Thursday, March 8, 2001 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of International Womenís Day
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I rise in the House today on behalf of my colleague, the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate, and other members of Cabinet and caucus to recognize March 8 as International Womenís Day.
On this day, every year, we honour women by acknowledging their achievements and their strength.
The theme of this yearís celebration is "Canadian women: raising our diverse voices for positive change." Throughout the centuries, women have raised their voices in protest against injustice, to demand equality and to turn the light on situations that required it.
Just last year, the World March of Women drew governmentsí attention to dangers and injustices still facing women throughout the world. Here at home, the unpaid work women do, from working with Girl Guides or Big Sisters, to sitting on the boards of Kausheeís Place and the Status of Women is invaluable. From the quiet voice caring for children to the demands for a better world for everyone, women work for positive changes.
In Whitehorse, as in previous years, the main celebration for International Womenís Day will take place at the CYO hall on Saturday, March 10. The traditional potluck dinner, followed by entertainment, is organized by the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre and is funded by the Womenís Directorate.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Netro: I rise today on behalf of the official opposition, to pay tribute to International Womenís Day. March 8 was proclaimed in 1977 as International Womenís Day, following more than 50 years of marking a day of recognition for women and their struggles toward equality in a variety of countries.
This day is to recognize that women are important members of society, who deserve recognition for their contributions to society. It is a day to look at the progress that has been made in the struggle for equality, peace and development, while recognizing how far there still is to go. It provides us with a day to unite, network and celebrate our communities and beyond. It allows us to reflect on the progress that has been made while acknowledging that, in many parts of the world, progress has been much slower.
Celebrating International Womenís Day allows us to support each other in our personal choices, and celebrate that we have been able to make choices, knowing that not all women have choices.
While we have made gains toward the rights and equality of women, it is important to remember that women still do not have the same privileges as men. Men still make more money than women, although the gap has been reduced in some countries, including Canada. Unpaid work, like housework, is still done mostly by women. Low paid work, like child care, is still done mostly by women. Men still dominate the positions of power in the political and business worlds. We are very lucky in the Yukon to have such strong leadership from women in politics.
Violence against women is a serious problem in countries around the world and here in the Yukon. Until the rights and equality of women around the world have been ensured, it is unlikely that the economic, political and social problems facing us can be resolved.
It is important that we, collectively and individually, continue to work to improve the lives of women, both globally and locally. It is our duty as legislators to do everything we can to further the cause of womenís rights and equality.
There are a number of events in recognition of International Womenís Day. On Thursday, March 8, weíre having a meeting called "What Women Want". On Friday, March 9, thereís the First Nations International Womenís Day event. On Saturday, March 10, thereís the International Womenís Day potluck supper. Please take time to attend one or more of these events.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I rise to also pay tribute to International Womenís Day as an opportunity to recognize how much women have achieved over the last century and to commemorate womenís accomplishments as well as struggles.
This yearís theme, "Canadian women: raising our diverse voices for positive change," emphasizes the positive impact where women have raised their voices. Here in the Yukon, we have a rich and diverse culture of women sharing a long tradition of speaking out, taking action and making a positive impact on our communities. Whether it be fundraising, caregiving, lending a hand, or involvement in political life, women contribute to the quality of life in this territory on a daily basis.
The countless contributions women have made to our history, our quality of life and to our future, continue to inspire us to be better people and to help make our world a better place for all.
Today we observe International Womenís Day by celebrating the accomplishments that women have made over the past century. At the same time, let us not forget the countless women who were not given ó and are still not given ó equal opportunities simply because of their gender. Today, for example, women are paid considerably less than their counterparts. Of those living below the poverty line in Canada, the overwhelming majority of them are women.
International Womenís Day is a time for all of us to reflect on what progress has been made over the last century. Itís a time to call for change and a time for us to renew our commitment to the cause of equality. Women have a great deal to be proud of and I am pleased to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those individuals on this very day.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If there are no further tributes, we will proceed to introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I would like the House to join me in introducing a very hard-working group that for the past two years have been working on active living: the chair of that committee, Nesta Leduc, Linda Armstrong, Joyce Young, Karen Thomson, Kathy Zrum, Diney William, Jeff OíFarrell, Chris Milner, and David Hayley. I welcome you here. I appreciate the fact that youíve come to join us in this very momentous moment. I would ask the House to join in welcoming you here.
Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to ask the House to join me in welcoming Mr. Paul Deulingís grade 11 social studies class from F.H. Collins.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have for tabling the Yukon governmentís response to the ministerís task force for active living. Thank you.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Yukon active living strategy
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is with great pleasure that I rise today with an important announcement on how the Yukon government is working to implement the Yukon active living strategy.
One of this governmentís key commitments to Yukoners involves taking a new and forward-thinking approach to health and wellness, one that recognizes the importance of lifestyle and prevention in shaping health policy and in delivering health-related programs and services.
Active living is the cornerstone to a prevention-based approach to individual and community health. A study commissioned by the Government of Canada in 1998 indicated that reducing the number of inactive Canadians by just 10 percent would result in annual health care savings of $5 billion. The Yukon is part of a national commitment to make this happen by the year 2003.
Mr. Speaker, the benefits of active living go beyond just our physical health. Active living also has an important role to play in individual well-being and the quality of life in our communities. Weíre moving away from the "no-pain, no-gain" approach to physical activity, recognizing that the experience of being physically active involves body, mind and spirit.
We want to encourage more Yukoners to embrace physical activity into their daily lives, whether it be playing with the kids, walking the dog, gardening, cycling to work, picking berries, walking in the woods, or participating in organized sport and recreation activities.
Last May, I received a strategy from the task force on active living, outlining recommendations to support and promote active living opportunities for individuals, schools, communities and workplaces. My department has worked closely with its partners in Health and Social Services, Education, the Public Service Commission, the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board and the Womenís Directorate, to determine how we can best combine our resources to put the task forceís strategy into action.
The result is a plan that will see implementation of several recommendations, beginning immediately. Our detailed response is outlined in the document I tabled today.
Iím pleased to announce that our government will invest nearly $130,000 in 2001-02 to help put the first stage of the Yukon active living strategy in motion. Highlights of these initiatives include hiring an active living coordinator to help oversee the implementation of the Yukon active living strategy; the development of an extensive community-based public awareness campaign for the entire Yukon; a pilot project for a green prescription program, endorsed by the Yukon Medical Association, where participating individuals will be prescribed physical activity as an integral element of their treatment programs; and the development of an extensive, school-based active living awareness and education program in Yukon schools. As part of this, the development of criteria which will see all Yukon schools designated as active living schools by the year 2003.
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the task force members for their efforts in developing the Yukon active living strategy. My colleague, the Member for Porter Creek North, was a dedicated member of the task force and continues to promote active living in his capacity as the Minister of Health and Social Services. He puts most of us to shame.
I would also like to recognize the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes who, as the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services, was responsible for forming the active living task force.
At this time, I would like to ask the members opposite to lend their support to this important initiative in the interests of promoting positive social change for all Yukoners. As an incentive to sweeten the deal, Iíll be providing each of you and the members of the media with an active living T-shirt.
In closing, Iíd like to say that I am walking my talk where active living is concerned. I count myself among those Yukoners who need to incorporate more physical activity in their daily lives. I have recently started wearing a pedometer, a little gadget that tracks my steps to help me meet my personal goal of 10,000 steps a day. I have an awful lot of steps to walk.
I challenge all my colleagues in this House to count themselves in and to help set a good example for Yukoners. After all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step. Together, we can make a difference to help improve not only the physical health of Yukoners, but our quality of life and community well-being, as well.
Mr. McRobb: I am pleased to rise today in response to the ministerís statement regarding the active living strategy. It is important to recognize that a strategy for active living needs to be implemented soon so that we can more quickly reap the benefits from such a program. I would like to thank the minister for recognizing the efforts of the MLA for Ross River-Southern Lakes who got this strategy rolling in the first place.
Any such strategy needs to set targets and evaluate the effectiveness of its programs on an ongoing basis. I hope we can expect to receive regular reports on the strategy, so that the public, through discussion and debate, will have an opportunity to provide their feedback to the minister.
I would like to suggest that a commitment to a strategy should be reflected in all areas of public policy, so I welcome the news that the minister will be working with other departments in order to implement the strategy on the widest possible basis. This is an area where it would be helpful if the minister could provide the House with regular reports about the progress of these discussions.
In order for the strategy to work effectively, there needs to be a commitment on the part of the minister and her department to evidence-based advocacy to assist in the development and growth of policies to promote active living. The minister and her department should work with the task force to develop sound and relevant evidence of the benefits of the active living strategy so that the strategy implementation and policy development is enhanced.
There should be an emphasis on a multi-sectoral approach to the strategy. We all know that if such an important initiative only remains on the pages of policy books, the strategy will not be able to deliver the benefits that we know it is capable of. That said, I would suggest that a public awareness campaign is simply not enough. There needs to be more money available to and directed at community groups who already help to provide opinions and opportunities.
The key to healthy and active living in the Yukon requires the participation of everyone in the territory. In this connection, we can only regret the cuts announced for the community development fund and wonder about the extent of this governmentís commitment to active living. An active living strategy should look at target groups ó groups who do not have the resources or the opportunities to participate in physical activity as often as other groups. I would like to suggest that people who live in rural areas may be one such group, as are people with disabilities, another. Relevant support of facilities needs to be set up within our urban areas in Whitehorse and in other communities to enable low income population groups to also benefit from sport and physical activity policy and programming. I would encourage the minister to take a long-term view when it comes to program development. There needs to be a commitment to capacity building and a commitment to partnerships. There needs to be a commitment to the long-term viability and sustainability of the active living strategy.
Earlier today, Mr. Speaker, I tried to obtain a copy of the strategy from the front desk. I was informed they werenít available there. I would like to suggest to the minister that such documentation should be available in all government offices.
I would like to laud the minister in her personal commitments to a healthier lifestyle, and also inform members that I will be participating in a professional sports event later this month. I would invite all members and all Yukoners to join me in participating in the second annual Kluane open chess tournament in Haines Junction. This March 25 event is scheduled at the convention centre in beautiful Haines Junction. I would also note that chess is recognized as an international sport.
Perhaps more seriously, I would invite the minister to join me any time next summer to participate in hiking any one of the beautiful trails in the Kluane region.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in response to this ministerial statement on the Yukon active living strategy, or what we should come to call the "anti couch-potato strategy".
I was somewhat surprised to learn that the minister is wearing a pedometer to help track her steps in her personal quest to achieve 10,000 steps a day, in view of the fact that the ministerial statement was half an hour late arriving at our office. Iíd ask the minister to speed up her pedometer to ensure, in the future, that our ministerial statements arrive on time.
I also note with interest that the minister drives the two blocks to work, and I would encourage her to lead by example. That has been the case in the past. It has probably been curtailed somewhat before this ministerial statement, to ensure a good role model.
Mr. Speaker, the minister will find no arguments from this side of the House that active living promotes health and wellness and, ultimately, helps reduce our health care costs. I believe most Canadians, most Yukoners, now accept the premise that physical activity promotes health and wellness. Previously, an 18-year old Canadian was about as healthy as an 80-year old Swede, but today I believe that has changed. To what extent, Iím not sure ó perhaps the minister can give a report in her response as to where Canadians, and Yukoners in particular, rate on the health and fitness scale.
I cannot help but notice that this government is planning to spend $130,000 to implement this strategy and that the Minister of Health and Social Services helped to put the strategy together. According to media reports this morning, however, the Minister of Health and Social Services has given a comparable sum of money, $139,000, to AIDS Yukon Alliance to cope with the 30 people who are HIV positive here in the Yukon. But he isnít prepared to help the 400 people afflicted with hep C, represented by the Positive Life group
Accordingly, I would urge this minister and her colleagues, the Minister of Health and Social Services, to ensure that, when they are establishing new strategies, they devote the necessary resources to those who need the help the most. I would also seek some assurances from the minister that the government isnít setting up any new bureaucracy to administer this strategy, and that the bulk of the money will be program money and not devoted to administration.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I thank the members opposite for their comments. I will be pleased to update the House on a regular basis on the progress of the active living strategy implementation.
One of the target groups the Member for Kluane is speaking about is surely the Legislative Assembly, and Iíd be pleased to accompany any of the members any time on a walk or a hike, and the strategy can certainly be made available at government offices.
Now, the Member for Klondike is incorrect that I drive the two blocks to work. Driving to work is the exception rather than the rule. He should note that he hasnít seen my van in the parking lot out there this year more than once or twice.
I should also note that the Minister of Health and Social Services helped to put the strategy together before he was an MLA, and he continues his good work and his active living now. Iím disappointed that the Member for Klondike chose to stray off topic in his reply to this ministerial statement.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am pleased to rise today and announce an exciting partnership that will help to improve literacy in the Yukon. For those who are at ease with literacy, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate how challenging everyday tasks can be for those who are not. Imagine what it must be like not to be able to fill out a job application, understand instructions on a prescription bottle, or simply to read to your child. These are challenges that many Canadians face every day, because unfortunately, despite our excellent public education programs, an estimated 5 million Canadians have difficulty with literacy and numeracy.
In 1994, nine countries, including Canada, participated in the international adult literacy survey. This was the worldís first large-scale comparative assessment of adult literacy. It provided unprecedented data and information about the causes and consequences of literacy skill deficits. However, the territories were not included in the Canadian portion of the survey. This has hampered our ability to determine the literacy needs of Yukon people.
When we became aware that another, even more detailed, Canadian survey was being planned, the advanced education branch of the Department of Education looked for ways to ensure that Yukon people would not be excluded again. Working in partnership with the B.C./Yukon region of Human Resources Development Canada, the national literacy secretariat and Statistics Canada, the advanced education branch has formed an agreement to include 1,400 Yukon residents in the next Canadian survey. When designing the Yukon adult literacy and skills survey, we wanted a fair representation of all our residents. Therefore, of the 1,400 adults to be surveyed, half will be from Whitehorse and the other half from Yukon communities.
We expect that this formula will provide us with a realistic cross-section of Yukon people and their various levels of literacy skills.
The Yukon adult literacy and skills survey will take place in 2002 and will test not only reading and writing abilities, but also other important life skills in areas of teamwork, information, computer technology, numeracy, and problem solving. The survey itself is a combination of written and interview questions and will take approximately two hours to complete. I am also happy to state that several Yukon people will be employed to conduct the survey.
Spread over three years, advanced education and the National Literacy Secretariat will each contribute $195,000, HRDC will provide $150,000 and Stats Canada will provide a further $90,000. This unique partnership will provide $630,000 in funding needed to survey Yukonís literacy needs. We are confident that, once the results of the Yukon adult literacy skills survey are available in 2003, they will provide invaluable information about the particular literacy levels and needs of Yukon people. They will help us to design made-in-Yukon literacy programs.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the unique partnership the advanced education branch has formed in funding this incredibly important project. It is an excellent example of how governments can pool their resources toward a worthy outcome.
The benefits of the Yukon adult literacy and skills survey will be far-reaching, Mr. Speaker. Indeed, Yukon Learn has always supported the need for this survey to occur in Yukon and also recognizes the value of its potential results. We expect that the data will provide a means to identify effective ways to help Yukon people increase their literacy skills, improve their quality of life, and better develop the skills required to be competitive in both local and global economies.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to respond to this ministerial statement briefly.
First of all, I think this is a very positive initiative, and I thank the minister for putting it together and bringing it to where it will be working for us. It certainly gives us a tool and much-needed information to work with, down the road in the future.
I would like to ask the minister to consider some of the other things, the here and now. For example, consider injured workers who, through Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, have tried hard to get into a different career ó and this is all about literacy, and about here and now ó and also those who are wanting to get job-ready now.
In regard to the pipeline, for example, some things are just not happening, and there are those who are failing exams. Itís all about literacy. So those Iíd like to ask the minister to consider in this survey, and maybe target that specifically, and to also concentrate on training ó on here and now ó and getting people job-ready, for example, for the pipeline. I think we need to look at this very seriously, because the workforce is leaving the Yukon. In the recent information provided to this House, it is those between the ages of 25 and 40, and thatís our main workforce. So what weíre going to be doing is basically relying on our younger workers and our older workers, and there is a vast difference in technology between those ages. In some terms, it may not necessarily be a bad thing, having our older workers taking in the younger, but get them up to speed so they are able to communicate with new technologies and so on.
So I do look forward to the results of the survey.
Mr. Jenkins: The Yukon Party believes that literacy and numeracy are of fundamental importance to Yukoners, and that is why they figured so prominently in our partyís policies and platforms.
We have constantly emphasized that it is essential to improve Yukon studentsí basic skills in reading and writing, as well as their mathematical skills in computing and problem solving. We plan to achieve these goals through standardized testing and core curriculum. We plan to achieve these goals by conducting student eye, hearing and speech examinations, to ensure that there are no physical impediments to learning.
We plan to improve Yukonís literacy and numeracy skills by implementing a comprehensive strategy to deal with one of Yukonís most serious impediments to learning: FAS and FAE.
This ministerial statement today concerns adult literacy, but Iím here today to tell you that many young Yukoners who are going through our education system are not learning to read and write adequately, do math or problem-solve adequately. Now that, in a large part, is due to the fact that there are three distinct educational systems in the Yukon. Thereís one system for Whitehorse; thereís another system for rural Yukon. In Whitehorse, itís broken down further, to a public school system and a Catholic school system, where the ultimate number of educated students are proceeding through the Catholic school system. That is a shame, Mr. Speaker.
Reports in the Globe and Mail yesterday and today have exposed the fact that, in Ontario alone, 170,000 grade 10 students ó or 29 percent ó failed to pass a basic literacy test. Mr. Speaker, if a similar test were administered in Yukon schools, how many of our students would pass? These are our young people, so one can imagine the extent of the problem among Yukonís adult population, a population that has been afflicted with FAS/FAE.
While I welcome initiatives such as this to determine the extent of Yukonís adult literacy problem, I must express concern about the length of time it will take to conduct this survey. The results wonít be available until 2003, two years from now. The government will be on its way out of office before it can actually assess the extent of the problem and develop a plan of action.
I would like to save the minister some time and some money. I am asking him to assume that literacy in Yukonís adult population is acute and take corrective action now. These people need help right away ó now ó not in two or three or four years from now. There are programs that this government can implement now, without waiting for three years to design a made-in-Yukon literacy program. Time is of the essence. Act now.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With all due respect to the comments that come from the official opposition, I will take into consideration the suggestion and recommendation made by the leader of the official opposition with respect to injured workers, and I will be approaching the minister responsible on that.
I am also encouraged that the Department of Education, through its advanced education branch, is currently training various individuals right across the territory and already establishing training practices for oil and gas in anticipation of the pipeline that is coming down the Alaska Highway ó that will be coming down the Alaska Highway, Mr. Speaker.
It is always interesting, though, to hear the responses that we do get from ministerial statements. I am pleased that the opposition on this day didnít stand up and question the length or the content of our ministerial statement today, because they are both very worthwhile projects.
They always manage to get their political messages in, which I guess is their just due in these undertakings. The official opposition leader had indicated that somehow this project that I announced by ministerial statement is resulting in the workforce leaving the territory. Iím finding it a little difficult to find the linkage there, but Iím sure if I look a little deeper Iíll find it.
With respect to the comments that I heard from the Member for Klondike, I do agree with some of the things that he said. We do recognize that we have some literacy problems right within our current education system. It is through the Department of Education that we are addressing those needs and concerns and working with the administrators in the schools as well as school councils to identify the needs and where we can concentrate our efforts.
So, we are taking immediate action now, but then again, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike does go off on tangents, as he often does, and is sponsoring the notion, which is incredibly incorrect, that we have three education systems here in the territory. Despite his rhetoric on that fact, I think we will find that we donít have three education systems in the territory, and that we have very competent and able-bodied teachers in our system throughout.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If there are no further ministerial statements, this then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Hepatitis C, Positive Lives funding
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services this afternoon, based on this morningís CBC report. There was an interview with a spokesperson for Positive Lives and we certainly know that thatís the group that represents people with hepatitis C.
Iíd like to ask the minister this: why did the minister tell this group not to go public with the struggles for funding?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The question is a good one, because obviously itís a media question, and I have to tell you that I met with the Yukon AIDS Alliance people and with Positive Lives. They spoke to me about the merits of their services to Yukoners. They spoke to me about their funding requirements from the federal government and from YTG. They also spoke to me about their past conflict between these two groups and the current conflict, obviously. Our discussions resulted in my advice to them to seek mediation and to work things out for the best of Yukoners.
With respect to Positive Lives, I complimented them on their ability to go to the media in the past; however, I encouraged them to mediate with the AIDS Alliance people in this situation. I have been informed that the two parties do not want to go to mediation. In light of this, we are committed to providing Yukoners with appropriate cost-effective services, and we will encourage all non-profit organisations to meet their goals to serve Yukoners.
Whenever possible, this government believes in the one-window approach. We are a population of 30,000 people. Unfortunately, sometimes people have their own ways and means of trying to do things. We cannot be setting up offices all over the Yukon, just because one group or two or three individuals have different ideas. We must work together. Our finances are limited. We are taking steps to ensure that we have one-window delivery. We encourage NGOs to work together wherever possible to avoid duplication.
In the specific case with the AIDS Alliance and Positive Lives, two groups who used to be one, we offered mediation.
Speaker: Order please. Would the minister please conclude.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Are we going to cut Hospice? Are we going to cut Teegatha'Oh Zheh? No, Mr. Speaker, weíre going to try to do the best we can.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the member for his speech, Mr. Speaker, but thatís not exactly what I asked for. I got the words from the member opposite that he was there to provide advice. Well, "would not be in your interest to go to the media" ó that doesnít sound like advice, Mr. Speaker. It sounds like the silencer. It sounds like 1984ís George Orwellís Big Brother approach. The member never answered the question.
I asked the member why he told him not to go public. What the memberís basically saying is that he didnít say that, but he threatened him a little. So now, heís saying, "Thatís what I said, but thatís not what I meant," so Iíd like the member now to stand on his feet and apologize to the Positive Lives group for the inaction and for the wording.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thanks again for the question. We know the member opposite is great at fear-mongering. As a matter of fact, he gets the award for ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd love to hear the message from the speaker opposite but, unfortunately, the microphones are not working, and you know my hearing problem, Mr. Speaker, so Iíd appreciate if youíd get that fixed.
Speaker: Order please. Iíll turn the clock off. Is there a way that we can address that right now? I donít know if itís something in the system.
Could the Minister of Health and Social Services please test his mike?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Do you hear me?
Speaker: Order please. Iíll ask the minister to begin his reply again, please.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Iíll repeat, for the member opposite, the fact that fear-mongering does not work with this government, Mr. Speaker. It does not work with the public, and Iím going to say, at this point, I did not tell any group not to go to the media. That would be foolish on any politicianís behalf to do that, so I did not say not to go to the media.
I think that it is very important that it is easy for many of us to do this kind of thing in the public, but when the facts are there, itís quite a different story.
I think that it is very important for us to understand that we are a government that lays things on the table. I am known not to play around with little idiosyncrasies or little innuendoes ó I lay it on the table, and if there are problems, I approach whomever it is and ask if we can come to some decisions. We are transparent, we are honest and we are fair. I believe that people must solve their own problems. I am not able to do that if they are not able to.
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I made it very clear, Mr. Speaker, to both groups, that mediation was the way to go. I made no statement about not going to the media.
Mr. Keenan: I am not standing here fear-mongering. I am not saying that the facts are different from what they are. What I am saying is what I have heard.
I, too, have been involved in this for quite some time. I, too, have met with the HIV people and I, too, have made suggestions that would help. But the Health minister is not answering the questions. What, basically, the Health minister stood up here and said is that the hepatitis C folks, Positive Lives, are liars, and that is not what I want to hear in this House. I want to hear an apology for the implied discrepancies on the truth by the minister.
Now, will the minister please stand and give that answer of an apology and then will the minister please give his assurance that the people with hepatitis C will not miss out on the funding that is required to deliver their program?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the way to resolve conflict is to discuss the differences and to seek mediation if theyíre not able to do that themselves. Itís about thinking creatively; itís about thinking how we can deliver a service to Yukoners. I have encouraged everyone to do that. I have encouraged the Alliance people to do that; I have encouraged the Positive Lives people to do that. They chose not to do it. So, I canít make that happen if they donít want it.
I do recommend that, before we go anywhere, mediation or discussion or dialogue take place. Mr. Speaker, I have not spoken to Positive Lives since those meetings. They have not come back to me to ask me whether we could do something different. We were open to any kind of solution or resolution of this issue. Instead, they chose to go on the air. Why would I even make a suggestion like that to a group when I know thatís what they use? They have done that in the past. Why would I be foolish enough to make that kind of a comment to a group that I know has used the media before?
Mr. Speaker, I think thatís a very important question that we should ask ourselves.
Question re: Hepatitis C, Positive Lives funding
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, again Iíd like to point out that the minister hasnít answered any of the questions that I have asked of him, and then he throws a question at me, asking why would he be foolish enough. The member has built his own nest so now heís got to live in his own nest, and if heís not comfortable with that nest, unfortunately itís of his own self-construction.
Mr. Speaker, weíre talking about very serious issues here. Weíre talking about peopleís lives and their health, and we canít be doing this through backroom deals. We have to be right out front with these type of things.
I understand that there are about 30 diagnosed cases of HIV and AIDS in the territory and 400 cases of hepatitis C, and, Mr. Speaker, some people even suffer from the same illness.
Now that the groups have turned down the mediation, what process is the department going to follow to get the necessary funds where they belong?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, all we can do as government is try to support and help those NGOs that are doing the job out in the community. Because they have spats, because they have differences and because we try to encourage them to resolve their differences ó thatís all we can do is offer mediation, Mr. Speaker. The important part in this whole issue is for groups like that to try to build some kind of consensus about what they want to do and how they want to approach the whole issue of HIV and hepatitis C. Itís not up to me to come up with the decision of what they should do. I would not do that. Thatís why we have NGOs out there that want to do what they do best. And we encourage that. Itís obvious by our budget. We gave increases to almost everyone that we could because we believed in the NGO process.
So, Mr. Speaker, what I am saying right now is that the door is still open. We are still waiting for some response from our NGO groups. Itís up to them to make some kind of a suggestion as to how they want to approach it.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that Positive Lives went to the media because the minister would not listen to them. They didnít go there as a first resort; they went there as a last resort. Now, what do I hear from the minister at this time, standing on his feet in the House? Heís cutting them loose. Heís cutting them loose, saying, "Well, I gave it my best shot. It didnít work. I donít know what to do." Mr. Speaker, is that a sign of an open and accountable government? Does it sound like weíre building trust in government? Not to me. It doesnít sound like theyíre building trust in government at all.
Now, Iíd like to ask again, what is the minister going to do to bring these organizations together? Now that the federal government has restored the health funding, what is the minister going to do to bring them together to ensure that those over 300 cases out there are not suffering and are getting the service that they need? Itís a very simple question.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for that question. I take exception to his term "cutting them loose". I would suggest that NGOs ó any groups out there ó are not being cut loose. They do what they do best. They come to government with concrete proposals; they come to us to provide that kind of information that will do a better job than we as government can do. And I donít know how much more we can do, other than try to encourage mediation with two groups that are having differences, Mr. Speaker.
We still want delivery of services, and weíre encouraging the two groups that we have mentioned to come forward with what their ideas are on how they would propose that we meet the needs of Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, Iíll mention it again: neither of these groups came to me and said that there was a problem. The next thing we know, itís in the media.
So, I think thereís a bit of courtesy here. I donít go to the media sharing what differences I may have with whatever group. I usually go to the people first. Then we try to look for solutions, Mr. Speaker. I believe that wasnít returned in the same way.
So, the important part is that weíre open, weíre transparent, and weíre trying to solve a problem, but remember, weíre in the middle. Weíre not the people who really have to deliver the program at this point.
Mr. Keenan: Theyíre so open and so transparent that even I can see that the ministerís nose is out of joint.
Standing on the floor of the House, singing an old Beatles song, called "Come Together" ó that just ainít going to cut it in this House. It just is not going to cut it in this House.
I want to reiterate ó what is the minister going to do to bring two groups together, and what is the minister going to do to provide the services for the two groups? They both have different mandates. They both have, in some cases, the same clients, but they both have different clients. What is the minister going to do? Is the minister going to give his assurance that people with hep C will not miss out on the funding because Positive Lives has gone public? Again, just a simple answer.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I know the member opposite would like to hear me sing. He knows I have such a good voice for singing.
Mr. Speaker, I think the important part in this whole development is that we are not at all looking at cutting services. Weíre not, at this point, delivering the services. Aids Alliance is delivering the service at this point, Mr. Speaker. Now we have another group that would like to have part of the action, and that is going to be up to those groups to bring forward what they would like to do, and how they would like to proceed with this. Iím not going to predetermine what they should do or how they should do it.
I said before that our door is open. We want a solution; we want a resolution. I can only offer mediation and support for what weíre doing.
Remember, Mr. Speaker, I did not threaten anybody here about cutting resources or cutting funding. The member opposite did that, and the group that was in the paper said that. I never said anything about cutting services.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: The gentleman just stood on his feet and said that I was the one who implied a threat. No, Mr. Speaker, I brought the threat to this House as it was implied to me. So, to try and throw smoke and mirrors on this very serious issue, I think is absolutely appalling and I demand an apology and a retraction.
Speaker: Minister of Health and Social Services, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I will correct that comment. I didnít mean the member opposite cut it; I am just saying that the member opposite mentioned it ó I did not mention it.
Speaker: Does the ministerís explanation satisfy the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, nothing about that minister satisfies me, but I will have to live with it.
Speaker: Thank you very much. I will ask the minister to conclude his answer. If the minister is finished, we will proceed to the leader of the third party.
Question re: Hepatitis C, Positive Lives funding
Mr. Jenkins: A question for the same minister on virtually the same topic: last week we heard from the president of the Yukon Video and Film Industry Association, that he was advised by this minister, acting on behalf of the Minister of Tourism, to not say anything to the media. Today we hear from the founder of Positive Lives, a group representing 400 Yukoners afflicted with hepatitis C, that he was advised by the minister not to go to the media to explain his associationís difficulties with government. How does the minister justify this governmentís intimidation and the implied threat that if an NGO goes to the media, their funding or avenue to governments will be cut off? How many other groups has the minister tried to intimidate?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I will sort of take back a little bit of what I said about the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes being the classic fear-mongerer; it actually is the Member for Klondike. First of all, mistruths are sometimes not always the truth, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. I must caution the minister ó
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I withdraw that.
Speaker: The minister withdraws the comment. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The whole story is always a problem and for me to give any kind of direction to any group about what they should or should not do is not the way that I operate, Mr. Speaker.
Iím not interested in mediating issues in the media. I could maybe comment on why Iím not interested in that, but I wonít. The important part is that we, as individuals, must try to resolve our own issues, Mr. Speaker, so if thereís the insinuation there that I do this with other groups, maybe the Member for Klondike should read over the facts, rather than try to present something that is a smoke-and-mirrors approach to addressing an issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, all we are presenting is the facts. It is the minister who is trying to steer them away and around and twist them into a pretzel.
The Liberal election platform states they want elected officials to lead by example, to be more accountable for their actions. How can the minister justify government intimidation as being an example for others to follow and being in accord with the Liberal governmentís commitment to be more open and accountable?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Iím not sure where the Member for Klondike is getting the idea of intimidation. Is it because we asked for mediation to resolve an issue? Thatís intimidation? I donít think so, Mr. Speaker. That is trying to resolve an issue and if thatís what the Member for Klondike suggests is intimidation, then I believe that the dictionary may have another definition for it.
The important part here is helping Yukoners. Itís helping Yukoners through a one-window approach, trying to build on the strengths of all Yukoners. To make the idea that we are trying to do something different and weíre not transparent, Mr. Speaker, is absolutely not true.
Speaker: Order please. Iíd ask the minister not to make comments regarding truths or not true or untruths. Iíd ask the minister to withdraw that, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I withdraw it.
Speaker: Let the record show the minister has withdrawn it.
Mr. Jenkins: What we see, Mr. Speaker, is this government adopting a modus operandi of pitting the interests of one group against another. The reality is, itís hurting Yukoners. I have a single mother of two, with hepatitis C, who this ministerís own department has cut off from social assistance because she has received a small inheritance that is locked into an investment fund. She canít access it. Sheís cut off social assistance and there isnít any way she can access any help or assistance from Positive Lives.
Now, this is close to home. This is the reality of what the minister is dealing with. When is the minister going to address his responsibilities in this area and treat Yukoners in the appropriate manner, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Klondike is very famous for bootlegging other questions into the original question. Iíll state categorically that we do not intimidate groups nor individuals. I never have, and I never will.
Now, if the spin of the opposition is to make that the reality, then thatís their spin. Itís not ours. Itís always interesting when you look at the community development fund audit to see who did what for whom. A lot of interference ó we donít do that.
Mr. Speaker, we are interested in resolving problems, coming to solutions, and delivering programs. If groups out in the community canít get their acts together to work together, thatís something they have to resolve. I cannot play referee on everything that happens in the community. All I can do is challenge groups to pull their resources together and try to build for the future. Thatís all I can do. I canít tell them what to do. If they choose to use the media as their way of trying to solve the problems, thatís their choice. This is a democracy. Nobody can tell people what to do and not to do. So the opposition trying to make those kinds of statements because they believe the media ó thatís their problem, not mine.
Question re: Workersí advocate
Mr. Keenan: Same minister, Mr. Speaker, different topic. Mr. Speaker, this is going to be the third time Iíve asked this question in this House, and I would certainly like to get no thunder, no lightning, just the facts, please.
Iím asking about the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board. Yesterday, the Supreme Court rejected a motion that was filed by the boardís lawyer that would have prevented the independent workersí advocate from representing injured workers in court. So I would like to ask the minister now: does the minister agree that the workersí advocate should have that authority?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the court has spoken. Weíre not challenging the court.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I guess Iím going to have to go to take-four at some other point in time, but Iím just asking if the minister is going to show some leadership. In the previous three questions, the minister went ahead and attacked NGOs instead of showing leadership. So Iím asking for that. Mr. Speaker, this could be drawn up again. This issue could very well be brought to the courts again and looked at in a court of appeal and a different verdict brought down. So Iím asking the minister, for the sake of clarity, will the minister show some leadership and bring forth a simple legislative amendment to enshrine the authority in the Workersí Compensation Act this sitting? Will the minister do that this sitting?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: For the record, Mr. Speaker, Iím not attacking NGOs. I just asked two NGOs to try to resolve their differences. Thatís not attacking NGOs.
Again, speculation ó we are a government that doesnít believe in speculation. The member opposite is saying, well, this might come down, this might happen. Mr. Speaker, we will operate in the way that is in the best interests of Yukoners. Weíre not interested in speculation at this point.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, the question has already been brought forth. They donít believe in speculation, yet their whole economic agenda is based on speculation. My goodness, Mr. Speaker, we have to get a little bit of the facts on the table here.
Iíd like to get back to the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board. The possibility is there. Itís not a question about doing homework; itís about the evolution of legislation, and it will come up again. Iím asking the minister again if he will bring in a simple amendment this sitting so that we will put it to bed. Will the minister, in the interim, please direct the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board not to bring forth any more cases like this until it is clarified through the act? Will the minister do that and quit with the waffling?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, this being a court case, we canít comment on court cases. The court has made its decision, and weíre following it.
Question re: Watson Lake, health care needs
Mr. Fentie: My question is for the same minister, the Minister of Health and Social Services. Recently, the minister made a trip to my community, Watson Lake, and it was very evident that the minister was down probably getting himself up to speed on the health needs of the community. However, the minister failed to meet with the good doctor of Watson Lake, who has serviced that community for some quarter of a century. Can the minister explain why he snubbed the doctor and did not even sit down and discuss the health needs of the community with the doctor?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, I think the Member for Watson Lake is correct. I did not meet with the doctor, although I did go to the doctorís office to see if we could arrange a meeting. Obviously, there wasnít time, and I said the next time I am there Iíll definitely make a point of meeting with him. I donít deny the fact that I didnít meet with him, Mr. Speaker, and hopefully the next time I will.
Mr. Fentie: Iím glad to hear that because this minister, whose governmentís commitment is to maintain quality health care, should have made that his first stop. This is a doctor who has provided services for the needs of people in the community for almost a quarter of a century. He well knows the health needs of the people in that community. So I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that this minister simply didnít want to discuss those needs with the doctor and, furthermore, when it comes to recruiting doctors, this minister should well have talked to Dr. Said who, on his own, actively recruits doctors.
Will this minister now commit to reschedule a trip to Watson Lake as quickly as possible so that he can sit down and discuss these things with Dr. Secerbegovic?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I already made my point that I didnít meet the doctor. I did go to his office, but he wasnít available, Mr. Speaker. I will, in the future, ensure that I do meet with the doctor.
The important part about this whole issue ó the side opposite are so good at intimidation. They are the masters of intimidation. The CDF audit tells you very clearly what has happened in the past. We donít intimidate, Mr. Speaker. We work with Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: I can tell you that the doctor was quite taken aback that this minister did not schedule, up front, a meeting with him ó a doctor who knows intimately the health needs of a community. And thatís not the question I asked.
Will the minister now reschedule a trip to Watson Lake to sit down with the doctor? And the minister may very well get some good advice on how to recruit doctors to this territory, because the doctor in Watson Lake is doing so now, without any help or assistance from this minister and his department.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: In Watson Lake, I met with a variety of groups. I met with the nurses for a good part of the morning; I met with the social council that they have there, for another couple of hours at lunch hour. I met with the First Nations. I went to the doctorís office, as I have said in three previous turns, and the doctor wasnít available. I have said that when I go back to Watson Lake, I will definitely try to meet with the doctor but, again, itís a two-way street, Mr. Speaker. I definitely will try to make sure that I can meet with all the health care people in the Watson Lake area. I try that in every community, Mr. Speaker, and it just didnít work out this time.
Question re: Whistle-blower legislation
Mr. Fentie: Well, I appreciate that commitment from the minister, and look forward to his next trip. Hopefully, itís soon.
My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Alliance. We have witnessed here today the Minister of Healthís view that muzzling the public is the way to conduct governmentís business. That brings to mind part of the public ó the public servants ó who are quite concerned and nervous about this fact that the Minister of Health displays. This minister responsible for the Public Service Commission has committed to bring forward whistle-blower legislation. Where is that legislation at this time?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, we do always get helpful suggestions from the Member for Klondike when heís not on mike, and we do try and address his questions respectfully.
We are still currently looking at the whistle-blower legislation, and we are examining options that are used, or being considered, in other locations in Canada, and also in the United States, because itís a very controversial issue and does have to be handled in the most appropriate way so that there isnít abuse, instead of usefulness, to that legislation.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the situation is becoming more critical. The Minister of Health is now trying to silence NGOs; the public service is quite concerned that that same treatment may befall them.
The minister committed in the last sitting to try and bring legislation forward this spring. So far we have seen nothing. His answer now looks more and more like this may be one of those pieces of legislation that just falls off the end of the earth, and they get to the end of their term and nothing happens.
Can the minister, given the circumstances, commit to a timeline for this legislation to come forward to this House?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am just chuckling to myself, because I know that we are definitely not the masters of flip-flop. I mean, the members opposite have taken that title long, long ago.
I am sure that, in attempting to respond, in light of the indiscretion that he is trying to ascribe to the Minister of Health and Social Services, it isnít really quite appropriate ó asking the question relative to what I am attempting to answer in a responsible way.
So, I would express to the Member for Watson Lake that it isnít an easy issue. I am sure that they looked at the same kinds of issues when they were on this side of the House. It is a very controversial piece of legislation and concept and it definitely warrants the time that we are taking to look at it, and we will continue to do that.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I asked for a timeline. None was given. But the flip-flop is actually on that side of the House, the Liberal governmentís side of the House. Thatís where the flip-flop is.
This minister committed to this legislation. They committed to this legislation in their campaign. While in opposition, all the Liberal members were strong proponents of bringing forward this legislation. They didnít seem to think it was that hard then. Why wonít this minister commit now to a timeline to bring forward that legislation, so that public servants who choose to come forward with indiscretions of the government can do so without fear of a witch-hunt?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Speaking of indiscretions, I wonít go into the details of the community development fund or the intimidation that elected officials imparted on that platter, giving to their friends and working on that. I wonít go there, because we are attempting every which way to improve the conduct in this House. So I think that they can certainly take a look in the mirror at the aspects of intimidation when it came to all those applications that came forward in the community development fund and how much it has improved after we got hold of it. Weíll look after it appropriately.
Mr. Speaker, they know full well that we are attempting every which way to instill confidence in government, and we are empowering the public service. We will continue to look at avenues that will allow us to create this whistle-blowing legislation.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and we will proceed to Orders of Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon everyone. I now call the 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 now call Committee of the Whole to order. Weíll continue with general debate on Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 4 ó First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 ó continued
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to start by following up on some discussion yesterday about the budget figures regarding surplus, in relation to the Premierís math that the surplus at the end of the coming year would be $6 million. Has the Acting Premier had an opportunity to review those figures and consider what effect the lapses for the coming year would have on that figure, and can he provide for us some clarity on what he sees as the surplus for the end of the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I have become somewhat familiar with this and hope I can adequately answer for the Premier.
As the member opposite had indicated, the expected surplus for the next fiscal year, at the end of the next fiscal year, will be $6 million. Itís usually historic that the lapses will be in the range of $10 million to $15 million.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, is the Acting Premier saying, then, that we should add those two figures together, $15 million and $6 million, and arrive at a surplus for the coming year of $21 million? Is that what heís saying?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would certainly advise the member opposite to refer to the long-term plan, but weíre looking ó yes, you can add those figures. Weíre looking at around $23 million.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís different than what the Premierís math concluded, yet the Premier suggested to our leader that he should brush up on his math when he suggested that the surplus, in fact, is much higher than $6 million.
Thereís something inconsistent here, Mr. Chair. Either itís the Premier that needs to brush up on her math or the minister, the Acting Premier, has brushed up on his math, because weíre getting a completely different figure now.
The Acting Premier refers to the long-term plan, which is one page in a section in the budget speech. That long-term plan shows a projected actual surplus at the end of the current year of some $45 million. That point in time is only a couple of weeks away.
So, would the Acting Premier confirm that, in a couple of weeks, this government will have a surplus for the current year of some $45 million?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair, itís estimated at this particular time that, yes, there will be an accumulated surplus of $45 million.
Mr. McRobb: Will the Acting Premier also confirm that the same figure for an accumulated surplus at the end of the next fiscal year is projected to actually be $23 million?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, that is correct, but itís also very important to remember that that includes lapses and revotes.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine, Mr. Chair. The Acting Premier is merely identifying some of the components in the equation that lead to the conclusion there will be a surplus at the end of the coming fiscal year of some $23 million. We can accept that there are components to the equation.
The other component, of course, was identified in the previous question and, in fact, the surplus at the end of the current fiscal year is some $45 million.
On to that, we have $15 million in lapses, we have $13 million in revotes, and a $24-million deficit ó all components of the equation that lead to the conclusion of a surplus of $23 million at the end of the coming year.
That is considerably higher than the $6 million that the Premier would have us believe. Just for clarity, I would refer people to Hansard from March 7, and the final question of the day, from Mr. Fairclough, leader of the official opposition, to Premier Duncan for that information.
Now, there will be considerable debate around these numbers and about this budget in the coming weeks in this Legislature, and perhaps even more on that topic this afternoon. But right now, I would like to pick up where we left off in questioning on Tuesday afternoon when I was asking the Premier some questions in the energy area. First, it was on the Alaska Highway pipeline proposal and, second, we began to delve into the area of the Yukon government and its Crown-owned utility company, the Yukon Energy Corporation, as well as the Yukon Development Corporation. These matters really span across several departments in this government. I will leave it to the Acting Premier as to whom he would like to call on to assist him in responding to these questions.
I would like to start with a question on the rate stabilization fund, because this is a matter of great concern to Yukoners. We know this fund was set up a couple of years ago, after a significant public consultation. I was part of that process. It was quite an extensive public consultation, involving dozens of stakeholders in the energy field, from industry, conservation and consumer fields of interest. Several discussion papers were produced, leading up to the final process.
Now, Mr. Chair, the rate stabilization fund has been the target of several questions in this Legislature, and it has also been spoken about by all the parties during campaign platform discussions. Can the Acting Premier refresh us on what his governmentís position is on maintaining the rate stabilization fund in the future?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair. I do appreciate the question from the Member for Kluane, and I unfortunately would have to provide either a written response to that question or wait the return of my colleague, the minister responsible, and have him answer that question.
Mr. McRobb: Okay. Iíll take an answer from the minister responsible. Thatís fine.
Mr. Chair, Iím assuming that the Acting Premier can acknowledge my taking up his offer that the relevant minister, the Member for Porter Creek North, can respond to the question. Iím prepared to hear his response.
Chair: Is there any further debate? Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. The Acting Premier and I have sorted out this communication roadblock, and we can take this matter up a little later. Can the minister maybe provide for us some indication of whether Cabinet has discussed the matter of the rate stabilization fund yet?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I do believe it would be most appropriate if these questions and the details of these questions were asked of the appropriate minister.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, unfortunately I feel as if Iím taking the burden of responsibility for, letís just say, a shortage of personnel capable of responding to these questions. It was no secret that I would continue with these questions. Thatís where we left off two days ago, and I would have hoped that the number of bright individuals on that side of the House would have got it together.
Speaking of brightness, Mr. Chair, in terms of energy, maybe we can return to that area at this time and let me ask the minister responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation what his governmentís position is on the rate stabilization fund.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, obviously we know the date is coming. We have another year ó just short of a year, I guess ó to draw down whatís already in there. We obviously have to address what weíre going to do in the future. My suggestion would be that weíre going to need all the resources of Yukoners to come up with some very creative ways of how weíre going to solve this problem in the future.
To say that I have an instant answer at this point ó as you know, Iíve been in the position for two weeks, and Iím doing my best to bring myself up to speed on the whole issue, but I know that it is a concern. I know that it is an issue. I know itís something that we have to respond to, and weíre going to need all our resources, as I said to you earlier, to come up with the long term, because thatís what Yukoners want.
Mr. McRobb: We all know that the minister across the way would like to assign all of his responsibilities to boards and committees, but there comes a time in his term when heís expected to show some responsibility, as well.
This, again, Mr. Chair, is a very important program for many Yukoners who receive the credit on their power bill called the rate stabilization fund. I would draw the ministerís attention to an undertaking that was determined out of the public consultation process that I referred to earlier ó that this program would be reviewed in consultation with Yukon stakeholders this spring.
Mr. Chair, spring is nigh ó calendar-wise, itís only a week or so away. Weather-wise, itís probably been here a little while. The sun was quite nice today; the snow is melting.
Mr. Chair, to show some respect for stakeholders ó and I know that the minister likes to explain how much respect he has for stakeholders ó we would assume that the government would be providing some information to stakeholders in calling for some indication of their interest in the process to review the rate stabilization fund, and also provide them with some information in terms of how much money is available, and so on. Maybe he could ask them when they might be available to get together for some of the process that, I would guess, would lead to a workshop ó possibly a one- or two-day workshop on the matter.
It strikes me that this is all Greek to the minister. I donít want him to misinterpret me and confuse this as an invitation for him to travel abroad again, because I think that there are several matters here in the Yukon that require his attention. One of them is this rate stabilization fund. We need to get this hammered out. The message to all Yukoners was that it is going to get hammered out this spring, because the policy ends in one year. Now, the latest accounting estimate for this fund, I believe, was a projected surplus of about a million dollars and that figure, I think, is getting a little stale now. Let me ask the minister what the latest, refreshed figure is for the balance in the rate stabilization fund at its projected expiry in one yearís time.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I do not have that information before me but I will make sure that the member opposite gets a copy.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, I can pick up on that type of response and maybe I can feed a few more requests in at this time. Can the minister also provide information that indicates how much is available from the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation to fund the rate stabilization fund on an annual basis in the coming years? Can he indicate when the Yukon government is planning to hold this review and how it will go about it? For example, what kind of process does it envision?
Who will lead the process? Will it be Yukon Energy Corporation, Yukon Development Corporation, the Department of Economic Development or the Premierís office? Who will lead this process? What will be available in terms of information? Will there be discussion papers developed on it? Just what will stakeholders expect as part of this review?
Mr. Chair, something I alluded to fairly recently that I would also like some information on was the recent automatic mechanism contained within the program that absorbed a hike in power rates in December, because we know that that automatic mechanism was part of the program established by the previous government, and what it did, as far as I understand at this point, was absorb an increase in the price of fuel.
Now, Mr. Chair, many of us familiar with the power system in the Yukon understand that there is very little fuel being used on the main grid system, because weíre in a hydro surplus situation, and if not for those very cold days at peak hours of the day ó perhaps the supper hour, for one ó there would be virtually no need for any diesel generation in the Yukon communities of Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Teslin, Carmacks, Faro, Carcross, and so on; all communities connected to the grid.
But the other communities that are isolated, such as Dawson, Watson Lake, Beaver Creek, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing and so on, burn diesel fuel to generate electricity. Those are the communities that are exposed to fuel price increases. So in terms of total generation, the cumulative total of those isolated communities might amount to about 10 percent of the total consumption on an annual basis in the territory. It does amount to something noticeable in terms of expenditures when there is a sudden and sharp increase in the price of fuel, such as is being experienced.
What I would like from the minister is some information about that fuel price increase, if indeed thatís what it was that the RSF covered, how much it was, how long itís intended to be in force, and so on.
I would also like the minister to provide some information about what power rates would look like across the territory if the RSF were dismantled or discontinued. Letís not kid ourselves, Mr. Chair, there are those in the territory who would like to see the discontinuation of this subsidy program.
So, if the minister can provide that information on the rate stabilization fund, Iíd be pleased to receive it.
Moving on now to this new program announced by the Liberal government, called the renewable power sales incentive program ó I see the minister nodding his head. I would like to know when this program is anticipated to be launched and how much would it cost to run the program?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, we seem to be into a line by line of YDC and YEC. Those are good questions and Iím more than willing to answer them. The obvious is that weíll definitely make sure that weíll get you all the information. I donít have all the facts before me.
As far as the last question you asked, that will be soon responded to and you will be more than pleased ó Iíll retract that, Mr. Chair. The member opposite will be receiving information, as the Yukon public will be receiving information, on the specifics of how that program works and where we are going to go with that program.
Mr. McRobb: Iím a little disappointed in that, Mr. Chair, because this is the Legislature; this program was announced in the Premierís budget speech, and Iím merely asking for some idea about how this program might work, when it might be launched, how much it will cost. This is basic information that should be available now and should have been available probably months ago when this program was in the design stage.
Otherwise, it never would have made its way into the budget speech without its cost being known, Mr. Chair. We know this government likes to pride itself on building a business case for these types of things, and I would feel it fair to assume that the cost of this program would have been identified at that time.
I would like to know, specifically in terms of this program, how this government plans to satisfy the clause in the NCPC transfer agreement ó which is still a relevant agreement today ó with the federal government, in terms of what I believe is called the indemnity clause. Itís that clause, Mr. Chair, if I could just expand for a moment on it to avoid any confusion. Itís that clause that allows us to collect a rebate on a term note with the federal government each year, provided power sales are below a certain threshold.
The conundrum here, Mr. Chair, in terms of a program like the renewable power sales incentive program, is simple. If we sell electricity at a cheap rate, or even give it away, that increases the total number of gigawatt hours generated on the system, breaks through the threshold of the transfer agreement, and decreases the amount of forgiveness we pay Ottawa.
Now, I look across the floor and I see some blank looks over there. Iíll be the first to admit that this discussion is getting fairly technical, but I will also understand when the minister offers to get back with this information. Iíll accept that.
The information that I would like to know is how this program would work in the context of that repayment schedule with Ottawa. And what is the purpose of this program? Is there a maximum amount of electricity that could be sold under this program? Any information that the minister could get back would be appreciated.
As well, Mr. Chair, if there is some recent correspondence in the last year or so between the federal government and this government, or any entity thereof, regarding that matter, I would appreciate it if the minister could undertake to provide that as well. Would the minister oblige these information requests?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member opposite knows a lot about electricity, and I donít know if this is a demonstration of how much the member opposite knows. This is a line-by-line discussion, and I would suggest that the member opposite leave it until we move into the actual line-by-line debate. We will have answers. I am more than willing to give the member opposite all the answers he wants. Hopefully, rather than wasting the time that we have now, in general debate, it is important that we try to address the issues that are more pertinent to the general category versus the individual ones. Itís not that we are trying to move out of it, itís just that it would be a better use of our time. Right now, I donít see the relevance of discussing, at this point in time, all these agreements, these negotiations and the projection of where we are going when we are in general debate. I will be more than pleased to answer them when those items come up during debate and I will have all the answers for the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I take that as a no in response to my information request. And if I didnít understand that correctly, the minister, when he returns to his feet, can maybe clarify that.
But I would like to point out that this discussion at this time is not line-by-line, as that minister would like us to believe. This Committee is still in general debate on the budget.
Mr. Chair, this is broad discussion of virtually any topic, and thereís good reason to discuss these matters at this time, Mr Chair. I would have expected the minister to be aware of these arguments that were put on the record Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately, it appears heís not.
Now, I could understand that the ministerís embarrassed with his lack of knowledge in this area, but I would have expected him to get over that by now. He has been in government almost a year, and there have been plenty of examples. Now, Mr. Chair, there is a real case to have this information brought out now, and there is all the good reason to have this information provided to us in the very near future.
What the minister is suggesting is that we let this slip through general debate, which would allow for less scrutiny in this area, and push it all into the discussion of Yukon Development Corporation when we get to it in the budget debate. That line item is $1.00. As I pointed out the other day, Mr. Chair, itís common for that department to be passed in this Legislature within about five minutes. Five minutes is common for that department to be passed, and for good reason, because by the time it comes up, weíre under significant time pressure to get things wrapped up.
I recall about one time at about this stage in the mandate of the previous government, when this department came up in Committee, it was late in the evening in an all-night sitting that ended 6:30 a.m. the next day. Well, Mr. Chair, we currently have no agreement and no memorandum of understanding setting out limitations of when this sitting will end.
It could be very likely that we end up in a similar situation. Well, Mr. Chair, hereís what I conclude out of that. The minister responsible for the Crown utilities wants to deny us the opportunity to ask some questions about issues that are very important to Yukoners at this time. He wants to push us back to that other opportunity where there are great time pressures and very reduced opportunity for discussion.
Mr. Chair, this is a government that claims itís open and accountable. Perhaps this is yet one more example of how we see itís not.
Now, Mr. Chair, if the government members would spend less time passing around cartoons and notes and maybe more time becoming familiar with their briefing notes ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is being abusive and insulting. The members on this side are not passing around cartoons, and Iíd like to set that record straight.
Chair: Before we have any further discussion, thereís no point of order. You may proceed, Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It seems weíre picking up on these frivolous points of order where we left off yesterday afternoon, and I was hoping we wouldnít be doing that.
Now, before moving off this topic, I think the point has been made about several things, but before moving on, I want to state the importance of this program to Yukoners. I want to just put on record my views. I think this program deserves some open discussion, on the record, at this time, and I donít think it should be pushed to the back burner where it might not get discussed at all, Mr. Chair.
Iíll take that position. I wonít have any problem taking that position at all, because I know how important this matter is to Yukoners. Just because the minister and the Acting Premier have very little information about this very important program with him today, thereís no need to push it to the back burner. These matters are very important, and I want to exercise my democratic right, as a member of this Assembly, to ask these types of questions in general debate and, in all fairness, I expect responsible answers.
If the members opposite donít have the answers, for whatever reason, Iíll take written responses, but I would prefer those responses in the near future and not six or seven weeks from now, when we skip by Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation in the budget.
Because, Mr. Chair, as I pointed out earlier, the review of the rate stabilization fund is something that was supposed to start this spring. Weíre very close to that now, and there have been no signals from this government that it even acknowledges that this review is to take place ó nothing.
Now, I do have a couple of other questions in this area. The commercial energy management program was also mentioned in the budget speech. Can the Acting Premier, or the minister, provide some information about what the uptake was last year, and the cost, and what the forecasts are for the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member opposite is great at showing how much knowledge the member has about certain issues, and thatís good. That can be very helpful if itís provided in a very positive way. Sometimes, Mr. Chair, Iím not sure that is the intent. I hope it is.
We as ministers, we as government, donít have all the answers to all the questions. We never said that we had at the beginning, and we still say we donít. Thatís what briefings are for. The technical briefings are for the experts to provide the answers, and I think it is very important that these briefings are attended by members opposite, so that there is a good understanding of what your questions will be and what the answers will be.
I have never pretended to have all the answers, and, Mr. Chair, I will always attempt to get the answer ó that is really my goal. This is an armís-length committee that works at an armís-length distance from myself. Itís a duly appointed board that has responsibilities under the act. They make decisions and implement decisions. We, as the government responsible, have to answer for those decisions.
Leadership comes from many ways ó itís not just the one-way approach here. We use the leadership of Yukoners, we use the leadership of, hopefully, government, and we try to arrive at the right decisions for all Yukoners.
The rate stabilization plan was a good plan when it was put in place. Obviously, we have a year left in order to assess where we want to go with this in the future. We, as the government, will do what we have to do to ensure that we provide security for all Yukoners. We are not going to skip away. For the member opposite to make those kind of, almost ó I am not sure what the term or the word is, but almost to suggest that we werenít going to address it ó to me, this is not the way we should go. We want to respond to what Yukoners need.
I appreciate the members opposite raising the issues. I donít pretend to have all the answers at this point, but I will make sure that the member receives the answers. If we attend all the technical briefings, Iím sure there will be many more answers there for the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I must object to this type of relegation suggested by the minister. The minister is once again evading his responsibility and trying to diminish his accountability to Yukoners by redirecting our questions toward personnel from a department in a corporation in a briefing meeting.
The minister assumes that what weíre after is solely information in these topic areas. Mr. Chair, the minister couldnít be more wrong. One of the most important things we are after and try to seek is commitment from the government and indications of where the government is going, their political direction and so on. These issues are never discussed in briefing sessions. Itís highly inappropriate for them to be discussed there ó highly inappropriate.
For the minister to suggest that and stand up ó and heís done that more than once, Mr. Chair. I recall those same messages coming from the same minister in the past week. For him to suggest we should direct all our concerns to those briefing sessions and ask questions of the personnel really misses the mark. He is the minister. The Acting Premier is first in command here today, and weíre in general debate. This is the only opportunity I see to bring forward these types of questions, Mr. Chair. Because of the lack of ability of this government to respond to these questions, Iím being forced to settle for something less than could be reasonably expected. For the minister to try to relegate us to seek answers that are expected of him from personnel makes it even worse.
The members opposite acknowledge that part of our role is to hold the government accountable. Mr. Chair, part of our job is not holding personnel accountable. I wish the members opposite would make that distinction. If weíre provided information in a briefing session that later turns out to be incorrect, we donít, at some future point, come in here and identify that person and ask the relevant ministers questions about why that particular person gave us information that is not accurate. We donít do that. Thatís what being in government is all about.
The ministers are the people responsible for the relevant departments. I acknowledge weíre getting into politics 101 here, but it seems that we have to go to some foundation in order to get back on the right road, because itís these ministers, Mr. Chair, whom we expect to answer questions. For instance, it goes beyond that. The information the minister undertook to provide me, I expect to be signed off by the minister so that, in the future, if we so choose to take issue with any of those matters, we direct it to the minister, to hold him accountable. We donít expect to have to do that to any personnel working for this government because that would be inappropriate.
Mr. Chair, it all comes with the job. I would have hoped the members opposite would have realized that by now. Itís their job to take responsibility.
We donít call members of a board in here and grill them for some decision they may or may not have taken, because weíre hearing all the time ó especially in regard to this minister ó that he gives direction to groups and individuals in the public not to speak out. We never know what kind of direction this minister is giving the boards and committees, or organizations, in the Yukon. We now know his real views on some of those organizations from his responses earlier today. As far as the chain of accountability goes, we just try to do the best we can on this side of the House, because trying to ascertain all the information in the chain of direction and command and responsibility would be too exhaustive a job for anyone in this House.
We never know what happens in the backroom of the government, Mr. Chair, or in the hallways, or the parking lots, or whatís said between the ministers and these boards and other Yukoners. We know that several stories have surfaced recently about people being warned and muzzled, people who feel their rights and freedom of speech have been suppressed. Mr. Chair, I would say that a reasonable conclusion would be that any such action can be deemed undemocratic.
Now, something else that can fall in that same category is lack of accountability, because we live in a democratic society and, in the Yukon, the political system is highly accountable.
If the minister evades his accountability and his responsibilities, then that will degrade the level of democracy that we have in this territory. Now, I donít recall the Liberals making that a platform commitment, that they were going to degrade democracy in the Yukon. Already, in less than a year, Mr. Chair, it appears that is what we have got. And maybe those people surveyed by DataPath Systems in the results of the survey yesterday have already picked up on that. Theyíve already picked up that these ministers and this government are not as accountable as they were lead to believe. They are not doing what they said they would do.
There are several things that this government promised it would do that it hasnít done. There are other things that it has done that it never said it would do. It seems that this government will continue this willy-nilly approach and do whatever it pleases.
Now, in regard to the review of the rate stabilization fund, I would hope that the discussion today will prompt the government into remembering this matter, getting on with it and showing some respect to Yukon stakeholders.
Mr. Chair, there are several matters that I would like to pursue from the Yukon government implementation plan for the final report of the Cabinet Commission on Energy, dated November 1998.
Iím just wondering if this government is capable of answering some of these questions. The first question: what is the government doing about recommendation number 1, which says, "Yukoners should move away from electric heating systems as the primary source of heating"?
Now, Mr. Chair, thatís a pretty simple question. Weíve seen it surface recently with regard to promises that were made by this government. Can we get an answer to that question, please?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member opposite is wonderful at wandering all over the map when it comes to asking a question. He brings up integrity; he brings up truthfulness.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Not "truthfulness", Mr. Chair. I will withdraw that.
He brings up what I said, what I didnít say, what has been put in my mouth. The relevance should be to the issue. If the member opposite is talking about energy, then letís stick to energy. Iíve already advised the member opposite that Iím more than willing to have answers to his questions. Weíve also offered technical situations where he can listen to the experts. Iím not asking the experts to decide policy, but the member opposite is asking technical questions. And if you want to ask technical questions, then you have to have the answers from the people who are on the front lines, Mr. Chair. The important part here is that itís very good to show oneís knowledge of the subject. I think thatís very important. We encourage that kind of knowledge to help seek out solutions. We want solutions to problems. The objective should not always be to embarrass the government or embarrass the minister; it should be to look at relevant directions in which we can go.
So, I question quite often, Mr. Chair, the motivation for discussing specific line items that could be more than easily done when the department comes up in general debate.
These are specific questions. The member opposite can say whatever he wishes about the fact that the member has a right to know the answers. I agree. The member does have a right to know the answers, but this is neither the time nor the place to do it, at this point in time. That will come in the line discussion.
I think itís very important, Mr. Chair, also to understand that, as a government, we work with all Yukoners. Weíre not interested in working with a select group. We know full well what happens when you work with a select group. An audit comes up with CDF, pointing out what happens when you work with a select group.
I think itís very important that we be open and transparent. Thatís what Yukoners want. Thatís why Yukoners made their decision to have something different, and we are delivering. If you want to believe in Yukoners, then you have to trust Yukoners. Itís not a matter of trying to put images in the heads of Yukoners that are not necessarily the appropriate images, and we, as a government, are always going to present the right images, because we are long-term Yukoners and want the best for Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that high and mighty speech, Mr. Chair, but the minister is wrong again. This is general debate.
Now, letís just assume for a moment ó letís take his argument and letís assume heís right. Letís assume that matters that pertain to particular departments should be funnelled into the line-by-line discussion of those particular departments. What, then, would be the purpose of general debate? You can cut up any question and funnel it into the relevant department. There would be no general debate.
Is the member suggesting that we should do away with general debate in scrutinizing the budget? I have some opinions on that, and Iím sure that other members on this side of the House have opinions on that too.
General debate is instrumental in gleaning information at an early stage in the scrutiny of a governmentís budget. There are several purposes for doing so. Now, the Acting Premier is becoming impatient across the way and wants me to speed it up. Well, Mr. Chair, I donít know why he wants it sped up for, because I would wager that general debate will not be cleared today. So, whatís the point? If the Acting Premier wants to speed things up, why doesnít he ask the minister to provide some information, or undertake to return with some information, rather than hurling insults and trying to convince us that his approach is the right approach.
I think that, in the words just expressed about the importance of general debate, the minister has failed to recognize the importance of discussing issues up front.
For instance, Mr. Chair, there could be a policy question the minister might assume is fairly detailed which, if asked in general debate, could glean information that might apply to one department or more. That issue, then, if followed up on in debate of the particular departments, can be discussed with a higher level of knowledge.
Mr. Chair, that allows us in opposition to prepare. That also allows the ministers to become more aware of the subject matter of which they speak, rather than just undertaking to get back with information on what might be the last day of a spring sitting, which might be midnight or some later time.
Well, Mr. Chair, just to follow up on that, I will give my view of what has happened on that even with this government. Well, about a month after the Legislature adjourns for the summer, one day there will be a letter on our desks regarding answers to questions in budget debate. By that time, it could be July or August. The next sitting of the Legislature is several months away, so the opportunity to question the relevant minister on it and get comments on the record is severely hampered and delayed; therefore, a fresh issue might be a stale issue by the time that opportunity arises.
Back to the need to discuss such matters in general debate ó it circumvents that whole delay procedure, cuts to the chase, allows us to get the information prior to the departments coming up in debate. If the members opposite are advocating a position to favour the delay approach and do away with an approach that promotes greater understanding and a higher level of accountability, then they should have said so during the election campaign, rather than fooling Yukoners now.
This government should have levelled with people; they should have said, "We are not going to improve the decorum in the Legislature. What we really mean is that we are going to make our jobs easier and we are going to reduce the level of accountability for which Yukoners can hold us accountable. We are also going to reduce our level of responsibility by creating a number of boards and committees to do our job for us, so these boards and committees make the tough decisions and nobody will then be able to hold the minister responsible because the decisions were made by someone else."
Mr. Chair, if this government were really forthright with Yukoners, thatís what it would have campaigned on, because thatís what weíve got now.
Mr. Chair, what Iím hearing on the street and what was echoed yesterday in the DataPath poll is that Yukoners canít wait for the next 30 months to pass, so they can press the eject button on this government and get somebody back in there who can do the job and stand up and take the responsibility to make the tough decisions themselves, instead of panning it off on somebody else, trying to make their jobs easier and reduce their responsibility. Thatís disgraceful.
This whole debate could have been avoided had the minister just undertaken to get back some information to me, rather than attempting to indoctrinate me with his views on what the new government should be like, because we know now what the new government, if we can still use that term, really is like, and thatís reduced responsibility and reduced accountability. They want to make their jobs easier. They want to make our jobs tougher.
Mr. Chair, to return to the issue, rather than going through this report item by item, which I think would be very worthy ó and Iím sorry if the minister feels embarrassed that his knowledge is insufficient compared to ours in this side. Iím really sorry for the minister. Maybe if he can spend less time dealing with the dogs and cats in his riding, he could spend more time with his advisors and getting brushed up on in his portfolios.
Mr. Chair, what Iím going to suggest is that I would be satisfied if the government would provide me with an update on each of the recommendations in this report and where theyíre at. Can the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that quick and easy reply. I did not hear that affirmative response in his previous answer, and I donít believe I asked the same question in my previous question. So the minister, just to clarify, will be providing me with an update on each one of the recommendations from the November 1998 report, and I look forward to that information in the near future.
Mr. Chair, there are some other issues I want to follow up on, but Iím going to make it short and ask about a couple of constituency-related issues regarding district heating systems. These matters might have surfaced in the governmentís budget consultation dog-and-pony show at the end of January, at the last minute, because they certainly surfaced when I made the rounds in the communities the following week, following up on what the government did or did not do.
There is information within government on a couple of projects. One of them is the district heating system in Beaver Creek. Just to outline for the members, the purpose of this system would be to utilize waste heat from the diesel generator in that community and pipe that heat through a distribution system to several buildings in that community to displace the burning of fossil fuels. We know that this is important, Mr. Chair, for several reasons: reducing greenhouse gas production; reducing exposure to volatile prices of foreign fuels; to promote local control and ownership of energy systems; and to take advantage of energy that is currently wasted.
Mr. Chair, thanks to the foresight of the Yukon Electrical Company Limited, I understand that the manifold on the generator, when it was replaced a few years ago, was replaced with a manifold that was adaptable to such a district heating system; therefore, the cost of connection is greatly reduced.
Now, we know thereís money available from the federal government for projects like this. We know there was a study done in the community in 1985, I believe it was. Mr. Chair, I would like to know if the government has had any discussions about such a project, and what it plans to do.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would be more than willing to get an answer directly to the member opposite on that question, in writing.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that. The second matter was district heating system at the Dakwakada Forest Products mill in Haines Junction. Can the minister provide me with the same information in regard to that project, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes.
Ms. Netro: I have a few comments and some questions for the Acting Premier. It has been almost a year now that youíve been in government, and much of that time has caused uncertainty in the Yukon. I heard over and over again, during that time, that you have made commitments.
Chair: Just a reminder to members not to refer to the government as "you". So, continue please, Ms. Netro.
Ms. Netro: Thanks for the reminder.
It was during that time that I have heard, over and over again, the commitments that were made to the people of the Yukon. And, over and over again, I realize that some of the commitments have not been met. While I appreciate the funding that was set aside for my community of Old Crow, much of those priorities that were mentioned over time have not been met.
Many of the ministers have met us in our community in the past year. We welcome the visitors to our community of Old Crow.
I just want to give you a little bit of information about my community, for those who have not had the privilege to visit Old Crow. The community has approximately 300 people living there. Most of our people are of the Gwitchin Nation. The non-First Nation people who live in our community are resource people from outside, such as the RCMP, the nursing staff at the nursing station, the teachers and some of our resource people who work in our First Nation office.
As I mentioned before, we appreciate the funding that was set aside for the community and yet, out of the $538 million budget, there was only $126,000 set aside for Old Crow. I feel that that is not enough, especially when we have placed our priorities before the interested party, time and time again, on the visits to my community.
While we try to address our communityís concerns of today, we always have a long-term vision. Even though we are one of the communities that is the farthest north and the most isolated in the Yukon, we have good communication with people on the outside, and we try to make sure that our voices are heard loud and clear, not only from the leadership of Old Crow, but from community members as a whole.
The community of Old Crow is situated on the Porcupine River, and the community is spread over a small area. We have two subdivisions in Old Crow. As you can well imagine, those subdivisions are a fair distance from downtown Old Crow, where all the main activity happens. In those subdivisions, we have elders living there; we have young families living in those places. One subdivision is situated on the other side of the airport. The only way you can reach that subdivision is by a road that goes around the airport. They do have access to electricity in that small subdivision, and the only way that they have connection to the community by phone is at their own expense. They purchase or rent one of the ó Iím not too familiar with the technical term for it. I believe itís the M-SAT telephones, and itís at a great cost to the families that have to have these services. I believe they pay about $1,000 per month for these phones, just so that they can feel safe in that area.
Iím bringing this issue up, because, during the budget tour that came to my community, the issue of the fire truck was voiced at both the meeting with the chief and council and at the public meeting that I was at.
We have one of the most ancient fire trucks, I believe, in the Yukon and it would probably do better in the museum, when we have one. It does not give us the kind of service that we would need, especially for safety concerns. I bring this to you again as one of the issues that is of concern to Old Crow and I would like to find out if, in your long-term plan, there are some dollars and funding set aside to help us with that very serious matter.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With all due respect for the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, I have spent a fair amount of time up on the Old Crow Flats on the North Slope. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the Yukon, of the country. I have spent time in the community, probably more frequently of late in the last 10 months than I have over the past 15 years.
The long-term capital plan will be released with the capital budget later this year, and I believe the Premier has already committed to that.
The fact that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has identified a single amount of $126,000 is a bit misleading and, with her permission, I would like to just elaborate on that a little bit.
That is a specific to the up-and-coming fiscal year, Mr. Chair, out of a $536-million budget for capital requests that were directly the result of budget meetings that did occur in the community of Old Crow.
The fact, though, Mr. Chair, is that this is a specific and identified capital project, and Iíll just, for the members oppositeís benefit, identify those capital projects. There was $50,000 for riverbank erosion protection; $15,000 for Rampart House; $25,000 for industry research and strategic planning; $5,000 for operational equipment; land use planning initiatives, another $20,000; Fishing Branch ecological reserve, $5,000; and renovation and rehabilitation of staff housing, $6,000.
This in no way reflects on other departmental O&M expenditures, for instance. The community will be getting additional funds by way of the RCMP up there and funds toward the maintenance and operation of the schools, staff salaries of government employees up there, health care needs directed to the community, and what it needs. These things, of course, all add up to a substantial amount, which, throughout all the communities in the territory, will result in a $536-million expenditure by fiscal year-end.
So, I know that, during the budget visits in the communities, we did hear a lot of suggestions or recommendations for both capital projects and for O&M expenditures. With a limited amount of money of $536 million spread throughout the territory, it was the concerted effort of this government to ask the communities to prioritize their needs and wishes, so that the allotment out of the budget could be distributed fairly and equitably and address those priorities that the communities themselves identified for this year.
That doesnít mean, though, that the budget planning process stops there. We will continue to listen to communitiesí wishes and needs and start planning for the next budget. Just because we finished one process doesnít mean that we donít get into the next. Also, with the release of the capital budget this coming fall, we will be revealing our long-range plan for capital as well. So, we are listening. We do appreciate the constructive criticism from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin and we will keep working cooperatively with the community and the chief and council up there. We will certainly keep account of those items that they feel will best serve the needs of their community.
Ms. Netro: I appreciate that information and I do agree with the member opposite that Old Crow is one of the most beautiful places in Canada. I also agree with the member opposite regarding some of the programs that he has touched on or mentioned, such as educational needs and health. One of the issues, again, that was voiced at the meeting in Old Crow was in the area of education. At that time, it was fresh in everybodyís minds because we just had the Education Act review meeting in Old Crow. The people who were on that tour visited our community. I have always said in this House and I will say it again. Education is one of the most important priorities in our communities throughout the Yukon and especially for our First Nation students who need access to quality education, because it will help them to get those certificates and those diplomas so they can come back to our First Nation administration offices to apply their trades.
One of the issues that was raised again was in the area of two positions that we needed for our school, and one of them was in the area of a special needs teacher. And in that area of special needs, we donít only address a person who has a learning disability but that also falls into another department, which is Health and Social Services, where our concerns lie around the FAS/FAE issues ó in the area of prevention and information for the children, for the teenagers, and for the families that come in and meet with the teachers. These are some of the serious issues that they do need to address.
I had asked a question before in the House, and I will ask it again. We need access to some of those dollars that are set aside for FAS/FAE. Also, in the area of education, we need access to dollars so that we can provide some of the services that the community is asking for.
So my question to the minister today: will my community have access to those types of funds that are available for the issues that I just mentioned?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, one thing that this government is working very, very hard at is intergovernmental cooperation. We do recognize ó I do believe my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, has indicated that there hasnít always been latitude offered or there hasnít been provision or direction provided to departments to work laterally on issues, problems and solutions.
I do hear what the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is saying with respect to needs assessments of students in the schools, of dealing with FAS/FAE. I have talked frequently with the Department of Education, along with Social Services, working on cooperative partnering program initiatives where we can be assisting through our schools.
As a matter of fact, in a number of schools that I have already visited, this is a growing problem. Talking to the teachers, when I have been able to over the last several months, the demands on time and diversity in our education system have exploded to where the diversity of students that we do have in our schools now is what I talked about earlier today. There are literacy problems and learning deficits in one way, shape or form, whether itís through FAS/FAE or some other limitation that is part of the student makeup.
So, we recognize that we do have these problems and we are making every attempt to become more efficient in just how we provide fair and equitable treatment to all the communities in Yukon, from Whitehorse and surrounding areas to Beaver Creek to Old Crow. It doesnít matter what size of school weíre talking about. It doesnít matter what size of classroom weíre talking about. These problems are inherent from the smallest classes all the way to the largest classes that our teaching professionals ó our educators ó have to deal with.
So, these certainly are issues that Iím aware of and the Minister of Health and Social Services, the Minister of Justice and other ministries within the territorial government are looking at solutions. Weíre encouraging our deputy ministers to take the message and direction that weíre providing, as government, in a leadership role to allow the public service to really do their job, to allow teachers to work in cooperation and partnership with these departments within government.
Quite frankly, Mr. Chair, we have an incredible public service, and we just need to find ways to unlock and open the floodgates so that they can work laterally, not always looking up and down the stove pipe of their department. So, we are directing the deputy ministers to do that. Weíre instructing specifically that we want the departments, at all levels, to find solutions to the problems weíre hearing about, and thatís what we heard about on the budget tours, that the social service rep in the communities isnít talking to the educators in the communities, and vice versa.
Well, in small communities, this is just unacceptable. This isnít providing the service that our students need in our schools, or service for the other social problems we have in communities ó FAS and FAE in adults.
Although there are distinctive responsibilities and policies that departments have to implement as a result of government instruction, weíre asking them to think outside the box. Weíre asking them to be innovative, creative and supportive of the communities, and weíre here to support and provide for that.
But I do hear what the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is saying. Sheís asking for more financial resources to help support the needs of the communities by providing professionals who are able to work, and we are working on those solutions, Mr. Chair. Iím confident that we will be able to do that.
I would also like to extend my appreciation for the assistance that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin provided to the Education Act review committee up there. This is what Iím talking about, where respective parties can drop the barriers when thereís a recognized problem that we want to find a solution to. So I want to thank her personally, here in the House. I want to acknowledge that she did help with how the Education Act review committee listened to the community up in Old Crow.
Ms. Netro: Thank you, I appreciate that. That is something that my community has always held a great pride in doing, welcoming people into our community who can be of assistance to us and who will listen to us and follow through with some of the assistance that we do ask for.
Still on the area of health issues, I am making a presentation this evening to the womenís committee, and the topic is "What women want." I have received feedback from various members of my community in the area of health. One of the great concerns that the women in my community have is in the area of FAS and FAE. I would just like to bring that to the memberís attention because, in our communities, even though we try to address those issues with very limited services, we do need some key information to be able to access training for our community members. We need to have access to that type of training so that they can come back to our communities and help us deal with these issues at the community level. Another suggestion is having some of the children from the school travel down to Whitehorse and visit several areas of resources within Whitehorse, along with their parents, so that they know how or where to access this information. My question to you is, with the dollars set aside in the Health department for prevention and information, do the communities have access to those dollars?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I believe that thatís what this government is all about, Mr. Chair. We are about listening to the needs and issues and responding in a constructive manner.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Can the Member for Ross-River Southern Lakes hear me now? Okay.
It is about just that. We are available through the various departments, whether it is Education or Health and Social Services, and listening to what the needs and requirements are in the community and accommodating with notice, with co-operation, and with becoming aware.
I believe that the Minister of Health and Social Services is certainly prepared to be doing that.
I am again taking the suggestions brought forward by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin that we will make every effort to accommodate, through programming, tÖ. Through delivering, toward the needs of the community.
With respect to the education part 1, certainly within the Department of Education or at Yukon College, look atlook at opportunities where we can provide the professional training that could serveice right directly, in the community, community individuals ó people who live there. It certainly is a worthwhile suggestion.
I know that, Mr. Chair, I have had several meetings with the Ggrand Cchief, Ed Schultz,??? aAnd with Norma Shorty on integrations of better accommodating the needs of First Nations are in our education system. A, lalso, we are looking at ways that we could expand education practices within Yukon College, how we can provide the training, finding the holistic solution for traditional knowledge, and and current treatments for FAS/FAE. A, and who knows, one day there may be a Yukon-made solution that would serve the whole of Canada, through these cooperative efforts.
Ms. Netro: From the delivery of services, Iíd like to take you to one of our main services, and that has been a priority and an issue for my community for a few years. I, and it has always been brought to the attention of the government that we do have a great need in this area, and that area is in the term of a new airport terminal. I brought this forward before, and I reminded many of the members here that, when you do visit our community, you probably realize what itís like when you arrive in a community and have to gather up your luggage in this small little area. I, and it can become a safety issue.
I want to remind the member opposite again that this has been a priority for the community for years, along with the new airport terminal that we requested.
There were several places within that building that we were looking at to put some other areas of interest for the travellers who come through our community during the summer and winter months. We have a lot of people who come to Old Crow for meetings. We have many visitors in the summertime. We have a lot of tourists who come through there in all seasons. And, as many of you know, we do have a very rich culture, we have a rich heritage, we have many items that are waiting to be placed in a safe place, so that we can have these items on display for people to learn about who we are.
Some of those items go back thousands and thousands of years, and one of the places that we would like to see within this new building is the visitor reception centre. Weíre proud to share our culture, our heritage, and share information about our people with the people of Canada and with the people of the world, no matter where they come from.
We welcome these people into our community. We have people who come and ask us questions about how Old Crow first became a community, or where did our people used to live before Old Crow existed, and we do this on a personal basis with great pride.
Weíre always, always happy to share that type of information so that people do understand who we are as a people.
Thatís not the only thing that is important in that area. When we put forward our issues and concerns for our community, then we will be understood, we hope. And in this new building, we hope to have a place where when someone comes to our community and is waiting for their plane to arrive ósometimes itís a few minutes late ó they would be able to sit in comfort and have a cup of coffee, with some space around them. So that was a long-term plan that we did have, and I donít see it in the budget that was put forward a couple of weeks ago. I would like the member opposite to assure, not only myself, but the people of my community, that this initiative is not going to be set aside; that it is something that we will be able to look forward to in the next year or so.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: With respect to the member oppositeís discussion of the Old Crow air terminal, it is best left to the discussion of the Community and Transportation Services budget, as that is where it properly belongs, and discussion of the VRC is best left to discussion of the Tourism budget. A great deal of the questions that I have heard this afternoon from the members opposite do not relate at all to general debate. Thank you.
Ms. Netro: Thank you, I appreciate the response. However, I am under the understanding that in this general debate I bring forward priorities that are put forward by my community.
It also can be seen as a priority for the government of today and I would just like to have some form of commitment that we are heard and that this is in a long-term capital plan. I would like to know that and I would like the people of Old Crow to know that this plan is not going to be set aside for any length of time. I would like to at least hear an answer that, "Yes, we are looking forward to this plan in the next year or so."
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I would suggest that, before we get into the capital plans of the future, the long-range capital plan will be revealed in the fall, and I would suggest that those questions could be answered more appropriately at that time.
Ms. Netro: Absolutely, yes, Mr. Chair, I will be keeping a close eye on this issue and I will bring it forward again in the future.
While weíre talking about long-term plans and visions and what we have as a priority for my community, one of the areas again is in the area of environment. I know the Acting Premier is very knowledgeable in this area. He has travelled to the places that we hold very dear to our hearts. He has travelled out to Crow Flats, he has been up on the North Slope, and Iím sure he has travelled the rivers ó the Porcupine and the Crow rivers.
I have said it before and Iíll say it again, that First Nation people throughout the territory, especially our elders, when we become leaders, mandate us to take care of our lands, our waters and our animals, and environment is very important to us, so that we can keep the environment clean, not only for ourselves but for our children and our grandchildren.
We take care of our traditional lands. I know that there is activity happening around Eagle Plains, and there are decisions being made on our traditional lands regarding whether theyíre goal 1 or goal 2, and I would just like to make a statement here today that any decisions made on the traditional territory of the Vuntut Gwitchin is done in relationship with our leadership up there and with consultation from our community.
And especially, in this day and age, when there is so much happening in the area of oil and gas, and people want to come into our lands and explore for our natural resources that are there. Our lands are rich in natural resources, and we need to make sure that we take care of those. That brings me to one of our top priorities today, and that is in the area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This issue is at a very critical point today, more than it has been before, because of the decisions and the legislation that are being put forward in the United States ó in Washington and in Alaska.
We know that the governments in Canada say that they support the Gwitchin people for no development in that area, and we donít talk about that area, in the sense that we want to protect it. That area is a very sacred place to the Gwitchin people, and the Gwitchin people live in Alaska, in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. We are very, very concerned. Every day, I receive information about what people are saying throughout the States about this issue, from people who are travelling to the United States from Ottawa, who make mention of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in reference to the Porcupine caribou herd.
However, I am very concerned that the message is still not clear. Some of the news releases that come out of key national papers are saying that, yes, they do make mention that this is an issue for the Gwitchin people, and that, yes, theyíre concerned about the caribou, but there is very little consistency.
The voice of the Gwitchin Nation has been clear from the very beginning. You have heard people before me in this Legislature bring this issue forward. It has been with us for the last 20 years, and today, very soon, there are going to be decisions made in the United States, in Washington, on the very survival of our people. Sometimes I feel very helpless and wonder if I am being heard, because these decisions are going to be made by people who know very little about us.
I have travelled down there before and I shared this information also when I met with our MP, Larry Bagnell. We had five minutes in a senatorís or a representativeís office to try to convey how important that little piece of land in Alaska is to us as a nation. Itís not only for us as a people. Itís for the entire world.
The member opposite mentioned the beauty of our land in Vuntut Gwitchin. I ask you, if you have a chance to travel and see the Brooks Range, that you take that chance.
I have never been there, and I donít need to. The only thing that I know today is what has been taught to me by my grandmother and my mother and what that area means to us. Yet, our people will not give up hope. Our efforts are going to remain strong, and I believe in people. I believe people will, in the end, have some understanding that we do need to protect some of the places in this world where our children will always have a place to experience some of that beauty that we see today. We donít have to destroy every little piece of land that we see, just so people can make their money. I realized the extent of what this issue meant when I had to travel. I saw, first-hand, the arrogance of people out there.
And they want to have access to a little bit of free territory, so they can make their gains.
In our efforts with this issue, I would like to ask the member opposite again for his support and also if there is any allocation of dollars that we can have access to in order to help us to educate the general public of Canada and the United States, so that they will understand where we are coming from as a people.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I very much like to hear the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin when she is passionate about something, and she is very passionate about her lands in the north, and her people in the north, and I know that I have, since returning to Yukon in 1985, been made very aware of the struggles that the Vuntut Gwitchin have experienced, and how they have, probably with more heart than anyone else on a single issue, focused their attention on, namely, the Porcupine caribou herd.
I have dealt, and met with, previous government officials ó Mr. Penikett, Dave Porter and Norma Kassi, who have always spoken with the same degree of passion as the member opposite with respect to the Porcupine caribou herd. I do believe that the Premier, myself, Larry Bagnell, my caucus colleagues and Cabinet, are no less passionate about expressing our concern about the welfare of the Porcupine caribou herd. We will make continuing efforts to encourage those decision-makers ó who are far away, as the member expressed ó that their decisions affect a small corner of the world for monetary gain, and that the area weíre talking about is relatively small in the grand scale of things.
So, I would like to express my commitment, as the member opposite asked, to continue to lobby every bit as hard as she and her community, and others before, for the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd.
We, of course, Mr. Chair, are always willing to review programs, as the former minister of Renewable Resources is certainly aware, on any proposals that come in toward initiatives, as just expressed by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. We do continue to provide funding ó the sum of $48,000 ó to the Procupine Caribou Management Board. So we are committed in that way, and we remain committed in whatever way, fashion or opportunity that arises. When I travel the country ó and I know the member opposite has had opportunity and probably will in the future, opportunity to travel and express those concerns ó I will not miss any opportunity to express our concerns with respect to the Porcupine caribou herd.
I know that there is an up and coming legislative exchange with the State of Alaska, members from here going down to visit the legislature there. I know that, in the Member for Riversideís travels over in Alaska, as well as those of the Premier, they have expressed concern to those decision makers within the State. I do realize, though, that the lands that we are talking about on the North Slope are under the federal jurisdiction, but still, in all, those people, within the state legislature, can carry the message as well, in one way, shape or other. So I do appreciate the passion that the member opposite has expressed, and I want to express to her my continued commitment to support her in that passion of hers.
Chair: Order. Do members wish to take a brief recess, the time being 4:30?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute long recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02. Mr. Fairclough.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to follow up on a couple of things from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchinís questions. One of them is the long-term plans of this government. We have laid out in the NDP budget some monies committed to certain items across the territory. One of them for Old Crow was the terminal. Does the government have long-term plans to replace the old terminal with something better?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I had indicated to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, I would suggest that the members opposite await the release of the five-year capital plan with the capital budget this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: And what do we do if itís not in there? Would it not show in the five-year capital plan?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as I indicated to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, I would suggest that the members opposite await the five-year capital plan this fall with the capital budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, we have heard, time and time again, this government asking the public to wait and wait.
The initiatives in the NDP long-term plan, will they be followed through by this government?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, we have already acknowledged, during the previous days in general debate, that we have adopted existing programs in some instances but that we are initiating new Liberal programs. We will continue to do that over the years, as is our right; we are the government.
So I would suggest that the member await the capital plan when itís released with the capital budget this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, programs are fine. Iím talking about the capital budget. Every year we come forward with it. I know the members opposite are going to be introducing a capital budget this fall for next year. I realize that. But what does the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin have to say to her people? Is it something that government is looking at?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As the member opposite knows well, when they were in government, they did the same thing, just as we are doing.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying that we can expect it in the fall?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, no, thatís not what the minister is saying.
Mr. Fairclough: I guess Iíll have to take it that we cannot expect this in the fall, and I guess the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin can take that back home as not following through with what the community has been asking for. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the member opposite just delights himself and now heís chuckling on the other side ó and heís right. He can interpret any way that he wishes, but I have already expressed an answer to the member opposite that we are proceeding with planning exercises on this side, and that capital planning and the long-range capital plan will be revealed this fall with the capital budget.
Mr. Fairclough: In regard to the terminal building in Old Crow, is it going to be favourable for the Old Crow residents in the fall?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I guess I had better be awfully careful about what I say here, because heís going to interpret it any way he wants, anyway. So, I am going to repeat the answer that I told the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, that our long-range capital plan will be revealed with the capital budget this fall. Thatís my answer.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím trying to get some assurance for the people in Old Crow as to whether or not they can expect this building. Can they expect the building to be replaced in the long-term plans of this Liberal government?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Iíll repeat this, just like it takes forever to get a message across to the other side, as experienced in previous budget debates. We will reveal our long-range capital plan with the capital budget this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: It would be an improvement over the long-term plan that you have today.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I donít think weíve expressed a long-term plan at this point, with respect to capital. I am repeating what the Premier has already said, that we will reveal our long-term capital plan with the capital budget this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it should be an improvement over what you have, because you donít have any long-term plans here. Now, this is the third sitting for this Liberal government, and there is no long-term plan. You changed the way in which budgets are presented ó fine. Thatís fine.
Here we have an item that has been discussed in the community for several years, and the community would like to see it clarified. Has there been any talk about putting it into a long-term plan ó the terminal in Old Crow?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite is exactly right ó the previous government discussed many things, for many years, and didnít do anything. So, we are putting our capital plan together, and it will be revealed with the capital budget this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: The member just said that it will be in the capital budget this fall. Well, thank you, Mr. Chair. All the member needs to do is look back at the previous governmentís budget ó the one they passed, without even putting their name on it ó and heíll see initiatives in there that have been followed through by this Liberal government because they had no vision and no plans for the future.
We, on this side of the House, are pressing the Liberal government to come forward with a long-term plan. This is the third time, and it hasnít come forward yet. I guess we have to wait until the fall to get a long-term plan. Is that the case? Will there not be any mention of replacements or capital projects for the long term until the fall?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I just want to correct the very beginning of the member oppositeís statement with respect to the building up in Old Crow. I did not confirm his statement. But what I did say, and I will repeat it again, was that our long-range capital plan will be revealed with the capital budget this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the member even looking at this project with any interest?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Our long-range capital plan will be revealed with the capital budget this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister didnít say yes to that, or whether or not they were expressing any interest in this building. I have to say that they have no interest. Is that the same with capital projects like schools?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, Mr. Chair, he is misinterpreting what I am saying. I have kept the answer very simple, for the reason that I know it sometimes takes a little time for them to understand what we are saying on this side of the House. The long-range capital plan will be revealed with the capital budget this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: Are any of the initiatives from the previous government of interest to this Liberal government?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The long-term capital initiatives that the member is alluding to will be considered.
Yes, the Member for Watson Lake is chuckling over there, so I had better be careful, because if I say something too ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thatís right. He is suggesting that I donít talk about Watson Lake or he is going to get up and give me a tongue-lashing, which he has already done and which I have got over. Because I know that he can go for quite a length in the tongue-lashing things that I remember as a kid. I feel like a kid every now and then when they stand up and chastise us for what they feel is inappropriateness on this side.
I will respect the members opposite, and I will again repeat that our long-range capital plan will be revealed at the same time as our capital budget this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: I understand that itís going to be shown to the public in the fall. I understand that, and work starts the following summer, and it comes out of the previous yearís budget. I understand that. What about the 2000-01 budget that was adopted? Is it still fully adopted by this Liberal government?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: What we are discussing here in debate, Mr. Chair, is the 2001-02 budget. Iím sure that the member is quite capable of comparing, line by line, what is in the new Liberal budget as opposed to the one we admitted, time and time again, was an NDP budget, which we used this current fiscal year, only to the end of this month, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the member opposite should follow along, because weíre talking about expenditures, long-term planning in the previous budget thatís reflected in this one that could be reflected in the other. I want to know if any projects are going to be cut from the long-term plan that is in this present budget that has been brought forward by the Liberal Party.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, Iím sure he can do a simple analysis of this budget that weíre debating in general debate now. He can compare the projects that are in there with the budget we adopted from the previous government, and he can find out what is being addressed from year to year. But I will repeat that our long-term capital plan will be revealed with the capital budget this fall. So whatever way he wants to ask the question, I will repeat the answer the same way as I have been providing. Now, if he wants to waste the time of the House by twisting the question around, by reinterpreting what Iím telling him, that is certainly his prerogative, as the Member for Kluane gave in his lecture on politics 101 earlier today.
So, Iíve respected the member oppositeís question. I have provided the answer, and I will continue to do that.
Mr. Fairclough: Those are non-answers.
What are the plans for the CAT scan capital project?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as the member opposite knows, itís already in this current year budget. There is an associated cost with the CAT scan, and the Minister of Health and Social Services already indicated the type of CAT scan that weíre looking for. As he has eloquently put, we are doing our homework with respect to the project, and we will continue to do that. Even though no CAT scan has been purchased this year, I think itís fair to assume that this expenditure will be lapsed into next year.
Mr. Fairclough: Are there plans to put more money into the CAT scan than we had ó $1 million?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I indicated in the previous answer, we are evaluating the project. We will let this yearís million-dollar fund, as the member opposite has just suggested, lapse into next year. So, we are doing our homework. Weíre assessing exactly what the people of Yukon need by way of a CAT scan, and that decision will be determined next year.
Mr. Fairclough: With the CAT scan, there was over $400,000 for O&M. Whatís happening with that money?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I guess weíre getting into line-by-line. If the member wants to get into line-by-line on Health, I would suggest he move the end of debate, and we get into line-by-line.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís general debate. Answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, an amount has been identified for a CAT scan in this yearís budget. It will lapse into next year. The Minister of Health is still assessing exactly what type of machine we need here, and is consulting with Yukoners on that.
Mr. Fairclough: With the speed at which the government is operating, weíre going to have to look at a new model in 2003.
That was an initiative that was in this present budget. Itís being carried into the next budget because government has committed to purchase this for the Hospital Corporation. So, we do have movement on some capital expenditures.
What about the schools ó capital projects? Can we expect that to come out in the fall budget, or can we follow up on the ministerís words in the newspaper, that we can expect to see some replacements, say, of the Pelly and Carmacks schools?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, our long-term capital plan will be revealed, along with the capital budget, this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: I would ask some member on that side of the House to give the minister a nudge because his record is stuck, and weíre hearing the same old thing over and over.
Is there a new policy on Cabinet travel?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Not that Iím aware of, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: So, what does government do when they do go overbudget? Are there revotes, or how do they express this to the general public?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite is skilled; I will admit that. He knows full well what happens when you go over a line item in a budget. You try and find funds in another line item and then, if there are no other funds available that way, then you go into a supplementary request.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: If the House would indulge me, I would like us to turn our attention to the gallery and to the former Speaker and MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, Mr. Robert Bruce.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, we have noticed that there is an increase in travel budget for the first five months of the Liberal governmentís mandate. Is there a cap on travel or is it open-ended?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That, of course, reflects on the policy, and it would have to be a decision that would be ruled on by Management Board.
Mr. Fairclough: Knowing that the government is going over their budget in travel, what was the ruling by Management Board?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the ruling by Management Board was that we had to find the monies elsewhere.
Mr. Fairclough: Elsewhere ó within departments?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I already answered the question for the member opposite in a previous form, in that if a line item is exceeded, then you try and find it from another line item. Thatís what Management Board instructed us to do.
Mr. Fairclough: In Executive Council Office or other departments?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the member is correct. Itís from within Executive Council Office.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Itís obvious that there is concern about the Liberal Partyís ability to manage money properly and have a set amount of money for travel. You blew it in five months. What does the minister expect to be? Is it double or triple?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, in a very passionate plea, expressed concern about getting the message out with respect to the Porcupine caribou calving grounds. And so what ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite said, "Well, let the Porcupine caribou explain this one."
If he takes it so lightly, Iím not sure his colleague from Vuntut Gwitchin would take it so lightly, and we do take that seriously, Mr. Chair. We do get messages out when weíre travelling, just as the Premier is getting out messages with respect to job creation and economic turnaround in the territory in her travels to Calgary today and later on, as do all members of Cabinet and caucus when they travel get the message out that Yukon is not only a wonderful place to live, it is also a great place for economic development.
So is the member opposite suggesting we donít travel?
Chair: Order please. Itís important that you do not refer to absences of members of the House, and I would rule in the future that we do not.
Mr. Fairclough: Absolutely not. If you do travel, and you have to travel, you have a budget to travel ó you have a travel budget, but stay within your means. Thatís what people are expecting, and we havenít seen that. Can the member tell us if the 10-02 lands in ANWR are the same pieces of land weíre talking about?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, again, itís a prime example of flip-flop. Weíre to stay within our means and, for several months now, at every opportunity, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has ridiculed me, chastised me, for the decision I made on the Mayo school. It was 20 percent overbudget, and I said, "No, sorry; we canít do it." It was a million dollars over budget and now heís nit-picking on a line item for travel. Mr. Chair, I donít understand the rationale here, or where heís coming from. Itís okay for that, but itís not okay for something else?
Well, Mr. Chair, this government is making every effort to be fiscally responsible, and we disclosed all our travel for this year to the members opposite ó detailed travel ó and we justified and qualified every trip that we made out.
Mr. Fairclough: I have to take offence. This is not nit-picking. This is Cabinet travel. The Mayo school going overbudget ó maybe, maybe not; the court case is still pending and so on. There was no problem for this government to approve Hamilton Boulevard. It goes to show the importance ó or to approve an additional $500,000 for Cabinet. So where are the member oppositeís priorities on this? Itís a delay of a year, and people in Mayo are looking forward to the school.
I asked about the travel. Are we going to see it double or triple?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, there has been no change in travel policy.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister could not answer the question. The C&TS minister thinks thatís funny. He didnít answer the question. You have already blown the budget, so you had to make some changes for new spending and find it elsewhere within ECO. You had to make the changes, and thatís only five months into the mandate. Iím sure itís going to be more than double, and itís a pretty important question if you say youíre fiscally responsible.
In the future, is Cabinet going to stay within their travel budget?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair, the member opposite is certainly indicating where the oppositionís priority is, in fiscal management. If they want to tinker with ministerial travel, thatís certainly their prerogative. If they want to live in the past, thatís their prerogative. If they think that Yukoners or this government are going to be embarrassed by this line of questioning on ministerial travel when we, as ministers, have travelled out and brought back increased recognition of the projects that weíre trying to develop here in oil and gas, in pipeline development and in several other areas, then we believe that it is money well-invested for the future of the territory. But if the member opposite chooses to think that $1 million in a 20-percent cost overrun in a budget allocated to a capital project is insignificant in relationship, then that is why theyíre there and weíre here.
Mr. Fairclough: So, in other words, this Liberal government does not have a policy among themselves to stay within budget.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, that is exactly why we have made the tough decisions we have made. And we do understand the consequences of the decisions we made, especially with respect to the Mayo school. But the Mayo school is going to start at the end of this month, and there will be employment over the summer and into next winter. They are going to have a beautiful school there ó an incredible school, a safe school, and a sound school. It will be a place where kids will be pleased to be educated and our educators will be pleased to work. So, they are going to have an incredible school there, and I think theyíre going to get it within the budget allocated by the previous government.
Mr. Fairclough: Thanks a lot. Itís a year late, but what the heck. The members opposite want to save money, lapse it and revote it into the next budget. Well, what do you tell the community? Instead of sitting down and speaking to the community about that, you are going to make a decision without being properly informed. It doesnít just affect the school.
I think this is something that this Liberal government is starting to learn very quickly now. A project of that size in a community has all kinds of ripple effects down the road with the municipality, First Nations and so on. When it comes to training and getting the workforce out there ó projects have been developed around the school. It has a lot of impact, and the member opposite doesnít see that ó but itís in rural Yukon, so I guess itís okay.
Is this government going to jump ahead of the priorities of the Department of Education and school councils and do other work in Whitehorse, over and above their lists?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, our long-range capital plan will be revealed with our capital budget this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: Nothing comes out of the member opposite. He canít answer the question, is what it is. We have to wait for the Premier to come back and answer those because, in fact, she was answering those questions.
Intergovernmental Relations Accord ó have all the chiefs signed on to that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I believe that all chiefs have signed on to the Intergovernmental Relations Accord.
Mr. Fairclough: The latest draft that I have seen did not have all the signatures. Can I get a copy of it?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I would be pleased to provide a copy of the Intergovernmental Relations Accord to the member opposite, and I had been advised by my colleague for Government Services that there may be one signature that is not on there, and if I have misspoken, I do apologize.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you. I believe that the Acting Premier is more updated now than the Premier was, because the Premier said that they had all the chiefs signed on with their support. So my beliefs are the same as the member opposite, that there is one missing. Would the Acting Premier happen to know what day the accord was signed off? What date is on there? The latest one we have is February 2, 2001.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, to the best of my knowledge, at this particular time, I believe that, with the exception ó because obviously the member knows that there is a name missing, and it sounds like he is alluding that there may have been different signing dates. I will get back to the member on the signing of the accord.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you. I just want to make sure that we are talking about the same draft. Is this Liberal government happy with the accord?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, Iím not at all sure where the member opposite is coming from with respect to challenging or presenting a rather negative tone in the questions about the government being happy about the signing of the accord. I believe that heís treading dangerously close to questioning all those members who did sign the accord.
I think it was espoused to be a great opportunity for First Nations and non-First Nations individuals in the territory here to move forward and to provide an opportunity to at least twice a year get together to share concerns and work toward a more apt way to keep each other informed of progress. Iím not quite sure where the member opposite is coming from, asking the question if we are happy about signing the accord.
Mr. Fairclough: If you like it, youíre happy with it. And if you signed it, I would have thought that you would have said yes, that you are. Are you happy with the contents of the accord?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I guess I am just incredibly surprised by the question. I think that all Yukoners, including the members of caucus and Cabinet and the whole of government, would think that any kind of closer working relationship with First Nations is always positive.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, Iíll move along from that. I didnít get a "yes" answer from the member opposite. No "yes" answer.
Letís go into land claims negotiations. Is Cabinet updated periodically, or on a regular basis, on the progress of land claims?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the member knows full well what kind of answer that he is going to get on this. That is that we donít discuss land claims on the floor of this House.
Mr. Fairclough: Is this a new government policy?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member had questioned a progress report from the Premier, and she did provide a progress on the land claims process. But the member opposite is asking a question about negotiating land claims, and we donít do that on the floor of this House.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Then maybe the Acting Premier can tell us what can be discussed in regard to land claims on the floor of this Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am not going to be getting into the details of this specific subject. I will defer it to an individual who is certainly more knowledgeable on this subject than I am. I would, at this opportunity, express to the member opposite that we will be allowing specifics of the nature he is asking on the land claims negotiations to be addressed in line-by-line debate.
Mr. Fairclough: I have to remind the Acting Premier that this is general debate. This is government policy and direction thatís coming out, and we deserve answers to our questions. They are very simple ones. The member said he cannot discuss whether or not Cabinet even gets updated on a regular basis ó he cannot discuss that on the floor of this Legislature. Iím very interested in land claims. I have gone through negotiations of a final agreement ó Iím very interested in it ó and people talk to me a lot. So, to the Acting Premier, so I know ó and Iíll ask questions ó what can we discuss on the floor of this Legislature in regard to land claims?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite knows full well that issues and discussions and decisions of Cabinet are confidential. He knows that full well, yet he is pursuing a line of questioning with respect to Cabinet thatís very inappropriate. So, I wonít be revealing any of the discussions that occur in Cabinet, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: The Acting Premier announces, on the floor of this Legislature, initiatives that were decided by Cabinet. Why are we here, if we canít do that? Why is Cabinet there, if everything is such a secret?
Iím not asking for the details of the agreements, or whatís in there for special management areas and whatnot. I want to talk about process and what I can relate to my constituents. So Iím sure, when we were in government, we were updated periodically on land claims. Are the members opposite updated on land claims?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as I have just indicated, confidential discussions within Cabinet are just that, and they will be held in confidence.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the Acting Premier saying that whether or not Cabinet gets updates or briefings is confidential? Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the details or any aspects of details with respect to what goes on in Cabinet are confidential.
Mr. Fairclough: Does caucus get updated or briefed on land claims progress?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I take umbrage at the comment that just flew from the member opposite about a professional whom we respect within government as simply "a bean counter". That is disgusting.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: The Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, this spurious comment from the member opposite is totally unwarranted and not within the envelope of the rules and procedures of this Legislature that all members must follow. I donít have the exact number of the clause in front of me, but I am certain the member has broken a rule by interpreting something he thought he heard while he was talking to somebody else from somebody over here about a senior public servant we all respect in this Legislature. Certainly, on this side of the House, we all respect the deputy minister that the minister referred our remarks to, which didnít exist in the first place.
So, Mr. Chair, I would suggest to you, thereís a point of order here and the minister should apologize for that accusation.
Chair: The Acting Premier, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That is one of the lamest things that I have ever heard from the Member for Kluane. The lamest thing, because not only did I hear it when I was talking, but we all heard it on this side of the House, Mr. Chair. That was incredibly disrespectful. And I donít think it warrants members from the other side, if I do have to ask a question of an official, coming back with a childish, ignorant thing like that.
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on the point of order.
Ms. Tucker: On the point of order, I would like the member opposite to review the record of Hansard and how many times in the past that the Member for Kluane has cited comments about people on this side of the House when they were inaccurate at best.
Chair: Thank you for your submissions.
Chair: On the point of order ó there is a point of order, but itís on a different point. I heard the comment, as well, but the comment wonít be reflected in Hansard.
It is the practice of the House that interjections are actually not allowed, so on the point of order, if interjections are not allowed, then responses to interjections would not be allowed. I ask all members to respect the rules before we have to start enforcing them on a much more stringent level regarding interjections.
I have actually misspoken myself in the past. Heckling, after reviewing the rules, is actually strictly forbidden in legislatures and the amount it is enforced or not enforced is usually given to the demeanour of the House. In this case, if there are going to be further points of order based on interjections, there will be no interjections allowed. Continue.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the member opposite does not seem to be fully aware or updated on land claims. Put caucus and Cabinet aside ó is the Acting Premier fully briefed on land claims?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, yes I am.
Mr. Fairclough: Has direction been given to the Acting Premier to not discuss progress or anything to do with land claims while taking over for the Premier today?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I respect the limits of confidentiality, and I donít have to be told what to do.
Mr. Fairclough: Then maybe ó quickly ó can the Acting Premier tell me what is confidential and what is not? I want to ask questions on land claims. What the Acting Premier is trying to do here is to limit me to ó really ó nothing. I canít ask anything on land claims at all. What can I ask about land claims?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, if the member wants to get into detailed specifics on land claims, then weíll move into the land claims debate.
Mr. Fairclough: The budget says thereís an increase in dollars for negotiations. Itís a government priority. Itís supposed to be a top one, but now itís bumped down to number 4. Thatís why Iím asking the questions. So can the Acting Premier answer the question?
Mr. Fairclough: Let the record reflect that the Acting Premier does not know and has not been updated and cannot discuss land claims on the floor of this Legislature. Are there any other discussions taking place, outside of land claims, with First Nations to address some of the issues that are outstanding with some of the First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, with respect to the three items the member stated, I have been briefed. I already told him that. Again, heís reinterpreting differently. There must be a barrier. The table that is in the middle of this Chamber must be a barrier, because they donít accept a simple answer as an answer. I will again express that we do not discuss land claims on the floor of this House.
Mr. Fairclough: That is absolutely incredible. This must be a first for governments. "We do not discuss land claims on the floor of this Legislature." Thatís absolutely incredible, coming from the members opposite. Is the only place that land claims are being discussed is at a negotiations table?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, one thing that this government said we would do is fess up when we made an error, and I did misspeak. I had meant to say, and correct it for the record, that we donít negotiate land claims on the floor of this House.
Mr. Fairclough: Letís test the knowledge in negotiations. Is the member saying that the questions I have been asking are what the negotiations are about?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite knows full well where heís going, and if he wants me to interpret his thoughts, I can do that too, and he does want to get into the specifics with respect to land claims, and we donít negotiate land claims on the floor of this House.
Mr. Fairclough: I tell you, if the member opposite were negotiating, there would be no negotiations, because there are no talks at all.
If the member doesnít know the answer to this question, can I get it in writing? What are the items or issues that can be talked about on the floor of this Legislature in regard to land claims? If he doesnít know the answer, can I get it in writing?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Heíll get it in writing.
Mr. Fairclough: Here is an Acting Premier, fully briefed, and he doesnít know what we can talk about on the floor of the Legislature. Thatís incredible.
Is the Acting Premier fully briefed and knowledgeable on the sustainable communities initiatives brought forward by Mayo ó the Nacho Nyak Dun?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I havenít been ó Iíll admit to the member opposite that I havenít been recently briefed on the communities initiatives from Mayo. Just as the Member for Kluane has tried to get into minutia with respect to the general debate on the budget that weíre doing here, the member opposite is attempting the same thing on a slightly different tack, knowing full well that, as ministers, it is impossible to know all the details of every department and branch of government.
Mr. Fairclough: I agree. I agree with that. You are not expected to know the details.
The reason why I asked for the sustainable communities initiative is that it is a very, very good document and Iím sure that, once the minister goes through it and relates it to his Department of Renewable Resources when it comes to development, heíll see that this is an incredible document. Not only that, but Canada, the federal government, is using this as a model across Canada. So, I ask the member to maybe get up to speed with that.
Iíll go back maybe to the member oppositeís departments ó something that he may know about. In devolution, there were talks over a number of years and some hurdles that we had to face. One of the things that was talked about but may not be fully part of the decision on the Yukon side is the effect of global warming. Has that been taken into consideration in some of the dollar amounts or the programs, for example, in fire suppression? Has that been a new discussion in regard to devolution?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as I already alluded to earlier in the day ó the member has more experience than I do in this House; he is skilled in debate and I certainly respect that ó we are getting better day by day and we will be able to provide more eloquently the answers that the members are seeking, so that they wonít get so angry on that side of the House.
There are basically two issues that the member opposite is alluding to. One is devolution. This is true. These are negotiations that are going on between Yukon and Canada on the devolving of responsibilities of the federal government over to the territory.
Global warming is an issue that is certainly gaining momentum, not only for Yukon and Canada, but globally.
As the member opposite knows and did learn, because I complimented a trip to Kyoto that he took while he was in government, and the Kyoto protocol was created then. Just by being there, he actually took part in the creation of the protocol. What COP 6 attempted to do was to get further commitments to the obligations that were contained within the Kyoto protocol. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, that didnít happen.
The issues of global warming are huge and we, in Yukon and northern Canada, are feeling the effects of global warming. The small island countries in the Pacific and Atlantic and other oceans around the world are also experiencing the effects of global warming by changes in climate and by water levels rising. So the reality is that we are experiencing global warming.
Where there does seem to be a lack of commitment and will by nations is what kind of action to take to mitigate the occurring effects. The concerns that we expressed at COP 6 and The Hague was that, even if there was a change in attitude and commitment by nations to immediately impose restrictions on the greenhouse gases and other mitigating measures that have been bantered about over the years, or the implementation of the Kyoto protocol, we would still be experiencing, in the long term, the effects of global warming, in the north.
There was an incredible presentation by a representative from the Northwest Territories, who had documented on video the current experiences of global warming in the north ó things such as the melting of permafrost on embankments and the increased wave action because of open water for longer periods of time.
Iím sure that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin could probably pass on some stories about the effects of global warming and the subsistence lifestyles of the Inuvialuit and the Innu, our northern residents. The expectations of ice floe and delivery of food supplies on ice floe has been substantially curtailed because our waters are warming up.
So, the member opposite asked, "What is the linkage between devolution and global warming?" The linkage he alluded to was the fire suppression component of the devolution responsibility of DIAND.
I could be corrected later on, but I believe that the Premier has indicated that that aspect of the devolution agreement has been worked out. I certainly stand corrected if I have misspoken myself just now. But I do believe that the Premier has indicated that component of the devolution exercise on the floor of this House.
The linkage between devolution and global warming, because of the nature of the global warming condition on our globe now ó the fact is that itís much bigger than the devolution aspects of Canada and Yukon. But we are getting our message heard by those folks in Ottawa who can help us in different ways ó other than devolution ó by addressing the needs, concerns and issues and experiences that are occurring in the Yukon as a result of global warming.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the substantive impacts that is occurring in Yukon is the thawing of our permafrost layers. Again, with reflection to Old Crow and other parts of Yukon, we depend on that layering of permafrost, and we depend on it for a lot of reasons ó to assist in migration of caribou, for instance; to maintain a solid path for them to travel over. Well, I know that in parts of the Northwest Territories where they have lost sizable areas of permafrost, the area literally turns to a soup, and therefore nothing can travel over it, except there may be a layer of freezing, which isnít always that secure over permafrost in the winter.
So we are continuing to work cooperatively with various departments of the federal government in addressing the concerns of global warming for the north. I think, to the credit of those territories north of 60, we have agreed to work trilaterally in our approach to getting the message across in Ottawa. So in various travels outside, in my responsibilities as the Minister of Renewable Resources, we have continually and collectively ó my counterparts in Northwest Territories and Nunavut ó have presented at every opportunity to Minister Goodale, Minister Anderson and Minister Nault on occasion, that some serious impacts are occurring north of 60 already. These are impacting on all residents north of 60 and also on the wildlife and the flora, and we are feeling impacts quicker here than they are in the rest of the country.
I mentioned earlier that, at The Hague conference, there was a video presentation by the delegate from the Northwest Territories, and it had a profound impact on an incredible number of individuals who attended the conference.
So, not only are we experiencing, in northern Canada, the problems of global warming and feeling the effects now, so are other circumpolar countries, and we are experiencing them in different ways.
Mr. Chair, there really isnít ó although there are similarities between the concerns that have been addressed and the devolution aspects ó a direct link in the global warming aspects with devolution.
I think that the devolution process is very near completion, and Iím sure that the opportunity will present itself when members opposite would appreciate a more detailed debriefing on the devolution aspects, and that they could be provided with it probably in line-by-line on the devolution budget here in the House. But I think itís a little bit of a stretch to think that there would be linkage between the global warming aspects and devolution.
Mr. Chair, the time being close to 6:00, I move that the Chair report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Eftoda that we do now report progress.
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: The agreeds have it.
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: 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 the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: 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. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:55 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was filed March 8, 2001:
Yukon Government Response to the Minister's Task Force for Active Living (dated March, 2001) (Buckway)