Wednesday, February 28, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Gunnar Tore Nilsson
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Legislature to pay tribute to a long-time Yukoner, Gunnar Tore Nilsson. "Gunnar", to all who knew him, left his home in Sweden for Canada in 1953. He spent several years in Alberta before coming to the territory in 1958. Gunner worked for many years with Hector Lang building bridges in the Yukon. Their reputation and their word was as good as a bond. Together, they built over 100 bridges in the territory.
Some of us remember him as a man who farmed the fields where the Meadow Lake golf course now sits. Through the years, Gunnar did a variety of jobs such as farming, welding and mechanics, water and sewer installation in Whitehorse, a builder of bridges and houses, logger and sawmill operator.
Throughout his difficult battle with cancer, Gunnar had to keep an eye on things and make sure everything was running properly. Even in his 70s, he could tire out the youngest man in any crew.
Gunnar was also a man who could turn his hand to anything he set his mind to, a man who could fix virtually anything, even if it meant making the parts from scratch.
Gunnar and his partner Mickey Lammers lived at the sawmill at Marsh Lake for many, many years, where they had a thriving sawmill operation. Many Yukoners have Gunnar to thank for their Yukon pine panelling, and many Yukon students also benefited from his wisdom and expertise and still remember him as the man who showed them how to mill logs into lumber.
Gunnar had a unique connection with the land. He respected what the land could give and that a living could be earned if you took the time to learn.
In 1996, Gunnar and Hector were the first inductees into the Yukon Transportation Hall of Fame. In October 2000, the tree farm, at the top of the hill near the Takhini River Bridge, was named the Gunnar Nilsson experimental forest.
To many people, Gunnar was the embodiment of the true work ethic, the kind that people aspire to. Honesty and integrity were cornerstones in Gunnar's life. He was respected and instilled respect in all those who knew him.
Gunnar leaves behind Mickey Lammers, his life partner, friend and companion, a brother, sister and two nieces in Sweden, and many friends and extended family members here in the territory.
We, as members of this Legislature and as Yukoners, will miss you Mr. Nilsson and remember the contributions you have made to our territory.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a report from the office of the Auditor General respecting Yukon College financial statements as of June 30, 2000.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any motions?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that political interference in independent funding programs, such as the former Community Development Fund (the CDF), is improper;
THAT this House recognizes that the audit of the CDF by Government Audit Services concluded that there were several instances of political interference with the fund during the previous government's mandate, including:
(1) after the CDF board's decision to defer a request for funding for a project, and giving it a 'low' rating, a former minister overrode this decision; and
(2) Approval of a fast-tracked proposal which gave an applicant an unfair advantage;
THAT it is the opinion of this House that funding approvals of this nature should not be predetermined by political motives prior to going through the proper process; and
THAT this House urges the Liberal government to continue their practice of keeping independent funding programs free of political interference.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the newly created Project Yukon funding program is but a faint shadow of the former Community Development Fund;
THAT funding for community projects has been dramatically reduced in recent years from a high of $6 million in the 1999-2000 Budget to a low of $1.5 million in the 2001-2002 Budget; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to scrap Project Yukon, restore the community development fund with a proper level of funding while introducing a system of accountability to ensure Yukon taxpayers are receiving value for their money.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Pioneer utility grant enhancement
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I rise on a very important matter, to inform the House of an initiative that is being undertaken by Health and Social Services to aid Yukon seniors with extraordinary financial challenges facing them this winter.
As we are all well aware, the cost of heating our homes has escalated over the past year, and this government recognizes that Yukon seniors may be particularly hard hit with these high costs. To help with this burden, I am pleased to announce that we will be providing seniors with some short-term financial assistance.
The pioneer utility grant was established more than 20 years ago to assist seniors with their heating costs. At that time, Yukon seniors received $300 each year. Today, a grant of $600 per year per household is available to all Yukon seniors, including First Nation elders who meet the eligibility requirement and also all other seniors. Last month we met with almost 100 seniors to ask them how they felt about a one-time increase to the pioneer utility grant. The vast majority of seniors who responded during the consultation indicated that an increase should be provided to all seniors. Based on what they told us, every senior eligible for the pioneer utility grant will receive an additional, one-time increase of $100 to assist them with their heating costs this year.
Seniors will not be required to fill out any additional forms or come into our offices to make an application. All seniors who made applications and were eligible for the pioneer utility grant this fiscal year will automatically receive an additional $100 cheque. We anticipate that seniors will have this cheque in hand shortly.
Mr. Speaker, by providing a one-time increase to seniors through the grant, the government is adding an additional $71,500 to this program for a total of $500,000. Currently, approximately 715 seniors receive the pioneer utility grant.
We know that the number of seniors in the Yukon will only increase substantially in the coming years. In order to provide assistance to those seniors who need it most, we need to look at the services and supports we provide. Over the next year, Health and Social Services will be undertaking a review of the pioneer utility grant. This review will look at such issues as eligibility requirements, universality - both issues that were raised by the nearly 100 seniors we spoke to in January. We will be going back to these people and others to ask them for their input. We are pleased to be able to assist them in this way.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: I'd like to thank the minister for bringing this much-needed increase for the seniors to the House. As you know, Mr. Speaker, we raised this issue in the campaign. We said that we'd increase it by 25 percent. We again raised the issue in September of last year, and again, Mr. Speaker, we raised the issue in January of this year.
Now, I do have some suggestions. I would suggest that the government not take a piecemeal approach to this very important program. Don't just tinker with this program but develop a vision, and develop that vision in partnership with the seniors of the territory. I would suggest that we should consult all the seniors of the territory - the rural communities. If I could use Tagish as an example, Tagish does have the highest number of seniors per capita in the Yukon Territory and they definitely have a voice that should and needs to be heard.
I'd like to also point that a choice of two options is not consultation, Mr. Speaker. It's simply a choice. It's like a game show. You can go through door 1 or you can go through door 2, and the seniors don't have the foggiest idea of what really is behind those doors.
Again, the acting Minister of Health showed up at the meeting and stated during that meeting that all universal programs were on the table. Well, Mr. Speaker, that is not consultation. That's fear-mongering.
Prices have escalated by 40 percent over this energy crisis that we're in, and this one-time adjustment - and it is a one-time adjustment, Mr. Speaker - is under 20 percent. I believe it's around 16.5 percent.
So, as I said, I do have some concerns and I have some direction that I'd like the minister to incorporate if he could.
If government is going to consult, let's go out there and consult and let's listen to the folks and let's provide that opportunity to all Yukoners. Let's also look at an automatic adjustment formula to reflect the change in market prices, because certainly they seem to go up but never seem to come down, but I think that's a good thing to do for the seniors.
Let's set that grant in the fall, so that it gives seniors on a fixed income some certainty and more money in their pockets - more of a disposable income to buy something for their grandchildren or for themselves, which they probably don't do as often as they should. If we set it in the fall, that would give them that type of certainty to be able to do something.
I'd also suggest that we develop a communications strategy so that we can inform all Yukoners about this program and other programs that are out there. Certainly, there are programs that have not been communicated clearly enough. It has happened under previous governments, and it continues to happen under this government. I would suggest that maybe collectively we could move forward with a good communications strategy so that we don't leave some of those seniors out, for the simple fact that they don't realize that it's there.
And, Mr. Speaker, for goodness' sake, I'd say that we should be trying to provide this service to all eligible seniors and that we should not be pitting seniors against seniors until we have done our consultation and heard the voice of the seniors.
Certainly, I applaud the minister for bringing this increase into the House for seniors. I would suggest that it should not be a one-time, that it should go out and do a bang-up job, but I certainly appreciate the effort that has been taken. I hope the minister will take my suggestions into consideration.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in response to this ministerial statement on the so-called enhancement of the pioneer utility grant. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of this government and this minister, Mr. Speaker.
This Liberal government has failed miserably in its promise to rebuild the Yukon economy. As a consequence, those Yukoners who have chosen to remain in the territory are having a very difficult time making ends meet. With the cost of living ever-increasing, those people on fixed incomes, such as Yukon seniors and elders, have been particularly hard hit.
Now, three years ago, on February 23, 1998, I rose in this House and proposed that the pioneer utility grant be increased. The previous NDP government didn't listen to me until election time, when they adopted the Yukon Party's position of raising the pioneer utility grant by 25 percent. The Yukon Party went even further in proposing that the grant be raised from $600 to $750. We also proposed that it be indexed against inflation to ensure that it would keep up with the cost of living. That hasn't occurred.
Contrast this position with the increase the minister is announcing today. While this one-time increase of $100 will be welcomed, it's not a real big deal. The order-in-council cancels that for next year. The minister should be ashamed of himself.
It is my understanding that in discussions that the government was having with seniors, it actually proposed a means test for those receiving this grant. I believe that the seniors soundly rejected that proposal. What the government of the day is doing is dumping everything on the table and virtually raising a lot of fear in the seniors that a lot of the programs that encouraged them to remain here in the Yukon will be cancelled or reduced. That's not the way a government should be operating. So much for this Liberal generosity.
Once again, Mr. Speaker, unlike the Minister of Health and Social Services, the Minister of Justice, and even you, Mr. Speaker, who could be called double-dipping, in that you will be receiving two pensions should you be successful in continuing your political career, most seniors will not be receiving two pensions. They have one to live on and it's fixed. Our seniors have to make every dollar count.
This government inherited a $64-million surplus, and it can't afford a $150 increase to its most distinguished citizens here in the Yukon - shame. I suggest that this government re-examine its priorities, Mr. Speaker. I suggest an increase in the pioneer utility grant, and I would encourage him to raise it to $750 and index this grant for inflation, from now in perpetuity. I am sure that this government would receive the support of the opposition in this initiative. The Liberal government in this House should all hang their heads in shame. The way we are treating our seniors is simply appalling and I'm very disappointed.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I appreciate the comments from the official opposition about some of the comments related to the whole issue of the pioneer utility grant. Yes, it is a major concern, and we know that it is not going to be done overnight.
Now, it is always good for the Member for Klondike to say what he would do if the member were here. I don't know if that will ever happen, but an interesting fact is that when the member from Dawson is talking about this $64-million surplus, he is always talking about something that is a figment of his imagination. He knows that the government of yesterday spent the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Auditor General did state that there was a $64-million surplus. You are absolutely correct. But the government of yesterday had spent $35 million of that when we walked into this office - $35 million. And then we brought back supplementaries, and supplementaries said that we had to pay our VISA bill because of a lot of unregistered things in the budget. Utility bills for the Department of Education that were in the mains - we had to pay those off. So I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, when they talk about a $64-million surplus, they don't tell all the truth.
Let's look at the historic backyard. During four years of Yukon Party government, there was no increase in the pioneer utility grant - no increase. In fact, Mr. Speaker, since 1985 there have been no increases to the pioneer utility grant. Now let's look at the present day. During 10 months of Liberal government - yes, we have made mistakes; we admit that. But yes, we learned from our mistakes. We have increased in 10 months the pioneer utility grant.
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, usually I don't like to interrupt or be rude or anything like this for these folks across the floor, but in keeping with trying to keep the demeanour of the House in a calm way and in focusing and listening, I did hear, although it took a couple of seconds for it to trickle through my hearing aid and my radio, that "they don't tell all the truth".
Well, Mr. Speaker, are you saying that we say this much truth and the rest is all beans, or what? I think that's very unparliamentary.
Speaker: Yes, I have to agree with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that any reference to the truth or not the truth is not parliamentary.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I withdraw it.
Speaker: I thank the minister for withdrawing that comment.
I would ask the minister to continue.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The interesting thing, Mr. Speaker, is that in our mandate, in 10 months, we have added to the pioneer utility grant, whereas former governments did not. Yes, it's $100. It's maybe not enough, and we know that, Mr. Speaker, but again, it's a beginning. With half the current year's budget surplus spent by the NDP government, obviously we didn't have much room. We had to focus our response to the global fuel crisis to a specific group of people, and with care for the taxpayers' perspective. That's the approach we used.
We talked with the seniors. Yes, I agree with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that we have to consult. We have to consult all the time and we have to listen to what that consultation is.
The majority of these seniors wanted to see an increase go to all seniors of all income levels. That was the general tenor of those meetings, Mr. Speaker. Yes, there were 100 contacts. We believe that's 100 more than we would have had if there had been another government here.
It's a little pot of money to go around, Mr. Speaker. We don't have a big surplus. We wanted to see if seniors wanted our help and they more than said yes. They needed help, but at what level?
There were many of the seniors who suggested that they didn't need this extra money but, because of the universality principle, everybody gets it. So that's why, if you're hearing about universality, it's coming from seniors. So we're trying to, Mr. Speaker, look at the whole approach of how we as government, whether it's this government or the governments in the future or the governments in Canada - they're all looking at universality, Mr. Speaker. So there's no point in trying to hide it. The point is that there is an issue.
Speaker: Order please. The minister has one minute to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We are continuing to talk with our Yukoners, Mr. Speaker; we are continuing to try to offer quality health care. Of course, we could have given more, but we had to also share our resources with many other non-government organizations. So it's very important for us, Mr. Speaker, to try to be fair to everyone.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Community development fund and fire smart, audit report
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Economic Development. Yesterday, the minister tabled a report called, Audit Report on the Community Development Fund and Fire Smart programs. It's a report in which the results were a foregone conclusion. The audit was conducted because the Premier had to save political face. It's the Premier who called these funds "political slush funds". Can the Premier tell this House who set the parameters within which the audit was conducted?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for having the political courage to ask about the audit report. The auditor was asked to examine the community development fund and the fire smart fund. That was the instruction, and the exact parameters of how the auditor proceeded with that study are contained in the report.
And if the member opposite disagrees with this government doing audits and being open and accountable, then I challenge him to state that that's what he's really saying to the Yukon public, that they don't want accountability for $16,237,000 of taxpayers' money. I think they do.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that was quite an answer, but the facts are that the minister's own department determined the objectives with which the audit was to be conducted.
Now, let me ask the minister this: we, on this side, submit that what the Premier is claiming and implying is political interference is merely government making decisions, as we're elected to do. The $300,000 that the Whitehorse Broomball Association received - through the major efforts and lobbying by the Member for Riverside - and the $500,000 that the Town of Faro received - when the Member for Faro and then mayor led the charge in lobbying for those funds - can the Premier tell the House if it was government decision making or political interference when those funds were allocated?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'll be happy to discuss with the public the examples of political interference that were unearthed by the audit report. There was a representative sample taken of the community development funds. I would again remind the member that what the audit report does is what audit reports should do - account to the public and to this Legislature for over $16 million worth of public money and how it was spent.
One of the problems with the community development fund is political interference. Examples unearthed by the audit include: "The original application was rated a low priority. The CDF board recommended deferral. The MLA advised that a CDF contribution would be made available of $200,000." That's not hard-working public servants who did an excellent job - if the member reads all of the audit report. That's not hard-working public servants administering a fair set of rules. That's clearly political interference, and that's not what Yukoners want.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would suggest that what the Premier is really saying is that when monies are expended in Liberal ridings, it's not political interference. When monies are expended in other ridings - projects that the Liberals opposite don't approve of - it's political interference. This Premier, when she was the leader of the official opposition, stood in this House and accused the former government and the former Minister of Economic Development of pork-barrelling and political interference when it came to an application for funds in her riding for the baseball diamond. Can the Premier answer this: the funds for that baseball diamond - $100,000 - were allocated last year; is that political interference when that project was funded or was it simply a government doing its level best to make decisions that address Yukon needs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I admire the member opposite for doing his absolute level best to defend the political interference of the previous government in the community development fund. I admire the member for doing his level best in trying. What we are talking about, and the examples that were clearly pointed out, are things like, "Generally infrastructure projects that are the responsibility of other government departments are not eligible under CDF. In this instance a letter from the minister advised the applicant that this proposal would be considered eligible." That is clear political interference. That is not fair to all of the people who applied. It's not fair and it's not a just application of the rules. And we are accounting for $16 million that was spent that way by the previous government.
Question re: Community development fund and fire smart, audit report
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would suggest that the Premier had better check Hansard because it was the Premier herself, as leader of the official opposition, who demanded that the minister override the process and ensure that her pet project in her riding was funded. Those are the real facts in this case. Let's go about it this way: here is the Liberal audit; this is the Liberal audit tabled yesterday. This is the real audit and the auditor is Yukoners, and here are the results: up to September 1999, $13 million expended; over 2,000 people employed for over 14,000 weeks of employment during a time when Yukoners needed this expenditure.
Can the Premier explain why, when she toured the Yukon, she received a resounding request from across this territory to continue with the community development fund and fire smart fund because of this reason? Yet, in the face of all that, she plays politics and comes up with this and slashes it by 50 percent.
Can she answer that so Yukoners can understand?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, what people, door to door throughout the election campaign and throughout the Yukon, have demanded of their government is openness, accountability, fairness and a just administration of the rules. That's what they have asked for, and their audit was conducted on April 17, 2000, and the results speak for themselves.
The member is insisting upon suggesting that there is some political interference. The political interference in the CDF was outlined in the report. The other problems with the CDF were a lack of accountability, a lack of performance indicators. Again, we get judged on our performance at election time and we are fully prepared to submit to that judgement.
The member opposite is saying there is not enough money. Well, then, why did they start the community development fund with the same amount of money?
Mr. Fentie: Well, I'm not really sure, Mr. Speaker, of the point that the Premier was trying to make with that answer, but the Premier is wrong. The real audit is the results of the community development fund and what it produced. The facts are that this Premier and this government, because of their political position on the CDF, have to come up with something else. It is a watered-down implementation of a program that is going to fall far short of the needs of Yukoners and she, the Premier, is forcing Yukoners to pay for that based on their political needs.
Will this Premier bring forward a supplementary budget that truly reflects Yukoners' needs, puts some money back into the community development fund, which they now call "Project Yukon", and let's help Yukoners in this time of great need? This government has the money to do it. Let's get it done.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, that's exactly right. Let's get it done. The audit found major problems in the CDF. Those problems were unclear objectives, priorities so broad that anything was eligible, and no after-the-fact evaluation of the program. There was no after-the-fact evaluation to determine if taxpayers did receive value for the money that was spent. There was no after-the-fact evaluation of the member opposite's claims.
And the audit report found that there was political interference. For example, $200,000, where the original application was rated a low priority. The CDF board - the hard-working public servants who are asked to administer the rules fairly - recommends deferral. But, oh no, the NDP MLA advises that $200,000 was going to be made available. And $15,000 fast-tracking a project, where it gave the applicants an unfair advantage, because their proposal was not subjected to the same ranking system that every other Yukoner was subjected to. And this was Yukon taxpayers' money, Mr. Speaker.
There were $233,500 infrastructure projects that are the responsibility of other government departments - not eligible under CDF - but not under the NDP, which administers the rules the way they want to. Funded. A $20,000 application was turned down for funding. But no -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Premier please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the point is that Yukoners asked for openness, fairness and accountability. Project Yukon will deliver that in spades.
Mr. Fentie: Let me point out to the Premier that it's only half a spade, because Project Yukon is 50 percent of what the community development fund was. The Premier is implying that a couple of projects, through this major audit conducted by her own department, may not have fit all of the criteria - out of hundreds of projects - out of literally hundreds. The real results are right here for the Premier to see. It's all the good that the community development fund did in this territory. It not only created jobs; it lifted community spirits. It is a good program.
The Premier can stand on her feet all day and admonish the side opposite, because she claims it's a political slush fund.
That's not the case. Yukoners said it wasn't. That's why they demanded that this Liberal government continue with the community development fund. Will the Premier now do the right thing, correct her error in judgement, bring in a supplementary and top up the community development fund to at least $3 million, because there are three to five times the projects already in the hopper from communities that are in need. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, how does the member opposite explain to Yukoners that the rules weren't administered fairly, that the communities that didn't get funding didn't get funding because they interfered in the process? How does the member opposite explain that to Yukoners? Explain to the Yukoners who were told, "There's no money for your project because the minister of the day has decided that $400,000 is going into a project that he liked." Explain that. Explain that to the Yukon public.
Mr. Speaker, we were asked to administer the rules fairly; we've done that. We've made Project Yukon available to the public with the same amount of money the community development fund started with - the same amount, Mr. Speaker - in year one of their mandate. The difference is the rules will be fair; the objectives are clear, and what's more, we'll account to the public long before $16 million has been spent with no accountability.
Question re: Liberal election promises, fulfilment of
Mr. Jenkins: Well, these Liberals were elected, and they have a lot of IOUs out there. Now, the first paragraph in the Liberal election platform concerns rebuilding the Yukon economy, and it states, "Pat Duncan and the Yukon Liberals have a plan to rebuild our shattered economy. It starts with settling land claims. Improving the investment climate and encouraging junior mining companies to return to the Yukon are all essential parts of the equation. Reducing uncertainty by removing some of the risks involved in development will mean the Yukon is a more attractive place to invest."
In view of the fact that the Liberals plan to rebuild the shattered Yukon economy, that they're going to start with settling land claims, can the Premier advise the House how many of the seven outstanding land claims she has signed off in the 10 months since the election? When is the Premier's promise to rebuild the shattered economy going to start?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I see that the member opposite doesn't have the courage to ask about the audit that was tabled yesterday. He's defending his new-found friends, the NDP. He's bootlegging two questions: the economy and land claims. I'll answer the economy question first.
With regard to the economy, we know it needs work. We were elected 10 months ago to do that work. We're not pretending that everything is fine. I would, however, like to share with the member opposite some of the economic indicators that have been tabled today.
Statistics Canada has just released their estimates on private and public investment intentions. These figures estimate that capital investment expenditures will increase by 12 percent this year in the Yukon compared to 2000. The rate of increase in the Yukon will only be second to the Northwest Territories. The Canadian average is 1.7 percent.
Capital spending in the mining, oil and gas sector is expected to increase from $17.2 million last year to $32 million this year.
The member wants to know what we have been doing in the last 10 months to rebuild the economy. Well, Statistics Canada has just shown that some of our work is having results.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier failed to answer the question about how many of the land claims have been settled since coming into office.
Statistics Canada's overview of the Yukon is one thing. The reality Yukoners are facing is something else. A whole bunch of statistics - we don't have any Yukoners put back to work by this government.
Can the Premier explain how she is going to improve the investment climate for mining companies and other resource industries when her government has been advocating the buy-out of mining claims that were engulfed by the much-expanded boundary of Tombstone Park and Fishing Branch, as well as the new Asi Keyi Park? How are these actions encouraging mining companies to return to the Yukon, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I know that the member opposite only gets one question a day, but I would really encourage him to focus on one issue at a time, and to focus the question. I would be absolutely delighted to again focus my answer on what's happening in Yukon's economy and what the economic indicators tell us about investment in mining and oil and gas. The economic indicators tell us that capital spending in the mining, oil and gas sector is expected to increase from $17.2 million last year to $32 million this year - not quite double.
Capital spending on housing construction is expected to increase from $63.1 million last year to $67.7 million this year. The number of Yukoners who were employed in December is unchanged from the number employed in November. We haven't seen results yet there. We're working on it.
In the 10 months since we have been elected, we are starting to see some results of our efforts. And, Mr. Speaker, I have every confidence, given the budget that we have tabled, that we will continue to see that increase.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the Premier is not answering the questions. All we are hearing is a bunch of rhetoric from Statistics Canada. The reality, here in the Yukon, is something else. The biggest impediment to encouraging the mining sector back to the Yukon is the amount of land that's going to be encompassed by parks in one form or another.
I would like a clear, concise answer from the Premier. How much land is this government - this Liberal government here in the Yukon - planning to protect and develop into parklands? How much of the total land mass of the Yukon - is it 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent or more? What is the percentage that this government has decided to protect and make into parks here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, once again, we're not hearing a clear question from the member opposite. The member has gone from settling land claims in his first question to economic indicators in the second and, in the third, a discussion of the protected areas strategy. The member opposite is focusing on the first page of the Brundtland Commission report, which indicates that 12 percent was a benchmark in relation to the endangered spaces program. The previous government - and as an opposition member, I have consistently said that the issue is not focusing on that percentage. The issue is on focusing on ensuring we do the protected areas strategy right. The previous government did not. We will, and we are.
Question re: Nuclear waste, Russia's plans to ship through the Arctic Ocean
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Premier on a matter of intergovernmental relations. Is the Premier aware that a Russian shipping company is investigating the possibility of transporting nuclear waste through the Arctic Ocean?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I must confess to the member opposite that, no, I was not aware of that particular issue. I will certainly, given his representation today, follow up on it.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm somewhat surprised the Premier isn't aware of this, Mr. Speaker. This information's readily available in the public news media. Now, several years ago, the Yukon became a nuclear-free zone because of concerns about our environment. I would submit that the transportation of nuclear waste through the Arctic Ocean poses a serious threat, particularly to Yukon River salmon stocks, beluga whales, the Porcupine caribou herd, and other animal species.
Does the Premier agree that the shipment of nuclear waste through the Arctic Ocean is not in the best interests of the Yukon's environment and it could pose serious environmental risks?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have spoken repeatedly about the risks to Yukon's north shore environment and offshore environment with regard to an underwater pipeline that has been proposed. I have not spoken about the transportation of nuclear waste. As I indicated to the member in my previous answer, I was unaware of this. We have not been advised by External Affairs of such, nor have I been advised by intergovernmental relations officers. However, I will look into the matter and provide the member opposite with a written response if he wishes, or a ministerial statement if he wishes.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Speaker. Now, the Alaska government has already taken steps to let both the Russian and U.S. governments know that he is opposed to these shipments through the Arctic.
Will the Premier undertake to advise the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs immediately that the Yukon is opposed to any plans to ship nuclear waste through Arctic waters?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have already indicated to the member opposite that I will take the matter up immediately upon adjournment from the House today. I have indicated to the member opposite I will do that, and I will do that at the Yukon government officials level and I will speak with the ministers noted, as the member has requested.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, programming
Ms. Netro: My question is for the Minister of Justice.
A recent study at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre identified that two-thirds of the inmates have cognitive impairments. Many of these impairments may be a result of fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects. This suggests that many people in custody have different learning and living requirements.
How is this government planning to address these different needs?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The planning for the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre is taking into account the variety of people, variety of backgrounds and variety of conditions of the inmates at the centre. I think the result will be pleasing to all.
Ms. Netro: The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon is quoted in the newspaper as saying that it is very important for those with FAS to have a structured, supported environment. For success to continue after their sentence has been served, programs need to extend beyond Whitehorse Correctional Centre and into the community. What specific programs are being developed to address these needs, and when will these programs be implemented?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is exactly right. We are currently embarking on the planning phase for the centre. Staff have been identified. The programming at the facility and the programming following people's release from the facility will be tied into the design. They are all interrelated and all very important. I will make more details available to the members opposite as they become available.
Ms. Netro: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, I do agree that there is a clear need to provide structure and guidance for these inmates. This will require ongoing programming, as well as new programs, to address this issue.
Can the minister tell us how much he expects this kind of programming to cost and when those costs will be reflected in this government's budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The coordinator on this planning phase will be in place as of March 12. It is premature to talk about how much money will be required for programming until this coordinator has had a chance to do the work required. I thank the member opposite for the question.
Question re: Web site, updating of
Mr. Keenan: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services about the Yukon government Web site. Now, this Web site should be a very important and accurate - absolutely accurate - point of information for the people who want to learn about the Yukon and the government. I want to follow up with the minister because yesterday, clearly, the minister did not hear my second supplementary, or the minister certainly refused to answer that. The question wasn't about all the good, little things that were happening on the technology side. It was about the government's very own Web site - your very own Web site of which you are the minister. Now, has the minister visited that Web site since I raised these issues with him yesterday?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We have actually looked into this government Web site and it is being redone. It is hoped to be a new and improved government Web site, which will be up and running probably - we are looking at March 15, 2001.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the member has got a target date; that is certainly appreciated. But as of noon today - that's when I took a little trip through the Web site there - I found that it was certainly a disgrace - an absolute disgrace. Now, some of the things that are on the Web site I wish had really happened. Because on the Web site under Yukon facts, we see that Larry Bagnell does not even exist, Mr. Speaker, but certainly Louise Hardy is the MP of the Yukon Territory.
We also see that we have six members in the New Democratic Party on this side of the House, and I am wondering which one of those folks on the other side are going to come and join the Member for Klondike here, Mr. Speaker. Because I am certain that my caucus would have something to say about that on this side of the House. The Executive Council Web site is absolutely wrong again in the information about who is in policy, who is in communication and the stats branch - and we just hear the Premier speak elegantly -
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Speaker, because the last budget we are debating on that Web site is the 2000-01 one. I must say, though, that the Community and Transportation Services department's Web site says that they are under construction, so there is a little construction happening in the Yukon.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the minister if he would make it a priority of his department and of himself to do whatever is necessary to bring this Web site up to speed - and do it sooner versus later.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to commend the member opposite for his high hopes and having members that are opposite come over to the other side.
However, as I stated before, we are setting up a new Web site, and it will be running as of March 15, 2001. A new search feature will allow the public to access services by their common names, rather than requiring an understanding of government departmental structure. The new Web site will take advantage of recent developments in technology and provide a simplified method for members of the public to obtain information on government programs.
Once again, thank you very much for the question.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I do not live in a land of paranoia, and certainly, with that question, it kind of makes it that feeling over here - the suggestion. So again, I say that the Member for Klondike can have anybody he wants, but we're quite certain about who we are.
Mr. Speaker, the minister next door here had stated that he would have it up and running by March 15. Well, a major seminar will be taking place on March 15, so I would suggest that we should have it up sooner, rather than later. We have two weeks to that date. Let's get with it now, because that seminar is called "Government On-Line". I would hate to see folks all over the world have to wait that long or have to travel here for that.
The subtitle is "Enhancing Client Service" - now, this is what gets me. To be an open and accountable government - we have been here for 10 months now with the side opposite as government, and they are still providing inaccurate information. Oh, for goodness' sake, I don't really see how that goes along with your theme of "Building Trust in Government".
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Keenan: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. I will get to the question. I will make a suggestion right now because, in my non-antagonistic approach, I will work with the folks next door to help identify some of the issues that I'm talking about.
And I will work personally with the minister if he so chooses, and we will do that together if the member would like, to replace those glaring, arrogant errors that are still out there.
So, will the minister take me up on this commitment?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite is implying that he wants to be a program designer for the IT, I'm sure there is process out there to get him onstream with that.
However, we are actually looking at Web sites. In tourism, we have hot lines and it's up to date. We are working at this March 15 date, and it may even be sooner.
I'll take the member's suggestion, thank you.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. The Committee of the Whole will be dealing with Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02
Chair: We'll start off with general debate. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm very pleased to be able to make a few introductory remarks about the budget for this coming fiscal year. This document is the result of an extensive series of public consultations undertaken by myself, the ministers and members of our caucus, as well as the political staff and officials from the Department of Finance. We heard many things during these community visits and received many ideas and proposals for measures to be incorporated in the budget. While the suggestions varied greatly from community to community, depending upon local circumstances, several common themes did emerge, Mr. Chair.
As far as budgeting is concerned, people wanted to protect our health and social care systems and see basic infrastructure, most especially the highways, improved for safety reasons and as a vehicle for economic development and diversification.
We have taken these suggestions to heart and have acted upon them in the crafting of these main estimates. Spending on the operations of the health and social services sector will be almost $11 million more next year than it was in the last budget tabled by the previous government.
For a jurisdiction of our size, that's nothing short of massive and is a reflection of the commitment we made in October's throne speech. In that speech, maintenance of quality health care was highlighted as one of the most important priorities, and I'm pleased that it coincides so perfectly with what we heard in our recent pre-budget tours. Yesterday, while I was on my feet, Mr. Chair, I noted in particular the comment made in Destruction Bay on this particular issue. We promised to make it a priority, and we've carried through with that promise.
Mr. Chair, the Yukon's road infrastructure has been deteriorating for years. A first-class transportation network is vital to the safety and convenience of the travelling public, as well as to a vibrant economy.
During our tours, many concerns were raised about the state of our highways and the need for more funding for their upkeep and improvement. We, too, believe that the development of infrastructure of all kinds, and perhaps most importantly our road system, is vital to the rebuilding of Yukon's economy.
This belief was reflected in two of the priorities spelled out in last fall's throne speech, and I am pleased that we are able to begin to carry through on this aspect of those commitments and the wishes of so many Yukoners. The operations of the transportation division of the Department of Community and Transportation Services will receive over $4.2 million more in their budget than was in that of the previous government. At the same time, the same division will receive more than $1.2 million more in capital than in last year's budget. And this is despite the fact that due to phasing, Shakwak recoverable spending is $1.5 million less than last year. Included in this sum is the beginning of work on several of the most dangerous sections of the road between Whitehorse and Haines Junction. Being one of the more heavily travelled stretches of highway in the territory, I am certain that these improvements will be welcomed by all members and especially by the Member for Kluane.
Another almost universal concern raised throughout the recent pre-budget talks was that of alcohol and drug abuse and the need for government to take effective action in dealing with this unfortunately growing problem. We had also recognized this blight on our social fabric by making it one of our top priorities in the throne speech. We have therefore seen fit to tackle the problem head-on, if I may use the term, by establishing an alcohol and drug secretariat whose director will report to the Minister of Health and Social Services. The secretariat's funding has been established at almost $2.4 million for the coming year - a significant and meaningful sum.
We are proud to have begun to carry through on our promise in this regard and on a concern of so many in the territory as expressed in recent tours.
By establishing this secretariat, we have begun the process of effectively addressing a problem that has too long been ignored by governments in this territory. And Mr. Chair, this also relates to the economy in terms of the drug and alcohol testing that many companies institute. Helping Yukoners deal with this is an issue for this government.
I could go on for several hours, speaking to the many initiatives that we are undertaking by way of these estimates; however, the details of many of these were mentioned in my budget address. Many not mentioned will come to light during the line-by-line discussion and are therefore probably best left for that line-by-line discussion.
Suffice to say, Mr. Chair, that we listened to Yukoners, and we acted upon what we have heard. This is not to say that every request made of us is in the estimates. The needs are many, and our means are clearly limited; however, we promised Yukoners that they would see many of their wishes, as expressed to us, funded in this budget. I believe we have been successful for the most part.
For those priorities of our citizens and communities we were unable to accommodate at the present time, I want to assure all Yukoners that we will have many future budgets and opportunities to address their concerns, and address them we shall.
We have not forgotten and we will listen. We will continue to listen.
Mr. Chair, the purpose of the time right now in Committee of the Whole is to answer general questions in general debate on the budget. I would be pleased to entertain any questions from the members opposite.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Schneider: May I have the indulgence, please, of members to draw your attention to the gallery. Joining us in the gallery at this time is Mr. Jocelyn Beaudoin, the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Council for Canadian Unity, and Mr. Ken McKinnon, Chancellor of Yukon College, a former member of this House and former Commissioner of the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure again to respond to the budget presented by the Liberal government. I'm not sure where to start. There's a lot to talk about in here. There were a lot of discussions that took place in Question Period today that I'm sure we will be going over in some detail in some departments.
I want to talk a little bit about the government's commitments.
What we have is the Premier, who was the official opposition leader, but she could not make up her mind on positions. She wasn't for or against. She was basically on the fence on many issues, and they didn't bring it forward while they were in opposition.
It was a bit surprising, because you usually lay out your grounds and show Yukoners exactly what the party stands for. Now, we were asked to wait - because, of course, the election was coming up - for what the Liberals' position was on all these different issues, whether it was to do with the economy, the environment, wildlife, communities, programs or any one of the departments, whether it was Education or not. There was no position on them brought forward at all.
Now, we go from that into an election, and Yukoners were waiting to hear what the Liberals had to say and what positions they were going to take, and there weren't any during the election. What we have had, though, is candidates knocking on doors, particularly in Whitehorse here, showing a whole list of issues that may or may not have been right about the NDP at the time, but no positions as a Liberal Party. Again, it was, "Hurry up and wait; we're going to bring it forward."
Once in government, where were the positions that the Liberals were going to bring forward? There weren't any yet. There weren't any at all.
What we ended up with was very much a rookie team. The very first thing we did was to go back into the Legislature, and the government produced a throne speech. It was a two-pager. There was nothing in there about government at all - nothing at all. It again said, "It's coming. Just wait, it's coming. Liberal positions are coming. Meanwhile, because we don't know how to put together a budget, we're going to give Yukoners some certainty and pass the budget in its entirety." That was the promise that started to come forward after the campaign. There were so many during the campaign, of getting better deals even for the Yukon teachers and so on. And this was one of the promises that we would have seen.
We had to wait because there wasn't anything in this. There wasn't anything in the budget speech that was given right after the throne speech. But there was a promise, and it actually made some Yukoners happy to see that, because a lot of work went into that budget. But the Liberal government couldn't even put their names to it. They couldn't put their names to any one of the departments that was brought forward in that budget. Keep the old names. This is unprecedented in parliamentary history.
So, Dave Sloan, Piers McDonald - their names are all in the budget that we're dealing with here today. Promises. We will carry them through. It will be retabled in its entirety.
From that point on, Yukoners started to see the broken promises. Right away the budget started to get cut up and things don't get implemented. The SA rates that were supposed to have gone up and been retroactive to clients - small amounts to low-income families - didn't get implemented.
From the very point of coming into government and reading out their two-page throne speech, there was a cry of poverty: "There's no money in the budget. There's nothing left." I'm really surprised that the Premier would let the rest of her ministers carry out that message. We said there was going to be $52.6 million left in the surplus, and there was money there to move in emergencies or to react to the economy we are presently in. But there was a cry of poverty, and we had to wait all the way to October.
We said, "Just wait until October when the Auditor General's report comes back." So, when questioned in the meantime, before the report came back, even in the fall legislative sitting, the Premier said, on the advice from her Finance person, that there was a large surplus in that budget. Yet, members and the minister still said there was a $40-million deficit that had to be taken into consideration. The Auditor General isn't wrong. It was actually higher than what we thought it would be - by over $7 million. There was $64 million in the bank and a very good budget in front of them. From that point on, we have seen the Premier starting to cut.
Cut out the Mayo school - didn't pay attention to the contract that was there. It was a rural community project. It's on the backburner now. I couldn't understand that, when things like the Hamilton Boulevard, for example, was $500,000 over - approve it.
So, we tried to help, on this side of the House, by making suggestions for the members opposite in the last sitting. We even came forward with a supplementary budget that would not have really been noticed if you took what we thought would have been the surplus of $52.6 million, and what we really had in there of $63.9 million - that's what it was - and we brought some suggestions forward that would take care of things like winter works, fire smart and the community development fund. We made suggestions in there for the Mayo school to get that project up and going, and we made many others - increase to the pioneer utility grant. Well, the winter is almost over, and after pressure and a lot of questions in this House, we finally got some direction out of members opposite.
And I guess that's our job, and it makes it a lot tougher on this side of the House, to have government notice and take notice of what the general public out there is saying to us, in passing all these questions forward, and to have government move in those areas.
Now, we bring a budget forward that focuses on the youth employment program, the older workers pilot project, and many others. It was turned down at that point. The government still cried poverty, but what do they do, even though they thought there was a $35-million deficit in the 2000-01 budget? They thought that. What did they do? They brought in the biggest ever supplementary budget that we have seen - $37 million - after crying poverty out there to the general public.
And what did they say it was going to do? Well, in their budget speech of 2000-01, which was only three pages also, they said that the results of the supplementary budget would more accurately reflect the priorities of government. That's what they said. They brought in $37 million on top of the big budget that was already there - $37 million. So they were chewing down the surplus already, but it would reflect the priorities of this Liberal government. So what was in the supplementary budget? Well, what was in there was making government bigger. There was not a whole lot of job creation in there - no winter works. They were making government bigger, so I guess that's the priority of government.
Now, we on this side of the House have been criticized a lot about the budget. It was voted against by the members opposite, and then they brought it forward and voted for it. I couldn't understand that. It was supposed to be certainty but they ended up cutting pieces out of large projects. That's not right. For the community of Mayo, cutting the school out didn't just cut out the school and delay it for a year. It doesn't work like that in the communities. When there's a major project like that, the schools, Yukon College, the First Nation and the municipality all get in on this. They do a plan, look at their labour force there, get a training program going and start putting projects together that will keep their people working. Now, this blew that right out of the water. There would be no school, so there would be a delay on a project they would love to see on their 100th anniversary, a recreation complex of some type, and a First Nation administration building.
Well, it took a lot of effort on behalf of the opposition, the First Nation and the municipality to get government to realize that they did make a mistake and to come to the community and face them with this important matter. More promises were made at that point.
The tenders for the school were to go out in December. People were going to start working on the school by March. This didn't happen. Right now, the tenders are just out - delayed again. They missed a perfect opportunity for a good year of work. The weather was good in many of the communities. It was a fairly mild winter this year, one of the mildest we've seen for a long time.
It was a teaser for them. There was some money spent on the Mayo school. The foundation was put down and the floor on. It's right outside the classrooms for the students to see. Great, we'll be able to move into that pretty soon, but it didn't happen. What they've seen is a direction that came down from government to wrap it in plastic and poly to preserve it through the winter. It was a shame. They dropped the ball on that one, big time.
They said that they were going to be open and accountable. Contractors and the people in Mayo found out about the government direction through the media. That's not being open and accountable. Pick up the phone. They still have that technology in that community.
We have seen many big projects and promises delayed, including Connect Yukon. All of a sudden, it's becoming a different project.
The Liberal government said that it would do what it said it was going to do. It is outlined in their throne speech and their budget speech.
That's what they said and, during this sitting and in the budget speech, we didn't hear that. We heard one indication from the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. That was it. So they are moving away from that, because they are not going to do what they said they were going to do. That's the bottom line. That's why they are not saying it any more.
Money was the big thing to the members opposite. They said that they were going to be fiscally responsible. Well, in their first five months, they blew their travel budget - boom. They had a budget; they blew it in five months. In one trip, the Minister responsible for Yukon Housing took a two- or three-week trip and blew his whole year's budget on one trip. What did we get back for Yukon out of all this money spent?
I asked for more travel up to date, to February 6, I believe, from the members opposite, and I am hoping to get that soon. So, is this good fiscal management? You have a budget of your own for your own travel and you blew it. As a matter of fact, the Premier has an additional budget when it comes to oil and gas. There were additional monies put in by the NDP of $100,000 that could take care of some of that travel. But it's way, way out of proportion right now.
So, what we have is a government that said things when they were in opposition and, as soon as they got elected, and during the campaign, are turning on their word. They were totally against deficit financing. I hear the Minister of Health and Social Services raising this. They were totally against deficit financing, that you go over and above your revenues coming in and the grant money that is coming from Canada, the federal government.
I was pretty surprised about that when the supplementary came forward, making it even bigger. And then along comes the biggest budget that we have ever seen, and guess what it has in there - deficit financing.
So, is this a government that does what they say they will do? No. Time and time again, we have found that commitments this Liberal government has made to Yukoners were broken. Those are broken promises, so I have to say that this is a government that cannot be trusted.
Mr. Chair, we have a budget presented to us that has a lot of expenditures in it and we are faced with a very, very small surplus. Why are we facing such a small surplus? Six million dollars. If we continue this type of spending, we're hitting a brick wall and Yukoners are going to feel it. We're going to go into debt. This may not even cover the teachers' salaries and then what? You're in debt and you have to call an election. But why is it so small? And still the government is crying poverty. After their biggest budget, they're still crying poverty.
One of the things we don't see in here is some of the lapses, monies that won't be spent on the Mayo school. When it's convenient, they don't put it in there, and I don't know why you would tell the general public that you don't have the money in there when it will be in there.
We'll ask some questions about the revotes too, and I know the Mayo school, for example, will be revoted back into this year. But we don't see that.
And I couldn't understand where they came from when they were developing their capital budget.
There's $122 million in the forecast for 2000-01, including the $37-million surplus. What the Liberals have done, in the information provided for us, was to take the $122,613,000, subtract revotes included in Supplementary No. 2 - $10 million - and others, whatever they are - for $4 million, and come up with a $106-million capital budget.
Now, it puzzles me as to why they would go that route. Usually out there, talking to community people and Yukoners to develop a budget - but what we have here are deputy ministers coming and sitting down at the table, writing out the budget for the members opposite, because they still don't know how to do it, and that's what they're saying, that it's the first time it has ever happened.
It's pretty sad, because that party on the other side has a political agenda, and they have been voted in, and how do they answer on how they put the budget together? And it's also misleading because, when we look at the capital budget, we're not looking at gross; we're looking at net.
Point of order
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Is the member opposite accusing me of deliberately misleading the House? I would suggest that that is a point of order.
Chair: Mr. Fairclough, do you want to answer that?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I hope the member has been taking into account what I had to say about the budget. Why would numbers be in there, so low, and not reflect what the government really has?
Chair: Order please.
Mr. Fairclough: Those are my questions and I know the member is going to answer that.
Chair: Order please. Due to the explanation, I'm going to ask you to withdraw that, Mr. Fairclough, because you have just stood up and said that the Premier has lied to this House. That is not allowed. Please withdraw that.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, if it pleases you and the Premier that I do that, I will withdraw it. But the facts are right in the papers presented to us. If this hurts the members opposite, then I can't help it. They did it to themselves. It's for the public to read, and they can read that into it very easily.
The facts remain that you have a large surplus - $64 million - and you had trouble putting together the budget. I can't understand that. What I have to say about the programs that were adopted from the last budget is that they must have been really good ones - very good ones - that they would have had that recognition from the members opposite. What I don't like about it is the fact that they're cutting it up and watering it down.
That's what we don't like about it, and we want to get answers from all the departments about those specific items in this budget. We want to know.
Now, Mr. Chair, when the Premier said that we have a seven-percent increase in capital budget this year over last, she's talking about net, not gross. The fact is, we have less monies coming back to us. It's clear that, from the numbers that have been presented in the budget, this government does not have a long-term plan. There's no long-term planning in here at all. Otherwise she would have taken the time to write the budget and show it. Going out to public consultations in December and January, when the budget is already written up, is not good consultation. Good consultation is following up with it, trying to help communities and make things work.
I know you met with many organizations, even First Nations. What's in there for them on this? It's quite clear that, by not having any long-term commitments, there is no long-term vision. I know the Premier would have said it in her budget speech. Things like commitments that we've had in there to - in case we get it here - put aside monies for the 2007 Canada Winter Games. It's not in there. There's nothing for organizations to work with even in Whitehorse.
It's not in there. That money would have been set aside and then you would not be scrambling to raise $17 million in that fiscal year. It's not in there. The commitment to some of the communities that was there - like Dawson City, for example - was to be used at their discretion - a $1 million a year - for recreation, water or sewer, or whatever their priority was at that point - is not there any more. It's not there and neither is the funding to NGOs. I hope that the government takes that seriously and has it reflected in their upcoming, fall capital budget, if there is a supplementary to the dollars that should be going to NGOs.
Now, the members opposite said that they want to work cooperatively with Yukoners and us on this side of the House. We have made suggestions about forming committees to tackle the economic situation that we have in the Yukon. It wasn't taken up by the government. So, what we are facing on this side of the House is asking questions and seeing if we can move the government in the direction we feel it should be going.
We have organizations and communities that are not represented in this budget - unincorporated communities that don't get municipal grant funding every year. They have to go out and look at all the federal programming and what YTG has to offer, and write proposals. The Selkirk First Nation is one of those organizations who has taken it upon themselves to put together a five-year capital plan to try to get the government to at least look at its top priorities.
I see that reflected in here, and that's good work on their behalf. I'm sure the communities have raised a lot of issues about capital spending. Of course, you're not going to meet all of those; I know that. But there could be some indication of working with them and working toward that. But it's not there.
So, it's certainly difficult for us on this side to read the budget and not know exactly what monies the government has with regard to revotes and so on. For us to hear continually, again and again, that the government is basically fiscally responsible, it's hard to take that in, especially when you consider the travel.
I do have a number of questions with regard to the budget that I would like to ask the Premier to answer, and I know that every member on this side of the House will be asking details on the departments that they are critics for on why the numbers are the way they are.
Maybe a simple question, then, is, has the Premier now changed her mind on deficit financing?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm pleased to rise to respond to the question that the member opposite has asked, and I would remind the member opposite that we have reduced the deficit financing.
Yes, it's a cause for concern. My opinion has not changed on that.
046a I can't let the remarks from the member opposite go by unchallenged. First of all, the member opposite decried our throne speech and suggested that we shouldn't have passed the budget of the previous government, that we should have paid attention to the opposition's tabling of a budget. Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, that is completely out of order - and the member opposite knows it - for the opposition to table a budget. He knows that the previous supplementary budget was not about making government bigger. It was about accounting for a negotiated wage settlement. Something the member opposite was a staunch defender of in government was a negotiated wage settlement. I think the member's position has changed on that.
The member opposite knows very well that the Mayo school was not cut. He knows we worked very hard with the community of Mayo and with the contracting community, with regard to ensuring that this project was completed - something that several previous governments of various political stripes were unable to do.
The member opposite is accusing us, prior to his withdrawal of the remarks, of changing the accounting methods. These are exactly the same accounting methods that the previous government used. The members opposite love to decry the work of hard-working public servants who worked with us in putting this together to account fully and openly to the territory for the public's finances. The member opposite said that the budget was already prepared, and asked what kind of government would go and consult in January. Well the previous government did. The member should go and consult with the former leader of the NDP. He did his consultations with Whitehorse and with Whitehorse interest groups in January.
The member opposite said the budget was already done. Well, if the budget was already done, why is it possible that the first priority of the Selkirk First Nation, which was given to us in January, is contained in the budget? Why did we wait to print the budget until February 20, if the budget was already done? Why did we ask that of our hard-working public servants? No, we worked on this, we worked hard and, most importantly, we worked with Yukoners, and their priorities are reflected in this budget.
Now, with regard to the surplus, I would remind the member opposite that in the budget speech, every time I mentioned $6-million surplus, I also used the phrase "before lapses". If the member turned the page to the long-term plans, he would see that, using the same accounting methods as those used by all previous governments, it shows the accounting for the lapses.
Now, the member opposite also makes reference to the $63,926,000 surplus. The date on that surplus is March 31, 2000, and that person opposite was in government at the time - not us. The previous government spent $33.8 million of that surplus before voters even went to the polls. So, the $64-million surplus, which belonged to the taxpayers of Yukon, was spent by the NDP - not by this government.
This government has been very fiscally prudent. And the member opposite wants to challenge the travel claims? Well, let's go back and dig through every one of the previous government's travel claims, which they buried in departments. We are openly accounting for them by providing that, in a timely manner, to the members opposite. Unlike the previous government, we have accounted for every bit of that travel.
Mr. Chair, the estimated accumulated surplus before lapses is $6 million. It's in the budget documents; it's fact; it is before lapses. We are also tabling a $24-million deficit budget. We have reduced the deficit, but it's still a deficit budget, and we are very concerned about the territory's finances. I spent an hour and a half on the floor of this House outlining, in the budget speech, the thoughtful work that went into the preparation of the budget, the listening to Yukoners, and the fact that we care about the future of the Yukon. Our future vision includes a healthy financial environment and the ability to do things to maintain our health care, to maintain our social spending and to rebuild our infrastructure.
The member opposite has a specific question about the budget and about the consultations. I have already committed to providing him with that information. If he has a specific question about a line item in the budget, I'd be prepared to answer it.
Mr. Fairclough: Back to the travel for a second. You said you included everything within the budget here, but the numbers in here, a lot of them are paid by departments. I have just highlighted some of them that are in there - it is paid by department, paid by the federal government. Those are extra trips over and above your travel allowance. That's only in five months. You have had extra trips that were paid by departments and you have blown your travel budget.
In regard to the Selkirk First Nation, you didn't go and consult with them. They came here, and I know it. They came here and they presented, because they were getting nowhere and couldn't get any other funding from government when they're trying to work with departments. They're an unincorporated community. They had to come here.
And they're organized enough that they would not be refused by the government in presenting their five-year capital plan. So, of course, you would include that. I thought you would include a little bit more of what they had to say in it.
Chair: Order please. I didn't include it. I didn't do anything. Please refer your marks through the Chair, as I am not responsible for the budget on my own.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Liberal government, which I know you're part of. And with regard to the budget we presented, you said it wasn't a proper thing to do in this House. Well, why do you vote for it? You voted for the -
Chair: Order please.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Premier, on the Liberal side, voted for the budget that we presented - the supplementary budget. She agreed, and, of course, we knew where it would go at that point. And it was ruled out of order. But you could have taken the suggestion forward and could have said that there were some good things in there, and maybe we could act upon it. But instead, what we've seen was a huge supplementary budget that came forward. You can't hide from that one.
You want to get out of deficit financing. You could have had a huge surplus this year - in this upcoming budget year - to handle any initiatives over and above the $500 million that the government was getting. You could have had that. You chose not to, and it was your choice. You chose to go with the NDP -
Chair: Order please. I'm going to ask Mr. Fairclough to refer all remarks through the Chair. I am not the Minister of Finance, so you cannot refer to the Premier or the Minister of Finance as "you."
Mr. Fairclough: Okay. You didn't have to go through the whole spiel.
The Premier knew, and it was the Liberals' choice to adopt that budget. It was their choice, cognizant of what the results could be. That was their choice - and the government's choice to spend even more than what was there.
What could have happened in the upcoming fiscal year, and still may happen - the members opposite say there will be $30 million in surplus without lapses. Adding the lapses will bring it to $45 million, and that's what the government showed this side of the House and the public in the fall - $45 million. We predict it will be higher. With the revotes that are coming forward and the large project expenditures, that amount could be up around $80 million, over and above what the government has. I believe they know that, too, and they're spending it down.
They also say that they're doing the same accounting as the previous government. I'll just flip to the page that says, "Long-term plans of the government." There are some budgetary forecasts for 2000-05. What are the other plans? Just blank. This is not the same as what it was in the previous government. Members know that. For example, there's another line that's added under accumulated surplus, entitled "Estimated revotes of previous year lapses."
Well, something is wrong here when the lapses are $15 million and the estimated revotes are $13 million. Where did the other $2 million go?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, clearly I have to explain to the member opposite what it means to have an accumulated surplus and a deficit budget and the balance you're left with. I know that a former math teacher of mine is in the audience. I would ask her to bear with me as I try to explain this to the member opposite.
The surplus is the amount of money in the bank. The government tables a budget. That is the expenditures for the year. That is money that is being spent - the cheques that are going to be written that year. It is the money that is going to be spent that year on programming - on programming in the schools and covering the pay for MLAs, for all of us in this Legislature. All of the items the government pays for - the pages and pages and pages. This is what they cost.
So, the previous government came into this House. They tabled a budget. That budget said that we are going to spend not only the money we get this year, but $33 million more. So, that money in the bank - the $64 million - was gone. It was spent by the previous government, because their budget spent $33 million more.
So, that left us with a bank account, by any household terms, of $33 million. This budget before the member opposite, and before all Yukoners, says that we are spending $24 million more than we take in. We are further drawing down that surplus. We are further drawing that bank account down to $6 million.
Now the question becomes: of that money that is voted on, what is lapsed, or what will not be spent? And the estimated amount, based on historical evidence, is that of the $24 million put forward, likely we won't end up spending between $10 and $15 million of that. That is what a lapse is. And if you are lapsing that money and not spending it in a year - for example, we are not spending the money constructing the Mayo school in last year's budget that ends in March. We are going to spend it this year. So it's already spent. The point is that Yukoners, thanks to all the work of previous governments, had a bank account - that surplus, that rainy day fund, that money in the event of a problem or unexpected emergency - that has steadily been drawn down. Drawing it down to $6 million is very significant. We are saying that we have to look long and hard at the expenditures in this budget. That is the message, and that is what we are trying to do. We are being fiscally responsible.
We are also spending Yukoners' money in the budget before the members opposite and before the whole Yukon in a manner that maintains our health care. It doesn't cut services at the hospital but gives them more money to deal with at the Hospital Corporation, which they have sorely needed, which does things like ensure that we can cover the utility bills that have gone up in all of our government buildings, including our schools, including the hospital in Mayo. That is the point that the budget does. And every one of these line items, believe me, Mr. Chair, we have examined very, very carefully. And, yes, we did it with the help of the deputy ministers, not because we are incompetent as the member opposite tried to suggest, but because we believe in working with Yukon's professional public service.
Mr. Fairclough: I do know what the lapses are, and I do know what the deficit is about. What the member opposite is saying is that they knew full well there was going to be a deficit with this present budget that we're in. Still, they came forward with a $37-million surplus - a supplementary budget, rather - but the cry of poverty is loud, yet it's okay to make government bigger and to spend money on yourselves. The members opposite could choose not to go to deficit financing. They could choose not to do that.
It's your choice to do that, nobody else's, but that was when you were in opposition. You're in government now; you have all these promises that have been made that certainly you're trying to reach.
Chair: Order please. Mr. Fairclough, I'll remind you again.
Mr. Fairclough: Thanks, Mr. Chair.
In regard to the audit process that should be and will be taking place by this Liberal government, has there been reconstruction of the department's reporting system?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No. Departments are still reporting their financial information in the same manner. What the audit function is doing is within the Executive Council Office, based on the advice from the Auditor General when I spoke with him about this after becoming Minister of Finance. We have an acting director of the audit group, and their reporting is to the deputy minister. We also have an audit committee that involves the Deputy Minister of Finance, the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office, and the auditor, but there's no change in reporting function. It's really just the creation of this unit.
The member might recall that under the previous government, there was the Bureau of Strategic Management. At that point in time, under the previous government with the Government Leader, that committee had the same structure but they didn't do audit function, per se. So, upon taking office - because I was quite concerned about this - as Minister of Finance, I met with the Auditor General and the Deputy Minister of Finance and asked, "How do we do this?" What was set up was their recommendation.
Mr. Fairclough: Are you saying that no department structures have changed with respect to the reporting process? What about Finance, for example?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I apologize to the member opposite. I'm not clear on what he is asking me. There has been no change to how deputy ministers report and how they work with the ministers. I hope there has been no change, unless the member opposite is referring to a collegial atmosphere in trying to work with people. I can't comment on whether that is a change or not, but there has been no change that I'm aware of. Perhaps the member could be more specific.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, every department has the organizational structure. They have directors and DMs, and under them come other organizations, such as Workers' Compensation and so on - and under them, too. Has that organizational structure, the reporting structure, not changed in Finance?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, not in Finance. If the member's referring to the governance issues around, for example, Yukon Energy Corporation, and how the arm's-length corporations work with the government, we're certainly examining that issue. I talked about that with respect to the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. I spoke about that when I delivered a ministerial statement that we were dealing with the governance issues. For example, if there were any orders-in-council issued by this government, I committed that they would be tabled in the Legislature. The only other change that perhaps the member's looking for is that Cabinet has transferred the responsibility for the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation to the minister responsible for Health and Social Services and Workers' Compensation Board. And the reason for that, Mr. Chair, if I just might elaborate for the member opposite, is because we're interested in these governance structures. But that's the only change I'm aware of.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it's pretty hard to tell whether there are any changes in the reporting structure of departments by simply looking at a page, unless you're really, really familiar with it. Can the member, by tabling in this House, bring forth any changes in any of the departments with regard to reporting structure and tell me whether or not there would be changes in the future?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is saying something about "Don't get it on the Web site."
To my knowledge, there is no change in the reporting structure in terms of staff, director, assistant deputy minister to deputy minister. The deputy ministers all report to the Premier, as is past practice, but their daily working relationship is with the minister, and that has not changed. If there have been any other changes, I meet with the deputies regularly, and I will certainly ask and forward that information in writing to the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: Also, if the member can ask for and give me any changes to date to these reporting structures from basically the time the Liberal Party got in as government, and whether or not you have in mind any further changes. Do you have any further changes that could come forward over the next couple of years?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my crystal-ball gazing and visioning exercise is more to do with how we, as a government, deliver on our commitments to Yukoners than changes in any kind of reporting structure. However, I will certainly examine the issue. I will look at Hansard tomorrow to see if I have missed any issues the member is raising, and will respond in writing.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, it's directly related to that if there are some changes. I'm interested if the government does have in mind major changes. Small ones, fine - whatever avenues the lower level management goes through in their reporting system. I'm thinking about and wanting to know what the major changes are. This is all about managing money, how decisions are being made, how it reaches the top, who is at the top that ends up getting that message and how it is then conveyed to the ministers. That's what I'm interested in. Can the member opposite tell me whether or not those would be coming forward?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we are consistent. My budget speech outlines for the member opposite that this government is working toward a renewal of citizen-oriented government.
In terms of the transition, we're dealing with achieving devolution. Page 13 notes that, as we integrate new employees, take over administration of new legislation and assume new responsibilities and authorities, we have preparations that are actively examining the renewal of Yukon government in preparation for this - preparation incorporating devolution - to ensure that we not lose sight. I know we use the words "citizen-oriented administration"; the point is, we don't want to ever lose sight of the fact that it's Yukoners whom we serve and Yukoners who elected us to provide good service.
We are preparing that, but there have been no decisions made such as the member opposite wants me to communicate. There have been no decisions; we are simply doing the work of examining that integration in preparation for devolution.
Mr. Fairclough: Does the Premier have some sort of structure that they have been looking at to accommodate programs coming from the federal government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We are just at the stage of examining all of the ideas and examining information. We are not at the stage of having reached decisions or preconceived notions.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, there is a lot of work that has gone into it, because I know that the departments have been working a long time at this and preparing for the devolving of the federal programs as of April 1 of last year. And then it is supposed to take place again as of April 1 of this year. We are not looking at that - it's down the road. And anything could have changed in the kind of direction that is being brought forward by this Liberal government, and that is why I asked whether or not you have a structure in place of what the Liberal government sees as proper and can take care of the programs that are being devolved to us. So, the member is saying that they don't have any at this point.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we are not going in with a preconceived idea. We are doing our homework. The member is aware that some homework has been done, but not to the extent to which he believes it has. There is a great deal of work still to be done, and we do not have a fixed idea of what government should look like. The only fixed part of our idea is that it has to meet the needs of Yukoners, and Yukoners have to be able to know, whether they come in for a mining regulation permit because we are devolving the Quartz Mining Act, they are going to be able to be well served by this government, when we take over that responsibility. That is the end objective, that is the preconceived notion that we have: good citizen-oriented government - what is going to work best for people.
And that's what we're working toward. But as to whether we have a fixed idea that there should be six departments or four departments or 12 departments, we don't have a preconceived notion on that. That work had been done when we took office. Quite frankly, there was still a lot to do. We know that. We know it's not going to be without its ups and downs. All we're doing is our homework on this. We're doing that as constructively as we can.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm interested in this. I know that the departments are too and were working on it when we were in government. I'm assuming that they would have continued that work.
I'm interested in which departments take on which responsibilities and whether or not there could be conflicts within the same department. I think it's pretty important that we basically know where we're going, have some idea about what departments are going to be handling what, and work on that as a basis and framework. It's better than having none, because we looked at April 1 of this year, and it's no longer there. We need to be prepared. That's why I'm asking the questions on that.
I have a number of questions in regard to the numbers put forward in the O&M side of the budget that was presented, with regard to forecasts and so on. Some things are not clear. I know that, for example, the O&M explanation of changes from forecasts to estimates, which is on S-5, is a page that is included in all of the O&M budgets. But there are some things in there that just don't make sense. I would like to ask some questions about them.
Before I get into that, I would like to focus on some of the points that were brought forward in the throne speech and again, of course, in the budget speech of this year, and that the Liberal government will be focusing on.
Now, land claims, of course, is pretty dear to me. I have gone through the whole process of negotiations and, basically, had one in place when I left office there. Sometimes it's just totally out of the control of government hands, and I know the Liberals are going to find this. If it's an issue that's very dear to the First Nations, the ball is in their court and they can make that decision. I know they have been fighting with a couple of big ones that very much stall the process. It wasn't really YTG doing it. I understand that even now, with the Liberal government in place, they needed to get more information and wanted to make more informed decisions. Of course, time has gone by since then.
Government has focused on rebuilding the economy. And I know that you said that there were 700 jobs created - basically no different than previous governments. It may be a bit more or it may be a bit less, depending on the type of work that's going to be done or has to be done. Yet I cannot see in here good expenditures that go toward that. I know that the Liberals have abandoned one thing that we have been working hard on, and that's looking at diversifying the economy. I don't see any expenditures on that. I know the member opposite was not happy with even some of the trade trips that the previous government went on, but we may now be seeing the benefits of that.
Diversifying the economy, I guess, is a pretty big task, since Yukon has always been dependent on the resource industry. Now, when the price of metals is good, we have good investment, we're exporting a lot, we're way up here, and then we drop quickly - boom. So what Yukoners have been seeing over the years is a roller-coaster ride - good economy, bad economy; good economy, bad economy - and that has been taking place for a long time, because we have been dependent on the resource industry.
The biggest part of diversifying the economy, of course, is that you look at other things - other economies - besides the resource industry in the Yukon. I believe that some of them are actually taking place. I know we were criticized - I was minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation at the time - about exporting and building houses in Chile. But that is actually happening today. There are Yukon companies that are in Chile building houses and employing people.
We have received a good response in the arts. For example, Matthew Lien is more popular and attracts more people to his concerts in Taiwan than Eric Clapton. That's something, I would say, that Yukoners should be proud of. And what is Matthew Lien doing? Passing the message along about Yukon and its beauty, and I think that's a pretty good thing.
So, I'll ask a question of the Premier: has this Liberal government abandoned the whole notion of diversifying the economy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just before I respond directly to the question, I would just like to express to the member opposite that I understand the concern in his point with respect to devolution. The concern has been expressed by a number of individuals that we would end up with departments that have the responsibility for both promoting and regulating in the same department. So, I appreciate and hear what the member is stating as his concern, and I share that concern.
With regard to the economy and expenditures toward rebuilding the Yukon economy, the member spoke about the resource economy and indicated that we just can't be dependent upon it. Well, all Yukoners have recognized that. However, we also can't abandon the resource economy because, while the mineral prices might be down and it's not profitable for a mine to be starting, we still need exploration and people out there doing the mapping, doing the resource assessment. And exploration has a huge impact on our territorial economy. Ask the helicopter companies and the food supply companies and the drilling companies. And there's $3.4 million in capital spending for the mining sector. We cannot abandon it totally, nor can we totally rely on it. The member and I agree on that point.
Also, our efforts with regard to the oil and gas sector continue in Economic Development, and there is over $1 million more in combined O&M and capital expenditures for Economic Development than in the member opposite's previous budget.
We also have not forgotten that tourism is a fundamental part of our economy, and we have increased the expenditures there and expanded the tourism initiatives. The member opposite made reference to trade and work in other parts of the globe. Our campaign election material and our work in opposition encouraged governments to focus their energies closer to home - Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia and, indeed, our neighbours in the Northwest Territories. The member referred to the company making houses in Chile, and I would also indicate to the member opposite that that company is in Alaska as well, and that is thanks to the work of this government.
We are very concerned that we rebuild the Yukon's economy in the resource sector and other sectors that are open to us, and we are aggressively pursuing trade issues closer to home.
Mr. Fairclough: It would be nice to hear, now and then, government give credit where credit is due. The Minister of Renewable Resources actually mentioned one when it came to climate change and the initiatives that the previous government has taken. It would be nice to hear some of that, and I just want to get into some of the things that are now benefiting this government that the previous government has done.
What's the reason for the reduction in Economic Development in the capital?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Part of that reduction in capital - the previous CDF fund, which grew from $1.5 million when the NDP first took office to in excess of $1.6 million, was listed in capital in Economic Development. Part of the reason for the reduction could be that we have allocated $1.5 million to Project Yukon and identified a further $500,000 to fire smart.
So, rather than showing $3 million in the mains, there is $2.5 million clearly delineated in these mains and the arts fund is shown in the Department of Tourism, although the one-window approach for funding remains through Economic Development. So, that's part of the reason for the decrease.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the Premier, then, tell us what are the reasons - other than fiscal constraints that have been brought up so many times by the members opposite - what would be the reasons for reducing the community development fund?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the decisions have to be made in government, and decisions have to be made on good information. One of the places where we needed to expend Yukon taxpayers' money, as recommended by communities, is on our highways. We have increased the level of spending on our highways. In spite of a $1.5-million decrease in Shakwak this year, we have found money to ensure that we dealt with the road between Whitehorse and Haines Junction, and actually did some construction work.
And, of course, the other thing is that, again, we are very accountable to Yukon taxpayers for the expenditure of their money, and we want to clearly account for it and also do performance evaluations. So, if Project Yukon, in the review - which I am confident that it will - comes back, and yes, we have dealt with the people, the community spaces and the structures, as we have outlined, and met our performance objectives, then perhaps there will be, at some other point in time, more money. Or perhaps, again, it will be needed for other priorities of the government.
The real issue is, have we met community priorities? That is the real issue. And I believe that we have in the expenditures that are before the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: Does the premier agree that the community development fund put people to work all over the Yukon all through the year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have no basis on which to answer the question. The audit report indicated that one of the criteria for the community development fund was not an assessment of employment; that that was an adjunct and that that wasn't one of the performance indicators.
So if the member opposite wants to debate the audit report and the merits of the program, then I would invite him to do that. However, I fail to see how it's part of the general debate on the budget.
Mr. Fairclough: It's very simple. When you cut a program like that in half, then it's part of the general debate. The community development fund has been cut, and it did produce jobs in communities. It did take care of priorities in communities, not all related to work.
I can remember one small project in the community of Carmacks, where the local library wanted improvements to the computer system there. The community development fund helped that. As a matter of fact, it produced over 14,000 work weeks, and I know that communities knew how to apply for it, and it will hurt. It will hurt when you have stricter guidelines and so on for this particular fund.
What else is there? We have a few things listed here. You've reduced Economic Development and, of course, with a reduction in Economic Development, you're getting less revenues coming in, because of the amount of money that is producing work and the people staying in the Yukon. What else in this budget - what budgetary item - is focused on rebuilding the economy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm called upon to correct the member opposite in the statement with respect to the size of the funding available to communities. First of all, the entire budget and expenditures in the budget are directed by the people of the Yukon, and priorities are contained herein. The CDF was listed last year at $3 million in the capital section of Economic Development. This year, Project Yukon, with clear, fair criteria, is listed at $1.5 million. The fire smart program, as a line item in the budget, is listed at $500,000, bringing that total to $2 million; and the arts fund is listed in the Tourism section of the budget at $500,000, showing a total of $2.5 million available, as opposed to $3 million.
There are communities' priorities reflected in this budget, and it is a budget that people have created to meet their needs. For example, one of the community needs we heard in Destruction Bay, other than the point with respect to maintenance of health care, was for a rather small sum required to complete the marina. That would be something that might have been judged through a former process. We responded to that need in the budget. So, I believe the communities will be supportive of what we have included in the budget.
Now, with respect to rebuilding the Yukon economy and what is in rebuilding the Yukon economy, the seven-percent increase in net capital spending will have a demonstrable effect this summer on Yukon's economy in the number of people working; 20 people alone will be working on the section of the highway that I spoke of earlier.
There is, as I mentioned earlier, the $2.5 million available under the arts fund, the fire smart, and Project Yukon. There is more than $700,000 in incentives to contractors who hire locally, and there is the reduced personal income tax rates from 50 percent to 46 percent. This is a direct, noticeable improvement on people's paycheques, in that every Yukoner saw this in January. We reduced the taxes. Yukoners are paying $3 million less in taxes, which is an important point, in that Yukoners are very supportive of other Yukoners and tend to spend that money directly here at home.
I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the increase in Tourism spending, as well, in O&M and capital, by three-quarters of a million dollars over last year's mains. That is directly helping to facilitate an industry that is clearly a key economic driver in our territory. So, I do believe there have been substantial measures to rebuild the Yukon economy contained in the budget. If the member has other specific suggestions, I'm certainly interested in hearing them.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, what we see in the capital budget is a reduction in Economic Development of 26 percent, and a reduction in Tourism of 25 percent. That contradicts what the member is saying.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member is comparing the 2000-01 forecast to the 2001-02 estimate, so it doesn't include the supplementary.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm sure that it does, because on page S-3, it says "less revotes including Supplementary No. 2, 2000-01" of $10 million.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My apologies to the member opposite. I was speaking with the official and not listening closely enough to the member opposite's question. The member opposite's question was with regard to the capital expenditure on page S-6 of the O&M estimates, and this, yes indeed, includes the supplementary. So the member opposite is correct in that. I apologize.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, with regard to the capital budget of $106,993,000, compared to even the 2000-01 capital main estimates, it is reduced from $109,580,000 in gross. It's reduced. So, there's less coming back in recoveries, and why isn't that given out to the general public as, "Here's the gross, and it is less than what we had in the previous year." Why would you not portray that message to the general public?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we did give it out to the general public in two ways. First of all, we referenced it as net capital spending. And the member is quite right in that it means we have less that is recoverable. We are spending more of Yukoners' money. And it is also clearly outlined on S-3 of the capital estimates.
Chair: Order please. I would remind members - I know that it has been awhile that we have been out, but a general reminder to all members to refer remarks through the Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I think that is a pretty important message because that is the amount of money that we are spending out of the budget. What we are getting back is less, so the net spending is higher but the gross is lower. It all depends on the recoveries - what we get back from what we are spending.
So I think that the message should be that, in your capitals and in your gross, you are spending two percent less than the previous year. Why would you not say that to the general public?
Chair: Again, a quick reminder on the use of the word "you".
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, because we are spending seven percent more of Yukon taxpayers' money. That's why. So it gets down to a discussion of why did we explain things the way we did. We have tried to account to the public for how we have managed taxpayers' money. And, again, I go back to accounting methods and measures translating to a budget that is about the everyday lives of Yukoners. So they need to know how much money we are spending as a government in capital. The net result is what Yukoners are interested in, and that is seven percent more.
Mr. Fairclough: I think the general public should know that we are actually spending less in capital and gross, and we are actually getting less in recoveries back into government. Therefore, our spending goes up.
I don't know why you can't relate that message.
How did the Liberal government get to where they're at with the cuts to personal income tax? What guidelines did you follow for that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite, Mr. Chair, wants me to say that the tax cuts were promised by the previous government, but not delivered on. We delivered on them, so they are as per the legislation that we passed in December, when we were last here.
Mr. Fairclough: So, what the member is saying is that it's clear that you're following the NDP direction in personal income tax cuts.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we're following the direction we can afford, and the direction for tax cuts is throughout the country. It doesn't belong to one political party or one government. The tax cuts are something that is about Yukoners' money - providing more of their money back to them, as opposed to spending it through government expenditures.
I indicated to the Chamber of Commerce when in opposition, and to others, that before any tax cuts would be introduced, we had to look at the books, and that's what we did. So, Mr. Chair, we did what we said we were going to do.
Mr. Fairclough: I was just going to ask that. You said you would pass a budget in its entirety, and this is one of them that was identified in there. So, you are doing what you said you were going to do with the personal income tax. Of course, you wouldn't want to change it, because it's popular among Yukoners. Sorry, Mr. Chair.
Following that, is the Liberal government going to follow the long-term plans in regard to personal income tax cuts that the NDP has laid out?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, yes, we said we would introduce two basis points next year.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I hope that message is conveyed clearly to her colleagues, because that is a good thing - to see those cuts combined with the federal cuts. It's a good thing, and it's an initiative that is quite clearly laid out in the 2000-01 budget, the budget year we are in. That was part of the long-term planning of the NDP. So the members opposite will be following those cuts, at least to the new year. Do you have anything beyond what the NDP has presented?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we made the commitment for next year's budgeting. Beyond that, the member will have to wait for the budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, during the elections, the Liberal government said that the Yukon protected areas strategy was a good document and that it maybe needed to have some improvements. Every document that is produced by government can always be improved. We all know that. They can go through the changes to make it even better. There was a commitment by the NDP to work with industry to make that bit of change. But in creating one protected area, the process was rushed. We were criticized by the Liberals for that - that the process was rushed. The result of that was the Liberal Party and government taking claim for it.
One of the protected areas that was produced was the Fishing Branch reserve protected area - 6,400 square kilometres of protected area - as a result of a strategy that was developed by the people under the Yukon NDP government at the time. And it was criticized for that. Still today it is, and I can't understand that, because the member opposite didn't have any problem going to Old Crow and being part of the release of the management plan.
Also as a result of that political direction at the time, whether it was right or wrong, was that we had a land sale that took place and a commitment from Anderson at that point to spend $20 million in the Yukon. They hadn't spent any money yet, but they were committed to spending $20 million over five years. And now they're starting to spend the money, but the Liberal government is taking credit for that, not even showing a bit that there was a lot of hard work on behalf of the NDP that got that going. As a matter of fact, devolving oil and gas to the Yukon was something very big. We haven't seen land sales in the Yukon for over 20 years, and we got that going. Yes, it was hard work on behalf of the Economic Development department and Renewable Resources to make those things happen, but being criticized for YPAS, which resulted in a protected area of 6,400 square kilometres - a beautiful place, Fishing Branch, and 60 people working right now as a result of that.
Does the Premier acknowledge that that was the result of the work the NDP has done, the 60 jobs that are now being brought forward to do some exploration work with Anderson?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there's no question that the oil and gas legislation was passed unanimously in this House when the member opposite was over here and when I was over there. There's no question about that; it was a unanimous piece of legislation. That piece of legislation, and how regulations are developed within its authorities, and the permits being issued and the licences being issued, is work that is being done within the authority of that legislation.
So the work of passing the legislation is ours, doing what we are expected to do as members. The real work of the legislation, and living within it, ensuring it's carried out, ensuring that the permits are issued within it, ensuring that we live up to the spirit and intent of it, that work and the credit for that work goes to the people, the people who have jobs, Anderson, the First Nation governments who work within that legislation, as well as the people in Economic Development oil and gas branch. It doesn't belong to any one government; it belongs to the people, the public servants who work on behalf of the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier found it very difficult to give credit to the NDP for that work, and a lot of work went into that with people. One of them, as a benefit again criticized by the Liberals still to this day, is the fact that bringing down control of oil and gas to the Yukon has resulted in revenues going out to First Nations. They're part of the accord too, and they're pumping it back into economic development.
I couldn't understand that, over and over again, the Premier would not show that recognition, because it's pretty major to Yukon. Sure, we have some dreams of a pipeline coming through, and I think we have to be very careful about that, because it goes through and we live with the consequences, and people will be affected by that. But still, those benefits to Yukon are there.
Right now, the Renewable Resources minister is saying YPAS was broken and "We're going to fix it." Well, it wasn't broken at all. It's the best strategy that's in Canada right now and, I think, in North America. It's the best strategy in place, and we got praise from all across the country. Now it's on a course that doesn't seem to have an end. We lost out a year of bringing forward some protected areas for the Yukon, and we could be working on them right now. But, because this strategy is under review, it's dead. There is none.
I believe what the Liberal government will be bringing back is a strategy that's so similar to what was presented by the NDP and by those who put it together - it'll be so similar to that, more involvement on the industry side.
But it's a shame that we have to abandon the priority list that was put out there and be set back a year. And it doesn't matter which government is in place. I think that we should be going forward, having these protected spaces. And we can work from the north. We would already be half way through the Yukon if we were to go at the same speed we did in the past. But we are not. And what we heard from the Renewable Resources minister is that it is still under review, of course, and there is no sight in the near future to see that come forward.
But obviously, the Cabinet has been talking about this. Does the Premier and her Cabinet colleagues have a list of protected spaces that could be worked on, say, as soon as the strategy is done, for the next year? And would she share them with us?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite and I have different views as to the success of the protected areas strategy in Fishing Branch. The member opposite feels that it is an example of the protected areas strategy working, and I believe that it is not. And many other Yukoners share the view that the difficulty with Fishing Branch is that the protected areas strategy, as it was originally outlined, was not followed. That is what we are trying to wrestle with.
And the member opposite reminds me to give credit where credit is due. My colleague, the now Minister of Renewable Resources, has been with the protected areas strategy from the very beginning and the very early discussions. When the minister comes in and doesn't stay all day and sit through all the committee meetings, he was one of those individuals present and knows first-hand that the strategy - as that 18-member committee. And sitting in - we were then the third party - I remember wishing the minister well in the protected areas strategy and saying, "We support what you are trying to do. We have no idea how you are going to reach a consensus with an 18-member committee. We wish you well."
And that they did. That committee of hard-working Yukoners reached a consensus as to what the strategy should look like and how it should be followed. The problem is that the then government went out and designated Fishing Branch - and the member opposite used the word "rushed". That was the problem. Fishing Branch was so rushed that the protected areas strategy, as envisioned by this committee of Yukoners, wasn't followed, and that was the problem. So now there is a lot of trust that is gone as a result of that. And that's what the Member for Riverdale North and I are trying to rebuild. We're trying to deal with the protected areas strategy in a way that Yukoners have confidence and have restored confidence in it. It takes time. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work to rebuild that trust, and we are working at it. I have every confidence in my colleague's ability to represent the economic perspective on this, as well.
I believe in what I have stated at the committee meetings and in working with Yukoners on this issue. Fundamentally, it's about Yukoners making decisions about what areas are protected and what areas are developed and ensuring that there is balance. That's what we're trying to do. If the member opposite would like to have a more extensive discussion with either my colleague or myself, we're certainly open to that.
Mr. Fairclough: I agree with one thing the Premier said - that it's going to take a long time to bring trust back in this government. I outlined all of the things that were promised by this Liberal government and were broken, time and time again, including adopting the budget in its entirety, and then not doing it - not carrying out the tasks that are within the budget - and over and over again, with all of the small issues, the promises made. Nothing has happened in 10 months. It's coming up close to a year, and we're going to be delayed a year.
It will take longer to make those small changes - and I call them small - in the protected areas strategy than it took to put the strategy together and develop one protected space in the Yukon Territory. And I think that's a shame, because nothing new has come forward from this government. I believe that the Liberals are so focused on the resource industry that YPAS was put on the backburner, because things could have moved a lot quicker than they did.
So what do we have now? Industry not wanting to participate. Now, before the election, they did. The Liberals got in. They don't want to participate now. There's something wrong there. Like with the teachers, with YPAS, the general public had a lot of expectations raised by this government, and it's sad to see that not much has taken place.
Now, the Premier introduced tax cuts to personal income tax this year and also introduced an increase in tax on cigarettes, and 25 cents per pack is the magic number that was brought forward. What did the government use as criteria to set that percentage?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we as a caucus did not want to bring in a tobacco tax that was too oppressive; however, we also took to heart the advice of the World Health Organization and others that suggested this as a method for reducing tobacco consumption. An additional increase, which is perhaps the recommendation the member is making, is something we may look at in the future.
Mr. Fairclough: So, there were no guidelines used to bring in the 25 cents per pack. Was there nothing else? Was it just a number?
You must have had an idea as to why you brought it forward. You are going to raise revenues coming in, and it will be a deterrent to smokers to have to pay more for cigarettes. But how did the 25 cents get in there? What was the criteria? Why that and not $1.25 or $2.00 or $3.00, to really hit hard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Because that would have been seen to be too oppressive and too extreme a measure.
Mr. Fairclough: I suppose the government felt that 25 cents is going to cause a huge reaction from smokers to quit.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The World Health Organization and World Bank have said that it is a measure that will reduce smoking and tobacco consumption in our society. There are also some people who have tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and have as yet been unable to stop. You want to reduce the start-ups - you being the government - and not put an excessive penalty on those who are addicted, because nicotine is an addiction. So, $1.25 was seen as too excessive.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I asked the question of whether or not the government felt that the 25 cents would do that. You haven't used any other criteria, other than that the world organizations are saying yes. Maybe we agree with them, but why 25 cents?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my colleague has quite rightly pointed out that even if it deters one young adult from starting to smoke, it will be worth it.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I guess Yukoners are asking the question of why it wasn't 50 cents or more, and what effect 25 cents will really have on a package of cigarettes. It's like putting 50 cents extra on a case of beer to deter drinkers, and I don't believe that would work, either. I believe that 25 cents is fairly low, but I wanted to get a clear understanding of the tax increase.
Certainly the government must have some formula that they're using. This, to the general public out there seeing this tax increase, is an indication that this Liberal government is going to come forward with more tax increases in the future. So we want - and they want - to know what the criteria was and what the formula was for introducing this 25 cents.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The overriding principle, at the risk of sounding like someone who has been involved with the Rotarian organization, there's a comment - I believe it's Rotarian - that there are sort of four key principles. The fourth is: is it fair to all concerned?
With regard to the recommendation from these world organizations of having a tobacco tax, the recommendation is to have it, so we did, which is something the previous government would not do. But we did not want to impose an undue or harsh penalty on those individuals who are addicted. That is the basis for it. If the member wants to know the formula, the formula is the issue of fairness.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I guess that is the message that I will pass on to Yukoners - when we see increased taxes, the government felt that it was fair.
How did the Premier feel on her trip to China when standing beside the Canadian team and the Prime Minister, making deals with China to sell cigarettes there? How did the Premier feel about that? That was a big issue on this last trip, that Canada was producing cigarettes; it's okay to sell them in China, but not here in Canada. We want to look at advertising for people not to smoke but, over there, it was a different story. So how did the Premier feel about that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has asked me how I felt to be a part of Team Canada. Very proud to be a Canadian and that the Yukon was recognized as part of the country, that's how I felt on the trip. And when the Premier in China asked our Prime Minister, and we talked about the construction of an airport in Shanghai, knowing that there were three world bidders, and only one of them was Canadian, it didn't matter what Canadian province that bidder was from - we supported the Canadian bid. It's important to be - I was very proud to be part of Team Canada, to be a Canadian, and to help to represent all of the country on that particular mission, as I was asked to do by the Prime Minister and by my fellow premiers.
Mr. Fairclough: I guess we got our answer in that. We will get away from that for a minute, knowing the Premier's position on Canada selling cigarettes to China. It is not right in front of me here, but I noticed that - well it's obvious that the revenues are projected to go down in this next year, but the revenues from the fuel tax are going up. Is there a tax on fuel?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite knows there is no tax on home heating fuel in the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: The revenues from taxes on fuel oil have gone up and are projected to go up. Is there a tax on fuel?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the only tax is on gasoline and diesel fuel, and it is on unleaded gasoline, diesel fuel. Our tax rate - the member opposite may wish to examine the table at the back of the budget speech - as compared with others - and again this is just fuel that people put in their vehicles. There is no tax on home heating fuel.
I should add that there are also rebates for miners, people who generate their own power using diesel generators, and those using fuel. Trappers also have an option for a rebate in the use of this gas, either unleaded gasoline or diesel fuel.
Increase in revenue would be strictly due to volume. It's not an increase in tax.
Mr. Fairclough: So, the Premier is saying there is no increase in taxes on home heating fuel or unleaded fuel. Is that what the member is saying?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The only tax increase in this budget is on tobacco. There is no tax increase on unleaded gasoline or diesel fuel, and we do not tax, as a territory, home heating fuel. The only tax increase is on tobacco, and the tax cuts are on personal income tax.
Mr. Fairclough: If the Liberal government is introducing an increase in tax on tobacco, what is the rationale for the increase in revenues from the fuel? They said it's strictly volume, but there must be a reason why. Yukoners are not going to be travelling any more than they normally do. So they must have thought about how and why those taxes are going up.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the original budget showed a slight increase in population for the year, and more people driving more cars, driving more snowmobiles, driving more ATVs, putting gas in diesel generators for their mining properties or their work in Yukon's places not accessible to power. It's a volume increase.
I did make an error in my last point. In terms of personal income tax cuts, we did also do the mining incentive tax credit, as well. I forgot to mention that.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the member for carrying on an NDP initiative.
Now, the member said there would be more people in the Yukon. In the summer, here, it has the grant-in-lieu of property tax going down. Can you explain that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to prepare an answer for that for the member opposite during the Community and Transportation Services debate, as that falls within her area.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm trying to get why we're getting revenues out of diesel fuel tax. It's just the taxes on some diesel fuel. We're getting more revenues there. The member said there are more people in the Yukon now, so we're going to have more revenue out of that. But grants-in-lieu of property taxes are down, so is it people leaving and expecting to come back? I need an answer to that. It all has to do with taxes and revenues coming in.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that figure comes to us from the federal government, the grants-in-lieu of property taxes. So, it's our work with them. I don't have the specifics at my fingertips around that particular piece of information. I will undertake to provide it to the member opposite. Between the work of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and myself, we will undertake to provide that to the member opposite as soon as we are able to.
Mr. Fairclough: It's the federal government that provides the grants-in-lieu of property taxes. That's the lowest form of tax there is. Are the First Nations part of this? Do they give monies to the territorial government for grants-in-lieu of property taxes?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I would like to ask the Premier to check into this, because I do know that the self-government agreements that are in place do have grants-in-lieu of property taxes because they were negotiated as the lowest form of tax. There is reduction there from the federal government. I don't know why. Is it because we have taken over some of the buildings, for example, in the Department of Health, and with forestry possibly being devolved? Is that the reason? I just can't see why there is a change in that. Something like this, you would think, would remain constant.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have indicated to the member opposite that I don't have a specific answer for him at my immediate fingertips on that particular issue. I will look into it, and I will provide the member opposite with a response. Unlike the tobacco tax or the fuel oil tax - diesel, liquor, personal income tax and corporate income tax - those are things we deal with on a daily basis and that Finance officials deal with. This one is one where we work with other governments, and I will make sure that I have the exact information available for the member as soon as possible.
Mr. Fairclough: We are also receiving more money in taxes generated from the sale of liquor. Are there any initiatives other than the exploration tax incentive program and the reduction in personal income tax that the Liberal government will be bringing forward to try to boost the economy - possibly a reduction in fuel tax?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is asking about future plans with regard to taxes and tax cuts, and I would again emphasize to the member opposite that we have provided the information for this budget. And I also indicated, in my budget speech, a future tax reduction. But beyond that, I am not going to predict where we may raise or lower taxes beyond this budget. And there is no increase in the liquor tax in this budget; the tax rate stays the same.
Mr. Fairclough: I didn't say that. I said the revenues generated from taxes on liquor being sold in the Yukon. The member did say that she has committed to a further year in the reduction of income tax - following the NDP plan basically. So that is in place. What can we see and what can we possibly expect out there for an increase in taxes on other things?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that is a hypothetical question. It is a "what if". I am not going to hamstring - I can't think of another word. I am not going to tie down future ministers of Finance or others in terms of future predictions on taxes in the budget, other than what has already been committed to in this budget.
Mr. Fairclough: The government doesn't have a long-term plan.
Mr. Chair, the Speech from the Throne and the budget speech of this year list some priorities of this government. What is the top priority of this government right now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have said these so many times, Mr. Chair, that it's starting to sound like a mantra. However, I will reiterate them again for the member opposite: rebuilding the Yukon economy, maintaining health care, addressing alcohol and drug addictions, settling outstanding land claims, achieving devolution, developing infrastructure and restoring confidence in government. And all of those priorities are interrelated to one another. Settling the outstanding land claims will help us rebuild the economy. Establishing strong working relationships to deal with the blight on society of dealing with drug and alcohol addictions will enable us to develop strong working relationships. And tackling tough issues will restore confidence in government, as will living up to our commitment to maintain quality health care. Achieving devolution will also help overall in rebuilding our economy, when we get to drive the economic engines such as forestry. And developing infrastructure is also about providing for Yukoners and building our economy. So, they are all interrelated.
The top priority for any government, but especially for this government, is meeting the needs of Yukoners and providing good government to Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I just point that out because it's the same list that you see from the throne speech to the budget speech, but the way they're laid out is different, and that's what I was trying to get at with the member opposite.
In the throne speech and replies to it, there was much emphasis put on settling outstanding land claims, and we have seen them bumped down to fourth place now in the budget speech. I don't know why the members opposite changed the arrangements that they had. It must mean that more emphasis is now going to be put on the economy.
What does the member see as being of most benefit to Yukoners from settling land claims?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I take full responsibility for the order, as it is written here. There is no change in our priorities. There is no difference between what we promised Yukoners on April 17 and what we're delivering every day we come to work. We are working very hard on doing what we said we would do and doing it every day.
Clearly, settling outstanding land claims is something that I ask myself every day, as I go home. I say, "What did you do today to help settle outstanding land claims, to achieve devolution, to rebuild the Yukon economy?" I know the minister responsible for Health is asking himself, when he goes home every day, "Are we ensuring we continue to provide the same level of service? Are we addressing the alcohol and drug addiction needs in our territory?" I know the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is, as we all are, committed to the infrastructure of the territory, and it's only in doing what we say we're going to do and delivering on these commitments that we will restore confidence in government.
The fact that restoring confidence in government is at the bottom, when it interlinks to all of these in this list - the member opposite is reading too much into this.
What is the benefit to Yukon of settling outstanding land claims? The certainty, working with First Nation governments. There is such a difference in travelling to communities where there is a self-government agreement in place, and we all know what we're working within, and how we're to work with one another. It works well. I mean, my hat's off to the people who spent the past many decades negotiating land claims, because clearly the self-government agreements work and work well.
Where we have not yet settled the outstanding land claims, that's where we end up discussing many issues that really could be resolved with the self-government agreement in place. I'm looking forward to that day when we have settled the seven outstanding land claims, and we are continuing our efforts toward that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, I know that it has been many years since some of the First Nations have settled land claims and ratified those agreements, but those self-government agreements are not working well. The federal government is not even wanting to implement a lot of them. It's been frustration from day one for the First Nations that have ratified their agreements, to get something out of the federal government. So, how did you arrive at your conclusion that it is working well?
I was really surprised that the Premier didn't say more about the benefits that land claims have to First Nations and their people. I'm really surprised at that. One of the only things that this Liberal government came forward with in their throne speech last fall was that they were going to settle outstanding land claims, because it was key to increased economic development. That was it. There was nothing about who is negotiating the agreement or what it means to the people - nothing at all.
The Premier has come a little way in acknowledging some of that, and acknowledging the fact that some First Nations do have self-government agreements and what it means. But, to me, there is not a clear understanding, and that's sad.
The Premier said that, every day, she questions what they have done in regard to their seven main points. Can the Premier tell us what has been achieved so far in the negotiations of outstanding First Nations land claims?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite knows that we don't negotiate land claims on the floor of the House. The member also knows that there are three parties at the negotiating table.
I am comfortable that there has been some progress in the work. The member opposite knows that it is a negotiating process. Having been involved in negotiating, he knows that that is exactly what it is.
Perhaps the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes wants to take over the questioning. I'm not going to negotiate land claims on the floor of the House. I'm satisfied that we are working. I'm very, very comfortable with the relationship I have with the Grand Chief and with all of the chiefs in the political accord that was signed. We are working very hard at ensuring we have strong intergovernmental relations in that area, and I am looking forward to the fulfilment of that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it's sad to see, again, the Premier thinking that these are negotiations. I can tell you that it's far from it - far from it. And if you see this as part of negotiations, it's sad to see what might be taking place and the direction that's handed down by the Premier and her government to mandate their negotiators.
The member said that every day she asks herself about what has been accomplished, and those are the same questions the Premier had asked of the former Government Leader, and he was able to answer the question. It wasn't negotiations on the floor of this Legislature. It's far from it. I'm not going to negotiate on behalf of First Nations, and I'm not going to negotiate on behalf of government, and I'm not a negotiator, and I was never involved in the negotiating process. So this is far from negotiations.
So when I ask what has been accomplished so far in negotiations, I think it could be told. When do we know? When can we say that we've reached a significant agreement between First Nations and government or that YTG has put something forward? When do we hear that? Is it when the agreement is ratified? Is that when we hear about the accomplishments that have been made by YTG?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is asking for a progress report on the seven outstanding land claims, and I am happy to give that to the member opposite. The member knows that two of the key outstanding issues were federal government issues and the progress on those areas is not ours to make. That is a federal government issue. And with respect to the Ta'an Kwach'an, for example, section 87 and loan repayments are key federal issues. The White River and Kluane First Nations have an additional federal issue, and those three First Nations and an additional First Nation, Carcross-Tagish, sought a common forum to which we responded to ensure that there were no outstanding Yukon issues left on the table. We are continuing our work with Kwanlin Dun at the negotiating table. And with regard to Ross River and Liard, the member is well aware that the Kaska First Nation is in court and that court action, to my knowledge - the last time I spoke on this issue was Monday of last week - is not in abeyance as of yet. Carcross-Tagish First Nation requires a band council resolution to return to negotiations and resolve some issues, and that has not yet taken place. Yukon is ensuring that, as one third of the parties at the table, we have done everything that we can to resolve any outstanding Yukon issues, and I am satisfied that that has happened.
Mr. Fairclough: It sounds like the Premier's briefing notes have not changed since the previous government. That's what it sounds like. It sounds like there isn't a whole lot of progress, because I do believe that negotiations had advanced quite far. I would like to ask the Premier then, in thinking about this every day and what has been accomplished in land claims, has there been any policy development that could affect the implementation of these self-government and final agreements?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the difference between the information that was presented in the House by the previous government and the information that I presented a moment ago is that I had been advised that there were no outstanding Yukon issues left on the table when I was in opposition. As government, I was advised that there were. We have endeavoured to deal with those.
Any progress on dealing with federal issues is not mine to report to the House. I have done everything I can to encourage the federal government to respond and deal with those two issues. I know that First Nation negotiators have urged the federal government to deal with those issues, as well. Beyond that, I cannot provide the member opposite with any more details on the negotiations.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, can the Premier then tell us what the Yukon issues are.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not going to get into the negotiations. I'm saying to the member opposite that we were advised that there were some Yukon issues. We responded, when asked, by establishing a common forum, and we have dealt with those issues.
We're not at a final agreement with the other two parties. When we are, I certainly will be engaged in the Legislature and engaged with the member opposite in providing more information. I cannot provide more information at this time.
Mr. Fairclough: What would the reason be? It's not negotiations and it's not negotiating on the floor. What would the reason be for not providing that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's about negotiations. I have indicated to the member opposite that we have a First Nations protocol. In terms of working relationships between the parties at the negotiating table and specifically what is being discussed, those specifics are for the negotiating table. They're not for the floor of the House.
I can speak to our working relationship. I can speak to the fact that we are working at the table and our working relationship is very cooperative - it's very positive, both with First Nations and with the Government of Canada. Negotiations are also about relationships, and we have a good, cooperative, positive working relationship at the table. We're working very hard on resolving those issues. I'm satisfied that we are making progress. More than that, I cannot say.
Mr. Fairclough: One final one to this. When the Premier was on this side of the House, as leader of the opposition, she asked the same questions and the then Government Leader, Piers McDonald, answered them. Did the Premier at that time feel that they were negotiations?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I stood in precisely the same spot as the member is, and I asked the Government Leader for a report on these negotiations. The previous Government Leader indicated to me a similar response, although the Government Leader said that there were no outstanding Yukon issues.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Clearly, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes wants to answer this question, so I'll let him.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30 p.m. and the tempers being high, should we take a 15-minute break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will break for 15 minutes.
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. Continue with general debate. I believe that Mr. Fairclough had the floor.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a few more questions on the priority that the government put forward on land claims.
The government said that there's over $6 million in the land claims secretariat, and it's an increase over the previous year. Does the Premier feel that this is a sufficient amount to carry out outstanding negotiations that are there?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm satisfied that the budget amount provides for continuing cooperative and constructive negotiations on the part of the Government of Yukon, yes.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Premier has a land claims secretariat. Can the Premier tell us what, in negotiations so far, this secretariat has produced?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the departmental objectives for the Executive Council Office are to conclude, as the government's top priority, outstanding land claims and self-government agreements with Yukon First Nations. That is the role of the land claims and implementation secretariat. And yes, I am satisfied that they are working very hard. We are working toward that conclusion.
Mr. Fairclough: Has much progress been made on the Kwanlin Dun front?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: When parties are continuing to talk and continuing to negotiate and continuing to work, we are optimistic about the outcome, and that is the case with the Kwanlin Dun negotiations. The parties are working at the table - all three parties - and I'm optimistic about the outcome of their work.
Mr. Fairclough: So, we're at the table with Kwanlin Dun. Is there any progress at all with Kwanlin Dun?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, as I said in my previous answer, parties are working at the table. I'm optimistic about that. I'm optimistic. I want to conclude, as this government's top priority, the outstanding land claims, including the land claim agreement with Kwanlin Dun. We want to see that happen, and the parties, the actual negotiators, are working very hard at that.
Mr. Fairclough: It would be nice if we could get some reassurance that there is progress being made with Kwanlin Dun. I don't believe the Premier is updated on this. I asked a question about land claims in the last sitting and the Premier was not fully updated at that point. That was in the fall. This was a top priority of government and the Premier was not updated at that point on negotiations and what was taking place.
I am asking very simple questions. People are asking me to ask these questions. They want to know if progress is being made. They are sitting at the table, but is anything happening there?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I'm hearing the Yukon public say to me is, "Keep working at this." And that's what we're doing and we're working to bring it to a conclusion. I have told the member that we are continuing to negotiate. I have told the member opposite that I'm optimistic, as long as parties are still working at the table, to identify solutions at the negotiating table for some of the complex issues around Kwanlin Dun and some of the other claims. I'm optimistic and, contrary to what the member just said, I am kept fully aware of the progress at the tables. For the member's information, I spend my Thursday mornings in the land claims office, doing specifically this, going through what progress we have made. We worked hard as a government to reach the political accord.
As the member opposite knows, or ought to know, we are one party. We don't negotiate land claims on the floor of this House. I am providing the member with a status report. We are still talking and we're still working on it. That's as much of a status report as I can provide, and, quite frankly, it's as much of a status report as Yukoners are asking for.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, that's incredible. I hope that same attitude is not taken beyond the Legislature - that negotiations can't take place. She can't give us progress. Nine months of negotiations must result in progress. Is the Yukon government negotiating with the Liard First Nation right now? Or are they caught up in the courts?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm unclear as to what exactly the member wants me to provide him. I have said and outlined where we are at, in that we are negotiating. We are working on the seven outstanding land claims. Specifically with regard to Liard and Ross River, the member is also aware that the Kaska Dena Council, the Kaska First Nation and the Government of Canada are in court. That adds problems, in that there are not currently negotiations with that overall umbrella organization. The member opposite knows that. That situation hasn't changed. So, I can't report progress on that. I can say that that situation is unchanged.
I can say that we're continuing discussions with Kwanlin Dun. We are continuing to lobby the federal government on the two outstanding federal government issues. I have repeatedly reported progress on that. Those two outstanding federal issues affect the majority of the outstanding land claims. I've reported progress on that to the member opposite.
The member opposite has clearly been frustrated with my answers. I don't know what the member is looking for in terms of an answer, other than what I have provided. The member knows that is what is in my ability, as one of the parties at the table, to provide.
Mr. Fairclough: I believe that my question was very simple. Is the Yukon government negotiating with the Liard First Nation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We have done some work with the Liard First Nation - what we were able to do. However, there is the outstanding matter of litigation between Canada and the First Nation, and we have urged them to put that in abeyance; however, we are not part of that lawsuit. We are doing what we can, bearing in mind that there is this litigation.
Mr. Fairclough: What the Premier is saying is that the Yukon government is not negotiating with the Liard First Nation because of this court challenge - this court case. You are not negotiating until this is resolved.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, that is not what I am saying. I am saying that any discussions with Liard are hampered, if you will - I can't think of a better word right now - and we don't have it, but there is this outstanding court action. Liard First Nation is negotiating its final and self-government agreements through a single Kaska table along with the Ross River Dena Council. The member is aware of that. That situation hasn't changed. Neither has the situation with the court case.
Mr. Fairclough: Since the First Nations have been in court with the federal government, the Yukon government has been negotiating with these two First Nations - Ross River and Liard. What progress has been made with these two First Nations? Obviously, there are some big issues that have been raised with the federal government and they are now in court, but what progress has been made with the Liard First Nation since they have been in court with the federal government? What progress with the Yukon government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again, because of the outstanding court action not being in abeyance, it's difficult to make any more progress than what has been made prior to that particular litigation issue. We have encouraged Canada and the First Nations to find a way to put the lawsuits in abeyance. We want to work on this; however, the litigation is not something we are part of.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I don't know why the Premier just doesn't come out and say it. She's talking around it: that you can't make any progress until there is a resolution between Liard First Nation and the federal government. Can the Premier tell us how many negotiation sessions took place between her team and Liard First Nation since then?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I provided to the member in the last session the list of meetings that have happened - either the last session or the session before. I'll do that again.
The member opposite wants me to stand on my feet and say that there has been no progress because of the court action; there has been no progress because of the court action.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, finally. I mean, how many questions does it take to get that out of the Premier? No negotiations are taking place. Do you know of any negotiations taking place between Liard First Nation and the federal government without Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, if I were to be advised of them, it would only be through the courtesy of either Canada or the Liard First Nation. And when I met last with the Chief of Liard First Nation, he didn't advise me of any, and neither did Canada. It would be a courtesy if we were advised of those, or negotiators would know, but I have not been advised.
Mr. Fairclough: This seems awfully strange, coming from the Premier, that this is a top priority of government, or one of the seven top priorities, or it used to be a top priority until they got elected. Now the Premier cannot answer questions about progress or what's taking place with only a few First Nations now negotiating. There's not a whole lot. I'm sure the Premier could keep track of that. But there's $6 million, and it sounds like a lot of money that has gone into the budget for negotiations. There's approximately $109,000 difference than the previous government, and does the Premier feel that is sufficient to meet one of her top priorities? I asked this before, but I didn't say to meet one of her top priorities.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I answered the question before, and my answer has not changed. Yes.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, it seems strange that government would increase the land claims implementation secretariat by $109,000 as their top priority, and the Cabinet and management support is increased by something like $500,000. Where's the priority there? Is this making government bigger? Is this to improve and settle land claims? Is this part of it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I was unaware that we were in the middle of the Executive Council Office debate. In terms of the details surrounding the Cabinet and Management Board and management support figure in the Executive Council Office Vote 02, I don't have the immediate details in front of me. I will provide them to the member opposite, and I'll certainly be happy to debate them when we get into Executive Council Office debate.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, what I have done is take the budget speech and the throne speech that were presented by the Premier. I have looked at the difference in the arrangements the Premier made in her budget speech versus the throne speech. The settlement of outstanding land claims has gone down the ladder. Maybe it's using good words to say that this is a top priority, but you'd think that you would know at least some details of the negotiations. There are only a few taking place right now. Ta'an Kwach'an were ready to ratify even before we got into government. But we can't get a progress report at all from the Premier - none. And this is the top priority, and we look at whether or not it is a top priority. There has been a $500,000 increase in Cabinet support and management support. It's an incredible hike - a 63-percent hike, and yet a very important issue that has been facing Yukoners for a long time did not get that attention from this government. So, I'm not going into details in the Executive Council Office.
I'm looking at the priorities presented to the Yukon by the Liberal government and in there, of course, is the settlement of land claims. That's why I came forward and asked the question of whether or not it's a top priority. It didn't get the budget attention that Cabinet did - spending money on itself. I don't see how that's going to resolve outstanding land claims issues at the table. I certainly hope you're not negotiating up there, because you won't do it here or anywhere else.
Has the territorial government offered any support or help with regard to solving the issues of the Ta'an First Nation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member stood on his feet and in the opening comment said that Ta'an was all but resolved, that everything was done, that it was ready for ratification even before they took office. The point is, it hasn't been. The point is that there are seven outstanding land claims, and the point is that, in this budget, we have provided the Executive Council Office the resources they need to ensure that negotiations continue and that we continue to make progress.
In spite of the member opposite's cheap personal shots that I don't know the status of the negotiations, I have been fully briefed and I am aware of them. The member opposite also knows that we don't get into the details of those negotiations. I'm not going to, and the member opposite knows that. The point is, we have provided the resources to negotiate the seven outstanding land claims in this budget, and ultimately, by your actions you shall know them.
If we don't settle any land claims in our term of government, the member has every right to stand and criticize, as does every single Yukoner. We are working hard to make sure that we do settle some land claims while we're in office.
Mr. Chair, in 10 months I feel that we are making progress. I look forward to the day when I can stand with all of the members opposite and laud all of the people who worked on the negotiations and say, "Yes, not only has a land claim been ratified, but it's ready for signing." I look forward to that day and I'm working hard to make sure that that happens. The resources to make sure that we continue good, progressive negotiations are in this budget.
Mr. Fairclough: So what I get out of the Premier's answer to the question that I asked is that they are not doing any lending of a helping hand or any type of support for Ta'an Kwach'an, because, in her mind, they are ready to ratify. The fact of the matter is that they do have a big issue on their hands. They do have it. They want to get to that point. Sure, negotiations are done on their part, but they have another issue and they want to reach that. And I asked if the Premier will give any support or whether or not she has. I don't believe that she has been up to speed on that issue. And it's incredible, because this is the top priority of government.
It is becoming frustrating, I guess, on my part and on our part in the opposition, to answer questions of our constituents if we can't get the proper answers from the Premier.
It's the top priority, but it doesn't reflect that in the budget and it doesn't reflect that in progress reports. So where is it, and what does it really mean for this government? Because now they have bumped it down and it is no longer their number one issue as it was in the past. I suppose it was good material for an election. It's good to set those out in the throne speech, but you would think that there would be some follow-up by making some commitments and having conclusions to negotiations. So I am disappointed that we can't get any clear and good answers as to the direction that this government is taking to settle outstanding claims, and the fact that, to the Liberal government, it's all about being a key to increased economic development. So I am disappointed in that.
Can the Premier tell us, then, with some discussion, I guess, when they expect to go back to the table with the Liard First Nation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the line item that the member's talking about, I would remind him, is also for the negotiation and implementation secretariat, and we are continuing our efforts in that regard. I've indicated to the member opposite that we will provide a list of meetings, as I have done previously, with regard to Liard. As to when the litigation might be put in abeyance, I will have to ask the other two parties.
Mr. Fairclough: I believe that the Liard First Nation is proceeding, talking with its members. As a matter of fact, the Premier must know that there is a public notice about displaying of maps to the general public, which the Premier will have representatives at. Is the Premier aware of that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I am completely aware of that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, at least that's something. That could have been said in a progress report. It could have been said in a progress report on the Liard First Nation. It's to the point where we can show the maps publicly to members and have representatives of government there.
In regard to devolution - we'll move on a bit from this. I don't believe I'll get too many answers in regard to negotiations. We had a date for April 1 of this year. Now it's April 1, 2002. Is that date still solid?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, we're basically waiting for the Yukon Act to go through the House of Commons, and so on. Is the Yukon government looking at devolving sections of what has been negotiated in the programs in devolution - for example, forestry?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The devolution transfer agreement has not yet been concluded. The member opposite, particularly the Member for Watson Lake, when I asked that exact same question, urged the then Government of Yukon not to proceed with piecemeal actions, such as the transfer of forestry and not the quartz mining regulations, or something else. We have continued our efforts to conclude a devolution transfer agreement, which is the whole package. We're not going about this in a piecemeal approach.
Mr. Fairclough: Is this changing, as time goes on, as to what is in the package? And maybe I'll refer to the fact that First Nations, with PST negotiations and drawing down of programs, is the total package being changed as we proceed? I know that the PST negotiations are going well.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the member opposite is referring to the package as the devolution transfer agreement, then there are still some sticking points that we're negotiating with Canada at the table. Those sticking points are very similar to the others. We thought, for example, we had the human resource issue resolved - there are some outstanding questions that have come back in the devolution transfer agreement, and there are some of the others.
Mr. Chair, for the record, I have offered verbally in this House, and written to both the leaders of the two other parties in the House and offered them extensive briefings on the devolution transfer agreement, and that constructive offer has yet to be accepted.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the forestry issue part of the human resource sticking issues that the Premier has raised?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Fairclough: Then have all of the forestry issues raised in the past been resolved?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My understanding was yes. However, the devolution team was negotiating this week, and I have not yet had an opportunity to meet with the negotiators to get the full extent of what may have come back and what may still be outstanding to be concluded.
Again, we have offered extensive briefings on this to opposition parties and look forward to them taking us up on that.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, some issues were floating around about having adequate dollars for fire suppression in devolution. Is the Premier saying that that particular issue has been resolved? Have we gained any ground on that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my understanding was that yes, we have; however, we have found at the table that some issues we thought we had reached agreement on have come back. An example is the human resource issue. So, my latest information is that there had been agreement on that. However, I will put a caveat on that, in that I will double-check with the negotiators about their most recent round on that.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier has mentioned the human resource issue. What are the others?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Environmental liability, which has been dragging on. We thought we had reached agreement and then it came back. If I could just elaborate for a few moments with the member opposite with regard to environmental liability, the issue there is, who pays when? Members opposite will recall that we put a unanimous motion in the House, urging the federal government to resolve the outstanding issues around health payments.
It's a similar sort of matter, in that environmental responsibility is clearly set out. We have agreed on that, in that if it happens on Canada's watch, so to speak, Canada is responsible. If there is an environmental issue that happens on Yukon's watch, then we're responsible. The question becomes: who pays whom when? That's the sticking issue there - and making sure that we're not passing unanimous motions in this House to ensure we get paid. So, that's the issue there at the devolution negotiating table.
There is also another issue, the human resource issue, with respect to - as I understand it - sick leave benefits and the transfer. There are some financial matters - ensuring there is enough money to deal with devolution and all of the responsibilities. I think there is also some legal language that still has to be resolved. Again, this briefing and the information that I'm providing to the member opposite is subject to change, in that there were negotiations as recently as this week, and I would like some more information to provide to the member opposite. I don't have this as yet because it's an ongoing process. But that is the most current information that I have at this point.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the Premier tell us - she did mention this - if the environmental liabilities on First Nation lands have been resolved?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I don't know the answer to that question. I will find out for the member and get back to him.
Mr. Fairclough: I appreciate that, because the way the liability stands now for First Nation settlement lands is that it is the responsibility of the First Nation. That was the major movement in devolution - to get the federal government to pay for the cleanup that will take place on settlement lands. I thought it was resolved. We have seen some cleanup on some settlement lands around Teslin, and the federal government is footing the bill for that.
It's a major issue because these are polluters - probably the federal government are the polluters on this land, and we don't know what we could be facing in the future. So I do appreciate some feedback on that and with regard to what it could mean to us, too, if we were to take over the liabilities of sick leave and these types of benefits and if they weren't covered by the agreement. Are there some parameters that the territorial government had set out that they could go ahead with devolution should we not reach this point with the federal government, or have there been hard lines put forward?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again, I would recommend to the member opposite that, with regard to the environmental liability question, what I have outlined is what the question was at the table with regard to environmental liability and what the issues were currently in terms of negotiating devolution.
I would, again, urge the member opposite to undertake a full briefing on this, which has been offered. There are extensive issues around devolution, and the previous Government Leader made sure that I, as leader of the official opposition, was kept well-informed of these negotiations by providing these briefings, and we want to provide that to the member opposite. I would just like to ask, Mr. Chair, if the interim leader of the opposition would take advantage of that, because these questions, in terms of the status at the negotiating table, is very much a concern and is a matter that the member should be advised of. I would just ask that he take advantage of that briefing.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I believe that over the past year or so - year and a half - that we have come a long way in putting together a devolution package. It was to the point that we were going to be responsible for the programs as of April 1 of last year. I know there were some outstanding issues, and, again, we have moved to April 1 of next year. Now, does the Premier have a schedule of when we could see the Yukon Act, for example, going through the House of Commons?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, devolution was not completed. The member opposite said there were a few outstanding issues. We had not signed a devolution transfer agreement, and that's what we're continuing to work toward. And many of the questions the member is asking can be answered in an update for the member on the progress of the negotiations of devolution. In terms of a schedule for the Yukon Act, that schedule would be subject to completion of the devolution transfer agreement, and we're now targeting late March for that.
Mr. Fairclough: I believe that the federal government and the territorial government believe that this is going to happen, and I think we should have control of our resources. We've seen how well we've done with oil and gas. Is the federal government dealing with YTG in goodwill concerning the agreement?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not sure where the member's headed on this question. I can tell the member opposite that devolution negotiators are at the table - both federal and Yukon - and they are working toward a devolution transfer agreement, and their target is late March.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Yukon government has initiatives that it has put forward, and there are obviously policies of the federal government that may be inherited by the Yukon government. There is also direction that the Yukon government can give to the federal government as to how they would like to see things handled, and that's what I'm talking about - goodwill. Is it not there yet, or are we waiting until the final day of signing-off when we take over the resources?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, may I ask the member opposite for clarity on the question?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, as a government - the Yukon government - we have worked on preparing our departments. We have worked on the forest strategy, and there are many things in there that give direction from the Yukon as to how things should happen. Is the federal government, in that sense, working and dealing with the Yukon government in goodwill?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have no sense that there is a lack of goodwill by the Government of Canada at the devolution negotiating table. If the member opposite is asking if the real question is, "Is the federal government working with us on the forestry issues?" then I would say that there has been some work on the relationship and there has been some progress on the relationship around forestry issues and forestry management. There has been some progress.
The Member for Watson Lake is kept well-advised of that. Can the member perhaps advise whether or not he will take advantage of our offer for a devolution briefing?
Mr. Fairclough: With regard to forestry, for example, the views that the Yukon government has with regard to sustainable cuts versus the federal government, which is making the decision in Ottawa, are totally different in certain places of the Yukon Territory. And we know we're going to take over the management of the resource. We will have those employees in our departments. We are preparing for it.
So are they trying to lessen the impact of what it means to Yukon by following some of the positions taken by the Yukon government in the forest strategy, for example? That's all I was asking. It wasn't to go into any big deal. I mean, if the federal government is going and doing their own thing until such time as we sign off the agreement, then let us know.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It has taken some work on our part, some heavy-duty lobbying and some persuasive skills to ensure that the federal government paid attention, and we're still working at that. But, in terms of forestry, I believe we're being heard as to what Yukon wants. We're working at being heard, most definitely, and the proof will be in the pudding, again.
With regard to employees coming over, I have just one other point. Employees have to accept the job offer as well. It's not a foregone conclusion that they necessarily want to do that. It's an employee's choice.
Mr. Fairclough: We'll be keeping a close eye on this. I believe that Yukoners are interested in having control of their resources and how the dollars are applied, particularly when it comes to fire suppression and the management of our forests, and being consistent with our protected areas strategy, with the forest strategy and sustainable development.
We have another commitment out of this government with regard to health care in the Yukon. You have also made a commitment to Yukoners to adopt the budget that was presented by the NDP. In there, there is an item for $1 million for a CAT scan. Where is the government going with this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the question is not where the government is going with this. We have clearly supported this and are working with the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board in that regard.
The Minister of Health and Social Services, who has the responsibility in this area, has met several times with the board. He has ensured, as he likes to put it, being a former educator, that all the homework was done in this area.
Mr. Fairclough: Is this a revote that we'll be seeing - topped up?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member is asking if this will be a revote. Bearing in mind that the Minister of Health is having discussions with the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board of Directors, my understanding is that yes, it will likely be a revote.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, why wouldn't the government advise the public that that is the direction they are going in? Why would you not say anything, even to this point? Why are you keeping it in the fall supplementary or fall capital budget? I don't know when you will announce that you will be supporting the Hospital Corporation and having this piece of equipment in the hospital. Why wait until now? Why didn't the Liberal government announce earlier that we do support it, are looking deeply into it and are working with the corporation? Why wait until now or later on to announce this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that is exactly what we said, that the previous government had put $1 million in the 2000-01 budget that we passed in this House this summer. That $1 million didn't have any homework attached to it, in that it required a technical review committee providing advice. As the Minister of Health and Social Services said, it's not like you just go spend $1 million and buy a CAT scan unit at Walmart or at Superstore or off the shelf. There are technical issues such as, two-slice, four-slice; there are issues around operation and maintenance; there are issues around staff training; there are issues around what technical requirements you want associated with this. And those are the issues that the Minister of Health and Social Services has addressed with the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board of Directors and has sought their advice on. And, as I indicated, the Minister of Health and Social Services is working with the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board of Directors, just as we were asked to do, and just as was suggested. We are working with Yukoners on this. The member opposite would be well-advised to hear about the depth of work that has gone into this. It is not a simple expenditure of funds. There is work to be done before choices are made. There are decisions to be made, and there are additional costs, I understand, that are also associated with this. And that is something that the minister has sought advice on.
I have indicated that the minister is working with the Hospital Corporation. The minister has previously responded to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes in this House with exactly these same answers; nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is that we are making progress in those discussions, that homework has been completed, that choices have been made, and we are working in the direction of ensuring that they are affordable and that we have the technical support and so on required.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the Premier is wrong - again. She said that the Health minister has answered these questions asked by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. That's not true. There were no answers from the member opposite.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: On a point of order, Ms. Tucker.
Ms. Tucker: It is unparliamentary to use the term "untrue" in reference to a statement.
Chair: Mr. Fairclough, on the point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I could say that it's not correct.
Chair: The phrasing will make it easier. Thank you.
Mr. Fairclough: This is a rude interruption by the government side again, as we have seen many times and will see many more times, in this House.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Chair: Point of order, Ms. Tucker.
Ms. Tucker: The reason that there are Standing Orders is so that people have the opportunity to object. It was a valid point of order, and it was not rude. I found that insulting, Mr. Chair.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. There is no point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: I don't need to say more on that particular issue.
With respect to the CAT scan, this was not $1 million drawn out of a hat and thrown into a budget. It was far from that. I think what the Premier has just done is insult the people who work with the Minister of Health and Social Services on this - you know, the staff of the Yukon Hospital Corporation, who identified the need for this and the dollar amount. Now, of course, things have changed since then. They have looked at an improved and more up-to-date CAT scan. They have put in the request to the government for more money. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, this question came up in the spring. We responded. We are only partners in this process. We have a duly appointed board. The board makes decisions based on their own direction, so to ask us to make that final decision would assume that we don't need boards. I'm ashamed that the member opposite would be indicating that boards don't have the due right to make those decisions. That's why those boards are there. That would be called political interference.
And, Mr. Chair, it's very important that we look at how we raise expectations. And the members opposite have done that time and time again without doing their homework. They throw $1,000 here, $100,000 here, a million there, and the homework is not done, Mr. Speaker, because if the homework had been done, that CAT scan would have been purchased. The members opposite, when they were government, threw a million dollars into the pot and said, "Go buy it." Now we find a million may not even pay for half of it. So obviously the homework was not done, Mr. Chair. If they want to pursue this, then I think they have to look at their own planning and their own discussions as to how they came about throwing a million dollars into the pot, because, Mr. Chair, we want to make sure we do the right thing for Yukoners. We don't want to buy half a CAT scan; we want to buy a complete one with all the workings, so the people will have the best one going, not something that's a half measure.
Mr. Keenan: In keeping with the new, kinder, gentler and more informative opposition here, I'd like to point out that maybe the Member for Porter Creek North is not portraying the facts as they should be portrayed, and I'd appreciate the opportunity to clean them up a little bit, if I may.
What the member has said, again, is fundamentally, absolutely wrong. During a real consultation with the hospital corporation, the Finance minister himself of the day took it upon himself to speak to the corporation. They did not speak to the corporation at the eleventh hour and the eleventh minute - or the eleventh hour and the fifty-ninth minute, I guess you might say in this case. They spoke to them early on in the mandate of the consultation period to get the concerns and the needs and the desires from the corporation. He did not go over with a hidden agenda. The Finance minister went over in an open and accountable manner and said to the corporation, "We are here to help. Health care is a number one issue with us and we would like to find ways to help. What are your priorities?" And the corporation identified the monies and the scan. They, themselves, did that. That has always been omitted from the member opposite's stand. They say, "You have not done your homework; you are trying to buy votes."
Well, that is absolutely not correct, and it's ridiculous, too, as a matter of fact - I'd say a little bit of propaganda smearing and distortion, so that the Liberals might find ways to build their coffers and to hide it.
So, Mr. Chair, we looked at it as offsets. There would be significant cost savings that would be able to be put over to the Hospital Corporation from other programs, so that they would be able to function with the CAT scan, and that goes fundamentally against what the Liberal government of the day said they would do. They said that they would honour the budget as portrayed. Well, that is just one of the instances where they did not honour it, and as we go through this process here of critiquing the budget, we will be pointing those out.
The members opposite should not take offence because, as they say, they want to consult. The Minister of Health has gone out and put boards in place. I'm not saying that's wrong. I'm saying that a lot of what is happening in the health field is good, but he's absolutely not portraying it in the way it was set out.
So I thank you very much for the opportunity to clarify, and I thank you very much again for the opportunity to show that we did do our homework, Mr. Chair, and that we will continue to do our homework, and we will continue to hold the government, of which you are a part, accountable.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I hope the member opposite stays for the clarification. The question is not whether we support it or don't support it. We're always in favour of things that are good for the Yukon. The point is, Mr. Chair, that we rely on fellow Yukoners to help make those decisions, and in doing that, Mr. Chair, we want to make sure our homework is done.
If that homework had been done - and I say a big "if" - the CAT scan would have been purchased. So that's the obvious. So why are we going back now with the fact that we do not have enough resources to purchase that CAT scan? Because the homework was not done by the previous government. Why would we want to give a false impression there, that it is anything but that? We want what Yukoners want. We're not going to oppose what is good for Yukoners, and I think it's very important for the public and the members opposite to realize that when we move into large purchases, no matter what they are, we had better make sure we pull on people who know what it's all about. We have to rely on our technical people; we have to rely on our expertise and not just go off and put it in a line item.
It's very important that we do what is right. Mr. Chair, it's very important. The members opposite are trying to portray this as something we don't want. We have never said that.
I think the members opposite are embarrassed to find that they didn't do their homework. Now they are having to say, oh, my gosh, the money was there. If the homework had been done, a CAT scan would be in our hospital today. Obviously, that did not happen. We have done it the right way, by consulting with Yukoners. We have no deep secret about how or why we're doing this. We are doing it for the public, because we're spending taxpayers' dollars, and we want to make sure we spend them wisely.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the NDP did work with the corporation. That number came back from the corporation. It wasn't $1 million; it was $1.4 million. There was $400,000 in the budget for O&M for this particular machine - this piece of equipment for the hospital. Since then, they've looked at an upgrade and they - the corporation - have asked the territorial government for more money. Will this be provided by government?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: When you have a separate party - a duly appointed board, with a CEO - you rely on that board to make decisions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes said that they made the decision. Well, if they made the decision, why are we going through this?
Mr. Chair, it's always the spin the members opposite put on it, because they are embarrassed that their homework wasn't done.
We're in the negotiating steps right now. We're working with the hospital board. It's a cooperative effort. And it's important that, together, a decision is made, because we need each other. It's not just throwing a million dollars into the pot and saying, that's enough. Yes, it's $1.4 million; I agree. That's the agreement they came with the last time around with the last government, but it's far more than that, Mr. Chair. That's the problem. If the government of yesterday knew that, then they would have thrown in probably another million, if that's what it took.
Mr. Chair, that is the problem. It's this whole idea of the mystique of the surplus. Every chance they get, they talk about this surplus - this $60-million surplus - but they never tell the real truth by saying that they spent $34 million or $35 million of that before we even stepped into this office. They never say that. They just say, Oh, no, it's $60 million.
That's probably why we're in the - I would call it the labour strife we are in now, because there is a belief out there that there's a $64-million surplus and there isn't. That's a good part of the problem. The opposition have contributed to that. When they were government, they didn't even come to an agreement.
It's the same thing they're doing with the CAT scan, setting it up here as something - just throw money at it and we can get it. That's the problem. That's why we're here. Yukoners got fed up with throwing money away. You can look at this very important document, the audit report, or look at the front page of the Yukon News or the Whitehorse Star. It tells it all.
That's why, Mr. Chair, we don't do government the way that it was done before. People don't want that. They want honesty, and the CAT scan is one of those very important issues about being honest. And I'm afraid, Mr. Chair, that the members opposite have not been honest with Yukoners. That's why they're sitting over there.
Mr. Fentie: I have to enter this debate because, in overhearing the Minister of Health's comments here in regard to the surplus, and, of course, as he relates that to the CAT scan, something becomes very evident, and that is that the minister has no idea how to create a budget and what a fiscal year-end is and how all of this works.
Now, what the minister is making claim to here is that even though the Auditor General has stated through an audit that the surplus was $64 million, fiscal year-end March 2000, this minister continues to make the claim that we, on this side of the House, have somehow manufactured that number. That is incorrect. The Auditor General created that number.
Now, the minister goes on further to say, "Oh yes, oh, yes, what the Auditor General did is correct," but when this Liberal government took office, we had already spent $30 million plus of that surplus, and therein lies the minister's major foofaraw, because he doesn't understand that the $33 million that came through warrants and expenditures was already booked. It has nothing to do with the surplus. It was money already booked in the budget. So, surely, surely with the $500,000 spent on Cabinet and caucus assistants and management and all the rest of it, somebody could tell the Minister of Health how to budget and what all the numbers really mean.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the Member for Watson Lake is leading with his chin again. We do, on this side, know how to budget. And what is more, we know how to work with boards and committees. We don't know how to politically interfere; we know how to work with them.
The book on political interference was written by that party, not by this one. And the Member for Klondike knows it. We know how to take recommendations from an auditor that include establishing clear objectives that -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm quite sure that the Member for Klondike would really like to have the floor to engage in more personal attacks and insults of the members on this side of the House. Unfortunately for the Member for Klondike, the floor is mine at the moment. I will tell the Member for Klondike and all of the members opposite once again - because they clearly didn't get the message in Question Period - that this government took an audit report that had very clear recommendations. We took a fund, and we established clear priorities. We dealt with that.
The member opposite from Klondike loves not only to engage in personal insults and attacks on the people on this side of the House, but also on the public servants who write reports. How low can they go?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, exactly. They waited until the audience left.
Project Yukon is a good program. It will provide Yukoners with access to $1.5 million to do three things, three clear objectives. There are the structures that a community places.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, we are not in Health; we are in general debate on Finance, on the budget, general debate on the budget. Don't ask me why the CAT scan started. That's why the member opposite -
Chair: Order please. I do have a problem hearing the Premier.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, let me help you out with that particular problem. The general debate on the budget is - and I'm sure the member would like to continue with the general debate on the budget, and I'm sure the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has a question in general debate on the budget. If it's an additional question on the CAT scan and a revote of that funding, I'd be happy to answer it, although it has been fully answered once this afternoon. If the member opposite wants to talk about the surplus and an explanation of their budget, which spent $33 million of that surplus, I'd be happy to talk about that, but we did that last June and July, and I think part of August, it felt like. If the member would like to discuss this budget, I'm more than happy to do that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I asked a question 15 minutes ago, and it wasn't answered. Amazing - not.
The Premier committed that there will be $1 million in the revotes for a CAT scan. Revotes. But what has been budgeted for the CAT scan is $1.4 million. Will we see $1.4 million in the revotes?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The $400,000 is for O&M, and if that is going to come back, that's subject to recommendations and discussions. We'll work with the Minister of Health on that particular subject.
The member asked about a capital revote. I answered the question about a capital revote.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the Hospital Corporation has been working with the Department of Health on this CAT scan, and they've identified a better CAT scan or a more modern one and have asked the government for additional money and commitments made from the Premier that we would see a revote. Is there a commitment to purchase the CAT scan, and what amount is the Hospital Corporation talking about?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I can advise the member opposite that, first of all, the revote is for capital money. In terms of the negotiations with the Minister of Health, those are discussions that the Hospital Corporation, the chair, and the CEO of the hospital have had with the Minister and Deputy Minister of Health. I had the opportunity to say hello to all of those - well, I see the Minister of Health every day, but had an opportunity to visit with those individuals. I have every confidence in the Minister of Health and his abilities to work with the Hospital Corporation to achieve having this technology available for Yukoners.
Again, I would advise the member opposite that this is not something one simply orders or buys at the drop of a hat. There are other questions, outside of government. It's an awareness of the world around us. British Columbia has ordered a number. They are trying to cope with that technology. There are issues around the availability of these units that the members opposite haven't even talked about and that have not been raised on the floor of this House that are equally as important.
Mr. Chair, in light of the time, I suggest that we report progress.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Sorry, I have to do this first. It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 28, 2001:
Auditor General: Report on the Financial Statements of Yukon College for the year ended June 30, 2000