Wednesday, October 25, 2000 - 1:30 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 Women's History Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to pay tribute to two important events for Yukon women that take place this month.
October is Women's History Month as well as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I'll speak first about Women's History Month. October was chosen in recognition of the historical importance of the Persons case. Last week, the federal government honoured the Famous Five by unveiling a bronze monument on Parliament Hill depicting the five women sipping tea and studying the document declaring them "persons".
I mention this, Mr. Speaker, because it is important to know our history and to honour it.
Without the vision, strength and persistence of women like the Famous Five, women might not be standing in this House today.
In the Yukon, we have particular reason to be proud. Women like Kaushee Harris, Victoria Faulkner, Emilie Tremblay, Belinda Mulroney and Martha Black have helped make the Yukon what it is today.
To honour Yukon women, the Women's Directorate has created a Yukon Women's Hall of Fame. This is online. The hall features previous award winners and nominees from the past 10 years. As it has always been a struggle to select only five award winners, the Yukon Women's Hall of Fame replaces the awards night. Anyone can now submit the name of a woman to be included on the Web site.
As well, the directorate helped fund the Yukon women in music tour throughout the territory this month. Accompanying the tour was an archival display of women and children, courtesy of Yukon Archives. These wonderful photographs provide a glimpse into the lives of Yukon women through the past century. I invite all members to submit the names of those women they admire for inclusion in the Yukon Women's Hall of Fame. The Yukon has a wealth of wonderful women, and it's time the world knows about it.
I want also to speak about pink October, or national breast month across the Yukon, Canada and North America. According to the Yukon medical officer of health, only 30 percent of Yukon women who should have mammograms are having them. This is an important health step women can take for themselves. I want to pay a special tribute to a small group of women who are working to create an awareness of the importance of breast health in the Yukon Territory. These women, who represent the Yukon mammography program at Whitehorse General Hospital, the Department of Health and Social Services, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Breast Cancer Navigator project, the Circle of Hope and the breast cancer survivor group - they have done a wonderful job of spreading the news.
I don't think you can go into any women's washroom, anywhere in the Yukon, and not see one of their posters. I commend them for their commitment to raise awareness, with the hope of increasing the number of Yukon women who take the time to examine and pay attention to breast health.
Breast cancer doesn't just affect women; it affects men as well, and it affects those who care for and support them.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Netro: I rise today on behalf of the official opposition. I would like to offer a tribute to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I would like to recognize the impact that breast cancer has on all of our lives. We all know someone whose life has been affected by breast cancer. They are our mothers, our sisters, our cousins or our friends. The Yukon has a number of projects and programs that are dedicated to helping Yukoners recognize, identify and cope with the impacts of breast cancer. These projects and programs include the breast self-examination program, the Navigator project and the mammography unit at the hospital. A unique forum on breast cancer took place in Whitehorse earlier this year.
These are important steps in helping all of us deal with breast cancer in our communities. We would especially like to recognize the efforts that are made by doctors and nurses in the Yukon to support patients on a daily basis.
Mr. Jenkins: I also rise on behalf of the Yukon Party to pay tribute to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, dedicated to raising increasing awareness of breast cancer issues and the importance of early detection.
Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in Canadian women, and is currently the leading cause of death among women between the ages of 35 and 49. This year alone an estimated 19,200 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada, and approximately 5,500 will pass away because of this disease. While these statistics are disturbing, there have been great strides in reducing mortality rate among women with breast cancer as a result of early detection.
As a consequence of early detection, more tumours are being found at an earlier stage in their development, and the mortality rates among Canadian women with breast cancer has dropped by an estimated 10 to 15 percent since 1986. Similar trends of decreasing breast cancer mortality rates have also been observed in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, and are attributed to screening and improved treatment.
Clearly the best weapon against breast cancer is early detection and having knowledge about this disease. Breast Cancer Awareness Month provides an opportunity to not only increase our efforts to raise awareness about breast cancer, but how women can protect themselves from this disease.
I am pleased to offer our party support to this life-saving initiative. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the many volunteers across the territory for their continuing effort to help raise funds for cancer research, and for helping spread awareness about breast cancer during October and all year-round.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm honoured to introduce Nancy MacBeth in the gallery today. Ms. MacBeth is the Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party and the leader of the official opposition in that Legislature. And she's joined in her visit to the Yukon by her husband, Hilliard. Welcome, please, Nancy MacBeth.
Mr. Kent: I'd like to introduce Mr. Paul Deuling and his grade 11 Social Studies class from F.H. Collins Senior Secondary School.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I'd like to introduce our chair for the Yukon Housing Corporation, Mr. Frank Bachmier.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I have for tabling the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues Annual Report, April 1, 1999, to March 31, 2000.
Mr. Fentie: Given the high-handed manner in which the Liberals opposite are changing the rules and procedures of this Legislature, I have for tabling the minutes of the meeting, September 30 of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, documenting agenda items, night sittings and the all-party Standing Committee on Appointments.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Liberal government has made a commitment to restore public confidence in government and to improve decorum in the Legislative Assembly; and
(2) on numerous occasions, unelected individuals who are members of the Cabinet staff of the Yukon Liberal government have taken it upon themselves to make disparaging and insulting comments in the public media about elected members of this Assembly; and
(3) such conduct is inappropriate, unprofessional, insulting to Yukon people, and counterproductive to the goal of restoring public confidence in government; and
THAT this House urges the Premier and her ministers to advise unelected members of their political staff that such public behaviour will not be tolerated in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the rising cost of home heating is creating economic hardship for many Yukon seniors; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to immediately provide a 25-percent increase in the pioneer utility grant and index it against inflation.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon government should make electrical power rates more affordable by eliminating the clawback for those consumers who utilize more than 1,500 kilowatts of electricity per month.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT Ray Wells, the Chair of the Yukon Development Corporation, and Rob McWilliam, the President of the Yukon Development Corporation, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, October 30, 2000, to discuss the corporation's plans to construct the Mayo-Dawson transmission line.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly lay out the rules and procedures of this Assembly that have been agreed upon from time to time by elected representatives from both sides of this House;
(2) any changes to the Standing Orders should have the prior input and agreement of the majority of elected members; and
(3) the appropriate forum for discussing proposed changes is the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, which includes representatives of all three parties in this House; and
(4) any move by the majority party in the House to usurp the function of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges is inappropriate and an offence to the rights of all members; and
THAT this House urges the government party not to proceed with the introduction of any proposed changes to the rules and procedures of this House until such proposed changes have been thoroughly discussed and decided upon by the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, and until that committee has recommended such changes to this Legislative Assembly.
Speaker's statement re ministerial statements
Speaker: Before calling for ministerial statements today, the Chair wishes to provide some brief comments about the point of order raised by the official opposition House leader yesterday.
The main concern expressed by the official opposition House leader was that the ministerial statement given by the Minister of Justice was overly long.
Standing Order 11(3) states that a ministerial statement should be a "short factual statement of government policy." Also, former Speaker Bruce, in a ruling given on November 24, 1999, emphasized that "Ministerial statements and the responses to them should be brief, factual and specific."
There has never been, however, a definitive guideline provided through the Standing Orders, past Speakers' rulings nor reports of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges as to the exact length of time a ministerial statement should take. Presiding officers of this Assembly have appealed, on a number of occasions, to the House to develop and adopt what Deputy Speaker McRobb, on November 8, 1999, called "a more definite and helpful description of the purpose of ministerial statements." Had the House done that, it undoubtedly would have provided direction, if not specifics, as to how the word "short" should be interpreted by the Chair. The House, however, has not taken presiding officers up on the invitation to review the rules respecting ministerial statements.
The fact the House must face is that, with the advent of television coverage in this Chamber, ministerial statements have been put to increased use and have taken up an ever-greater amount of House time. These changed circumstances, from the time when the rules governing ministerial statements were first adopted, have made it imperative that members give urgent consideration to this matter. The House can take action and provide direction on this matter in a variety of ways.
Perhaps the most obvious would be through recommendation of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, and, if desired, subsequent amendment of the Standing Orders.
In the meantime the Chair must ask that greater consideration be given by ministers to the number of such statements, and that greater efforts be made to adhere to the Standing Order requirement that these be "short".
The Chair thanks the members for their attention.
Are there any statements by ministers today?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, first of all I'd like to say that this subject is an important subject, and that it includes all of us in the future. By yea or nay, we still will become elderly or we will become seniors.
It gives me great pleasure to rise today to inform the hon. members of this House of the measures this government is taking to address the housing needs and preferences of Yukon seniors.
Mr. Speaker, we can expect the number of Yukoners who are 50 years of age and older to grow from 20 percent of today's population to between 27 and 32 percent of all Yukoners by 2009. This trend is expected to continue.
Most seniors currently live in the conventional housing that was designed and built to meet the ordinary requirements of the general population. Many of our seniors have, or will have, housing requirements that are not commonly available in conventional housing. Seniors may also find it more difficult with home and yard maintenance. It may be difficult for many seniors to meet household expenses on a fixed income.
While this government has made considerable progress in addressing the needs of those seniors requiring continuing care, there is much to do to address the housing conditions of the 93 percent of seniors who do not require high-level support.
Mr. Speaker, in order to meet the housing needs of our seniors, I have instructed the Yukon Housing Corporation to proceed with the development of the many proposals contained in the seniors housing action plan. The seniors housing action plan provides a framework for the development of a comprehensive seniors housing policy for the Yukon. The action plan includes 49 proposals for the improvement of seniors housing. Some of the proposals are small, while others are major. Taken together, I believe the planned proposals are visionary and will serve Yukoners well for decades to come.
Mr. Speaker, the seniors housing conference succeeded in providing us with better awareness and understanding of seniors, their housing requirements and preferences. While there were many important results from the conference, five recurring messages were delivered by the conference participants. First, not all seniors and elders are the same. There is diversity in the older Yukon population.
Second, seniors and elders want to stay in their own homes and live independently as long as they can.
Third, seniors and elders see a need for housing options between their own home and residence care facilities.
Fourth, seniors and elders want affordable housing.
The fifth and final message, Mr. Speaker, is that seniors and elders would like to see better in-home care and support options.
Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the seniors housing action plan is to establish the government's direction for seniors housing and to introduce a number of concepts and ideas for further consideration. The proposals in the seniors housing action plan are founded on two fundamental principles. First, we believe Yukon seniors should have access to supports and services that enable them to remain in their home as they age and as their needs change. Second, this government believes Yukon seniors require a variety of housing options to accommodate the diversity of their needs and preferences.
Mr. Speaker, these overarching principles provide a broad framework for a number of separate seniors housing initiatives contained in the action plan.
Many Yukon seniors are committed to residing indefinitely in their own current residence; therefore, the action plan includes proposals to improve the services and supports available to seniors who choose to age in place in their current home.
We want to do more to help Yukon seniors upgrade their homes for accessibility, comfort and safety. We want to do more to help seniors upgrade their homes. We want to do more to help seniors afford their own homes, and we want to help seniors with home and yard maintenance.
The Yukon Housing Corporation expects there to be a demand for a range of housing options designed for the specific needs and preferences of seniors. The requirement for specially built seniors housing will steadily increase over the next three decades as the ageing population trend continues. To meet this future demand, the action plan includes proposals to improve the availability of specially built or converted housing that meets the specific needs and preferences of Yukon seniors.
We want to promote awareness of the options for the feature of specially built seniors housing, and we want to focus Yukon Housing Corporation programs to support the development of new and converted seniors housing.
Mr. Speaker, much of the anticipated demand for new seniors housing alternatives stems from the fact that conventional housing is not typically designed for people with mobility difficulties. If new housing could address these concerns when constructed, more people, including younger people with disabilities, may be able to age in place comfortably and safely in their own family home.
To prepare for the long-term needs of our seniors, the action plan promotes and supports senior user-friendly design in residential construction. We want to develop and promote design guidelines for senior user-friendly residential construction, and we want to provide incentives for the construction of senior user-friendly housing, such as the proposed accommodating home mortgage program.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, the action plan includes proposals to focus the resources and assets of the Yukon Housing Corporation to support ageing in place and to promote diversity in the supply of seniors housing.
I want to establish a sustainable source of funding for seniors housing programs, and we want to ensure that housing provided by the Yukon Housing Corporation to our senior clients meets their specific needs and preferences.
Mr Speaker, it is essential that the seniors continue to be involved in the development of -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order. The leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 11(3), a minister may make a short factual statement on government policy.
Mr. Speaker, this is neither a short factual statement nor government policy. Nine times, sentences were prefaced with "we want to". That is not government policy. That is something down the road that may or may not occur, but it is not government policy.
I would ask that we have a ruling on this issue, because these ministerial statements are being abused. While I respect the ruling you gave earlier today, I believe that there is still room for you to manoeuvre and provide a better and more encompassing interpretation of a ministerial statement than we currently have in place.
Speaker: The government House leader on the point of order.
Ms. Tucker: The ministerial statement that is being delivered conforms to the current rules. There is absolutely no doubt about that. If the members opposite were available to attend meetings, this matter could be resolved expeditiously in the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
Speaker: The official opposition House leader on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I must concur with the leader of the third party. You have just ruled here this afternoon that a ministerial statement must be a short factual statement of government policy. As the member of the third party pointed out, this is neither short nor factual government policy, given the statements including "we want to", alluding to something in the future.
I think that the government House leader should also be aware that the opposition was present at the first meeting of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. We discussed these items, and we all agreed at that meeting to set a subsequent date of November 1, 2000, to meet and bring forward the recommendations to this Legislative Assembly on these matters.
Speaker: Order please. These kinds of points have been raised consistently for the past couple of years and I recall, during the last sitting of the House, the same issues came up. And I struggled with them at that time. Today's events simply demonstrate how important it is for the members of the House to give consideration to this matter. It was suggested through SCREP. In the meantime, the Chair will provide a copy of Speaker Bruce's statement of November 24, 1999. In that ruling, Speaker Bruce made suggestions as to guidelines which might govern the content of ministerial statements. For today, the minister will be permitted to conclude and the opposition members to respond. That concludes my ruling.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I've instructed the corporation to consult directly with the seniors to determine how they want to be involved in the development of the action plan initiatives. We make this statement, and I thought this statement is government direction. Government direction is government policy, and that's what I've stood by. Mr. Speaker, we believe it will take two to three years to fully consider the many proposals within the seniors housing action plan. The corporation has already started work on several proposals and will implement the proposals as they are approved.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work that the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors has committed to this important initiative and the high priority given to seniors housing by the board. I would also like to extend my appreciation to the corporation staff members who have provided the support for the development of the action plan proposals. And once again I would like to thank all the seniors and near-seniors who have taken the time to help us establish a clear direction for seniors housing. If we start now, we will be in a very good position to provide for the needs and preferences of our seniors, as the demand for seniors housing increases in the coming decades. By supporting this worthy initiative, it is my hope that this Assembly will be sending a strong message that we value our seniors and their contributions to the Yukon.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: I'd like to thank the minister for her statement. I'd also like to say that we, the NDP caucus, are fully supportive of this New Democratic initiative. We started this initiative when we were in government, Mr. Speaker, so we cannot be anything other than supportive of this initiative.
We developed the Growing Older in the Yukon strategy in the Yukon. As well, we were responsible for hosting the seniors housing conference and the seniors housing survey, where most of these action plan proposals were generated.
We initiated the development of a seniors action plan, and we were instrumental in garnering the comments from Yukon seniors from across the territory, as well as the extras from around the continent.
The creation of the seniors housing trust fund and the unveiling of this policy was announced on March 22, 1999 by the Minister of the Yukon Housing Corporation, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. The initiative was applauded at that time by both opposition parties, and in fact, the Member for Riverdale South commented on it in the House, by saying that this was a forward-looking initiative.
The increase of seniors in the Yukon population is a significant change in the demographics of the territory, and the needs of seniors need to be addressed now in government. Yukon seniors of today need to be given an opportunity for affordable and accessible housing. Action is needed now to provide seniors a better quality of life.
Implementation of a strong and sound, comprehensive and effective strategy for seniors housing will involve all departments in government, and I look forward to seeing the implementation of this plan done swiftly and wholeheartedly within the government departments.
There seem to be a lot of motherhood statements being put forth in this rather lengthy, non-policy statement. There are 49 proposals identified in this plan to improve seniors housing in the Yukon, and I don't see these proposals listed in the statement. There's no commitment to implement the bulk of these proposals. Obviously the minister is starting to do another review of a good NDP initiative.
What proposals in the action plan will be implemented immediately? Has there been a cost analysis of these proposals? Will implementation of these proposals require extra personnel within the government? There are transportation, health care and government service issues. Are you prepared? Has there been an interdepartmental committee struck to deal with the many issues?
With respect to the seniors housing fund, I'd like to know the current status and the balance. When will the Yukon seniors actually see the use of this money in the actual development of affordable seniors housing?
So, Mr. Speaker, once again, I would like to show my support for this good New Democratic Party initiative and to thank the Yukon Housing Corporation board, the staff and directors for their hard and dedicated work.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: What we have once again, Mr. Speaker, is a ministerial statement that does not comply with the Standing Orders, which require that a minister make a short factual statement of government policy. The statement just given by the minister should have been made in the Speech from the Throne. Instead of a short factual statement of government policy, the minister has outlined what we could call a "what-we-want-to-do wish list". Virtually all of his remarks are prefaced by the words "we want to".
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this moment to thank all of the seniors who had input into this seniors survey. Now that all of the information has been gathered, what we have is the Liberal government taking a concrete position, and they're going to review it and review it - or, "we want to do this". But nothing concrete has come out of this review.
Mr. Speaker, a few moments ago, I read into the record a motion that would help Yukon seniors meet the current high cost of heating their homes this winter. Now, that's a definite, positive move forward, and I proposed that there would be a 25-percent increase in the pioneer utility grant and that the grant be indexed against inflation to help elders and seniors meet the current high cost of living in Yukon immediately, Mr. Speaker.
This is something that the minister can do right now, and I'm seeking his commitment to do that when he rises on his feet to respond. While I applaud many of the initiatives outlined in the action plan, Yukon seniors and elders are looking for some help right now, not two years or three years from now, and they are certainly not looking for another review.
Accordingly, I'm asking the minister to commit to increasing the pioneer utility grant in the supplementary budget he tabled this session, when he next stands.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to what has been said here. First of all, I would like to say - and I give this message to the public - that the NDP claims that we would have done that or we might have done that or we wish to have done that. That was a good plan. That is our plan. The fact of the matter is that we are getting old. Yukoners are tired of listening to the NDP attitude, saying that the fact is that the NDP did not do it. The bottom line is that the NDP didn't do it. We, in six months, are doing something about it. We are not sitting down and talking about reviews. We are actually standing up and making a plan. We have a plan in place.
As we speak, I have directed the Yukon Housing Corporation to table this document, and this document is going to be tabled.
The other thing is that, with respect to reviews and the Member for Klondike, he states that he was tired of reviews. Well, we are tired of reviews. We are acting now. We are doing something about it, and you will have it in the briefing.
Speaker: If there are no further statements from ministers, I'll proceed.
Speaker's statement re unparliamentary language
Speaker: Before proceeding with Question Period, a point of order was raised during yesterday's sitting, questioning whether unparliamentary language was used by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes when directing a supplementary question to the Minister of Government Services. Upon reviewing the Blues, the Chair has found that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes said, "Well, Mr. Speaker, the member knows that that's fundamentally untrue."
The rules adopted by this House to govern the conduct of all hon. members are quite clear in this regard. Standing Order 19(1) states, "A member will be called to order by the Speaker if that member: (h) imputes false or unavowed motives to another member; and (i) charges another member with uttering a deliberate falsehood."
Also, as is set out in Annotation 494 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, Sixth Edition, "It is not unparliamentary temperately to criticize statements made by Members as being contrary to the facts; but no imputation of intentional falsehood is permissible. On rare occasions this may result in the House having to accept two contradictory accounts of the same incident."
At page 522 of Marleau and Montpetit's House of Commons Procedure and Practice, it is stated, "Remarks directed specifically at another Member which question that Member's integrity, honesty or character are not in order. A Member will be requested to withdraw offensive remarks, allegations or accusations of impropriety directed towards another Member."
It is clear that accusing another member, directly or indirectly, of misleading the House is out of order. The Chair would ask the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and all members of this House to take greater care that unparliamentary language not be used in this House.
We will now proceed with Question Period.
Question re: Land claim settlements
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Liberals say that settling land claims is their first, top priority. The Deputy Minister of ECO stated publicly, this summer, that a number of claims could be completed within the next few months. The Premier herself said that she is prepared to move on some outstanding territorial issues. My question to the Premier: has the Premier given the Yukon territorial government negotiators a new mandate to negotiate these territorial issues at the main table with each of the First Nations with outstanding claims?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for this question on what is clearly a major priority of the Government of Yukon.
I have instructed officials to review overall negotiation mandates as they relate to the outstanding issues to determine if we have any greater flexibility. This review is not holding up any negotiations. We are not negotiating outside of the umbrella final agreement. We are looking at what flexibility we have within the existing arrangements of that treaty.
Mr. Fairclough: It appears that we do have another review. After this has been a top priority, now we are putting issues with regard to negotiating land claims under review. Yukon people are anxious to see these claims settled. The Premier herself admitted that the key to providing economic certainty is the completion of land claims.
The Premier said that there are territorial issues, and that she is prepared to move on them. She has said it here today, again. We are not asking her to negotiate in this House, as she has mentioned so many times in the past when we have asked about a mandate and whether or not they have given out a new mandate. We just want to know, really, if there is a new mandate for her negotiators.
The question is, are these outstanding territorial issues being negotiated at the main table, as the Premier had authorized, or are they side-table negotiations with the First Nations? Now, she has said that it is not happening beyond the umbrella final agreement. I would like to know whether there is a side table going?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Among the rhetoric was the question: is there a side table going on in negotiations? Given the rhetoric coming from the member opposite, perhaps he didn't hear my original response, which was that the review that we are doing is not holding up any negotiations. It's going on simultaneously. We are so concerned and have settlement of land claims as such a priority with this government that we are looking for solutions. We're looking for what can be done. The member is perhaps trying to get at whether or not there has been a common forum established to review the Yukon issues. In fact, yes, that is the case.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, is that a side table that we've asking about? It appears that the Premier is hinting on that but not really wanting to say it. They talk a lot about restoring confidence in government, and that's one of her top priorities, but is the government open to the general public with regard to negotiations? Will the Premier tell the House, then, if the territorial issues that she refers to involve land quantum?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the member opposite didn't fully read the throne speech. The common forum is outlined in the Speech from the Throne. The discussion is there.
I have said to the member that our review is not holding up any negotiations and that our top priority is the settlement of land claims, and we are doing everything we can to do that, including Yukon issues, as well as such matters as - the member opposite knows that section 87 is one of the difficulties at the land claims negotiating table and that I have met, as I said I would do, with Minister Martin to achieve some movement on that, as well as with officials on the other federal outstanding issue, which is the loan repayment. So this government has treated the settlement of land claims as a top priority, and we will continue to do so.
Question re: Pioneer utility grant increase
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, today I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
We heard on Monday, in the throne speech, their promise to tackle seniors housing issues head-on. Well, today I'm going to ask the minister some questions on how we're going to heat them.
Yukon seniors and elders, Mr. Speaker, are facing an incredible increase in the cost of home heating fuel, and today's news of fuel shortages are making it even worse. Now that the minister finally understands that this pioneer utility grant comes under his department, can the minister actually give me some assurance - or Yukon seniors some assurance - that an increase of at least 25 percent in the utility grant will be upcoming in the supplementary budget?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I thank the member opposite for his question. I am very fully aware of the fact that PUG is under the Health jurisdiction. We understand the concerns that are facing many of our seniors and many Yukoners, if not all Yukoners, and we are, again, as we have said in the past, very concerned about where this is going to end up. I hope you appreciate that we are trying to develop ideas and thoughts in this area so that we can move on.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate that there wasn't an answer there. It's not a review; it's nothing.
Mr. Speaker, it wouldn't cost the price of one Liberal patronage appointment. It would cost approximately 60 percent of a Liberal patronage appointment - $75,000 - to bring this program in for the seniors of this community.
If the minister can't - or won't - commit to increasing the pioneer utility grant, will they at least take the steps to ensure that the existing program will apply to First Nations elders and seniors on their lands?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the whole idea of trying to look at this issue is not a simple one. It's a complicated one. Just recently, the federal government has, in its mini-budget, put forward the idea of presenting to seniors and elders some compensation for fuel, for heating costs. We are not there yet. Hopefully, as we see how we're approaching this issue, we can move in this direction, but right now we are not at that particular stance.
Mr. Keenan: I'd like to point out that in all of that bafflegab, Mr. Speaker, there was not an answer to the question I asked the minister. That question was: will they extend this program to seniors and elders on First Nation lands?
I'm obviously not going to get anywhere with Dr. No sitting in the back benches over there, so I'd like to direct this question to the Minister of Finance. Without spoiling her party and the Christmas spirit coming up, can you tell Yukoners if we have any reason to hope that this government will do something for this very real problem of escalating fuel costs for our seniors?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, that supplementary was directed to the Minister of Finance, therefore I will respond.
With regard to the rising fuel prices, which are affecting all Yukoners, we are very concerned about this issue. Unfortunately, we are not able to do anything about the war in the Middle East. We are, however, very concerned about - the pioneer utility grant is one option. Unfortunately, the pioneer utility grant does not affect the middle and poorer income groups. What does affect -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I thought the member opposite was interested in a response about fuel prices and their effect on Yukoners, and that's what I'm endeavouring to try to give the member opposite.
As the member knows, we have the lowest fuel taxes in the country, and we do not tax home-heating fuel or propane. So, that option is not open to us.
One of the options has been activated by the federal Minister of Finance in his mini-budget. That option will affect 54.6 percent of Yukoners.
And, in answer to the member opposite's specific question with regard to the pioneer utility grant, as my colleague has indicated, we are interested in examining that option, and we're doing that.
Question re: Connect Yukon project
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services with regard to her responsibilities for Connect Yukon.
Despite the fact that Connect Yukon will not be providing basic telephone service to rural Yukoners as originally promised, and is costing Yukoners $23.5 million, this government has chosen to implement the project unchanged, with no attempts to renegotiate the deal with Northwestel. So much for fiscal responsibility, Mr. Speaker.
Prior to the election call on October 17, the federal Liberal government announced the plan to spend well over $1 billion to allow every community in Canada to have extra-fast access to the Internet by the year 2004. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Perhaps the federal Liberals are going to call it Connect Canada. Can the minister explain why the Yukon government will be spending $23.5 million on a project the federal Liberals have committed the Government of Canada to do?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, I would point out that the Connect Yukon was signed, sealed and delivered by the previous NDP government before this government took office.
We have also said, again and again, that we do not rip up signed contracts. The penalty for doing so would be prohibitive. As well, the Connect Yukon project precedes the announcement by the federal minister that the Member for Klondike is talking about. So, somebody's crystal-ball gazing didn't go very well there. It wasn't the Liberal government; it was the previous NDP government.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, aren't Liberals wonderful when it comes to election time and spending our tax dollars? They are just great.
Can the minister advise the House if she has sent an invoice for $23.5 million for Connect Yukon to her federal Liberal counterpart? If she has not, why not? Has she even investigated how she is going to recover the money from the Government of Canada?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Klondike does love to dream and speculate, and I'm sure I will get the appropriate information on this federal initiative at the appropriate time. At that point, I'll provide it to him.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. So much for the special relationship between the Yukon Liberal government and the federal Liberal government, Mr. Speaker. This minister doesn't even have a clue about this new federal government initiative - connect Canada. It's a major project -
Speaker: Order please. I'd ask the member not to use insulting language - "doesn't have a clue".
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, but I don't believe "doesn't have a clue" is insulting language.
Speaker: Please proceed.
Mr. Jenkins: Let me re-phrase it for the minister, Mr. Speaker. The member doesn't have an understanding of what the federal Liberals are doing in this regard, or know what her own government is doing with respect to it.
What we have, Mr. Speaker, is a federal government initiative to connect all towns and all communities in Canada. We have a parallel situation in the Yukon.
Why isn't the minister aware of the federal initiative? How is she going to recover the Yukon's costs from the federal government for this initiative taking place here in the Yukon?
We're not asking her to tear up any contract with Northwestel - perhaps renegotiate it. But how are we going to recover $23.5 million from the federal Liberal government to cover our involvement in this similar initiative here in Yukon, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member opposite well knows, it's a little premature to be sending the federal government an invoice for this. When the time comes, we'll look into it.
Question re: J.V. Clark School, construction, consultation with Nacho Nyak Dun
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's one heck of an answer to that question.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Premier said that her government does its best every day to live up to the intergovernmental agreements with First Nations. The Chief of Nacho Nyak Dun told the media that he was not consulted before the government decided to postpone the construction of the new school in Mayo. Will the Premier now acknowledge that there was no appropriate consultation with Nacho Nyak Dun before Cabinet made its decision?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As we indicated in the House yesterday, as soon as Cabinet did discuss the issue of postponing the Mayo school construction as an operational, as a process item, being fiscally responsible and acknowledging that the cost overruns were unacceptable to this government, I immediately phoned the First Nation office in Mayo. Unfortunately, the chief was not there, so I talked to the deputy chief. I immediately touched base then with the principal of the school, with the Mayor of the Village of Mayo and with a member of the school council to let them know of Cabinet's decision on this issue.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, there was no answer to the question. I don't believe the members opposite have even read the intergovernmental agreements. I'd ask them to sit down and go through that document. It's not very long.
Yesterday, the minister told the House that Cabinet made a decision and then he phoned to tell the deputy chief of Nacho Nyak Dun. That's information, not consultation.
Then the minister tried a whole variety of excuses about why the project was delayed, and when he failed to satisfy anyone, he was finally shamed into going to Mayo to confront the people. Those were his words - "confront the people of Mayo".
Now, does the Premier agree with this approach, which certainly does not demonstrate respectful government-to-government relationships? Does she approve of consultation by confrontation?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It certainly is a pleasure to hear the words come from the opposition with respect to acknowledging that the school has been delayed. I am pleased to hear that. The Mayo school is a community issue, not just a First Nation issue. We have consulted, not only with the First Nation, but with the village and with the community. Had the MLA for Mayo-Tatchun been there, he would have fully appreciated the dialogue that did occur - questions and answers - with the people who were there as well.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier refuses to answer the question about whether or not she approves of consultation by confrontation. And that's what has taken place by the Minister of Education. Now the Premier seems to have a rogue Minister of Education on her hands - the same rogue minister who bragged about settling the contract dispute with teachers; the same rogue minister who admitted that he had acted on his own to give the former Liberal Party leader a $125,000 patronage appointment to head up the Education Act review; the same minister who hasn't lifted a finger to help solve the job situation in the forest sector, which he is also responsible for. Will the Premier now admit that the Minister of Education screwed up and remind the government minister that -
Speaker: Order please. I would ask that the member be cautious with the words that he is using. "Screwed up" is not appropriate.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, would the Premier remind all her ministers of their obligation to consult under the intergovernmental agreement with the First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I guess that it's a foreign idea to the members opposite - of team. This side works on a team premise.
I am not quite sure what the member opposite's question is. I think we have made every attempt to answer his questions.
First of all, he says to go to Mayo, then he says to not go to Mayo. He's not sure if he's coming or going himself. Mr. Speaker, if he would spend a little more time in the riding - just as a team of us went there to dialogue, to exchange, to inform, to be aware and to listen - and if he could do that in his riding, maybe his members would know who he is.
Question re: J.V. Clark School, construction jobs in Mayo
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Education said he has had some discussions with the Chief of Nacho Nyak Dun about possible work options for Mayo residents who took the carpentry training in order to work on the Mayo school project. Can the minister advise the House how many of these trained Mayo residents are working right now as a result of those discussions?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda:Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the question, because it was the day following our trip to Mayo that we did sit down with Chief Hager. In an information exchange with the Premier, Minister Wayne Jim and me, he did discuss his concerns with respect to the positions that were just mentioned. We are looking at options to keep these folks working through the winter months.
Ms. Netro: These 12 people who completed the carpentry training had good reason to believe that the training was going to result in jobs in Mayo this fall and winter. Today, on the radio, we heard Chief Hager say that six of those people are already making plans to leave the community. Can the minister tell us when the people of Mayo can expect some concrete results in the form of jobs from these make-work options he's talking about?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, we will get these folks in Mayo working. I am working in partnership with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and he will be getting back to me in due order so that we will get these folks to work.
Ms. Netro: The best solution for the minister is to change his mind and get on with replacing this school right away. If he won't do that, I hope he will at least make sure there is no delay in getting these trained people employed in their own community. Will the minister tell us how much this Liberal government is prepared to invest to provide work for these 12 people this fall and winter and when they can expect to report for duty?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, in 26 years, consecutive governments did nothing with respect to the new school in Mayo. In six months, we have a foundation there. Come this spring, there will be a brand new building there, and in January 2002, there will be a school.
When we met with the chief, he had indicated to us that there were four to six people in the community in need of work. We had agreed that we would find work for these people, and we will. Minister Wayne Jim and I are working on that as we speak.
Question re: J.V. Clark School, construction delay
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Government Services, but I can say that I expect the Cabinet would want him to stand on his feet and answer it.
Every time he turns around, the Minister of Education seems to have a different story about why the Mayo school construction was postponed. First, there was a cost overrun of $168,000, and then it was half a million dollars. Then he said there was a problem with the bid. He even wants us to believe that he's saving taxpayers' money by avoiding this winter construction.
Does the Minister of Government Services also believe that this delay will result in a cost saving to the taxpayer?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, he's right about one thing. The bids received were both substantially over budget. There were not enough funds to allow for the award of the contract, and there was a low risk assessment in leaving the foundation as constructed until its restart in the spring. However, we do see that there are ways and means there. When we say "redesign", we don't mean substantially redesigning it. And this is not a delay of 26 years. This is a delay of four months.
We do care about the people in the Yukon. We do care about the children and their education. And when we say four months, we mean four months, not 26 years.
We are looking at making sure and reassuring people that the school is built for the people in Mayo, and we are working our hardest. We say that we are targeting January 2002 as the date for the doors to open.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for all that political bafflegab, but the minister did not answer the question. The question: did the Minister of Government Services believe that this delay will result in a cost saving to the taxpayer? It wasn't answered.
The ministers may be the only two people in the Yukon who believe that. The foundation is already built. If it's not heated, it may have to be replaced. Changes in design to keep the government out of court for bid shopping - the foundation may have to be replaced anyway.
Can the minister tell us what best case and worst case scenarios and financial analysis his department conducted before deciding to postpone this construction until next spring?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I guess we can get into some hypothetical questions, but we're not going to go there today.
Yes, I believe we will save money. I believe we will save money by cutting costs between the walls, so to speak, by saving the dollar and that there. We also say that we do not bid shop, as this member opposite reiterates and reiterates time and time again.
This government is more into good management, good fiscal responsibility, and we are looking at ways in which we can cut costs and be effective in producing our product and services for people of the Yukon.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, instead of standing there with their hands in their pockets, I wish the government would just answer a few of the questions. Obviously, by lack of an answer, they proved that, no, they did not do a cost analysis on this.
Now, the Minister of Education has already admitted that this may go to court, and if it does, the government could face a huge financial settlement.
Yesterday we heard about some make-work projects, and it was reiterated again today, to create jobs for the Mayo residents who took this carpenter training. We have no idea how much this is going to cost.
So the Liberals talk about sound financial management, but does the minister really believe that this was a wise, financial decision, and not just a reckless gamble for political gain?
Do you believe that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I must commend this person on his question, but it's very straightforward to us. We do have figures, and those figures say that the Management Board approved a budget of $7.98 million for construction of the Mayo school.
The school contract was separated into two parts; the foundation cost $1.07 million. There was $5.7 million left in the budget for the construction of the rest of the school.
Again, I don't know where this gentleman - the member opposite - is coming from on our figures, but our figures are pretty much based on what is coming from our staff in Government Services, our staff in the Department of Education. We stand wholeheartedly behind them.
Moreover, to make it more clear to the public eye, we're not here to say that we're not going to be helping the children of the Yukon -
Speaker: Order please. I'd just ask the minister to conclude his statements.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jim: I've answered the question. The question was hypothetical, and I said I wasn't going to get into that.
Speaker:The time for Question period is now elapsed.
Speaker's statement re members addressing comments through the Chair
Speaker: Before we proceed, I've made some notes here and I would dearly like to make some comments. But I'm not in a competition for television time, so I was waiting for the television time to expire.
I would like to address some comments to all ministers regarding comments made by some members yesterday during the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and Question Period today. First of all, from time to time, members named other members. They named other members in their comments. This was done in a respectful manner, and I believe, inadvertently. However, it's my duty to remind members that naming members is not appropriate. In future, I must insist that members be addressed by their portfolio or their constituency.
Similarly, from time to time, members referred to members opposite by "you" or "your" in their speeches, as opposed to their portfolios or their electoral district. I remind members that this is inappropriate. I must insist from now on that members address their comments through the Chair.
Further, from time to time, comments that could be interpreted to be inflammatory were made. I admit, I may have been remiss in not catching them at the time. I don't think that the members making the comments really intended them to be inflammatory; however, I thank the other members for their tolerance in accepting the comments in the light that they were made. However, the possibility of taking the comments personally and in an offensive manner always exists.
In summary, it's not my desire to interrupt the flow of a member's presentation to the Legislature; however, I must insist on professionalism and respect. May I ask the members to keep their remarks on a professional, respectful level. Thank you for your anticipated cooperation, and we'll proceed with Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
Motion No. 10 - adjourned debate
Clerk: Motion for Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, moved by Mr. McLarnon; adjourned debate, Mr. Fairclough.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, there have been many comments in regard to the throne speech so far. We have pointed out time and time again what is not in the throne speech and how little there is in it. There are priorities here that have been laid out by the Liberal government. I don't believe it goes far enough. There are seven points on which they say they would like to be graded. I think there is a lot more we would bring forward in grading the government's performance from year to year.
There's not much in the throne speech. This is the second one in six months. It left a lot of messages out that I believe the government could have been sending out through the throne speech. It said nothing about the environment - very little. There is going to be a review of the protected areas strategy.
It is full of New Democrat initiatives, where the Liberals would like to pat themselves on the back when it comes to the wind turbine, for example, cutting the ribbon and setting that up. The Liberals know it was not their initiative. It was the New Democrats who put that forward. The school in Ross River is another one.
They talk about how, in six months, they finally got the foundation down on the Mayo school, something that hasn't been done for the past 25 years. I raised this yesterday, saying that we, as a New Democratic government, were following a process. That process was led by the people of the Yukon and the chairs of school councils - something this government doesn't seem to be following - and by the department's recommendations on priorities for the replacement of schools.
Now, what we'll see - and I know that the Liberal government is going to prove this - is that there is going to be political interference and priorities, such as capital projects, particularly when it comes to schools. I see Grey Mountain School being built when it's not on the priority list, where there has been a decline in population in that area for the last three years, and where there is room for students to fill other schools in Whitehorse.
Now, of course, those plans to have school replacements or partial replacements - not the whole school - in two communities, probably amount to the cost of one school. It's pretty important to them. The trailer unit is still being used, even the one that is still in Pelly Crossing. Tests were done on the condition of the place, including the water on the floor and everything. To walk through and visually inspect it, you would never even consider passing it like that. But it did pass. Sometimes I really question whether the tests being done are valid at all.
I will give you one example that maybe the Minister of Renewable Resources is interested in. In Mayo, they tested the meat that the outfitters were bringing in. They felt that it was spoiled and not fit to eat. The tests came back, saying, "you can't eat this meat." But I guess some people can - not the local people. They don't eat rotten meat. I don't believe that a lot of the tests really reflect how the community is feeling about its facilities.
The Mayo school - the member said I haven't been there. I was up there a week before the members opposite were. They played a good TV time, I guess, but not to the people back home, because they know the difference. I walked through that school. I walked through the school with one of the councillors from the First Nation. The very first room we went into was the Yukon College section. Right above there, the tiles are off, and pots are put on top of the walls to catch the water before it even hits the ceiling tiles. Of course, maintenance probably did a pretty good job in that school, spray-painting white paint to cover up some of the water stains throughout the school.
I wasn't able to get to every classroom, but I went into the library and the smell was there. I know the Minister of Education cannot ignore that, if you walk through the library.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is saying, "Why didn't we build it earlier?" We had a priority list and we followed it, and the people of Mayo accepted that, too. The school in Old Crow burned down. We replaced it. We were doing one each year. The Ross River school, we replaced that, and the Mayo school was in the budget. It was budgeted for and money was put aside. The Liberals couldn't even follow through with that. We had given them a good work plan. It's all there. Their throne speech has it riddled right through it. I tell you, it's so powerful that it's going to be part of the Liberal platform for the next four years. That's how powerful it is.
They say they poured concrete, but they covered it up right away because they didn't know what to do after that. They put poly on it, nailed down the poly to try and save the wood. But they're saving money. That's the big thing. They're saving money.
This winter they're saving money. They're going to start construction, what, next spring during some cold weather, throughout the summer and the winter. So you're going to go through one winter of building, no matter how you look at it.
But it was an insult to the community of Mayo. Here you've got a foundation. You're teasing them. The kids look at that every day, knowing that they were going to get a school, and yet you couldn't find it enough to concentrate and make sure that this project would go through. It's an outrage. It's an outrage to the people of Mayo.
And that's not the only place we have had delays. There are other communities. It appears that the Liberal government does not want to respect the communities. The first thing they do is cancel the community development fund, call it "under review", but it's cancelled.
Of course, for the communities, that's their priority. There may be small projects, $5,000 projects. Other organizations put hundreds of thousands of dollars into projects that are being approved by the community development fund. Liberals cancelled that. I guess it put people to work.
They didn't say anything in their throne speech about how they are going to look at new initiatives to put people to work. Their concentration was on mining and oil and gas; that's it. They mentioned the forest sector. They didn't even have the respect to go down to the community of Watson Lake to support the industry at all.
Now, their actions are certainly different than what they say they want to do in their throne speech over the next four years. It's pretty hollow to tell the general public that this is what the Liberal government is going to do over the next four years. This is pretty hollow.
They are going to achieve devolution. They say they will achieve devolution. The Member for Whitehorse Centre said that negotiations are going well on devolution. What negotiations? The date is April 1. It was set way before the Liberal government even got in. So, what they're telling the public is that they will wiggle their thumbs until April 1 and say, "We achieved devolution." Right now, the Yukon Act is being worked on. It's in the process of the federal government right now. It's pretty embarrassing to even put that in. They could say they look forward to it and are preparing and will prepare for devolution, but that hasn't happened. I don't see that happening within the Liberal government at all. What are they doing? Why can't they say to the general public that they will be ready to bring down programs from the federal government? Why can't they say that and be open to the general public? No, they're hiding something.
Just the inexperience, I suppose, that is speaking here.
Their number one top priority of settling land claims - this one gets to me. Settling outstanding land claims - top priority, first top priority. But what are the reasons that they say - the reason for settling land claims - in the throne speech? Well, it's because it's key to the increased economic activity. That's what the reasons for settling land claims are in this throne speech. That's an insult to all the aboriginal people and those who have helped in negotiating the land claims agreement.
It didn't say anything about how First Nations will move ahead, self-governing. There's not one word about self-government agreements in this throne speech. Senior governments - is that respect? Is that restoring confidence in government? I think not.
I don't believe that the Liberal government even understands the UFA and what's in it, and what its responsibilities are. The UFA is signed off. Seven have ratified agreements, which the Yukon government has signed off to them. What are in the agreements? Do you care?
A bigger job than negotiations, when it comes to land claims, is implementing those agreements. Right now, I would have expected, if you're really sincere about land claims being a number one issue - why can't you say to the First Nations out there that you will go out and lobby and show support for them, and lobby the Liberal government to make sure that these land claims agreements are implemented - not just the land claims agreements, but the self-government agreements? Why can't you do that?
I guess the care and the thought just wasn't there in the last six months when the Liberal government sat down to write out a throne speech. It just wasn't there. I'm sure that they're thinking about it now.
They made no mention of the development assessment process or the program service transfer agreements, or PSTAs. That would make Yukon a better place. That would bring First Nations more responsibility. That would help Yukon First Nations build an economy, working from the ground up. Why isn't the support there from the Yukon government?
They haven't been talking to anybody, I suppose. There is no respect for process. Chief Robert Hager proved that yesterday; they couldn't even consult with him, the chief, about decisions that affect them the most. After three years of planning, it took just a matter of days for the Liberal government to throw that down the drain, keep people out of work. Now that the heat is on with the Mayo school, of course, the government is scrambling to try to find jobs in the community.
There's potential in Mayo - lots. The hydro line is, of course, just one of them that they are looking at. There is mining. Of course, base metals and precious metals are going to determine that. But there's potential in tourism. We certainly have to do a lot of work with communities in that regard.
But why isn't there more concentration on them, to even work with them? Say that you will work with CYFN, and say that you will work with First Nations. You want their support, don't you? When it comes to oil and gas development, you want their support. You're eager to lobby then for their support, but you can't even deal with community issues.
Now, settling the outstanding land claims - the only reason why it was put in here by the Liberals is because it was key to increasing economic activities. It was key to increasing economic activities. It's not that they have been negotiating for so many years and have come across a stumbling block, like some First Nation that maybe would like to see a better agreement than what was offered in the UFA. It's not that at all.
They are senior governments, like the Yukon government is. I don't believe the Liberal government even recognizes that. They control more land quantum than the Yukon government does. Did you know that? They have abilities to pass laws on their lands. The only reason the Liberals put this forward is because it was key to economic development in the Yukon.
I certainly think that would bring a lot of certainty to Yukoners, too. I mean, we have all said that. Every government in the past has said that. They would like the First Nations to grow. Things come up. Court cases dictate a lot of what takes place now. First Nations use them as a tool, as an advantage, to try to get something different out of this government.
There are the self-government agreements, which are really fine-tuned to the First Nation itself. I haven't heard anything come out of the Liberal government about self-government agreements at all. It was just the land claims agreement, the final agreements, not the self-government agreements. Do they even support it? Do they support the First Nations having that type of power within their governments? Not according to the throne speech.
They want to rebuild the Yukon economy. Well, two things were key for the Liberals: mining, and oil and gas. Those are big ones for the Liberal government. Some of these have been talked about for a long time. Oil and gas is nothing new here, and mining is nothing new. What programs and how do we get it up and going? What are firm steps that the Liberal government is going to take to make sure that we have more activity in the mining sector in the Yukon? Well, there's one that was named in here; a couple were named in here. But that's not the only thing that Yukon can grow on.
Oil and gas, a huge pipeline going through, could more than triple the population of the Yukon, depending on how quickly that pipeline goes through. $6 billion - they bumped it down to $2 billion now. I don't know why there's such a big difference in numbers there, but $6 billion is what we got out of the company when they came through and talked to us.
There was no mention in here about diversifying, looking at new ways, being innovative in trying to create jobs - nothing to say that these are going to be creating jobs right now, today, when people are unemployed. There is nothing even about assay rate increases. I guess maybe they're scared of that. That might take away some of their dollars, looking at how the number of unemployed people is growing quicker than any other year. But they are rebuilding the economy through mining and through oil and gas.
I don't see a lot of emphasis put on ecotourism and I know the minister supports that. There's lots of interest out there right now in ecotourism, but in Tourism what was presented was to concentrate on the rubber-tire traffic and closer to home, Alaska and B.C. The first thing the minister does is fly off, because she likes to fly around the country and see places. She didn't even know her portfolio and yet she was giving direction nationally.
They want to achieve devolution. That's a pretty big issue in the Yukon right now. Where do the First Nations fit into this? Work with the First Nations on it. As part of the devolved programs going to them, can you not commit in this throne speech to that, or are you going to do it behind closed doors, not be open to the public at all, like you say you want to be - open and accountable? There are a lot of things hidden in here, and I'm sure that we're going to be pulling them out over the next four years, unless of course the Liberals come back and table, in another throne speech in six months, "This is what we're going to do now." Chapter 3, nine more to go.
There was a lot of talk about developing infrastructure and how our roads are in a crisis situation. Well, Mr. Speaker, all the Liberal MLAs who are in this House today are from Whitehorse. They're just not used to driving the highways, and we have been doing it all our lives - driving the highways in the worst of conditions. Snow storms or the big mud hole between Faro and Carmacks and beyond. Dangerous corners. There has been a lot of work done over the last, I would say, 10 years in improving the roads around the Yukon, and much more can go into it. I agree with the government that we could be putting more money into these roads as long as we don't sacrifice other things that are really crucial to Yukon people, like health and education.
Some roads could use a lot of work, like the Campbell Highway, resurfacing, putting chipseal on it, and getting away from the expensive maintenance that must be done on those roads. This summer was a bad summer for that road. The highways crew couldn't grade it. They couldn't even grade it because of the water that's on it. If they did, they would knock off all the top soil; it just rolls up into a ball and rolls off into the ditch. They couldn't do that, so they had to do some type of control in filling potholes. But imagine if we had ore trucks on the road, and remember how bad the road was when we did have the ore trucks and how dangerous it was to drive. There were potholes all up and down the highway from here to Faro, and it wasn't a good experience to be on the highway behind an ore truck or behind 10 ore trucks.
Right now, I'd say that a lot of our highways are in pretty good shape. There could be a lot of improvements right around Fox Lake, for example, like taking out some of the corners. This has been in the plan for the last 10 years and has been slashed out. There could be improvements to the Marsh Lake area, where there seems to be a roller-coaster ride when you go through there.
They talked about infrastructure, water and sewer, telephones. It has certainly changed from the plans that the NDP had with regard to telephones. All of a sudden, it's years behind; some places may or may not get it.
Back to the roads for a second, though. I think that the government could do a few small things that could really improve the safety of the highways. For one, put a centre line down the road to Tagish, clear out some of the trees that are along the highway, and we asked that. And not just get a big brush-cutter to do that. Get people to work.
And a lot of that had taken place over the last couple of years. A lot of brush had been cleared along the highway. It looks pretty good. Even the Yukon Electrical Company has done a lot where the power lines do follow the road. It has cleared out quite a bit and probably saved dollars for the highways department.
But still, of course, there is always ongoing maintenance, though I must say that there have been some big dollars in the C&TS department and a lot of replacement of old equipment. They've got up-to-date graders, for example, with which they can do a job twice as fast as the year before. Those types of things cut down the maintenance, because the equipment is new. The replacement of a lot of the fleet vehicles that we have makes it so that there was not as much maintenance required in the last year. It has been fairly good.
I am hoping that if the government is serious about developing infrastructure, they look at the communities a lot more carefully than they have been. Water and sewer is a good thing. If they really want to develop the community as a community, there are things that could be done. It takes time, of course. They are not going to throw big money at it all at once and have it all done. An example is moving the highway camp out of the community of Carmacks and on to the highway just outside the community. That's part of building healthier communities, as is water and sewer.
They sure mentioned this a lot in the throne speech, but I hope that they don't ignore First Nations. Even though they are unincorporated communities, they are communities within a community, yet they cannot get the service sometimes. I find it fairly offensive that they are not considered to be within what the territorial government could be doing in helping a community. The Village of Carmacks, the villages of Mayo and Teslin all use the First Nation in a head count in order to be a municipality. They get municipal money for a village, rather than for a hamlet, but they seem to be cut out of the loop when it comes to water and sewer.
As a matter of fact, the First Nations struggle with this whole thing of moving their whole settlement areas up from higher water table levels - lower to the river - to higher elevations, so they can get away from the sewage seepage into wells. I would say they have made vast improvements on their own, without government help. So, I'd like to see the Liberal government pay some attention to that and not have these things as band-aid solutions for the next 10 years. I hope to see systems in place that will last at least 25 years.
Our telephone lines are pretty key right now. It has been mentioned here that we need to keep up with the fast-growing age of computers. We can't even make a telephone call out of the community, never mind getting Internet access. What does that say to government as far as getting communities up to speed? We're all on the highway. We're all close to telephone lines. There is no reason why we can't do it. As a matter of fact, there is a project in place. So, why cancel it? I think this would be a vast improvement to schools, which could use telecommunications and have classes taught from Toronto, Vancouver or Whitehorse in the small communities, such as Pelly Crossing, so that students can take courses that are not offered in the communities.
I thought the Liberal opposition agreed with the NDP at the time on this particular project. But it's changing, and has changed, and people are not happy with the change, because there are delays and more delays. It has gone from one department to another, and somewhere down the road a bunch of information went missing. Now, we're stuck with what we have today. But, hopefully, they can take advantage of some federal government dollars.
"Maintaining quality health care" - doctors and nurses are leaving the Yukon Territory. We would like to know what plans the department has for recruitment, and keeping the doctors in the communities. It's important, of course - people feel a sense of safety when they do have nurses and doctors within their communities.
What happened to the CAT scan? Did that get thrown out? I mean, there is $1 million in the budget for that. Why can't that piece of equipment come to the Yukon Territory? Try to save money, rather than sending people out every time there is a head injury.
Addressing alcohol and drugs: I would like to see a lot of work done in this area. This is not something, of course, that's going to be done in six months or one year. I know that the Liberal government would like to see vast changes right away.
One of their initiatives, I guess, in this throne speech, was to provide information to communities out there, and "go heal yourself" is what they say. It's embarrassing - shameful, actually - because communities have been doing it for a long time. This doesn't happen overnight, by any means. It takes a long, long time - generations - to heal people; and it's done on the community level.
And this one we will really hold, of course, the government to its wording - in thinking that people do not have confidence in government, that they'd be "restoring confidence in government". I think they're working at the complete opposite, right now.
They can't even tell the environment community that they stand for something within the throne speech. YPAS, sure, but the only reason that's in there is because the Liberals wanted to include the Chamber of Mines as part of the process, give them more clout and more say into the development of protected spaces in the Yukon Territory.
Of course, this document now changes that. In their platform document, it's all about the future. Well, that's gone by. I guess the future has gone by, on that one. All of a sudden, the Chamber of Mines is not that important in the process. I would say that was a very good document that was put forward - developed by the people and criticized by the Liberal government, who are now trying to champion this whole thing.
Even with that, they didn't have enough initiative among themselves to put something in the throne speech with regard to protected spaces. What are the numbers? Are you working at getting one protected space in the next year and one the year after? What are you looking at? What are you concentrating on? How are the structures being dealt with?
You talk about a review. Well, how's a review going to take place? Behind closed doors with the Liberals or out in the public, being open and accountable? Are you going to do some extensive consultation to make sure that the protected areas strategy that was developed by the communities and by the people of the Yukon is not changed to suit, I guess, Liberal initiatives and promises to friends?
There's no social agenda here. There's very little vision in here. It's just hollow and empty. And there's very little on the economy and an economic agenda - nothing about trade and investment. The Premier herself was not totally on side with that, but has got a trip booked to China now. It's time for Chinese food, I suppose. If the Prime Minister can fly her up on a jet for dinner down in Ottawa, well, I wouldn't think that she would miss out on this one.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: I guess, to determine what their policies are, they will bring back a bunch of fortune cookies.
There's nothing about women in this throne speech, and I'm quite surprised - nothing about supporting women's issues at all. I guess that's a pretty clear message to the women of the Yukon that the Liberal government is not going to be doing very much at all when it comes to women's issues. That is the throne speech. That's the message they want to get out to the Yukon people. Where are the youth when it comes to the Liberals? There is nothing in the throne speech here about a youth directorate being set up. It's not a Liberal directive, that's for sure, but hey, pat them on the back. They are going to take credit for that, too.
The Premier has taken on a number of portfolios and is too busy micromanaging the departments. She is not letting the people who have the skills within the department to do their jobs. She is micromanaging the departments. She has little time for Yukoners. She is too busy flying around Canada and the country, but has no time for the people of the Yukon.
I would think that, by the actions of this government now, over the last six months and in the throne speech, it is no different from when they were in opposition. The government wants to talk about the economy and bring in a motion about the economy. What did the Liberals do? They ran out of the House. They didn't want to talk about it when they were in opposition. That's how important it was to the Liberals, and that is reflected in this throne speech today.
There's no trust there with the government. How can they? How can people trust government to carry out what they say they are going to do? They say that they're committed to what they said they were going to do; they would carry them out. They passed their budget here, not long ago. They didn't have enough within them to create their own budget, but they wanted to give Yukon certainty. That's what they said. And the only way they could do it is with the hard work of the NDP, by adopting their budget. That's the way they were going to bring certainty to Yukon people. But that only lasted a month, two months? And then along comes Patty Scissorhands cutting out the -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The government House leader on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Under the Standing Orders, I would like to talk about the use of abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: On the point of order, this is merely an interruption. There was no insulting language here at all by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Speaker: I'll comment right now on it, as I had called order as the government House Leader stood up. As I said before, I would request and appreciate members to refrain from insulting language.
Thank you. Please continue.
Mr. Fairclough: It appears that the Liberal government is thin-skinned and I can tell you that it is going to be easy to tan this sitting.
The Liberal government adopted the NDP budget and said that they would pass it in its entirety, and what do they do? They come back and cut out what they don't like. And what does that cause in the communities, in Whitehorse with the NGOs? I don't know. I can ask you, Mr. Speaker: what would you call it when you say you're going to do one thing and then immediately do something else? Is that changing your mind or misleading Yukoners? What would you call it?
I think there has been a lot of training that took place by the federal Liberals with the Yukon Liberals. I'll give you an example of one of them, Mr. Speaker, and why I think that Yukon Liberals are so much like the federal Liberals. Remember when Jean Chrétien came out and said he was going to kick out the GST? What happened? They changed their minds. They really said one thing and did the other. It's no different with the Yukon Liberal Party.
Is their training so deep that they would actually take on some of these initiatives that the federal Liberals have been doing to Canadians, to Yukoners, to small groups like this? Bill C-68, the gun law - it didn't matter what we said, did it? We haven't heard a word from this Yukon Liberal Party about Bill C-68.
They just agree with the federal Liberals, whatever they say. If they pull the string, the Yukon Liberals would react. When it came to changing the name of Mount Logan, the Yukon Premier thought it was a great idea. It was a great idea according to the Liberal Party. Then, all of a sudden, they changed their minds. The Member for Kluane was doing all kinds of work, getting e-mail from people across the country, lobbying to make sure that government followed due process. Here we have the Premier agreeing with the Prime Minister on that process - breaching the land claims agreement, right off the bat. She didn't even think about it. That's pretty important to Yukoners, to make sure that the agreements that they spent 30 years negotiating are followed. But the Premier didn't have it within her to support Yukoners on that important issue. She couldn't do that. She agreed with the federal Liberals. Why can't you agree that if there is ever going to be a name change to Mount Logan that a local name be chosen and not somebody else -
Speaker: Order. Order please. I must remind the member to address his comments through the Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
There's not much at all for job creation here. There's a reliance on oil and gas and the fact that it will be the answer to the job problem in Yukon. They want to bring responsible mining back to the territory and force responsible practices in the territory.
They want to create an industry-driven tourism strategy. Well, there is a tourism strategy already in place.
But they wanted to bring an industry-driven tourism strategy. Now what the NDP did was to bring forward a community-driven tourism strategy that was sponsored by industry, putting the community in charge. It's not the same thing that the Liberals would like to do - change things, they want to keep people here for another day.
I would like to go through the whole document here. I have lots of notes all the way through. I haven't even gone through half of it yet.
It's obvious that the Liberals aren't listening; they are not listening to Yukoners. They're not even listening to their ridings or their constituents.
We had the Member for Whitehorse Centre going off in a - I don't know what route he was taking, but he wasn't taking the left fork or the right fork. He was going straight through. He didn't know where he was going - trying to make a new trail, I suppose. He had to throw his last moose hunting trip into this, trying to talk about taking the bull by the horns or something like that. It's a pretty bad reflection of what a Yukoner is.
So far, the Liberal government has been pushing hard with land sales for oil and gas. It didn't matter whether the First Nation supported it or not. They pushed ahead. I will do this and come back and talk to you later. Isn't that the same thing with the school? We made a decision, we'll come back and talk to you later. That's their way of doing consultation.
It's embarrassing and shameful, and I hope they change their ways. The Liberals don't like that one.
Some Hon. Member: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order, the hon. Premier.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, you ruled earlier today that we are to be careful in our use of language in that we were permitted to say that a statement was contrary to the facts. The member opposite has made a statement that the Minister of Economic Development proceeded with land sales without the support of First Nations, and in fact that is contrary to the facts.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, this constitutes a dispute between members and is simply not a point of order.
Speaker: I'm going to have to reflect on this for a minute.
I'm inclined to feel that it's a dispute between members on the facts and not a point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to continue after the rude interruption by the Premier.
We're just going through the throne speech. I thought they would be proud of what they presented to the general public - to the constituents out there - but their own constituents are giving feedback to us about what they see the Liberal government standing for over the next four years.
There is so much that is not in this throne speech and so little in there. It is just an empty, hollow vessel, in my opinion. It has no vision whatsoever. It has given no direction to the people of the Yukon. And it's a shame. I don't know if, in another six months, we will get another throne speech so the Liberals can change their minds again. I do hope that, in some of the things I've said in giving some direction when it comes to infrastructure and so on, they take those comments seriously because they do come from the community.
I thank you, and I do hope that we can continue to go through this throne speech quickly because there isn't much there.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm honoured to rise in support of the Yukon Liberal government's health and social services initiatives. I would also like to thank the officials and staff members of the Department of Health and Social Services for their efforts in working with the new team.
I think one of the very important issues here for us is to really look at what this document tells us. It's a document about promoting healthy living. Let me explain what this means. Healthy living gives new energy to people. It gives positive attitudes; quality family time; community enrichment; longer lives; increased opportunities. And the rewards for healthy living - I could stay here all afternoon just listing all of them.
But I do want to correct one point made by the member opposite about the community development fund. I don't know where that fit into the throne speech, but the member opposite suggested that we have cut the CDF. We have not cut the CDF.
But I have to point out, Mr. Speaker, that the government of yesterday spent $2.5 million of the CDF, from April 1 to April 17, when the election was held. They spent $2.5 million, and there was only $3 million in the CDF put into the budget - only $3 million, and the government opposite, before they were actually booted out, spent $2.5 million of that $3 million for the year. So, I just want that to be on the record, because that's never told.
We know many people struggle with their health at one time or another in their lives. The Yukon government is committed to providing a health care system that supports all Yukoners in their efforts to maintain and improve their health. That's why there are many initiatives in the throne speech that we are going to be following.
We have a plan. It's a 10-year plan. And if the members haven't heard that for awhile, I'm back to it again, because that's what it takes in order to make changes to our health care system. What are these initiatives? Some of the examples, in keeping with where we're at now with one tier - I was pleased to see the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party here. I know for a fact that they have a problem there with the possibility of a two-tiered system. We don't want to go that route, because that does discriminate.
What does that mean - one tier? It means that all Yukoners, no matter how much money they have in the bank, are served equally.
Money cannot bump an ill person ahead of another ill person. They have to stand in line. That's what the one-tier system means.
The Department of Health and Social Services makes sure that everyone follows the principle of the one-tier system, and I think it's important that we look at this for the future, and it's important that we say it often, because it's one of those points that sometimes gets lost, Mr. Speaker.
Yukoners also need to know what steps the Yukon government is taking to maintain quality health care, and I think it's very important that we look at how we're going to do this.
The member opposite mentioned the fact of doctors and nurses, and the recruitment of doctors and nurses. That's a very important issue for this government. Time and time again, we have shared with the public, we have shared with the members opposite, we have shared in as many different forums as we can that the strategy that we have in place is working. We are attracting nurses. They are in very - I guess you would call it unique demand across the nation.
Doctors, again, are an area that we have to really put more time on, more energy on, because we know that there's a high demand for doctors as well; and we are. We have a Web site that has had, up to this point, I think, about 700 hits. About 200 of those were actual inquiries as to what we have to offer.
And that's the way we have to go in the future, Mr. Speaker. We have to spend time, we have to spend energy, and we have to spend money on recruitment. In the past, we may not have had to do this because of the surplus that we had at that point, but today we have to, Mr. Speaker.
So our plans are to maintain a quality health care system, and this will require very careful crafting in budgeting. It will require what I call a paradigm change in the attitude of all Yukoners about what health care is. This is being demanded of us by all health care systems in the country.
We have been used to a system that has been what it is, and it is changing all the time. But when it changes, we have to make sure we translate those changes to all Canadians, and that means dialoguing. That means working with Yukoners and with Canadians on what health care means.
This is the model that is called the primary health care model, where you use the nurse practitioner as the first line of support. Mr. Speaker, this is not something new to the Yukon. This has been going on for years, because many of our communities in the Yukon only have nurse practitioners, and they have been everything as far as the health care to that community. So, really, what we have to do is expand that idea and build on it and use that expertise that is there. This is something that is now catching on across the nation and I hope we can continue to promote it. It means a rethinking, because what happens, Mr. Speaker, is that a lot of people feel that the only person they can really identify with or who can address their problem is a doctor. Where we have these partnerships in our communities - and we have two communities that have these nurse-doctor practitioner partnerships - it works very well. I had the opportunity this summer to visit a number of communities, and we have some models that are following these particular ways of the new health care paradigm.
I think a large portion of what I say from here on will describe how we do this. If you look at the recent discussion about doctors and what role they play, we know, if the member opposite is asking me a question, we have Faro, which plays a very strong part in what we call the primary care model. I have spent a number of hours talking to the people there and they believe that that's a system that really works.
The Yukon government is revitalizing preventative health care. We are doing this by increasing public education and by better using our systems. And professionals already are trying to get that message across to the public. We have to change, as I said earlier, the way we deliver health care. And we're acting on it.
Another initiative that this government will be promoting and supporting in the next number of years - and I've said 10 years, and that's only to get it going - is the active living strategy. This is a strategy to prevent what we call our system now. We call it a health care system sometimes. We have to really look at what it means. We have to promote health. What is the active living strategy? It means taking control of your own life and building and maintaining your own health. We have to really look at what we, as individuals, do about our own health.
You would say, that's quite automatic, everybody looks after their health. But that's not necessarily true. We have a lot of literature and a lot of research that is coming out across North America indicating that many of us are not looking after our health. We expect the health system to do it. Really, the health system is there to help those who, for whatever reasons or difficulties, need help. Not for the majority of the population, who can look after themselves. So, that's the kind of thinking that we have to change.
The active living model will see far more emphasis in the future. And we will be talking about this in the next few years. We will be bringing to this House some ideas, some thoughts and some ways of trying to achieve this. It isn't going to be done overnight.
I suppose it's easy for me to stand here and say that prevention is one of the very keys. It's not easy. We can talk about it. But we have to do it. So, that's where the action comes in. We are taking action by resolving to restructure our thinking about the healing process. What really is true healing? It's the motivator to prevent unhealthy living. Healing is what is required with addictions.
I have heard the member opposite talk about there being nothing in the throne speech about addictions. One of our main themes, Mr. Speaker, besides land claims and devolution, is addictions - substance abuse and addictions. It is a major concern of our government. Recently, we have had the AADAC people come to the Yukon to evaluate and give us back some kind of idea about where we're at in our alcohol and drug scene at this point in time. We will be submitting that report to the House in the near future. We will be submitting it to the communities. It will have ideas and thoughts about where we can go with this, because, as I mentioned earlier, we not only have a problem with alcohol and drug abuse; we have a plague, and it's major. In my visits to 11 of the communities in the past couple of months, this was the issue that came up in every community - every community, Mr. Speaker.
The government of yesterday had four years to do something about this particular plague. Mr. Speaker, they chose to sit on it. This government is not going to sit on it. We are a government of action.
We have to maintain our quality health care. Again, we have to look at how we're going to do this. We have to look at all of us being partners in this process.
Our throne speech talked about working with communities, working with Yukoners. When I sat down with the communities, the First Nations, the villages, individuals, nursing stations and doctors - what I received from them was a response of cooperation.
We no longer can continue on our individual paths to resolve some of the major problems we have in our community, Mr. Speaker. We have to work together. We have to be creative, because we have waited too long to build what is necessary to solve some of these major problems that we have in our communities.
If we don't respond to changes, Mr. Speaker, then we're not growing. I think this is one of our problems. I've shared with you earlier that health care is changing. I hear from my fellow Health ministers the same concerns about responsibility. They say that the old days are over; new ideas have to be put forth, and new discussions have to take place.
We learned a great deal from our forefathers, from our elders and from our grandparents. We have to build on that. We must use their rationale, their ideas, and build for the future.
One of the main issues that I've really tried to share with all the communities is that if we want to retain our doctors and nurses, we must respect them. This has been a problem in some of our communities. We expect our nurses to be available 24-hours a day, our doctors to be available 24-hours a day, and they're to think nothing of it. It's almost like they don't have a life.
Today our health care professionals are saying: "We want a life. We want to be part of the community. We don't want to be machines." And I have challenged communities in a positive way to build with their health care people, to invite them to be part of the community, and I have to say that all communities have responded in turn. Maybe not every individual, Mr. Speaker, but I think it's important that we try to get this message across to as many people as we can.
I think the important part in looking at primary health care - because that's a word that's going to come back again and again in this next number of years - is looking at all those resources that we have in our health care system to ensure that we use and rely on all those people who have skills.
If we don't, Mr. Speaker, our system is going to collapse. It cannot maintain and sustain the present direction without a change in attitude, a change in idea, a change in direction. We have to maintain our one-tiered health care system.
Recently, and last year, we have held health summits. I attended the one last year that was here in Whitehorse. It was a very positive initiative. And I'll give credit to the government of yesterday that this was a good move, to have health summits. Mind you, it took them three and a half years to have it, when they said they would do it at the beginning of their mandate. But it was a good move. This year, we had two health summits, and these were rural-based. One was in Haines Junction and one was in Ross River. And from my understanding, the health summits were very successful again in addressing what causes the problems of ill health. In other words, they looked at the active living model as being where they want to go. They want to look at healthy communities. They wanted to look at how we can do that, as a community.
I have to thank Dr. Timmermans for setting this up. As you know, he's leaving, and if he hasn't left already, we thank him for all the work he has done over the last 20 years here in the Yukon. But it was his inspiration that brought this idea to where we have it today. We have to look at the process of building together, Mr. Speaker. Rural Yukon residents from 12 of the Yukon communities really believe that this is where we're at. I'm commenting on the ones I visited. I haven't been to a few communities, which I plan on doing over the next month. And I'm sure I'm going to get the same message from those communities.
We must work together. We can snipe at each other, we can be critical, but let's do it in a positive way, Mr. Speaker, so that we can build for the future.
We have had other health care initiatives. We have had the First Nations home and community care initiative. This is a Health Canada initiative we began planning in January of 2000. Half of the Yukon's communities have hired a home care coordinator to develop and implement the program in their community, and the director of health partnerships from the Yukon government has attended many of these meetings to keep Health and Social Services informed of how the rural communities are addressing this particular role. This is probably the future of the whole idea of home care.
What we have to do is try to look at the one-window approach, and I have discussed with many of the rural communities about delivering services from one window, through a government-to-government approach, and they are positive and open to this, Mr. Speaker. They believe that we're all Yukoners, that we all want to work together for the same reason.
A community health plan is in the initial stages in Ross River, and in the past it has been successful in developing a framework in the community of Teslin through consultation with the Village of Teslin, the Teslin Tlingit Council and Yukon Health and Social Services. So we have some models here, Mr. Speaker, which are demonstrating very positive actions.
A community health planning working group has been formed in Haines Junction for the same purpose, and the idea here, again, Mr. Speaker, is to try to build on consensus in the community.
Health promotion in the community is supported by all three territories in the north and Health Canada. The goal is to improve the total health care, because what's happening now is that the north has the distinction of having probably the worst health care, I guess, problems among many of our residents. So, we have really got to look at how we pull it together and work very hard at building for the future.
Another committee, called the Health Partnership Development Committee, is comprised of Yukon First Nations and represents YTG and the Department of Health - again, looking at how we can develop policy together, joint planning and, as I have shared earlier, the one-window approach.
This fall, the mandate of the Health Partnership Development Committee is undergoing a review. After the review, we will be looking at how we build government-to-government responses. The important part is to look at partnership, Mr. Speaker. If I can underline what this throne speech has really been all about, it's about building partnership. It's not having all of the answers. Unfortunately, as government, we sometimes think - and past governments have done this - that we have all of the answers. We don't. Communities have the answers. They are there on the front line, so we have to utilize those resources.
Recently, we were just awarded another funding program through the diabetes programming. The objective here is to look at how we can identify diabetes, because it is a growing concern in the country, and it's important that we find out what's causing the problem and how we can arrest the problem. So we have to find out what the numbers are. As far as I am concerned, Mr. Speaker, this is working together, all governments working together in order to build that common image.
Also very important, as we have mentioned here over and over, are our seniors and the growing number of seniors we have in the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, I believe this is going to be one of our biggest challenges as a government - ensuring that we look after the wise people who got us here. It is very important that we do it right. So, we must be talking to our elders and to our seniors. We must look at how we work with them, in order to build for the future.
We are dedicated to maintaining seniors health care, Mr. Speaker. We understand that we have a problem with the growing numbers, but we also have to look at how we respond to them.
For me, as I sometimes am in denial that I am a senior, but I am, Mr. Speaker, and I'll gladly admit it - I went to the elders games on the weekend, and a lot of the people there who I knew as parents and as fellow players of various teams I was on, said, "Why weren't you taking part in this, Mr. Roberts? You could have been part of this." I said, "Well, it's like being follicly-challenged. You kind of deny it for awhile, you cover it up, and then you sort of say, 'Get real, you don't have it, so show it.'" It's the same thing, admitting that you are a senior, and I gladly admit that I'm a senior. I'm proud to be a senior, because that's another stage in one's growth, one's development. I'm very pleased to be a grandparent, and I'm very pleased to have four grandchildren living down the street from me. So this is, I think, another reality check for a lot of us who tried to deny that we're seniors.
There are many reasons, Mr. Speaker, why we have to look after, maintain, dialogue and work with our seniors.
Housing, as my fellow Cabinet minister and colleague talked about - this wonderful initiative about seniors housing. It was almost pooh-poohed by the opposition, Mr. Speaker. It's very good to have an idea up there, but if you don't put any money in it, it doesn't go anywhere. We put the money in it, Mr. Speaker, and we're getting somewhere with it. Past governments have just talked about it; they've never done anything with it.
It's much like the Mayo school, Mr. Speaker. They talked about the school being their initiative, and yet nothing was done under their reign after 26 years. The Liberals finally made the footprint. There it is, Mr. Speaker.
It's like housing, Mr. Speaker. We have it there. We are working to build for seniors.
The extended care facility; we won't take complete credit for the extended care facility, but we will take credit for extending it from 74 to 96 beds. And, of course, that will be an argument that members opposite will bring up about spending more money in extended care, because what they were doing was just shelling in the extra bids. We said that we're not going to shell it in; we're going to build it, because we know we need it today. That's our commitment to seniors. If we know we need it, we do it. We don't wait around and pretend that it doesn't exist or it's not there.
This will also bring us up to a level of providing services that has not been seen in the Yukon. We will have another process to try to deliver to Yukoners who need that kind of support. This will free up the Thomson Centre for medium-level care. It will also help the seniors in Macaulay Lodge. They will be able to move to the Thomson Centre. So, it will be a real re-jigging and re-juggling of where our seniors can go and trying to address their needs even more specifically.
I think it's very important to understand that seniors - and I'm spending a bit of time on this, because they are really our knowledge and our mentors for the future. It is with seniors that we are going to build the future. It is with youth that we are going to build the future. I am very much involved in trying to build, as are my fellow colleagues on this side of the House, a youth strategy for the future. The Member for Riverside will be speaking about youth, so we'll wait to see what he has to deliver. There are many initiatives that are going to be taking place.
We, as a caucus, are team players, Mr. Speaker. This is what the throne speech is all about. It talks about a team effort. We are trying to rid ourselves of the stovepipes of government. We are trying to work as team members. What happens in government quite often is that you end up with departments sometimes feeling that they don't work with each other. Stovepipes tend to give that kind of definition to what happens, and we're going to remove stovepipes. We're going to work as a team. We are going to try to build for the future.
In my walk-arounds and my visits to the communities, I was in Mayo at the time of the important meeting and I went to it. I was able to visit the youth centre there and I was very impressed. I was impressed by the organization and I was impressed by the commitment of the people of Mayo to maintain the youth centre.
I played pool with a 12-year-old, Mr. Speaker, and was beaten. She sunk the 8-ball and I didn't have a chance. So, that tells you where our youth are.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, it was a she, as well, so I have to improve on my pool skills.
One of the other points, I think, with the alcohol and drug review - just a couple of things. We're looking at the three questions that have plagued our system in the past. Are we providing the right services? That was a question that we will be responding to. Are the services that we're providing adequately resourced, and what about the organizational structure of our current alcohol and drug support? These are some things that we will be coming back to when we release our report. That report will be released very shortly, Mr. Speaker, and we are hopefully going to have a quick turnaround about getting feedback, because we're not going to be reviewing this forever. I would suggest that, in six months, if we're not doing something - running, heart action - then the report is not worth the paper it's written on.
That is going to be our challenge as a community, as Yukoners, to try to rid ourselves of the plague.
This is going to take every resource that we have in the territory to build. We are going to have to work as real team people.
I think the other point in the throne speech talks about how we, as Yukoners, want to see the future. The economy is definitely one of the very basic issues in improving all social ills. This government has put forth an image that will build for the long term. Short term is what it is, and then when it runs out, you have to start all over again, so we are looking at how to build for the long term.
Mr. Speaker, it's very important that all of us from all parties try to see that working together will take us much further down the road than not working together. I'm not saying that you can't be critical. I think it's important that we have positive, constructive criticism, but let's move ahead. Let's not try to do one-upmanship with each other, saying, "Well, we did this and we did that." Let's work on this initiative in alcohol and drug as true team players right across the territory.
We have in place now what they call the Public Health Act, which was amended to include the reporting of cases of fetal alcohol syndrome. That is now in place, Mr. Speaker, and thanks to all members of the House for supporting this. This can be an initiative that will, in the future, hopefully see us try to attack this very important problem.
I've heard the question of fetal alcohol being mentioned a few times, because it is a very serious problem in the territory. I will be providing more information in the near future about some of the things that we're doing and some of the things that we have to continue to do. We're not there yet, Mr. Speaker. We have not solved all the fetal alcohol or alcohol and drug problems in the territory. We have not. We're just beginning, Mr. Speaker.
We really have to work in order to build a system that is going to try to work with all Yukoners. And Mr. Speaker, I think it's very important to look at how we, as government, can do that. Education and government accountability - it's very important that we be very transparent about what we do.
We're not going to come out with a report that has all of the answers in it. We're going to come out with a report that states some issues, concerns and possible directions, but it's not an imprint. We're hoping that communities, individuals and Yukoners will come back and say, "Okay, I think this will work; this will not work." Hopefully, we can build on that.
In the last month, we have been trying to share with Yukoners what health care costs really are. It's very important, Mr. Speaker, that Yukoners have knowledge of health care costs. It is not free. I believe in the universality of the health care system. I believe that Yukoners want to know what their health care system costs.
If we are going to control costs in the future, there has to be a conscious decision to understand what is driving these costs through the roof. So, we will be issuing a report card to all Yukoners and, hopefully, we will expect to have feedback from Yukoners about what they see in this report card. This will be done during this session, Mr. Speaker. It is an initiative that is going to be taking place across the nation - not the same kind of initiative that we are going to follow, but something similar - where Canadians want to know why, how and what their health care system is and how they can be partners in trying to ensure that we don't abuse the system.
We have already started on this, Mr. Speaker. We have put in place a technical review committee and this technical review committee is a group of professionals and experts who will look at all future purchases of equipment and technical services that our health care system should be a part of. It will be an arm's-length committee that will discuss, assess and report back to caucus and Cabinet about where we should go with the purchase or the acquiring of new equipment. To us, this is an initiative that has been long in waiting. It then doesn't become a political football. We're actually going to be listening to the experts, the people who know about these things. It's not going to be a knee-jerk kind of reaction.
The mandate of the committee will be to look at the number of patients needing a service or support. They'll also look at the health and human resources needed to run or maintain that particular type of equipment. They will also look at spacing. They will look at infrastructure support and they will look at cost effectiveness. We think this is a wonderful initiative, Mr. Speaker. Again, it addresses the very basic line in the throne speech about being open and accountable.
We will be looking at how we deliver programs and how practical the programs are, and we will be looking at what happens in other parts of the country, with populations of similar size.
Decisions, Mr. Speaker, will still be made by caucus and Cabinet, but at least we'll be going with some baseline expertise, which, by the way, has not happened in the past. It's been more of a knee-jerk approach.
We will also, Mr. Speaker, look at how we look at our services. We want partners like doctors, nurses and Yukoners to be part of the solution, and we're going to be asking them for some suggestions as to how we build a better system.
The important part in looking at trying to build for the future - it doesn't happen overnight. The important part, is really trying to build for what we are seeing in the future right across the nation. We will be unable to sustain the cost of health care if we don't change attitudes. And so, Mr. Speaker, you are going to find that there's going to be a lot of support and promotion of healthy types of activities. We will be putting more dollars into prevention versus putting all the dollars into the sickness of our system. We still have to do that; I would not want people to underestimate the fact that we still have that obligation. Right now the technical review committee is looking at the hemodialysis; they are looking at the CAT scan; they are looking at the picture-achieving system for radiology images; they're looking at a new ultrasound machine. They're looking at stress testing. So there are some major issues ahead of us that have big dollars attached to them. And so the important part for us is to make sure we make the right decision with the right information. I am very pleased that this government put in place a technical review committee. I think it's going to -
Speaker: Order please. The minister has two minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I am pleased that we as a government have responded to maintaining a one-tiered health system. I am pleased to tell Yukoners that we are going to be open and accountable by reporting to them what our system is doing and having Yukoners report back to us on what the system is doing for them. I think it's important that it's a two-way conversation.
We are promoting healthy lifestyles. We are promoting Yukoners as partners. We are promoting respect, and we are reporting that our health care professionals are very important in our system. We're also challenging all Yukoners to work for solutions, not just problems. We have those automatically.
I challenge all politicians of all stripes who work with government to build for the future. And I'd like to thank the House for listening to how we, in the future, have to move ahead.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm pleased today to rise and respond to the Speech from the Throne.
Mr. Speaker, this Speech from the Throne was intended to provide the new direction that the Liberal government will follow over the course of the next three years.
During the election, the Liberals promised to do what they said they were going to do. Now, rather than take a new direction, however, the Liberals actually promised to do what the NDP were going to do. It is now historic fact that this Liberal government adopted and passed the budget of the previous NDP government, effectively reducing their mandate for change to three years, instead of the four years they were elected for, Mr. Speaker.
They had to borrow a year from the NDP, because they were not prepared to govern on their own.
Now, to go back to the spring, the Liberals told Yukoners to wait for the throne speech, because by the fall, they would finally have their act together, and they would be able to signal a new direction. Some act, Mr. Speaker. Some act.
What a disappointment these last six months have been, Mr. Speaker. Between August of last year and this year, Yukon's labour force dropped by over 500 workers. Yukoners are continuing to leave the territory in droves because there is no economic leadership, and there is little hope that the economic situation here in Yukon will turn around any time soon.
Now, to make matters worse, this Liberal government is not doing what it said it was going to do. While the Liberals promised to implement the NDP budget as is, they are, in fact, very much cherry-picking which projects they intend to carry out. You only have to ask the people of Mayo about the new school, which should be under construction now. It's not. It would have been very simple to commence construction, carry the project over into the next fiscal period and complete it in that next year's budget. Oh, but no, no, no. We'll cancel it. We'll mothball it. We'll deny the students of Mayo adequate facilities in which to gain their education. We'll let them endure continuing hardship. We'll let the students of Mayo continue with inadequate air quality in their building - so much for Liberal promises.
The people of Mayo now know full well that if a school in Whitehorse was in the same condition that the school in Mayo is in, it would have been replaced immediately - if it were in a Whitehorse Liberal riding. It would be under construction today. Rural Yukoners are beginning to know full well that this is a government that is dividing Yukon. It takes care of Whitehorse, leaving the rest of Yukon, TROY, to fend for itself.
We're creating two Yukons under this Liberal government. Just ask the people of Watson Lake who asked for help from this Liberal government to save their sawmill - one of the major employers in that community, Mr. Speaker. The Premier and her colleagues said no to the 125 workers to help save their jobs. Many of them have now left the territory, adding to those 500 fewer individuals here. The sawmill wouldn't have needed any financial assistance if this Liberal government had used their so-called "special relationship" with their Liberal friends in Ottawa to help secure long-term access to timber. The only time this special relationship comes into play is to help employ Yukon Liberals, be they a senator, appointed as a commissioner, or whatever. Patronage appointments.
One would expect that, during a time of economic recession, a government would do everything in its power to retain jobs and to try and create new ones.
I had expected there would be an announcement of a winter works program in the throne speech. Nothing of the sort, Mr. Speaker. The unemployed forestry workers in Watson Lake expected this. The unemployed construction workers and contractors in Mayo expected to be building a new school this winter. We learned today there might be a few jobs for some carpenters somewhere else, but by and large, what the Liberals promised to do once they were elected is not happening here in Yukon. The Liberals are cherry-picking the jobs, making a whole series of patronage appointments, and creating two Yukons - one here in Whitehorse and one in the rest of the Yukon.
Now, what is the Liberal government doing to address this dire situation?
The Premier and her colleagues have travelled to every ministerial conference and meeting they could possibly go to, providing that there was no conflict with their summer holiday schedule. Liberal ministers have been travelling in order to avoid their responsibilities back here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
The Yukon government is acting like a rudderless ship. The analogy, Mr. Speaker, is that the big Liberal ship has a new coat of paint - still the same rusted hull on it, and the pumps from Ottawa are keeping it afloat as it leaves the docks. That's what we have, really - the same ship, rudderless, but a new coat of paint.
And Yukoners have placed a lot of trust in the Liberals when they were elected in the last general election. They have a clear mandate to govern, but what do we see? That rudderless ship out there, cruising around on the ocean. There's no firm hand on the wheel, and there's no idea as to where we're going or how we're going to get there.
The Premier's spending more time in Calgary than she is in Whitehorse. Pipeline hype for the future is no substitute for creating employment opportunities in Yukon today. The Premier and her Liberal colleagues are hanging their hats on a pipeline creating all sorts of employment opportunities here in Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, that's many years away. It's many years down the pipe, so to speak, before a pipeline's going to benefit Yukon's economy, if, in fact, it indeed occurs.
Long-term Yukoners remember all too well the pipeline hype that was created in the 1970s and 1980s. For those Yukoners who have their hopes pinned on a pipeline, don't hold your breath, I say, Mr. Speaker.
Even if the big players in the oil and gas industry decided that the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline is a go, there wouldn't be much happening here in the Yukon for quite some time - and most analysts are predicting a period of up to 10 years. Long-term certainty of the price of the barrel of oil is what it's going to take. And while it is currently very high, it doesn't mean that it's going to remain there for very much longer. The problem, even with these optimistic timetables, is that it doesn't even take into account that the Yukon still has seven outstanding land claims to be resolved. Land claims - they're at the top of the list with the Liberal government, but they've become the forgotten objective. How many Yukoners believe that the Alaska Highway pipeline route will be selected if there are still seven outstanding land claims here in the Yukon? While legally the project might be able to proceed, what proponent would do so if confronted by strong, First Nation positions on this issue?
Now if the Premier really wanted to promote the selection of the Alaska Highway pipeline route, she should be spending more time in the Yukon working out a joint compromise position with Yukon First Nations to overcome the major impediments to settlement and helping to win acceptance of this compromise by her federal Liberal counterparts in Ottawa. Four land claims could probably be settled very, very quickly if the outstanding loans and the income tax issue could be resolved. I suggested previously in this House that some sort of a compromise be made on the loan issue, and that each one of the parties at the negotiating table accept one-third of the costs currently incurred and see if we can move ahead to get their acceptance on the federal level.
Oh, no. So much for land claims being a top priority of this government, Mr. Speaker. Pipeline hype, devolution, Election Act review and Liquor Act review have all taken precedence over the settlement of the seven outstanding land claims, which was supposed to be the top priority of this government.
Another criticism of this throne speech is that, like the 2000-2001 budget, it borrows most of its content from the NDP 1997 action plan. Now, in opposition, the Liberals didn't offer much in the way of support for any of the NDP initiatives, and yet they have taken their action plan, and from that flows most of this throne speech we heard just the other day.
There are only two basic differences between the NDP plan and the seven stated Liberal priorities, and one of the changes is really a distinction without a difference. The Liberal government has divided up the NDP's priority of fostering healthy communities into two priorities: addressing substance abuse problems, and maintaining quality health care. The only true difference between the NDP plan and the Liberal plan is that the Liberals have substituted infrastructure development for the NDP priority of respecting our environment. The Liberals don't even recognize the environment as an issue in their top seven priorities.
This is an interesting substitution that may alarm some of the environmental groups that supported the Liberals in the April election, in that respecting the environment is not even a Liberal priority, Mr. Speaker. It may also alarm the resource sector, which is very concerned about the development assessment process and the protected areas strategy. There isn't any mention of DAP whatsoever, and the Liberal plan to enshrine the protected areas strategy in law will do little to generate certainty of land tenure in relation to the exploring and development of resources.
While the throne speech makes mention of bringing back mining, this is not likely to occur under the Liberal regime. The Premier stands up and waves a letter around from one resource company, praising her. She should really read the contents of that letter, because virtually the same type of letter was sent to the previous Minister of Economic Development and the one before that - similar letter, similar content: "You're the best. We like you." So much for letters.
The other problem in the mining sector is that the Yukon has virtually a five-year permitting process, as compared to a year and a half in other jurisdictions. That means that the mining industry will be looking elsewhere, rather than in Yukon. This Liberal administration, like the NDP in British Columbia, is more interested in creating more parks and buying out mining claims than it is in encouraging exploration and development. The NDP government in B.C. just created 14 new parks, and the preservation plan to create a massive park from Yellowstone to Yukon is currently being implemented, park by park by park.
Other initiatives in the Speech from the Throne, such as the service improvement plan and the all-party committee for appointments to government boards and committees was plagiarized from the previous Yukon Party government. So much for the current Liberal government. It tells it all. It has very few, if any, ideas of its own.
One of the areas this government is failing miserably in is health care. Health care in rural Yukon - and I have to give the minister credit for continuing to develop a two-tiered system in Yukon. Once again, there is a health care system for rural Yukon and a health care system for Whitehorse.
And rural Yukon is suffering under this current regime. All that the minister has done to date is pay lip service to the issues that have been brought to his table.
And the minister rightly says that if we don't change attitudes, costs will skyrocket. I would ask that the minister change his attitude. Look at it with an open mind, and apply common business sense to what is going on with respect to provision of health care here in the Yukon.
The minister speaks in terms of partnerships, cooperation. I'd like to see the definition of Liberal cooperation. It is: listen, and then we will impose on you what we want. I guess the true definition of Liberal cooperation is listen, study, review, review again, review again, establish a 10-year plan, and procrastinate for another 10 years.
Something has to happen very quickly in the health care situation. The major issue is the attraction and retention of health care professionals. Yes, there is a shortage of health care professionals, but we're not doing very much of anything to retain those we currently have. In fact, the current position of this Liberal government encourages the health care professionals we have to move elsewhere, Mr. Speaker.
We have doctors in rural Yukon, but the only way this government wants to deal with them is as an employer/employee relationship. They're not even interested in working with these medical practitioners on a fee-for-service basis. At the end of the day, the general population is suffering under this Liberal position, Mr. Speaker.
Shame on this Liberal minister responsible for this department.
Now, we can do everything we want with respect to the health care system in order to establish very good ways of living - enhancing our style of living and our athletic areas - but with the basic services provided to expectant mothers in rural Yukon, the wheels are coming off the cart that delivers this service. Expectant mothers in rural Yukon, with the exception of Watson Lake, are expected to move to Whitehorse for about the last two weeks of their pregnancy. During that time, they are pretty much on their own. There was some federal money available for this initiative. That has since gone by the wayside.
The Northwest Territories has addressed this issue by providing a series of apartments in Yellowknife. Expectant mothers can actually move there with their families. In a lot of cases, it is not the first born to the women in rural Yukon, so they have to maintain two households - one in their home community and one in Whitehorse - while they await the arrival of their new offspring.
The amount of money that is provided for this is appalling - if it exists at all today. This is an area in which the health care service has fallen apart. It is just one of many. There are ways to address it, and it's not to wait until the last possible moment and send in the medevac plane to the outlying communities to pick up the expectant mother and bring her to Whitehorse.
All we have done, Mr. Speaker, is to have provided a great deal more business for the medevac team and the medevac aircraft. If you want to look at the number of medevac flights from rural Yukon into Whitehorse, it's growing alarmingly, and it has been doing so for about the last year or year and a half. I know when our community of Dawson had doctors and they were taking on-call, that was not the case. There was someone there.
All summer long Dawson has operated with a shortage of nurses, nurse practitioners and doctors. That's because of the failure of this Liberal government to come to some agreement with the current doctors who enjoy the quality of life in Dawson, want to remain there, but can't come to an agreement on on-call service. The minister is going to say, "But they want too much money." At the end of the day, when you add up what the department is spending on medevacs and inconvenience - and in a lot of cases when someone is injured and medevaced to Whitehorse and goes into the emergency ward, they come out a couple of minutes later or an hour later, and it might be 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., and there's no transportation back to their home community. They're told to take the bus. Over the course of this summer, we have had cases where individuals have been medevaced, the bus has been full, the airlines have been full, and they have been two and three days waiting in Whitehorse to get back to their home community.
Shame on this minister. Shame on this minister for putting in place such a procedure that doesn't address his responsibilities.
There needs to be a change of attitude, Mr. Speaker, but it needs to be a change of attitude right at this minister's desk.
Let's look at highways, Mr. Speaker.
This Liberal regime, before coming into power, said that there was not enough money being spent on highways. They were going to spend more money on highways - a big to-do about it, Mr. Speaker. One of the major issues that arose this summer was the issue of brush clearing along the highway rights-of-way, and there are highway standards that exist.
It's interesting, Mr. Speaker, that contracts were listed, people bid on contracts, and the contracts for clearing along the highway rights-of-way were subsequently cancelled. Why? I can't get anyone to tell me. It didn't make sense. This was quite a year for growth, but we can't blame it all on this year's growth.
Because if the minister doesn't get out there and cut the brush that currently exists along the highway rights-of-way, she's going to have to apply to the federal government, because it's going to be in the size of timber, Mr. Speaker. She'll need a timber-cutting permit, and you know how hard the people of Watson Lake tried to get timber harvesting agreements from the federal government. They didn't. They couldn't. There's just a long, long delay.
Perhaps the reason why these contracts weren't awarded, Mr. Speaker, is because the minister couldn't get approval from the federal government to cut that size of trees that have grown in the highway rights-of-way. That's pretty interesting.
The only area where we see - or where I saw - any cutting activity along the highway rights-of-way was right inside the city limits of Whitehorse. I guess that adds to the Liberals' position of creating two Yukons, Whitehorse and TROY, the rest of Yukon.
So much for the current government and its ideas. It has no ideas of its own. It has borrowed them all from the NDP government - the previous NDP government - or the previous Yukon Party government. But it's failing to act on them. There doesn't appear to be much leadership. We have a government of one - really no vision.
There's no plan to overcome the high fuel prices. High fuel prices and the current rate of increase in heating oil are going to very seriously impede the standard of living of Yukoners. There's no plan to use this current budget in a creative way to put Yukoners back to work this winter. It could be done. There's no plan to find a solution to the major federal Liberal issues blocking land claims settlements. It could be done.
What we have is a Liberal government, and its plan is to put everything under review. We are going to review and review. Yukoners are going to be subject to review after review, because this government doesn't know what to do.
Mr. Speaker, I, like many Yukoners, had high hopes that this Liberal government would finally find its way. It borrowed time by adopting the NDP budget, but now it is clearly evident that time will not help this novice Liberal government to find its direction.
The ship of state, the Liberal Princess Patricia, has left the harbour with no compass and no captain.
Speaker: Order please. Order please. I would ask the member to refrain from making those inflammatory remarks. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: The ship of state is leaking at the seams and is taking on water, but it does have a new coat of paint. The inexperienced crew is bailing like crazy, just to keep the leaky boat afloat. It's only a matter of time until the ship will be full of water. I don't know what they're using for bailing cans. Maybe it's the lunch buckets from the children from the school in Mayo.
Mr. Speaker, it is my intention this sitting to continue to provide constructive criticism of this government's action. I will attempt to point out the directions and initiatives this government should be taking, and I will continue to do so as I have done in the past. But the Yukoners who voted this government in placed a lot of trust in this Liberal government. That trust is being destroyed. I'm very, very disappointed. I was hoping to see a lot more. There is a lot of potential. This is a great territory we have, and I'm hopeful that some of the ministers might get a handle on things and we might see more initiatives to create an economy and create an area in which our children can grow and appreciate it as much as we have. There has to be hope.
There's got to be hope for all of us, and it's sad to see that hope disappearing and so many Yukoners having to move elsewhere to find suitable employment.
We have gone from a recession to virtually a full-blown depression, if you want to look at the length of time that our economy has been slipping and our population has been going down.
Mr. Speaker, that's sad. That is very sad. I had higher hopes, as did many other Yukoners have higher hopes for this government. They have another almost three and a half years of their mandate. Perhaps they can change it. I hope they can. I'll be offering as much constructive criticism as I can, but it's our job, in opposition, to keep this government accountable for their actions and their inactions. Currently, it's to keep them accountable for their inactions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to reply to the Speech from the Throne.
Firstly, I'd like to thank the people of Riverdale South who have elected me again to represent them in this Legislature. They honour me with that responsibility.
I serve my constituents best by concentrating on Yukon's number one industry right now, and that's tourism. I have been working very hard to ensure that the tourism industry continues to grow, continues to expand, and creates jobs and wealth for Yukoners. This government will see that our tourism industry grows in importance and remains a mainstay of our economy. The Yukon's tourism industry can and does put more money into the pockets of Yukoners.
The Yukon tourism marketing partnership - a government business partnership - is the vehicle by which we will encourage all sectors within the tourism trade to flourish.
It fulfills our commitment to support an industry or business-driven tourism strategy. And more than that, the arts, cultural and heritage sectors of our society have been invited to join the Yukon tourism marketing partnership to ensure that we maximize our tourism potential. Visitors to this beautiful land are very interested in our First Nations cultural heritage, our arts and our historical artefacts. We are encouraging people to work together. The three branches of the department: tourism, arts and heritage, are working together now to promote and build upon our tourism potential. All of Yukon's communities stand to benefit from this cooperative effort.
We will be working more closely with our neighbours in Alaska and northern B.C. We can't wait any longer for those tourists from the Sakha Republic and Irkutsk. Those ones we were told would break down our door and bring more money into our economy as a result of the trade missions from the previous NDP government. They've never showed up and they won't show up because they cannot afford to come here. They are not allowed to come here. Instead we are focusing on our visitors from Alaska that make up 25 percent of all U.S. visitors. We are focusing our efforts on B.C. We are focusing our efforts on Canadians. We are focusing our efforts on the already started markets in Europe and the emerging markets in Europe.
This year, we brought back 2,200 more chartered seats to the Yukon that will come to the Yukon next summer, and bring another $1.5 million into the Yukon economy. That will be Canadian dollars, not roubles.
This government has initiated a museum study to be completed in the 2001-02 budget year. This study will help to ensure heritage is preserved for the enjoyment of our tourists and for the education of our youth. This government has begun the process of giving the arts community the recognition that they deserve. The arts can play an important role in revitalizing and diversifying our economy. This government will, over time, restore the brutal cuts to heritage made by the previous administration. This government does what it says it will do.
The Yukon Liquor Act and regulations are under review, and that means that by the year 2002 there will be a new Liquor Act and regulations on the floor of this Legislature for debate.
This act has not been redone for 23 years. It does not adequately reflect the attitudes and the beliefs of the people who live in the Yukon today. The new act will reflect the current needs of Yukon's people, communities, and corporation clients.
The Yukon Women's Directorate is the forefront of women's issues in this country. The good work done here is reflected in national policy. We've been leading the way in developing policy and programs on the national front, which deal with women's poverty, gender-based analysis, and violence against women.
We know that education and employment are important factors in improving lives of people in general. Single-parent families are frequently subjected to poverty. To help Yukoners find economic independence, there must be access to a large range of economic resources and opportunities that allow women and men to make informed decisions that promote self-sufficiency and action.
This government recognizes the need to specifically target women, youth and seniors, to ensure that policies, programs and services reflect their priorities and address their needs. We will continue to find effective ways in which to serve these significant populations of our Yukon society.
The throne speech speaks of the seniors housing fund, out of Yukon Housing. Finally, somebody is doing something about this issue. This is an issue that was important to me when I served at the municipal level. This was an issue that was important to me when I served as the chair of the Whitehorse Housing Authority. This was an issue that was important to me and to this government when I served on the opposite side of the Legislature.
For four years - for many years - I brought forward the issue's importance to seniors - that there's going to be a problem. The baby-boomers are getting older. Now the oldest one is 56 years old. The seniors are coming, the seniors are coming, and this government has done something about it. We didn't do another report. We've set aside a fund. We're doing something about it.
Preventative health care - it's not politically sexy. It takes a long time to pay off. It goes out longer. The benefits are much longer than political terms of office, but it does pay off. It makes for a healthier society. It makes for a healthier Yukon. That is the focus of our government.
We moved the long-term facility's number of beds from 72 to 96. That was a long-term decision, and it was somewhat painful because it was economically difficult at the time, but we did it because we had political courage. We knew it had to be done.
Our government has the political courage to table the Yukon Liquor Act - something the previous government did not do. Our government tabled the Wildlife Act - for review, something the previous government did not do. The NDP couldn't, wouldn't, and were just too afraid to deal with these important pieces of legislation.
We are going to enshrine the Yukon protected areas strategy into legislation. The NDP did the half job here. They created a strategy, and our government is finishing the job. We are creating certainty for Yukoners by protecting our protected areas by law.
At the same time, we are dealing with health care and the environment. We are also trying to fix the Yukon economy. We have been in office for only six months, and it will take a long time to repair the damage done by the previous NDP government. This winter, however, some Yukoners will find jobs as a result of our efforts. Some of them will find jobs in the film industry, and some of them will find jobs in oil and gas exploration.
The throne speech has outlined how this government will take on the difficult issues that the previous government did not have the political courage to take on. As representatives of the Yukon public, we know that sometimes being in government is a real challenge. We are up to that challenge, Mr. Speaker, and we have the courage to do our job.
Ms. Netro:Shiluk Kut. Gee government noo whee'n jit so ghee e'e iyah-dee yaan jit gweenzii kwit tritt t'aa gwa e'aa aanjit. Gweenzii no wha gah haà thuk aajit.
What I have said in my opening statement is hello to my relatives. I will speak to this government on your behalf so that maybe they will do a good job for us, so that maybe they will listen to us. The government outlined seven priorities in their Speech from the Throne, which they say forms the basis of the government's contract with the Yukon people. These priorities are lacking. They are lacking in vision of how they will deal with First Nations that have already signed their land claims agreements. They are lacking in social programs. They are lacking in vision for education. Where is the vision for children, for women, for those who are on social assistance? There is no vision for the environment, and they are certainly lacking in vision for the communities.
In-depth consultation with communities and First Nations does not mean occasional drop-in visits or after-the-fact meetings. It requires a strong mechanism of ongoing consultation that solicits input from the communities and First Nations and respects the views expressed by those communities and those First Nation people. What comes with that is to have easy access to the ministers or the departments so that they can voice their opinions, issues and concerns.
First Nations need to always be part of the decision-making process - better representations of First Nations at decision-making tables for all concerns and issues.
Talking about the economy and oil and gas is all very well, but it is necessary to have the social infrastructure in place to support those initiatives first. We must have the recognition that these decisions will have long-term effects. We are the ones who will live with the decisions of this government for years to come.
I say that in those terms, because it is important to my community and to the people of the Vuntut Gwitchin that the decisions that you make on that side of the House and that are made in our traditional lands will have great impact and effect.
There is a lot of talk out there about economic development, which will be bringing the oil and gas industry. We have heard that for many years. There's lots of talk about the pipeline. With that, of course, we will have an economic boom. Our people do need jobs, yes, but at the same time, before those jobs come, we need to address the main issues in the communities.
I have not heard in this budget anything about social programs. I know that, in my community, it is one of the main issues I heard about, not only before or during the election, but also this summer, when I spent time there.
We know how the communities have not had enough attention in that area. We talk about alcohol and drugs. Before we even mention alcohol and drugs, there are other issues that lead to that.
We talk about the residential schools, we talk about the way that our governments came into our communities and the social impact, and the social changes that we had to make to change our lifestyle.
When I think about the oil and gas companies that come and talk about the economic boom, I not only think about the impact that it's going to have in northern Yukon, but also for any communities along the Alaska Highway - the small communities. I speak from experience. I was born and raised in a small community. The population of Old Crow was maybe 70 people when I was born. But we talk about history, we talk about heritage, and we sure can talk about the elders and the youth. But do we really know? Do you really know the importance?
I heard in the throne speech mention made of the 10-02 lands. That area is a very sacred place to my people; not only for the people of Old Crow, but also for the people of the Gwitchin nation, which includes communities in Alaska and communities in the Northwest Territories.
And there were many MLAs who were here before me who brought that issue to this House. This is a very near and dear concern to our hearts. We don't stand here just for the sake of telling you this story year after year.
The decision that is going to be made in that land is going to have a deep effect on the people of Old Crow. I never thought I would be paying attention to U.S. politics, but I sure am today, and that's going to happen in two weeks. I never thought I would have any reason, except for a holiday maybe, to visit the U.S., but in the last couple of years I was elected by the people of Old Crow to represent them on a few tours down to the United States to speak to the public of the United States on behalf of the Gwitchin people.
Let me tell you today that those tours were very emotional - so very important - because the messages that I brought to those people and every word that I used were important, because they knew very little about who we are; about our lifestyle, about our tradition and our culture.
I tell them that my great-grandmother has never stepped on that land. My mother, all these people that I mention, our ancestors, are all hunters and trappers. We talk about hunters and trappers. My mother and my grandmother are hunters and trappers. They had no reason to go to that land, because they know what happens there. In a First Nations community, I was brought up to believe that we hold the highest respect for our land, for our animals, and for our people, in order to survive.
No money in this world will ever buy what we have today, because we are a rich people. We are a very rich people. I was taught that by my mother and grandmother.
So, that area of land that we talk about, and have been talking about for the last 20 years, is the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. I heard on the floor of this House that we are all in support of no development in that area, and for that I am grateful. However, we need to do more. It's fine and dandy for me to hear those words. I need to see commitment. I need to see that place protected forever - not only for me. This is not about me any more. It's not about my 20-year-old son. It's about those who follow in our paths, those who are not yet born. That's the way that my people base their decisions. They don't think about me standing here in front of you, being their leader. It's not about me. It's about what we can do today for those who are not here yet. The decisions that I make will affect my people for the rest of their lives.
And that's the message that I would like to put forth to you. We talk about oil and gas. We talk about these great big industries. Yes, we do need jobs. But the bottom line is that our people have to live with what you do. And I won't be here to make sure that we make decisions in a good way, especially for the people of Vuntut Gwitchin. I told them they would have a loud voice when I got here, and they do.
We talk about poverty. Poverty is a reality for many Yukoners. We have many homeless people walking around, not only on the streets of Whitehorse, but throughout our communities. This government contract does not address those needs of the poor. We have to pay attention to that. When we talk about poverty, I talk about people out there who are living with their families, where there's more than two or three people in a two-bedroom home, when there's not enough food in their cupboard because they don't receive enough social assistance that they're entitled to. And this leads to more social questions.
The legacy of residential schools is another area not addressed by this government in this Speech from the Throne. This is an issue that is of utmost importance to many Yukoners, and it has not been addressed.
I know there are many people in my riding who had to leave home when they were young and came back when they were adults. My uncle was one of them.
Old Crow has taken leadership to address the alcohol and drug situation in our community. They took the initiative to have an alcohol-free community. However, we do have the underlying problems and symptoms that go with that. I'm not going to stand here and tell you that everything is fine and dandy, because it's not. And I can speak to that on a personal basis.
I think my story in itself I've shared with many people - not only for my community, but also throughout the Yukon and wherever I've lived - to help to encourage people to address that issue of alcohol and drugs on a personal level. I can stand here before you today, very humbly, to say that I do have 14 years of sobriety, and it wasn't very easy to achieve that goal for myself. It took a lot of work. I didn't want to admit that I did have a problem, and especially at a time when everything, I thought, was going so well for me. But again, I had to do that. And I've seen many successful people along the way.
There are a lot of people who are sober in our First Nation communities today. There are a lot of young alcohol- and drug-free people, and I am very happy to see that, because, God knows, we have a history, and that history still stays with us today, but it's up to people like me to educate again and say, "Not all of us are like that." Yes, we come from that kind of history, but today it's different, and we can look at leadership throughout the Yukon Territory. I can look at leadership throughout the Yukon Territory and say that yes, we are making a difference.
I felt very proud of the last government and used to watch Dave Keenan and Eric, and my dear friend Margaret Commodore is a great inspiration to me. These people also paved the way for us in the Yukon. They realized that yes, our communities do need attention.
We talk about FAS and FAE. The Minister of Health and Social Services mentioned the prevention programs, and I support that. However, we need to go further than that. We know that we have a situation in the communities where we have to address these problems.
We can keep doing prevention work, but now we have our students in our schools who need special attention. We need to help the families in our communities to deal with these issues. That leads me to another concern, which is mental health. We have very little access to the services of mental health, especially from Old Crow. We're lucky, I think, to have someone from the mental health unit travel to Old Crow every three months. That is unacceptable. Even if they were to come to Whitehorse to reach out for that service, they have to be put on a waiting list. There was a situation in Old Crow last spring where all the resources in the community got together, and still they could not provide for this one individual. That individual had to come back to Whitehorse and stay at a place where it really didn't meet his needs. This individual required 24-hour care.
So, obviously, it's talking about social programs. Social policy is not a priority for this government. The throne speech doesn't even mention some of the most important social needs and concerns of Yukon people.
Education; the Education Act review team was supposed to come to my community on Monday; however, those plans needed to be changed. But I would like to know what this government stands for on education? What does it intend to do? I need to hear that. The way that I am impacted by anyone or believe what you say to me is if I see the sincerity - if I see someone reaching out and if I see that someone is genuine.
We talk about youth. In the throne speech there's lots of mention of youth. And this ties in with education. We are talking about children. I have a son and I had the pleasure of seeing my son go through the education system within the Yukon and Alberta.
It wasn't an easy task being a single parent, but I was at every meeting because I knew it was important for me and for my child. And I was fortunate that I could do that.
There are very concerned parents in our communities throughout the Yukon, who are very concerned about the education of their children. But for whatever reason, sometimes they don't feel comfortable going to council meetings. Maybe they won't come out to the Education Act review. It's not always easy for people to speak out publicly. You come to the community and stay there for a few hours, and then you decide to leave. Those people who need to say something to you are still sitting at home. How are you going to reach those people? Yes, they'll talk to you on the phone, but they are not going to come out to the community hall and say, "Well, this is what I believe. This is what I think is important for my child." It's not always easy for them to do that.
Still on the topic of education, actions, we say, always speak louder than words. What about the children of Mayo? I think about that community. I know how proud we were in my community when we opened that new school there, and it has been used every day, all the facilities, even the classrooms. It's a community school. We use it for our meetings, for our conferences. People have come to our community for many conferences throughout the past year, and that's our meeting place. They invite elders to come and speak with the children. They invite community members to share their stories, to teach their children how it was for them out on the land, to help them hold on to that strong tradition that we have. We are proud of that new facility, and I hope that the community of Mayo can have the same services as we do.
This again is not about us. It's about the children.
I ask the question again: what does this government stand for on training people for real jobs here in the Yukon? I know that in my community, they have some training going on right now, as we speak, at the Yukon College campus. It's a small engines course. The young men of our community are taking that course to enhance the skills they already have in chainsaw maintenance, which is totally important to us in the winter. Also it is for the snow machines, which help us haul our firewood in the winter.
So, that type of training, geared to community needs, is very, very important. I'm not only speaking on behalf of my community. I know what goes on in my community, so I gather that in other smaller communities, it must be similar.
There are students who are attending the high school in Whitehorse, and we have a lot more people from our First Nations community wanting to go to colleges and to universities. They do need more financial help. The financial assistance that they are receiving now is not enough.
The students who have to live away from home on a measly little budget month to month - it's not adequate. It adds to the stress of trying to learn what's in front of them, and focus on getting that degree that they would like, and to bring that knowledge back home, so they can work in our First Nations administration buildings, so they can be our leaders. We need to provide that kind of leadership for those people right now.
Specialized education in rural schools - that's one of the key ones for me. I know what it was like for me to come from my community and try to make the adjustments of a different kind of living in Whitehorse, to try to make adjustments to attend a different school, and to speak a different type of language and to try to fit into that and to learn what's in front of me. At the same time I had to adjust to a different type of diet.
People do not realize what the students from the communities need to do to make the changes to receive a higher education. Our people are smart. They have high expectations and high goals for themselves, but when you come from an isolated community like I do, there are a lot of challenges. I see that in the high schools. The young, excited students that come down here in September to attend F.H. Collins - by December, that excitement is dwindling, to say the least.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker:I'll now call the House to order.
We will continue with the motion for the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
Ms. Netro: Before we left for the supper break, I was taking about education and how important education is in our communities and throughout the Yukon.
I would like to take this time now to address the issue of justice. The commitment to restorative justice in our communities is very, very important. We have had a tour of our communities in the last couple of years, and in that report there were a lot of good ideas that were put forward by the people of the communities on how to deal with restorative justice. One of the main issues from my community was how to address the young people who are before the courts and the adults who are before the courts.
We need to have community-based programs to address some of these issues. We need a place for the young people to go instead of coming down here to Whitehorse to stay at the facilities here. The facilities in Whitehorse do meet the needs; however, when the community children or young people come down to the facilities here, they do have to go through another change. And also, there is the stress that it causes these young people, from being away from their families and their homes. What used to work in our community were the wilderness camps run by the community people. We need to start looking at community resources - for example, in my community of Old Crow - and to look for alternatives, instead of always bringing them away from their homeland.
There was no mention, or very little mention, of addressing the needs of the women in our community within the justice system, especially regarding legal aid. We need to have representatives for the women who are before the courts, in issues such as divorce, enforcement, maintenance -
Speaker: Order please. The member has one minute to conclude.
Ms. Netro: Those areas are very important for us. With that, I have heard throughout the different speeches that they are looking at programs for the seniors in our communities. I urge you to address the issues and concerns of the seniors in the communities. It's fine and dandy to say that, "Yes, we'll look after the seniors who are in Whitehorse," but we need you to address the concerns and needs of the seniors in our communities. As it was said before and I'll say it again, those people have blazed a trail for us, and they have taken care of our lands and our people, and we need to take care of them today.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I come here today to respond and express support for the throne speech, which outlined the seven priorities of this government. These priorities will be reflected by every department and program offered by the Government of Yukon. Today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about the departments for which I am responsible and also to the constituents to whom I must answer.
In the throne speech, the government stated that, to be effective, government must set a clear direction, and it must focus on a clear set of priorities. To that end, this government has initiated a number of reviews and studies to decide how to best approach the many problems facing us.
Our constituents have said that they don't want knee-jerk reactions by government, which result in poorly thought-out solutions to problems. Instead, they want clearly thought-out, long-term and viable solutions, based on consultation and good planning.
This government has instructed its departments to carry out these reviews, but we have also been busy in the Cabinet office on behalf of our constituents, working to raise understanding of Yukon issues, both here, in the communities and elsewhere.
I have personally travelled to many communities in the Yukon, where I found that the basic needs and concerns of the constituents in my own riding are felt throughout the territory. Yukon people want to be able to own their own home. They want to have a decent standard of living. They want to see opportunities for themselves and for their children. Yukon people also want a government that will aggressively protect and enhance their interests with the federal government. We're doing that every day.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the House that the member's microphone is not working. It makes it pretty near impossible for me to pick up and carry on, to listen and to hear. It has been pointed out by the Hansard crew. I'd like to either get it fixed or dismiss the House for the evening. I have to participate.
Speaker: I appreciate your comments. Can we just take a short recess and see if we can repair it?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I'll ask the hon. Minister of Government Services to start again please.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I come before you today to respond and express support of the throne speech which outlined the seven priorities of this government. These priorities will be reflected by every department and program offered by the Government of Yukon. Today, I would like to talk about the departments for which I am responsible and also to the constituents to whom I must answer.
In the throne speech, the government stated that, "To be effective, government must set a clear direction and it must focus on a clear set of priorities." To that end, this government has initiated a number of reviews and studies to decide how best to approach the many problems facing us.
Our constituents have said that they don't want knee-jerk reactions by the government that result in poorly thought-out solutions to problems. Instead they want clearly thought-out, long-term and viable solutions based on consultation and good planning.
This government has instructed its departments to carry out these reviews, but we have also been busy in the Cabinet office on behalf of our constituents, working to raise understanding of Yukon issues both here in the community and elsewhere.
I have personally travelled to many communities in the Yukon, where I have found that the basic needs and concerns of the constituents in my own riding are felt throughout the territory. Yukon people want to be able to own their own homes. They want to have a decent standard of living. They want to see opportunities for themselves and for their children. Yukon people also want to see a government that will aggressively protect and enhance their interests with the federal government. We are doing that every day.
Mr. Speaker, this government has dedicated itself to work hard on behalf of Yukoners. Members of this side of the House have actively lobbied the federal government on such issues as land claims, home ownership, health care, economic development, environmental protection, devolution, mining initiatives and forestry issues. This government has been working very hard on specific initiatives, such as lobbying government and industry for the Alaska Highway route for the natural gas pipeline. We have been supporting this route on behalf of Yukoners, because we believe that such a project would have a substantial benefit for all Yukoners and Yukon First Nations.
This government has ratcheted up the promotion of the Yukon Territory as a good place to do business. The difference between this government and the former government is that we have walked the walk and talked the talk. The best part is that industry is listening to us.
Mr. Speaker, it takes an aggressive approach to attract investment to the territory. This government is committed to going after business, rather than offering stop-gap measures. This Liberal government does not believe in sponsoring outside businesses at the expense of local business.
We have supported the opening up of lands for oil and gas exploration, with consultation with Yukon First Nations. This process is important and is the most public, consultative process in this country.
In the area of First Nations consultation, this government has already met with First Nation leaders on October 16, as mentioned in the throne speech, to discuss how to reshape and enhance the relationship this government has with First Nations on a government-to-government basis.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to see land claims settled, to provide certainty for Yukon First Nation people and for all Yukoners. Settlement of the outstanding land claims will provide a stable place for our children to grow and achieve their full potential. The children, after all, will be the future stewards of this land, and this government realizes that this land is equally important.
Mr. Speaker, a strong commitment already exists from this government to the mining community. This government is committed to provide certainty to the mining industry by settling remaining land claims - First Nation governments - and by streamlining the permitting process for mining companies who want to do business in the Yukon.
Our commitment doesn't stop there, however. We also have a duty to future generations to safeguard their environment and their ability to earn a living and to feed their families with Yukon's renewable resources. The Liberal government is proceeding with its election promise to move the Yukon's protected areas strategy forward. Stakeholders will have a chance to make the Yukon protected areas strategy work for Yukoners.
This government has also reiterated its commitment to working toward protecting the 10-02 lands.
Mr. Speaker, my constituents told me during and after the campaign that they want the government to get back into the business of delivering improved roads, water and sewer, and other important infrastructure programs. I will be pleased to tell them, during my walk around the riding, that this government heard what they were saying and we will deliver to all constituents.
This brings me to restoring confidence in government. This government has committed to spending the taxpayers' money wisely. Spending money wisely is one of the main components of restoring the public trust. Sometimes spending money wisely means taking tough decisions and making tough decisions. This government has already faced some very difficult decisions, but we stuck to the guiding principle that we would be careful with public money, and I believe, as sure as the voters agree, that we made sound decisions.
As I mentioned in my ministerial statement earlier, seniors are making up an ever-growing portion of our population. The elders of our community deserve to have decent and affordable housing throughout their golden years. As minister responsible for housing, I have established a seniors housing trust. This trust is designed to put money aside for the needs of our seniors identified in the seniors housing action plan.
Mr. Speaker, seniors are just one part of the human equation of the Yukon Territory. The Liberal government has also recognized the important role that youth play in our communities.
We have stated that we would create a youth directorate, which would give a voice to the youth of the Yukon, in government and in our communities.
In my role as minister responsible for Government Services, I looked after what the government does in the IT field. Government Services has established an e-commerce competency centre to help it take a leading role in the IT community here in the territory.
E-commerce is an important and growing component of the overall economic plan that this government is putting forth in the throne speech. Our commitment to e-commerce will also see the establishment of an e-commerce act. This act is designed to give e-commerce participants the rules and regulations of the new e-commerce economy.
Mr. Speaker, many of our citizens face a daily struggle with drugs and alcohol. The problem is so severe in some communities that community leaders have had to institute strict controls on the consumption of alcohol. Previous governments have cut back on programs that address drug and alcohol addiction. We realize that there is no quick fix to the problems related to drug and alcohol addiction.
This government has committed to finding viable, long-term solutions to this problem, and I'm personally very pleased with this part of the throne speech.
Mr. Speaker, my constituents told me many times during the campaign that they want a healthy community. The prevention of many types of health problems can be achieved if our citizens are encouraged and given the opportunity to have active, healthy lifestyles.
I've been looking at my own lifestyle lately to see if I should be getting more exercise, improving to a healthier diet, and participating in healthier activities. I'm learning to become well with myself - besides which, I believe that that will promote a healthier Wayne Jim.
I believe government also has a role to play in promoting healthy lifestyles, and I'm proud to see that this government is stating it is an active goal.
Promoting healthy lifestyles is important, but Yukoners must also be able to have performance measures of how their government is doing in providing good health care. In keeping with this philosophy, the Liberal government has introduced a report card for health care, which will allow voters the chance to see for themselves how government is doing. It will be just like school, except we'll be asking the voters instead of my parents to sign my report card.
As a Member of the Legislative Assembly, it is my responsibility to serve and represent the people of McIntyre-Takhini. In my role as MLA, I often act as the spokesman for my constituents should they have any concerns or be frustrated or confused by government practices or procedures. I would like to say to my constituents that I care about their problems and this government cares about their problems.
Although this government realizes that governments may not be able to solve all the problems that my constituents face, collectively we do promise to work hard on their behalf, as we do for all the constituents of the Yukon.
I urge my constituents to write or call because I want to hear their opinions and ideas on the directions provided by my fellow Liberals and me in the Speech from the Throne. Within the speech, we can see the footprints that lie before us. Some are small; some are large. My fellow Liberals and I will walk each step to reach the goals set before us.
To the people of rural Yukon, I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that you are being heard and that you will be heard, and we will listen and we will respond.
This government has committed to reinstating Cabinet tours to the communities. We've already met in Ross River, and we will be conducting another Cabinet tour to Teslin on February 6.
The federal government doesn't have an elected voice from the rural communities, which can make positive and constructive input into our caucus. We are overcoming this lack of voice by going out and seeking the advice and input of rural constituents. On November 27, things may change with regard to Faro, and I hope they do. But all of the rural communities will continue to have a voice with this government.
The history of the people of the Yukon is very important to me personally, and to this Liberal government. The tourism industry also trades on this history as an attraction for visitors. A territory-wide museum strategy, for which we have begun the consultation already, will give us the blueprint that this government needs to restore confidence in our museum systems.
As I just mentioned, the tourism industry trades on the rich history of the Yukon to help draw tourists. The Department of Tourism's stay-another-day program will help keep tourists here longer so that they can sample the flavor of our culture and our history. I strongly support this initiative, and I encourage my colleagues and the Minister of Tourism to continue to produce these good and sensible ideas from the minister's department.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, let me say that I am encouraged by this government's first six months in office. We have come a long way since being elected, and for the first time in a long time, there is hope for all Yukoners. Initiatives in mining, health care, seniors housing and youth are the beginnings of what I hope will be a long and successful relationship that the Liberals will enjoy with Yukoners. I am happy to be part of this government, and I am pleased with the important first steps.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is with pleasure that I speak today in response to the Speech from the Throne - the government's second throne speech.
I want to begin by offering thanks to my constituents in the Lake Laberge riding for electing me for a second time. Today is, in fact, the first anniversary of the Lake Laberge by-election, in which I first became an MLA. I am very proud of being a Yukoner. I am extremely proud to be the MLA for Lake Laberge and to be a member of the government at this time in our history. I am fortunate to have been born in the Yukon. As a baby, I lived just to the south of this building, where Rotary Peace Park is now. It was a pleasant spot by the river, although it had a not-so-pleasant name: Whiskey Flats.
I grew up on Whiskey Flats, on Black Street and on Alexander Street in Whitehorse. Then we moved to Beaver Creek, which had a population of around 100 at that time. The Yukon was a different place then than it is today. Many changes have occurred during my lifetime, and I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my observations of life in the Yukon and the changing expectations of our government.
In my experience, the Yukon of the 1950s and 1960s was an interesting mix of extreme racism and prejudice in many cases and, in other cases, of acceptance by the First Nations people and the non-aboriginal people of each other's cultures and values.
Many of my friends weren't allowed to play with First Nations kids. This never made sense to me. They had better moose meat than my mother ever managed to cook and their moms had cookies and milk, just like my mom did, and we had fun roaming around the neighbourhood and falling down the clay cliffs - just being kids. Dave Keenan was one of those kids, because his family lived just across the back alley from me.
Speaker: Order. I would remind the minister not to refer to other members by name.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I remember when segregation ended in Yukon schools. It was wonderful that the government finally allowed all of us to go to school together.
My family moved up the highway, the Alaska Highway, to Beaver Creek. Growing up there in the 1960s gave me a perspective on community living, community commitment and community involvement, which I know is still with me today.
The law of the Yukon was not just a line from a tourism marketing brochure. It was a way of life for people who were dependent on one another. Then, Yukoners always stopped on the road to help someone with a flat tire. We were connected to each other through our shared isolation and a shared reliance on one another.
For any community life to exist, neighbours needed to come together, whether it was to build a tree fort, skating rink or community hall, or to help out in a time of need. The government was too distant and too impersonal to be able to provide such basic needs. As we heard in this government's throne speech, a successful government cannot and should not try to be all things to all people.
In my early days in the Yukon, we would have been suspicious of any government that became too involved in the life of our community. The government was there to do the things for us that we could not do for ourselves. If we ever thought about government, it was with low expectations.
The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin spoke eloquently this afternoon about the governments coming to small communities and changing their lifestyles. She's absolutely right. Only the advent of television has had a bigger impact on the life of a small community.
Beaver Creek's long-time residents were the First Nation families, a handful of retired prospectors, the sawmill operator, and the owners of the cafés, motels and tire-repair shops. There was Livesey's Highway Services, the general store and post office, which was run by a former Speaker of this Legislature, John Livesey, the Member for Carmacks-Kluane, and his English bride, Freda.
Everybody else was government, and a lot of them were transferred out after a couple of years. Most of the small communities had a lot of government of one sort or another. Of course, in Beaver Creek the federal government provided the Canada Customs officers. Canadian National Telecommunications, or CNT, was the phone company. They were still government then.
There was the forestry office. The RCMP constable patrolled from Haines Junction to Beaver Creek about once a week at that time. The Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. diesel generators gave the community its power.
Beaver Creek had one of the pump stations on the old Haines-Fairbanks military pipeline. That's why the Buckway family was there. My father was one of the operators.
The Yukon government presence was the school, later the visitor reception centre and the nursing station, and of course, the highway camp. I'll get back to the highway camp in a minute.
My first job was as the supervisor of the tourist information centre in Beaver Creek. It opened, along with the ones in Haines Junction, Watson Lake and Dawson City, in the mid-1960s. It was run then by the Yukon Department of Travel and Publicity. I think the staff was about three people. Jack Gibson was the director, my first boss.
The nursing station came later. Before that we crossed our fingers and hoped that one of the customs officers, or microwave technicians, or the forestry officer - they were all men at the time - had a wife who was a nurse. They were all women at the time. Thank goodness times have changed.
The nurse had her family life disrupted at all hours for everything from the most serious highway crash to the common fly-off-the-bicycle scraped knees. In many cases, the patient needed to be in hospital in Whitehorse, and the only way there was the road.
The Beaver Creek airport was Jack Stalberg's dream when we were first in Beaver Creek. He wanted a place to land the plane he wanted. So he got the plane, negotiated at great length with the government, and built an airstrip himself. Now it's a fine community airport, and seriously ill patients go from the nursing station in Beaver Creek to Whitehorse hospital in the medevac plane.
But 35 years ago the highway was everything to communities like Beaver Creek. We didn't think of the government as being responsible for the roads when we were kids. It was personal. Mr. Lawrence, the foreman, the mechanic, and the four operators were all known to us. They were friends. They came to our house for dinner; we went to theirs.
Their dedication to keeping the highway open and maintained was more out of their commitment to the users of that highway - their neighbours - than it was to their employer, the government. I am pleased to say that I have travelled as many of our highways as I could this summer, met as many road foremen and road crews as I could, and they still have that same dedication despite declining resources in recent years. I thank them for that, now and all those years ago.
The highway was the lifeline of our community, as it was for most other Yukon towns and villages. It was responsible for much of the economy, the gas stations and lodges, and it brought the goods the businesses and individuals needed to survive. On Tuesday and Friday evenings much of the community would gather either at Ida's Motel or Livesey's. We were waiting for Ozzie. Ozzie Stevens was the driver of the White Pass freight truck who travelled 286 miles from Whitehorse, twice a week, to bring us our mail, our groceries and our Eaton's or Sears orders. He was a friend, too.
It is interesting to note the similarity of the issues, both then and now. As highways minister, I am committed to the restoration of highway maintenance. Our government is aggressively promoting another pipeline and we are, in conjunction with the Connect Yukon project enhancing some of the microwave sites with digital technology.
Yukoners have long prided themselves on their self-reliance and their willingness to help each other in their time of need. Is that pride justified today? Has government made us too ready to ask for help instead of encouraging us, supporting us and figuring out how to do things ourselves?
In the 1950s and 1960s, a lot of young adults came to the Yukon to find some excitement, earn some big money quickly and head back south. The Yukon was also a stepping stone in the career paths of many Ottawa-based civil servants.
Services that we take for granted today like telephones, highway maintenance or radio were delivered by the military. Takhini subdivision of Whitehorse was Camp Takhini, the army camp and Hillcrest was the Air Force base and the military kids were the only ones who got to ride buses to school in Whitehorse.
Aside from the First Nation communities, there were few families with children and even fewer senior citizens. Many of the young adventurers from outside were captured by the spell of the Yukon. They stayed beyond their two-year stints. They married and raised their families here. And once the Yukon's children began returning home after graduation from university, our elders and seniors started to plan their retirement here. I remember people having their cars packed and heading down the highway the very day they retired. The fact that many of them lived in government housing might have had something to do with it, but the fact that more and more people are choosing to spend their retirement years in the Yukon is giving us a richer and more balanced community life. It also means government continues to grow.
That Yukon First Nation communities have long been denied full participation in Yukon society has been to the detriment of us all. Yukon First Nations have societies of their own that existed long before and in spite of the non-aboriginal presence here. The Yukon will only be the poorer for failing to keep the door open to First Nation people.
The Liberal government has identified the settlement of land claims as our top priority. We do not say this in a cynical attempt to gain First Nation support for our government. It is a sincere desire to have open and respectful relationships with First Nation Yukoners. It is in the best interest of all parties to resolve unsettled issues. We are confident that support and encouragement for self-determination is the best route for harmony among Yukoners. I find it interesting that the interim leader of the official opposition has chosen to twist our commitment to have an open and respectful relationship with the First Nations and berates us for the commitment to settle land claims. He would have us devote all of our energy to the implementation of the seven settled claims, rather than continue to emphasize the need for the seven unsettled claims to be resolved. We, on this side of the House, will not neglect the implementation of the claims for those First Nations who have reached settlement. But we have a very clear and unequivocal message to all Yukoners, and that message is: the settlement of the remaining seven claims is our top priority.
The interim leader of the official opposition is critical of our choice of which issues are most important to Yukoners. We have made our priorities very clear, and we will be judged on our choices, not only the selection of what is most important to Yukoners, but on how well we have delivered.
The interim opposition leader can bring any issue to this House and say that the Liberals don't care about it, simply because we have not made it our highest priority. Saying something does not make it so, even when it is said by the interim leader of the opposition.
It is our goal, in the interests of all Yukoners, to have an open and respectful relationship with all First Nation governments and all First Nation people. I can't say this too often. This is a critical step in achieving our highest priority, the settlement of the outstanding land claims.
Another important priority of this government that was identified in the Speech from the Throne is the rebuilding of our economy. As Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I have a particular interest in this item because C&TS will have a large part to play. Our economy has been built on mining and tourism, two areas of economic activity that rely heavily on the Yukon's roads and airports. Mining activity from the first exploration efforts to the development of a mining property is reliant on our network of highways. The members opposite have been critical of my determination to restore the highway funding, funding that is required to stop the gradual deterioration of our roads that began in 1993-94 and continues today.
Many Yukoners are not aware of the facts about highways. That may be due to the fact that highways are taken for granted. They exist, and we assume that they will always be maintained and improved - not so. Eight years ago, our extensive and well-maintained highway system played a critical role in the economic health of the Yukon. Over the past eight years, our highway system has been strangled by budget cuts. In the 1992-93 fiscal year, the expenditures on highways were $22.3 million. By 1999-2000, they had dwindled to $5.2 million, and they were further reduced in this year's budget to $3.8 million.
That looks like wonderful savings, but, as in anything else, if you don't spend the money to maintain an item, its life expectancy is reduced. That's kind of like building a beautiful house and never putting a coat of paint on it and never checking the roof - just ignoring it.
The Campbell Highway is an example of what happens when a highway is neglected. Due to the lack of maintenance and lack of capital dollars, the Campbell Highway cannot be brought back up to standard. It needs to be rebuilt, at a cost of between $50 million and $60 million. That, Mr. Speaker, is a shame. But even greater is the cost to our economy. It is obvious that tourism will suffer if we do not have the requisite infrastructure, and I will address this later. It is mining exploration and development that suffers the most.
One of the first things that an exploration company must consider, after geological considerations, is the anticipated cost of developing a mineral deposit with the available infrastructure. Adequate roads are a key element in the development of mines.
The other key element of the Yukon economy is tourism, an industry directly related to a well-maintained highway. The Yukoners in the communities are well aware of the amount of economic activity that results from RV and tour bus traffic. Any reduction in the quality of highway maintenance translates into increased costs and diminished revenue in the communities. Some people actually say that the roads are too good now and that people go through the Yukon too quickly. I would prefer that Yukoners find reasons for them to stay, other than to repair their vehicles. Tourism's stay-another-day program is an example of what we're doing in this regard.
The members opposite often claim that they are the sole representatives of rural Yukon. They are not. But highway maintenance is an area that is of crucial importance to the communities, and, I might add, under the previous administration it was a sadly neglected area.
Well-maintained highways ensure that the cost and time involved in travel to and from the communities is reduced. The highway system is the economic lifeblood of the communities, and any reduction in the highway budgets provides for increased costs and diminished investments.
The reductions in the highways budget in the early 1990s were continued by the previous government. Now they claim to be the champions of the communities. As part of our effort to rebuild the economy, we will begin the slow process of rebuilding our highway system. But highways are only one element of modern infrastructure. Let me talk about Connect Yukon for a minute.
The interim leader of the official opposition asked, "How come it all of a sudden changed? It flowed from one department to the other, and all of the sudden it changed, just like that - boom? The whole project is not the same as what it was before." I'm so glad he asked. If he believes the project changed, he needs to know that it was changed by his own party, the one he is now interim leader of. They surprised him obviously, the same as they did every other Yukoner.
The project, as announced last October during the Lake Laberge by-election, was about telephones for every Yukoner. The project, as signed by the previous government on April 1 - interesting day they picked - was all about high-speed Internet and data access - not a telephone in sight. I point out to the interim leader of the official opposition that the only changing done was by the NDP. Sorry, but that is the truth. We have made public the documents which prove that.
The move from Government Services to Community and Transportation Services of the Connect Yukon project was at my request. I asked the Premier for Connect Yukon because of my interest in telephones for rural Yukoners. What a surprise. We discovered that the project was not really about telephones; it was about high-speed Internet and data access. The deal was signed during the general election campaign. The NDP didn't make a big fuss about it during the campaign, as I had expected they would. But then, at that time, I didn't know it wasn't really about telephones. They obviously didn't want anyone to know, either.
Yes, this was an agreement that was signed by the previous administration, and we have accepted it without challenge. The provisions of that agreement did not permit changes, and this government has been clear that we don't tear up signed agreements.
The change in the demographics of the Yukon increased the number of women in our population. Through the considerable efforts of a great number of Yukoners, we have seen the slow advancement of the position of women in what was once a truly male-dominated society. Equality remains an important issue for this government, but we, in this Legislature today, have set a new benchmark for the inclusion of women in the political life of the Yukon.
We have a commitment to create a youth directorate that will bring our youth into full participation in Yukon society. We want to coordinate all youth programming to eliminate duplication of programs for young people. But more important, we want to eliminate the gaps in programming for youth. In the present situation, one government department may fund a creative youth program, while another department or board funds a youth-driven initiative which may conflict with the department's effort, to the detriment of both.
This fragmented approach to young people wastes scarce resources, and it does not fully meet the needs of our young people. This government will provide a comprehensive approach to our young people's needs.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services has a very definite role to play in a number of our most important priorities. But what about my other portfolio, Justice? We will continue to contract with the RCMP for their services, and we will proceed with the planning of a replacement for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The provision of institutional and community corrections is a mandate that we must fulfill, and we will do that. Community justice initiatives are taking root in many of the communities and we are committed to supporting these initiatives. Justice projects that divert offenders from the mainstream justice system to a more community-based model of restorative justice have a greater potential for restoring an offender to some kind of relationship with his community again. We often overlook the fact that offenders are just community members with the potential to be rehabilitated.
We are presently looking at the most effective location for many of the components of the justice system and the relocation into the Prospector and Tutshi buildings is something we are looking forward to.
In closing, I would like to commend and thank the many dedicated and highly committed people who work in the departments I am responsible for. They make my job as their minister a pleasure.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I am very disappointed by this throne speech and what's in it, and that sentiment has been echoed by every member on this side of the Legislature and the public, so far, I might add. The Liberals, on the other hand, all have prepared speeches; they are all patting themselves on the back, all telling Yukoners how great they are, and about all the wonderful new programs and services they will be providing, about how open and accountable they are, about how they challenge the opposition to work with them for the betterment of Yukoners and so on - well, what a bunch of bunk.
If I were a lawyer like so many good Liberals are, I would build a case for fraud, because they campaigned during the election on, "It's all about the future," but if you read this throne speech, it's clear that it's all about the past - a complete reversal, a complete reversal.
Many of the programs and initiatives identified are all programs and initiatives of the previous government. We just heard one example today, Mr. Speaker, about the seniors strategy. Well, as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes pointed out, this was an NDP initiative and he even quoted some of the responses from the other side, and you should have seen the reaction, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Riverdale South over there was in complete denial, but when he read her own quote, it kind of served as a wake-up call. She kind of remembered then that yes, that does sound familiar, and yes, the seniors strategy does sound familiar, and maybe she even remembers what the report looked like because it came out long before the election.
So, on one hand we have Liberals trying to take credit for everything; on the other hand, Mr. Speaker, maybe it's not so bad that a lot of these programs are finding a second life under this government, because we believed in the programs we initiated. They were all done through public consultation and were very thoughtful, progressive initiatives, and it would be a darned shame to see them shelved now.
I'm sure that probably one of the Liberal handlers - and there are many of them. You look up in Question Period and see a couple of dozen of them up there just about every day. One of them no doubt had sense enough to realize this and say, "Hold on a minute, why should we reinvent the wheel? The NDP did it for us. Why not capitalize on all these programs and initiatives like we did their budget?" And somebody else probably piped up from the back benches and said, "Yes, that way we can go on holidays and go fishing instead of going to work." That probably met with unanimous approval. Hence, we have a theme in the throne speech called, "It's all about the past."
I see some of them nodding their heads over there - big smiles, Mr. Speaker. I'm sure they have some stories to tell to back this up, and that's fine. Some of them still have an opportunity to speak to this, and I'd be interested to hear what some of those stories really are. I'm sure the handlers will be intercepting them in the hallway. The truth will never come out. Premier Cunning will be writing their speeches, and we'll get something quite a bit different, I'm sure.
Now, looking through this document, it was very disappointing. I counted the words, but not in the Liberal way, one by one; I used my word count on the computer program. There are about four times as many words as in the spring throne speech, so you'd expect a lot more, Mr. Speaker, because both of the throne speeches have lengthy welcomes and lengthy sign-offs, so when it comes to the meat, you'd expect there to be a lot more.
But did you realize that about 250 words in this throne speech talk about one simple program in the Department of Economic Development, called the MINE program - 250 words of a throne speech, setting out the direction of a new government over its four-year term. Wow. Wow. This must be one heck of a program, Mr. Speaker, but if you look at it, there's nothing to it. Nothing to it at all. What a joke. What a joke. And that's one of the few - one of the very few, new things that are in this budget. It's unbelievable.
The throne speech is chock full of a lot of things old, and only a few things new, and the new things are talked about so much it's no wonder where all these extra words come from, Mr. Speaker. If you'd strain them out, we'd be back to the Liberal-lite version of the spring throne speech.
It's all about the past. The Liberals talk about the pipeline, and then the Premier has the gall to say that both opposition parties are opposed to the pipeline. Au contraire, Mr. Speaker. Au contraire. Au contraire.
Now, last year in this Legislature I believe we introduced a motion about the pipeline. The motion received unanimous approval from all three parties. I believe all 17 MLAs voted on that one. I think that was one of the few times the Member for Klondike actually was here to vote, when he didn't slip out the back door. But it was pretty well given unanimous approval, and you might recall that prompted the Northwest Territories government to do something similar.
What has changed? All of sudden, now, the Yukon Party and the NDP are opposed. It's not the case. We are merely holding them accountable for not forgetting about the rest of the economy. Diversification - one of the most important economic tools there is - is being tossed aside because of this blindness for one megaproject. Our job is holding them accountable. If this megaproject ever flops, the territory could be left in ruins. Some would argue that even if it proceeds - a one-time wonder - it could leave a big black hole in its wake. Why is the Premier making this her number one priority, head and shoulders above everything else? It leaves a lot of Yukoners wondering. She's shaking her head herself, Mr. Speaker. Maybe she's having second thoughts now.
Other people wonder what possible role the Yukon could have in bringing this pipeline down through our territory. This decision is made by the producers. It's made by the State of Alaska. The Yukon is such a small voice. To have so much energy devoted to it really would make a manager wonder; devoting so much energy to a project, when the voice is so small.
To hear some of the members talk on and on about how great this is, Mr. Speaker, it really makes a lot of Yukoners wonder.
What about diversification? Prior to the election, we had a vibrant forest industry. There were three mills operating. How many are operating now? They are going down in flames. Do we hear anything about any initiatives to help the forest industry? No. Not at all. They wouldn't come to the rescue of people in Watson Lake. The mill in Haines Junction has problems. Did they rescue that? No. What did they do? They hired the president. They take the corporate memory - the number one mover and shaker - away from this company and put him in something else.
Mr. Speaker, it doesn't bode well.
I have had personal discussions with people in the mill, and they were wondering where the government assistance was, where the training investment fund was, and they were very disappointed to find out from this Liberal government that everything was under review. The Liberal government just wouldn't fork out when people were asking.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this story is - you won't read about it in the newspapers, not yet anyway, because I'm sure the Liberals are stringing them along like they've strung everybody else along. But there will be a day of reckoning, a day of reckoning when people get tired of being strung along and realize when they wake up that the Liberals' pipe dream extends to just about every part of the economy.
The Member for Klondike alluded to the expectations that were raised in the spring, and I was going to talk about this. Whenever we ask them how they're going to implement their priorities, we were told to wait until the fall, that their spending priorities will be set out in the supplementary budget in the fall. Whether we asked about highways, health, economic development, social programs and what have you, we were told to wait until the fall. Someone dubbed this, "the mother of all supplementary budgets", Mr. Speaker. The expectations were raised to the limit.
Now, just before the tabling of the supplementary budget, in this throne speech, we see a watered-down version already, a hit. It will be a Liberal-lite version of the mother of all supplementary budgets. They use words like "only some of our spending priorities will be identified in the supplementary budget". Lets have some accountability, Mr. Speaker. What about some of the promises the Liberals made?
Who's going to hold them accountable if we don't? Well, I for one have no choice but to dredge up some of the promises made and some of the comments made, and throw it back at them. The now Premier, in addressing the - I believe it was - Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce said that if elected, her Liberal government would not wait until year three or four to set out its priorities; they would do it right from the start. This is something I raised in the spring. It's something I raise again now. And it's something I am bound to raise in the future, because we're seeing a watered down version of that promise.
We heard the minister of highways say that over the next four years, hopefully they'll get things back to where we want them. Well, they had a chance in this supplementary budget. It's not their first chance. We asked them to bring a supplementary budget in before the summer to put highway workers back to work, especially in Yukon communities where unemployment would be very high this winter. They refused. They said, "wait until the fall." Well, it's fall, and there's a big fall, all right - a big let down. A big let down, because communities will be hard hit this winter. I wonder why.
We left them a surplus: $56.2 million and counting. I know there are a number of lapses. There are a number of lapses just from the Kluane riding. We can probably top that up to $60 million just from lapses on unspent project dollars that were in the budget that were supposed to be spent. But that's an argument for another day.
There is certainly no shortage in material to hold this government accountable - no shortage of material at all. We could probably talk for days just on this throne speech, the number of broken promises and the number of old programs that have been brought back to life. The Liberals are beating their chests over how great they are for introducing these new programs, and so on. Unfortunately I'm limited to 40 minutes and, because I don't have a prepared speech like the Liberals do, it will probably be a lot less than 40 minutes.
They talk about working together. They talk about being very generous, providing us with information and looking forward to being open and accountable.
Mr. Speaker, one of our first disappointments in that regard came on the day the Minister of Renewable Resources tabled the state of the environment report. Do you remember that? Well, I do. He was railing on and on about this great report and how great they were, but he wouldn't even provide us with a copy prior to his tabling. I was expected to get up and talk about the environment report for a maximum of five minutes, according to the rules of ministerial statements, without even being given the courtesy of a copy.
Well, I was reminded about that the other day with the tabling of the throne speech. When I was taking extensive notes, I looked across the way, and all the Liberal members were reading the throne speech document. No doubt, Mr. Speaker, they had a draft copy of the document days in advance, which allowed them a long time to prepare their written speeches. Mr. Speaker, that's not working together. That's a very adversarial form of government.
Mr. Speaker, we have to contend with our system, which is very adversarial as it is, and I think we could all agree on that. It's an adversarial system. But the Liberals campaigned on making this Legislature a better place, and they raised public expectations once again - that they would be the model government. They would model professional behaviour in this Legislature.
I know, from looking into the eyes of the Clerk of the Assembly, for instance, he thought, "My, my. This might be it." After about 22 years in this joint, he thought that maybe we're on to something here. I could tell it by the look in his eye - well, Mr. Speaker, what a sad day. What a disappointment.
Mr. Speaker, they are leaving by the droves. Already, half of the staff - the greatly experienced staff of this Legislature - have left in the past week, and the other half is apparently very disappointed at what has transpired - the great letdown of the Liberal Party once again.
Mr. Speaker, apparently, they are no better than we were or the Yukon Party was. Fortunately, there wasn't a Liberal government before, or maybe they would look good compared to them. Who knows? But the point is that they have had the chance to do things better. They said they would do things better. Well, I'm waiting, and so are my colleagues. When are we going to see something that they do better?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike raises a good point. He is waiting for the day the Liberal government says something intelligent even. He could be waiting a long time.
So, like I said, if I were a good Liberal lawyer, I could probably put together a case here that would blow their socks off, and probably have them all arrested for some form of treason, and there would have to be a new election to make up for it after they apologize. Certainly, there is no lack of evidence - just in this throne speech - for how that case could be prepared. But fortunately, it won't be me. I don't have the time, and frankly, I don't have the interest, and I don't have the money, either. Maybe the Liberals could do it. You know, it seems that a lot of the lawyers are members of their party. Maybe they could volunteer a few hours, probably for a tax receipt, to prepare one of these. Maybe they could auction it off at their next convention. Who knows?
But, Mr. Speaker, going through this throne speech, I want to identify a few things just to back up my allegations that a lot of it is old and only a little bit is new.
Let's start with the Minister of Health. He is over there with a big grin on his face. Is that his Winnie-the-Pooh tie he's wearing again tonight? Apparently it is.
He rants and raves about a number of things. He talks about the health summit, the continuing care facility, increased beds, the day program at the Thomson Centre - blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But does he, at any point, say that these are all NDP initiatives, that they were all announced under the previous NDP government - not this Liberal government, but the previous government? They are all NDP initiatives. Just like at the Ross River school, they are there, cutting the red ribbon. They didn't even have the courtesy to invite the MLA for the region, who was one of the six members of the previous Cabinet that approved the capital expenditures for that project. They didn't even have the courtesy.
I can add another example of that. The visitor reception centre in Beaver Creek opened earlier this summer. It may have been in the spring. The Minister of Tourism - the Member for Riverdale South - didn't have the courtesy of informing me about it. Instead, she flew up there at government expense to cut some ribbon and eat some cake. A couple of weeks later, I was in the community and they were all wondering where I was on that day. It came as a complete surprise. It was a real surprise to them, because I have a reputation for never missing a free meal up there. They really were wondering where I was. They know I like cake.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The Member for Klondike says that he likes cake too, especially the ones with the file in them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: He says the story about the minister flying to Beaver Creek reminds him of the time he got his pilot's licence.
Anyway, Mr. Speaker, this is an example of this Liberal government not being courteous to us on this side, and wanting to take all the glory themselves. Well, that's fine. If that's the way they want to do it, that's fine. But don't expect the best of relations, and don't expect all Yukoners to be as simple-minded as they want them to be, because a lot of people know the truth.
In our role of holding them accountable, we will be reminding Yukoners from time to time of the truth about these various projects, which brings me to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services talking about Connect Yukon a few moments ago, Mr. Speaker.
I've introduced a motion in this Assembly on that matter, and will save my comments for the day that motion is called. Perhaps there will be other opportunities to discuss those issues in this Chamber as well, but tonight there are too many other things to deal with. I'd just like to say that it was the Liberal government that changed the direction of Connect Yukon. Connect Yukon was about phones. Apparently, it's not any more. The Liberal government has changed it. And Mr. Speaker, we can clearly demonstrate that at the appropriate time.
Before I finish with the Minister of Health and Social Services, he raves about this health committee that he has set up. Well, why did he set up a health committee to review things like the dialysis machine, or the CT scan, or other things that were either in the budget or things he promised Yukoners? The simple answer, unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, is that he's backtracking, or he was told to backtrack by his colleagues.
These were promises made. The CT scan is in the budget. Why is it under review? The dialysis machine was promised. He was phoning up one particular patient in the hospital in Vancouver. He wanted to talk to her. He went down to Skagway one day and stopped in at the Cinnamon Cache, had a talk with the people down there who were raising funds for the dialysis machine. He raised their expectations.
Well, what's going on?
The federal government forked over millions of dollars in addition to the $56.2 million surplus. Can't the minister come through on the promises he makes and the expectations he raises, or does he have to back down? He likes to maybe bask in the glory but he doesn't come through when it comes time to fork out. Perhaps his Cabinet colleagues and the backbenchers over there beat him up a little bit. Maybe, under pressure, he said something he really wasn't supposed to say in this Chamber and they put him in the pressure cooker and, out of the lid, squeezed out these promises and expectations, Mr. Speaker.
I'd remind the minister that he was elected to make decisions on behalf of the public. Sometimes these decisions meet with the approval of his department and other times they don't, but in no case is government expected to always just rubber-stamp what the department approves. They have the responsibility to bring the will of the people through the government. Sometimes the politician is the only avenue for that to happen. Sometimes it's a matter of principle, where the politician and the party must uphold the principle. On things like the dialysis machine and the CT scan, Mr. Speaker, there are certainly principles attached to them.
Why form a board to review these initiatives? Well, there's only one answer: the minister is hiding behind a board.
I recall, when I sat on that side of the House, listening to the opposition parties accuse our government of hiding behind boards, often I'd think, "What a bunch of rubbish. This isn't true." The board was dealing with this matter and it's not something the government plunked down on the board. Things will progress and the matter will get resolved. Here we have a much different situation. It's a situation where the government created the problem and then created a board to deal with it. Now, if this isn't a classic case of hiding behind boards, Mr. Speaker, I don't know what is.
Again, this is one of these issues that won't rest completely tonight. It's bound to come up again in this Legislature, along with many other similar issues.
Another interesting feature of this Liberal government is how everything is under review. I didn't get a chance to test my computer's ability to count the word "review" in this throne speech, but I'm sure it numbers quite high. The word is used to describe the status of a lot of projects. It's used to explain how the Liberal government is conducting itself. It's used in all kinds of situations. It was no different in the spring; in the spring everything was under review. As a matter of fact, I suggested to them that they may as well put up the "gone fishing" sign on the door, because everything is under review. They are incapable of making a decision. "Wait", they said. "Wait until the fall. In the fall we'll have the answers. In the fall we'll have the direction. You'll know in the fall." Well, the fall is here and soon winter will be here too. There are no answers. There's no direction.
I guess next week we'll find out just how much money there is to back up what few initiatives Yukoners are aware of at this stage. But it's very sad.
Speaking of SAD; another rehashed initiative, this stay-another-day program. I understand this was another program under review, but yet unannounced, by our government. You know, this is one of the new initiatives they are boasting about. No mention of all the ground work. No mention of the previous government. It's got the Liberal stamp all over it. It's all red and white. It's just another example of how they take credit for something. They like to take all the credit.
Today, we heard disappointment about the throne speech from an environmental group - Yukon Conservation Society. I saw that Northbeat tonight had a clip on it. I've had the chance to speak to some people in the environment community. I've talked to them a little deeper about it, and it's clear that the environment is taking a back seat to this Liberal government.
In fact, it's disheartening to know that, in his role as Minister of Renewable Resources, the Member for Riverdale North is acting like a minister of economic development. Perhaps that's because the real Minister of Economic Development is off on her one-vision wonder of the future of the Yukon, which we have already addressed. Whatever the reason, Mr. Speaker, we'll be here to hold them accountable and remind Yukoners of the failings of this government to do what they promised they would do, which brings me to a speech given by the Premier at the B.C. Chamber of Mines - it was probably that free lunch she talked about in the throne speech - to the miners and industry. She declared that, in the fall, she would be setting out a list of promises made and promises kept. "Check on delivery," she said.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we had the throne speech, and it's not in there. There is no check on delivery in this throne speech. It talks about being open and accountable. Why doesn't it have a progress report? That's where it should be, so we can talk about it here in the Legislature, or would they rather not talk about it in this forum of accountability? Maybe toward the end of the sitting, they could slip an ad in the paper, with a few checks on it and say, "There you go. We delivered."
Well, again, that reflects on the style of government Yukoners are having to put up with as we learn more about how disappointing this Liberal government really is. They went on and on, and they still continue to go on and on about how they do what they promised they would do.
Mr. Speaker, this throne speech sets out seven items - "clearer direction", they call it. They have the buzz words. They call them "touchstones". People can hold them accountable if they don't come through in these seven areas. Well, we'll hold them accountable on their progress.
But what about all of the other areas? What about all of the other promises?
The Liberal government made many, many more promises than these seven.
What about their other responsibilities? It's kind of like redefining the terms of reference of government and rendering all the responsibilities down to seven. Is that what Yukoners expected? I hardly think so. I hardly think so, Mr. Speaker. We realized that. We realized what many of these other responsibilities are. As someone charged with the role of holding them responsible, I can indicate to you that this isn't the last you'll be hearing about all of the other promises and responsibilities in addition to the seven that they want people to believe.
Our critic for Economic Development has already pointed out a few things in this throne speech that the Liberals are taking credit for - initiatives that were started under the previous government. One of them is the flow-through shares program. Well, I personally remember the Member for Watson Lake lobbying the federal government on this. I believe he went to an economic forum in Watson Lake and discussed this. We had many discussions on this in caucus. It was something the previous government supported and acted on. But, lo and behold, here it is wrapped up as a new initiative in this throne speech.
Well, Mr. Speaker, maybe if it is something they really believed in, maybe instead of just giving $250,000 to the prospectors in the fall, maybe they should have put this in gear, because just the other day we heard from the mining community that it's too little too late. Instead of holding it back for the throne speech - the little goody in the throne speech - if they really believed in it, they should have put the pedal to the metal when they had the chance.
There they are; they're snickering over there, Mr. Speaker. But when the economy continues to be neglected, a lot of people won't be snickering like them.
Some Hon. Member:Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Mount Lorne, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: On a point of order, I would like to bring forward the Standing Orders on the use of abusive or insulting language, and saying that the members opposite are snickering is untrue, or he basically misspoke himself.
Speaker: The opposition House leader, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, it is getting quite late, and to even imply that saying "snickering" is unparliamentary or that there are comments geared to cause a disruption in this Legislature is ridiculous.
I don't think there's a point of order here, Mr. Speaker - nothing more than a rude and frivolous interruption.
Speaker: I've given it considerable thought here, and I really don't think that there's a point of order here. The House had been in - I'll describe it as a jovial mood. There was snickering on both sides, and I personally don't see it as a point of order.
In addition to that, I would say that the member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thought you just said you were enjoying what I was saying. There's no need to cut me off so quickly.
But anyway, maybe some of the points I'm making are a little painful to the members opposite, and finally they pressed the button. They couldn't wait that two minutes, Mr. Speaker. They had to get up and interrupt.
Since I've got just over a minute here, I'll try to get in what I can about this throne speech.
There are some bullets on the sixth page here about rebuilding the economy. Some would say they're destroying the economy, but they talk about rebuilding it.
I've asked the question, what about diversification, and they talk about a few things here. Mr. Speaker, noticeably absent, especially to me, is that there's no mention of the Shakwak Highway project funding. This agreement is due to expire. Where is this at? I know that the Premier was in Alaska this summer speaking with the Governor. No mention of the Shakwak. No mention. Well, maybe when she gets up and wraps up all these replies, she can give us that answer, because I know there are lots of people employed in the road construction industry and others, especially up in the Kluane riding, who are very interested in this, and we don't want to see a gap where the project is held up.
Speaker: Order please. The member's time has expired.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It really is an honour to respond to the Speech from the Throne - our government's road map for the future - and it's a little unfortunate that a lot of the members have left. Both, that's right, sorry. I withdraw that comment. I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker.
I also want to pay special thanks to the residents of Riverdale North, because they have trusted me with representing them here in the House as their MLA. As minister, I am accountable to all Yukoners, but to the residents of Riverdale North, I'm ultimately accountable for being here.
The throne speech reaffirms our commitment to Yukoners to build a strong foundation for a very bright future by providing new leadership and a new attitude in the whole of government. These goals can only be attained by us working hand in hand with Yukoners. We said we would be, and are, open and accountable.
During the first session, in my introduction to the House, I had also extended a willingness - and I will stand by that commitment - to extend my hand across the House to work cooperatively with members of the opposition, because we are only 19 in total, and we represent all Yukon peoples. I would like to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Seventeen? I stand corrected.
Anyway, I very much appreciated the comments from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin in representing her constituents and her concerns, and I hope that I will be able to respond in some of my discussion here tonight to some of the concerns that you genuinely expressed across the House earlier today.
We have outlined the direction we want to take, and that involves seven priorities: settling outstanding land claims, rebuilding the Yukon economy, achieving devolution, developing infrastructure, maintaining quality health care, addressing alcohol and drug addictions, and restoring confidence in government, which is one of the first topics I would like to address to you tonight, Mr. Speaker.
It is imperative that we restore confidence in government. Again, I believe that all members in the House would like to achieve that end. As minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, I feel this can be achieved with a strong, healthy workforce within the public service.
As with any business, employees are the backbone of the organization. The challenge that I have, and the challenge our government and my colleagues face, is restoring the public service. Just what does that mean? Well, Mr. Speaker, there are two basic answers to this question. One is to provide a confidence and a quality of service to all Yukoners that are second to one. For the most part, all the employees within the public service do that. They do it quite often in an unrecognized way and unrecognized fashion, but they do an incredible job, and they are not told that very often, especially by the elected officials. I want to commend them and thank them for the service they provide on behalf of government to the people of the Yukon.
The second answer to the question I posed - and a greater task for me and, again, for my colleagues - is to recognize those skills and abilities of our workforce. How do we do that? We recognize the skills and abilities of our workforce by getting out and meeting them, just as all of us are committed to going out and talking to our constituents on a regular basis, and listening to what they say; they provide the feedback. They are the pulse of the Yukon. It is the same of the Public Service Commission's workforce. They are the front line. They listen to what Yukoners have to say. They are our ears and eyes. Every day, they have constant contact with Yukoners.
But we must also build confidence within the public service by respecting our workforce, by listening to their ideas, encouraging innovative thoughts, ideas, suggestions and really listening, as we do to our constituents, to what they have to say.
We must also encourage communication, something that is sorely lacking - encourage communication from the bottom up within the public service, all the way to the top and, conversely, from the top all the way down. Again, how do we do that?
We, as ministers - we as caucus on this side of the House - must constantly maintain contact with our workforce. Go and just listen to what they have to say. Wander around. There are some incredibly insightful, happy, contented individuals, but we have to encourage that more and more.
We also have to encourage communication sideways - meaning interdepartmentally - again, from the bottom all the way up to the top. I believe by doing that, by listening to what they have to say, by respecting our public workforce, they will in turn - not just for the government, but for the whole of the government on both sides - work on our interests in implementing ideas and suggestions that we are providing, as indicated in the throne speech earlier this week.
Again, I believe that this is an incredibly positive, constructive way of building confidence in our government.
We have stated numerous times in the House, in the media and on the streets of Yukon, that the settlement of land claims is our government's top priority.
We have visited all the communities to talk to First Nation individuals and First Nation leaders. We have talked to businesswomen, we have talked to businessmen, we have talked to town councils, we have talked to school councils, mayors and people on the street. We want to hear from everyone as we embark on our road to economic recovery.
We will shortly be meeting with four First Nation chiefs in a common forum, which will allow senior territorial and First Nation officials to discuss specific issues. This forum is a first and, hopefully, will be the first of many more to come. Again, it's premised on the idea of communication, premised on the idea of respect, premised on the idea of simply listening.
Another responsibility I have, Mr. Speaker, is that of Renewable Resource minister. I very much enjoy the challenge, the comments, the questions, the suggestions from the Member for Kluane. I do find them entertaining; I do find them somewhat challenging, and I look forward to the future when we can continue to exchange ideas and thoughts - at least, ideas. Maybe I'll just listen.
One of the biggest areas of concern that I have is forging a delicate balance between the environment and economic development, ensuring that neither suffer at the expense of the other. Both are of paramount importance to me, to the Department of Renewable Resources, to the Department of Economic Development, as we are most concerned that Yukoners understand and appreciate that we can move forward on both fronts, that we all live in Yukon, as the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin had indicated earlier today. Even though her riding is up north, I have been up there quite a few times, and it is truly one of the most beautiful places in the territory. I have also been in the Kluane region and experienced the Member for Kluane's home riding and the beauty and grandeur of the mountains and crystal clear lakes.
I have, my whole professional career, been devoted to environmental and wildlife concerns. They are very dear to me and I have not felt that I have wasted one moment in that professional pursuit. As another colleague of mine on this side of the House has expressed - the Minister of Community and Transportation Services -- she has lived here all her life, born here on the flats outside the building here. I wish I could lay claim to being born here as well, but I can't. But I have lived most of my life here. I went through the school system and then moved outside for further education, and took advantage of career opportunities outside. Over 15 years ago, I had an opportunity to come back to the territory in a capacity as a wildlife habitat specialist with a private organization.
Through that opportunity, I was able to travel extensively throughout the territory, and truly appreciate what we have here. I would also like to say at this time that we believe that we live in a pristine area of the country. And for the most part we do. We have incredible resources, natural resources that we all appreciate and take advantage of from time to time. I know that some of my colleagues have expressed the joy of our campgrounds. We have an incredible network of campgrounds that are looked after by the Renewable Resource department. The Renewable Resource department has a very broad mandate, taking on the new challenges of the forest industry. As part of the forest industry initiative within the current government, we have recognized that we need skills and abilities within the department to manage that resource.
So, we have taken, with the assistance of the Department of Economic Development, the positioning a person within Renewable Resources who has the knowledge and experience to help us form policy and manage the resource throughout the territory. We are just moving into this area of natural resource management, because, until now, unfortunately - although the official opposition has recognized in the past that this is a resource that we must take advantage of - there doesn't seem to have been a truly motivated, homogeneous desire to look after the resource in the whole of the territory. It has been rather focused in southeast Yukon.
In order to do that, in order to accept the responsibilities, to show to the jurisdiction that currently has total management of that resource - namely, the federal government through its Northern Affairs program - we have recognized the limitations that we have within the department. And, as I mentioned just a minute ago, we will be bringing on staff that do have the skills and abilities to indicate to the federal government that we can manage that resource ourselves.
We are currently going through a review of the THA process - meaning that we are trying to find balance. On the economic side? Yes, because, as I had indicated to members opposite earlier today, members on this side of the House work as a team. We confer quite often, sharing and exchanging ideas. During our road trips, we do share ideas. We challenge each other, which is a wonderful way not only to learn what the Speaker's constituents are talking about, what the Minister of Health's constituents are talking about, or the Member for Riverside's constituents are talking about - this is also how we become more familiar, as we also do from the public service, in getting ideas, remaining in touch and becoming as informed as we possibly can on the concerns and issues.
But back to the timber harvest agreement idea, what we have been attempting to do through the department is to gather those people - the key stakeholders - who are going to directly impacted through the process of timber harvest agreements and seek their input into what that document should really be. What should a timber harvest agreement be?
This will ensure - as we all know, it takes a tree a long time to grow in the territory. But, we do have a resource that - we have had indicators - can be worked on, can be looked after and can be used to provide some economy to Yukoners, not only in southeast Yukon, but also in other parts of the territory.
Now the process of the timber harvest agreement review has come to a close. Something that the territorial government has suggested to the federal government is that, because of the comments, suggestions and ideas that we have had through the review process of the timber harvest agreement, that the federal government extend the period over which the review process will occur. They have extended to the end of November the review of the timber harvest agreement process.
We're also encouraging that there be greater community contact again, not only with Southeast Yukon, but also with other parts of the territory where we can take advantage of input. Ultimately, we hope to be going to a workshop and getting everybody in the room, so that we can formalize the timber harvest agreement process throughout the territory.
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of other issues. With the support of the department - the total support of the department; with the excitement of the department - we are taking some major initiatives with respect to the Wildlife Act. Again, this is an act that has been in effect since 1981. There have been substantial world events and Canadian events that have impacted on that act; mainly, the patriation of the Constitution within Canada, which did, surprisingly, maybe have an effect on the Yukon's Wildlife Act. As well, of course, the umbrella final agreement had a profound effect on the act.
Over 20 years, with the changes in culture, the changes in attitude and numerous other changes, there have been profound impacts on the act. The act has tried to accommodate these changes through amendments.
These amendments are now so convoluted that they have been challenged within the courts, so it is imperative that we do get into a review of the act. We will be covering three main aspects of the act in incremental stages in years 1, 2 and 3, whereby the first year will focus on enforcement and administration, including changes required because of the Canadian Charter and recent courtroom decisions. The second set of amendments that will be looked at in changes to the Wildlife Act will focus on new endangered species and habitat protection provisions. The third aspect of the change will focus on consistency with land claims agreements, which is long, long, long overdue and which, no doubt, previous subsequent governments should have been addressing long before this time.
It's a challenge that the department has taken up with enthusiasm. This government will support those initiatives and help the department as much as they can.
During the review of the Wildlife Act, there will be inclusion and consultation with groups such as the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, Yukon Fish and Game Association, Yukon Outfitters Association, Yukon Trappers Association, renewable resource councils, Yukon First Nations, Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon, the Yukon Conservation Society, Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society, World Wildlife Fund and, also very importantly, Yukon industry. The mineral, oil, gas and forestry aspects of Yukon industries will all have opportunities to provide input into the amendments.
Mr. Speaker, I was challenged earlier today by the interim leader of the official opposition, with respect to the YPAS, namely the Yukon protected areas strategy. Mr. Speaker, I was intimately involved with the working group that prepared, over a two-year period, along with many other individuals in the territory, the Yukon protected areas strategy.
A component of the strategy is the implementation of the strategy. The strategy is not what's being challenged. The strategy is a great strategy, and I do commend the previous government for recognizing that, and for taking the initiative to have the fortitude to move forward with such an ambitious effort.
The problem was the implementation aspect of the YPAS, when handed over to the government from the working group - they were warned that the implementation aspect of the strategy had to be respected and handled very, very delicately because of the number of partners committed to that implementation aspect.
Due to the lateness of the hour, I move that debate now be adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Education that the debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion No. 10 agreed to
Notice of business
Ms. Tucker: I wish to inform the House, pursuant to Standing Order 26, that consideration of a motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne shall take place on Thursday, October 26, 2000.
I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled October 25, 2000:
Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues 1999/00 Annual Report
Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, 30th Legislative Assembly: Minutes of Meeting #1 (September 27, 2000)