Monday, March 5, 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.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling letters requested by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin on February 26 concerning our support for ANWR.
They are as follows: June 2, 2000, a letter to Prime Minister Chrétien; June 2, 2000, a letter to Mr. Raymond Chrétien, then Ambassador of Canada to the United States; June 5, 2000, Trevor Harding, leader of the official opposition re: ANWR; June 28, 2000, a thank-you letter from Prime Minister Chrétien to Pat Duncan re: ANWR; December 13, 2000, a letter to Mr. Michael Kurgin, now Ambassador to the United States of America; January 19, 2001, a letter from Premier Pat Duncan to Mr. Wilf Regehr re: oil and gas development; January 26, 2001, a thank-you letter from Mack Hyslop, CPAWS Yukon, to Premier Duncan; January 28, 2001, a thank-you letter to Premier Duncan from Joe Tetlichi, Chair, Porcupine Caribou Management Board; January 30, 2001, a letter to Premier Pat Duncan from William Josie, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Deputy Chief; February 20, 2001, a letter to William Josie, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Deputy Chief from Premier Pat Duncan re: letter of support to Prime Minister Chrétien. And, Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Economic Outlook, 2001.
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 notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal Government has stated that restoring the Yukon's economy is one of its seven top priorities;
(2) the Yukon Liberal Government has also claimed to be actively pursuing the idea of a northern economic strategy with the federal government, with the support of the other territorial and western provincial governments;
(3) In spite of these claims, the Yukon's economy continues to deteriorate under this Liberal Government, and is expected to deteriorate even further as the national economy slows down;
(4) the Yukon's climate and relative isolation, combined with a small population base, present unique challenges in terms of public infrastructure, development of economic capacity, access to markets and other factors; and
(5) the federal government has a significant role to play in terms of supporting public infrastructure and encouraging economic development in Northern Canada, and;
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to use its so-called special relationship with the federal government to impress upon the federal Minister of Northern Development and the Minister of Finance the need to make the negotiation and implementation of a Northern Economic Strategy, including economic development agreements with the Yukon, a matter of urgent priority.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal Government is long on summits and consultations, but is short on economic performance;
(2) the Yukon Liberal Government promised in its election platform to hold an Annual Business Summit, to institute an annual intergovernmental consultation process on all issues related to First Nation self-government, and to hold an annual meeting that brings together representatives from all levels of government; and
(3) the Premier, in the 2001-02 budget speech, promised to sponsor yet another summit, a Forestry Summit, that will bring together Yukoners from across the territory to assist in developing forest industry policy; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to take immediate action to improve the Yukon's devastated economy, rather than just continuing to talk about Yukon's current economic difficulties.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the role of the Worker Advocate was established to ensure that the clients of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board will have access to impartial help and representation in their dealings with the Board;
(2) under the terms of the Workers' Compensation Act, the Worker Advocate reports directly to the Minister of Justice as a way to ensure that the advocate can function in an independent manner, free of undue influence by the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board;
(3) while it should be possible, in the normal course of events, to settle disputes between the Board and a client without resorting to the courts, court action may occasionally be required; and
(4) clients who are in dispute with the Board may not have the financial means to engage legal counsel to represent them in court; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to amend the Workers' Compensation Act at the earliest opportunity to recognize the right of the Worker Advocate to support and represent clients of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board in court, as required.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion this House that:
(1) abandoned mine sites in various parts of the territory represent a threat to the health and safety of Yukon people and wildlife;
(2) even conservative estimates of the cost of cleaning up these sites range over $175 million;
(3) cleaning up the Faro and Clinton Creek sites alone could cost as much as $150 million;
(4) financial responsibility for cleaning up these sites rests solely with the federal government under whose authority the mines were allowed to go into production;
(5) in addition to abandoned mine sites, the federal government has a responsibility to clean up a number of abandoned military sites throughout the territory;
(6) furthermore, the federal government also has a responsibility to clean up other contaminated sites estimated to number in the hundreds, including the Marwell Tar Pits in Whitehorse;
(7) even after management and control of Yukon lands and resources is transferred to the Yukon from the federal government, the Government of Yukon will be in no financial position to assume this responsibility and should not be expected to do so, and;
THAT this House urges the federal Minister of Finance to act immediately to set aside the necessary funds to clean up these sites for the benefit of all Yukon people and the Yukon environment.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Visit by His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to provide members of the Legislature with information on the upcoming visit of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales. His Royal Highness will be visiting the Yukon from April 28 to April 30, and this is the first visit by a member of the Royal Family in 19 years.
We are working with both the federal government and members of His Royal Highness' staff to make this visit a memorable one for all Yukoners.
I want everyone to know, Mr. Speaker, that the Palace has been extremely receptive to our suggested itinerary for His Royal Highness. As we planned the trip with Canadian Heritage and his Royal Highness' staff, we emphasized how important it was for the Prince to meet as many Yukoners as possible, and for him to experience the beauty of rural as well as urban Yukon. We also wanted him to recognize in some way two of the Yukon's greatest resources, our elders and our youth. Finally, we thought it was appropriate, during this International Year of the Volunteer, for His Royal Highness to recognize in some way the wonderful contribution our volunteers make to all our communities.
When Prince Charles arrives in Whitehorse on Saturday, April 28, he will attend a welcoming ceremony at the S.S. Klondike. The following day, he will address a youth conference in Whitehorse and meet with seniors.
Later that same day, Mr. Speaker, His Royal Highness will spend the afternoon in Mayo, unveiling a plaque for the new school, meeting members of the community and kicking off the Yukon-wide tour of the Yukon book of the volunteers.
Accompanied by the youth responsible for building the Mayo section of the Trans Canada Trail, His Royal Highness will walk the section of the trail that will bear his name. That evening, the Prince will attend a dinner and reception in his honour here in Whitehorse. As the date of the visit draws closer, there will be more information about the planned itinerary, Mr. Speaker.
Finally, I know that everyone in this House - indeed, all Yukoners - are looking forward to welcoming His Royal Highness and sharing with pride the unique beauty of our territory.
Mr. Fairclough: This is not a ministerial statement. It's not announcing government policies. This was, rather, a public announcement of a visit that's taking place in the Yukon, which we heard about last week.
I have lots to say about Prince Charles coming to the Yukon and about the things that he's doing here and in Mayo, for example. But I do have to say that I know people appreciate someone of that stature coming to the Yukon and would love to meet him. And the fact that he loves the environment and loves the wildlife and loves the outdoors, to have him come and visit a place that still has a lot of the ecosystems intact is of great importance to us and to Yukoners.
Mayo has had Adrienne Clarkson visit the community, and they loved it. They displayed their arts for her, showed it off to the rest of the world, and they really appreciated that, and I'm sure this is going to happen again when Prince Charles visits the community of Mayo.
People will be out and wanting to shake his hand or meet him and also to show that this is a community that has a lot going for it, even though it's a small place. But I do think that the rest of the Yukon would love to have that same opportunity and it would have been nice to have the Prince visit more of our communities. That's something we need to think about in the future - to have him address more of the communities, because the people out there would like that type of activity in the Yukon.
The people in Mayo will certainly enjoy him. And I do appreciate the fact that he will be in one of the communities in my riding. I look forward to meeting him there, as I will be there on those dates, too.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'll just respond briefly to what the leader of the official opposition has stated. The member is correct in that this is an announcement and a statement of what the government is doing, and it's important that we provide this information. As a courtesy, ministerial statements are provided to the members opposite. This was provided on Thursday; however, it was chosen not to deliver it on Thursday, and hence the reason for it today.
I appreciate the member opposite's support for the selection of Mayo as a community for the Prince to visit during his all-too-short stay in the Yukon. Although his visit is too short, we do welcome our first visit in 19 years from a member of the Royal Family.
I would like to assure the members opposite publicly that this government is very respectful of the place that members hold as elected members - as mayors, as First Nation leaders also hold - and certainly in any event, it is fully expected that members opposite will be invited and expected to attend. We look forward to seeing the members there, joining with us in welcoming His Royal Highness to the Yukon.
Speaker: If there are no further statements by ministers, this then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Federal Minister of Finance, visit to Yukon
Mr. Fairclough: By now, everyone knows that the federal Finance minister will be visiting the Yukon tomorrow. We're not entirely sure why. It certainly can't be because of a pre-budget tour, since he isn't planning to table a budget this spring. Perhaps the real reason is the one given by the Premier's principal secretary - that he's coming to help the local Liberals raise money to pay their campaign debts.
Will the Premier advise the House if it will be the Yukon Liberal Party or the Liberal Party of Canada that pays for this fundraising adventure?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's quite a question. We have a very clear fundraising policy about how funds are raised, at what point they're raised for the federal Yukon Liberal Association, and at what point they're raised for the Yukon Liberal Party here in the Yukon, and when those fundraising events are held here in Whitehorse or when they're held in communities. If the member would like to become a member of our party, I'd be happy to share that policy with him.
Mr. Fairclough: Not a chance, Mr. Speaker. Surely the Premier doesn't expect the Yukon taxpayers or Canadian taxpayers to pick up the tab for this purely partisan political trip?
Last fall, the Premier came back from Anchorage ahead of schedule so she could spend more quality time in the Prime Minister's campaign bus. We're still waiting to find out how much extra it cost to leave behind her stand-in to deliver her speech.
Will the Premier now tell us exactly how much extra it cost to make those special arrangements, or whether or not the extra amount has been covered from this Liberal Party, or from Canada?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Oh, Mr. Speaker, I wish the member opposite would get the facts right. First of all, the Minister of Finance is travelling throughout the country, meeting with ministers of Finance. He has just met with my counterparts in Atlantic Canada. He met with the Minister of Finance in the Northwest Territories yesterday. He's meeting with myself, as Minister of Finance, tomorrow, and then he goes on to Nunavut. He's meeting with all three territorial Finance ministers, because we have a fiscal arrangement with the Government of Canada - a formula finance funding arrangement - and, as Minister of Finance, it's very important that I speak with the federal Minister of Finance.
Just because the member opposite doesn't think that's important, that's his choice. Certainly the rest of Yukoners do.
And, for the member opposite's information, he's travelling on ministerial business.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, we know that it is a fundraising trip that he is coming to the Yukon for. And, if that is the case, maybe the Premier should have a little word about this with the principal secretary, who said that this is for raising money, for local Liberals to raise money to pay their campaign debts. Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think that this is appropriate to ask taxpayers to pay for political travel; it's as simple as that.
The Premier was in Ottawa meeting with the Finance minister not long ago, and certainly she could have followed up with a telephone call or e-mail. Once again, will the Premier tell us how much of Mr. Martin's travel costs to raise money for this Liberal Party will be paid by the taxpayers, and how much will come from the party's coffers?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I don't get the member opposite's question. Because we work well with the federal Finance minister and our federal counterparts, we are somehow at fault for that. And because the Yukon Territory is being treated the same way that Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, the Maritime provinces, B.C. and Alberta - we are also warranting a visit from the Minister of Finance - does the member opposite have a problem with that? That astounds me, Mr. Speaker.
Of course I want to meet with the Minister of Finance on a number of very important issues, including the formula finance funding arrangement. The Minister of Finance was just in Atlantic Canada discussing these very issues. He has travelled throughout the country on formula issues, equalization issues, tobacco tax issues - all kinds of finance issues that are important to this territory. Why the member opposite would not want to welcome the Minister of Finance totally astounds me.
Question re: First Nations, federal economic development funding
Mr. Fairclough: We know that the Liberals will be doing a fundraiser. Do the taxpayers pick up the tab for that, Mr. Speaker? We know that is what's going to take place.
I have another question for the Premier about the federal Finance minister's visit. Expectations are running high in various First Nations that the minister plans to make a major announcement about economic development funding for Yukon First Nations.
Will the Premier advise the House if that is the public purpose of Mr. Martin's visit?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the public purpose for the Minister of Finance to meet with his territorial counterpart, myself, as Minister of Finance, is to discuss the formula financing funding arrangements between Yukon and Ottawa. That is the purpose of his visit.
Other items on the agenda include such other issues as equalization cap, other federal finance issues like the Canada health and social transfer - issues that provincial premiers presented to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's commitment in that regard. It's also quite likely that the Minister of Finance will raise the issue of tobacco tax with me.
Also, the other point, of course, that the Finance minister is likely to raise with me, which I can't believe I nearly forgot to mention, is the tax cuts issue.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I think that the Premier failed to mention that there is a dinner at $100 a plate that is taking place when Mr. Martin is here to raise funds for the Liberal Party, Mr. Speaker. And that's the priority. She cannot hide that, Mr. Speaker. The Premier said that land claims, of course, is the issue, and the First Nations will certainly be wanting to look at what movements could take place with regard to the two outstanding issues that there are out there. One of those, of course, is the forgiveness of the negotiating loans. We know that the Premier has been speaking with the Finance minister. Does she expect an economic development package to take this item off the table?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I fully expect to discuss with the Finance minister, hon. Paul Martin, formula finance funding arrangements between the territorial government and the federal government. We discussed the formula when I met with the Finance minister in August. I also discussed section 87 issues with the Finance minister in August, and I will note to the member opposite to review the comments he has just made with those comments made by the Grand Chief this morning with respect to areas that are under Minister Nault's responsibility - that being the repayment of loans.
The other point we're going to discuss, Mr. Speaker, is tax cuts. Both our government and the federal Liberal government have delivered recently on substantial tax cuts to Yukoners. In fact, the combined impact of the tax cuts will increase the amount of disposable income Yukoners will have by over $10 million this year, and that's certain to be a subject of conversation, as well.
Mr. Fairclough: Thanks to the NDP. The Liberals are following the tax cuts that the NDP brought in.
Mr. Speaker, why isn't this Liberal government raising the other issues that are important to Yukoners? Why isn't it doing that? It's a perfect opportunity to do that, and I'm sure that if there were such a package in place for First Nations in regard to an economic development package, it would be welcome money to the Yukon.
I'd also like to remind the Premier that she did raise expectations about a new northern economic development agreement that may be in the works and, so far, we haven't seen anything at all. Does the Premier expect the federal minister to bring some positive news on that front? Or will Yukoners still have to wait to see progress?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is, I'm certain, aware of the fact, from his time as a Cabinet minister, that there are certain items of responsibility that ministers bring to Cabinet. The potential for a northern economic development partnership and funding comes through Minister Nault. It will not be taken to Cabinet by Minister Martin.
I can, and I will, of course, lobby Minister Martin for his support at the Cabinet table, but we have to get DIAND to take the document there in the first place. That has been the issue, and that's what I have been working on, and DIAND's - being the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development - work on this issue continues.
Question re: Pioneer utility grant universality
Mr. Jenkins: I see we're not going to get anything from the Premier on the issue of Mr. Martin's visit and what he's going to be saying and doing, in spite of the fact that the federal government is picking up the tab for him coming to the Yukon. But let's go after another issue that the Liberals are famous for.
My question is to the Minister of Health and Social Services, Mr. Speaker. The Liberals' election platform states that Pat Duncan and the Yukon Liberals subscribe to the five fundamental principles of health care - universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, portability and publicly administered health care - and are committed to supporting the health of all Yukoners.
On February 28 this year, the minister issued a statement in this House on the pioneer utility grant, in which he challenged one of these very fundamental principles by conducting a review of the grant to examine the issue of eligibility and universality. He went on to state that all governments in Canada are looking at universality. How can the minister reconcile this 180-degree reversal on a policy that the Liberal Government of Canada has always considered to be sacred and has threatened retaliation against any jurisdiction contemplating changing this fundamental principle?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you for the question. I am not sure what the question is there, but it has something to do with universality. I don't think that we are questioning universality, Mr. Speaker. I am not sure where the Member for Klondike gets that view.
The spin that comes from the member opposite is always something different than reality. When we talk about how we in Canada are using our dollars for health care, that is a real issue. If that affects universality, it is in the total package. I don't know why the member opposite is picking up little bits here and there and trying to make a big issue out of it. This is a discussion that is taking place right across the nation.
Mr. Jenkins: What we have here is the government of the day challenging one of the fundamental principles in the health care system, and it comes directly from the option paper presented by this minister's department.
The question to the minister is this: can the minister explain the amazing flip-flop, and advise the House what other universal health care programs the minister is considering applying a means test to?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That question sounds like a trap, and I don't think I'll bite right now, Mr. Speaker.
The question of universality and then twisting in there the public utilities grant doesn't quite match up, because the public utilities grant is a Yukon program. It's not a federal program. So we can reflect on anything that takes place in the Yukon, we can look at it, we can evaluate it, and we can make recommendations for the future.
As far as the universality of the federal programs, we're not discussing those at this point in time. If the member opposite wants to discuss them, that's fine. We'll more than listen. The important issue here, Mr. Speaker, is that we need more dialogue about health care in Canada, and that's what the federal government and that's what my provincial and territorial counterparts are suggesting - that we need a lot more dialogue about health care and how we are going to deliver it in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: What we don't need is more dialogue that manifests itself as a smokescreen so that this minister can hide behind the issue of not doing his job. Now, what is being proposed by this Liberal government, Mr. Speaker, is a means test.
Now, when is this minister going to stand up for the benefits that accrue to Yukoners? When is he going to support Yukoners rather than the Liberal Party of Canada? What we have is a government that is more interested in the federal Liberals, the Yukon Liberal Party, than the means and the well-being of Yukoners. Applying a means test to the pioneer utility grant is just one example. In what other areas is a means test contemplated by this government?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I wonder if the member opposite is starting another rumour about a means test? We have not mentioned a means test. If it's being mentioned, then obviously it's being taken completely out of context, as the member opposite is very famous for.
The important thing, Mr. Speaker, is the issue of health care. That's the real issue - the issue of having Yukoners talk about health care and how to better deliver it, how to be more efficient with it, and how to make sure that we have health care professionals in the future.
So, these are the issues. Where the member opposite is getting this dream - maybe it's something deep down in his own psyche, where the member opposite psychically wishes to go. That member, maybe, wishes to have a means test but, at this point in time, we're not even discussing a means test as a way of trying to solve our health care problems.
I'm not saying the issue hasn't been raised by a number of people, but it's not a direction that we've taken, so I'm not sure where the member opposite is going with that.
Question re: Worker advocate for Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Now, it was just last Thursday that I made the minister aware that the board's lawyer had filed a motion in the Supreme Court that would limit the worker advocate's ability to represent injured workers in court.
The minister has now had a chance to be briefed on this situation and to look into this situation, and I hope he spoke with his honourable colleague, the Minister of Justice. I would like to ask the minister, at this time, if the minister feels, as I feel, that this motion will unfairly limit the independence of the worker advocate position?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I, again, Mr. Speaker, would suggest to the member opposite that it sounds like a smoke-and-mirrors approach here to try to make an issue out of an issue that's not there. We are fully behind what the workers' advocate office does. That, to my understanding, was the reason why it was set up - to ensure that we respond to those needs out there - and we continue to do that. If we have problems within it, then obviously we're willing to look at how we can ensure that efficiency takes place in all our agencies that help and support people.
Mr. Keenan: In keeping with my friendly demeanour in the House and providing suggestions to the minister, I'll ignore the insults that the minister has thrown across the floor, like "smoke and mirrors", et cetera. They're very thinly veiled.
I would say that, obviously, the minister has not taken a chance over the last few days to get briefed or even have conversations with the Minister of Justice. Mr. Speaker, this is appalling, and it's dangerous for the people at the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board - the clients there.
The issue, Mr. Speaker, which is going to court today, is another one that I'll get to later, I guess. It's very frustrating.
On Thursday, I had the minister agree that the workers' advocate position to represent the workers in court should be enshrined in legislation. Members of the House heard that commitment, but people in Hansard obviously did not record it as such because the microphones were turned off at that point in time.
So, is the minister prepared to reiterate the commitment today so that the position of his government is clear? And it's not hiding behind smoke and mirrors; I just want the government's position.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we're always open to suggestion, always open to changing and trying to adapt to help those people who need it most. The important part is that we need suggestions; we need recommendations that come from all sectors of our society in order to make these ideas come to reality.
The important part for me, Mr. Speaker, at this point, is that, if that's an area of concern, we're more than willing to look at it as a government, but for me to go out right at this moment to commit myself and the government to something that we really haven't discussed as a caucus would be rather presumptuous of me. So I would have to suggest that that's a deeper conversation for our government in total.
Mr. Keenan: I just can't take that. He says that he is always open and now the minister wants to go out and talk about consulting. If the minister were doing his homework, as he keeps throwing in my face or in the Member for Klondike's face on this side of the House, we would not be having this conversation.
In court today, there was a motion filed and if that motion is approved today, it will mean immediate consequences - immediate, like starting right after tomorrow - to the role of the independent worker advocate. That's when it would start.
It would create a serious hardship for the workers who are out there and have disputes with the board or who have received positive rulings from the appeals tribunal. Many of these clients, as I said earlier, do not have the resources or the money to engage legal counsel. So, now I would like to ask the minister if he will look to immediately bringing forward a legislative amendment during this sitting, so that we will be able to clarify the ability of the worker advocate to represent clients in court. Will the minister do that without going out on a tour?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I am always interested in going out on tours, because it is important to listen and consult with the people who put us here.
The important part about legislating the worker advocate position in place - it wasn't our government that put it there in the first place, it was the government sitting across the floor. Obviously, if they would have consulted appropriately, it would have been done right and we wouldn't be in this dilemma, according to the member opposite. We are in this dilemma now, I think, mainly because the members opposite didn't do their homework and now they want us to quickly patch up something that they botched.
So, I think that if there is a problem and an issue that was created before our time, we are more than willing to see if we can repair it. That is all that we've been doing - repairing a lot of damage that has been done over the last three or four years. We are the people to do it, because we know what people need.
Question re: Tantalus School
Mr. Fairclough: Here we go again with the blame game from the Minister of Health. And they know better, more than Yukoners do.
Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Education. For the last 10 months in this House, we've been asking questions regarding the health and safety of our children in the schools, and there has been much debate about the Mayo school and the replacement of the Mayo school. Now, over the weekend, we've had the ceiling come down from water damage in the foyer of the Tantalus School in Carmacks. Is the minister aware of this, and what is he doing about it?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that the government is always very concerned about the health, safety and welfare of our students, and we would be remiss if we weren't. With respect to the situation at the Tantalus School, the department is already on the job, looking after the repairs.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I hope the minister is true to his words. The NDP, when in government, did a lot of consultation with regard to schools. We followed the direction of the chair of the school councils and the department and had no political interference with the capital projects that government was to do, and we followed them through, right to the Mayo school. Now, in our long-term plan, we've also had planning monies in place for this year's budget for a design of completion of the Tantalus School. Is the Minister of Education going to bring forward monies in this budget for the Tantalus School?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I might suggest, Mr. Speaker, that if we are going to get into budget debate, it might be appropriate that we do that when we are in debate on budget?
Mr. Fairclough: Just what I thought: they don't have the answers. I don't believe the minister is aware of the situation at this school. Built in the 1950s and due for replacement, it went part of the way. The government spent all kinds of money in acquiring the property and getting ready to complete the school without disrupting classes in the old wing while this took place. Now, this is important to the community, and the minister says he does support projects like this and the health and safety of children.
Will the minister now go back to Cabinet and Management Board and bring forth dollars for planning a school in Carmacks - for the Tantalus School - and for the completion of that school?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As the member opposite well knows, we are stretched to the max with respect to dollars, as the Premier has continually espoused in the budget. We do have an anticipated surplus at the end of the next fiscal year of $6 million.
Mr. Speaker, this government is very cognizant of the fact of the condition of our schools throughout, and had the previous governments been a little more responsible in their actions, they certainly would have addressed the needs long before this.
With respect to the Mayo school, of course, we'll be starting construction toward the end of this month. We have needs in grade realignments here in Whitehorse and will be accommodating that through adjustments to the Catholic schools in Whitehorse.
There are many needs and many demands that we're aware of. We'll always look after the safety of our children in the schools, and we'll be addressing the needs with respect to the Tantalus School.
Question re: Film industry incentive program
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development.
Across this country, governments are actively pursuing, through incentives, film industries. In most cases, these investments and these incentives, provided to the film industry in this country, are proving to be a big boost to the economies of these respective jurisdictions.
Now, here in the Yukon, many, many people in this territory have worked very hard in creating a TV series. My question to the minister is this: is this minister prepared, based on her commitment to attract investment, to establish some sort of vehicle to provide incentives to the film industry, so that it, too, can become part of a very, very lucrative part of the economy of the Yukon, as it is in other jurisdictions?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we are very interested in building a viable film industry in the Yukon, and we are willing to consider any proposal brought to us. However, there are a lot of unanswered questions about this proposal, and until we have answers to those questions, we are not prepared to commit taxpayers' money to the project at this point. As we said, the door is open.
Mr. Fentie: My question was directed to the Minister of Economic Development. This is about creating jobs and creating economic development in this territory. I know the Premier is trying desperately to deflect the facts, in the face of the overwhelming evidence of the economic disaster that this Liberal government has led us into. In fact, the first 10 months of this Liberal government's mandate have been a train wreck.
Will this government now look at this seriously and provide the incentives to the film industry so that we, too, here in the Yukon, can reap the benefits of this ever-growing industry in this country? Will the Premier do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, today on the CBC radio, the president of the B.C. Film Commission said that governments should be very cautious about investing in projects like this. He said that they must first do their homework. That is what we're doing.
Mark DesRochers from the B.C. industry - a billion-dollar industry - said very clearly that, yes, television series can generate lots of money in the local economy, but he cautions that investors should do their homework.
The government is obviously going to have to do a great deal of due diligence on what the international distribution is, who the broadcaster is, and obviously what kind of investment is needed to throw money at this project to make it a reality before it comes to town.
Again, Mr. Speaker, we are being supported by people who have far more knowledge and understanding of developing film and television than we'll ever have at this point, and that's what they're saying. So, Mr. Speaker, yes, we are doing our homework.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Film Commission that this government oversees has done the homework. This is, over five years, a $1.5-million investment. It equates to $300,000 a year. That's directly from the president of the Film Commission. They have been doing their homework. Now, we in the official opposition want to be constructive. We are in a desperate situation here economically, and we want to help.
So here is a constructive suggestion: let us, through an all-party process here in this Legislature, amend the budget. I would wager, Mr. Speaker, that we could find the money to provide the incentives for the film industry here in this territory and not impact or compromise any programs or delivery of services to the Yukon Territory.
Will the Minister of Finance answer this question? Will she entertain amending the budget to find the money to provide incentives for the film industry here in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, amendments to the budget are out of order from the opposition members, as constructive as they try and cloak them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: A cute try. Thank you, Member for Faro. They're a cute try, but the Yukon economy is far more serious than the opposition's cute tactics, trying to grab a headline. This government is doing their homework. There's money in the film incentive program now. The acting Minister of Tourism has already stated that there are others knowledgeable in the industry who are recommending we examine this matter very, very carefully, and the member opposite should read the rest of the briefing note. It's not a $1.5-million investment by the government; it's $12.6 million. And what does the member opposite suggest we cut? The Whitehorse Correctional Centre, the Tantalus School, the Mayo school, any one of the other school projects that are on the list, or shall we put the entire $1.5 million in Project Yukon, of which the member is so fond?
The member opposite is very fond of complimenting us on our Project Yukon. Would the member have us put the entire Project Yukon budget in one potential portion of a project, for which the long-term investment required is $12.6 million?
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will now take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Chair: A point of order was raised by the hon. Minister of Education at the last meeting of Committee of the Whole during general debate on the government's appropriation measures, set out in Bill No. 4. The minister requested "a ruling from the Chair on whether or not questions can be asked both ways in this House in general debate." The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and the Member for Kluane provided input to assist the Chair in considering the point of order, for which the Chair thanks the members.
It is important to recall that the relatively informal proceedings in Committee that we call "debate" or "general debate" are situated within a formal context and set of rules. Debate does not occur within a vacuum; there must be a proposition or motion before the House or Committee for consideration. In most cases, the matter before the House or Committee is one sponsored by the executive and the Cabinet. It is a fundamental role of members of the House then to scrutinize the policies and proposals of the executive, and to hold the Cabinet accountable. And it is the role of members of the executive to respond to members' comments as they see fit.
In a circumstance where the matter before the House or Committee were, for example, a private member's public bill, sponsored by a member of the opposition, or by a backbench member of the government side, it would be appropriate for members, including members of the executive, to question the proponent of the legislation. That is not, however, the matter currently before the Committee. The Committee of the Whole is considering the government's appropriation measures, for which Cabinet members collectively and individually are answerable.
In reviewing the relevant precedents of this House, the Chair notes that the hon. minister previously raised the issue as to "whether I am able to ask questions of members opposite" on Thursday, June 29, 2000. The ruling of the Chair at that time, while recognizing that such questioning by Cabinet Ministers of members opposite had occurred, noted that it had not worked very well, and clearly discouraged the continuation of the practice.
I accept the wisdom of my previous ruling. I feel that it is conducive to the Standing Orders, and further request that those who propose a measure for consideration not spend the time of the House in asking direct questions to other members. In the course of debate, there will be opportunities and other means available for members to express their own positions while identifying and exploring the positions of their colleagues opposite.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would just like to open general debate on the budget with a couple of responses to members opposite.
The interim leader of the official opposition has asked a question with regard to the decrease in grants-in-lieu, and we're having a written response prepared for the member opposite.
And the Member for Klondike had asked for a summary of the estimated private sector full-time equivalent impact of the 2001-02 capital main estimates by program, and I have a copy of that for the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and the Member for Klondike, which I'll just send over via page.
In light of the fact that the Finance minister is visiting the Yukon tomorrow, I will just provide the members opposite with a little bit of background information that might be useful to this afternoon's debate.
The members opposite will be aware that there are approximately $1.8 billion in additional equalization payments for some of our colleagues - those in Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. However, I must remind members that the Yukon does not receive equalization payments. We have a formula financing arrangement with Ottawa. The formula financing arrangement is the subject of discussion between Minister Martin, me, my colleague in the Northwest Territories and my colleague Mr. Ng in Nunavut. We've been working hard, discussing transfer issues with Ottawa and with other provinces for the last several months. Work is progressing on these issues. I have no prejudgement of any decisions by Minister Martin. These are issues that we're working on, and they are said in the overall Canadian context and northern context.
Our formula financing agreement is a key issue, and, as I said, when we last met with the Minister of Finance in August, I discussed the formula at that time, and I'll be following up on those discussions.
Another item we are likely to talk about is the tax cuts. Both our government and the federal Liberal government have delivered on substantial tax cuts, and I suspect we will be discussing those. As well, another issue that has come up is how some of the provinces are proceeding with their tax issues.
And I have been asked why I'm not raising land claims issues. I would just remind members that I do, as I always do when speaking with either a federal minister or anyone interested, review the land claim situation. The Grand Chief has stated it more eloquently than I this morning, making it clear that progress is being made at the land claims table, and none of us, in the Grand Chief's words, Mr. Chair, want to upset the apple cart. Negotiations seem to be going well. So I will certainly be providing Minister Martin with an update on that particular situation.
With regard to any other questions in general debate on our budget, I am certainly prepared to answer them. I would just confirm that the only outstanding issues right now that are left to answer are the grants-in-lieu for the leader of the official opposition, and of course that written response will be provided to the Member for Klondike. As well, the Member for Klondike asked for questions that were raised in the public meetings, and that information is also forthcoming. I do believe that is all of the outstanding questions.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to thank the Premier for outlining the hype surrounding the hon. Paul Martin's visit. He is probably one Canadian who is held in very high esteem by a lot of Canadians, but the bottom line is that his visit to the Yukon is going to be paid for by the taxpayers of Canada, and it is being used as a vehicle to raise money for the Liberal Party - the Liberal Party of Canada and the Yukon Liberal Party.
Now, the issues here that have to be addressed and are primarily in the federal Minister of Finance's domain are those surrounding land claims. The Premier has clearly identified the issues and clearly stated that they are not on the table for discussion.
What comes first? The interest of Yukoners or the interests of the Liberal Party? What is the Premier going to be dealing with, because it is most important that we resolve the Indian land claims here in Yukon. For that to be resolved, Mr. Chair, the two prime federal areas of responsibility that are delaying the moving ahead of the Indian land claims here in Yukon have to be dealt with. Really, the only person who can deal with the issues is, number one, the Prime Minister of Canada or, number two, the federal Minister of Finance. In both cases, we have had the Premier of the Yukon fly home from the visit to Alaska prematurely, so she could get on the bus with the Prime Minister of Canada, and probably just support his re-election bid and ensure that the Yukon was electing a Liberal, but let's deal with the job at hand.
The job at hand is representing the interests of Yukoners and seeing that the economy moves ahead.
Mr. Chair, the minister just tabled the Yukon economic outlook forecast for 2001, and just my initial overview of it is that I have never seen a more dismal portrayal of what is happening here in the Yukon. This really spells out what is happening. Nothing, other than that we're creating more and more government and spending more on ourselves, travelling all around. The Premier herself is off to Calgary this week once again, but the issues we have at home, to put Yukoners back to work, are not occurring - not happening. Why not?
Just look at the Yukon economic outlook. It starts off by saying virtually all regions of the world except Japan experienced economic growth of over three percent in 2000. Not the Yukon.
Yukon is one area of Canada that went backward. It goes on to spell out the certainty surrounding the Northwest Territories these days. Their budget, over there, is approaching $800 million, driven by the oil and gas, by the mining industry, and by a government that is in sync with the First Nations in that area, and they're all singing from the same page of the same song book - in fact, the same song. We don't have that here, Mr. Chair.
What we have are the environmentalists ruling the roost. There's no balance between the environmentalist movement and the resource sector movement. The government has created a very distinct imbalance. We've had an exodus of the mining community here in the Yukon. In fact, Mr. Chair, spending on exploration in the Yukon declined further in 2000, to a total of $8.8 million. That was down from $9.5 million in the previous year, 1999. We're heading an all-time low as far as mining exploration, which used to be the mainstay of the Yukon economy. But there isn't any incentive for Yukon to see a resurgence of the resource sector industry, specifically mining.
The outlook goes on that they're bringing in an exploration tax credit and have increased funding for the Yukon mining incentive program. I guess the reality of the day is being recognized, Mr. Chair, and it's not going to increase mining exploration and mine development, but it's going to help stem any further decreases. That's all it's going to do.
So much for what used to be the mainstay of the Yukon - the mining industry. And it even goes into the speculation that the Brewery Creek mine will be in operation this year. That's not the case; it's in a shutdown mode. Virtually all of their staff has been laid off. All of their homes in Dawson are for sale, Mr. Chair. That Brewery Creek mine is the last producing mine in the Yukon, and half the gold production of the Yukon is now gone.
It's interesting to see a mine that could come into production and could deal but needs some government help. Minto copper - if you look at all of the base metals, copper is on its way up; zinc is on its way down; lead is kind of holding its own. But copper, there's a high demand for it. What are we doing with the power line? Not running it by Minto, we're taking it from Mayo to Dawson. Interesting.
The question to the minister is how much is that connection between Mayo and Dawson, Mr. Chair, going to cost Yukoners and going to cost Yukoners in their electrical rates? That question hasn't been addressed, because the equation does not work. The equation does not support the construction of that connection. There isn't the demand.
In fact, the demand at both ends of the line is shrinking with the downturn in the population, Mr. Chair. And it doesn't even address the issue of what my community, Dawson City, is going to do to heat its water, because it used to rely on the surplus heat generated by the power generator units to heat the domestic hot water supply. How much is that going to cost the taxpayers of Dawson, either in the electrical rates or in the water rates?
That hasn't been factored in.
So, it is quite interesting as to where we are going in mining development. Oil and gas - the Northwest Territories is booming, Mr. Chair. The Yukon is sitting in the middle surrounded by tremendous oil and gas exploration in Alaska, the Northwest Territories, northern B.C., northern Alberta. And what are we doing? I guess the Premier is off to Calgary again next week to see if she can raise a little bit more hype. But to date, we really haven't seen anything. Forestry, other renewable resources - there's a downturn in virtually every area. Construction - it's kind of interesting.
Look at tourism. The number of visitors coming to the Yukon as measured by the total number of non-Yukon resident border crossings declined by seven percent in 2000 compared to the year before. Non-Yukon resident border crossings last year totalled approximately 262,000, down from 281,599. Our visitor industry has been steadily decreasing since the peak year of 1998. We are steadily decreasing in that area. Alaska is going the other way. Why? The Northwest Territories is going the other way. Why? Are the lights not on up in that Cabinet office, Mr. Chair? Or doesn't anyone see the big picture because they are too busy cutting ribbons, eating cake, and living off the hype? But we have a serious economic problem here in the Yukon that is not being addressed by this Premier, her Cabinet colleagues, her caucus, or by anyone in the Liberal caucus. I am sure that there has got to be a low-wattage light bulb over there somewhere, Mr. Chair. Hopefully that can flicker and recognize that we have a very serious problem.
The only area that is growing is government.
I'd urge all members of the Liberal caucus over there to take the time and read this Yukon economic outlook. Take a very serious read. Some of the statements are just about maintaining our status quo and holding our own. We're going to spend a whole bunch of money. We're going to throw a whole bunch more money at the initiatives, and all we're going to be doing is maintaining the status quo. It's serious.
Look at the film industry. We have an incentive today. There's a film company out there shopping, looking for a location - looking for a location where it can receive the maximum number of dollars from the respective government, and it's going to shop around. It's going to shop around to British Columbia, Alberta, Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
We could create another long-standing industry here in the film industry, but instead, the minister who has responsibilities for everything is doing her due diligence. I don't think that very much will come to fruition out of that initiative.
It used to be that we had a whole series of advertisements that were filmed here in the Yukon. Now that isn't even happening anymore. Start asking why. It's getting more and more difficult to obtain access into the pristine wilderness of Yukon. You can't even fly over them any more; can't even land a helicopter in them anymore.
The question that is asked again and again of this government - and they have failed to answer - is just how much of the Yukon is going to be protected in one form or another? We still haven't got an answer there. Currently, it looks like perhaps 40 or 50 percent. Why don't the Premier and her colleagues, Mr. Chair, establish a clear amount of land that will be withdrawn and turned into parks? Be definitive and provide some certainty.
No, leave it open to a wide degree of speculation as to what's going to happen next, where the next series of parks are going to be created. The only way to obtain some certainty through the process is to balance the equation with an equal representation from the resource sector and an equal amount of representation from the environmental sector in our dealings with these issues. Instead, the Minister of Renewable Resources has decided to push the ship ahead, the good ship SS Yukon Titanic, without representation from the resource sector.
So we're going to have a made-in-Yukon solution dictated by the environmental community, and the Yellowstone to Yukon initiative is coming more and more into focus than ever before, because there isn't a balance being created by this government, Mr. Chair.
The only area where we're seeing an increase is in our seniors population. We're all ageing rapidly under the Liberal guidance that is non-existent. It's interesting to note that, in the 45 to 59 age group, the population of the Yukon increased by 2.7 percent, while the number of Yukoners aged 60 and over increased by 6.6 percent.
The telling tale, though, is that out-migration appears to have been strongest among young, working-age individuals and families with young children. The population of those aged 25 to 39 dropped by 7.2 percent, while the number of children under 10 dropped by 6.4 percent. That in itself, Mr. Chair, tells you that the working-age population - those looking for opportunities - are going elsewhere.
The Premier's statement - her way is the highway - is very, very accurate. For our young, industrious workforce, her way is the highway - either the Dempster Highway to Inuvik to find employment, or the Alaska Highway south to find employment, because it's not here in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, let's go back. I'm looking to the Premier when she opened her remarks, Mr. Chair. She went on at some length about the visit of the hon. Paul Martin. Could the minister just summarize in a succinct fashion the issues she's going to be addressing above and beyond what she has already elaborated on? Formula finance, tax cuts - we all know these issues are on the table for debate, but in order for the Yukon to move ahead, the Premier is going to have to get involved and send a very clear message to the Minister of Finance that the outstanding federal issues surrounding Indian land claims here in the Yukon are going to have to be dealt with.
Now, will the Premier of the Yukon make a commitment to stand up for Yukoners and move that initiative ahead with the Minister of Finance, rather than just dealing with the Liberal initiatives, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, of course. As I said in my opening remarks, the issues around land claims are, first and foremost, economic issues in providing certainty to everyone, and they are key issues that have dogged Yukoners for 30-plus years. I said in my opening remarks that - as I just finished briefing the media - yes, of course, the current land claims situation and discussion is something that I would raise with Minister Martin. I also made it very clear in my opening remarks that the Grand Chief made it clear this morning in his interview on the subject - that progress is being made at the land claims table, and that none of us, in the Grand Chief's words, want to upset that apple cart because negotiations seem to be going well. Those are the Grand Chief's words. And as the Grand Chief is the head of the Council of Yukon First Nations - and there are three parties at the table - I am, of course, interested in his perspective on that as well.
I am just waiting for the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to finish advising the Member for Klondike on the role of the Grand Chief.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if I may conclude, Mr. Chair. The member opposite asked me the question of what I was going to do to raise the number one issue of the settlement of land claims with the Minister of Finance. I already indicated the answer to the member opposite; however, the Member for Klondike chose to use his time to decry, deride and personally insult both me and members of the government with regard to not only the work that we are doing in terms of Yukon's economy, but in the work that we are doing in terms of managing the territory's finances.
The member opposite failed to point out that with respect to our neighbours to the east - the Government of the Northwest Territories - the real deficit in their budget, which is an increase to their debt, will be about $55 million plus this year.
The member opposite noticeably also omitted to mention the fact, since he follows the Northwest Territories so closely, that they have shelved their hotel tax because they couldn't get support of all the members. Amazing. And the Northwest Territories is doing so well, according to the members opposite.
I have previously, in my recent discussions with the media, lauded all the previous governments, regardless of their political stripe, in terms of managing the territory's finances to the point where we're not dealing with the debt law, as Premier Kakfwi refers to it, as a government.
The member opposite wants to talk about the economic outlook. You bet, let's talk about it, Mr. Chair. Let's talk about what this document says and what this government has been doing in 10 months in office. If I thought for one second that the member opposite was going to listen, I'd be happy to announce it.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't know if I should be thanking the Premier for that overview and those non-answers, Mr. Chair, but the issue before us today is how to get the Yukon back and have some hope and optimism.
The Premier went on about the Northwest Territories having a deficit. Yes, there is an accumulated deficit, but the Northwest Territories has something that hasn't existed in the Yukon for the past few years, Mr. Chair, and that's hope and optimism for the future.
We have the same mineral potential as our neighbours to the east and west, and same oil and gas potential as our neighbours to the east and west. Although on our northern boundary, because of this Liberal government's position and this Liberal government's inability to deal with the matter of offshore boundaries, the benefits of any oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea off the Yukon's northern coast will probably accrue to the Northwest Territories. That is, if Alaska doesn't get the boundaries changed and a determination is made that our northern offshore boundary between the United States and Canada does not conform to how Canada thinks it should.
These are issues that I would encourage the Premier to move on and do something about. Start thinking in terms of the benefits that will accrue to Yukoners. Don't just focus on the benefits that accrue to the federal Liberal Party and the Yukon Liberal Party, Mr. Chair. That's all we're seeing.
Now, other areas of Canada are enjoying booming times, population growths and an influx of individuals because of the good economic times they're enjoying. We're not in that same boat. On the contrary - Yukon has gone backward this last 10 months, and continues to go backward. That's the truth.
While the Premier was standing on her feet, waiting for my colleague, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, to make a few pointers, I would encourage the Premier to perhaps sit down with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. He could probably give her a very clear, concise briefing as to the role of the Grand Chief and the role of the respective First Nations here in the Yukon in the land claim negotiation process.
It's obvious from the information that the minister has provided to the House that she's either not attending land claims briefings provided by her own officials, or she's not listening while she's attending. Otherwise, she'd know that the Asi Keyi Park was coming into existence, but she either didn't attend the briefing or didn't listen when she was attending the briefing, or probably didn't even have the briefing, Mr. Chair.
So now if I could encourage the Premier to spend a few minutes with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, he sums up the respective roles very, very succinctly and very quickly. In fact, he did it in a very brief conversation with me, and the Premier could probably have a very good understanding of the respective roles of all the parties to the land claims negotiations process.
Mr. Chair, the Premier's hype surrounding Paul Martin's visit - could the Premier confirm that his trip to the Yukon is being paid for by Canada in total?
I thought the Premier would jump at the chance to say that the Yukon government isn't putting any money forward other than the time and efforts of her officials to attend the meetings with the federal Minister of Finance, but I don't know why the Premier is so reticent to establish who is responsible for what costs associated with the hon. Paul Martin's visit. We do know that a number of Yukoners will be paying $100 for the opportunity to, again, do what the Liberals enjoy doing - eating cake and cutting ribbons, even when there isn't any opportunity.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, to turn sod was suggested, but that's very, very difficult, Mr. Chair, in that most of the sod here in the Yukon is frozen, no matter what form the sods are in.
Mr. Chair, let's look at some of the other areas of the economic forecast. Can the minister look in her little crystal ball and tell us when things are going to turn around? The only area in which there's some optimism and some hope emanating from her government is the potential for an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, which may or may not come down the Alaska Highway.
Now, when are we going to be enjoying the benefits of the oil and gas industry and the mining industry such as Alaska and the Northwest Territories are currently enjoying? When are we going to get on track with the rest of Canada? Does the Premier, as minister responsible for Economic Development and Finance, have any idea as to when things are going to turn around in Yukon, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the best description for the economic outlook that was tabled today and a frequent word used in the economic outlook is the word "modest". The member opposite, I realize, wants to put his own political interpretation on it and wants this debate to be personal. He wants me to respond to all of the garbage that has been flung across the floor of the House.
I'd like to respond, speaking factually, about what the economic outlook says and what our government is working on in the Economic Development department alone, bearing in mind that we're not in the Department of Economic Development's debate. The Minister for Tourism can speak at greater length about what the Department of Tourism has responsibility for in terms of what they are doing.
First of all, despite the gloom and doom, which used to be the former minister's favourite expression, being put forward by the members opposite, there are some short-term challenges clearly identified in the outlook. It also says that, overall, the Yukon economy has a bright future, and that's a future we believe in as a party and it is why Yukoners believed in us.
We said we would rebuild the economy and we will. It's going to take more than 10 months and our first economic outlook report to have results, Mr. Chair. Even to the Member for Klondike, that ought to be obvious.
Among the highlights of the report, it says that unemployment is down from a high of 17 percent during the NDP's reign to an average of 11.5 last year, and that the unemployment rate is expected to decline further this year to 10.5 percent. This 10.5 percent is still too high, but in 10 short months at least it's showing a continued decline.
Our budget will help reduce unemployment. I have provided the member opposite with information on private sector jobs within this budget. The number of Yukoners with jobs increased last year, after years and years of decline under the NDP.
And I can't help but note that it wouldn't matter who was over here. The Member for Klondike would be standing there pontificating, saying that just because he speaks loudly and just because he reads it into the camera, it therefore must be so, regardless of how he has proven time after time after time after time that instances and accurate information dictate otherwise. He believes that because he says it, it must be so. Well, that simply is not the case. I hate to break it to the Member for Klondike, but that is not the case. He is not right. He is not right about the economic -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Keenan on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: If you are listening to the language of the Premier, and the Premier is speaking about truth and then throwing it back in the face of the member opposite, clearly the member is obviously saying that the Member for Klondike is not being truthful. I would like a clarification on that. That is definitely the way I interpret it.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on the point of order, I specifically used the word "accurate" and the information that was presented by the Member for Klondike as not accurate.
Mr. Jenkins: Just because the Premier can't handle the budget and can't handle constructive criticism, we are hearing all of this diatribe. There is no point of order.
Chair: In this case I will have to agree with Mr. Jenkins. There is no point of order. This is a dispute between members.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And if we want to talk about not being able to handle it, it's not this government that refers to members opposite with respect to wattage, Mr. Chair.
Again, the total value with regard to the value of building construction, a key economic indicator - construction rose by 13 percent last year, and a further 12-percent increase is expected this year. All of those are positive economic signs that are also outlined in the economic outlook. Modest, I agree. I would like them to be brighter. In 10 short months, it is not bad.
I mentioned to the member opposite that, last week, Statistics Canada reported that Yukon is expected to experience the second highest percentage growth in capital spending in all of Canada in 2001.
The economic forecast also says that the improvements this Liberal government has made to the exploration tax credit, and increased funding for the mining incentive program, are expected to stem any further decrease in spending on mineral exploration. It was going straight downhill under the NDP, and it takes time to not only stop that, but turn it around, and we have stemmed any further decrease.
Unlike the phantom tax cuts proposed by the NDP, real tax cuts by the Liberal government and, yes, the Liberal government in Ottawa, are expected to stimulate the economy by over $10 million this year. That's $10 million directly into our economy, Mr. Chair.
The tourism industry is expected to experience modest growth this year and, Mr. Chair, I differ from the member opposite on his version of the potential of the Mayo-Dawson line. I would disagree with him many times over. However, if the Member for Klondike continues his opposition to jobs, I'm sure his constituents will take note of it.
The economic outlook talks about the value of the fur harvest by trappers increasing 33 percent, and sales are expected to be similar this year. Now, the member opposite might not think that's important, but we, on this side, do, particularly the Member for Laberge. The report also recognizes that the outlook for Yukon's oil and gas industry is especially bright, and this is not all about simply a pipeline project. We are seeing the real visible results of work, with 60 people working in Eagle Plains. Maybe the member opposite doesn't want to see it; the rest of Yukoners do.
Anderson is going to spend more than $20 million over the next six years on oil and gas exploration. That work is now underway. That's in the Yukon; that's here; that's with Yukoners, Mr. Chair. We're doing our second auction of the rights to explore for oil and gas around Eagle Plains. Bids close on March 14.
The member loves to suggest that we sit in our offices and do absolutely nothing; that we simply show up, don't even turn on the lights, sometimes. That's what the member opposite has suggested, Mr. Chair. Well, number one, we're either here or we're out promoting Yukon. We're either in this building, or we're on the streets of Whitehorse, or we're in Yukon communities, working with Yukoners to rebuild our economy and to accomplish our other objectives.
The expenditures on the pipeline study - some of that $75 million is going to be spent here in the Yukon and is being spent with Yukon companies. A decision on the Alaska Highway pipeline project is expected later this year. And the member might think that that means absolutely nothing - doesn't support it. Well, that's not what Yukoners are telling us. We are not going to rebuild the Yukon economy overnight, but we are going to rebuild it. We are making progress. And we are working on all of the issues related to Yukon and our economic situation. It's not simply oil and gas, nor is it simply tourism, nor is it simply the mining industry, nor is it simply the forest industry. We on this side, regardless of the opinions of the members opposite, are capable of multi-tasking.
Mr. Jenkins: If the Premier is capable of multi-tasking, I guess the only way to substantiate that claim is to prove it and show us. They're certainly not getting the message through.
Could the minister clearly spell out how much land in the Yukon is going to be turned into park? What is the total amount - as a percentage of the total land mass of the Yukon - that is being looked at for parks? What percentage of the total land mass? This is a pertinent question. It's relevant to the whole economic development debate, because it will bring some certainty back to the resource sector. Currently, that doesn't exist. It was destroyed initially by the NDP, and the current Liberals took up the challenge, faced it head on and continued with the same programs to further erode and destroy the resource sector's confidence in Yukon to have a definite position as far as the amount of land that was going to be turned into parks.
Does the Liberal government even have a position on this very important issue? How much land is going to be turned into park?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is approaching the question of this government's progress on the protected areas strategy from a backwards angle and he is, I believe, misinterpreting the Brundtland Commission, which I would urge him to go back and read. I have consistently stated in this House that the Yukon protected areas strategy was not about percentages, as have previous governments and as has most of industry. They have not approached the question in that manner.
If the member opposite wishes to have an update on our government's progress with regard to dealing with the protected areas strategy - and I must emphasize, Mr. Chair, that we often use the term "fixing" the protected areas strategy. I want to emphasize that that is no reflection at all on the public servants or the volunteer members of the community who worked so hard on the protected areas strategy. This is about how government takes a strategy and puts it in place. It's all about how Yukoners get together and decide what areas we protect and what areas we develop and what areas are, in the future, doing what they're going to do. That's what the protected areas strategy is all about. It's about Yukoners making decisions so that we won't have another Windy Craggy. We have Yukoners making the decisions. That's what it's about, and that's what Yukoners, door to door, asked us to do.
The protected areas strategy is something that this government is working very hard on with industry, with environmentalists, and with Yukoners, who want to see the strategy that was worked out by that 18-member committee instituted by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. They want to see it work, and that's what we're doing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would like to thank the Premier for her overview of an issue that she doesn't appear to even understand.
First and foremost, Windy Craggy is located in British Columbia; it's not located in the Yukon. So our protected areas strategy initiative here applied to Yukon's potential mines and Yukon's potential resource extraction industries. We are not dealing with British Columbia, although, for the longest time, it used to be quite advantageous for Yukon when British Columbia elected an NDP government, because all of the mining was scared out of British Columbia and came to the Yukon and did all of their exploration and mining activities up here. But that changed quickly with the coming to power of an NDP government in the Yukon, in that mining didn't have any other place to go but elsewhere. They are not here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
So the Premier's rebuttal to what was a very specific question with regard to economic development and with regard to this budget, to provide some certainty to the resource sector for the future - she has failed miserably to answer that question. And I would suggest that she either can't answer the question or the Liberals do not have a position on it yet, as to what percentage of the total land here in the Yukon they deem appropriate to put into parkland. I don't know if they are going to study it for the next 10 years. They will probably only be in power for the next 30 months. I am sure they are going to go the way of any other government that hasn't honoured their election commitments - turfed out.
But the issue for the resource sector is to provide certainty around access to land and land tenure. That currently doesn't exist under this Liberal regime, Mr. Chair, and there doesn't appear to be any movement on the part of this Liberal regime to clearly outline how much of the Yukon will be turned into parks and eventually where they will be. Until that process has been gone through, the resource sector is not going to spend very much time up here because they do not know whether or not the Premier is going to suggest that we expropriate the mining claims in Tombstone or find some money for the Fishing Branch mining claims or the mining claims over in Asi Keyi Park. There are all sorts of examples where this Liberal regime in opposition said one thing, suggested that there would be another way to proceed, and have not provided that certainty to the mining community, as well as the balance of the resource sector industry.
It's coming home to roost. A decision has to be made, and it has to be made in that caucus, Mr. Chair. I would be very hopeful that the Premier is equal to that challenge to make that decision and clearly enunciate that decision, but what we see is both the Premier and the Minister of Renewable Resources waffling all around the question, failing to answer the question.
Let's try once more, Mr. Chair, for the record. How much of the Yukon will be turned into parks? Does the Liberal government have a position? Is it 20, 30, 40 or 50 percent of the total land of the Yukon? What is the percentage?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: A definitive answer on that issue is nigh impossible to determine. I'm sure that the members opposite who established the protected areas knew that fully well. Unfortunately, the mistrust and distrust of the mining sector of industry, as a result of the process to establish goal 1 protected areas, is usurping, or shortening, significantly the amount of time it requires to administer the protected areas strategy into a goal 1 area.
What we have done - the commitment that we have made to both industry and to the mining sector is that we will clearly indicate areas of interest on those 16 remaining ecoregions within the territory that warrant protection, as is the purpose of the protected areas strategy.
Just reading through Hansard, the minister of the day, in the fall of 1999, clearly indicated that, even though they were advised that the implementation process had to be respected and followed, and that there had to be clear lines of communication with all stakeholders, that wasn't done.
They admitted that right in Hansard, Mr. Chair. That's fine. I don't have the quote with me right here, but it wouldn't take very much for me to get it.
So, there is distrust as a result of that. Consultation didn't happen fully, as it should have and as was indicated in the plan. So what we are doing is reviewing that process and ensuring that that kind of political interference can't happen again - won't happen again. The Premier and I are working hand in hand in this process. We are indicating a willingness for Renewable Resources and Economic Development to move forward and we will be indicating areas of interest, so that it does create certainty for the mining sector and for industry in the territory. That's what they asked for; that's what they wanted.
Also in the review of Hansard, Mr. Chair, was that the protected areas strategy - the document itself - was endorsed by all parties in this House. The Member for Klondike continually decries the need for the protected areas strategy, and the leader of the party of the day had indicated full support and signed on to it. But there were conditions of support, in that the process had to be followed. It was critical; it was sensitive.
The members of the public advisory committee worked hard and were committed, over an almost two-year period on a voluntary basis, to the establishment of this document, which has been touted to the credit of the members opposite as one of the best in the country. If it had only been followed, though, Mr. Chair, it would have saved a lot of grief in conducting another review - another establishment of credibility and confidence in government. That's what we're doing, Mr. Chair.
It is hoped that, in the April meetings of the advisory committee, we will have industry and the mining sector back in there, willing to participate and follow through on the commitments to recognize the value of their input and recognize the consultation process. And we will do that; we are committed to that, because this government does what it says it will do.
Mr. Jenkins: Just to set the record straight, Mr. Chair, the Yukon Party signed on to the protected areas strategy when the concept of multiple use was on the table. Now we don't even know where that is. And there was a concept that was moving forward as to how much land was going to be looked at under the Yukon protected areas strategy. There is a number that is accepted. It was 12 percent. In fact, when the Province of Ontario clearly spelled out that they were going to protect 12 percent of that province's area, they were patted on the back and applauded by all of the environmental organizations. Currently, in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, we're over 15 percent in parks and protected areas.
What is wrong with establishing a goal as to how much of the land of Yukon we are going to enshrine in parks? Why can't the government of the day come out with a definite number? We're already at 15-point-something percent. I guess the growth industry, Mr. Chair, is going to be the keeper of the gates around all these parks. Someone over in this Liberal government is envisioning creating a whole police force of conservation people to go out and patrol the park boundaries. I can't see any other area where we're going to experience growth until we deal with the Yukon protected areas strategy and the amount of land we are going to set aside for parks, especially when we appear to be abandoning the concept of multiple use.
One only has to look at the current program that this government is moving forward. I'm sure the Premier agrees with me that a lot of the uncertainty from the mining, forestry, and oil and gas industries surrounds the uncertainty of land tenure and land access, and even if they currently have claims in good standing - mining claims - there is nothing to preclude the government from stepping in and creating a park over those claims.
The advantage to the mining industry just doesn't exist. Why even come to the Yukon? We only have to look at the economic forecast just tabled in the House today that this government sat on for weeks, because it's such a dismal example of how they're managing the economy in the past 10 months. Mining exploration is at an all-time low, at $8.8 million, down from $9.5 million in 1999.
Will somebody please switch on the lights over there so that these people can read their own economic forecast, Mr. Chair, and come to the realization that mining and all the resource sectors are abandoning the Yukon? They're abandoning the Yukon, Mr. Chair, and they're doing so, to a large degree, because of the uncertainty surrounding land tenure and access to land. Doesn't this government realize that, until they come up with an amount of land that is going to be turned into parks and allow the mining industry to proceed, we're not going to attract a tremendous amount of investment opportunity back to the Yukon?
How many more mining companies are going to have their claims alienated here in the Yukon? That is out there, subject to a wide degree of speculation. What happened to the multiple use concept of the protected areas strategy? And once again to the Premier, how much of the land in the Yukon is going to be protected?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Once again to the member opposite, the member opposite is approaching this question in a manner that is not the manner that Yukoners recommended it be approached, including industry. The YPAS Public Advisory Committee recommended an approach to the protected areas strategy, and it was not an artificial number approach.
The government of the day agreed with that and this government agrees with that. The Member for Riverdale North is advising me that however much the Member for Klondike chooses to talk otherwise, Hansard indicates that the previous, previous government - several times removed - also supported that approach.
The point that the member is also making with regard to the mining industry - I heard the words, "I am sure the Premier would agree with me." And, Mr. Chair, I must indicate that, no, the Premier does not agree with the Member for Klondike. For example, land tenure has nothing to do with the problems that the placer mining industry is currently facing with regard to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the placer mining review. That is an issue that our government is working on.
Land tenure doesn't have anything to do with working with some of the other proponents of mining projects, such as the Minto property, the United Keno Hill property, or any of several other properties in the Yukon. The land tenure has everything to do with exploration and the ability to explore the Yukon. That is what we are working on, as well as all of these other issues.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're not going to get anywhere, Mr. Chair, in that area. The minister obviously doesn't have a position other than to waffle and not be definitive regarding the amount of land here in the Yukon that we're going to ultimately protect.
Well, can we have some sort of a timeline on when this process is going to be completed and we're going to have some certainty? Is that even in the equation or on the horizon, or is it so far down the pipeline that we'll have to wait for the arrival of the Alaska Highway pipeline before we see this come to fruition? There are, according to the Premier and according to the Minister of Renewable Resources, problems surrounding this process. Okay, the first step is, if that has been identified as their areas of concern, fix the process and move forward. What's the timeline? When can we see some certainty surrounding this initiative? Is it a year or two years, or is there going to be another issue that drives the next territorial election? What is it?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Just as my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, continually reminds the opposition that they are not doing their homework - the Member for Klondike is the same. We have said, most recently leading up to the workshop for the advisory committee and at the committee, that we are committed to getting this process done within two years, that we will indicate areas of interest on the 16 ecoregions in two years and get on with it, as well as bring forward legislation this coming fall to entrench the protected areas strategy in some shape or form.
Mr. Jenkins: Two years. We have some timelines now, Mr. Chair. That's great.
I have an additional question to that initial response. Has the clock started? Do we have the clock plugged in on this initiative yet?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, pretty much. The clock has started. As soon as we have the recommendations that come forward from the advisory group and we have it worked into the implementation aspect where it's goal 1, then the clock is already - we are committed to that. We said that we would, Mr. Chair, and we are.
Just for the member opposite's clarification, the former leader of his party, Mr. Ostashek, made the statement, "We believe in the protected areas strategy or we would not have signed it. We believe it's possible to have protected spaces and a system of parks without prejudicing economic development opportunities and the mining industry in Yukon." And, Mr. Chair, that is exactly where we are going.
Mr. Jenkins: When Mr. Ostashek signed on to that agreement - and our party still supports it. But what it was originally envisioned as being - multiple use - and what we have today are like night and day, Mr. Chair, and therein lies the problem. I can't even get the minister to commit to when the clock starts running on this initiative. We're told two years, but there seems to be a whole bunch of caveats at the front of this.
Now, when will the two-year clock start running on this initiative? Has it started? Will it be started soon? What are we waiting for? We're told that we're probably waiting for this, that or the other thing. Just when is it going to start?
Do we have something definitive, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: April 30 this year.
Mr. Jenkins: So, April 30 of this year, the clock starts. Two years hence, we'll have some finality to the Yukon protected areas strategy. Is that the message that the minister and the Premier are giving to this House?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Renewable Resources just outlined this for the member opposite in a far kinder way than I would like to. However, I will restate my colleague's comments.
There's information from the advisory committee coming back to Cabinet, and advice. A two-year clock on identification of 16 areas starts April 30. Legislation on protected areas strategy to provide the kind of guarantee that processes would be followed is expected this fall.
So, we're going to keep talking about the protected areas strategy for some time to come. That's the bottom line the member wants to know.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess, given the amount of people who are missing from the advisory group, I don't know who's going to be chatting about it. There's more and more of the resource sector leaving this group all the time. The government of the day is going to have to attract them back.
Will there be a balance between the resource sector and the environmental sector on this protected areas strategy review? Now, that's a key question to this initiative, given that there currently isn't a balance. Currently, the resource sector has walked away, because they were overwhelmed by the number of individuals from the environmental sector.
Why is there not a balance in this working group - an equal number from the resource sector and an equal number from the environmental sector? It seems, more often than not, that the minister's department represents the environmental sector. It doesn't appear that this government has struck a balance between the resource sector and the environmental sector. One would be of the opinion that they should equally represent all sectors. That doesn't appear to be what we're seeing.
Why can't we have equal representation from the resource sector and from the environmental sector?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, since this government was elected and has begun work on this issue, there has been equal representation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, currently, there's no representation from the resource sector. When's that going to change?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That is an incorrect statement. We did have representation from other industry. Oil and gas representatives, the planning advisory board, the Outfitters Association, the Tourism Industry Association, and the wilderness guides were at the workshop, Mr. Chair. We had very equal representation there. It was unfortunate that some members did remove themselves, but even after that there was probably more balanced representation than there ever was before.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll review Hansard to see what the minister was including, Mr. Chair, in the resource sector, but I find some of his outline of the resource sector to be quite abnormal, given that they're more attracted and more interested in the environmental sector and protecting the wilderness, and not interested in seeing mining, forestry, or oil and gas take place. They want to maintain the pristine wilderness and create a park. There seems to be considerably more balance of that type of individual on this committee makeup than ever before, and the resource industries - oil and gas, mining and forestry - are not equally represented.
That's a major concern. It's a major concern of industry, but, given the Minister of Renewable Resources' definition of what constitutes the resource sector, it's going to be hard for the resource extraction industry to have any voice on these types of committees and their makeup. Why can't the resource extraction industries be equally represented on these committees to the environmental side of the equation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, they can. The member obviously did not hear my colleague's response. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Mining Advisory Board - the focus of those two individuals is not about pristine wilderness as the member opposite said.
The member opposite also is not hearing the words that we are hearing from industry that, subsequent even to their leaving the committee at that particular workshop, the point was reinforced that our ears, unlike the ears of previous governments, are open. Does the member have a question on the budget? Because if we are going to debate the protected areas strategy all afternoon, we can move into the Department of Renewable Resources fairly quickly, if that is the member opposite's wish. If the member has a question on general debate in the budget, I would be happy to answer it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we are in general debate on the budget, and we will be on it for a few more days, given the tone, tenure and type of answers that we are receiving from the Premier. It is a sad day for Yukon when we can't answer a question in a forthright manner. We have to bounce all over the wall and hide behind other areas.
Let's look at the issue surrounding access roads into southeast Yukon. This was an area that I attempted to explore last Thursday with the minister.
We budgeted a specific amount to have a look at it. Now, it would appear that this is an initiative that the Kaska are in support of. Virtually all of the interest groups in the Watson Lake area appear to be reasonably in support of an access road into southeast Yukon. Now, just what is envisioned in this expenditure? Is it just going to be spent running around consulting, or are we actually going to do some planning for this road, as to where it could go and what it would take to construct? Or is it just going to be an exercise in spreading political goodwill and patting the Liberal Party on the back for listening?
What is it going to be? Is it a sincere effort to address the needs for a road to resources in southeast Yukon? I mean, you can recall Diefenbaker when he built the road to resources up the Dempster Highway. All it is today is a road to economic activity in another jurisdiction - the Northwest Territories. Or you might want to call it a road to a whole series of parks in the Canadian part of the Yukon.
Be that as it may, we are presented, Mr. Chair, with another opportunity to construct a road into an area of Yukon that is currently being accessed from British Columbia, and why can't we do something from the Yukon side? What is the game plan, other than just a study? Or does the minister have any overview of this area?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd be happy to provide the Member for Klondike with some forthright information on that.
First of all, I'm sure the member does not want to leave stand his reference to the Kaska First Nation as an interest group. I'm sure, when he gets to his feet, that he'd like to correct that statement.
With regard to any access roads in southeast Yukon, the discussions at the community level were on a number of issues. A number of potentials and ideas were raised, including representation from the Member for Watson Lake to me directly and to others in our Cabinet directly on this particular issue. There has been no decision with regard to a potential route for the road by either the community or the First Nation governments involved. The request to our government - there has not been a consensus reached in the community with regard to route or to paying for the road. There are a number of options that are being examined. What we have pledged to do is what they have asked us to do, which is to work with them on further refining all of these options. There are a number of them out there. There are a number of issues that are not resolved. There are a number of parties that have not discussed this at present. So, it's not just another study and it's not Liberals patting themselves on the back for listening to the communities.
What I'm telling the member opposite - and I hope he's hearing - is that the community asked us, as a government, for help at the personnel level in looking at what the options are and what the obstacles are, and that's what we're doing. In terms of an amount, it's personnel and expertise. That is what we're contemplating working on with the community.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, my understanding is that there is a request on the table for a road into quite a large R-block down there. Last year, there were THAs that were almost on the verge of being granted to a British Columbia company to access from British Columbia - a lot of opportunities and a lot of jobs going south.
So it would appear that, once again, we're going to review, study, consult. The economic opportunities that may or may not be forthcoming to the resource sector in the Watson Lake area are a long, long way down the road. And the construction of a road accessing this tremendous area of southeast Yukon in the Watson Lake area may not occur. I guess that's the Liberal way - study.
Probably by that time, Mr. Chair, we'll have a whole series of new parks in that area, and there won't be a need for a road there. We'll just have a whole group of conservation officers guarding the entrance to it and protecting it from any access. And we'll have a whole bunch more people moving out of Watson Lake and moving out of the Yukon to other jurisdictions, because the potential exists in that area for tremendous oil and gas opportunities and tremendous forestry possibilities, and the mineral potential in that part of the Tintina Trench that flows through there is known, but it requires a lot more attention and exploration, and that may or may not happen.
So, what do we have at the end of the day? We have another study, yet in the Budget Address that came forward - gee, a road in southeast Yukon, and a study of it. Well, the interpretation that most people have on these types of initiatives - it might happen, but the balance of probability under this Liberal government is very, very low, Mr. Chair.
Well, the interpretation that most people have on these kinds of initiatives is that it might happen, but the balance of probability under this Liberal government is very, very low, seeing that they really, really side with the environmentalist movement and the concept of probably withdrawing over 50 percent of the land mass of the Yukon and creating one big park. That seems to be the federal Liberal government's initiative that the Yukon Liberal Party is subscribing to. So, opportunities for Yukoners will be few and far between in that region.
Let's take it one step further, Mr. Chair. Does the Premier have an idea as to the timelines for a conclusion of this study group into this access road in southeast Yukon? Is there some sort of a final date, or is this study just going to lead to another study - to another fiscal cycle and a subsequent other fiscal cycle? Because, really, all we're seeing is review after review after review. But as far as economic development and economic stimulation that this government could do, the clock has virtually stopped under their governance. Are there some timelines that the minister could elaborate on in this review, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, for the benefit of the member opposite, I would just remind the member that this reference is from page 15 of the budget speech: "Leaders of both the municipal and First Nation governments in Watson Lake." And, I might add, although it's not contained in the budget speech, the Member for Watson Lake also requested that the government begin a preliminary study of an access road in southeast Yukon. That work will begin in the new fiscal year.
I have said to the member opposite already that this was a direct result of a request from mayor and council and from the Liard First Nation's chief and council and from the Member for Watson Lake. It was also the clear viewpoint of all three of those individuals involved that there has been no agreement reached or a consensus position reached on precisely the approach on a number of different options. The request at this point is for expertise, working with the government, so that none of these options get inadvertently taken off the table - that we continue to work with them.
That's what we're doing, and I said the work would begin in the new fiscal year, so, for the member opposite, that begins on April 1, 2001.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Chair, we have another wonderful Liberal initiative that, on the surface, appears to be reasonable, but, at the end of the day, what do we have? We have another study that will probably end up being a doorstop in the Premier's office. That's it, because this government is going around telling everyone it's broke, that it doesn't have any money. The accumulated projected surplus will only be $6 million down the road. Here's an opportunity to construct a new road, a road to resources, to develop the potential of the oil and gas industry in southeast Yukon, to probably even bring natural gas into Watson Lake. If you look up at Inuvik, the First Nation community there distributes natural gas around Inuvik today, and they didn't have to bring the natural gas hundreds of miles either. The closest known deposits of natural gas to Watson Lake are in the same proximity as the natural gas that is developed and flowing through Inuvik today, Mr. Chair.
There's another opportunity for the government of the day to use a fuel that is more environmentally friendly than what is currently being used. The potential exists, and I would have thought that this forward-thinking government would do something other than look behind, blame everybody who preceded them, and spark initiatives that are going to enhance the quality of life for Yukoners, lower the cost of living here in the Yukon and spur development, because the Yukon could be energy self-sufficient. We could be, but instead we're watching that area just go by our front door and we're relying more and more than ever before on the importation of fossil fuels to heat ourselves, power our vehicles and generate electricity in many areas of Yukon.
Probably the one initiative we're not hearing too much about is that wonderful, great big turbine on the top of Haeckel Hill. I don't know. It probably should be put on top of the Cabinet offices here, Mr. Chair, and I'm sure they'd have a constant flow of the necessary product to keep the blades rotating around. But where it currently is, the air is going to be very cold and moist and will lead to rime icing, and we still don't know if that's a viable alternative. It sounds good but, at the end of the day, what is it going to cost for the energy that's generated, and can we afford it?
Mr. Chair, let's go back to the southeast Yukon. That area has a tremendous potential for forestry. There's also a small forestry community in and around Whitehorse, in the Haines Junction area, and even up in the Klondike area. But THAs are the issue - another federal government - and the minister, in her Budget Address, is sponsoring another summit, a forestry summit, this time. That's going to occur this spring. And we're going to, once again, bring together Yukoners from all across the territory to assist in developing the forestry industry. Could the minister explain how this is going to work? How are Yukoners going to develop the forestry industry when it's still a federal government area of responsibility?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite would like to leave the impression that we are somehow negligent because, as a government, we have not proceeded in the Yukon Party way of - never mind the fact that you have land claims to negotiate; never mind that you don't have jurisdiction. Just go in there and bulldoze and build a road. Never mind that we want to work with the community. No matter what the political stripe, we are working with the community on this particular issue, and we are working in a manner that the community requested us to work.
With regard to the forestry summit, I would be happy to answer specific questions around the forestry summit in the Economic Development debate. In general, I can advise the member opposite that this be granted. While we may not have the authority yet to issue timber harvesting agreements, we are very concerned that the federal government has not proceeded in a timely manner. However, rather than haranguing them from the opposition benches, we have endeavoured to work with the federal government on this matter, and I do believe that we are making good progress.
With regard to the forestry summit, the timing and discussions around the forestry summit have been held with First Nation governments, with the Government of Canada. This is an issue that some members like to say is way beyond politics. It's an important issue for all Yukoners. It's important that it is resolved, and that is what we are working toward. Among other things, the forestry summit is going to help us to do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I finally agree with the Premier in her statement that this is way beyond Liberal politics. Probably that is very much the case. Here is another area that is controlled by the federal government - the timber harvesting agreements. The Liberals came into power 10 months ago, Mr. Chair, and they had a wonderful opportunity to clearly demonstrate this wonderful working relationship with their Liberal counterparts in Ottawa and do something for the Yukon - obtain timber quotas for the mill in Watson Lake.
Instead, the government was mute. They were mute, Mr. Chair. Even a subsequent request for funding to assist them in maintaining their operation and the number of jobs was denied by this Liberal government. So if we can't address the problem head on, the Liberal position here in the Yukon appears to be, Mr. Chair, "Let's go back and consult, let's hold another summit, and let's get together and talk about it." But the real issue before us today is how to get THAs out there and put people back to work.
Now, we're in budget debate, and it clearly spells out in the budget that a forestry summit will be held. When the opportunity presented itself to this Liberal government, Mr. Chair, one would deem it to have been appropriate for them to react and to be proactive and not just obtain timber harvest agreements for the Watson Lake area, but for other areas of the Yukon, and to sit down with the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, who, after the gold show last year, is persona non grata in the Yukon. But this year, the Premier doesn't have to worry. The Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs won't be at the gold show this year, embarrassing her or her government or the Liberals here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, because there won't be a gold show this year. There isn't one. There's just been such a tremendous downturn in the mining community in the Klondike, and couple that with the facilities being under construction where the displays were put, there just was no enthusiasm to put the gold show on this year.
I'm also sure that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs' message last year to the mining community in Dawson was one that clearly spelled out how the federal Liberals view mining and mining activity in the north, and specifically the Klondike, and what the minister was and, more so, was not prepared to do to assist the mining community. That was in spite of a tremendous number of Liberal supporters providing input to the minister. The message just wasn't there. So, there is no gold show this year and no opportunity for the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to embarrass this Liberal government here in the Yukon. But where is the mining industry? Where is the certainty surrounding the mining industry? Where is the certainty surrounding the forest industry?
And how does the Premier expect to bring them back by holding summits? Is that the objective - to renew support for the industries? Just what is the objective? Is it to keep the Liberal Party in the highlights and the headlines? Because that's all we appear to be accomplishing by these initiatives, Mr. Chair.
When will the Premier be doing something positive in either the mining sector or the forestry sector? When is that going to take place, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, with respect to the forestry summit that this government is working on, we are continually asked in this Legislature why we don't work with members of the opposition. I would just like to advise the Member for Klondike that, in this particular initiative, we have worked with the Member for Watson Lake, the former forestry commissioner, who has had several very good discussions with the Minister of Renewable Resources and me.
We have not abandoned the work of previous governments, in terms of developing the forestry strategy. The difficulty with the forestry strategy that was developed under the previous regime was that the work was not completed, and there was a lack of First Nations' support with regard to the forestry strategy.
What we have done is look at forestry from not only a conservation perspective and a forest management perspective, but also from an economic perspective.
The Yukon government believes very strongly in the forestry industry - believes in it as an economic driver in our territory. We don't get to sign on the dotted line for a THA yet; we don't get to sign on the dotted line for a water licence yet, either, but we're working on devolution. That's a subject for another day, or later in this debate. We are involved in a number of initiatives toward this end, working at it from an economic development angle, without neglecting our conservation and sustainable values.
With regard to tenure development, we are participating with DIAND on the THA process. That has not been without its bumps along the way. However, we are working on that particular issue with DIAND, and those THAs have to provide more security for the industry and lead to improved access. That has been clear.
On forest management planning, we are participating in the forest management planning in Haines Junction and Teslin areas, and we have lobbied at the table actively for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to give priority to forest management planning in southeast Yukon.
The forestry summit, scheduled for early April of this year, is part of the Yukon government's commitment to lead the development of a coordinated forest management and development strategy. The reason for the dates being selected was a direct request from industry, from First Nation governments, and from others who are also working on these particular areas. It's not ours alone to deal with, and we're working with others, including other members of this House, in ensuring that what we do and the conclusions we reach are the right conclusions for Yukoners, and that we move the forest industry forward.
The member will just have to be patient to see further results.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm encouraged to note that I have to patient, Mr. Chair.
I was quite pleased to also learn that, after some of the dismal answers provided in this House by the Minister of Renewable Resources, that he accepted, along with the Premier, a briefing from the forestry commissioner. I'm sure that the former forestry commissioner's knowledge of the industry in the Watson Lake area and the Yukon is quite encompassing. I'm sure that this was a tremendous opportunity for both the Premier and the Minister of Renewable Resources to become more aware of that industry, its potential and where the pitfalls were. I'm sure they have subsequently learned that much could be made of this wonderful working relationship that this Liberal Yukon government was elected on - that was supposed to exist between the federal Liberal government and the Yukon Liberal government. We really haven't seen much demonstration of its existence today, other than Mr. Martin charging us $100, or the Yukon Liberals charging us $100, if we want to go and listen to him say something over dinner one evening.
It's quite interesting, Mr. Chair, but the issue is to supply some certainty to the industry. That doesn't exist, and it doesn't exist whether it is the mining industry or the forestry industry.
When will this government be demonstrating this wonderful relationship between the federal Liberal government and the Yukon Liberal government? When will we see some results and some benefits? I mean, we have a federal Liberal government, we have a Yukon Liberal government, we have a Yukon Liberal senator, we have a Yukon Liberal commissioner, and we have a Yukon Liberal Member of Parliament. When are the benefits of this red tide going to accrue to Yukon? Now, if it is applied to seafood, you don't want to eat it because it will poison you, but maybe that is the case with this government. We've got too much of a red tide. But we should be seeing some benefits and we are not, Mr. Chair. The Yukon is going backwards at an alarming rate.
I don't want to be the one who has to wait to see some initiatives come forward in the forestry industry. Or, as the Premier spells it out, just be patient. Most of us have to feed our families, and in order to do so, more and more Yukoners are having to leave the Yukon. Welfare is not an alternative. Most people have chosen to pick up and move elsewhere - whether it be the Northwest Territories, northern British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, or elsewhere.
A number of the individuals from the Brewery Creek mine are being transferred by Viceroy over to Australia. That's where their company opportunities are. And they're going to be working on a mineral deposit over there that, while greater in size than the Brewery Creek deposit, has values that are less than the ore in the Brewery Creek deposit, Mr. Chair.
So it begs the question: what's wrong with this equation? Why can't the Yukon move ahead? Why can't we move ahead in our traditional areas?
The Premier may or may not know that Cantung is looking at reopening, and it's an underground operation. It requires timber, and that timber for the mine could well have come out of the Watson Lake region. It could, but it'll probably be trucked up from British Columbia because this Liberal Premier and her colleagues have failed to redress the shortcomings in the forestry sector. All we're going to see is a forestry summit, and all the mills in Watson Lake are going to be told to be patient. We're all going to be told to be patient. There are some great opportunities out there, and they're going to be going right by our door.
Now, other than this summit for the forestry industry, is the Premier planning any other initiatives within this fiscal period that we have on the floor for debate today?
And if it's no, just stand up and say no. And if it's no, it's because, number one, they're either not capable of addressing the shortfalls or they don't want to, because we're going to create that area into one big park. And if that's the case, the minister could just be forthright and say so.
But we'd really like to know what is going to happen. We know what could happen. We know what the potential is. But the Premier is now the captain of the good ship SS Yukon Titanic, Mr. Chair. It wasn't a very long voyage that the Titanic took, but we know we have 30 more months of potential Liberal rule.
Now, are we all expected to be patient for 30 more months? What other initiatives is the government planning in this fiscal period, if any, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I got fairly caught up in listening to the unfortunately belittling comments from the member opposite. I believe the question is this: what other initiatives is this government planning in terms of fulfilling our commitment to rebuild the Yukon economy?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm being advised that the member opposite wishes me to speak about forestry alone.
With regard to forestry, the outcome of the forestry summit is expected to be a set of principles and guidelines, assisting the Yukon government in developing a forest industry strategy. We are continuing in our efforts at devolution, and we're continuing with working with the federal government in terms of the tenure development and the THA as well.
So, the government is continuing to work on this issue, to the point where we anticipate - the member opposite's real question is whether or not there will be delivery of a product at the end of the summit. Yes, there will. And will that product guide us in developing this industry? Yes, it will. Are we working with the federal government on THA and tenure, because they're still the ones that sign off on this? Yes, we are. Will there be progress? We're certainly working on it.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure the product that will be developed at the end of the summer will be another report, another doorstop. We have seen a report now come through in the forestry commission. Where's that report at? Has that been adopted by this Liberal government, or is it just another doorstop in the Premier's office, or has she taken the time to even read it, Mr. Chair?
Where is the forest commissioner's report, developed by the NDP? Where's that strategy now? Is it being looked at or even considered, or are we going to go back and reinvent the wheel, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I had already advised the member opposite that, as opposition members, we had praised the work of the forestry commissioner, and as a government member -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the Member for Watson Lake will one day see fit to acknowledge the fact that, yes, this government is very open and that it doesn't require belittling comments in the House for us to be open.
With regard to the forest strategy, the member opposite asked where it sits right now. It was not the end product. There is more work to be done. We are building on the initial work that was done, and at the end of the day -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite once again doesn't want to listen to the answer. The member just believes that we're going to get a report and do nothing with it. He refuses to believe that it may - and it will - prove to be a map for a forestry industry in this territory.
Mr. Fentie: I would just like to join the debate here briefly, now that we're talking about forestry. I think we can all agree that the forestry sector has long been and continues to be an extremely important component of any economy, especially in places like Watson Lake. It has always been an economic engine of some sort.
I would just like to explore something with the Premier in terms of the summit and with regard to designing industry. There's a very important point here that has to be addressed. To design a forest industry, the very foundation and the basis of that industry is the trees. We have a federal government here that has failed to put a number to the volume, to the size, to the area. One of the most vital components of designing any forest industry is knowing how many cubic metres annually, what is the average size of that annual volume, what is the distance from the manufacturing facility or facilities, and so on and so forth.
Can the Premier give us any indication of what the government at this time believes the federal government's timelines are on THAs? Because that is the trigger that will basically launch everything else. Is there any indication from DIAND at this time as to what it is they're doing?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. I do have some information for the member opposite. I don't have it with me in the House. I'll provide it to the member opposite either after the 4:30 break or first thing tomorrow morning.
Mr. Fentie: Something else that I will mention here, Mr. Chair, is that the uptake on the summit and the work that DIAND has been doing over the last number of weeks has been substantial, lending credence to the issue of forestry and what it means to Yukoners.
Now, the Member for Klondike made mention of the Yukon forest strategy. It's my belief that the Yukon forest strategy is a framework, a set of goal posts. But it's also important to note that forest management is ever evolving. There is no perfect plan. It doesn't just stop because you put a plan in place; it evolves continually. A forest fire can dramatically change how you manage your forest in any particular region. So it's an evolution that is ongoing into perpetuity; it never stops.
What I would suggest at this stage and ask the Premier is this: is the Liberal government prepared to do, for lack of a better analogy, a full-court press on DIAND so that DIAND provides their work for the Yukon government and for Yukoners as a whole to be able to move this issue ahead?
Without DIAND's work, in terms of inventory, volumes and regions, we can't proceed. Is the Premier prepared to pull out all of the stops and ensure that DIAND is accountable and does what it is mandated to do with respect to forestry?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I can't let the opportunity go by. I'm positive that there was a thinly veiled compliment in there to this government. I'm positive there was. It would be refreshing this afternoon, if that were the case. I do believe there was a thinly veiled compliment that DIAND was moving at, perhaps, the instigation and steady pressure from the government. I'm positive I heard the member say that, and I thank the Member for Watson Lake for that compliment. I do appreciate it. In the constructive attitude of working together, I appreciate that support.
The member makes reference to one of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's tasks, issues or things that haven't been done - inventory, in so many words, and access to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development information. I happen to concur with the member opposite. I think it's only by working together in an open manner and with all partners at the table, that we can take the goalposts outlined in the forestry strategy and move this issue forward.
Are we prepared to undertake a full-court press? I believe we already have, but again, I'll get back to the member opposite with respect to the specific details about where and what DIAND has done, and is committed to doing for us and with us.
Mr. Fentie: Well, if the Premier found a compliment in my previous remarks, I'm happy about that because we, in the official opposition, want to be constructive. I believe - and I think that everyone in this House can agree to this - that there are no political boundaries on our forest lands. Whatever happens there will impact Yukoners long into the future. We all have a duty to ensure that (a) we don't compromise that future, and (b) we maximize the benefits for Yukoners that can accrue from the development of a forest industry.
But I would like to remind the Premier that when it comes to the THA process, which government actually did the full-court press on DIAND and got it moving on this. It was the previous government, when the previous government realized that the federal government wasn't even remotely putting together the pieces necessary to move into long-term access, for timber. It was the previous government that actually committed and put money on the table to force DIAND to get to work on a THA process.
It was also the previous government that, upon seeing the THA process draft that DIAND came out with, went to DIAND and emphatically requested that they not go out with that THA process, because it was flawed - terribly flawed. So what does our federal government do - our Liberal federal government? They trot the process out in the midst of a Yukon election campaign, mid-April of 2000. My point being, is this Liberal government prepared - when I say full-court press - to manage all the little problems that DIAND seems to be able to create, no matter what they do here in the Yukon, whether it be forestry, mining or oil and gas? Even though we have control of it, we still have a number of federal regulatory agencies and bodies that have a great deal to say about what happens in those areas. This may mean severe criticism of the federal Liberals in Ottawa, and could very well jeopardize the Yukon Liberal government's special relationship.
Am I to take it the Premier's willing to go to that length?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We are trying to work very hard with all of the bodies interested in the forests of the Yukon, particularly with regard to the development of a forest industry in the territory. If we should have a disagreement with one of our partners, or if the federal government should proceed down a path that we disagree with, or that we feel is not within the best interests of the Yukon, are we prepared to fight for Yukoners? Of course we are. I don't understand why the member would question that.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I think that we can leave this particular area, although there will be lots yet with regard to this issue. I would just like to go on briefly to the concept of an access road to resources, an access in southeast Yukon. I agree with the Premier that the municipality, the First Nation, and I, as MLA - I think there has been a lot of consensus provided from the community to the Premier and her government about this initiative. But this initiative is one that also houses problems when it comes to the federal government.
I think that an important fact here is that, in the initiative in access to resources in the southeast Yukon, we establish mile 0 of any access in the community. That is the most vital component of this whole proposal and project that the community envisions - that mile 0 is in Watson Lake. There are already a number of accesses off the Alaska Highway existing today that the federal government may choose to use. I think it is important that we ensure that they don't make the mistake of moving access to long term timber in the southeast Yukon 60 miles down the Alaska Highway. Because if they do, it might as well be in Fort Nelson. The flow and the benefits that can accrue would be dramatically diminished if that were to happen. I would urge the Premier and her government to ensure that no matter what, as we proceed with a preliminary study and move on in this project, we commit to and ensure that mile 0 is in the community so that we can maximize what happens in accessing resources in the Yukon. Would the Premier agree with that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, those exact words on the issue - there was no consensus around routing or how some options might be pursued in terms of paying for, or budgeting for, the construction of any such road. There's no consensus on those issues.
There was the point - the critical issue - that mile 0 should be in Watson Lake. It was raised at a public meeting and by the mayor and council at the meeting with them, as well. I will go back and check my notes on the meeting with the Liard First Nation, whether or not they made that point as well. But certainly, that's the only point, if indeed that's correct from the Liard First Nation notes, that people agreed on. There is no agreement on anything else, and the member opposite will also, I'm sure, be willing to suggest to the Yukon public, through his points in Hansard, that the government has responded as they should have and could have, in terms of how we have responded to that request by the community, and the request is for expertise. The request wasn't for money at this point in time, or budgeted amounts for the study. The request from the community was for people with expertise in this area, and that's how we have responded, quite appropriately, and at the request of the community.
Perhaps the member opposite would be prepared to agree with that statement and advise his colleague.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would just like to correct the Premier on the fact that it was the previous government that committed to this initiative. If she would pick up the campaign literature from April 2000, the election, she would see clearly in the campaign literature the NDP platform and the commitment to move this initiative ahead in planning with the community.
So, it goes back a way, and I'm very pleased to see the Premier follow up on another NDP initiative that is certainly a good one. It has the potential to provide a great deal of benefit for the southeast Yukon and, in particular, the community of Watson Lake.
I see - there's no need - I see the Member for Riverdale North and the Premier shaking their heads. I'm being quite complimentary here. I'm pleased that the Premier and the Liberal government have picked up on another NDP initiative, as they have on many other things, like reducing taxes and the continued commitment to health care, although the Minister of Health, the Member for Porter Creek North, is doing his level best to compromise that.
I am happy about this, and I wanted to point out to the Premier that the initiative did begin before the Liberals were lucky enough to win Whitehorse and become government. I hope I'm not boring the Premier.
Now, let us move on in general debate here with the Liberal government's commitment to rebuilding the economy. As I'm sure the Member for Klondike has pointed out, the economic outlook has just been released, and the picture tells a very grim story. I think a lot of us were aware of what the economic outlook was going to show us in this territory. It's an extremely grim, bleak picture.
I would like to know from the Premier, on one of the economic fronts that she has staked her government's future on, oil and gas development, what are the possibilities, given the hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars available right now in the oil and gas sector for investment, especially in exploration? In times of high profits like we have today, the oil and gas industry is extremely willing to prospect, to invest in exploration and to look to the future reserves. What is the potential? Can the Premier tell us that, as far as attracting more of that investment than the former government during times of low profits? I think crude oil was down as far as $12 a barrel under the former government's watch. Is the Premier prepared to try and attract more of that investment here to the Yukon by, for example, opening up some land sales that are a little bit out of the box that her department works with? Is that a possibility?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is asking if we are prepared to conduct land sales in areas where we have an unsettled land claim. The policy of the government is that no, we do not.
Mr. Fentie: Why not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That was a policy that has been continued. One of the activities that can occur, in spite of a land sale, is seismic exploration work, and that work needs to be done and can take place over several years. The federal government has extended the mandate for the settlement of land claims to March 31, 2002, and we are working toward settlement of the seven outstanding land claims, and in the interim, if a First Nation wished to work with us in terms of working on exploration and seismic exploration permits, we certainly would be interested in doing that.
As a matter of fact, I had this very discussion with staff of the Department of Economic Development this morning on that particular issue, and that is something that we are working toward under our accord. We are working with suggestions and information, working with First Nation governments that may wish to proceed in this particular industry in advance of a land claim settlement.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would argue with the Premier that that initiative has already been taking place in the southeast Yukon, in the absence of a land claim. Our first land sale in decades took place. Yes, it is seismic. The seismic that Anderson and others are conducting is in basically proven areas and regions.
But now I'm off on another little bit of an angle here. Is the Premier saying that, in the absence of a land claim in any particular region in the Yukon, that would preclude development?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, that's not what I said. I talked about a land disposition. There is nothing to preclude us from working with all other governments on seismic and exploration work.
The land dispositions are not planned for those areas with unsettled land claims. Not at this point in time. That is not currently the policy of the government. If that should change, I will, no doubt, make a ministerial statement to that effect. However, it is not contemplated to change at this point in time, to pre-empt the member opposite's question.
Mr. Fentie: So, in the face of hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into the Northwest Territories, and all that available investment, exploration and development, would the Premier not consider that maybe sitting down, through a forum, at the economic table with the Liard First Nation, which was created under the former government, we might be able to actually move ahead in this area and put Yukoners - First Nations and other Yukoners - to work and see some benefits flow into this territory?
Doesn't the Premier think that this may be a very positive initiative to undertake - to make contact with the Liard First Nation, for example? The economic table, I believe, still exists. The Premier's emissaries who are out travelling the Yukon Territory on the oil and gas front make mention of the economic table. Is it not possible that we could, through that forum, see if we couldn't open this up a bit and attract some of those hundreds of millions of dollars into the territory? The economic outlook is bleak. Maybe this is one way to help that situation.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the representations from the member opposite regarding this particular subject. The policy of the Yukon government has been, and continues to be, that we do not conduct a land sale or land disposition in areas where there are unsettled land claims.
Now, the very suggestion that the member opposite has just made was made at a meeting of Kaska chiefs, and the end result was an overruling by Chief Hammond Dick that said no. His direct representation during that meeting was that land sale or land disposition should not proceed until land claims are settled.
Mr. Fentie: Well, these are difficult times, and that is what negotiation is all about.
Now, we realize that the mandate has been extended. That is all well and good, but I can tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Kaska people, even in the absence of their land claim being settled, are willing to work with governments. They have made the offer countless times. I think that it is incumbent upon governments to proceed in that light in a manner where it is of mutual benefit. That is what this is all about. The step has to be taken, though, by the government. That is a fact. Now let's move on.
With regard to the Alaska Highway pipeline, the Premier and her government have staked a great deal of their future on that project also. So we know that by December of this year, we should know which project is going to be the chosen one. And even when the flag drops, should we be fortunate enough that it is the Alaska Highway route, it will take at least two more years of regulatory processes before we can begin work, before Yukoners go to work. So what can we do in the meantime?
I have another suggestion to offer the Premier, and it begins with accessing natural gas in this territory. Under the existing agreement, the producers have agreed to allow gas to be taken off the line as it goes through the Yukon and replace it downstream. So a thought comes to mind: what would be the best attraction of a pipeline in the Yukon, outside of the short-term work that is provided and the few jobs in the long term of babysitting compressor stations? What could be an attractive element of this project?
You quickly come to the realization - cheap gas. Now, if the Yukon Territory, given its Kotaneelee production, can somehow make arrangements to provide the territory en route with cheap natural gas and replace it downstream, we may have a vehicle that would attract investment into this territory because of cheaper energy. Is the Premier willing to entertain this concept?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd like to thank the member opposite for his support for our work in the aggressive promotion of the Alaska Highway pipeline project and his recognition of the existing treaty that spells out access to natural gas for Yukoners.
I would challenge the member opposite on the two-year regulatory window, whether that, in fact, remains the case. Whether there may be some other developments in that regard is open for discussion.
I believe the member opposite's question was whether or not we could replace Alaskan gas with Kotaneelee gas. If there's a pipeline down the Alaska Highway, yes, Canadian gas can go into it. So whether it's from Kotaneelee or from somewhere else, yes. And the NEB wouldn't have it any other way was the exact quote I got in response to that question.
Mr. Fentie: Just for clarity, then, would the Premier entertain the possibility of using that mechanism in the agreement to ensure and provide Yukoners with cheap natural gas? I believe that the rate Yukoners will pay is based on some other jurisdiction's price. But we have the ability to replace it downstream. So that, to me, opens the door for the Yukon government to say to the producers, "If we take X number of cubic feet out of this line, we'll put it back in there."
But we have the ability, then, to say to Yukoners and anybody wishing to come here, that we've got the cheapest natural gas in the West. That's the point I'm trying to make. Is the Premier willing to give serious consideration to this and, in fact, maybe instruct or direct her department and the oil and gas branch to look into this in detail?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In part, we already are, in the sense that we have re-examined the treaty in the department many, many times over. I believe the member is making reference to the fact that others have used the term that Yukoners are guaranteed access to natural gas at the Alberta wellhead price. What the member is suggesting is that, if Kotaneelee gas were cheaper, why should we be guaranteed access to gas at that price when we have the cheapest gas north of 60 or in western Canada? I'm going to provide the member opposite with a detailed written response. I want to go back through Hansard and make sure I've captured that and captured the idea and the potential for the idea. So I will respond formally to the member opposite.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the Premier for that, and I would like to move on to another matter regarding the pipeline. We desperately need jobs today, work for people. One of the things I've looked at in terms of the Alaska Highway pipeline that may help us right now is, when you look at the corridor, there are massive lengths of that corridor - long, long distances - full of forest.
Now, one of the things that the Yukon government could easily do is undertake, within the corridor, a timber cruise of merchantable timber. That would put Yukoners to work. You could target specific regions, like the southeast because a corridor in the southeast has a tremendous amount of timber on it. If the Yukon government were willing to put some money out and have some timber cruising done, some valuable data could be brought forward. If this project then becomes the project, in December of this year we would be ahead of the game. We would then know. Because I'm hoping that the Yukon government, if the Alaska Highway pipeline goes ahead, would ensure that salvage of all merchantable timber on the corridor is a fact, a reality.
So, having some of this work done, there are capable people right now in this territory who can do this work. It might even include some chopper time, so a helicopter goes in the air. They're all sitting. This is something that we can do now - even if we don't know for sure - that would very much help the situation and, at the end of the day, you're also going to add and provide data to what the federal government is doing with regard to their THA process.
Would the Premier entertain an expenditure, through the Department of Economic Development or otherwise, toward this initiative that could put people to work in the next few days, if the Premier chooses to go down this road?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are only two points that I would make in response to the member opposite. My very large concern has always been unduly and unfairly raising expectations. We all lived through the 1970s and we can all easily read the National Energy Board's book in commemoration of their history that refers to the Foothills pipeline and the Alaska natural gas transportation system as, if the member will pardon the pun, the pipe that never got laid.
I have people in my riding - and this is not just some made up political speech - who bought welding trucks and got their high pressure welding ticket, who still live in my riding and are still waiting for the pipeline. So my only concern is doing too much in advance of the project, such as clearing the right-of-way, that would raise expectations - you can't convey hand signals in Hansard - beyond belief. I don't want to do that to Yukoners without some degree of certainty.
That being said, there is a level of preparedness required, because this is not going to be a decision one day and you had better be ready. We need to be ready. The member has presented a good idea in terms of taking inventory. I will raise it with Economic Development. I am not going to go out and cut a cheque tomorrow to a helicopter company to conduct inventory. But we will do our homework on the member opposite's suggestion. It seems like a good one on the surface and we will look into it as soon as possible. This will not be allowed to languish.
Chair: Order please. Before we take a 4:30 break, the Chair wishes to raise a matter of concern to make sure that it doesn't happen again.
Earlier this afternoon, the Member for Klondike made reference to the Commissioner of the Yukon. If the Chair heard the member correctly, he referred to the Commissioner as the "Liberal Commissioner". On page 523 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, it is stated: "Members are prohibited from speaking disrespectfully of the Sovereign, the Royal Family, the Governor General or the Administrator of the Government of Canada." It is also noted, in a footnote, that discourteous references to Lieutenant Governors are also ruled out of order.
In the Yukon, the Commissioner acts in the capacity of Lieutenant Governor and, as such, the Yukon's head of state. This House has always been careful to note that the role of Commissioner, when he or she is present in the House and the Chamber, is that of our head of state.
Therefore, members must refrain from speaking disrespectfully of our Commissioner and of the Commissioner's Office. The Chair believes that attaching a political label to the Commissioner is disrespectful and asks that the member and all other members of this House obey the strict guidelines against referring to our Commissioner in any way but honourably.
Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate, Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02. I believe Mr. Fentie had the floor.
Mr. Fentie: Just before the break, Mr. Chair, the Premier committed to look into this aspect of some work we might be able to accrue now on the pipeline corridor and timber cruising. I assume she will pass the information about that initiative on as quickly as possible.
Another question I have when it comes to not just the pipeline itself, but the overall industry when it comes to oil and gas - one of the segments of the department's presentation is called "database", and I was wondering if the Premier could enlighten this House by telling us exactly what is in that database and what's intended to go into that database.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not going to provide the member with incorrect information, so I will provide a written response to that question.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the Premier for that. I wonder if I could, then, make some suggestions. Much of what oil and gas and pipeline construction is all about - the expertise is housed in the Yukon in a number of areas already, because no matter what, first of all, dirt moving is part of the whole project. We do have some of the better earth movers probably in the country here in the Yukon, who are very familiar with working in the type of material and conditions that we face - intermittent permafrost and all these wonderful things.
I would suggest that the database include a long list of those Yukoners capable of operating equipment, moving dirt, so on and so forth, to ensure that the minute the project happens, if it does, and a general contractor is chosen, that this list lands on the general contractor's desk immediately. That way, when the hiring begins, because this thing will happen fast, Yukoners are up front, especially around areas that we can manage.
Furthermore, supplies and services and camps and all the other things - a database including a list of Yukoners who are capable in that area.
But another very important issue is what is the Yukon government doing in terms of property - area land base - for potential staging areas along the route and, of course, the oil and gas development itself. Is the Yukon government, the department, looking at staging areas or marshalling areas in terms of finding land base now to prepare?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With respect to database, there are a number of functions that a specific database could be used for. If the member was asking in his first question whether or not the department is assembling information to ensure Yukon contractors are highlighted in any project we do, I believe that to be the responsibility of Economic Development, that when someone contemplates a project, no matter what the magnitude, from outside of the territory, they are immediately made aware of what Yukoners are capable of.
We all know that Yukon road builders, construction companies, are among the best in the world, if not the best. We all know that. I think that's a point we even all agree on - something that doesn't happen very often in this House.
With regard to how those companies might work with a general pipeline builder, that's an issue that, yes, the department is working with industry on, even as we are speaking. And the member is likely aware of that by his question.
With regard to specific land set aside for a staging area for pipeline construction, I would believe that to be more of a private sector responsibility, but private sector working with Government of Yukon. We have not, to the best of my knowledge - perhaps the Minister of Community and Transportation Services has been asked, although I doubt it - been asked by pipeline builders, no matter what their stripe or type or capability, we have not been asked about that specific question before.
It doesn't mean, however, that it is something that the Department of Economic Development is unprepared for. We will be prepared with that answer and with other answers, when asked.
Mr. Fentie: Just to go back to the Premier's comment that I may know a little something about this - and that's why I asked the question. The reason I asked the question is that I have been contacted by a number of constituents and indeed other people who are having trouble. They believe they have some expertise or something to offer to a potential pipeline. They are having trouble making contact, for whatever reasons. I merely pass this on.
There is starting to be a great deal of concern developing in this area because, I think, a lot of people are pretty antsy. They want to ensure that they get involved in the whole project, should it happen, and they are having difficulty contacting the appropriate people. I think that the Liberal government could maybe improve that area by ensuring that a good, solid contact base is there - numbers, names and whatever. If need be, I could pass that on to my constituents, if there's more than one, because they seem to be having trouble.
Secondly, I know that the Premier was a Girl Guide, as I was a Boy Scout. There's a very important motto: "Be prepared." Does the Premier even realize how difficult it is to get land in the Yukon? Looking at possible areas, these are massive, massive sizes of land base that are needed for staging. I mean, we're not talking the size of a grocery truck here. We're talking about huge amounts of equipment that arrive around-the-clock. These people aren't paid by the week, month or hour. When they lay a pipe, they are paid by the linear metre.
So, she's a hurry-up operation and if we have, already in the hopper waiting, potential land base for staging areas, we in the Yukon can help direct a great deal where some of the benefits accrue. That is what I am talking about.
Is the Premier prepared to work in conjunction with Community and Transportation Services and the federal government to look at this issue and get ahead of this issue? They will be looking for staging areas. That is a fact.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Oh, Mr. Chair, there are another couple of Girl Guide points that come to mind about kindness and respect.
First of all, with regard to identifying and working with Yukon contractors, the moment I learned of the $75 million feasibility study, I immediately contacted the four proponents in writing and said that before doing anything, make sure to contact us about Yukon businesses because we know Yukon businesses, and sang their praises about how good they are at working in northern environments, about building on permafrost, and about all the things that the member mentioned. If there is an individual business that is somehow having a problem providing his or her name to either myself or any member of our caucus or the government's oil and gas branch, then I want to know what the problem is.
I invite the member opposite to speak to me about that outside of the Chambers if he wishes, because we are more than interested in hearing from Yukon businesses.
We have heard from many, many of them and the Member for Riverside has just come back from a PACOM conference in Anchorage this spring that highlighted Yukon contractors, speaking with those same feasibility study people whom I initially contacted via writing. The Member for Riverside, Mr. Scott Kent, followed up at PACOM, the conference that deals with mining and oil and gas initiatives, promoting Yukon businesses and, from my understanding, he was very successful.
We have the capability to work on this project and we are working as a government in promoting that.
I have some other information to provide to the Member for Klondike; however, I will hold on that.
With regard to a land mass, I just would remind the member opposite that we don't even know the diameter of pipe we're talking here. We don't have a project yet and we're working on that.
I fully understand "Be prepared" and, I would dare to suggest, have spent more time in my adult life involved with the Girl Guides in terms of working on these very issues, such as level of preparedness to deal with today's society and how the organization copes with the changing world we live in. I can assure the member opposite that I, as Premier and as Minister of Economic Development, supported by my colleagues, am more than aware of that particular motto. We are working very hard and that's why there's money in the budget to do just that - ensure a level of preparedness.
Mr. Fentie: Could the Premier then just briefly explain to the House how much money and what are we preparing?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the line item in the budget for the Alaska Highway is dubbed "pipeline analysis". It includes preparedness work. It's on page 4-6 of the budget, in the trade and investment section of the Economic Development capital budget. That is the amount in the budget.
What we're preparing for is we are doing two things: we are continuing to promote the project and the selection of the route - the member is well aware of that - and we are also preparing in terms of ensuring that both the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada are prepared to deal with this project in the areas that government is required to be prepared - for example, that the federal government is prepared to deal with environmental screening issues. The member opposite, I'm sure, is aware that the treaty signed between Canada and the U.S. requires expeditious issuing of permits. We must ensure that the environmental homework has been done and, in turn, that Canada is prepared to deal with an application. In terms of the Yukon government, what we have been doing is reviewing the treaty, reviewing the requirements in the treaty, working with First Nation governments, working with the business community. Capacity building issues, capacity assessment issues, training opportunities - all of that work is underway now within the department.
I would commit to the member opposite that that is work that is in progress at this point in time, and that I could provide the member opposite with an assessment of the work we have done and our preparedness, later this year, if not this session.
Does the member require a more specific answer?
Mr. Fentie: No, because we can definitely go into this when we get into the department and go into line-by-line. Let's move on then, Mr. Chair.
It's a well-known fact that, in this country, governments in any particular jurisdiction use a certain tool to stimulate economic activity or development. It's called incentives. Governments all over this country do this quite regularly. In a lot of cases, what it's doing is creating the environment to attract investment, stimulate economic activity, so on and so forth.
Now, we on this side of the House, and Yukoners in general, have experienced, over the last 11 months from this Liberal government, a bit of a mixed message in that area. It seems like, on one hand, this concept of a level playing field means that the government of the day should not provide incentives to the private sector. In most cases, incentives come in the form of dollar bills in various amounts.
Yet, we see, if you look at the mining industry, a great deal of incentives flowing to the mining industry to try and stimulate economic activity. We also see money flowing to the tourism industry to stimulate economic activity. And we can only come to the conclusion that those are incentives. However, we've seen recently that there are no incentives for the forest industry, and the position was quite strong in that regard. Now, we've seen in the film industry, again, another situation where the position is quite strong.
Can we have the Premier clear up what the Liberal government's position is on the government providing, through monetary means, incentives to attract investment and stimulate economic activity in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are two initiatives currently underway in the Government of the Yukon that are incentives of the type of which the member opposite speaks. They are the Yukon film incentive program and the Yukon mining incentive program. Those are two that are currently underway. The forest industry has not approached me, as Minister of Economic Development, and I do not believe that they have approached the Minister of Renewable Resources regarding a forestry incentive program. No incentive program has been suggested to me by the forest industry.
Mr. Fentie: Okay, I understand that there are the two programs that the Premier mentions, but, for example, the mining industry has received quite a bit more over the years, and the tourism industry has also received a great deal of monies from successive Yukon governments. Now, we had a situation in June that - I'm sorry Mr. Chair, but it's my job to ferret these things out. I can understand that the Premier probably doesn't want to hear this; however, that is why they pay me the big bucks there from Watson Lake - to ask these questions - so I am going to ask.
In June, we had a situation where, in the forest industry, there happened to be one major operator - not a large operator, but a major operator; a major component of the developing industry - who came forward with a request to the Yukon government for a loan, which definitely can be defined as an incentive.
Now, the reason that the request came forward is because, instead of the federal government proceeding in a timely manner with stable access to timber, delays were announced again. So, it left this particular corporation with only one logical choice - to continue to buy timber on the open market, which is simply not a viable position to be in. Without timber, viability is very questionable, especially if you have to purchase it permit by permit.
However, this company was prepared to continue on and to keep those 125 jobs. It was also prepared to come forward with a sizable investment - in the neighbourhood of $16 million - to create a cogeneration plan, kiln-dries and add much more value to the timber.
A $2-million request came to the Yukon government in the form of providing a loan, which would have been an incentive to the forest industry, because that was the only operator buying wood. The only entity in the southeast Yukon, laying out cash and putting all of those little operators and permit-holders to work, was that one company. It was prepared, not only to continue with about a $55,000-per-day injection into the Yukon's economy in terms of cash flow, but to bring forward $16 million of a capital investment to upgrade and improve the forest industry in this territory. Yet they were turned down.
The Premier said there wasn't a business base. However, the industry is caught between a rock and a hard place. There is no business base without timber. The fundamental question here is this: did the Liberal government want to see the industry continue? Or, did the government believe that sacrificing jobs in that industry at that time was a better choice to make?
My question to the Premier: can the Premier explain why, given all of the facts, including what this operation was contributing - now, I see the Minister of Health laughing again. He seems to find people who are in dire straits to be a funny situation, which I find appalling.
Can the Premier answer why the Liberal government wouldn't want to keep 100-plus jobs and a $55,000-a-day injection into the Yukon's economy in terms of cash flow going? We know that, if the pressure had been brought to bear on DIAND to stick to the timelines for THAs, this loan - which wasn't taxpayers' money, because the request was to the immigrant and investor fund, which is there to invest in the economy of the Yukon - would have been a very low-risk loan. Why? Because the collateral is timber.
Can the Premier explain why she chose to go down that road?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I cannot, on the floor of this Legislature, revisit with the member opposite every detail of this situation. The member opposite stood on his feet and said he has just presented all the facts so why don't I revisit this decision. There are a number of facts that differ from what the member opposite has stated, and I cannot, on the floor of the Legislature, get into discussing that particular issue. That is a decision that was made in that particular instance. It was based upon the best information available. A reasoned, thoughtful decision was made by Cabinet, and that decision and that budgetary allocation are not in this budget.
There are a couple of other points. First of all, the member opposite talks about the film incentive fund and compares it with a specific loan request by a specific business. The film incentive fund is open to anyone who chooses to apply and meets the criteria.
The Yukon mining incentive program is available to all who meet the criteria. There's no special deal for any one company at any one point in time.
The business case was not there. There are other mills operating in the area. We are not going to pick and choose. There is no funding program under which the company was seeking funds. There was no mythical pot of money, as the member would have the public believe. I'm reminded by the member opposite - the Minister of Health and Social Services was, I can assure the member, chuckling about something else.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Because the Minister of Health and Social Services has a joie de vivre that is unequalled by members opposite. That's why.
We on this side of the House fully appreciate the situation. We have partners, friends and loved ones in the private sector. We've worked in the private sector ourselves and understand full well what it's like to try to meet the Receiver General payments and worry that you're not going to make payroll that month. Believe me, Mr. Chair, I have been there. And when this job is over, I'd like to go back to the private sector.
It's critical that we have the private sector and rebuild the Yukon economy, because none of us are here forever. We're here at the pleasure of the voters, and we're working hard on our commitment to them.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier said, at the outset, that she's not going to revisit this issue on the floor of the Legislature, but let me remind the Premier, as MLA for Watson Lake and southeast Yukon, I revisit this issue every day. I have a community that's in dire straits. It's a very, very difficult situation to be in for a community.
What I was trying to gather, or ascertain, from the Premier is what her government's position is on incentives. Yes, there was a program; yes, it was a corporate entity, but so what? Across this country, incentives are provided.
If somebody is there willing to bring investment into this territory, I would suggest a much more thorough approach to this, at least, would have been a little more palatable. The Premier herself has made a commitment in a press release today that her government's whole focus is to attract investment to this territory.
Well, there was an example of investment sitting there, but due to the lack of stable access to timber, we can't get that investment. So, we let that opportunity slip by, and it is water under the bridge. I mean, the jobs are gone, the people are gone, nothing is happening. The Premier made mention of other small mills operating. How come they're not operating? There's no uptake on the permits, nothing. Why? It's because the cornerstone - the entity with the money that made it all work - shut down. It's pretty simple.
Now, Mr. Chair, I know that the Liberal government talks to that little group of people who are their inner circle, but Yukoners in general are very, very concerned here with our economic situation and where we're going economically in this territory.
We have to be able to do something now that averts the situation and reverses where we are heading trend-wise, and we have to act in a manner that, yes, at some point in time, may involve an element of risk. It may involve making a decision that we wouldn't always be comfortable making. Desperate times require desperate measures.
I would point out to the Premier that if you take a community like Watson Lake, which is very hopeful that the Alaska Highway pipeline does come and which is extremely focused on a road to resources - but the entire community realizes that right now, at this point in time, and into the very foreseeable future - the next year to two years - the only thing they have to change their fortunes somewhat and to provide a source of income and work is forestry. That's all that is there.
Is there no direction that this government can provide to me and my constituency as to what it is they should do, barring anything happening in that area? Should they sit and wait? Should they continue to do what they've been doing over the last 10 months and move? I mean, this is a very, very difficult situation for people to be in. And they look to their government, through initiatives and through things like the budget, to provide them hope and direction so that they can understand where we are going. That is not happening here.
Can the Premier explain how the budget - and I don't need a detailed explanation - shows Yukoners where we are going economically?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, that was a very far-ranging question from the member opposite and I could use the balance of the available time to restate the budget speech. I found it very clear. And the Yukoners who have spoken with me on the street about it since and at the various locations where I have been have also spoken with me about the budget.
What does it mean to the everyday lives of Yukoners no matter where they live? The budget speaks volumes about our commitment to rebuilding our economy, achieving a land claims settlement, achieving devolution, restoring health care and maintaining our health care, and alcohol and drug addiction - addressing the substance abuse problems in our community, and restoring confidence in government. Ultimately, delivering -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I did so mention land claims. For the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who appears to have missed it, I mentioned achieving land claims settlements.
What does the budget mean to people who are employed in the mining industry? For example, let's talk about economic development. What does it mean to people employed in the mining industry?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite asks who is employed in the mining industry. Well, some of my constituents were formerly employed by the mining industry. They're not right now, so where does this -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: They were formerly employed by the mining industry.
So, the Member for Watson Lake says, "It's all your fault there aren't six mines up and running." Well, this government is doing its best to get mining, to work with the mining industry, to hear what the problem is and why Minto hasn't opened, and what we can do to work with Cantung.
The member opposite cannot stand on his feet and tell me that not one person in Watson Lake would benefit from us working with Cantung to reopen that mine. And, for the benefit of the Member for Klondike, it doesn't require timber.
The member opposite from Watson Lake, as I said, can't tell me that no one in the Yukon will benefit if we worked with Canada Tungsten to reopen that mine. Interestingly enough, in preliminary discussions, they haven't come to this government and said, "We need this, that and the other thing." They haven't come and asked for a new loan program. They've come and asked government to do what we do, which is infrastructure - roads and power.
Mayo and United Keno Hill have talked to us. They're interested in reopening. So what are we doing with the mining industry? We're working with the mining industry. How does this budget speak to them? It speaks to those involved through the mineral exploration tax credit, and it talks about the Yukon mining incentive program. For those doing exploration, it's back. And the number of people who stopped me in November at the geoscience forum, and went on and on and on about how YMIP and the increased funding under the Liberals has enhanced and helped the exploration industry, is critical.
How are we helping the placer miners who, yes, last summer, were still employed? We're working with them to try and deal with federal issues in a very timely manner, something that the former Minister of Economic Development didn't do, because I raised it over and over again in the House. Where were the former government's letters on issues like lowering the cost of exploration in a specific season to benefit the industry? The former minister didn't write. I did in opposition, and I'll write again in government.
It's an important issue. The requirement to spend X amount of money per year, when you're facing an economic situation and a metal price situation that makes mining difficult, is an issue that we can lobby the federal government on, and we can lobby effectively. They've done it before.
We will continue our efforts in that regard.
In terms of the budget, how does this budget speak for those who are employed in the tourism industry? It speaks to support for one particular event that has come to government year after year for support and is a world-class event - the Yukon Quest. That has been supported as a line item in the budget. We're working with a new tourism marketing partnership to ensure that that partnership lives and thrives and, what's more, that it delivers in terms of marketing. And even the economic outlook says we'll continue to see a modest growth in tourism - modest.
Modesty becomes a new government, and it would become any politician to be a little modest about what they've done. However, modesty wasn't what the member asked for.
The member asked me how the budget speaks to the average Yukoner in an economic way, to focus more succinctly. I've talked about mining and briefly about tourism. And I might add that the film incentive fund is another area. We've talked a little bit about it. How is that going to help the average Yukoner? Well, I can tell the member opposite that the film incentive fund has been used in the past and will continue to be used. And while there is one particular project that wants more than what is in the current allotment of the film incentive fund for one project that we have to do the homework on, that is a separate issue. And this government will do its homework, just as we did and have done and will continue to do. This is not our money. It's not the members opposite's money. It's Yukoners taxpayers' money, and they have every right to know that their money will be wisely managed and wisely spent by this government.
And that means a thorough evaluation of potential projects and expenditures of every type. How does this budget speak to the infrastructure builders in the territory and to those who work on slashing contracts? It says that not only do we recognize what we do, but we have increased the funding available.
How does it speak to those who build roads? Finally, we have ended that downward trend of expenditures on our highways before they're covered in potholes, and we're going back up, because we care about the infrastructure that's the envy of the north, and we want to see it continue.
How does it speak to communities and their desire for recreational facilities? There is money in the budget for them. There is money to help deal with the construction of recreational facilities - yes, in the City of Whitehorse because, unlike the members opposite, we happen to like Whitehorse. We happen to think Whitehorse is still part of the Yukon too, much as the members opposite try and divide us. There is also money for the recreational facilities in Carmacks, Dawson City and Watson Lake.
There is also money in the budget - the members opposite accuse us of growing government. There is money in the operation and maintenance budget - and the members opposite accuse us of "growing government" - that is money for municipalities, health care, community library boards, policing contracts and legal aid. And that's not about growing government; that's about delivering solid, good service by a citizen-oriented government for Yukoners.
How does this budget speak to Yukoners? It speaks volumes to Yukoners. And, Mr. Chair, not only do I firmly believe in this budget, but I'm fully prepared to debate it, line by line, with the members opposite.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that enlightened me a great deal, but I think the Premier has to stop talking to the people upstairs in her office and get out there and start talking to Yukoners, because the five people you talk to in your office don't necessarily represent the consensus of the Yukon public. There is a big country out there, Mr. Chair. Unfortunately, under this Liberal government, the population in it is shrinking.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Minister of Education brings up that 3,000 people left. First off, I challenge him to actually attach the 3,000 people leaving to the fault of the former government. Furthermore, it seems that the members opposite think this is a funny situation. It's not.
Furthermore, the former government faced a situation where approximately 40 percent of the territory's GDP went splat, ended, Faro shut down. The Member for Faro knows full well what that meant to the territory. This government hasn't even faced anything like it, and it is already reeling in 10 months.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: The Premier wants to know where the opposition members are. They're busy on their phones because we're getting hundreds of phone calls coming in, complaining about this Liberal government's handling of the situation in this territory. There have been hundreds of calls, and if it weren't for me being in here, I'd be on the phone myself, Mr. Chair, answering those calls, trying to offer advice.
I know it's difficult to listen to me, but we should all get the same opportunity to speak over the microphone.
At any rate, Mr. Chair, the Premier brought up Canada Tungsten. Of course, we'd love Canada Tungsten to go back into operation. However, I want to point out something to the Premier. If Cantung asked this government for money and incentives, it would be very questionable. They're in the Northwest Territories. That's where the mine is. But when it comes to infrastructure, it was the former government that put the bridge in at Eighty-six Mile at the washout so that you could drive to the mine site. It's hard to argue that the other former government wasn't focused on infrastructure. The claim here that, all of a sudden, the Liberal government has dramatically increased capital funding on our highways is bunk. It's complete bunk. It's a very small, nominal increase from what was already there.
Furthermore, the NDP negotiated the Shakwak arrangement. The pre-Yukon Party spent all those good old Yankee dollars and forgot to renegotiate a new one so when we took office in 1996, we had to immediately negotiate another Shakwak agreement. It's through those efforts that so many of our road builders are working in this territory. It's not through the Liberals' efforts. It's all from the previous government. And so are the capital projects. And so is the mining incentive program. Who invented that program, Mr. Chair? It wasn't the Liberal government. They're merely an extension of what a former government was already doing, and they making the claim that they are fixing the situation. But they're not. It's getting much worse.
Under the former government, the trend was unemployment dropping, people moving in, the workforce increasing. Export of products out of this territory, like lumber, increased by 400 percent under the former government.
There's nowhere that this Liberal government can produce those kinds of positive results. As I pointed out today, the first 10 months of this Liberal government's mandate is a train wreck. We are in desperate straits here and, yet, they continue to politically trumpet that they're doing something. Unfortunately, Yukoners know better and, unfortunately, Yukoners are suffering through this very difficult time.
Now, I asked the Premier what, in the budget, is there that would provide Yukoners with hope, and the Premier couldn't answer because there isn't anything in there that would provide them hope. There are some "maybes", but people can't put maybes in the bank and make payments, and people can't take maybes to the grocery store and buy groceries. So, guess what? They saddle up Old Paint and ride out of the territory. They're gone; they move.
So, we're going nowhere here. Can the Premier stand on the floor of this Legislature and list one new job that this budget has created, or will create?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I know it may astound the member opposite but, the last time I checked - and I'll speak again with the bankers in the very near future - you can't take hope to the bank, either. You can't take maybes to the bank; you can't take hope to the bank.
Nevertheless, there is hope for Yukoners in this budget and, what's more, there are jobs for Yukoners in this budget. And, as much as the members opposite like to take credit that the previous government caused the sun to rise this morning, I think there are some things that really were beyond them.
I know they were working on that, too; I know they truly were. I do thank the member opposite for providing us with moments of levity in the dying hours of the debate this afternoon. It does help, nevertheless.
Jobs - I provided that information to the member opposite at the start of the debate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Just one? Well, before this government took office, there were no planned jobs for people in dealing with the construction and reconstruction associated with Holy Family and Christ the King Elementary schools.
The member opposite accuses me of talking to the five people in my office. Well, first of all, those are not the only people whom I speak to during a day. On Tuesday and Thursdays, if the member would care to drop by Lions Pool, there are lots of people I speak with there, and there are lots of people at Takhini Arena on the occasions that I'm there. They are not the hundreds allegedly phoning the member opposite. They're Yukoners speaking to their member about specific issues. And I won't tell the member opposite about the people who stop by and say, "Hey, Pat, hang in there; you guys are doing a good job," because the member won't believe me anyway.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, they're not the people who work for us. In fact, I just about asked the kind gentleman who stopped me on Thursday with that exact comment to say, "Would you mind just telling the members of the opposition that, because they don't believe me when I tell them?"
The other place where there are jobs anticipated that were not jobs prior to this government taking office is in straightening out the Alaska Highway at the corners. That was not a construction project that was planned by the previous government. It was -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member says, "Well, it was on the shelf." Well, it has been on the shelf for an awfully long time - since the Yukon Party. It required political will. The plan is that there are jobs in this budget, and we're going to do it. We're not putting a plan on a shelf. It's going to happen.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Okay, the member opposite wants to hand the debate over to the Member for Klondike. Well, back to you, Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: During the brief time that I spent in my office, I went back and looked at a couple of the responses that I received to a number of the other questions, Mr. Chair. The spin this Liberal government is putting on this situation is interesting. If we look at the protected areas strategy and what the Yukon Party bought into and supported, it was to protect 12 percent of the Yukon - and multiple use. That's what the Yukon Party bought into.
The Minister of Renewable Resources is shaking his head. Now, when a Liberal shakes his head, you don't know if it's in support or agreement, because they change their minds so frequently, Mr. Chair. But that's what the Yukon Party bought into - 12 percent. We're now at 15-plus percent, Mr. Chair, and what do we have? We have a government that won't spell out where we're heading and what percentage of Yukon will finally be dedicated under the protected areas strategy, because it's too difficult a number to ascertain. There are too many variables in the equation.
Well, so much for political decision making, and, I guess, if the political arm of government did come down and set a firm 15- or 20-percent figure, it would be referred to as "political interference", Mr. Chair. But let's look upon it as political opportunity to set a specific goal, determine where those areas are and move forward. The uncertainty surrounding this initiative is the reason why so much of the resource sector is abandoning the Yukon, and they're not going to attract it back to the Yukon with a few words of alleged wisdom from the federal Minister of Finance, who is coming to the Yukon and going to speak at a Liberal fundraiser. The balance of the information that the Premier and he are going to discuss could have been done, I'm sure, over a five-minute telephone call, given the order of magnitude of the extensive review that has been provided by the Minister of Finance, the Premier of the Yukon.
So, the taxpayers of Canada, once again, are going to spend a considerable sum of money, and, at the end of the day, the Yukon coffers will be full and the various Yukon entities that have now ascended into power or elected office will be given the opportunity to go out and wave the Liberal flag.
One of the most interesting areas that I just had placed on my desk, Mr. Chair, was the estimate of the private sector full-time employees - the impact - and this came about as a result of the Premier's position that they're going to sustain 700 full-time jobs - not create 700 full-time jobs, but sustain 700 full-time jobs. And we're told - and this is directly from the document tabled by the Premier, Mr. Chair, the Office of the Deputy Minister - that the private sector is going to create a half full-time equivalent. That's kind of interesting. There's no explanation as to where that's going to be created, or how.
If we look under Community and Transportation Services, under the transportation division, 197.42, and under municipal and community affairs division, 156.66. Well, I wonder what it would be if we looked at the capital budget, if we look at the highway initiative, Mr. Chair, and we see that the Shakwak initiative comprises the largest capital expenditure of the government of the day, as it did in the preceding two governments.
But then you go back to the capital expenditures under the Yukon Party government and just have a look and see what was spent on highway construction. Back in 1992-93, the actuals were a total of $24.7 million. In 1993-94, the actuals were $31.3 million. If we go back to 1992-93, the Alaska Highway was $2.4 million. In 1993-04, the Alaska Highway was $13.6 million out of $31 million. In 1994-95, the actuals were $49.7 million, of which $29.9 million was Alaska Highway, Shakwak portion. In 1995-96, again, it was a $49.7 million year, of which $29.9 was, again, for Shakwak. In 1996-97, it was $46.4 million, of which $28.9 was for Shakwak.
In 1997-98, it dropped to $23.3, of which $10 million were Shakwak. In 1998-99, the actual was $19.6 million, $10.1 of which was Shakwak. In 1999-2000, the actual, $24.6, of which $20 million was Shakwak.
In the mains for 2000-01, it's back up to $28.8 million, of which $25 million was Shakwak. That year was the lowest amount ever spent by the Government of Yukon on highways, $3.8 million, when you subtract the two amounts, Mr. Chair.
We're going to rebuild all of this under this Liberal government, yet we look at what the trends were under the Yukon Party in private sector, full-time government jobs, it was quite significant. If we can do that much in this fiscal period, what was occurring back when things were booming here in the Yukon, when there was optimism - when there was hope? Liberals have destroyed that, Mr. Chair. There is very little hope and very little optimism. And that's just in the highways end of the budget.
And if we start looking at Economic Development, the government is suggesting that under corporate services, it is going to create 12 full-time jobs, 19 under mineral and oil and gas resources, and four under trade and investment. Well, the last time I looked, there wasn't any amount budgeted in the trade and investment side of the budget that was just recently tabled, Mr. Chair. And on oil and gas, we were just going to be spending a lot of money flying the Premier back and forth to Calgary to lobby for an Alaska Highway pipeline. It didn't appear that we're going to be doing much more of that.
Then it goes on to the Education side. This year, the government is going to be creating 46.2 private sector positions. Imagine what that would have been this past winter, Mr. Chair, if the Mayo school had been allowed to proceed in the same manner that Hamilton Boulevard was allowed to proceed. The Liberals look upon themselves - and, I guess, to look after the interests of all Yukoners is not part of the equation. You look after all Liberal constituencies first, and if there is anything left over, then you look beyond the Liberal constituency. At the end of the day, what are we seeing? Another Liberal decision that destroyed a whole bunch of private sector jobs this last winter.
The tenders for the Mayo school are just closing. Hopefully, given that the plans weren't altered significantly, I don't know, but there is a good possibility that the government could be slapped with a lawsuit for bid shopping, given that the plans have not been altered significantly. That may or may not occur.
Mr. Chair, what precipitated all that? A Liberal decision. In the opinion of most, it was an unjust and unfair decision - delaying and postponing the Mayo school construction. They just didn't do their homework. They didn't address their responsibilities, and they didn't look at the total picture. They just looked at the picture of getting as much money into their own ridings, and to heck with the outlying ridings.
The Mayo school is a significant project in itself in that it's the first school, that I'm aware of, constructed in the Yukon where the community has come forward during the consultation process and put their own money into the pot. They asked for a number of changes, and they put their money there. In fact, they were the first ones to the table with their money, some $480,000, Mr. Chair. Not only did they get a slap in the face, they got a kick in their rear, too, when they were told that the project was cancelled.
And if you look backward at all of the preceding schools that have been constructed in the Yukon, the community had a great deal of input into the construction and into widening the usage of the school so it can have a multitude of uses. And never before has the community put money into the equation like Mayo has.
So I'm very hopeful that the Minister of Education and the Minister of Government Services and the Liberal caucus will not be able to find an excuse to postpone or delay the Mayo school once again. I'm sure it's going to be quite a significant debate around their caucus tables when the tenders are opened, Mr. Chair.
The main focus is the jobs that are going to be created. We know what can be created; we know what should be created; but all we're seeing is a dismal attempt by this novice Liberal government, carrying forward with the NDP initiatives, and not adding any new light or shedding any new opportunities into the economic well-being of Yukon.
Then we move on to Government Services. We're told in the information services area that we're going to create 17.3 new jobs; in the technology and telecommunications area, it is 1.64; and under property management, it is 11. It's kind of interesting also, when we move on to Health and Social Services, that under family and children's services, we're only going to create a half a job. Under social services it is 48.5, and under health services, it is 2.
Given this government's ability to move more and more of these areas in-house from the private sector, I am amazed that they have even been able to come up with this order of jobs created in the private sector. If we just look at the number of jobs lost in the private sector when the government took over one of the Gibbs Group Homes - that in itself is quite significant. So here we have a government creating more and more government, taking more and more in-house, Mr. Chair, and coming up with statistics that support the position that the Premier had, that they are going to sustain almost 700 jobs in the private sector.
Mr. Chair, it goes on into Justice, with management services at 1.5 and community and correctional services at 20. That in itself is quite interesting, given the closure of the Teslin facility. I just wonder where those jobs are going to be created.
I'm having difficulty following where in the private sector these numbers of jobs will be created, by and large, Mr. Chair.
We look at Renewable Resources: corporate services, 0.19 private sector FTEs, policy and planning, 1.19, and resource management, 6.48. Maybe in policy and planning we have 1.19 private sector FTEs to determine how much of the Yukon we're going to create into park lands, Mr. Chair, trying to put it forward and get a position from the Minister of Renewable Resources. I don't know.
And then we go into the Tourism end of things, Mr. Chair - corporate services, 0.10 FTEs; heritage, 11.2; industry services, 6.2; and marketing, 0.58. How we come up with some of these numbers is simply amazing, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we do now report progress. Are we agreed?
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by the government House leader 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 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 5, 2001:
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: letters to and from Premier Duncan (June 2, 2000 to February 20, 2001)
Yukon Economic Outlook 2001 (March 2000)