the long-term view and shows the long-term projections of managing the territory's finances.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the 2000-01 has $80,000 in territorial revenues. What the member opposite is saying is that even that year - it's an increase over 1999-2000 - is reflective of any tax cuts. After that, it goes down for two years, and then there's an increase. These are pretty precise numbers. I would think that you would have flat-lined that whole line item - 74 across - but it has increased a million dollars. Why is that - an increase in income tax or what?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, it's because the income tax cuts are over a period of years, and the 2000-01 projected actual shows the increase in oil and gas revenues because we're able to do that with a degree of certainty. We're not able to do that in - who knows if the revenues are going to continue in 2001-02? If the member opposite can predict the price of gas in 2002, there are probably a lot of other people, besides those in this House, who want to talk to him.
So that's the reason. It's not any attempt to be anything less than completely honest with Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, can the Premier tell us what the average revenue income is from oil and gas?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on page S-8 of the budget documents, the resource revenues 2000-01 voted to date is $2.9 million. And you'll see in the supplementary estimates that an additional $4.1 million has been received. The assumptions in the Government of Yukon projections are a continuation of the $2.9 million - to be fiscally conservative.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, is the Premier telling us that the decrease in income tax is reflective of this and she does not see any additional revenues coming into the Yukon through the mining industry or oil and gas?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we're very hopeful of that and we're working very hard toward it, but, when we're giving financial projections like this to the public, we have to deal with very hard, very concrete numbers that we have in the bank, so to speak, so we know precisely, the best we can, certainly, the effect of an income tax cut, and that's reflected here. We don't know and can't go to the bank on the fact that there may be a continued increase in oil and gas revenues, or that there may be and we're working toward an increase in mining revenues or the uptake on the mineral exploration tax credit, because it's still just coming in. So these are the hard numbers on factors that are within our control, and not on the factors outside of our control. In that, we're required to be, and should be, fiscally conservative.
Mr. Fairclough: We have a decrease in income tax being paid and that's certainly less for revenue, and increases in the transfer payments from Canada. We have our O&M going up, and capital is going down.
What you're telling Yukoners with the numbers projected here is that the Liberal Party and the Liberal government will have, in 2003, an accumulated surplus of $12.5 million. In putting your numbers together and spending - this is what I'm getting at - are the priorities of this Liberal government in spending. Now, we have the increases and decreases in O&M and capital, and those could move numbers around, but what we have in 2003-04 is an accumulated surplus of $12.5 million. Is that a comfortable figure for this Liberal government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We want to see this at a far more comfortable level, which we have previously discussed in this House, as between the $30-million and $40-million mark. That's what Finance certainly recommends to us on an ongoing basis.
What these figures again are intended to show is the long-term projection as of this date. Now, clearly, there are areas where we hope to see increases. For example, in the Canada health and social transfer, if there are successful discussions from previous work with the federal Finance minister, we would like to see increases in that. Also, the capital expenditures - $56 million - are quite low in comparison with what other governments have spent, and $48 million in capital expenditures was almost impossible for the previous government to live with.
In terms of the previous government figures that were tabled with the budget in that particular column - the member makes reference to $12.5 million - the previous government's figures in that column were $5 million, and that is very low.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Liberal government is putting together their plans on how money is to be spent and there is an increase in O&M. There is an increase over the next four years of $48 million in O&M. Why do you project it to be that high?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Those are essentially the negotiated wage settlement increases.
Mr. Fairclough: Of $48 million in four years, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can address only the 2000-01 on to 2003-04, and the member's figures of $48 million are not correct for there. The figures show an increase in 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03. The increases that the member sees are reflective of a negotiated wage settlement. And the negotiated wage-settlement increases are in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Mr. Fairclough: There are increases that the member says are reflective of the collective agreement increases. We have reflected in this supplementary budget a 6.4-percent increase. What is expected for an increase in O&M? A lot of them are personnel. Are those additional numbers reflected in these numbers that have been presented to this House - of the collective agreement?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if I understand the member's question correctly - and correct me if I haven't answered the question that I think the member asked.
If we look at the 2000-01 projected actual O&M expenditures, which is what we're debating now, and there's an increase reflected in 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2003-04, and the increases that the member opposite sees in those ensuing years is largely reflective of a negotiated wage settlement. So that's what is anticipated in the future, based on the collective agreement.
Mr. Fairclough: Is there any reflection, in these estimates that have been given to us, of devolving the federal over to us - increases there?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, in the accumulated surplus, we have identified $15 million in lapses in 2001, and it goes down dramatically after that. There has always been a fairly high number where departments cannot meet the objectives that they had put forward in that year. Why is it so low in the three years after 2001?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there's a document before the House that shows the capital expenditures and shows the lapses for this year. What we're showing is, basically, that it would be a net gain further into 2001-02. What it speaks to is the voting of lapses and revotes and trying to be more reflective. You can't count that there's necessarily going to be that lapse. Again, it's in keeping with being fiscally conservative.
Mr. Fairclough: It's like wishful thinking to see that all of those dollars will be spent in having the departments successfully implement all of the initiatives put forward by government. We also have the deficit decreasing - about a fair amount of overspending. Are there new numbers, right now, that we have in the lapses? We're looking at this year's budget. Is the member saying that the $15 million is reflective of what's not going to be spent in this budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It's the best estimate we have at this point. Variances and lapses can fluctuate by quite an amount, and we haven't shown a great deal or seen a great deal so far this year. This is indeed the best projection we have at the moment.
Mr. Fairclough: My question was whether or not the lapses in this budget, which we're in right now - that's the $15 million. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That's the best estimate we have in this budget. That's correct.
Mr. Fairclough: So the government feels that each year after that they would see departments tightening up and spending those dollars that they are getting, right down to the T.
You have it quite low, and I don't know if this is a normal thing that's being done right now. But it seems quite low. I thought the average was around $5 million or greater in lapses. I'm just wondering why it's so low.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is quite correct. It does seem low. What we're saying by this is that it can happen as well, but not all of the lapses get revoted. So, what we're hoping to see in there is a net gain in terms of our lapses.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, if there are any new numbers I would appreciate getting them, so we can wrap our heads around this a bit more clearly and be very cognizant of the lapses. There are times in any government, whether it's municipal, First Nation or territorial, when there is a rush to spend monies - sometimes, it's really, really wasteful - instead of taking a good, hard look at how program dollars could best be spent.
Now, I will move away from this one. I was a bit surprised to see that there was only a $1-million increase in revenue in the fourth-year territorial revenue and to see the reflection and decrease in accumulated surplus. Those that read this know that there is less activity in the Yukon and that we are getting less revenue. We will have fewer dollars in there for any type of emergency, and I hope that this message is a little more clear to the general public than it states on this piece of paper.
Now, I asked a question about the dollars that were put forward - the $4 million for the collective agreement - and that is to reflect the recent agreement that was signed by the government employees. Does that $4 million cover off all of the increase or is some of it reflected in the departments?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, first of all, I would like to say to the member opposite that he makes a very good point on the lapses in the year-end spending that occur in any government. I appreciate the point the member has made and look forward to perhaps working with him on that and on some initiatives in that regard.
I'd like to make another point. On the territorial revenue projection, the reason that there's a $1-million difference between 2002 and 2003 is that the tax cut is still there, but the difference is expected increases in the number of taxpayers, so it's a volume increase. That's the reason there's a difference between 2002-03 and 2003-04 - that's the difference.
The collective agreement increase covers the Public Service Commission employees, managers, deputies, Yukon Housing Corporation and Yukon College. So that's what the wage increase includes - the personnel, if the member wishes.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister, then, tell me: is the transfer from Canada reflective of numbers or inflation? Is the increase approximately three to four percent every year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as the member opposite knows, our formula finance funding arrangement is based on a whole series of factors, including a number of statistics, and these projections are based on Conference Board of Canada projections, and a number of projections are associated with the formula, so they're all within the regular bounds and within out-of-Yukon projections, so to speak.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Liberal government has said that there are a number of programs that are under review and have basically said this from day one, when elected - CDF, for example. When does government feel that this will be finalized?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, for CDF in particular, that was part of our work in re-establishing the internal audit function of government and reactivating and enhancing the Bureau of Management Improvement.
What we have done is ask that the first task of this group be the community development fund, fire smart fund. We have given a very tight time frame, and it's anticipated that that review would be complete and some recommendations to the Cabinet and caucus for a decision early in the new year.
What I will commit to the member is, as I committed earlier in Question Period today, that we will be bringing summary documents forward about the expenditures of CDF for this fiscal year. Also what I would anticipate providing to the member opposite is a statement that outlines the audit plan, including re-emphasizing the fact that these funds have not been cancelled and that we are examining them and, secondly, how the public input to these funds is going to be recognized. We have had a great deal of public input so far, and there has also been some input from the front line individuals who administer the CDF. We have asked for their recommendations as well.
So, early in the new year is the short answer to the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: So the minister is saying that the community development fund isn't cancelled. But one of the things the NDP has done in the past - especially in the fall - is to see what the financial position is. And if they can, they throw monies into the community development fund to basically take care of the many, many, many applications that come forward for this particular fund. Why didn't this government do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: When we took office on May 6, in dealing with one of the recommendations on the community development fund, I asked my colleagues, who are not the Minister of Economic Development, to look at the applications. They did a preliminary round of approvals, and those went through, and we were advised by those who administer the community development fund that the money had been spent. So the money budgeted for the 2000-01 fiscal year had been spent.
Now, that was pointed out to us just immediately prior to an August 15 funding application deadline. So what we said to all of those folks who had worked very hard on their application is that we would look at them - those submitted up until August 15 - and if we could find some money to fund them, we would do that. But before any new money got put into the community development fund, we wanted to have a look at the program and how it could be improved and to review it, and to review it with an audit function - and an audit more than just asking if the cheque was sent to the right body, and all of those things - an overall look at it. Did this program meet the needs it said it was supposed to meet? And there were a number of concerns that had been raised about the community development fund and how to deal with those. So that's what we're doing.
The member opposite says that previous governments have brought forward money in the supplementary for things like the community development fund. That's a fact. I'm not going to dispute that. What I am going to say to the member is that we brought forward money in this supplementary to deal with such issues of concern to all Yukoners as health care, to reflect a wage settlement with the hard-working public sector employees, and to deal with such issues as we committed to - individualized education plans, funding for post-secondary students. So what this gets into is their supplementary versus ours, and it's ours that we are discussing right now.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, that's what I'm getting at. The Liberals are saying that it is under review; it's not cancelled but there are no applications getting approved on this. Surely the members opposite could see that it is taking care of priorities of communities, in Whitehorse and outside of Whitehorse, and it does put people to work. People do work on these projects, and that's a fact. We do have a fairly large surplus, so, while the review is going on, why couldn't dollars have gone into this particular fund? Is the Canada's Liberal government considering that? We brought it forward, but it's from pressure from communities; it's not because it was something that was developed under us. They're asking us, "Do whatever you can; get the message out to government." So, we're asking whether any dollars can go into this particular fund now, to take care of some of those issues. It does put people to work and, if there was money that went into that fairly quickly, people could be working before Christmas.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I recognize what the member opposite is saying, and I said in my opening remarks that there is an ever-growing demand for virtually every service provided by the government. That includes the community development fund, health care, education. There is a whole array of public needs, and the resources are finite. The issue before us is an almost $34-million annual deficit, and it's the deficit that we need to talk about and deficit spending that looks toward the future.
We recognize the good work that has been done through fire smart in particular, because both the Member for Riverdale South and I have been very, very supportive of that fund - in opposition and in government. The difficulty is that there are a number of competing demands placed upon government, and there's X amount of dollars and that X amount of dollars includes an almost $34-million deficit.
It's a matter of weighing needs with the amount of resources that we have to meet the needs.
In terms of work for Yukoners, we have examined all of the expenditures that are before us, and all of our departments have gone back and looked. We've heard the opposition - we hear what they're saying - and we're very concerned about Yukoners and work. We are looking.
We have seen very positive comments from departments about the amount of work. For example, Government Services and the Yukon Housing Corporation have identified a number of projects that are ongoing. Community and Transportation Services - another half a million dollars in gravel crushing this year, as well as work on the highway maintenance camps.
So, that work is included in this budget, and it's work that's desired by the community and the Yukon community as a whole. It's a matter of, as the member opposite knows, weighing what can be done with the existing resources, and this is what we're putting forward for public discussion.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I guess that's what I'm getting at. This particular fund is not funding 100 percent of the projects. The communities actually put their own dollars into these projects - sometimes 50-percent plus on some of these projects - and it's their top priority. And they're looking for monies within the federal government to try to meet their priorities. I don't think anyone expected to have this fund disappear, and it has, because no applications are moving whatsoever.
Now, in regard to priorities, Yukoners are seeing increases to projects in the Yukon that get approved right away and others don't, and people want to have work done in their communities. A lot of the applications, of course, are too late because the season is gone.
But in regard to fire smart, which I know the Liberals support, being an arm of the community development fund, why wasn't there more money put into that? I mean, some of the projects that communities put forward - the applications come in phases, and some of them go through three or four phases to finish the project off.
An amount of $500,000 or $800,000 in this particular fund would have put those who are having a tough time finding jobs in communities to work, and it gives the community a sense of safety. Maybe the minister can explain that one.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't dispute the member's support for the fire smart program, and maybe that's something that should have been considered before they left office. The point is that there wasn't the money left to us to do the full CDF program. They spent most of it before we got to government.
What we have done is that, as monies have become available, we have approved projects. For example, if a project previously approved by the government wasn't going to spend the money, we have allocated it as quickly as we can to another project that's waiting.
We haven't called for fire smart applications from communities because there isn't the money. The previous government didn't leave us the money. And in terms of dealing with - the member opposite makes reference to municipal governments. That's exactly one of the problems the municipal governments have raised with us. One of the problems with the CDF was that the way grants were approved was contingent upon municipal funding, and the municipal funding deadline had already passed.
So, one of the recommendations going to the audit group or the audit individual will be to have some kind of a tie-in in working with municipality and First Nation governments on that. That's one of the issues that has come to us. And we have heard from the community, exactly as expressed by the member opposite, that there is support. That doesn't mean that there aren't suggestions for change out there and suggestions to make any program better.
What I'm saying to the member opposite is that, in terms of the CDF, as with other questions before government, it's a question of there being a lot of demands and X amount of resources. One has to determine where the finances are spent. When we came to office and started preparing the supplementary estimates, clearly, the need for additional money in health care and the under-budgeting in health care was a priority for this government, and it remains a priority, as it's a priority for all Canadians.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, it doesn't seem to make sense when the Premier says that the money wasn't there. Because the money was there. The $64-million surplus was there, so it could have been very easy for government to channel some monies into this fund - it could have. And I know that some of the members opposite agree with that. But it wasn't a priority and that's what we see as being hard to swallow on this whole thing, because that had a huge uptake right across the Yukon. And in looking at the list of projects that were funded through the community development fund, about 50 percent were right here in Whitehorse.
There were a lot of organizations and a lot of interest from the different NGOs and so on that are out there. They took advantage of that. And there continues to be a very, very strong need for this particular fund. So the money was there. It may have been spent out of that, but the members opposite could have put more into this particular fund this fall to get people working.
Now, a lot of things happened during the summer that could have increased activity out there in exploration and so on. For example, the increase in fuel costs, which kept a lot of people at home and fewer and fewer people out there prospecting and so on. Of course, that means a lot fewer people who are self-employed and more people who are not working. So it's tough on any government to try to address this. And I don't think that we should be throwing out a tool that could be used, at a minimum, to address these issues and situations that we have in the Yukon.
Some organizations have not had the opportunity to apply to this particular fund, because there was no organization that they could see to channel this money. And one example may be, in the future - the government can look at this a little more carefully - is in Stewart Crossing, which has about 30 people living there right now. Children are bused to Mayo to go to school - to that lovely school in Mayo. And what do they do when they come home to Stewart Crossing?
It was shown to me by a Liberal member in Stewart that a project could be done, probably channelled through CDF, and I have been in discussion with them to see if maybe the Village of Mayo or someone could take on this project. But it's something that just can't get funded unless it's a line item or put into a municipality as a project. It's just to upgrade and put monies into a youth centre.
This is something that this particular group of people has not had an opportunity to tap into, and it has become more and more visible out there as organizations get dollars to put together small things - brochures for tourism, for example, fixing cemeteries, recreation centres, youth centres. There's not a whole lot of money that has to go out to satisfy some of our young kids. I noticed the Minister of Health being in Mayo, playing pool with the kids there. Well, that particular project was a result of CDF, and it was a good one.
These projects and facilities that have been built in the communities could always use upgrading, especially in high-traffic areas like youth centres and so on. I'm thinking particularly of the one in Mayo, where they took an old house and transferred it into a youth centre. But things get worn out and broken and could use improvements.
So, there is a review of CDF that has taken place. Whether or not they find that the approval system or the way they look at evaluating the applications could be improved or whatever, I'm hoping that this government finds it in them to continue with this particular fund and with the fire smart fund, where projects in communities could be completed.
There are some other interesting projects that could be part of this fire smart fund, too - for example, Pelly Crossing. The Selkirk First Nation is the only government in town there and is faced with a devastating impact of spruce beetles in the community - not only in Minto but in Pelly Crossing itself.
So they are putting their own dollars in to try and correct this situation, and I know that they were searching for a fund in government, like the community development fund, that deals directly with this important issue in the community. They were looking at fire protection, thinning out trees and trying to get rid of this particular problem. So doing reviews could be looked at as expansion of the program to look at other ways to take care of the community's needs.
Now, we had a motion today that talked about decreases to the income tax, and it was like we, as the NDP, did not do anything. But it's clearly spelled out in the budget in the long-term planning that the NDP put forward about the 12-percent less territorial income tax. That's not being honoured, and I know the Premier had said that she would not be cutting the income tax, but has changed her mind, and now the 12 percent is on.
We have others that are in place in this budget that didn't get bumped out in the supplementary or is not reflective of that. Maybe it will be reflected in the lapses, but it's pretty important to some Yukoners, and that was $1 million going toward a CAT scan. Is that just gone? It's not here any more? I know that we're talking about the supplementary budget, but I did not see any increases. Maybe there are increases that are reflected in the 6.4-percent increase in O&M. And there's obviously a pretty high ticket in O&M for the CAT scan. What happened to that and are we going to see it here in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that item was contained as a line item in the Health and Social Services budget that we debated this spring. In the supplementary, I'm sure the member opposite will want to ask the Minister of Health that question and I'm certain he will address it.
The member opposite suggested that I said I wouldn't honour the tax cuts and that's not correct, Mr. Chair. I said that we had to look at the books before we considered a tax cut and we did. Again, I would remind the member opposite that we have not only honoured it and done it - taken action - but that we've taken action in a timely manner. Elsewhere in Committee, we'll be debating the legislation, so the tax cut will be reflected in the tax tables we get in January and not after the spring sitting of the Legislature. So, that's a very clear, concrete action on our part.
The member's other remark regarding the community development fund - I think we've debated those at length. There are competing priorities for government and there are many, many worthwhile initiatives throughout government and throughout Yukon. It's a matter of making choices and also recognizing expectations.
The Government of Yukon is expected to have a quality health care system available for Yukoners and is expected to have the funding available for out-of-territory medical travel and to pay the provinces who provide our Yukoners with medical services, and those funds are reflected in this supplementary.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I was quite glad to see the Liberal government taking direction from the long-term planning of the New Democrats. At one time, the Liberals said they were not going to be accepting the NDP long-term plan and, on the other hand, came up with a motion that accepted the NDP long-term plan.
The 12-percent decrease, for example, in territorial income tax is part of that plan. The Liberals did not go 10 percent or 14 percent, but they went exactly along with the NDP. So I ask the member opposite: is she considering the items that have been put forward by the NDP in their long-term plans?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As my colleague, the Minister of Health, has said many, many times, we are open and we're an open government. And we're interested in suggestions, and we're interested in constructive thought, and we are examining all of the possibilities for the future expenditures and savings by government.
Mr. Fairclough: I'm glad to hear that, although we are getting mixed messages on this side of the House. For example, we do have monies in the long-term plans for schools, and we've heard from one member to another on the Liberal side that the priorities may have shifted. We don't know the rationale behind them. We see now that there is a delay in the Mayo school. I mean, it is unfortunate that that happened, but we can't do anything about that right now, unless you want to throw monies into it and start the school now, and I don't think that's going to happen. But there was also a plan to follow the chairs of the school councils' priority lists and the department's priority list - the Tantalus School in Carmacks and the school in Pelly Crossing being completed. Now, these are not new schools, but there was money in there for doing design work and architectural designs over the coming years. Is that going to be followed?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the previous government's long-term capital plans did not allow for the type of capital construction that has been previously recommended by school councils, the Department of Education and various rural school studies, as well as other capital projections and other recommendations from other departments. The previous government's capital plans did not allow for and did not have enough money to do the capital plans for schools. We are seriously looking at the needs in the territory and the available money. We are trying to do our best for Yukoners to meet those needs with the funding we have available and also trying to deliver on our other priority, which would improve our financial situation, of rebuilding the Yukon economy.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the member saying that the forecasts and long-term capital plans and project listings for schools that I pointed out - the Tantalus and Pelly schools - are not reflected in that plan?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm saying that the previous government's capital projections did not have enough money in it - "it" being the projections - to meet the needs. Those needs included new schools.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the understanding I have, from the chair of school councils, was of a priority list that had Mayo as the school to be replaced. After that, Ross River, Carmacks and Pelly are next on the list. Is there a change now to the priority list? Are there more that the government has on there? I'm looking at the long-term capital plan, and it reflects monies in 2001-02 for the Tantalus school in Carmacks of $550,000.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is referring to an old - well, it's dated somewhat now - schools study. There was a rural schools study done and there was an assessment of Whitehorse schools, and there was a meeting of school councils to set a priority list for capital construction. That was done by the previous government, and that priority list got somewhat altered - well, it was altered substantially when we had the unfortunate occurrence of the fire in the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow. So, some things got put aside. There was an agreement to set this priority list aside while we dealt with that need. That was an agreement that was in this House when the member and I were on opposite sides.
I'm not saying that that list, in terms of school replacement and recommendations, is not as valid today as it was then. I'm saying that our government is looking at the capital spending of the territory, and we have projected an increase, from what the previous government projected, of $48 million to $56 million, which is a substantial increase and a much-needed increase.
There are also a number of demands out there - schools, highways, extended care. There are any number. Pick any department. There are a number of competing capital demands in the territory, and we are examining them very carefully.
The budget that we table in the spring - again, we will provide members with the long-term projection, and we will also have the capital expenditures tabled in that budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, it wasn't long ago that we were in government, and the priority list has not changed. So I'm just wondering, in six months, where that change is now. Obviously, it's my constituents who are asking me about a priority list for schools, school replacements and completion.
For example, the school in Pelly Crossing was never completed. They still have trailer units there, and they were scheduled to have that completion done, and there could be a major amount of renovations to the school if you walk through the school itself.
According to the information we got, there was not a change in that priority list, and so we as government moved on that, and there was money spent in Carmacks to help move this along in planning. There was $550,000 in planning dollars put in there in 2001-02, but we did spend monies on getting rid of the Sunset Lounge in Carmacks, which was a very positive thing for the community, because it got rid of a drinking establishment that was right beside the school. It was an eyesore, and basically it made room to expand the school that way - in that direction on that piece of land. And by doing that, it did not cost government, I don't think, any more by buying out this property versus bringing in trailer units to accommodate students taking their classes while the old section of the school was demolished and rebuilt.
So it was a positive thing all the way around. What can I tell my constituents in Carmacks that the Liberal government will be doing with regard to the school?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm very pleased to answer that. The member and I are talking at cross purposes here. The member is asking about the priority list for schools in the Department of Education. Have we changed it since we came into office? And, quite rightly, the member is concerned about the schools in his particular riding.
I can't speak for the Minister of Education, but to the best of my knowledge, no, that priority list has not changed. There are competing demands out there, but the priority list in the department for capital projects is huge. We haven't, to my knowledge, gone in and said, "Change that priority list." In fact, with respect to Carmacks and the Tantalus School and the initiative the member opposite mentioned, I recall a discussion where the previous government had budgeted and made a commitment. We, as we said we would do, fulfilled that commitment. There were additional funds required, and we also went back and budgeted those. So, there were additional funds required for the clean up after the tear-down of the property. We have followed through on that commitment.
We're very concerned about the schools, and they are a high capital cost in the territory, and we have beautiful schools as a result to show for what we and other governments have contributed.
It's interesting. The member opposite could be asking about some of the other schools, that there have been plans drawn up for a new school in some ridings, and that school never gets built.
There are all sorts of issues out there. And that answers the member's question.
So what the member opposite can say is that the Liberal government didn't go in and reorganize the priorities; that we're looking at the capital needs of the Department of Education and we know the needs in his riding and the needs in other ridings.
What I've been trying to say to the member opposite - and this is why I've been saying we've been talking at cross purposes - is that the previous government only budgeted $48 million and projected $48 million available for capital and it wasn't enough. It wasn't enough to meet the needs in schools and in education. It clearly wasn't enough to meet the needs of roads. The road expenditures - O&M expenditures on Yukon roads - have declined steadily by millions of dollars in the past seven years. And there were cuts to heritage as well.
So that capital budget - the $48 million - was not sustainable, could not be lived within and was imposing real difficulties in the Department of Education and throughout the government. Our capital projections, because we have been fiscally responsible, reflect an increased projected amount for capital spending.
The Member for Klondike is suggesting that we should report progress, Mr. Chair. I would move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:54 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 22, 2000:
Yukon Sustainable Progress Indicators: framework, indicators and implementation approach for reviewing the Yukon Economic Strategy (dated March 31, 2000) prepared for the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment