Monday, March 12, 2001 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a list of the members of the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy Public Advisory Committee.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should provide increased financial assistance over and above the $30 per day that is currently provided to cover the cost of room and board and other costs for expectant mothers from rural Yukon who must come to Whitehorse for the birth of their children.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
North Slope producers visit to Whitehorse
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I rise today to inform the Legislature about the participation in the forthcoming business summit of the North Slope oil and gas producers. This portion of the summit will focus on the opportunities for participation for Yukon businesses in an Alaska Highway pipeline project.
North Slope oil and gas producers - BP, Phillips, and Exxon - are conducting a U.S. $75-million joint work program aimed at selection of a pipeline route to transport natural gas from the North Slope of Alaska to market. The goal of the work program is to establish the commercial viability of the project and to select the route by the end of the year.
I have invited the producers group to come to the Yukon to discuss their plans and their timelines with the business community. They have accepted my invitation and will visit Whitehorse on March 29. At this time, Yukon companies that have not already had a chance to make contact with the producers will have an opportunity to do so. I'm very much looking forward to this visit, and I know that producers will be impressed with quality of services that Yukon businesses have to offer.
Very large contractors will conduct a great deal of this work. In January, the producers prepared and then delivered 10 requests for proposals to several companies in the industry. These are huge engineering and construction companies, such as Bechtel, which recently completed a $5.6-billion project in China. These requests for proposals include pipeline routing, gas processing facilities and several others relating to environmental, regulatory, land and legal matters. There are other requests for proposals that subsequently will also be issued by the producers.
The requests for proposals have been returned to the producer group but they have not been awarded. That process is expected to be completed by the end of March, and again there will also be several additional requests for proposals issued by the producers in the coming weeks and months.
The Yukon government has been extremely proactive in marketing the capabilities of Yukon firms to provide services to the companies that may be awarded these requests for proposals. I met with the North Slope producers in Calgary on Friday last about their plans to involve Yukon companies in this work. I know of several that have been contacted to bid as subcontractors. Yukon companies will be working on this project this year.
Our booth at the Arctic Gas Symposium was a very busy place. During the symposium, my officials and I met with representatives from almost all of the companies that received the request for proposal documents to market the capabilities of Yukon companies. Yukon companies that attended the symposium were also able to meet with these people as well.
March 29 will be yet another opportunity for Yukon businesses to speak directly to the producers. I would invite all Yukon businesses to contact either the pipeline unit of our Department of Economic Development or their local chamber of commerce for more information on the upcoming business summit.
Mr. Fentie: I rise in response to the ministerial statement today, and it's appropriate to point out that this is not a ministerial statement, but an announcement of an up-and-coming symposium and summit here in the Yukon - a tardy announcement at that, Mr. Speaker.
It could also be labelled as an apology to Yukoners for the lateness in which this Premier and this government have moved in this direction. The opposition had been urging for months, upon finding out about the $75million expenditure in feasibility study for pipeline routes, that the government do more in preparing Yukon and making Yukon ready.
We see by this statement, Mr. Speaker, that the request for proposals from some of the major engineering firms, which may very well be general contractors, is due at the end of this month. This summit takes place on March 29.
Yukon businesses, companies and Yukoners in general have two days here at this summit to make an impression. This government should have been doing much more in this area. Where is the training needed for Yukoners to get up to speed and to be ready for eventual pipeline construction, should it come? With all the money that this government has allocated toward the oil and gas branch - and specifically the pipeline - what are we actually getting from that? To date, very little. It's important to note that this type of thing would have much better been served much earlier on. By having the Premier invite the industry and its representatives to the Yukon months ago, it only stands to reason that Yukon businesses and Yukon companies would have had a much better timeline to prepare themselves, to present themselves, to offer to the industry their talents, their capacity and their abilities in this area.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, it is our hope in the official opposition that Yukoners will maximize the benefits from any pipeline project. It is unfortunate, however, that through the actions of the Liberal government, we may very well just be stuck with just the leftovers.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, this ministerial statement could be called "the better-late-than-never ministerial statement".
The Premier was on the air this morning accusing me and the media of spreading erroneous information about the $75-million U.S. feasibility study of ways to transport Alaskan gas to the Lower 48. The fact of the matter is that the Premier simply missed the boat when the first 10 requests for proposals were issued. She wasn't aware of them being let, and she didn't have an opportunity to let Yukon companies know.
The Premier should have quit while she was ahead, because she stated this morning that only major worldwide companies were invited to submit proposals. That's implying that Yukon companies aren't world-class, Mr. Speaker. I beg to differ.
The Yukon has some of the top construction and engineering companies in the world. Some of them have been on Team Canada missions to various other countries around the world. So the fact of the matter is that we do have world-class companies here in the Yukon in the construction and engineering field. Yukon companies are now having to go to the successful companies in Calgary and the United States to try to subcontract some of this work.
It shouldn't have happened this way, if the Premier were doing her job. I'm happy to see the Premier is now trying to make up for some lost ground by inviting the producer groups to come to the Yukon to discuss their plans and timelines with the business community. Well, that's right at the end of the month. The next set of proposals close at the end of this month.
The invitation should have been issued prior to the first 10 proposals being let, Mr. Speaker, but once again, it's better late than never, however.
I am concerned that the Premier, in her zeal for the Alaska Highway route, may, in fact, have turned off the producers' groups and their interest in Yukon companies. BP, Phillips and Exxon are not spending $75 million for nothing. They want an objective cost analysis and study of all the options, not just the Alaska Highway route. The Premier's constant "my way is the highway" refrain may have negatively influenced the producing groups into believing that Yukon companies would not do an objective study on an over-the-top route, Mr. Speaker.
I note that, at the oil and gas conference in Calgary that the Premier just returned from, she sent out a confusing and mixed message about her position on the respective routes and about land claims. While the Premier was asked to state her environmental concerns about the offshore, over-the-top route, she confused all the delegates by talking about the Alaska Highway route, and she didn't answer the question.
The Premier perhaps thought she was back in the Legislature and didn't have to answer the question - she would just throw another curve at it, Mr. Speaker. Such behaviour just serves to make the Premier and the Yukon government look unprofessional. The delegates to that conference deserve better than just Yukoners watching this Premier answer questions in this Legislature. When a straightforward question is asked, please provide a straightforward answer, without engaging in personal attacks against the questioner.
Do this, Mr. Speaker, and we'd all be better off.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I wish the Yukon companies well when the producer groups come to the Yukon on March 29. I am confident that the Big Three, BP, Phillips and Exxon, will be suitably impressed with the world-class expertise our Yukon companies and workforce have to offer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it's clear that not everyone is aware of the information surrounding the work plan of the producers in Alaska, and I would just like to go through it briefly, if I might.
The Alaskan producers came together as a group and have only just finalized 60 of the 90 people they intend to hire to have in place in their Anchorage and Calgary offices. They, as a group, have determined that they would issue a start of 10 requests for proposals. They chose the companies to receive those requests for proposals. Those requests for proposals included an interview. It was not required at that time to state who the subcontractors were going to be, and that's where the opportunity for Yukoners lies.
The Member for Klondike is quite correct in that Yukon companies are world-class. We have stated many times in this Legislature how they have rebuilt the Alaska Highway and the Shakwak project, and how Yukon companies have built airports in Antarctica. We're very well aware of that, and we gave the Alaskan producers, as soon as they formed as a group, an invitation to come to Yukon and we have made them aware of Yukon companies and their capabilities. When they attend the business summit on the 29th of this month - which is the commitment as to when they would be there, although the invitation had been extended for some time - they will be outlining their complete work plan and, hopefully, announcing the first successful 10 request for proposal award winners.
Now, it is quite likely that many of those who submitted proposals will also come to the business summit, as I had invited them to do. They were already making connections with Yukon companies, and there is a great deal of criticism of my performance with regard to delivering the Yukon message and speaking. I note, Mr. Speaker, that there was also an evaluation, and each member in the audience was asked to evaluate the speakers. I have been advised that, while I will not be made aware of the performance of other speakers, I will be made aware of my performance evaluation.
Since the members don't want to take my word for it or the word of anyone who was attending the conference, I will commit to sharing that information with them when I receive it.
I would also just like to remind members that, as I met with the producers in Calgary, I told them about the wealth of expertise we have in the Yukon. The producers know that. The fact is that Yukon business will be working on this project this summer. That is a fact.
A number of Yukon companies have already worked with us, thanks to us forwarding information about them. They have already been in contact with the large contractors who are taking the initial lead. Many of these Yukon businesses were in Calgary last week, speaking directly with these large contractors. They include Colt Engineering and Bechtel, just to name two.
This government played an active role in helping to set up those meetings and working with the businesses. And we worked with the businesses who were not there, in handing out in excess of 300 Yukon business directories. Every one of the individuals who were present at the conference took the opportunity to be at the Yukon booth, promoting Yukon businesses.
Also, I know that a northern business, Northwestel, was also present, in force.
Our Department of Economic Development has been able to provide all those who have asked, and others, with information about possible opportunities.
Again, for the members opposite and for all Yukoners, Yukon companies will be working on this project this summer. We've been doing everything we can to ensure that that happens.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Oil and gas industry, promotion of
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development - one of her many portfolios. The Premier has just, in the response to the ministerial statement, made the point that she is more concerned about her speaking performance in Calgary than she is about the mixed message that she left industry. We in the official opposition, and Yukoners in general, find that unacceptable.
Mr. Speaker, when the Premier was asked certain questions in regard to what would develop into a certainty of investment - a climate for certainty in this territory - the Premier left a very mixed message.
Can the Premier clear this up for industry, so that they will be comforted that, should they invest in oil and gas in this territory, their investment definitely has a climate of certainty?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There was no mixed message provided by me. I offered the evaluation in response to the member opposite's criticism of my performance. There was no mixed message from this government. Had the member been there, he would be aware of that. And if the member, again, chooses not to believe my answer, I would invite him to ask any of the industry delegates, or anyone else who was there, aside from the one reporter who issued that story.
Mr. Fentie: I am not accusing the Premier about a bad performance or anything else. What I am stating here is that industry is somewhat confused when it comes to some very critical questions in regard to investment, and that's the problem. I think that it is evidence - testimony again, to the Premier being totally overloaded and unable to properly focus on items of such great importance. Will the Premier now, as Minister of Economic Development, clear the record and at least send the message to industry that, should they choose the Alaska Highway route, their investment is in a certain climate and will certainly produce the results that they seek? Can the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There is no doubt in the minds of industry, or the minds of any delegates, or anyone who was there, or any Yukoners, where this government stands with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline project. There is no doubt. I have been crystal clear on behalf of this government as to our support for the Alaska Highway pipeline project. The only place where there is a mixed message is coming from the opposition and the opposition benches. Do they support this or are they going to continue to refer to our efforts as "far-off pipe dreams?"
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that when it comes to evaluation, Yukoners will evaluate this government and this Premier on the benefits they derive from the oil and gas industry, not on how the Premier's speaking performance played out in Calgary.
Mr. Speaker, this Premier, who is Minister of Finance and Economic Development, in charge of land claims and devolution and many important areas of government simply does not have the time to focus on economic development. We have asked repeatedly that she pass this portfolio on so that some other member of her caucus can devote the time necessary in such a critical area. Will the Premier now come to her senses and realize that this workload is severely, severely hampering her government's ability to present a clear, concise message to industry and hand that portfolio off?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if the member doesn't feel that the message has been clear on the pipeline or on economic development in the territory, I would invite the member to contact any one of these people: SNC Group, Lavalin, Powell, the North American natural gas pipeline route, the International Union of Operating Engineers, Colt Engineering, El Paso Energy International, and a host of others. All of these individuals are optimistic about the Yukon, and they're optimistic about what this government is doing in terms of the economy.
Now, the member might like to choose to stand on his feet and offer personal criticisms. I think that the Yukon's future is bright. I believe that the glass is half full. I believe that what this government is doing is the right thing, that we've been on the right track with producers, that we've been on the right track with the industry, and we will continue to push and promote this project, and we will continue to push and promote for benefits to Yukoners - not just on the Alaska Highway pipeline project, but on the oil and gas industry as a whole, the mining industry, the forest sector, and the tourism industry.
And the member opposite is quite right. There will be an evaluation passed on our performance, and I'm looking forward to that evaluation.
Question re: Pipeline route, environmental concerns
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier. Mr. Speaker, it's not just the oil and gas industry that needs a clear picture from this Premier. The Yukon people need to know where this government stands on important issues such as land claims and the environment.
Will the Premier now do what she refused to do in Calgary, and put Yukon's environmental concerns about the over-the-top route on the record? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I was asked why my speaking notes originally referenced the over-the-top route and why I chose to focus on the Alaska Highway route, and I indicated that it was because our government supports the Alaska Highway route, and these are the reasons why. I chose to focus on the positive, as opposed to continually focusing on the negative, like the members opposite.
What that has translated to in the media is that, somehow, there was a mixed message. The Yukon's opposition to an over-the-top route has been absolutely clear and restated at pipeline conferences and at every single one of my speaking engagements in Calgary. And the individual who asked the question was not dissatisfied with the response. The members opposite are the only ones who have the mixed message on the Alaska Highway pipeline project. This side of the House is absolutely clear. We do not support the over-the-top route for, among other reasons, environmental reasons. There are also technological reasons why we do not support it. We do support, and will continue to aggressively promote, the Alaska Highway pipeline project.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier didn't answer the question again. Given unclear messages to Yukoners, I asked her what the environmental concerns are with the over-the-top route, and she did not answer the question. I think it's pretty important, if you're fighting for one route, to at least voice your concerns on the environment.
I give the Premier an opportunity to answer that question again. Put it on the record. What are the environmental concerns with the over-the-top pipeline route? Can't she answer that question here? She refused to answer it in Calgary. What are those environmental concerns?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, again, this government is vigorously opposed to an offshore pipeline route. We are vigorously opposed for a number of reasons, including environmental. The difficulty is that we have no idea where the members opposite stand on the Alaska Highway pipeline project. They have no interest in supporting us. They have no interest in supporting the efforts of this government. They have no interest in supporting the efforts of Yukon businesses, and they have no interest in supporting the Yukon's oil and gas industry overall. That's clear from their line of questioning. I have said we are opposed for environmental and technological reasons.
I don't know what the member opposite doesn't understand about that.
Mr. Fairclough: People are asking about what the government's environmental concerns are, and this Premier could not answer that question in Calgary. She did not say what the concerns were. Twice I asked the Premier what the Yukon's environmental concerns are about the over-the-top route. We need to know. People need to know.
Sure, you're in favour of the other route, but please state what the environmental concerns are on the over-the-top route - for the third time, Premier, and try to give some clear message.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I really don't understand what the member opposite doesn't get about, "We support the Alaska Highway route." A northern offshore pipeline route provides no access to Yukoners. It's an environmentally sensitive habitat. There is not the technology available to deal with ice scour. There is not enough sheer human presence in that particular area offshore, where the potential of a break could go completely undetected. It's buried offshore. That's one proposal. Another proposal is the international boundary dispute between Canada and the United States, which has not been resolved and is highly unlikely to be resolved, among a host of other reasons.
Among the most important reasons is our support for the Alaska Highway route, because the Alaska Highway route is an existing transportation corridor. It provides benefits and access to Yukoners and, most importantly, it's about far more than a construction project to the Yukon. It's about future opportunities. Those are very good reasons - I think "doggone good reasons" is parliamentary - for supporting it.
It's about what we support and the reasons why. I invite the members opposite to come onboard and help us.
Question re: Maternity care for rural women
Mr. Jenkins: Let's try a different minister and see if we can extract some answers this time.
I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services. When a woman from rural Yukon is pregnant, she must plan to go to Whitehorse to have her child from two weeks to a month before her due date. This is a rural woman from all areas of Yukon except Watson Lake, which has a hospital. Now, if you're a First Nations woman, non-insured health benefits pays for all your expenses: hotel, food and taxis. But non-First Nations women must pay for all these expenses up front, and are only reimbursed by the Government of Yukon for $30 a day, starting on the fourth day after they get into Whitehorse.
Is the minister aware of this situation? What does he plan to do to level the playing field and treat rural, pregnant women in a consistent, considerate manner when they are forced to go to Whitehorse to give birth to a child.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, I am aware of the concern. I am very aware of the fact that all Yukoners who live in rural areas have the same problem. We are currently reviewing the situation. Hopefully, we will have an answer in the near future.
Mr. Jenkins: So much for universality, Mr. Speaker.
What we have is this minister maintaining a double standard for the delivery of health care here in the Yukon. All the rural Yukon hospitals have been closed, with the exception of Watson Lake. Mr. Speaker, $30 a day doesn't come anywhere near covering the costs for these individuals to come to Whitehorse. Organizations such as the Rotary Club and the health investment fund have turned down requests for assistance because they believe that this funding is the responsibility of the Yukon government.
Does this minister accept his responsibility? If not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we always accept our responsibilities. That is why we are being placed in those positions. I am not sure what that question has to do with the issue of being fair and equal to all Yukoners.
In the last response, I made it very clear that we are looking at the issue. We are looking at all Yukoners. I guess that if you are going to look at the universality of health care, it's as universal as it will be for anybody, wherever you choose to live. We don't have the same health care that Winnipeg or Vancouver has, so I can't make those decisions. People make their own decisions, and we try to be as fair and equal as we can.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's simply not the case, Mr. Speaker. Let's look at an area. The Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre went to the government with a proposal requesting $15,000 to provide a two-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and basic grocery staples that could be used by pregnant rural women when they are here in Whitehorse. The government turned down that proposal.
Just what is this minister prepared to do? Is he prepared to do anything, or are we going to study it in a 10-year cycle and, 10 years down the road, something might happen? Is the minister prepared to act now and provide a measure of assistance to rural pregnant women that would be acceptable?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The recommended options are, I think, obviously, that when we look at representing all Yukoners, we have to make sure that we are responding for all Yukoners. The member opposite mentions the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre apartment. This would be available to women. It is not available to their partners. It could be, maybe, during the term that the prospective mother is there, but what happens after that?
The problem of subsidization of in-territory hotels would be another way of looking at the coverage. I think it's not a simple issue. I know that the Member for Klondike thinks that everything is simple. It is always very important, when you are on the opposite side not having to make these decisions, that everything appears simple - just do it. That is not the way that we look at it. We are trying to be fair to all Yukoners, and all Yukoners have to be treated fairly and equally.
Throwing comments out, like the member from Dawson is doing at this point, doesn't solve the issue. The member from Dawson should come up with some creative ideas as to how we, as a government, can do a better job of it, not just criticize. Let's find some positives.
Question re: Hepatitis C, Positive Lives funding
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question today for the Minister of Health, and it's, of course, about Positive Lives. Now, Mr. Speaker, it's not surprising here, but Positive Lives disputes what the minister has said, that he said he did not try to keep them from going to the media. So I'd like to get to the bottom of it, if I could. I'd like to point out that the government has not even been in power one year, and the minister is duking it out with NGOs, with individuals, even the media, for goodness sake.
So, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask if the minister will stand on his feet now, clarify the record, and apologize for trying to muzzle this citizens group?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: No, Mr. Speaker, I did not give any direction to any NGO to not go to the media. The obvious is there. Why would I do that?
Mr. Keenan: Well, that's not a clarification; that's not an apology. It's just a continuation of pitting Yukoners against Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, they campaigned on a non-confrontational approach in government, and I can understand duking it out with the official opposition or the Member for Klondike, but with the citizens? Again, I ask for an apology to all Yukoners for this slight.
I'd like to also say, Mr. Speaker, that the film industry has been absolutely silent since they've been told not to go into the media discussions. Again, a government about openness - well, I'd like to see the government walk that talk. Will the minister, the representative of the government, give his assurance that the decision by Positive Lives to speak publicly will not be used and held against them when it comes to funding programs for people with this terrible disease?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the only people I see creating an issue out of this are the members opposite. The members opposite like to duke it out with everybody and anybody, even if the clarifications are not there. The obvious: ou, no such statement was ever made. Why an issue is being made t of a statement that was never made, I'm not sure; but I'm sure there are some obvious reasons to some people why it is.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, that's just a head shaker, if nothing else. We talk about an open and accountable government, restoring the confidence in government, and it's not just there. Now we're getting into deny, deny, deny. Well, the cartoon in the Friday paper about shooting the messenger, I think, is every explicit, but that's not about NGOs. This is about the service that is provided to NGOs, and that's what the real issue is. The real issue lies right there with the people with HIV and AIDS, and the people with hep C. They need the support, Mr. Speaker; they need it every day.
So, if more than one group applies for this funding, can the minister give his assurance that the needs of one group will not be pitted against the needs of another group for any reason? Will the minister give that assurance, please?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are open and accountable. We are transparent, and we are honest in our responses.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'll continue, Mr. Speaker, after they finish their little speeches. The idea -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: We have 30 minutes within Question Period to get to the bottom of this and to ask the questions, and the minister is supposed to be supplying answers. The minister is not supposedly standing there with the TV camera on his face, with this blank expression, waiting for an Academy Award.
Mr. Speaker, this isn't about the Academy Award procedures. This is about getting answers for the Yukon people, and I'll be very pleased if the member will provide the answers, not the theatrics.
Speaker: Member for Whitehorse Centre, on the point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: On the point of order, I apologize for all members of the House that we've just seen our time wasted like this. There is no point of order here.
Speaker: I think it's very clear that there is no point of order. I will make it clear that, in Question Period, the normal procedure is that the member asking the question gets one minute to ask his question. The member answering the question gets 1.5 minutes to answer. There is no point of order.
I will ask the minister to continue and complete his answer.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, what we just observed is what we call intimidation. It is always trying to make an issue out of nothing. I can't even finish my comments and I am rudely interrupted. I have to have at least some attention here, so that I can get my message across.
The purpose of the two groups, again, was to invite them to have some sort of mediation, Mr. Speaker. They chose not to go that route. Obviously, they are each going to be submitting their own proposal. We will assess from those proposals what the final outcome will be.
Intimidating and making all kinds of accusations here about what or what shouldn't be is not up to me, Mr. Speaker. My people are going to be working very hard to ensure that we have the proper service for those people out there who need it.
Question re: Jack London TV series/film industry promotion
Mr. McRobb: I would like to welcome back the Minister of Tourism from her latest overseas jaunt. I hope she's not too jet-lagged to answer a question about the Yukon's film industry.
Now, while she was away, the acting minister created a smokescreen around a possible multi-million dollar TV series based on Jack London's Yukon stories. Such a series could create jobs for hundreds of Yukon people - winter jobs and long-term jobs.
What is this government doing, right now, to try to keep this project alive?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad the member opposite spoke about the trip to Germany. The trip to Germany was to ITB, the largest travel show in the world, and where the Yukon was showcased. This is one of the most exotic destinations in the world. I know that previous ministers of Tourism, from both parties across the way, have gone to that particular travel show. And I'll tell you, it was amazing to me how well the Yukon did in that particular travel show.
Now, as far as being jet-lagged - no, I'm not. That's not a problem, but as for our support of the film industry, it is unequivocal, it is complete. Before I left for Germany to work in our booth at the travel show, I had extended conversations with the proponents of this particular series. I had those conversations at my home on the phone and in person. There have been a number of discussions that have happened over a period of time on this particular series. We continue with those discussions, and I have to state again that we are completely in support of the film industry here in the Yukon Territory.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The members opposite are saying that we turned them down. That's totally untrue. Pardon me, Mr. Speaker. That's factually incorrect. That is actually quite factually incorrect. We did not turn down the Call of the Wild. We're still in constant discussions with them, so I'm not quite clear what the problem is.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I think part of the problem is that this minister doesn't realize the priorities are right here in the Yukon, and it's impossible to risk such a profitable enterprise for the Yukon by remote control and long-distance telephone.
Now, I don't want to get into all the fine print, especially since the acting minister did such a good job of muddying the waters.
There are two areas he was wrong about. One is about commercial productions and the nature of up-front cash outlay. Will the minister confirm (1) that commercials do not qualify for the film incentive program, and (2) that this is a rebate program, similar to the business incentive program with respect to hiring Yukoners?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite is asking minute detail about a particular program. The film incentive program is one where you make the expenditures and then you get the money back. Now, expenditures for television productions are vastly different from the expenditures for the film industry. Therefore, when we made the original offer to this particular group, we told them that there has to be some latitude in the way that this production was going to be financed, so there was a little bit more to it because it was different from feature shows.
Now, as for my travel to ITB, Mr. Speaker, the numbers for tourism are already up. I hear it again and again and again from tourism operators, "We're booked. We're booked. The numbers are up. We have had a 100-percent increase in bookings since last year." I will tell you, selling the Yukon anywhere in the world is the best thing that we can do for tourism and this industry. Mr. Speaker, I am not sitting in my office at my desk hoping that people show up; I am out there getting them, and there is nothing wrong with that. That is my job, and it's paying off.
Mr. McRobb: Well, can you believe that answer? That answer was ridiculous, and it certainly didn't answer the question. I asked her to confirm that the acting minister was wrong on two counts, and she failed to answer the question. Obviously, you can count on this government when it comes to back patting, but when admitting it is wrong and sending confusing signals to the Yukon and businesses, it's another matter altogether. Now, the previous government saw the potential for film production in the Yukon and backed up that vision through active investment, such as the film incentive program itself and the grips and electrics package. This opportunity could be a door breaker for the film industry in the Yukon, bringing millions of dollars to our economy. Will this minister go back to the Cabinet table and fight for effective support for this industry?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, anybody on this side will tell you that they're sick to death of hearing this minister fight for the film industry and the Department of Tourism. Anybody on this side and anybody out in the industry will tell you that we're there. The Yukon Liberal government is very much in favour of this industry. Now, as far as the support the previous government gave the film incentive program, that was a good idea. It was a good idea, but what we did is we went one step further. We created a film commission. We have three people working in the film commission, and they're out there working every day, bringing in new productions to the Yukon Territory. There is one being started just three weeks from now here in the Yukon Territory, and that's because of the active work of these three individuals who work out of the film commission that this Liberal government created. We support the film industry.
Question re: Alaska Highway reconstruction
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I'm just trying to do my job, holding this government accountable. I didn't ask for such an extreme reaction.
On December 6, 2000, and on December 12, 2000, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services made a commitment in this House to complete the section of the Alaska Highway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction within the next three years. The minister admitted it would cost them $30 million to complete that highway. But now we discover that the Liberal budget fails to follow up on the minister's commitment. There's no mention of any project other than the Champagne section, which we have since learned won't even be completed this coming year. Furthermore, it's only part of the bigger project. How is the minister intending to fulfil her commitment?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: One piece at a time, Mr. Speaker, and I would point out we're doing a lot more than the previous government did to finish the rebuilding of the Alaska Highway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction. Since devolution, 139 kilometres of road has been reconstructed between Whitehorse and Watson Lake, mostly in the Swift River and Rancheria areas. So it's now completely rebuilt between Watson Lake and Whitehorse. We now turn our attention to the section between Whitehorse and Haines Junction, and we are working on that in the capital planning process. We are committed to completing upgrading work between Mendenhall and Haines Junction, and that work is starting this season.
Mr. McRobb: Well, in terms of a viable answer, that was another cop-out. I didn't ask the minister to stand up and read a briefing note written by someone in the department. I expected a full answer to the question. We did not get it.
Now, this is a $30-million project. The minister herself said so. At the rate this government is proceeding, Mr. Speaker, it will take more than a decade to complete this important section of highway. Time is running out. Three years are up, and there are only two more budgets from this government. The more this government waffles, Mr. Speaker, the longer Yukoners will have to endure that dangerous highway section, and the greater the chance of losing the bids to outside contractors.
Can the minister explain how she intends to complete this whole project within the mandate of this government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I guess the Member for Kluane can read from a briefing note as well as I can. That's good to see.
As the Member for Kluane well knows, his government did absolutely nothing on that section of the highway, in terms of work around Champagne and work in fixing the part that has already been cleared. Yes, it is a $30-million project, and we are going to do it a bit at a time. We do not have the money this year to do all of it. We are going to make a start on it, because it is long overdue, and there are about 60 kilometres of highway still to be reconstructed between Whitehorse and Haines Junction. We are going to get a start on it this year because we are unable to do it all.
I am confident that that work will be done over the next few years.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's another non-answer.
What the minister is describing are undertakings done by the previous government with respect to the section south to Watson Lake. That part was done. The remainder is the section north to Haines Junction. If the minister refers to the long-term plan in the previous government's budget, she will see the commitment there to start work on that project.
What I'm doing today is holding her accountable for her commitment made only three months ago. It's $30 million in three years - what a letdown. This government is not doing what it said it would do.
Now, if we're going to wait to do a little bit at a time, it's going to be more than a decade before this important project is complete. Can the minister be clear and provide us with the timelines for this whole project, and when we might we see that spelled out in this government's budget?
Ms. Tucker: As the member opposite well knows, we are working on our capital planning process now. We are making a start to the construction between Whitehorse and Haines Junction, on a section that is long overdue. The members opposite did nothing about it during their entire term. We are turning that around. We are making a start on it.
The capital budget last year was under $4 million for highways. We are turning that around. It's a slow process to get back up to the $20 million a year we need, but we have to start somewhere. We are doing that, kilometre by kilometre.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Special adjournment motion
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House, at its rising on Thursday, March 15, 2001, do stand adjourned until 1:00 p.m. on Monday, March 26, 2001.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House, at its rising on Thursday, March 15, 2001, do stand adjourned until 1:00 p.m. on Monday, March 26, 2001.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, here we go again. We have been in the House just a few short weeks. Now we're going to adjourn for a week. The issue here in the Yukon is the economy, and the Liberals over there are laughing at the issue before us - laughing at the issue. What we should be doing, rather than taking a week off -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: On a point of order, it was my understanding that this was a House leaders' agreement to put this motion forward without debate.
Speaker: There is no point of order. There is a dispute of facts between members. Leader of the third party, please continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The exercise that this government should be engaged in is to put Yukoners back to work, not to take a week's recess at this very important time in the budget debate. Now, there are many, many opportunities in this budget that we have before us to look at ways that we can move some money around, and develop opportunities, develop jobs for Yukoners, and at this juncture, to take a week off - next thing we'll probably be hearing from this Liberal government they'll want to give themselves a raise for a job well done.
But, Mr. Speaker, the issue is how deplorable the economy is. We know how good the economy is in the Northwest Territories. We know how good the economy is in Alaska. We know how good the economy is in Alberta and northern British Columbia. We have the same oil and gas mineral potential and forestry potential here as all those other jurisdictions do. What is wrong with this picture?
Give us an opportunity to move some of the funds around in this budget and move forward. Put people to work and get the economy back up and rolling.
Mr. Speaker, that is the important issue; that is why we should be here. In opposition, it is our responsibility to hold the government accountable, not take another week's recess at this time.
Ms. Tucker: The practice of this House has been to adjourn during spring break to allow people the opportunity to be with their children at that time. Many plans have been based on that, and this has been known to the opposition for some time. It was my understanding that it was an agreement for the benefit of the people associated with this Legislature and for the community as a whole, to take this time. If the members opposite wish to disagree with that, they have the opportunity.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Ms. Netro: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, one nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion agreed to
Unanimous consent re: Motion No. 87
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to proceed at this time with Motion No. 87, which is on today's notice paper.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
Motion No. 87
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the hon. members Dennis Fentie, Peter Jenkins and Gary McRobb be appointed to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
Are you prepared for the question?
Mr. Fentie: On this matter, Mr. Speaker, we in the official opposition in good faith have chosen to rejoin the standing committee in the hopes that the standing committee will do the work that it is charged to do and that we will not have to experience any further political interference by having work that the standing committee is working on brought to the floor of this Legislature. We trust that the government side will also work with the committee in good faith, as we intend to.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It's our party's position that we rejoin SCREP. There was an olive branch extended to the opposition. We accepted. Hopefully SCREP can work in the manner in which it was constructed to work and not be subjected to direct political intervention and motions that overrule what this body consists of and what its objects are.
Hopefully, in the future, in a spirit of cooperation, we can work to the enhancement of all in this Legislative Assembly and not just await the big strong hand of government, descending from their - I guess we could refer to it as their bully pulpit.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, the member will close debate.
Ms. Tucker: We, in the government, would like to welcome the opposition members back to SCREP. We are looking forward to productive debate and discussions to change the rules, and we are committed to parliamentary reform.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I think the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 87 agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon. I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute 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.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Chair: Since the minister speaking is now no longer the minister, Ms. Duncan, would you like to continue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, thank you.
Mr. Fairclough: I have only a few more questions I would like to follow up on.
I was asking the Acting Premier several questions, and I have not been getting the answers I wanted, but some interesting things have come out.
One of the things the Acting Premier said was that the Liberal government will not be discussing land claims on the floor of this Legislature, which is a top priority of the Liberal government and also a line item in the budget of some $600,000. Later, he changed his mind and said, "We don't negotiate on the floor of this Legislature."
I tried to ask many questions with regard to land claims and I got no answers back. The Acting Premier did say that he would provide to me a list of issues that we can discuss on the floor of this Legislature. I was wondering if the Premier had that list and could share it with me.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I don't have the list that the member asked for. I do have an appreciation of his frustration, and perhaps I could elaborate in this way.
With regard to land claim negotiations - the specifics of the negotiations - when the members opposite attempt to negotiate specific questions, either in Question Period or general debate, it wanders into areas that are not respectful of the land claims negotiation process. We want to ensure that the answers that we give members are respectful and are mindful of the process, and we don't want to make light of any of the challenges that we face. We are facing many challenges.
I would like to reassure the member opposite that, yes, this government is fully committed to settling land claims; yes, the negotiators have very clear mandates from this government, and; yes, the government is working diligently to resolve any outstanding issues. We will continue to work on creating realistic work plans with the other parties at the table. I have met with chiefs of First Nations who have outstanding land claims and we're working to settle them.
Beyond those general statements, I cannot provide the member opposite with more specifics and still be respectful of the process, which I am confident the member opposite wishes me to be.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm trying to get updated on the land claims progress. I'm not negotiating on behalf of government, and I'm not negotiating on behalf of First Nations on agreements about which I don't know any details. I don't have those.
All I was trying to do was get some information, so I can carry it back to my constituents, who are asking me about where the stumbling blocks are and so on that government is having in regard to the negotiations. That's what I'm getting at. Can the Premier tell us when this list will come over to our side? I would still like to address the land claims issue.
I have one more question on the land claims issue, too, but when can we get it? The sooner, the better. I just want to clear that issue off our discussions here.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm unclear from the member what he means by a list. And I apologize. I haven't read the Blues on that discussion.
If the member's asking for a specific list of outstanding issues at the land claims table, I can't provide that. The member's shaking his head, no. If the member's asking what specific questions they can ask that I can answer related to land claims, I could try and prepare such a list for the member opposite.
What I can say to the member opposite is that there is progress being made, and that is as much as I can say. As long as parties are still speaking with one another at the table and sitting down and talking, I think we are making progress. I'm confident that we are. Does that help the member opposite?
Mr. Fairclough: The Acting Premier said that he would provide a list of issues that can be discussed with regard to land claims. That's what I was looking for, and I was looking at hopefully getting it sooner than later so we can finish off the land claims discussion.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My official has just elaborated on the type of list that the member is seeking. We aren't scheduled to go into Executive Council Office debate until after Community and Transportation Services. So, as soon as I'm able and officials are able, we'll provide the member opposite with the list he asked for. I will give the member opposite a commitment that we will provide that to him before we begin the Executive Council Office debate, which is where land claims debate is usually held.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked the Premier in the last sitting about whether or not there were any discussions taking place outside the UFA to get the land claims agreement moving, and the answer, at that time, was no. Can the Premier tell us what is taking place outside the land claims with regard to solving some of the issues the First Nations may have with, for example, land?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As that is specifically related to land claims as well, I will provide the member opposite with that answer as well, either during the Executive Council Office debate or in writing prior to the debate, so that he can ask further questions on it in the Executive Council Office debate.
Mr. Fairclough: I will look forward to the debate on the land claims issue and put that aside. There is another question that I would like to ask with regard to implementation of land claims. But first I would like to ask the Premier, with regard to ministerial travel and the overbudgeting that is taking place right now. You went over in five months. What pot of money are you going to draw from to cover the travel out of Executive Council Office?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We have provided the member opposite with more information in writing. I have responded in a letter to the member opposite, which, if he hasn't received, he should receive forthwith.
The funding for the additional expenses is within the Executive Council Office, within existing monies that are allocated there. As to which program, specifically, would be lapsing money - or not having spent all of the money in their particular budget - I will be prepared to answer that in Executive Council Office budget debate, not in general debate.
Mr. Fairclough: I look forward to that information. We haven't received anything on this side of the House. I did write a letter to the Premier requesting travel, and that's what the Premier said would be part of the letter.
I have a question in regard to the immigrant investor fund. Can the Premier tell me a bit about what's happening with that fund? Is there any new direction given to the fund to be spent on projects? What's left, how much is in the fund, and so on?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the immigrant investor fund report is contained within the Department of Economic Development and I would be prepared to answer questions in the Department of Economic Development.
I can advise the member opposite that I received an update recently regarding the fund, and there have been no new expenditures set at this point in time. However, I will elaborate upon that in Economic Development.
Mr. Fairclough: No new expenditures - is there more investment into this investor fund? Is it the same project as was identified by the previous government that this money will be flowing to?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in the budget there is an outline that this government is fulfilling a number of expensive obligations from previous governments, including Connect Yukon, which is the destination for immigrant investor fund investment, in addition to other resources.
Again, as indicated to the member opposite, I will be prepared to elaborate further on that in the Economic Development debate.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I don't want to go into too much detail on this, but I would like to know what monies are left, how much money has been spent out of this fund that is targeted toward Connect Yukon. Can the Premier tell us what money is left in there? Has any of this money been spent, or is it still collecting interest?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are very precise rules surrounding the funding, when it can be spent, and at what point, and so on. I will provide the member opposite with an answer in writing, prior to the Economic Development debate. The House will be adjourning for a week. I will provide the member opposite with that information in order that he can prepare subsequent questions for the Economic Development debate - where the immigrant investor fund initiative is responded to.
Mr. Fairclough: With regard to Connect Yukon, this project is underway. Is that correct? It's on its way, and it's happening. Where's the money coming from to fund Connect Yukon? Is it out of general revenue? Will that be reimbursed by the immigrant investor fund?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The immigrant investor fund is a complicated project, as the member opposite, who was in Cabinet, will recognize. Connect Yukon questions will be responded to as a line item during the Community and Transportation Services debate. I will respond to the immigrant investor fund questions in the Economic Development debate, and I will provide the member opposite with additional information prior to that debate so that all his questions can be answered.
Mr. Fairclough: I was hoping to get some answers from the Premier. We're basically talking about the budget and -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: That's right. It's general debate, and I'm not going into any details. But the project is going ahead. I'm just wondering where the money is coming from to fund this project. Is it just out of general revenues, to be reimbursed later?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it is coming out of the immigrant investor fund. I will provide the member opposite with detailed answers, prior to the Economic Development debate, on the immigrant investor fund and its expenditures - how much money, how much interest and the current rules. Questions on the Connect Yukon project and the status of the project itself will be answered in the Community and Transportation Services debate by the minister.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the Premier for that answer. It is coming out of the immigrant investor fund. We look forward to seeing what is in there and how much interest it has collected and how it is going to be paying dividends to those who are putting dollars into that fund.
The fireweed fund - is that program cancelled?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, it is not. The fireweed fund was something that was supported by this government in opposition. It is a labour-sponsored venture capital fund that was seeking a $15-million investment. Such an investment is not contained in these budget documents.
Mr. Fairclough: Did the Premier say that the fund is continuing? It is something you have supported in the past, but is it dead, or has this Liberal government repackaged it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This Legislature did what we should do - pass the legislation to establish the fund. The Yukon Federation of Labour and others are seeking funding to start the fireweed fund. They are seeking that funding from the federal government in the neighbourhood of $15 million. There is no line item in this budget for that fund.
Mr. Fairclough: Is there something else replacing this fund that the Liberal government sees coming forward - if not in this budget, then in budgets to come - that's similar to the fireweed fund?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair. The fireweed fund is a good vehicle. We supported it in opposition. We've sponsored the labour-sponsored venture capital fund in seeking the fund. We don't have funding for them in this budget.
Mr. Fairclough: I'm wondering if I can also get an update in writing on the fireweed fund from the member opposite?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a couple more questions. In regard to implementation of land claims, the development assessment process has been a big program that has devolved out of the land claims agreements, and it basically has remained dormant, even though there have been attempts to make sure that it gets up and going. What's happening with the development assessment process on the Yukon side? Are we looking at moving this along, along with First Nations, or is there a direction not to do anything at this point?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, no one has not been doing anything. Within the Executive Council Office, I'd be pleased to advise the member that the progress of the development assessment process legislation is still in the hands of the federal drafts people. A subsequent draft is expected to be passed to Yukon, and there will be a public release and consultation on the several-times-over draft from the federal legal drafts people. That timing has been somewhat delayed by the federal election last November, and I will obtain for the member opposite the date when we are now expecting the next draft of development assessment process legislation.
However, the member is incorrect. Work on this particular legislation has continued.
Mr. Fairclough: The native language program - has that moved anywhere, out of where it is now, to any other departments? Is there any movement on this or has it remained within government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will be happy to respond to the Yukon Native Language Centre or any questions with respect to the transfer of French language services or the DAP legislation in Executive Council Office debate. We are not in Executive Council Office debate; we are in general debate on the budget.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the Premier for reminding herself about that. So, the native language program has not moved over to Council of Yukon First Nations?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is still a line item in Executive Council Office.
Mr. Fairclough: Is there any will on behalf of the Liberal government to move this over to the Council of Yukon First Nations?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We are very supportive of the aboriginal language services and, in particular, the Native Language Centre at Yukon College. We are also continuing to work with the Council of Yukon First Nations.
The funding for the aboriginal language services program is contained within Executive Council Office. As far as I am aware, it is staying where it is; however, I will, in preparation for the Executive Council Office debate, determine what our latest discussions are with the Council of Yukon First Nations in this regard.
Mr. Fairclough: In their budget, the government has increased the exploration tax credit. Was the previous amount used up this year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, however I caution the member opposite that there's still an opportunity for people to file, and we can provide the member opposite, in writing, with the amount that has been used to date, and caution that the figures are preliminary. As this is tax information, it takes some time to come in.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the member opposite for that, and I look forward to that update. So any dollars that are basically given back out to the companies or developers would be in the information provided to us, and we would see any unused amount that's put forward to this program with regard to revotes and that type of thing.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would remind the member that this is exploration and is not for developers. This is an exploration tax credit. The figure for 1999 for the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit is $1,276,465.75. This is not subject to a revote or lapsed funding. It is simply the amount.
Mr. Keenan: I just have a couple of questions that I'd like to ask of the Premier - more of a general sense to get a feeling of where we might be going and what the Premier's vision might be of the future.
The Premier has worked with me now for four years, or something like as such. And I think the Premier has an understanding of my basic aspirations - and "style" might not be the right word. I kind of like to get the big picture of things, and that's where I'm going to go.
I appreciate people who carry a vision that will go on into the future. When I hear your ministry speaking about 10-year plans, et cetera, I can certainly appreciate the quality of work that would have to be done in order to steer and form that over a 10-year period. So, of course, if we're going to be planning that far, it says to me that there has to be a vision for the Yukon.
I was just wondering, in a very general sense, if that would be an appropriate question of the Premier and if the Premier would be able to share a vision based on that 10-year plan for the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I believe my general vision and our government's general vision of the Yukon, in terms of the immediate future, was contained in the budget speech. I won't use an hour and a half of House time to revisit that with the member opposite.
With respect to the vision for longer than the immediate budget year - of the future - again, the long-term capital plan will outline that, although the member can expect that this government is very committed to, among a variety of other things and not necessarily in order of priority, rebuilding Yukon's infrastructure, which requires substantial capital investment.
So, in terms of infrastructure, yes. In terms of overall, the capital budget and the long-term capital plan to be tabled this fall will further enlighten the member. However, as a former Cabinet minister, the member will also be aware that capital investment takes money, and we will be looking to ensure that every dollar spent is spent wisely.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the reason why I asked the question is the language, I guess. I certainly have stepped into the political arena many, many years ago at different levels and have followed through now to this level of politics. I'm not saying that this is a greater level of politics or a lesser level of politics from what I have been in, but certainly every level of politics that I have been in, and there has been quite an assortment, has been based on visionary work, partnering and speaking to developing what the Yukon has to develop.
I guess I take offence when we say "rebuilding the economy", because we have all said - and I think all three parties in the House - that we want the economy to be sustainable, that we don't want it to be a boom and bust, that we don't need it to be fluctuating around mineral prices or timber prices, or the brokers who are in between and making a buck. That was the reason why I asked, because, in my mind, I think we are trying to establish a really good Yukon economy, which, of course, will be part resource extraction, part government oriented, with a lot of different players there. Therein was the reason for the question about vision.
I would like to see it go in that manner because I think the Yukon does have very much to offer. Its core group of people have been around, in a contemporary sense, for over 100 years now. Part of my family was brought to this country because of that, and then other sides of my family were here to greet those people, so it is kind of like having someone on the beach to say hi to the Mayflower when it came in. It is an unusual predicament, but we have come 100 years. And I am quite worried, as I talk to many people out in rural Yukon, because, as the Member for Porter Creek South knows - she has been around the Yukon most of her life, if not all, and she certainly knows a lot of the people I know - that is what is on people's minds. It is that lifestyle, that cottage living, or making a buck off of who you are. They'd like to see that happen.
I remember, when I was working in the Tourism department as the minister, that, believe it or not, people would come up and say, "Good work has been done in tourism, and it is good because there hasn't been much else in the economy and we have to keep doing it, but please don't bring them all over at once."
I think many of us in the Yukon feel that way. I said, "Well, if that is the ultimate test, then we must be going in the right direction." Because certainly, the first principle of the tourism strategy is to protect Yukoners' rights and aspirations.
That's the reason for the question on visioning, and that's why I throw it out.
Now, as I speak, I would like to ask the Premier, in terms of developing this vision - because it's all about the future as if it were a crystal ball. Maybe it wasn't meant to be a crystal ball, but it projected into the future. And we say a lot of different things during the time of the campaign and whatnot. And we speak about health, and we speak about having universality as a principle for health here in the Yukon. It's in the document here - it's all about the Future, the Yukon Liberal promise. Now we're moving away from that a bit. And I was just wondering if the Premier could share her instruction that she had given through her Cabinet to the Minister of Health on that issue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite will forgive me. I was listening to what he had to say. However, I also heard him speak about the vision and about the lifestyle in the Yukon, and I heard him speak about instructions to the Minister of Health respecting it's all about the Future, the Yukon Liberal Party campaign document.
Perhaps I could share with the member opposite that our vision is a collective vision. It's not about giving one another instructions. It's about working together. That's what we're trying to do.
And the Minister of Health is, if you will, since the member likes this term, "given instruction" by all of our caucus in terms of meeting our commitments, and I, the Minister of Economic Development, am given instruction or direction from our caucus with respect to rebuilding the Yukon economy, although I noted the member's offence at the term, and I will endeavour not to use it in the future.
Mr. Keenan: Oh, you endeavour to use whatever language you like. I am known in this House for expressing my thoughts, and I will continue to do so in that manner.
So, I find that to be simply not quite a good answer. As a matter of fact, there wasn't even an answer in there. She spoke about the collective direction that we get, and we all come together. I don't know if it is every Friday or every Monday that we have a caucus, and we put everything on the table here. It is not even a year ago that I remember hearing, "The buck stops here. Therefore, I have to have this on my desk."
So, I guess it's not truly the Premier who has spoken about this collective vision; it's the whole darned government caucus that has bought into this collective vision. And that collective vision - or that collective instruction to the Minister of Health - must have been something like this: "I know that we said that we appreciate that we are going to have universality as a principle, because it's reflected here in it's all about the Future. But, holy moly, now that we are sitting here in government, I don't think that universality is really what I wanted to say in this document here. So, how can we go out and undermine it." Now, what the Premier has said to me right now, by saying that collective instruction, is that is the instruction that was given to the Health minister - to go out, not even in a year, break it's all about the Future, come back and show us how we can splinter this and start to pit Yukoners against Yukoners. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, it's not.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I appreciate that we get a little bit of aggressiveness there, I guess, if that's what it takes, because we do have to get to the bottom of this. So, if they didn't collectively go out and say that universality now is going to be splintered, then is this something that the Minister of Health has dreamt up on his own, within his own initiative, with his own department, and has brought the caucus - not brought the caucus, but has gone right out, through the Member for Riverdale South, announcing at a meeting with elders, when the Minister of Health wasn't even there, but spoke about it being all on the table? Was that just a decision that was made by the Health minister and his department?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair. With respect to the member opposite's interpretation of what the Member for Riverdale South presented, the Member for Riverdale South, as I understand it, was speaking about the pioneer utility grant. While the Minister of Health and Social Services is responsible for it, the pioneer utility grant is not contained in the Canada Health Act, and it is the Canada Health Act that the Liberal campaign document referred to.
Now, if the member opposite would like to continue on with the discussion in the Department of Health and Social Services, I'd be happy to move to the Department of Health and Social Services. I'm sure the Minister of Health and Social Services would be happy to move to the Department of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Keenan: It would just be nice, Mr. Chair, to be able to stand in this House and get into an intellectual, political debate and expand with one another your ideas and your vision of what the Yukon is. Then, of course, it'll go to the other side of the House and we can talk back and forth and, by golly, we would end up with something that Yukoners want.
I always assumed that, through getting everything thrown back into our face in the official opposition, or to my colleague from Klondike here, that we're just trying to pick fights, that we're trying to confuse the issue. No, that is absolutely not true.
I asked about universality, because it's the Premier's picture on it's all about the Future here. It's not a very good likeness though. It has just been photocopied too many times. It doesn't bring out your picture as well as it should, I guess.
But, certainly, it's not the picture. This isn't a great big package that has a really pretty little ribbon bow on it, tied up really nice, that's done by a professional packager, or marketer, and then we open it up and find it's empty.
So many people are starting to tell me that around the Yukon - "Whew, that was a mighty pretty package but, holy man, it's empty. There's nothing in there."
So, I stand on the floor of the Legislature, not to speak about and with the Health minister. I will get to the Health minister when the times comes, and I look forward to that, as he does, too, and I will be asking very similar questions of him. What is the vision that he has? Where did this vision come from? It has not come from the Premier; it has not come from the collective voice of the Liberal caucus, so it must have come from somewhere. Did it, all of a sudden, on a bright clear day in January, just drop out of the sky and schmuck the Member for Riverdale South on the head and say, "Universality. Universality"? No, I don't think so.
So, I would like to know where it comes from. Does the minister have any idea where the idea came from?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if the member opposite is asking where the idea of universality in the Canada Health Act came from, then he knows the answer to that. This side, even in opposition as the member will recall, put forward a motion believing in the five principles of the Canada Health Act. We, as a caucus and as a party, fully subscribe to those five principles.
If the member is asking where the Member for Riverdale South went to seek ideas about the pioneer utility grant, the Member for Riverdale South advises me that several representative seniors raised ideas about the pioneer utility grant.
In a free exchange of ideas and in a government where leadership includes seeking the ideas and input from Yukoners and valuing their opinions and advice, that's what we do. And valuing that advice means listening to it and giving the idea some discussion.
Mr. Keenan: Could I get the Premier to ask whether that would come from meaningful consultation, or would it come from an options paper?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm sure, during the Health debate and the pioneer utility grant line-item debate, the minister responsible will be happy to discuss all the nuances and all of the comments and sources of the options paper, but it's not part of the general debate on the budget.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you very much. I hope my colleague to my left was listening carefully when we did find out that it wasn't really consultation, that it was an option. I appreciate the Premier saying that and bringing out that it was an option. There were two options on the table. This is not consultation. This is the very first time that seniors in the Yukon Territory had heard about it. The ones that I'd spoken to were certainly not happy about it. This wasn't consultation, it was "door 1," and if you go to "door 1," you're going to get a $100 increase for oil. If you go into "door 2" - and this is a choice for elders and seniors of the Yukon Territory - you will get $100 for only certain others. And they said, as seniors in the country and in the Yukon generally will, "Well, give it to my neighbour, because my neighbour's in a bit more need than I." Then down comes the swooping eagle called "consultation" and says, "This is consultation, and this is the direction I have, and this is where I'm going." Would the member say that was categorically correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I appreciate that, because I didn't expect that the Premier would. But certainly I would like for the Premier to read in any of the First Nation final agreements within the umbrella final agreement the description of the definition of "consultation." It's a bit different from putting out an options paper, "door 1" or "door 2." It sounds like a game show, and it's really not how we should be tinkering with one of the fundamental principles of Canada's health care - absolutely not.
I appreciate the Premier enlightening me. I had listened earlier to the Premier speaking about the development assessment process and, I guess, land claims initiatives in general, and she said that it's in the federal drafters' hands at this point in time. She said that she doesn't know, but would it be - just a best guess estimate would be very much appreciated - by the end of this calendar year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I didn't say I don't know. What I said was that I would like to provide the interim leader of the official opposition with the most recent information, and I will be happy to do that in the Executive Council Office debate. In fact, I went one step further and indicated that I would provide it to members opposite prior to the Executive Council Office debate, in order that they could be fully aware of the information and ensure that all their questions were answered prior to the debate, or that there was a fullness of information for them.
What I have indicated is that the federal drafts people are working on a subsequent draft of the development assessment process. The date it is to re-arrive in the Yukon - and their efforts are to be examined by our officials in working with interested members of the Yukon public - I do not have at my fingertips. I have a suggested date. I want to be sure it's correct before I provide it to the members opposite. I will do that in advance of the Executive Council Office debate.
Mr. Keenan: Question Period has flowed right into Committee of the Whole, and we're not going to answer any questions here, not even a best guess. Paranoia should not be running through the Legislature. We should be able to, especially in Committee of the Whole, speak and, you know, try and get - not to the bottom of issues, but provide a little bit of direction back and forth. The reason why I am asking about development assessment process is that - for one thing, the title. It's an assessment on a process of development. That's such a positive title that I want to see that incorporated. I want to see it working here. I want to see it as the motherhood statement of environmental issues screening within the territory.
Many, many people feel that way. Right now, we have hybrids - maybe "hybrids" isn't correct, but certainly different jurisdictions, ways and means of looking at assessment. This has been something that has been agreed upon by the three levels of government reflected here in the Yukon Territory. I can see that it's not happening, and I'm flustered with it not happening because I want to see it happen. I was a part of the goodness - or the intent of the goodness - describing that vision for all Yukoners and sharing the native land with all Yukoners to move forward. And that was one of the tools that we had used. Because we have the biggest project in recent history that will hopefully be coming to the Yukon Territory, and that's the pipeline. I know that the pipeline has not been looked at in every environmental manner. It was looked at 20 years ago. And I want to see the pipeline, as we do on this side of the House. We want the jobs, we want the training, we want the wealth in the Yukon Territory to stay within the Yukon Territory. The development assessment process could be such a meaningful part of that pipeline.
But, now that we don't have that on the table or something, I have heard it said by members of the House that we have done the environmental assessment. Yet I look out there, and it has been said by, I think, members on that side of the House - the Minister of Renewable Resources, as I recall, spoke quite eloquently to it - about graves popping up in the Arctic, and I think it was the snow and then the dirt being blown off, and now we are just getting down to nothing. Then we look at what happened in, I believe, Chetwynd, B.C., which is in northern B.C., which is certainly a little bit like the Yukon Territory, where pipelines were popping out of the ground.
I guess what I want to see is the pipeline here being built on Yukon standards, with Yukon ideas, with a Yukon workforce. And this might be too much here for all to jump up and say, "Yes, by golly, gee, I am going to buy into that idea." But that's what I want to see. I don't want to see the pipeline popping out.
And if we are looking at technology that is 25 years old at this point in time - there must be new technology. Is the Premier going to commit to examining every aspect of that new technology so that we don't have those types of environmental disasters after the fact, so that, when all those pipeline welders from wherever they come from - Alaska, Alberta, the Yukon, wherever, and the Yukoners will be here - are gone, we won't have to live with that liability?
Does the Premier share that concern for the environment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I am very concerned about the environment. I hold, very strongly, the view that we have a responsibility to be stewards of the environment.
The member opposite may not be aware that the previous Government Leader's position with respect to the development assessment process is that we, the Yukon government, will hold the pen until we get it right, and that was the reference made to the development assessment process. That's a view I also personally hold, as does our government. I have had a number of former First Nation leaders indicate to me that DAP is not as it was envisioned during the land claims negotiations, and they are quite concerned about it. The point is that the development assessment process legislation is not complete. It is not complete to Yukoners' satisfaction. There is a redraft coming our way. Unfortunately, we aren't writing it. We're trying to work with the other parties at the table, one of whom has the responsibility for drafting. We're working with them. It's not done yet.
I will provide the member opposite - the Chair is clearly not following the argument I'm making, judging by the frown on his face. Let me try this again.
The member opposite understands what I'm saying. I will provide the member opposite with a date when we're expecting the redraft of DAP, prior to the ECO debate. With respect to environmental standards and any projects in the Yukon, Canadian environmental assessment regulations and the act continue to apply. That legislation is, I understand, also under improvement, so to speak. However, that legislation is also not ours and not part of the general debate on the budget.
Mr. Keenan: Just a couple of points there. On the development assessment process, it's in Ottawa's hands now, and we're assisting them. Is that a joint drafting group that has representatives from the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Kaska leadership and their nation, and of course the territorial government and the federal government? Is that the makeup?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've already indicated that I will provide all the details with regard to the second draft - including the date when it might arrive here - to the member opposite prior to the Executive Council Office debate, where development assessment process is paid for and budgeted as a line item.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I think the Premier's missing the point. I certainly accept that the Premier would do that, but what I'm suggesting to the Premier here is something that has worked in the past. If it's not working now, then we might be able to take that historical consequence, bring it forth, and then we'll make it work in a contemporary context.
Now, I notice that the minister is making faces at me, I guess, quizzical faces over there, saying, "Where the heck is this guy coming from?" The legislation that has been put together on behalf of all the agreements that are contained within First Nation final agreements and the umbrella final agreement were drafted jointly together, and there were representatives of the teams that were there. What I'm suggesting is that we should maybe look at that again, because we're going to have duelling drafts. Gosh, as I understand duelling drafts - back and forth, and "That's not what I said ,"and "That's what I said, but that's not what I meant." And what I'm saying is that I would like to see our very own development assessment process here in the Yukon for the development of whatever it entails, and it entails many things. So I don't want to be asking this question next year and saying, "You've got to bring this back." I don't want to be doing that. I want to say, "Kudos to the Premier and the Liberal government because they brought it home."
And if you do that, you can hold me to that comment, because I will give you many kudos for the successful development of the Yukon, based on Yukon initiatives.
So that's what I mean. Is the Premier understanding now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, what the member opposite is suggesting is that we not have duelling drafts of development assessment process between the various parties, that we work simultaneously on a draft to ensure we get it right. I would advise the member opposite that, in response to the kudos, it's just that the impossible takes a little longer.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I think there has been enough smoke blown up and around here that I don't need to add to that smoke, but I will certainly, at the time, provide the kudos. The impossible - well, we shall see, because it's not impossible. It's just going to take a little bit of finesse and a little bit of work to be able to do that.
So I thank the Premier for that.
I've been participating in planning workshops, and life on the opposition side is a lot different from the Cabinet side and the government side, because we can certainly now have time to really go out and meaningfully listen to people. Having one of the largest ridings in the territory, with communities all over the doggone place, I have a heck of a time getting there, but I'm getting there. I'm very - not surprised, I guess - heartened by the number of comments that come to me about the implementation of land claims. This comes from people from whom I just would not expect it to come.
These are people who fought valiantly 20 years ago against the segregation of the Yukon. Now, these same people are saying, "Wow, things are working." Yes, you would know the person too, but I won't say it in the House.
Now we have a person saying, "We see it working together, we actually have opinions that are listened to and integrated into wildlife planning, per se." Then they say, "But how come we don't have enough planning dollars for this and for that, like if it's land use planning, and whatnot?"
Now, a lot of these issues are recognized within the implementation dollars, and you'd have to talk to your learned colleague to the right to find out how many dollars of those would come into the territory. And I'm very interested to see if we're on par - if there are any land claims dollars that aren't being implemented - because those are certainly the dollars that could and should be put into the planning of the different departments - like the Department of Renewable Resources would go out and do these planning uses workshops with all players who are concerned.
So, I would like to find out if there is an annual flow of money that goes into it? Is there enough? Could the Premier explain that to me, please?
Chair: Order please. Just a reminder to all members to refer debate through the Chair and not to use the word "you".
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the land claims implementation dollars that flow through from the federal government are contained in Executive Council Office. I'm assured we're spending it all. However, if the member opposite believes we're leaving some money somewhere on the table, we will certainly go looking and make sure we're not.
However, again, that is contained in the land claims implementation secretariat portion of the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, I'm not really into the specifics of it. I guess I'm wondering, as a player who sat at the negotiating table and who talked about the negotiations, who understood the implementation of what you talk about in negotiations - the implementation is even more so in some cases than what you talk about. When these folks come up to me - and it has happened, I think, in every community I have but one - to talk about the planning dollars, I had always assumed that, when we had spoken at the negotiating table about there being dollars there for the implementation of it - I was told there were. And now I have people saying there are not.
So, I guess, in a general sense, that's what I'd just like to hear the Premier speak to and say she could look into that - pardon me, if the Premier could look into that, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. I'll go through all of the implementation references in the ECO debate.
Mr. Keenan: I greatly appreciate the opportunity to go for a skate.
Again, Mr. Chair, I'd like to thank the people of Ross River for being, certainly, the drivers behind the consultation process in this last budget. I find it very reactive. I find that, when the Premier said, "We have to react because people are talking about it and we have to go out there and talk to them, but, holy moly, I can't because I'm just too doggone busy and I can't be running around all of the territory, so I'm going to use the whole caucus to go out and do a two-week boogie across the territory here. We'll find out what all the processes are at that time."
I appreciate that the Finance minister wasn't herself at the meeting that I attended and at the others that I did. And so I find it very reactive.
I guess I'll just carry on for a bit before I ask the question.
With the capital budget now coming in the fall, is there going to be a consultation process? And could the Minister share what, when and who will be participating within that consultation process during the summer for the meaningful implementation of the capital budget and the development of the 10-year plan over the next little while? And will there be a consultation process for the O&M budget/capital budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps I could just open by reminding the member opposite that in the first year, the previous Finance minister didn't conduct any pre-budget consultation. So perhaps the member opposite will forgive me for only visiting the communities of Beaver Creek, Burwash, Destruction Bay, Watson Lake, and several Whitehorse meetings. Certainly, the individuals I met with were not only very satisfied with the fact that we had undertaken this exercise but were also satisfied with the fact that, in the time of year when they took place, there was a great deal of focus on the forthcoming budget and that their opportunities and representations would be heard.
With regard to the capital budget in the fall, we're working with a great deal of the information that we have already heard and continue to hear. With respect to next year's 2002 budget presented in the Legislature in the spring, right now our caucus is working toward a consultation process in October, although there were also maybe some additional consultations that take place in January. However, I would remind the member opposite that this is not the only time of year we consult Yukoners. We are continually visiting communities, working with all Yukoners and continuing to take advice from them in all respects.
Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, I don't think I'm here to talk about forgiving the Premier. It's not about forgiveness. It's about pointing out, in a nice, kind, considerate way. It's about not blaming the former Government Leader who, I might add, was really the guru of budget consultation. There was a gentleman who went out and listened. I can remember that gentleman talking to caucus about his evening meetings in many coffee shops in every part of the Yukon Territory, so that he could get meaningfulness from what the people were saying.
So, for the Premier of the day to stand and say, "I might remind you that your former Government Leader never went out in the first year." Well, Mr. Chair, we were very, very busy, but we established things. We established something - a trend, a trend that Yukoners have grown to expect, and if the Liberal government drops the bucket on that consultation idea, and the Liberal government now has plans to go out to do even more consultation, I'm just wondering where you're going to get the energy from. Where are you going to get the time frames? Where are you going to get the staff, when half the staff is on holidays during the summer?
So, please, I'm not here to ask about forgiveness. This isn't group-hug time. This is Committee of the Whole time, and I would just like to get to the bottom of some issues, and I'd like to point out some issues. I'm pointing out that that might be a weakness, and the Premier should definitely be looking at it. For every great strength, there is a weakness, and if you will choose to look at the weakness, you will make your strength even greater.
I know the member does not want to say that and, pardon me, Mr. Chair, for saying the word "you". I will definitely, absolutely, try not to say it again today. That's my challenge.
Mr. Chair, if the bucket is dropped on the consultation process, and now, you develop more - Well, I guess what I'm saying is that the Premier has to listen to the people and say that they do want to be heard, and not just in a slight time frame but, I guess, all the time. I guess that's not even a question any more - it's a statement, so I'll leave it at that.
I would again ask that the Premier stand on her feet and speak about telephones and the implementation of telephones into rural Yukon, because I was sitting back last week, Mr. Chair - I don't know if it was last Wednesday, or whenever - but I was flipping through the Post - I don't often buy the Post, because I don't like the fellow who owns it, but it was the Post. And up in the top right-hand corner of the Post, it has historic events, and here it was that Alexander Graham Bell, in 1874, filed for a patent on the telephone. I was thinking, holy moly, here it is 126 years later, and we don't have telephones in certain parts of the Yukon Territory.
Now, I'm not saying this in a mean way. I'm not saying this in a snarky way. I'm asking, does the Premier have a vision, or a time frame, or a vehicle, I guess? Is the Premier looking to develop a vehicle, or what is the sole thrust for communication and, I guess, telephones in the territory for the unserved areas? I wonder if the Premier has anything that she could share with me on that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I hope the member opposite does not take this in a snarky fashion, or in any other way, other than the way it is intended. I do not talk about telecommunications issues, or telecommunications visions, of this government. The minister responsible for telecommunications services has responsibility for Connect Yukon, and the Minister of Government Services works on communications, generally, in terms of appearances before the CRTC, and so on. I do not delve into those issues for very specific reasons; therefore, I am unable to provide the member opposite with an answer.
Mr. Keenan: I'd like for the member to share with me that specific reason.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is upon the advice of the conflicts commissioner, Mr. Hughes. I have absolved myself of any responsibilities in that area.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for that. I certainly understand, and I won't be dogging you about it. But I'll not be standing on my feet and saying to the general public out there that I got an answer out of the Premier on your telephone, and I know you've been waiting for your telephone for a long time, but I can't give it to you because it was a conflict. No, no, no. I'm not going to ask you to resign because of this or that, but I would like to know, from a political standpoint and the diversification, does the Premier believe that a telephone would be an extremely useful tool for the diversification of the Yukon Territory's economy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've already indicated to the member opposite I do not speak about these issues on the floor of this Legislature. I do not speak about them in Cabinet.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm a little disappointed - no, I'm deeply disappointed in that, because some of the folks that I talked to out in the communities are struggling to make a living. A lot of them are those old-time Yukoners who have to adapt to, "Well, for these two months, you do this; for these three months you do that, for this month you do this." You have to be able to land on your feet, I guess, like a kitten falling out of a tree. You have to be able to land on your feet, and so many Yukoners are like that. The telephone - just a simple telephone - is such an extremely useful tool. It has been 126 years since its inception into the world, and everybody else in the world, basically - Third World countries have a better communication system than the Yukon Territory. The New Democratic Party, in its wisdom, saw the need for telephones to be brought in for the diversification of the economy.
So, those artisans - those people who are involved in looking for innovative ways of making a buck and passing the buck on to other Yukoners - are not going to be getting any answers.
So I'll just say to the Member for Laberge that, when it does come time, I'm not looking to say, "Yes, this is when it's going to happen; you're getting your telephone at this point in time." Although there are folks in the Teslin and Tagish area who do want that to happen, and there are folks in the territory who want it to happen, and they want to know when. I have chatted with them, and I have given them the implementation program, I believe, that has come from Northwestel. Is that the gospel at this point in time, or is there another idea out there? These are the type of questions that I'm going to be wanting to ask so that I'll be able to go home to my constituents and say, "No, Connect Yukon is dead at this point in time. Its service life was for this. The government, in its wisdom, said that that's it and they have created another vehicle - or the vehicle of Northwestel." That's what I'd like to find out about, and it's very unfortunate that I can't even get the Premier to admit that - well, you know what. I'll make a challenge to the Premier. I won't use my personal phone at home for a month, and I'd like to see the Premier not use her personal phone at home for a month. Then maybe, at that time, there will be a level playing field for the people of the Yukon, and the Premier will get an idea of what it's like not to have that phone at home for health reasons, for a job reason or for a diversification-of-the-economy reason.
I guess I'll just delve into tourism a little here, if I could. I'm just wondering if the Premier has given any instruction to - I guess they don't instruct each other over there so, during one of their collective instruction sessions. Was there a wise little person in the corner who jumped up and said, "Well, what are we going to do about these different programs? If we have killed the tourism marketing fund and we have moved it over to there, is there another program that we should be putting together? And, oh, Fulda was just in town and they dropped $3 million in here. Thank God for the previous government that created these incentive tours." I was wondering if the Premier has any knowledge or anybody on the hook within her portfolios of Economic Development or just in a general sense - do we have any incentive tours on a lure or anything?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm sure the Minister of Tourism will be happy to answer that question during the Tourism general debate.
Mr. Keenan: So, what I can see here is that we have a Premier who has complete animosity toward people on this side of the House. I want to bring forth some ideas and I have been asking questions, and she says that the minister will speak about it. Well, I'm starting to think that what we have here is ministers in charge of these ministries, but we don't use the caucus time, the Management Board time, the Cabinet time, to come together to say, "This is where we're going to go."
If we were to ask the previous Government Leader if there were something in incentive tours, he would say, "Yes, this is what we have discussed, and this is where we'd like to go, because they are a great boon to it." And I'm thinking that, maybe Fulda ain't going to come no more. Everywhere in the Yukon, basically, has felt the effect of the Fulda incentive tire tours, and it would be nice if I could stand up and say, "IBM from England is coming because we have approached them and we have talked to them." But I can't even do that, because the Premier is going to say, "No, you shall ask that question at the appropriate time, and you shall not ask it before and, if you do have the gall to ask it before, I'm going to say no, and I'll speak to it at the appropriate time."
So, to turn that on the minister, I would say that it shows that the Premier has complete lack of control over her caucus, her Cabinet; she's much too busy, and doesn't even have the time to dream or to think of new initiatives or the consequences of the non-initiatives that are affecting the people of the Yukon Territory who live outside the boundaries of Whitehorse.
I guess, in desperation for announcements, the Liberal government has to reannounce that they're putting funding into Rendezvous. I mean, that announcement was made a year ago by me, because this side of the House, when we were in government, looked at those things, and we saw the diversification aspects of them; we saw the goodness of the cultural and relevant aspects of it.
But I dare not ask that question, because I may raise the ire of the Premier.
In the capacity of Premier - and I guess, in her government's wisdom of shutting down some product development within the tourism area, does the Premier have any ideas for a different vehicle? Maybe the economic development agreement that will be coming from the feds - would a certain portion of that be hived off for, not classic infrastructure development but modern infrastructure development in terms of a community attraction or anything like that and that might be needed for the Yukon Territory so that we might be able to continue to bring people to a world-class destination here?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm pleased to advise the member opposite that our efforts with respect to ensuring the federal government deals with and appropriates effectively an economic development agreement - this is something that we are continuing to work on, and certainly we have a vision of including cultural industries in that. That's part of our platform. However, I don't have any more information than that to share with the member opposite at this point in time. As soon as details are available, I will provide the member opposite with the information.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, would the cultural industry capture First Nation aspirations, I guess, or whatever would be needed for First Nation to get up and to be running within the tourism sector? And I ask this, because one of the biggest segments of Tourism bringing people here, of course, is the development of authentic - and the key word here, I think, is "authentic" - product. Would the cultural tourism capture that, in the Premier's mind?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we started out talking about cultural industries and some form of an economic development agreement. I believe what the member opposite is referring to are the initiatives by some communities to have First Nations cultural centres or First Nations heritage centres. The member is shaking his head. Perhaps he's referring overall to the general participation by First Nations in Yukon's growing tourism industry.
I can advise the member opposite that both the minister and I and our government are fully committed to all Yukoners participating in all of our efforts to rebuild the Yukon economy.
Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, close - but it's nice to hear the Premier speak about the different initiatives that are coming up, because they are great, and they are great for Yukon in general, in terms of promoting culture and promoting heritage.
What I was, I guess, more or less thinking of here, is that, within the tourism marketing fund and different programs that we had up, is that, if somebody had an idea, and it fit within what the Tourism minister has in her portfolio - and there are four bullets in there, and I don't know if those four bullets have changed, but that's the strength, the pillars, of the tourism industry. I was wondering if any person who could deliver an authentic product, would they be able to come, as an individual entrepreneur, to a program - not as a government developing a heritage centre, as such, but as an individual entrepreneur. Would there be anything in the Premier's vision of developing that through the EDA, so that those people might opt into it and be able to come up with a living, vibrant product? That's what I'm asking.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Minister of Tourism, me, as Economic Development minister, and our Cabinet are always interested in the ideas and visions of individual Yukoners. Most entrepreneurs are not necessarily seeking funding. They may be seeking receptiveness to an idea or information, and the member opposite will be well aware that the Business Service Centre and the Department of Tourism provide excellent research for entrepreneurs seeking information in the tourism market.
As for a specific funding program, which I believe is where the member opposite is heading in this direction, the member opposite is welcome to discuss whether or not such a funding line item exists with the Minister of Tourism in the general debate on Tourism.
Overall, in general debate, we have already advised the member opposite of Project Yukon, which is about people, structures and spaces, and we have advised the member opposite about the arts fund and fire smart.
Mr. Keenan: The merits of the Department of Tourism are far, far, far, far, far greater than their weaknesses. I can't really think of a weakness. I can think of little hiccoughs at points in time and the ability to go out and look for new partnerships and the ability to lever it with what we have. To project the Yukon right into a world-class travel destination is very meaningful to me, personally, because certainly that's what I wanted to see happen, and it is happening.
But that's not really what I asked. I didn't ask about heritage centres and I didn't ask about our Tourism department. I asked about the EDA and whether it would be applicable, in the Premier's mind. Could there be capitalization of any sort? What type of vehicle would there be? A stroke on the back and a kick in the pants or a kind-hearted letter that would go to the Business Development Bank, or whatever? Because I look at examples of other areas to our east, to our west, and look at their weaknesses within tourism and their strengths.
I know that we need to have authentic product, and that's what the European market wants. That's what, I guess, the world wants. Certainly the Asian people come here, I guess, in ever-increasing numbers to see First Nation product. And I've been stopped in the street and talked to by some, and it's always nice, and they say, "Well, why aren't you in business?" And I say that this is my business, and this is how I feel, and this is where I'm going.
But there are so many people out there who have those skills, and those skills should be - I'm just doing what the Health minister did today. I like that little trick.
So many people out there who have those skills, and with a little seed, with a kind word, I guess, and sometimes a kick in the pants - and a direction, anyway - could move that skill set right into a vibrant business. In the Premier's mind, is there going to be anything in the EDA to catapult those people with those ideas into that type of business?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We're working on the format and substance of an economic development agreement or some kind of northern economic strategy with the federal government. We have indicated our desire for cultural industries and a level playing field among businesses to be present, and among entrepreneurs. I don't have any more information than what I have provided the member opposite. Certainly, we are interested in developing Yukoners with Yukoners and in meeting the aspirations of all of us toward a better economy.
Mr. Keenan: Let's talk about that level-playing-field note that you just received from the Minister of Tourism, if we could down here. Let's talk about authentic programming. Now, authentic programming means the person that does it should do it, not a person that doesn't have the skills but has the knowledge to do something. That is an authentic person that could deliver an authentic product.
Could the Premier take that mindset that I hope I've established now and just incorporate it into that discussion so that when we do get to that world-class designation, when we have to say, "The Yukon is closed to visitors at this time because it's full of visitors," that would be a joyous day? I've been hoping upon hope that that product development that is required would be delivered by Yukoners - by long-time Yukoners, Yukoners who have lived here and know it intimately. That's what I'm asking the Premier to put into her mindset if the Premier would consider that within the mindset.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm always interested in the ideas of the members opposite. Certainly.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I guess, Mr. Chair, I'd like to speak about a touchy subject, certainly a subject that I've worked with. The Member for Faro knows I'm going to come up with something here that's going to make his eyes peel a bit.
What we have right now is Yukoners going against Yukoners for jobs. I don't think that this government has done adequate work so that we stop pitting Yukoners against Yukoners for jobs.
I have a community within my riding. That community of Ross River - and I'm not saying that the Premier or her colleagues or the Minister of Community and Transportation Services do not appreciate the dilemma of Ross River, because I heard the minister speak in the House and speak privately to me about the unique position, I guess, and condition of Ross River, and that it's going to take some good energetic work, that it's going to take some good thinking and empowering people at their own level to make decisions for themselves. Yet there isn't a week that goes by when they say, "Well, how come these people got that job, Dave, and I didn't get that job?" I'm of the understanding that there are seven people from Faro working in Ross River, doing a whole bunch of different jobs, and I keep getting asked about them, and I keep saying, "Well, gee, it has to be open for each other." I'm wondering, in terms of local hire - I would really like for the Premier to be able to think about the local hire aspect, not just for a megajob that comes into town - like a new school or a new sewer or a hospital - but the ongoing jobs that are there. There are seven positions in Ross River that have been filled by people from Faro.
The biggest statement that I get when I go to Ross River is, "We're tired of living in Faro's shadow. They say they don't even have a mine there now, yet we're still living in Faro's shadow." And then I say something like, "Well, everybody has a right to work." And look at the goodness that we're trying to create between the communities - the De Cho Trail, which was delivered by the community development fund, and many other joint initiatives. Yet it seems to be slipping, at this point in time, and I would appreciate it if the Premier would look into finding ways so that we can keep local hire as local hire, because the dollars that are made in Ross River are spent in Faro. Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing; and I'm not saying it's a good thing. I'm saying that there have to be ways - I'm not talking about rocket science jobs either, here. I'm talking about secretarial-type jobs, about truck-driving jobs, grader jobs, the foreman-of-the-grader-station type of jobs. Those are the jobs I'm talking about. Some of the jobs, I understand, have not even been posted, yet there has been a person from Faro taken into and placed in a position there without even a job being posted, and people say, "What is happening here?"
Would the Premier discuss with her colleagues - I know she can't direct her colleagues, but could she please discuss with her colleagues the need for keeping those types of jobs at home for the local people who are there? It's very, very serious in the community. I have sent a letter to the minister asking for background information on this, so I know it's not a surprise to the minister, but I wanted to share this with the Premier. We have put a lot of resources in there at the round-table level and at the social level. We're doing good work. I think the Premier is doing good work politically with the leaders of the community - both on the native side and the non-native side - but we must keep it up and it will be just one of those little issues like these job things that come back to destroy it all for all.
I'd also like to know, in the Premier's knowledge, have the dinosaur tracks been delivered to the community of Ross River?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm advised that, in terms of the dinosaur tracks - I'll deal with the last question first: it's a matter of negotiation. The difficulty is not having parties agree but finding the appropriate space and so on.
I'm certain that my ministers are working very diligently on this issue.
Secondly, with regard to the first issue the member raised, the member indicated he had written to the minister on it and I'm certain that there will be an answer forthcoming very soon, and I will ask that minister to make me aware of that answer.
I thank the member for drawing that to my attention.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the desire of the Premier to work with me on this, because I think the Premier knows what I'm saying. In most cases, we have to go beyond politics and maybe our political beliefs, however they're structured, and look at the community goodness. I'd very much appreciate the Premier keeping that included in the Premier's knowledge base, and to maybe try to find a solution - whether it's a training trust fund or whether it's more empowerment to the community or whatever - I don't know, but I'm here to help on this one, if I may.
I certainly appreciate the Premier doing that. Now, I have one last question, and I guess it's a statement, before I turn it over to my learned colleague from Klondike here. The gentleman to my right is the interim leader of the New Democrat Party, but certainly is also the leader of the official opposition. So in the House, I would appreciate the courtesy of dropping the "interim leader of official opposition" and calling the gentleman what the gentleman is, and that is the leader of the official opposition.
I thank the Premier for the time in general debate.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess that doesn't deserve an answer, Mr. Chair. Let's look at some of the initiatives in this wonderful smorgasbord of portfolios that the minister has, and specifically Finance, with respect to some of her positions taken with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline project and her recent presentation in Calgary.
Just for the record, I was wondering if the minister could lay out what portion of the right-of-way has been secured by Foothills and what remains to be secured, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that would perhaps be best dealt with in the Economic Development debate. However, I will provide the member opposite with a written response before then. There is a legal written response, and I would like to provide the member the full details. So I will do that prior to the Economic Development debate.
Mr. Jenkins: From that response flows a whole series of questions, Mr. Chair, because, from what the general population understands, and the reality of the situation, we're dealing with apples and oranges. The Alaska Highway pipeline right-of-way through Canada is not firmly established. It's not a done deal. In a lot of respects, it's still under consideration, and we have to go back to square one with respect to securing the right-of-way and going through the regulatory process in order to allow for the construction of the pipeline.
Now, the minister's going to get on her feet and say, "These answers are best left to the Economic Development portfolio". Really, if you look at it, the whole economic development of the Yukon is predicated on the potential for an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, not for anything else - not for any growth or enhancement in our visitor industry, not for any growth or enhancement in our mining industry, not for any growth or enhancement in our oil and gas sector, not for any growth or enhancement in our forestry sector.
So, the only thing, and the only area, that this Liberal government, Mr. Chair, has hung not just their hat on, but their entire wardrobe, is the Alaska Highway pipeline and its right-of-way.
Now, the other point the minister made in her remarks in Calgary was that their government has a draft road map for permitting the Alaska Highway pipeline. I would ask her to be so kind as to share that with the Legislature. Will she do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. The context of that remark - to provide the member with some more information, although we're not in Economic Development debate - is that the key figure, if you will, or key window for regulatory issues is the Northern Pipeline Agency in Yukon. The issue is also that we're dealing with the jurisdictions in Canada of British Columbia and Alaska. As a result, it's anticipated that there will be a review - "review" is, I realize, the wrong choice of words for the members opposite. There will be a working session with officials from Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, and Canada to examine the road map for a regulatory process and to examine how a quarry permit would be issued. As the member opposite will be aware, the treaty calls for any permits to be issued in an expeditious manner. The Alaska government has pages of regulatory agencies, and they are actively examining how a pipeline permit might pass through all of those regulatory agencies in a relatively expeditious manner. It's incumbent upon Canada to do the same thing, not to just say "It's the Northern Pipeline Agency" and leave it at that, but to determine precisely how on paper the NPA, the governments of Yukon, Alberta and British Columbia would work together to process any permitting required. That work is being undertaken at the officials level in early April.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm pleased that the Premier mentioned what is happening in Alaska, because there is currently a move afoot to move the EPA from Seattle to Anchorage. That's one of the thrusts, because the Environmental Protection Agency that oversees Alaska is currently based in Seattle, and Alaskans are having a great deal of difficulty getting timely responses and reviews in place.
Let's examine in detail, Mr. Chair, what the Premier said on March 8 in Calgary, Alberta.
She said, "In short, the Alaska Highway pipeline project enjoys significant timing advantages because (1) regulatory approvals are in place." Mr. Chair, number one, regulatory approvals are not in place totally.
Could the Premier kindly confirm that there are still regulatory approvals that have to be obtained?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will confirm for the member opposite, and I will reconfirm in general debate on Economic Development, that there are regulatory approvals in place. I stand behind what I said in Calgary and I thank the member opposite for taking the time to read it.
Mr. Jenkins: The way it was interpreted, Mr. Chair, is that all regulatory approvals are in place. The Premier didn't preface her remarks with "all".
Could the minister just kindly confirm that there are a whole series of additional regulatory approvals that must be obtained?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have consistently stated that there is a great deal of work that has to be refreshed. We have budgeted items for it. Unlike previous governments, we have allocated money to ensure that this work is done, and I'll be happy to debate with the member opposite all the details around the Alaska Highway pipeline project in Economic Development debate. We're in general debate on the budget.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just remind the Premier that the budget has a line item for the Alaska Highway pipeline. It's a line item just where it contains - we're in general debate on the whole entire budget. We're zeroing in on a specific sector, Mr. Chair, that is specific to the main economic drivers as envisioned by the Yukon Liberal government with respect to the development of the Yukon. So let's focus on what the Premier said in Calgary on March 8.
Number one, she said that regulator approvals are in place. Mr. Chair, that's only partly accurate. The next statement that the Premier said is that half the right-of-way has been secured. Now, what half of the right-of-way has been secured, and what remains to be obtained?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'll be happy to discuss the specifics of the line item, the Alaska Highway pipeline analysis, and the $750,000 budgeted, and what that money is going to be spent on, and every single one of my speeches and all the details, in that line item. If the member wishes to waste more time - because I know the member is going to come back and do this again in Economic Development - then there are 35 days of which the member opposite has wasted eight of them.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Chair, let's put the responsibility for any wasted time in this Legislature firmly where it belongs. The minister's refusal to answer questions is indicative of the problems that we're experiencing in the opposition to hold this government accountable. It doesn't matter if it's Question Period or general debate, Mr. Chair. The ministers responsible for their respective portfolios are failing to answer questions on a continuing basis.
Now, if anything is impeding the flow of the timely movement of material through this Legislature, it is the ministers in this novice Liberal government who are failing to answer questions. These are legitimate, bona fide questions that could be asked, and are being asked, in general debate on the budget. Yes, we could go through it and specifically extract the questions that should be asked, or could be asked, in other areas of the portfolio but, really, whose call is it as to where the questions should be asked when you're in general debate on the Department of Finance? This is an area that's covered by the minister wearing both hats, as Minister of Economic Development and Minister of Finance and, indeed, the Premier of the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
So, once again, we'll go back and start looking at this, and hopefully the minister can see her way clear to answering these questions in a timely manner.
Now, the Premier went on in Calgary to say that considerable environmental information has already been collected and the project uses an existing transportation corridor that offers the least environmental impact - a corridor that has seen hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements over the last number of years. I am referring to the Shakwak project, a highway reconstruction program that has dramatically upgraded the Alaska Highway.
Now, the Premier went on to say that there's a First Nations regulatory responsibility. Now, I know the answer I'm going to get from the Premier is that we're not discussing land claims on the floor of this House, but the First Nations do have a regulatory responsibility.
And the minister went on to say that there has been a process established by her government to manage corporate interests. Well, Mr. Chair, we'd like to see what corporate interests the Yukon government is going to manage by way of process. Can the minister kindly table that document?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is incorrect in a number of assumptions. First of all, the member opposite is incorrect that this is the only initiative that this government is pursuing in terms of rebuilding the economy. I would remind the member that, on page 3 of my remarks to Calgary, I indicated that our government, which has been in office almost a year, is committed to rebuilding the Yukon's economy. We're fulfilling that commitment by focusing on key, strategic initiatives in a variety of sectors. Those initiatives include - that's "include", Mr. Chair, not "limited to" - aggressive promotion of the Alaska Highway pipeline project and the responsible development of Yukon's emerging oil and gas industry.
I went on to say that the Alaska Highway pipeline project was awarded certificates of public convenience and necessity by the Northern Pipeline Act in Canada and by the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Act in the United States.
Southern portions of the route were constructed in the 1980s. Construction of the northern portion of the pipeline would complete the project. The project is also the subject of an existing Canada-U.S. treaty, and an easement is maintained through Yukon and parts of Alaska. The existing Canada-U.S. treaty, Mr. Chair, makes for very interesting and worthwhile reading, and I commend it to the members opposite.
The approvals granted for the Alaska Highway project remain valid today. Those are the approvals to which I was referring. The Alaska Highway pipeline project is not a new or green-field project. An environmental review of the Canadian portions of the project was completed in 1982, and the project met the environmental standards of the day.
Having said that, our government also recognizes that a thorough and transparent process will be required to modernize the information and ensure the project meets new technical and environmental standards. I have said that repeatedly in this House, and I have said it outside this House and, with respect to the regulatory approvals, the member opposite is aware I have said that.
We also believe that the socio-economic terms and conditions that were developed for the project, but never finalized, will also need to be refreshed.
The timing advantages enjoyed by the Alaska Highway include the regulatory approvals that are in place. Half of the right-of-way has been secured and, had the member read the previous section of the speech, he would realize that I'm referring to the right-of-way through the Yukon. British Columbia and Alaska do not have similar considerations.
Considerable environmental information has been collected. In reviewing and preparing for Shakwak construction, there has been considerable environmental information collected in the area.
The project uses an existing transportation corridor that offers the least environmental impact. The member noted that I'm referring to the Shakwak project and the Member for Kluane noted that there are a number of questions with respect to expenditures on that particular highway in Question Period today.
The unique legislative and regulatory framework is based on an approved route. This is an important consideration, Mr. Chair. The Northern Pipeline Act established the Northern Pipeline Agency, which is mandated to manage all federal responsibilities related to an Alaska Highway pipeline project and expedite its construction. A similar framework also exists in the United States. I have also, for the last 10 months that we have been in office, been not only requesting, in writing and verbally, that the federal government ensure that the Northern Pipeline Agency, which I referenced in my previous question, is re-established, but I have also strongly recommended that such an office be located in Whitehorse. So, contrary to the member's inference, Alaska is not ahead of the Yukon in this regard.
There have been some suggestions that a new highway route or alternate land-based route could be selected. I have spoken out saying that I believe this would not be wise because the approvals that were granted were granted to the Foothills route or the Alaska Highway route, for which the easement is maintained and is registered in the land titles office in Whitehorse. A new route may not enjoy the same advantages in terms of development application and would then be subject to the NEB and not the NPA, because it's a different route. And the NPA was established for this route and this regulatory environment.
I went on to add that the Yukon government, the federal government and First Nation governments have recognized the existing easement and associated gravel pits and access corridors in completed land claims agreements. Similar recognition has also been provided for the location of compressor stations. This recognition is also provided in ongoing land claim negotiations.
Any new pipeline route that traversed First Nation settlement land would be subject to new negotiations. In addition, property tax-sharing arrangements related to the easements have also been negotiated in some self-government agreements. These, too, would require new negotiations, should a new route be proposed.
The approved route represents a significant capital investment in testing, research, engineering, socio-economic and environmental evaluation. I didn't mention in my remarks, however, that I was fortunate enough to have visited the Quill Creek test site by Foothills that was established in the early 1980s, and appreciate the socio-economic and environmental evaluation that went on at that time.
The remarks went on to speak about positive potential environmental effects, assessed through four public processes. The Shakwak process parallels about one-third of the approved route, so updated environmental and geotechnical data is available. The approved route is considerably more advanced in regulatory process than any other northern pipeline project.
Commercial structures for a project of this scope must be driven by investors in the private sector. They're not driven by government; they're driven by investors in the private sector. They are assuming the business and financial risk. We believe that an arrangement should take into account the advantages of the approved route.
We do not take those advantages enjoyed by the Alaska Highway pipeline route for granted. We are getting ready without unduly raising expectations.
And the Member for Kluane is very well aware of that.
We are working hard to ensure that the advantages of the Alaska Highway pipeline project are well understood, and that they can be used to facilitate and expedite the commercialization of northern natural gas. We are working closely with the federal government to ensure that the environmental assessment and regulatory process is certain and clear. We've asked to revitalize the Northern Pipeline Agency, including offices in Whitehorse. I've met with a number of federal Cabinet ministers, including the deputy minister responsible for the NPA, to make these points.
The draft road map, with regard to permitting this project, we've already spoken about. We've also recognized the need to consult with and work with First Nation governments in this regard, as they, too, have regulatory responsibility recognized in the land claim agreement.
We want to ensure a coordinated project. One of the results of the work is a summary of new or changed environmental conditions related to wildlife habitat.
The point the member also made with regard to the remarks, I have noted, are that unresolved land claims present equal challenges for both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, and the extension of the mandate for negotiating claims to 2002, March 31. I also spoke about the devolution agreement.
The member opposite has suggested that, somehow, the government, in responding by suggesting that this is a debate more appropriately reserved to the department, is somehow failing to provide complete answers. I would strongly suggest to the member opposite that, in fact, complete answers have been provided. In urging the members opposite to move debate along, I also note that, in 1998, general debate lasted three days; in 1999, general debate lasted three days; and in 2000, general debate lasted three days. We have already spent nine days, and it is obvious to this side that the opposition are wasting time and are not following the practice of previous Legislatures in that general debate was for leaders, with only a few questions from other members. They are also ignoring the tradition of this Legislature, a fine and honoured tradition, of asking questions about departments in departments, not general debate on Finance.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to compliment the Premier on doing what she and her colleagues do best: reading from scripted lines and scripted remarks and reading in, almost verbatim, her remarks that she gave at the Canadian Arctic Gas Symposium in Calgary on March 8. We're aware of the context and what was delivered there, and what I had was just a number of small questions arising out of the text of the speech presented by the Premier, Mr. Chair. The Premier, number one, didn't answer the first question.
The first question was dealing with regulatory approvals being in place. They're not all in place. What I seek to find out from the Premier is what remains to be done. The Premier went on to say that half the right-of-way has been secured. What right-of-way remains to be secured? It's a legal position or a legal response that she has to provide, and she doesn't want to do it.
With respect to the First Nations regulatory responsibility, just what are we looking at with respect to the First Nation regulatory responsibility and timelines for such - the draft road map that her government is supposed to have developed for permitting the Alaska Highway pipeline? I was under the impression that it was either the NEB or the Northern Pipeline Agency that would be establishing the permitting process because it's multi-jurisdictional and it's going to have to be reviewed from an environmental standpoint because the environmental review will have to be updated from the last time it was done.
So there are a number of questions. And then the minister's position that they've established a process within YTG to manage corporate interests - now, just what does that mean, and what does that entail? That comes out loud and clear. The minister is carefully checking texts to see if she did say that, and that was said.
I'd just like to know what we're dealing with. These are simple, straightforward questions of the Premier. Now, rather than go on and read her speech, we could speed debate up if the Premier could just answer the questions posed to her in a straightforward, succinct manner, and I would appreciate those responses.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the right-of-way is maintained through the Yukon. Alaska does not have the same right-of-way registered, nor does British Columbia or Alberta. Regulatory approvals still required are specific approvals expedited by the NPA. We haven't issued a gravel permit - and those sorts of information. I've already indicated to the member that, although the NPA has the lead in this, we are very concerned and taking a proactive role in calling together officials and working on this particular issue.
With respect to the First Nations, the First Nation responsibility for regulatory approval in specific areas is spelled out in the land claims agreements. I've already detailed the draft road map and the Northern Pipeline Agency, with respect to corporate interests. We are concerned, of course, about Yukon hire, and the member has made known, ad nauseum, his views with respect to whether or not this government is doing its job in regard to promoting Yukon businesses. We believe we have, and that's what we're referring to in terms of the corporate aspect. We're working with Yukon's private sector to ensure Yukoners get work on this particular project.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to First Nations and their involvement in the right-of-way for the potential Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, is there a different process for the First Nations who have settled land claims and have not settled land claims? Where are we at with respect to the First Nations in southern Yukon, and how does this all dovetail into the protected areas strategy, that famous piece of legislation? I'm sure the minister is going to say it does not, until we get to the pipeline hearing and the environmental, and then we'll see how much it does not.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again, we're dealing with an existing transportation corridor, and the right-of-way through Yukon has been maintained. That easement is there and is registered. It has been recognized in signed land claims agreements, and it has been recognized in those that are still under negotiation. That is understood.
With respect to how the regulatory processes work together, I've already spoken about the road map and how officials are working to ensure there is a smooth, streamlined process. I will provide the member opposite with more detailed information on that when their work is complete. They're working on it, including dealing with what is in the First Nation agreements.
With respect to the Yukon protected areas strategy, the Yukon protected areas strategy is a conservation initiative that is intended to protect and preserve ecoregions within the territory. Naturally, an existing transportation corridor is outside of that discussion and is, yes, in fact a separate issue.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the Premier for finally supplying some answers. It's much appreciated.
Given that it has now been clearly identified that we have a pipeline corridor existing through the Yukon but the gas suppliers in the State of Alaska do not, so we have a corridor from our Alaska border to the B.C. border, and on either side of that there is no existing corridor. That's very interesting, Mr. Chair. We have a long way to go.
Mr. Chair, the other areas in this presentation that the Premier spoke at length to, and I quote verbatim: "The North Slope producers have announced at $75-million joint work program to assess an Alaska gas pipeline project while Mackenzie Delta producers continue their work aimed at construction of a stand-alone Mackenzie Valley pipeline project."
Now, Mr. Chair, it is my understanding that what the North Slope producers have identified their money to go toward is to get their product to market. And, yes, pipelines are one way. One of the other ways is that liquified natural gas, LNG, would develop a petrochemical industry in Fairbanks and trans-ship it out of the port of Valdez. This is, in part, part of the study group. In fact, the potential of shipping LNG through the Alaska Highway pipeline is also being explored, along with solid hydrocarbon oil itself.
So there's more in the equation that is being looked at and examined than what is being identified here. Furthermore, the Northwest Territories' position on the line across the northern part of the Yukon - is the minister so hesitant about that line because she does not have jurisdiction and won't seek a ruling as to whether Yukon has jurisdiction with respect to our northern offshore, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the real reason cannot be just environmental because, if we're looking at existing gas lines under the ocean, they exist. They exist. Norway is probably a leading example of developers and installers of gas lines at great depths in some of the most turbulent and some of the worst ocean conditions that exist in the world. We are looking at them, and I don't believe I've ever heard of any example of environmental concern arising from a gas line rupturing under the surface of the ocean. And I did ask that question of individuals I know, and it has occurred. They have occurred, and they're shut off usually very, very quickly.
It would be something considerably different with respect to the transmission of oil in an oil pipeline under the ocean's surface. Environmental damage could occur. But, with natural gas, it vents right to the atmosphere, and other than the initial explosion and the percussions that might damage some sea life, there's not much likelihood of environmental damage to the degree that we, as lay people, would suspect.
Now, there's the potential for ice scouring, and the Premier may or may not know that, up in Dead Horse or Prudhoe Bay, there currently exists quite a number of test lines under the ocean and out to producing wells. They're all brought in to a central point, where they're processed and shipped, and there is quite a gas production field there. In fact, the initial pumping stations along the Alaska Highway from Prudhoe Bay south are powered by natural gas.
So, natural gas is being used and is being recovered. The majority of it up in the North Slope of Alaska is being re-injected, but ways to utilize it have been ongoing, and ways to ship it are being examined, and test sections are currently in place under the ocean, and they're working.
Let's put the question to the Premier in a different way. Has the Premier's opposition to the offshore gas pipeline along the northern boundaries of Yukon come about as a consequence of Yukon not having jurisdiction in that area?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, that is not the basis for my opposition.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it certainly can't be in total environmental, Mr. Chair, is it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as I have already outlined, there are a number of reasons for opposition to a pipeline off the north coast; and I am, despite the patronizing air of the member opposite, very well aware of the other initiatives in Alaska.
First of all, ice scour presents a very real difficulty. Just like members can find two different legal opinions, there are engineering opinions that would say ice scour would be extremely difficult to deal with. There is not a tremendous flow of populace over the north coast of Yukon who would be aware, should there be any break in an underground pipeline, and there are very real environmental concerns in terms of environmental preserve in the area - beluga whales, bowhead whales. There is some suggestion of an additional environmental preserve. The member may not be aware, but there is also an ongoing boundary dispute between Canada and the United States that is highly unlikely to be resolved at any point in time soon. There is nowhere for such a pipeline to come onshore in Yukon with the presence of Ivvavik National Park and Herschel Island Park.
Ultimately, Mr. Chair, an offshore pipeline presents absolutely no benefits to the people of Yukon, and it presents a threat to the environment, and I find both of those completely unacceptable, hence my opposition.
Chair: Order please, the time being 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will 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.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Before we get back into general debate, I would ask the Premier to correct the record. The Premier categorically stated that we have been in general debate on the budget for nine days. That is untrue. We started on the budget debate on February 28, March 1, March 5 and March 6. We had a useless day and debate on the budget on March 8, when the Premier was away, and she had a number of her underlings attempt to fill in for her. And today, March 12 - it's six days. So, would the Premier kindly correct the record that we have been in general debate on the budget for six days, and not nine days, as she stated?
Chair: Before we proceed with the point of order, Mr. Jenkins, I'm going to have to ask you to correct two statements you made in your own point of order. A point of order is still to be kept within the guidelines of the rules. In the point of order, you stated that the Premier stated an untruth, and you also commented on a member's absence. Both are out of order, in the rules of the Legislature, and I'd ask you to correct those before I rule on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when an absence is announced by the government of the day, there are no restrictions on speaking on that absence. That has been the position of the House in past cases of this nature.
To bring it to the attention that a member is absent from the House in the normal course of business is not allowed, but the government of the day made the announcement that the Premier would be absent, that she would be leaving the Legislature on Wednesday to fly to Calgary to attend a conference. I'm asking the Premier to correct the record because she misspoke, Mr. Chair.
Chair: As far as absences go, we'll reserve judgements as far as absences go and the procedures of the Parliament.
Thank you for correcting your second statement on the untruth. There is no point of order. This is a difference between members.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we left general debate, we were discussing the issues surrounding the North Slope and the potential for a pipeline across the northern boundary of the Yukon. The Premier stated that there would be no one present to monitor it in the event of a blow-out or a leak from the gas pipeline.
Is the minister aware, Mr. Chair, as to how gas lines are monitored and how leaks are detected?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, if that were the case, I'm sure the Premier would be knowledgeable enough that, when a blow-out occurs, it's not just a visual inspection that determines. It's the drop in the pressure along the gas pipeline, and they are constantly monitored for temperature and pressure and the volume changes according to the temperature and the pressure. That's one of the first things one learns in the gas pipeline business. So, to make the statement that if the pipeline was buried under the ocean and there's no one present to see or find a gas leak just doesn't make any sense.
It's the existing technology that determines when there's going to be a gas leak. The other area the minister made mention of was the boundary dispute between the United States and Canada on the northern limits of Yukon. The position taken by the United States is that the boundary goes 90 degrees out from our shore, and the position taken by Canada is that it follows the same - I believe it's the 142nd or 141st - straight up.
Could the minister probably just give us an overview of her discussions with her federal colleagues on this issue, as to where this situation is at and what the timelines are for resolution, as it could become a major impediment to the development of any oil and gas initiative in that area, whether it be seeking out oil and gas from drilling platforms, or a transportation corridor.
Just where are we at in this area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The resolution of the international boundary dispute is not under discussion at this point between the two countries. It's a matter of dispute, and my understanding is that there is no current initiative underway to resolve that dispute.
Mr. Jenkins: Is it an issue that the Premier has brought to the attention of the Prime Minister of Canada and asked for summary resolution on it? Or is it the position that the Government of Yukon is currently taking, that we have no offshore jurisdiction there so it doesn't really matter that the current boundaries of the Yukon are a historical high-water mark, so why bother getting involved? Is that the position being taken by this government, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister care to elaborate on what initiatives, Mr. Chair, are being taken by this government? Has it been brought to the attention of the federal Liberals, and have they been asked to move on it by the Premier?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are two separate and distinct issues. The international boundary dispute between Canada and the United States is not a subject that I personally have raised, nor, as far as I am aware, is it a subject that any Government of Canada official has raised with the new Government of the United States and the new President.
With respect to Yukon's offshore jurisdictional issues, that is a matter that I have raised with Canada and asked that they fulfill their obligation to establish an offshore boundary committee to resolve jurisdictional issues with regard to the offshore.
With respect to the Yukon's boundary, I have indicated previously that the member opposite has a different comprehension of Canada's offshore responsibility - of what's Canada and what is Yukon and what is in place for Nunavut and the Northwest Territories - than I have. And I've indicated that to the member previously. The member and I have a difference of opinion with regard to the Crown in right of Yukon. The member has asked what we have done with regard to the offshore jurisdictional dispute; we have asked Canada to move with regard to Yukon and offshore jurisdiction. We have not requested a resolution to the Canada-U.S. boundary dispute, and it is not something that is on Canada's or the United States' governments' agendas at this point in time, nor has Governor Knowles raised it with me.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister apprise the House as to how long ago the Yukon Liberal government made representation to the federal government on the northern offshore boundaries? When was that representation made? Also, if the Premier has any correspondence on it, would she kindly table it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'll provide it to the member opposite forthwith.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the Premier anticipating raising the issue, now that it has been discussed, on the boundary dispute between Canada and the United States? Is she prepared to take that issue up with her federal Liberal counterparts?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's certainly an item that Mr. Sharp has probably reminded the Prime Minister about with respect to any discussions of an offshore, and I'm certain that Ottawa is very well aware that that boundary dispute has not been resolved.
Whether or not we're prepared to take it up - we're always prepared to fight for the interests of Yukon with Canada, as well. However, there is some reluctance on the part of both countries to engage in these sorts of discussions, which can be quite difficult, as we have other issues that are at the forefront of the agenda. However, should an opportunity present itself, I will raise it.
With respect to the offshore and oil and gas development for Yukon, I can advise the member that we have discussed this issue with both Natural Resources Canada and Indian Affairs Northern Development. We have asked Canada to commence negotiations on a shared oil and gas management regime for the offshore under the terms of the 1993 Canada/Yukon oil and gas accord. Now, we expected those negotiations to get underway last fall; however, they were somewhat delayed by the election and other events going on in Ottawa and other work being undertaken with Yukon. We are looking forward to continuing to press the federal government on this issue and the ministers responsible.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House if that would put Yukon on the same playing field as Northwest Territories with respect to offshore rights, should this come to fruition?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Government of Canada has not transferred the ownership of the seabed to any province, and has not recognized any jurisdiction offshore of Northwest Territories or Nunavut. Nunavut's offshore boundary would not be recognized in international law. It's part of Canada's assertion of its sovereignty over its Arctic waters. It does not give ownership of the seabed, and I believe that is the question the member is trying to address in trying to suggest that Nunavut and the Northwest Territories have what we do not. The federal government has not recognized any jurisdiction offshore of Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there's an interesting case law there with respect to Newfoundland and Labrador and their offshore boundaries and their jurisdiction over oil and gas. That probably would set the precedent as to what would transpire and what will occur with respect to the northern territories, Mr. Chair, given the transfer of oil and gas responsibilities to the respective jurisdictions eventually.
So, while this issue is of paramount importance, I see it as an area that needs to be pursued - and, indeed, must be pursued - and I'm pleased to hear the Premier report that she has made representation, but it took a great deal of prodding from the official opposition. I'm somewhat disappointed that it has taken so long for this government to recognize the economic potential and opportunities that could occur and could be derived by Yukoners.
In fact, Mr. Chair, currently I know of more Yukoners working in the Northwest Territories than ever before. Some of the main contractors up in Inuvik, up in Tuk, are employing more and more Yukoners. I have relatives who are currently up there working, and there's a shortage of skilled labour. This has come about as a consequence of a very aggressive position taken by the Government of the Northwest Territories with respect to oil and gas development in that region.
We would bode well to take the same kind of very aggressive approach to the oil and gas industry, and indeed to the mining industry. But we're not going to be able to take it with respect to the mining industry, Mr. Chair, until we address the Yukon protected areas strategy.
I recently received a list of the 28 groups that sit on the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy Public Advisory Committee - 28 groups, Mr. Chair. Of those 28 groups, there are six that are resource-extraction based groups - some balance. Until there is some balance on this committee, the resource-extraction group is going to be overwhelmed and inundated with all sorts of suggestions, innuendoes and otherwise, and also with some very valid positions that the resource sector will not be able to counter, given their small numbers in the makeup of this group and given the inability of this government to focus on putting in place a balance on the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy Public Advisory Committee.
This is a major, major issue, Mr. Chair, and this government in its budget has provided for funding, and I'm pleased to see the Premier getting a briefing from her colleague, the Minister of Renewable Resources, on this very important issue. I'm hopeful she will stand on her feet and give a very positive response to this. Because until such time as there is a balance on this committee, with equal representation from the resource sector and the environmental sector, the resource sector is basically going to be at a loss as to what to do and they're going to end up as they have done, walking away from sitting on this committee.
And that's a shame, because the original concept of the Yukon protected areas strategy was a very, very valid concept - one that our party supported and indeed bought into, Mr. Chair. But, the way that it has been dismembered, expanded upon and interpreted by the Liberals, it's a sad day for Yukoners because the message going out to the resource sector is that this government is determined to create more and more and more parks here in the Yukon, and withdraw all - or a lot more of the Yukon - from the land base. If we look back, the NDP failed to follow through on the procedures that were outlined in the protected areas strategy at that time. But currently, we have a government that has not so much changed the procedure, they have changed the focus and the determination on what is going to be a park - a goal 1 land. When you add up the number of those and the eventual land mass that will be withdrawn from the Yukon, you couple that with the amount that is currently withdrawn - federal parks, territorial parks, protected areas - the Yukon is on a collision course with the resource industries. And the only avenue that the resource industries can take is to stay away, and they are doing that in droves.
Mining exploration this coming summer will probably be down from the horrible levels where it was last year and the year before, Mr. Chair, and that's in spite of tax incentives and more money being pumped into mining initiatives by this government.
So, Mr. Chair, this government is going to have to sit down and analyze what the problem is. Why there isn't there uptake on these programs and these tax initiatives? And they're good tax initiatives and good incentives. The government, sooner or later, has to sit down and ask itself why they're not moving ahead and why mining exploration has abandoned the Yukon. The government is going to find out that it's because of the uncertainty surrounding one of their own initiatives. You can't always blame it on the feds.
Mr. Chair, my question to the Premier: as Minister of Finance, as Minister of Economic Development and as Premier, she has to focus on those areas that are an impediment to the development of the Yukon. The makeup and structure of this protected areas strategy and the advisory committee is one of those impediments. Is the Premier prepared to balance the equation and give equal representation to the resource sector as she is to the environmental sector on this committee?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the makeup of the committee is not an impediment, as the member has painted it, and the makeup of the committee is not an issue that I am prepared to go back and change. The problem was not the committee; the problem was not the strategy; and the problem, most especially, was not the public servants who implemented the strategy that was designed by Yukoners. The problem was that the previous government did not follow what was originally intended. That was the problem.
My colleague and I are endeavouring to deal with that issue. The most important way to do that is to restore public trust and confidence in the Yukon protected areas strategy. The way to do that is not to willy-nilly advise those hard-working and representative Yukoners who participated in this process that their services and advice are no longer required. We don't operate that way. The member is under a misunderstanding that there is neither balance nor eloquence on the committee. In fact, there is.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, no one is suggesting there is no eloquence on this committee. On the contrary, I'm sure it's a very eloquent group. What I'm suggesting, and what is very self-evident, is that the Premier should spend the time examining the makeup of this public advisory committee and examine the balance. Now, there should be equal representation from all sectors. The Premier and I will agree on one area: the previous government didn't follow procedure. That's partly why we are in the pickle barrel that we're in.
But this government has been elected with a clear mandate and clear majority. They can change these procedures and these reviews. We have heard from the Premier that she's not prepared to even entertain placing a balance on this committee. She is not prepared to give equal weight to the resource and environmental sectors here in the Yukon. It would appear that what we have is a Premier who has bought into the federal Liberals' position that the whole Yukon is going to become one massive park, and all that the government of the day is going to be is the keeper of the gates. The Yukon government is subservient to our colonial masters in Ottawa, and as long as they keep shovelling money our way, we will move it around in the Yukon, creating more and more government, doing less and less.
But the Yukon will become a playground for the rich and elite. That's the message that this government wants to get out there, Mr. Chair.
I'm really disappointed. The Premier has an opportunity, as does the Minister of Renewable Resources, to address this issue head on and correct it, and it will probably attract back to the table those individuals who have left it from the resource sector. All the letter writing in the world won't create goodwill. What will create goodwill and confidence in government is this government's ability to treat everyone equally.
Everyday as we get into the budget, Mr. Chair, there are more and more examples of a double standard being created by this government. It doesn't matter if you look in the education system, where the Minister of Education has created three education systems - one for Whitehorse, one for rural Yukon, and then another Catholic school system. There's a distinct difference between them all. In the level of programs being delivered from these education formats, there's a complete difference. And I'm well aware that the Minister of Education has heard from rural constituents saying, "Hey, that's exactly the way we see it. You should step back and have a look, rather than looking from the inside out. Look from the outside in."
Then we have the Minister of Health and Social Services creating a two-tiered health care system - one for Whitehorse residents and one for rural Yukoners. I'm sure all the expectant mothers out there welcomed his non-initiatives in this regard, and his ability to review the situation and have a look at it. And when there are any solid requests for funding, he just runs away from them.
The cartoon in the paper kind of summed up the minister's position quite succinctly. "Don't talk about it; stay quiet. We don't want to hear about it."
We have dealt with the protected areas strategy. There doesn't appear to be any hope on the horizon there. There is the issue in the Canada Health Act - and I'd just like to ask the Premier about general principles. She has indicated she subscribes to the five principles of the Canada Health Act but it appears, Mr. Chair, to be the Liberal government's position that they only subscribe to them insofar as they are funded by the federal government and dictated by the federal government. If it's a Yukon initiative, it doesn't appear that the same playing field exists. It doesn't appear that all Yukoners are going to be treated equally. It doesn't appear that, under this Liberal regime, the universality of the health system, whether it be funded and delivered by the federal government or funded and delivered by the Yukon government, is going to have the same meaning and effect.
The federal government has rules in place that have to be followed - that must be followed, Mr. Chair. That appears to be the only reason why this Yukon Liberal government subscribes to the five principles of the Canada Health Act. They have to.
But when you look at Yukon programs and Yukon-funded programs, can the minister advise the House why the same principles do not apply, why they can't apply the same principles and why there's no universality to Yukon-funded and Yukon-delivered programs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The concept of universality is a concept that is evident in Yukon programming. I fail to understand the member opposite's point.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if you look at the number of programs that are being delivered by Yukon and funded by Yukon, I guess the suggestion is out there that we are now going to a means test, instead of accepting the premise of universality. Why should that be the case? If we look at it, expectant mothers are having to come to Whitehorse to deliver because this government has failed to provide adequate medical facilities in rural Yukon.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: And the Member for Faro is touting out that it's the doctor's choice. He's just chirping away in the back and he knows full well that that is incorrect information. That is a little part of the component. But high risk cases and first births are virtually always done in Whitehorse, and the pressure is on by not just the doctors in rural Yukon, but by the health care professionals - Yukon health care professionals now, not federal health care professionals, Mr. Chair - that you must go to Whitehorse and await the arrival.
Now, let's not look at the inconvenience to the mother-to-be and the family and the whole socio-economic standard of that individual in the community; let's look at just the fundamental costs that are being incurred at the encouragement of this government. Why is it not being met? Could the Premier explain how universality applies to this area? Because I can't see it, and neither can anyone with whom I have spoken see it.
Unless, of course, you're fortunate enough to be a Yukon First Nation, where their health care provides for a total reimbursement up to the level allowed for accommodations, meals, transportation, taxis - everything. They look after everything. The same does not hold true for other members of Yukon society, Mr. Chair. That's a shame. So can the minister, just for my enlightenment, show me how universality is applied in this situation? Because what is clearly demonstrated by this government is a double standard, a two-tiered system of health care: one for Whitehorse residents and one for rural residents. Why should that be the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are a number of situations that the member could point to and situations that, on the surface, appear to be unfair or not equally applied - any number of situations - and then argue the concept of universality. The member is correct in that there is an issue with respect to expectant mothers travelling to Whitehorse and having to deal with the costs. It's amazing to hear that out of the member's mouth - a horse that was once so proudly ridden and questioned by the Member for Riverdale South and me. Like so many others, the member opposite is asking why, in 10 months, we haven't resolved all these issues. My, how history rewrites itself in some people's minds.
With respect to the minister responsible for Health, he's aware of this issue. He has not resolved the difficulty yet. I'm quite confident that he is working on it, and I'm quite confident that he'll be prepared to more fully address it, with respect to the member opposite, when he is on his feet in the Health and Social Services debate.
With regard to the concept of universality, it is a concept among the other four tenets of the Canada Health Act, which we subscribe to and believe in. And as the minister has also pointed out - the Minister of Health - on many occasions, the Canada Health Act is an area that is under discussion at the national level - where Canada goes, in terms of our overall health care.
I would remind the member opposite that universality does not mean that precisely the same service is provided in every single location. That's not what universality is about. Universality is about access. It's about knowing that, when I have a health condition that my child needs to be examined for, no matter where I live in the territory or no matter where I live in this country, I'm able, if it's required, to have that child examined, and that I don't pay extra costs if a doctor suggests my child needs some services. That's what health care is about, and that's what we, as Canadians, hold dear.
Mr. Jenkins: If you take the Premier's own words, Mr. Chair, it's to be able to access at no extra cost, and that's what health care is all about. Now, Mr. Chair, that kind of sums up the Premier's words. Now, apply that to the current situation of an expectant mother from rural Yukon being told that she has to come to Whitehorse at least two weeks in advance of the anticipated due date for her child, and spend her own money on lodging, food and transportation, and have it reimbursed by the Government of Yukon - lodging and food at the rate of $30 a day.
Furthermore, for the first four days, we don't pay anything. Now, just how does the minister construe that to be able to access health care? Nothing could be further from the truth, Mr. Chair. Nothing could be further from reality.
And extra costs - no extra costs. I don't know if anyone from outside Whitehorse has tried to live in Whitehorse on $30 a day. Has anybody ever tried that? It's pretty well nigh on impossible.
The Member for Faro suggests moving into the Salvation Army, but I don't think they have adequate facilities for expectant mothers, Mr. Chair.
This has been an issue that is not totally broadsiding this government, Mr. Chair. It's an issue that has been debated at great length on the floor of the Legislature previously and, in fact, on a number of occasions by members of the current government of the day, asking the government of the day when they were going to address the shortfall. In a lot of cases, that shortfall was addressed by federal funding and federal programs, but those have been discontinued because the feds have clearly recognized that this initiative and this program are totally under the domain and purview of the territorial government, and that they had transferred enough funding, in their opinion, to address this need.
What are the timelines for the playing field being equalized in this area? Does the Premier have any idea or is she just going to pass the buck to the Minister of Health and Social Services, who will give us no answers, Mr. Chair? This is a very important issue in rural Yukon and I recognize that, save for the Member for Faro, who is telling his constituents to go and stay at the Salvation Army, there are no members from rural Yukon in the Liberal caucus.
You're not listening to what the Member for Faro - and I repeat - tells his constituents - to go and stay at the Salvation Army, where they can probably deal with $30 per day in total expenditure. Mr. Chair, that's a totally unacceptable solution.
Now, the federal government has clearly identified this as being an area that the Yukon government is responsible for. When will the Yukon government address its responsibilities in this area?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in the spirit of working together, shouting and patronizing is not conducive to getting answers.
Universality can't possibly mean what the member opposite is getting at - that we would have exactly the same service everywhere. If that were the case, many previous governments would have been examining it. The member opposite admits that there is universality in Canada as a whole, but we don't have the same service that Vancouver does. And Whitehorse has different services from Dawson City for caring for a child. We also have - having had children and having worked with several of those nurses - a standard of care with our professional nursing staff throughout Yukon, who work with expectant mothers and that is - I would venture to guess - second to none.
We have sent people out for specialized treatment in Vancouver. Just as women in Dawson are sent to Whitehorse, on occasion, to have their children, we have sent people from Whitehorse, Dawson and all sorts of places to Vancouver for specialized treatment. That happens.
And no one stands and argues that there is not universality. So the member should forget that part of his argument. The member is raising an issue with regard to assisting women who travel to Whitehorse to have their child, or children, as the case may be. There is also, equally as important, an issue for Yukoners who travel out of the territory for treatment, and the daily rate paid to them. That is also an issue, and it has been raised as well. These are all issues in the context of our overall health care budget that I know the Minister of Health is more than prepared to address. And contrary to the member opposite's opinion, not only is the minister more than prepared, he is quite looking forward to an opportunity to provide the member opposite with timelines and information when we get into the health care debate.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I appreciate the Premier's answer, and I am not so convinced that the Minister of Health and Social Services will be as forthcoming with the responses as the Premier herself is, Mr. Chair, but we will give the individual that opportunity when his time comes. But the issue is a very important issue in that there is a double standard being created by this Liberal government. It is a double standard being created, not only the education system, but in the health care system. And that I find appalling - a double standard for Whitehorse and a second standard for rural Yukon. And previously, in rural Yukon, the issue of expectant mothers coming to Whitehorse and having to remain here for a couple of weeks, awaiting the arrival of their child, was not as controversial as it is today, because there were a number of federal programs in place that provided funding.
Now, what has happened is those funding initiatives have been cancelled by the federal Liberal government, and the Yukon Liberal government has been told that they have a responsibility to address these needs. I can just see the thought process going on in the Liberal caucus over there - where is the Minister of Health and Social Services when you need him? He's right where he usually is; he's probably hiding somewhere, Mr. Chair, and he's probably -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Duncan on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it is completely out of order for the member opposite to comment on a member's presence or absence in the Legislature.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, on the point of order, there's no point of order. I said the minister is probably hiding somewhere.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: You prefaced your remark by saying he was absent, and you know it. Withdraw it.
Chair: Just to go back to a point earlier. From this point, there will be a new standard set in the Committee of the Whole. I will not accept any comments regarding any absences, inferred or otherwise, in the House. They are all out of order. So from this point on, that will be considered out of order, and that is considered out of order at this point. Continue, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Well, Mr. Chair, the issue before us is one of paramount importance to expectant rural women. This government is failing to recognize its responsibility and address the need and the urgency in this area.
Mr. Chair, the issue before us is that there have been in place, in the past, federal Liberal initiatives that provided funding to rural expectant women and allowed them to come down to Whitehorse, where they are primarily sent, to await the arrival of their offspring.
As I said earlier, Mr. Chair, these programs have been cancelled. They've been curtailed. Now, any of the approaches that I'm aware of to address these shortcomings have been denied by this Yukon Liberal government, and I speak of an initiative by the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre to put in place an apartment where there were cooking facilities and an expectant mother could remain. There was a request for some $15,000 in funding to make the conversion and address the financial burden that the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre would be taking on. Given the order of magnitude of that $15,000 - and if it were only one apartment, Mr. Chair, that would be a considerable cost-saving over utilizing hotels, which is commonly the case here in Whitehorse, and there would be a considerable saving to the individuals involved.
You contrast what is happening here in the Yukon, where we're told we have the best health care system, to what is happening in the Northwest Territories, where their government is providing, and has been for quite some time, a series of apartments in Yellowknife and in other principal cities where not only expectant mothers can go, but their entire families can also go, and await the arrival of an offspring.
Now, the Premier is telling the House to wait for the Minister of Health and Social Services, but there isn't anything in the budget clearly identified for this initiative.
There isn't anything but negative feedback from those who have proposed solutions as to how well they have been accepted by this government. Everything has been denied, denied, denied. Any requests of this government for funding to address this shortcoming have been declined. Why? Why is the Premier allowing this double standard to continue, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm sure that the Minister of Health and Social Services is looking forward to debating his portion of the budget with the member opposite.
Now, the member opposite loves to compare us with the Northwest Territories. Is he also going to pursue the line of questioning wherein the Northwest Territories is asking individuals to pay for medevac travel outside the territory? Is he also going to pursue the line of questioning, since we're in general debate, on the Department of Finance as to why the territory has reneged on their commitment to institute a hotel and bed tax? Is the member also going to pursue that in his line of questioning in general debate?
It's not in any discussion around this territory. It was the Government of the Northwest Territories that pledged to institute that, and it was its own members who indicated that that would not be acceptable.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, it's brutally evident that this government is not going to address that shortcoming in the area of the needs of expectant mothers, that they are going to allow this double standard to continue and perpetuate itself. It's a sad day for Yukoners - a sad day, indeed.
I'm not going to explore with the Premier all of the areas of contrasts between the Northwest Territories and Yukon, Mr. Chair. There are some positive and some negative, but the bottom line is that it's easier to see what other people are doing and to copy what they're doing, especially when it's beneficial for your population, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.
But if the Premier wants to reinvent the wheel, so be it. I hope she has more progress in that than she has had in creating the economy. It's interesting to note that she was mentioning a room tax. I'll table a copy of In Focus for the Premier's information. It's a publication of the British Columbia and Yukon Hotels' Association, and it has a section called "Yukon Report". The headline reads, "Winter business very slow". It starts off by saying, "Hard season all around. The slump in the Yukon economy is hurting businesses in every community this winter. In Dawson City, the Downtown Hotel reports revenues off 50 percent from a year ago at the same time. The hotel closed for three weeks over the Christmas holidays. In Watson Lake, the Belvedere Hotel has closed for the winter for the first time. Whitehorse's High Country Inn had looked forward to revenues from a Disney film crew booked to shoot a movie in the territory, but the location changed to Alberta at the last minute. Across the territory, industry members are looking forward to February, when winter events bring higher occupancy levels." So much for the hospitality industry.
The Premier might want to contrast that with a little note further on about Alaska - "Hotel boom hits Fairbanks, Alaska. A boom in the construction of hotel rooms in Fairbanks has some proprietors wondering whether the scant winter business will support all of them. Two new hotels are under construction, another opened last spring, and three other hotels have expanded. The hotel boom has increased capacity, which was roughly 2,600 rooms, by about 20 percent."
Have a look at the report from the hospitality industry in Alberta and the Northwest Territories. We are sitting between two boom areas, Mr. Chair.
The Yukon has to be asleep at the switch, not to recognize the potential that we have, but that is all that it is - potential - until it is translated into reality. The only way that this government can translate that into reality is by moving forward with positive initiatives and addressing the shortcomings in the resource sector industries so that they can go to work. The hospitality industry is currently not going through a very good time, and the outlook for this summer doesn't show any increase over last year. In fact, it appears to be flat, if not on a downward trend.
So when is the Premier going to get with the program? When are we going to see some thrusts and some initiatives made by her government that will be in the best interest of Yukoners? We haven't seen it demonstrated in the forestry sector, we haven't seen it demonstrated in the hospitality sector, we haven't seen it demonstrated in the mining sector - whether it be the extraction or the exploration component - and we are certainly not seeing it in the oil and gas.
The Premier's statement - and the one that I quote on a continuing basis - is that her way is the highway. It is either the highway to Inuvik, where many, many of my own constituents in the Klondike are currently employed, or it is south, where more and more of our friends are currently moving - to Alberta and other locations - to find employment.
This government is managing to continue the trend of destroying the economy here in the Yukon. Other than create more and more government, we are not seeing any initiatives that are demonstrating forward thinking or positive trends in any of the historical economic drivers and contributors to our economy.
Mr. Chair, that's a shame. Why? I guess the concept, and the only concept we can subscribe to, Mr. Chair, is that the Yukon Liberal Party has made a conscious decision that they're not going to slight their federal Liberal counterparts, and they're not going to ask any questions of them that might embarrass them, that they just want to allow them to maintain their status as our colonial masters and oversee the ownership of all our resources and dictate what we are to do as regulators.
Yes, they'll transfer care and control of the various resources to us, Mr. Chair, but the feds will remain with the big stick, overseeing all of the avenues of enforcement. That, Mr. Chair, is a sad day for Yukon.
We only have to look at some of the areas that have been transferred from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon. Let's look at a simple one. Let's look at the airports. Let's look at the airport in my own riding, Dawson City.
Let's look at the federal government's position before and now. Mr. Chair, it's quite interesting that when the federal government owned and operated the airport and provided the policing and enforcement of the airport Transport Canada regulations, there was no problem with it being allowed to operate sked airlines coming in and out from Alaska, from Whitehorse, from all areas. Then we had devolution and we had the airport responsibility transferred from the federal government to the Yukon government. Oh, yes, there's a little bit of a quirk in there; they forgot to transfer land to the Yukon government, but they were de facto responsible for everything and to ensure that it conformed with Transport Canada regulations.
Then what did we find? We find that you can't park any of the aircraft in proximity to the centreline of the runway, like they had been parking them historically, especially the tankers that are used to fight forest fires that are hired by Indian and Northern Affairs to work out of that base. You can't even store fuels in that close a proximity to the centreline of the runway as they were supporting it. In fact, the Government of the Yukon was cited and told they had so much time to remove from the area a number of aircraft that were illegally parked and fuel that was illegally stored. They had to cut down a whole series of trees that were projecting into an area that had to be virtually void of any vegetation.
The Government of Yukon went back and looked at it and said, "Well, my gosh, we don't even own the land. That hasn't been transferred to us, due to some quirk in the administrative procedures, and we have to go to Indian and Northern Affairs to get a land use permit to cut down these trees to make the airport conform." And it goes on and on and on and on as to how well the Yukon is treated when programs are devolved from the federal government to the Yukon government. There has to be a much better understanding of what the roles are that the respective governments can play. And the playing field has to be level, but that is not the case, and it's becoming more and more evident that we have a whole series of problems that are brought upon by the federal regulators.
If you want to look at the hard rock legislation that's currently being reviewed - not the act itself, but the regulation - what we're going to see is an entire new set of rules as to how hard rock mining can be undertaken here in the Yukon. That's a federal government initiative. At the end of the day, what is going to transpire is that mirror legislation is going to be brought into the Yukon to exactly mimic what the federal government will have in place - not what they currently have in place, but what they will have in place. The Yukon will have responsibility for that area; it won't have ownership of the land; we're just a caretaker of it. The federal government regulators will still be in place to ensure that the industry complies.
In the event that they don't, responsibility for any environmental impact falls on the shoulders of the Yukon. So who is gaining what at the end of the day, Mr. Chair?
We have clearly had it demonstrated to us how successful this government is in putting together a committee, a public advisory committee, especially dealing with the Yukon protected areas strategy. It is a committee that is very imbalanced with those from the environmental sector of our society. And there isn't anything wrong with the environmental component of society today, other than we have to have an equal voice on these types of committees when we are reviewing important initiatives such as the Yukon protected areas strategy, Mr. Chair.
How often is one heard when a committee of 28 is struck? And how often - if you look at the environmental sector, comprising 80 percent of the makeup of that group, and the resource sector comprising 20 percent of the makeup of that group, whose voices are going to dominate? If things are going to come to a vote, do you have an idea as to how the vote would swing? You don't have to be an Einstein to know which way the vote would swing, Mr. Chair.
And if we subscribe to the parliamentary system, the majority carries the day, but when you structure the committee, Mr. Chair, you virtually know what the outcome is going to be, and that's what this government has done with the protected areas strategy, and it's not in the best interest of Yukon.
What is in the best interest of Yukon is to strike a balance, an effective balance, between the resource sector and the environmental sector so they have an equal voice at the table and are represented equally, but this Yukon Liberal government just pays lip service to these kinds of initiatives. I guess it's something like one of the other initiatives we're seeing: we're going to have change, and the change is going to come.
Well, we are going to have change, and with the majority that the Liberal Party holds in this Legislature, they can effect change, but I would hope that that change would be positive. All we have is the potential for it to be positive change, Mr. Chair. We're not seeing any very dynamic, forward thinking or thrusts into those areas that have traditionally driven the Yukon economy.
We didn't dwell on forestry with the Premier. That was debated at great length. But there's an industry that could have, even under the initial mandate of this Liberal government, maintained and grown. But they failed to recognize the potential of the forestry industry. They failed to utilize this wonderful relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals to obtain THAs. As a consequence, 125 individuals lost their jobs. It's a sad day for Yukoners - and why? We had a lot of hopes and aspirations, but seeing the time, Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 12, 2001:
Yukon Protected Areas Public Advisory Committee: list of committee members (Eftoda)