Monday, October 22, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Person's Day
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today in the House to pay tribute to October 18, this past Thursday, as Person's Day. I wish to pay tribute to the five extraordinary women whose statuettes are on display in the foyer of this building.
In 1927, after almost a decade of fruitless struggle on her own, Emily Murphy invited Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby to join her in petitioning the Supreme Court of Canada. They asked the court to rule whether or not the term "persons" as used in the British North America Act included women and the court said no.
With Prime Minister Mackenzie King's support, they appealed the ruling to the Privy Council of England. On October 18, 1929, Lord Stanley, Lord Chancellor of the Privy Council, overruled Supreme Court of Canada, saying, "The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours."
Today we look back at the Famous 5 and appreciate their strength, courage and, above all, determination. I stand here today in this Legislature thanks to the work of the women who came before me. That's why the Famous 5 exhibit is so important. It represents not only the famous five women who championed the person's case, it also represents all women who fight injustice and insist on equality. The exhibit is here thanks to the joint efforts of the Famous 5 Foundation and the Girl Guides of Canada. On Person's Day we are uniquely honoured to have the Famous 5 exhibit here in the Yukon Territory. I invite all people of the Yukon to come visit the ladies in the foyer of the Yukon legislative building.
Mrs. Peter: On behalf of the official opposition, I too would like to pay tribute to the Famous 5: Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby, and their efforts to have women recognized in law as persons. As a result of their efforts, on October 18, 1929, the Privy Council announced that, "The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours." And to those who would ask why the word "persons" should include females, the obvious answer is, "Why should it not?"
Despite the Privy Council's decision, it was not until 1940 that women could vote in provincial elections in the Province of Quebec. Also, despite this decision, Asian and Indo-Canadians were not enfranchised federally until 1947. And it was not until 1960 that aboriginal persons in Canada were also given the right to vote.
Since 1929, 54 women have been appointed to the Red Chamber. As of December 1998, there were 32 women senators sitting as part of the 104-member body, the largest number yet.
Unfortunately, none of the Famous 5 ever received this honour. However, it was directly due to their efforts that women in Canada began to enter public office and effect political change at all levels of government. All of the women in this Chamber are in debt to the Famous 5. I am honoured to join my voice to the many who recognize their sacrifice and achievement in the struggle for women's emancipation.
Despite the gains that have been made to date, it is unfortunate in Canada that we still do not recognize all people fully as persons. I suggest we all still have much work to do before we achieve equality for all in our society.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the 2000 audited financial statements of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues annual report, April 1, 2000 to March 31, 2001.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 46: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 46, entitled Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 46, entitled Parks and Land Certainty Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 46 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 47: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 47, entitled Education Staff Relations Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that Bill No. 47, entitled Education Staff Relations Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 47 agreed to
Bill No. 48: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I move that Bill No. 48, entitled Wildlife Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 48, entitled Wildlife Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 48 agreed to
Bill No. 54: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 54, entitled Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 54, entitled Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 54 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 52: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 52, entitled Physiotherapists Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 52, entitled Physiotherapists Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 52 agreed to
Bill No. 50: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 50, entitled An Act to Amend the Funeral Directors Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 50, entitled An Act to Amend the Funeral Directors Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 50 agreed to
Bill No. 49: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 49, entitled An Act to Amend the Medical Profession Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 49, entitled An Act to Amend the Medical Profession Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 49 agreed to
Bill No. 53: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 53, entitled Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 53, entitled Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 53 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Tucker: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government should report to the Legislature annually on the state of the Yukon's Emergency Measures Organization.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the possibility of a hijacked aircraft landing at the Whitehorse International Airport on September 11, 2001 set into motion a series of events that affected virtually every resident of the Yukon's capital city;
(2) considerable public concern has been expressed with regard to how that incident was managed by the RCMP, the Emergency Measures Organization and elected authorities;
(3) much of the concern has centred around the evacuation of schools and other public buildings as well as the evacuation of the Whitehorse downtown core;
(4) debriefing sessions held in the aftermath of that incident have not provided for input from the parents of schoolchildren or other members of the public not directly associated with the Yukon's emergency response procedures;
(5) a number of questions remain regarding the sequence of events leading to the arrival of two Korean airliners being treated as an impending emergency; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to conduct a full review of the events of September 11, 2001 in Whitehorse, to seek input from members of the public into that review and to report the findings of that review to the Legislative Assembly.
Ms. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon's Education Act has had the benefit of extensive consultation with the people of the Yukon, which resulted in legislation built on the foundation of partnerships in the education of our children;
(2) the current review of the Education Act is the first in a decade and an important gauge of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing act;
(3) in spite of the Liberal government's ill-conceived hiring of a highly partisan individual to coordinate the review, which unnecessarily politicized the process, the steering committee has worked diligently to put forward a body of recommendations based on input from a range of partners in education;
(4) by rejecting one of the steering committee's key recommendations before the process was complete, the Minister of Education has once more introduced a political element, putting the steering committee in the position of having to change several recommendations without benefit of public input; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Education to grant the Education Act Review Steering Committee a three-month extension to consult further with the partners in education before bringing forward a final set of recommendations for the consideration of the Government of Yukon in framing legislative amendments to the act.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
First Nations housing
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to advise the members of this Legislature about the initiatives that the Yukon Housing Corporation is taking to support First Nations with the delivery of effective housing programs. Shortly after my appointment as minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation, I met with the board of directors to provide them with a strategic direction. Included in this direction was a desire for Yukon Housing Corporation to establish a visible and active role in assisting First Nations with their housing.
I share my government's commitment to empowering Yukoners, and Yukon Housing has a role to play in helping Yukon First Nations to build a better future for themselves and especially for our children tomorrow. We understand and respect the Government of Canada's historical and fiduciary responsibilities to First Nations people, just as we understand and respect First Nations' desire to deliver their own programs to their people. Instead of using these realities as an excuse to ignore First Nations' housing issues, I am proud that Yukon Housing is taking action and looking for new opportunities to work with Yukon First Nations.
During the past year, Yukon Housing Corporation has taken a hands-on approach to First Nations housing, and working relationships have been developed with many Yukon First Nations. I'm very pleased that we have been able to respond by providing expertise in the areas of property management, energy programming and federal funding agencies.
Even with the progress that has been achieved, it is timely that Yukon First Nations deal with a greater issue, one that is at the centre of many issues faced on a daily basis, and that is the issue of capacity.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, this is the focus of Yukon Housing Corporation's merging role. Helpingemerging role: helping Yukon First Nations develop capacity so that they can in turn provide additional services to members of their respective First Nation. By creating an environment which encourages the sharing of knowledge and information, staff from different governments can work together to achieve beneficial results for Yukoners. Yukoners.
Starting tonight, Yukon Housing Corporation, along with CMHC and DIAND, will host a conference entitled, Share A New Vision of Aboriginal Housing in the North. This 2 daytwo-day conference will provide First Nations with valuable information on such topics as community planning from inside the First Nation, using partnerships and Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation innovative housing examples. These are the topics identified by First Nations, and I am very pleased that we could host such a citizen focused conference. citizen-focused conference.
This conference will bring representatives from Yukon First Nations into one room, along with representatives from CMHC, DIAND and Yukon Housing Corporation, to discuss housing issues and housing solutions. Representatives from First Nations from British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Alberta and the State of Alaska will also join in with them. them.
I am very pleased bywith the work of the Yukon Housing Corporation staff involved in the conference as well as those involved in the ongoing transfers of information and technical assistance to individual First Nations. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of the speakers and panellists for allof their involvement and a very special thank you to all of the sponsors for their contributions. contributions.
There are over 160 registered applicants in this conference. We can identify issues together and we can identify solutions together. The more minds working together the far greater chance of good, workable solutions. We can partner together and we can succeed together.
together. Thank youThank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think that this conference is a good idea. It's going to be addressing some very, very serious issues, and we believe that it's going to provide a forum so that we might be able to get an opportunity to provide some resources to what this conference identifies. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm hoping that the minister will be able to put on the agenda the issue that I have been bringing forward to the minister, and that's on the loaning of resources on First Nations' lands for First Nations' repairs.
Now, I have been a staunch advocate of that here in the House for the last year. I'm surely hoping that the minister will, in his wisdom, make sure that that is brought forth and entertained so that there will be no lack or gap in services. And, of course, I would not expect this government, as it has in the past, to use the fiduciary obligation of the federal government as an excuse.
I also look forward, Mr. Speaker, to hearing another ministerial statement from this member on the implementation of what this conference may bring. I would also like to thank the government for bringing these conferences here, because it does seem that this is the only economic direction this government is capable of moving forward in.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the title of this ministerial statement is somewhat misleading, in that it purports to announce a First Nation housing conference. While I welcome such a conference, this statement also has a subtitle - "Share a new vision" - which has much more far-reaching implications than the conference itself.
The minister states that the Yukon Housing Corporation understands and respects the Government of Canada's historical and fiduciary responsibility to First Nations people, just as the corporation understands and respects First Nations' desire to deliver their own programs to their people. He goes on to say that these realities should not be used as an excuse to ignore First Nations' housing issues.
While I agree with the minister that the Yukon Housing Corporation should work cooperatively with First Nations and the federal government, it has to exercise extreme care. Time after time, the federal government has attempted to offload its fiduciary responsibility on to First Nations themselves or on to provincial and territorial governments. It is no secret today that many of the Yukon Housing Corporation units have First Nation tenants because the Government of Canada has failed to provide sufficient housing programs for First Nations themselves.
Accordingly, I would ask the minister to table any agreements Yukon Housing Corporation has reached with First Nations and to ensure that Yukon government funds are not being provided as replacement dollars for what should rightfully be federal monies.
I am also proud to point out that one of the most innovative housing programs has been developed in my home community by the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, and I'm pleased to see they're going to be playing a major role in this conference.
Mr. Speaker, with the caveat I placed on the monies not replacing federal dollars, I commend the minister for this innovation and wish all of the participants in the conference every success. The fact that 160 delegates from British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Alaska will be in attendance will be welcome news to many businesses. If the minister will undertake to host conferences such as this once every week, it would be even better news for Yukon and specifically for the Whitehorse economy.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: School busing contract
Mr. Keenan: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services, if I may.
Does the minister agree with and support the program objectives of the Department of Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Well, the minister agrees with them. Does he also agree with the third objective for supply service - and I would like to quote, if I may, Mr. Speaker - "providing an accessible, fair, competitive and predictable contracting environment"? Does the minister agree with that one?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Does the minister agree that when a politician interferes with the tendering process, the contracting environment is no longer accessible, fair, competitive or predictable? Will the minister agree to that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I will respond to that question as the Minister of Education, Mr. Speaker. The contracting question was between the contractor and the Department of Education. I would like to remind the member opposite of the facts. The Member for Whitehorse West did not talk to anyone about the contract. He did not speak to the Minister of Education or the Minister of Government Services at any time about this contract. Those are the facts.
As I stated on Thursday, the Member for Whitehorse West was simply doing his job. He was out listening to Yukoners. He was talking to people about how this government is looking for ways to do things more efficiently, Mr. Speaker. Those are the facts.
Question re: School busing contract
Mr. Fentie: I would like to follow up with the minister responsible for Government Services, where contract administration is housed. The Minister of Education does not have to get so protective here.
It is obvious that the minister responsible for Government Services agrees with his program's mandate. The Minister of Education has just admitted that the Member for Whitehorse Centre - a member of the government side - attended a meeting during a tendering process. It is obvious that the members opposite on the government side condone this type of action. Will the minister responsible for Government Services now tell this House what other companies in the tendering -
Speaker: Order please. The Chair didn't hear the point of order.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: The Member for Watson Lake misspoke. The Member for Whitehorse Centre was not involved in any of this, and I would like to just set the record straight and ask him to rephrase the question using the proper member in reference - not the Member for Whitehorse Centre, please.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I retract, and I apologize to the Member for Whitehorse Centre, but the opposite side pops up so much it's hard to ascertain who is speaking for what department.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I will ask the member opposite again - let's stick to the facts. The busing tender did not go out until early March, Mr. Speaker. The member was talking to former colleagues about bus routes and how to make government work better long before the tender went out. The member opposite is simply wrong.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's a well-known fact that companies in this territory know full well when existing contracts end and when tenders are coming out. So that argument doesn't wash.
Now, I'm to take from the member's answer that no other companies were afforded this courtesy, which amounts to, Mr. Speaker, a very serious issue.
I direct my supplementary to the Premier. This is clearly political interference in the tendering process. The Premier has a duty as the leader to ensure that her members conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. Will the Premier now tell this House what she intends to do to address this very serious matter of political interference in the tendering process?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Let's again stick to the facts, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite is wrong. The Member for Whitehorse West did not speak during the tendering process. He spoke upon the instruction, upon what we were all doing at the time - finding efficiencies, Mr. Speaker. He was speaking to his former colleagues that he worked with - that he drove with - prior to the tender going out, despite what the members opposite are saying, Mr. Speaker. They are wrong.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Member for Whitehorse West was attending a meeting where workers were being asked to take a cut in pay to ensure that a large corporation's profit margin could be maintained.
Mr. Speaker, this government's evasive answers and stonewalling on this issue leave only one perception: they have something to hide. However, Mr. Speaker, let me, with all due respect, point out that this very well may have been an error in judgement by the Member for Whitehorse West, and I am going to offer the Premier an opportunity to redeem her government on this issue.
Will the Premier now stand on her feet, correct the record and admit to this House and Yukoners that this indeed was an error in judgement by the Member for Whitehorse West? What steps does she intend to take to ensure that members of her government do not conduct themselves in this way in further contracts?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to remind the member opposite to stick to the facts. The Member for Whitehorse West did not attend any meetings during the tendering process. Mr. Speaker, the Member for Whitehorse West did not talk to his colleagues after the tender had been released. The member opposite is quite wrong. The Member for Whitehorse West was doing his job. That is quite simple and factual.
Question re: CT scanner
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
For the last year and a half, this minister has been telling Yukoners that his government has no money. There was no money to provide multi-level health care facilities in rural Yukon communities such as Watson Lake and Dawson City. There was no money to provide services for rural women who have to come to Whitehorse for maternity. There was no money to provide for on-call services for rural doctors or to recruit and retain health care professionals. The minister even went so far as to entertain privatizing the CT scanner services, arguing that the purchase and operation of what is now a basic diagnostic tool for hospitals was just too expensive.
Can the minister explain to the House why he was pleading poverty when the Liberal government had a surplus of $99 million? Why did the minister make this outrageous claim that his government couldn't afford to provide any of these services because of their cost, when he knew full well that there were $99 million in the bank?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member opposite is wrong. The idea of looking at health care and looking at any issues that sit in the public and trying to look at how we're going to retain what we have in the future is very important. If we can't enter into that kind of a discussion or that kind of a debate among Yukoners, then I think we are in trouble. The important part is not just what we do here in the Yukon, but what we do here in Canada. And the member opposite knows full well the state of our health care program in Canada at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister is proposing, Mr. Speaker, is that we enter into discussion and debate while the minister ignores all of these areas in his portfolio. I'm surprised that the minister didn't propose that the privatized CT scanner be located at the Whitehorse International Airport in order to reduce the operating costs. It could be used for a dual purpose: security, and everybody could be given a free scan as they left the Yukon.
Now that the minister has finally come to his senses and has agreed to purchase a scanner for the hospital, will he go all the way and pay the full cost of the scanner and drop the requirement for the hospital to contribute $150,000 to the purchase price? Will this minister make that commitment now?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Typically, the member opposite is wrong again. We are providing the hospital with mutually agreed funding to purchase the CT scan. Fundraising is a component agreed on by the Hospital Corporation, for the member opposite's information, and fundraising can give the community and the Hospital Corporation ownership and let them be part of the process.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the minister has lost track of reality. The government has a surplus of $99 million. There is no legitimate reason for this minister, other than spite, to require the hospital to raise $150,000 for this essential diagnostic tool that should have been installed in the hospital a year ago. I'm sure the minister doesn't want to be portrayed as a sore loser, so I would ask him to forego the $150,000 so that there will be no delay in bringing the CT scanner onstream immediately. Will the minister make a commitment here today to contribute all of the costs for the purchase and operation of the CT scanner? It's $150,000 more. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, the facts that the member opposite has are wrong. We are providing the hospital with agreed-upon funding for the CT scanner. If we were to have purchased the CT scanner when we first arrived in office a year and a half ago, we would have ended up getting a one-slice CT scanner. Now, because of the investigation and our technical review committee, we're going to get the state-of-the-art CT scanner. We're going to get a four-slice CT scanner. So, thank God for taking that kind of consideration and doing the right thing.
And Mr. Speaker, as I said, fundraising is a component agreed upon by the Hospital Corporation. And again, fundraising can give the community and the Hospital Corporation ownership over a very important CT scanner that will be forthcoming to the Yukon.
Question re: Anthrax threat, training for mailroom staff
Mr. Keenan: Again, Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Government Services. We all hear about the threat of anthrax happening in the world as we speak at this point in time, and I'd like to ask the minister what steps has the Minister of Government Services taken to ensure that the YTG mailroom workers, who handle hundreds of outside letters daily, receive proper training?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As noted by our new medical health officer, Dr. Bryce Larke, there have been no incidences whatsoever of letters or anything containing the anthrax bacteria anywhere in Canada. However, we are applying the appropriate safety precautions. We have established safety procedures for YTG staff handling mail. These procedures were created by the Occupational Health and Safety Canada organization, and the procedures advise what to look for to identify suspicious mail and what to do if something suspicious shows up.
Mr. Keenan: I'd like to ask the Minister of Government Services, Mr. Speaker, if they are going to continue further training. I applaud government for what they're doing in providing limited training. Not only is anthrax a threat, there are other hazardous goods that are sometimes unfortunately or intentionally put through the mail. Now, will the minister undertake to provide mailroom workers with more training to address this broader range of safety concern?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The training required is being made available, Mr. Speaker, and, as well, security procedures are in place to ensure that access to critical building areas is secure. Doors to mechanical rooms and other similar areas are to be locked, preventing unauthorized access. We take the safety of the public service very seriously, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: If they take it this seriously, maybe the ministers will start opening their own mail, Mr. Speaker. Maybe the ministers are not as sensitive as they should be to that.
Again, I appreciate what the minister's doing in providing limited training. I'd like to get the minister to assure us that all training and safety precautions will be given to all government workers who request it. Will the minister make that request?
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I stand on a matter of clarity, Mr. Speaker. We on this side of the House weren't aware that the Minister of Government Services is now the Member for Laberge. Could we have that clarified, please?
Speaker: Order please. It is my understanding that, during Question Period, questions are addressed to the government or to the Cabinet as a whole. They may be addressed to individual ministers; however, the ministers of the Cabinet may make their own decisions as to who answers the question. There is no point of order here.
I would ask the Minister of Justice to continue.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We will continue to monitor and act on safety issues that may affect our staff and, as for September 11 and issues arising as a result of that, I am speaking to those, as the members opposite are well aware, as they were delivered a letter to that effect last Thursday.
Question re: Education Act review
Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Education. More than a week ago the Minister of Education informed the Education Act Review Steering Committee that he would not accept recommendation 120 of the draft recommendation report, and that he would not extend the time frame as they had requested. The Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations responded that, "If an extension is not granted, the CYFN will oppose the Education Act review and subsequent amendments to the Education Act process with every available measure."
Will the minister reconsider and extend the deadline for consultation as requested by the Education Act Review Steering Committee and the Council of Yukon First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the question from the member opposite.
First and foremost, there are four partner groups that are involved with the Education Act Review Steering Committee: Yukon Teachers Association, the First Nations, school councils and the Department of Education. First and foremost, it was the Association of School Councils that requested an extension to the end of December, and the member is right that the CYFN did request an extension to the end of April 2002. No formal request, though, has been made to me from the steering committee regarding an extension of any of their consultation processes. The committee already asked for an extension to their consideration timelines earlier this year, and that was granted. The Yukon public cannot be expected to wait indefinitely for a revised Education Act to be completed and I look forward to the submission of the final recommendations as per schedule on November 15.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, we realize that there are many partners in making decisions for our children. The response by the Council of Yukon First Nations has been strong and shows that they do not feel that their input is valued, that their response is only accepted if it fits the Liberal agenda. The Grand Chief said, "We feel this is an arbitrary decision by the minister and gives an indication that government already has a decision in its head." How does the minister intend to proceed since the Council of Yukon First Nations has stated their intention to oppose this biased process with every measure.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is wrong. We are not biased toward the work that the steering committee has done, and First Nations are one of our most important partners in education. Their role on the committee was integral, as was the role of other partner groups. The committee met with each and every Yukon First Nation over the past two and a half years, Mr. Speaker - not through public meetings but specifically. They also met with elders, First Nation educators and First Nation language instructors. First Nations had an opportunity to present their concerns, either verbally or in writing, in every Yukon community.
The draft recommendations were distributed by each of the steering committee members to their support and member groups at the end of June. These were the draft recommendations, Mr. Speaker. It was, and still is, recognized that each First Nation is a separate government and must be consulted individually, which they were on numerous occasions.
This government has also supplied $100,000 in funding to the CYFN to assist them in the Education Act review. It was recognized that First Nation participation was important and that this funding was provided to ensure that the First Nations participated in the review and the discussions and the input to the final recommendations, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: The Grand Chief was quoted as saying, "Our people are absolutely frustrated by the unwillingness of the current government to address our concerns. There is clearly articulated feeling from the First Nations that the minister does not appear to respect the process."
How does the minister plan to rebuild a working relationship with the Council of Yukon First Nations and other partners in education?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do believe that I have now answered twice the member opposite's question. The First Nations have been intimately involved in the review of the Education Act for the past two and a half years and have had monetary support from this government to participate actively in the review at all stages, Mr. Speaker. And, as I suggested earlier, this two-and-a-half-year process has to come to an end at some time. I don't believe that this government, which is acting on behalf of First Nations and all Yukoners, is going to wait indefinitely until this government enacts changes to the act.
So, Mr. Speaker, I do respect the concerns and issues that were brought forward by the Grand Chief. As a matter of fact, I met with him a few weeks ago, and we discussed these issues for several hours. I am very well aware of the positions that the Grand Chief has about the Education Act.
Question re: CT scanner
Mr. Keenan: Today, I have a question for the Minister of Health. Mr. Speaker, I listened to the answer to the leader of the third party, and I was absolutely disgusted with that answer, as I'm sure many Yukoners are.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to read a quote from Ron Browne: "We can't afford the CT scanner until we have $1.5 million so we're undertaking a fundraising campaign as quickly as possible." When is this minister going to stop holding sick people hostage, and will the minister of flip-flop now reverse his decision and front the money to the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, the member is wrong. We are providing the hospital with a mutually agreed upon method of funding to purchase a CT scanner. Fundraising is a component agreed to by the Hospital Corporation, and fundraising can give the community and the Hospital Corporation ownership over the CT scanner, just as it did with the mammography machine. This is something that has been going on for quite a few years, Mr. Speaker. It's not something new. The past government did the same thing. So what's the problem?
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can say what the problem is. The problem is the Minister of Health; the problem is the minister of flip-flop. We've gone back almost two years to the 2000-01 budget. This Liberal government said that they were going to implement it in its entirety. Well, flip-flop, flip-flop. Public pressure, pressure in the House, has certainly changed these people's minds. Mr. Speaker, do you realize that $150,000 is only the interest off the $99 million - two weeks worth of interest - off the $99-million surplus they have. So this is a government that's crying poverty. Beans.
What this government is doing is they're holding sick people hostage, and I would like this government to get on its feet and start moving, and will they front the $150,000 to the hospital so that we can start providing this service immediately and not into another year? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member opposite is wrong again.
We are working hard for Yukoners, and we are tackling the big issues, and we are getting things done. The member forgets that, during their turn at the leadership, the mammography machine was also raised through fundraising. That I remember very distinctly. But I guess the member opposite has a selective memory.
The members opposite constantly come up with this idea that we have a surplus of $99 million. Mr. Speaker, the surplus is actually $51,076,000. That's what the surplus is, not $99 million. So they're trying to give that image out there that we're just loaded. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have some very serious problems coming down the pipe here, as far as population adjustments, as far as the economy of Canada, and to spend it all because the member opposite believes that that's the way you run government - I guess that's something that he has to - . We are not going to do that, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, it sounds like the minister should get out of the health business and start writing country songs because all he says is that we're wrong and they're right.
I would like to point out to the people of the Yukon Territory that it's from the government's own documentation where I get the $99 million. I think what we have here is a minister who really doesn't know what he is doing. We did not have the luxury of $99 million in the bank to buy the mammography machine, so we went out with partners and found a way to make it happen. That's critical, Mr. Speaker.
What I am asking here again is this: will this minister stop the penny pinching or hoarding it for a war chest or for an election, or whatever the minister wants to do, and at least consider letting them fund raise on the layaway plan? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member, again, is wrong. I don't understand why the member opposite doesn't get it. We're empowering Yukoners, just like the government of yesterday did; they empowered the Yukoners to buy the mammography machine. That started under their reign. We are just continuing that work, because we know that Yukoners appreciate what they actually have to put into something that they buy. We are investing in our future. We are going to successfully rebuild our economy and maintain the quality of our life. We need to invest in things like health care, education and improving our infrastructure. And this is what we are doing, Mr. Speaker.
I would advise the member opposite that when the member reads documents like the budget, go right to the bottom of the page and find out what the real surplus is - it's $51 million, not $99 million. So you have to read right to the end before you present this picture that we are not using our funds wisely and moving down the path of trying to help Yukoners be part of the process.
Question re: CT scanner
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I get a kick out of the Minister of Health even though it's a terribly serious situation - the way the minister presents himself, standing there.
Let me again put a quote out here. It's a quote by the minister, "Switching to a private model is something that needs to be evaluated behind closed doors." The minister, again, said, "We basically looked whether we could sell," and he's referring to CT scans. "We decided after two or three months of investigation that we couldn't." Here's another one: "We're not a big jurisdiction where we can take on Health Canada." And here's another: "What I'm being told is maybe it shouldn't be for free."
So I'd like to ask the Minister of Health: has the Minister of Health - and he has been the Minister of Health for well over a year now. I'm wondering if the minister could identify the five principles that are contained within the Canada Health Act. Can the minister simply do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I didn't realize this was a test, Mr. Speaker, but I have to remind the member opposite that we're here to ask questions that are reasonable, are common sense and are going to actually arrive at a decision.
The member is wrong. I just don't understand why the member opposite is concerned about a CT scanner. We're purchasing it. We're going ahead with it. But because it doesn't fit the way the member opposite feels today, it's not right. Yet yesterday, when they were in government, it was right to do fundraising for a mammography machine, but today it's not right. So I don't know why there is the flip-flop. That's the flip-flop, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Well, by golly, Mr. Speaker, for a minister who is a former educator, he refused to take the test, so I know that the minister is going to come back because the minister has not done his homework on this.
Now, the minister has gone out and publicly stated that he believes that discussing private health care - and we're talking about health care here, not a CT scan - should continue behind closed doors.
I would like to ask the minister to identify which of the principles of the Canada Health Act is the impediment for the minister. What is holding the minister up from implementing those plans of privatization?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong again. At no time did I ever say that we were going to privatize health care in the Yukon. Never. It has basically been a term that some people, like the members opposite, like to take and twist into truth. I have never, ever said that, Mr. Speaker. If it is in the paper, well, I am sorry, I wouldn't believe what I saw in the paper anyway because most times it doesn't interpret what we have.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, not only is the minister taking on the Yukon public and the opposition, but now he is taking on the very fine news media that informs the Yukon Territory of what is happening here in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Speaker, the minister has not come right out and said it, but the minister has publicly speculated about user fees. They are not allowed under the Canada Health Act, and I would like the minister's assurance that there will be no further moves toward user fees for Yukon people. Will the minister give that, or is the minister going to stand on his feet and say, "I am wrong", and continue with the second stanza of his country song?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, just a little history here. Back in 1999, the government of yesterday had an $80-million surplus. They were raising money for the mammography unit at that time, so why, all of a sudden, is it wrong today because we have a $51-million surplus. I am not sure, but I think it is playing politics - that is what the member opposite is doing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, if you read to the bottom of the page, Mr. Speaker, you obviously know what it is, but if you just read to the half way, then you pick out what you want with it.
I believe, like anybody else, that discussion, debate and dialogue is good; it is healthy. It's healthy for Canadians; it's healthy for Yukoners and the day that that stops is the day we stop being a democracy. I think it is very important that we have open discussion about a variety of things. We have the Romanow Commission; my esteemed colleague here has just returned from meeting Mr. Romanow and there are some issues there that will be forthcoming in the whole dialogue and debate. We are doing what we have to do. This is not something that is happening just here in the Yukon. Everywhere in the nation, we are talking about health care. It is time we talked about it. It is not something that should be tucked away and never spoken about.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 8: Second Reading - previously adjourned
Mr. Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 8, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan. Adjourned debate. Mr. Fairclough.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to respond to this budget and the budget speech that was given to this House by the Premier, and I will try to be short in my response to her budget speech.
But, Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out a few things about this budget.
First of all, Yukoners have been asking the Liberal Party about where they stand. They asked them when they were in opposition which way they were leaning, and this Liberal government was sitting on the fence, and they said, wait until the election. Well, Mr. Speaker, all the way through the election, this Liberal Party did not give Yukoners any indication on where they stand. They've made promises to people out there, but not on where they stand.
The Liberals won the election, and the very first thing they did was promise to bring forward the NDP budget and pass it in its entirety. That was their first broken promise, Mr. Speaker. But they did tell the public to wait until they hear from the Premier and you'll know where this Liberal government stands.
Yukoners still do not know, Mr. Speaker, and we wait again - wait until the real budget that they bring forward on their own - which was just this past spring - then we'll know where this Liberal government stands.
And, Mr. Speaker, that was done and still we don't know. This budget, brought forward to the floor of this Legislature, is for 2002-03. This is basically the third year in the government's mandate, and do we really know what the Liberals stand for when this budget came forward? Well, the answer is no, and the general public knows the answer is no.
In this budget, the Liberals have demonstrated that they have no vision of their own, except for maybe a couple of political promises that took place during the campaign - and I refer to the Grey Mountain School, Mr. Speaker. In my opinion, I believe that it's misleading the general public. It tries to fool Yukoners, particularly when it comes to the capital budget, saying that there is more in the capital budget. But when you really look at it and take some things out - monies that are not going to be used - it is not what the Liberals say it is.
It also doesn't live up to the promises that this Liberal government promised in the past election. There is no money for senior housing, like they said there was going to be - one more broken promise. And where is the business community when it comes to this? Other than following the lead of the NDP budget, this is basically - I don't know what work went into putting this budget together - a housekeeping budget by this Liberal government, and we still don't know what the Liberal government stands for.
I think that it is unfortunate that it came to this point, especially when we start off the year with a very healthy budget. I know that the Minister of Health and Social Services doesn't know how to read the budgets that are put forward in front of them, which they are asking Yukoners and us, on this side of the House, to pass. The member knows that in the beginning of the year, in the spring, when they passed the budget, $99 million was there, over and above what they normally spend of close to $500 million. Maybe the Minister of Health can really have a good, close look at this and not make that mistake when asked questions in this House again.
I would like to go through and respond to the budget and the budget speech that was made by the Premier last week. The Premier began by thanking Yukoners, especially the contracting community. That is who was thanked for bringing their input to government - not like what she promised in this House, and not like what she promised to the people during the campaign in working government to government, recognizing senior governments like the Yukon government, trying to understand that, for example, First Nations are not junior governments, they are governments like the territorial government, in that they do have law-making abilities and can enforce them.
So, I ask the Premier, why didn't this Liberal government do the courteous and respectful thing and talk to people of the Yukon? Why didn't that happen in this important budget that they're going to have to wait a whole year before it starts to be kicked into place? I'm hoping that this Liberal government does not make the same mistake when developing another budget. I'm hoping that they will go out and talk to Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, because people are used to something else. They want to be asked, and they want to give their input.
When the first budget was introduced by this Liberal government, just this past spring, it was only a month before it was tabled in the House that they went out to the general public. Well, Mr. Speaker, in my view, that budget was already written, and it would not have reflected the people's input at that time.
By going out to the communities - and I have been to many communities this summer, talking with people. I have asked them if this government came to their community to talk about the building of the upcoming budget, and the answer was no. I went to the municipalities and asked them if this Liberal government had a team that came to talk to them about the budget and what the community priorities are - the answer was no. I asked First Nations whether the Liberal government came to talk to them about how to build this budget and what their priorities are, and the answer again was no.
I asked many Yukoners, and no team has been struck. And when getting briefed on this budget by the Premier's officials, the question was asked again, and again the answer was that there was no team put in place to go around to the communities to develop this budget. So how was this budget developed? How could the Premier say that this is about restoring confidence in government? One of the things the Premier said in this House was that having a long-term capital plan is restoring confidence in government - as if there wasn't one before.
And it's funny that the Premier would even say that because when the debate of the 2000-01 budget was taking place, it was voted against by the Liberal government. That's a long-term plan. At that time, they didn't think that this was putting confidence back in government, but when you're not talking to people, you have to rely on some of the hard work that has been done out there already. And that's the long-term capital plan of the NDP.
If the Premier would like to have a good, close look at it - I have it right in front of me here, on both pages - what's different in there? What's different in this long-term budget - $10 million for a permanent fund, and nobody knows what will happen with this fund. There's no direction in place, no plan for it. It's just sitting there. And I think that's very unfortunate, Mr. Speaker.
For a while there, I thought that this Liberal government was just going to follow the script of the NDP - you know, for the longest time. They made a promise to do that to the general public, but what happened after that promise? Within a month you saw this Liberal government starting to break their promise. And the first one was taking apart the budget, only taking what they felt they could pass at the time. And one of the commitments - and the questions asked in this House today about the CT scanner - that was in that budget was $1 million going toward the CT scanner.
And the minister responsible for Health and Social Services said that he was going to do his homework, he was going to look at this and come back with something better. Well, what came back on the general public was privatization of a CT scan, and he did this all on his own. It was his own decision, but it didn't go very far, because I think the Premier put down the hammer and brought him in line not to go that route, because it was surely heading down the route of a two-tired health care system in the Yukon. It is unfortunate that we have a member on the government' side - a minister thinking that is the way to go.
There was a question asked in Question Period today whether the minister can commit that that will not take place, and the minister couldn't answer that question, he did not answer that question, other than saying that the member opposite is wrong.
Mr. Speaker, it wasn't just that, but there were lots of promises out there by this Liberal Prty that the general public saw this government breaking, one after another - promising a better deal for teachers, for example, and I know that is fresh in everybody's mind right here in the House because, when the Premier was reading out her budget speech - or was it throne speech - that people were outside of this building protesting. Teachers were on strike for the very first time, and that couldn't have been a result of a better deal that this Liberal government offered - was it? I think not. That was a broken promise, another broken promise.
There is one after another throughout the year and a half that this government has been in power. We have seen many projects not going through, bigger lapses in funding, a bigger grant coming down from the federal government to the Yukon government, which should reflect in a bigger capital budget.
The Premier said that the Liberal government will be cautious in the way they spend their money. September 11 may play a factor in this, but right now the Yukon is in a recession. If we have a very healthy surplus, why not use that to try to boost the economy? I know this Liberal government says that's what they're doing. They present a long-term capital plan that the Premier feels was new, and I just happen to have the 2000-01 three-year capital plan in front of me. Just compare the two - it's kind of interesting to see. When you compare the two, there is not much difference between them.
So, really, this Liberal government made a huge turn - or, they must have made a huge turn in the way they look at things now. When in opposition, a three-year capital plan wasn't something to look at, because at that time, Mr. Speaker, this is what the Liberals said: "It was spending future dollars." That's what it was doing. It was taking away the ability of government to be more flexible, but not in the future.
But we thought it was a good idea. We put monies aside and committed, down the road, some monies for the future. And I think this capital budget shows Yukoners some of the delays this Liberal government has caused over their very short period in office.
Corrections, for example, is one of them. Just look at the two. This is not something new that this Liberal government has done. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure the Liberals supported that when the NDP brought it forward. But now they call it their own, as if it was a new idea that just popped into the Liberals' thinking and the way they budget.
In the year 2002-03, there was $6 million in the NDP long-term plan. In 2002-03, there is $3 million put away for a long-term plan. That's just next year in the Liberals' commitment for a new corrections facility. I believe it was an opportunity for Yukoners to really look at this whole department and justice in a different light and maybe give some good direction to governments about how people are dealt with through the courts and so on.
We would have expected that the Liberal government would have gone out to the communities to consult with people, especially on the decisions that affect them the most. A lot of these are for big capital spending, but it appears that this Liberal government is not focused out there on the general public but moreso with government itself. The big plan right now is renewal in government, and that is supposed to really fix things up and provide better services to Yukoners.
The Liberal government said that land claims was their top priority, and I would like to get back to this a bit later.
But where is it reflected in this capital budget, Mr. Speaker? Does anybody care?
Well, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that a lot of people care. When you look at this capital budget and land claims, there's not much there. There's an update, and, "We have talked to you; here's a few hundred thousand dollars and hopefully a claim will be negotiated some time down the road." Where's the implementation of land claims? Do the people on that side of the House even understand what that means?
As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, it took over a year for the Premier to get updated on land claims. I asked a question in this House and she was honest and said that she was not updated yet. It kind of shocked me because this was a number one priority of government. It doesn't seem to be right now, and I'm hoping that this government will put some emphasis on this because there's not much out there to negotiate any more. First Nations have been at this for a long time and there are some that may have to have a bit more resources concentrated to them, like Kwanlin Dun, like the Kaskas, for example.
But we haven't seen much direction coming forward from this government at all as to how we can achieve some timelines, for example, in when they think land claims could be ratified in some of the communities. There's nothing at all.
There are approximately three, four lines that refer to that, and I don't see what that has to do with the budget itself. On November 1, 2 and 3, Ta'an Kwach'an beneficiaries will be taken apart in a ratification vote. I could see, if you want to put something in the throne speech, there are no dollars - nothing in this budget - that can point to this. And it's unfortunate that we've come down to that.
I'll talk about the other one in a second, because I don't want to lose where Kwanlin Dun is on this.
The Premier said in her budget speech that it was through meetings, telephone calls, letters, electronic mail and computer that they heard first-hand about local priorities. Well, we're just going through Project Yukon right now and getting high-speed Internet access to some of the communities. And some of them are having a pretty tough time right now. They don't have that ability. For example, Keno City, there are people with businesses there who do their business through the Internet. I think that it's only right that the government does go up to places like that and talk to them about priorities, not just government ministers on their annual route through the communities, whether it's Community and Transportation Services or Health and Social Services. Not everybody talks about what the community wants in their nursing station. Even that I don't see reflected in here.
For example, if the Minister of Health and Social Services was in the communities and they talked about maybe some of their priorities, then something as simple as standard equipment, why is that not reflected in bringing all the ambulances, for example, having standard equipment, where stretchers, for example, could be locked in, in every one of the ambulances. It's not there.
So I don't believe that all of those were truly reflected in this budget.
And I have been phoning the municipalities, First Nations and different groups throughout the year, asking them if the government has come down to meet them or if there was a letter informing them of a meeting, if there was a public meeting that is going to take place for them to voice their concerns. There are people interested. They wanted to be able to do that, but it didn't happen because, once again, I think this government was caught at trying to produce a budget very quickly here to introduce into the House and couldn't get out to the communities.
The Minister of Education is shaking his head, but this is not the first time this has happened in a year and a half. It is the second time it has happened. First of all, we get a budget that was promised to be passed in its entirety. And then the Liberal government breaks that promise and cuts out what they don't like in it, and the next budget that was brought forward to this House did not allow ample time for this government to go out and do public consultation, but they call it that anyway. The budget was already written and now there is another one. It's a pretty bad track record - if you asked anyone out there. But I guess their information came from their ministers and touring the communities, which normally takes place by any Community and Transportation Services minister, and particularly the Community and Transportation Services minister and the Minister of Health. But, Mr. Speaker, I was also out in the communities this summer, right down to Beaver Creek and to Dawson - I haven't made it up to Old Crow yet - and I have been talking to people.
A lot of people are eager to know what has taken place and where this Liberal government is going, where their plans are. I don't know why it's a big secret and why they can't tell people what they stand for and where they're going - because this budget doesn't say, unless the government side is saying that the budget that they once voted down, then promised to pass in its entirety, is a good one. They've changed their mind. The hard work that was done out there is now reflected in this Liberal government budget. I've seen the cartoon in the paper where it had the NDP's name scratched out and the Liberal's stamped on it.
There are some good things in this budget. There are a lot of good things in this budget and there is a lot of money in the surplus that the government has. I like the fact that there is more money put into rural roads. I think that people are really accessing that program, and it has really made a difference. It's less than what it used to be but it is double what this Liberal government has provided in the past. But that's next year's budget.
I like the fact that we are getting some assistance from the federal government in things like the tele-health program; I think that would be very interesting. With more and more people getting good Internet access and communities able to use the Internet without being interfered with, it's a good thing. I know that with small communities such as Carmacks, government had one line in. Health and Social Services could use it; the nursing station could use it, but there only could be one user at a time.
Mr. Speaker, we have to go with the information that is provided to us by this Liberal government. I'm hoping that members opposite say that they are as true as it possibly could be and just look at the surplus the government had - it's $99 million. It's funny, because I had predicted that there would be $100 million in there. Give or take $1 million, I would have been right on the money - $99 million. Right now, there is no reason for this government to spend more in capital, particularly with the increase in transfer payments from the Government of Canada, which is a lot more than what we have normally been getting. Someone finally woke up and realized that they were making a mistake to Yukoners all along about the transfer payments and what we should have been getting.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier doesn't believe that? Well, that's - and at the beginning of next year, there will also be $66 million in the bank. I know this government cries poverty all the time, like asking the Hospital Corporation to go flip pancakes for a couple of years to raise money while we keep our big bank account right here - it's for somebody else, other people, maybe some friends or contractors. It's shameful, isn't it?
The Premier said there were some meetings that happened just by chance in campgrounds and coffee shops, and many were planned. The planned ones weren't planned by this government alone. I believe that some of the members on the government side didn't even know that certain ministers were out in the communities. So how could direction be given? Go back and get some feedback on how we can build a better budget, a good budget, a made-in-the-Yukon budget. This budget was made by the Yukon Liberal Party government.
The Premier also said that this budget will develop our economy and that it will rebuild our infrastructure. I'm hoping that they don't mean all of our infrastructure. It couldn't mean that, but I wouldn't throw it past them, Mr. Speaker, because when the Minister of Community and Transportation Services first spoke in this House, she said that the roads were unsafe to drive on. That's what they were. I was really surprised to know that some of the government people were already on the road or even that the minister allowed government workers to be on the highway in unsafe conditions. But still they were unsafe. And yet there was not a commitment to drive the highways. Fly in a plane - that's how they get to many of the communities.
The Premier also said that this budget was implementing their seven priorities that were set out in the throne speech, and I know that you are quite familiar with them, Mr. Speaker: devolution, settling land claims - which, all of a sudden, is second on this priority list when it used to be number one -maintaining quality health care, developing infrastructure, restoring confidence in government. I don't know if this government will ever do that. I can't see how the Minister of Education is going to do that while, in revising the Education Act, they are asking and preventing the teachers from striking. Is that rebuilding confidence in government? Rebuilding the Yukon economy and addressing alcohol and drug addictions. I am sure that in a year and a half - this is their third year so if they are certainly doing that, we should see some movement by now, not taking a department and rearranging things and calling it a secretariat with the same people involved. It is not right. We need some action if they want to have the confidence of the Yukoners behind them.
I will be looking at each and every one of these priorities as we go through the budget.
One thing that this budget doesn't do is reflect community priorities. I wonder where the pull from the Member for Faro is when it comes to this capital budget. There is not much taking place on the community priorities. If you really want to know community priorities, you have to go to the communities and ask, because it wasn't the same five years ago as it is today. The members know that; it changes all the time. Sometimes they do take care of their own issues on their own.
One of the things that the Premier said about devolution was that it was a priority that was coming forward on April 1, 2002, and there is a change now that it's 2003. But government renewal was all about devolution and better services to Yukon people. So devolution is delayed, that's number one. And there is a rush to get renewal in place by the next fiscal year. It has taken a lot of people and departments by surprise about what this thing is going to look like. I don't believe that government itself knows what it looks like right now. There is just some direction out there to rearrange things and make the services better for the communities.
How does that work? Let's talk about government-to-government relationships, for example.
Senior governments - the federal government, Yukon government, First Nation governments - everybody would like to see better services to the people. Why would that not be an automatic thing, to go out and talk with First Nations about their views on how their dealings with governments can improve? It's not in here. It's not even looked at by this Liberal government. And that's the respect they get for 20 years of negotiation by the Liberal government. Not much, is there?
Also, devolution was so important that the Liberals say that is consistent with land claims and self-government agreements. I remember the Liberals saying to finish off the land claims agreements before the devolution goes through. Right now, that's not taking place. The big push is for devolution, and hopefully First Nations can have their claims ratified before 2003. That's putting a lot of unknowns into this.
But the Liberals also say that they're going to be working on their number one priority, or what used to be their number one priority, and that's settling land claims. What they could muster up for some information in this budget is some updates. Remember asking about updates in this House? We can't negotiate on the floor of this Legislature - remember that? Now the Liberals are going out on a limb, moving away from that a bit, what they thought was negotiating on the floor of this Legislature. It just floored me, Mr. Speaker, because I know what negotiations are about, and certainly asking questions about update and what items are being negotiated is not negotiations.
So that was a good clue, I guess, to the general public out there - that this Liberal government didn't know what they were talking about and didn't even know things like negotiations.
And all they could say on the claims other than Ta'an Kwach'an - and I'll get to Kwanlin Dun in a bit - is that we're making good progress on other outstanding claims. That's it. There was no indication to the public about what's left to do on it - just, " Have faith in me. We're making progress. We've made lots of progress with Ta'an Kwach'an." In the year and a half that this Liberal government has been in, they've now put a date for ratification. And I'm hoping that they do, and I'm hoping that First Nations are out there negotiating claims, because I know what the First Nation claims can do for the communities. And it's not just for the First Nation community, as the members opposite know. It's for everybody. There are some good things that were negotiated in the claims that benefit the entire Yukon. A lot of things were brought to government's attention.
This is what the Premier said about Kwanlin Dun: "We are negotiating a comprehensive land claim with Kwanlin Dun First Nation. Those negotiations have identified the construction of a culture centre as a priority." What has that got to do with negotiating a land claim agreement? At any time you can go to a community or a First Nation and talk about their communities. This was a result of negotiating; it's almost like a bribe, if you really look at it. We will be forwarding $200,000 to that this year for planning. That's embarrassing to anyone, especially to First Nations coming out.
There's already feedback on that too, and another million dollars later on to finish off this cultural centre - well, where's the meat of the negotiations with Kwanlin Dun? Is nothing else in there, or is this the very first topic that this Liberal government has been working on? I was quite embarrassed when I read that. I would never - I was shocked to have that as an update as a negotiator - "$200,000 will give you a cultural centre. Get on with negotiations, because we're going to need that." You can really see how this Liberal government is focused to thought around Whitehorse, because they have a good relationship with Kwanlin Dun. I'm glad they do have a good relationship with them, because it's needed. There is $1.6 million identified in this capital budget - for what? A safe access to Mount Sima. Before that, it wasn't safe.
I'm sure the Premier would have liked to go back and pull a lot of these paragraphs and direction that she put out in this budget off and not have it spelled out in that manner. At an annual premiers conference that she attended in Victoria, she also said that premiers agreed that we must respond to the concerns of our citizens. That's only normal. We do that anyway. We didn't need to go out to a premiers conference to get that direction.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini could have told that to the rest of the government caucus.
We must respond to the concerns of our citizens with our big budget - $99 million. Some of the things have lost their vision. I know that this government is putting all its eggs in the pipeline basket and hopefully the pipeline goes through so that we can have a bit of a boom here in the Yukon. When diversifying the economy, what does the government do? There is no focus in that area at all. Some successful areas like trade and investment - gone. Less emphasis is being put on the film industry, which I think really could have a lot of the Yukon out there on the world scale.
What happened to the community development fund? It wasn't a popular fund when the Liberals were in opposition. Then they got into government and soon found that the general public was certainly in favour of this community development fund. Everybody spoke to it; they wanted to see it because they have worked on their priorities. Well, this Liberal government couldn't just bring the community development fund forward. That would have been embarrassing, so they came up with a new way of presenting it. "Let's call it 'Project Yukon'." Project Yukon. Since they didn't really like it but it was really popular in the Yukon, "Let's put less money into it." This budget reflects where this government is going with the community development fund. It's being phased out. There is only $750,000 in it from a budget that was at $3 million. So, what that means is that it is fooling the communities a bit. Here is a program but you can't fund a whole lot of projects through it.
Believe me, the projects were from one scale to the other, and there were the smallest to some very large projects. Some of them were only a couple thousand dollars.
But it's a sad thing that we've seen it drop to that amount of money, and not much has been said of it at all. As a matter of fact, the Premier left it right out of her budget speech. That's where it has gone to now. The Member for Faro knows that this is a very popular fund. It actually brings people together. I've never seen it work like that before, but when communities support a project, it usually means, in some of the smaller communities, that First Nations and municipalities are working together on some small projects.
I know that the pressure was on this government to maintain some funding in fire smart because, again, the public spoke about wanting safe communities. I think that could be expanded because a lot of the work right now is just putting a line around the community. I can get into that a bit later, too.
The Premier was also pretty proud of herself for bringing up with the provincial governments and premiers - asking that the federal government throw more resources and funding to research FAS.
That work was done, and we have monies coming forward from the federal government on this. That's great. It should be done, but something like this is not what I'm going to do and work hard for a year on. If you want to address FAS in the communities, you're looking at some long, long-term mending in the communities. Some communities are really looking hard at building a better community, and some communities in the Yukon, some of the kids in the communities - for example, Faro - don't have a child in that community they say today who has FAS, which I think is excellent to see. It's quite obvious where and how some of the communities were affected by alcohol, and it's no secret that the gold rush was part of that and the building of the Alaska Highway was also.
I did not hear the Premier say that there's going to be a lot of emphasis on looking at the social impacts of a pipeline coming into the Yukon. Not much, but it should be looked at. Not much said to that at all. Not much said to the impacts of a railway through the Yukon. I know, with the Member for Faro being in the meeting with us in Alaska, the railway was a bigger issue to them than the pipeline was. It was more realistic.
There are monies coming from the federal government for funding the Yukon tele-health project - $650,000 - and I do see some of that money reflected in the capital budget here. I'm assuming there has to be some in the O&M budget. It hasn't come forward, and it does make it a bit difficult maybe for us in the House here to get used to the fact that we are splitting the budget now and we have to concentrate on what could be in O&M in regard to this.
A good example would be the CT scanner and having O&M for running that particular piece of equipment.
One of the things the Premier had said is that the government must be sound fiscal managers in all aspects of government. That's what she said. But do you know that, in their first five months of being in government, they couldn't even hold to their travel budget, and that was just a small thing. They couldn't even do that. And if the general public wants to go back to that, is that good fiscal management, when you have a budget for travelling and you can't even hold to it? We had members travelling all over the place - backbenchers doing government jobs - and I don't believe that the ministers even knew what came back from some of those consultations. But this government says they're going to be good fiscal managers, and they put $10,000 aside but don't know what the fund is going to do - maybe save it for a rainy day.
They have a very good surplus. The government can't say that the money isn't there. We're using the government's own paperwork that has been given to us on this side of the House and to the general public. So any time the members opposite say that it's less than what it is, the general public has that information, and all they need to do is flip to the page and it says, "Beginning of the year - $99 million". But government is broke. The Hospital Corporation has to flip pancakes for over a year to pay for a CT scanner. They have to raise that money before they purchase the CT scanner.
That's something else. More money is spent on a pipeline analysis than on community training. What happened to that? Did we forget about Yukoners and getting them trained and job-ready? Where is the government thinking on that? Where are all of the monies identified in this budget for the environment? Is anything related to the environment in this budget at all? Can anyone answer that quickly, other than saying a campground? That's not really protecting the environment. Can anyone on the government side answer that question? No, but there is some money in resource research in YPAS - $200,000. But there is certainly a lot of money on the other side - monies for research in the mineral sector and oil and gas. So, I thought this Liberal Party, when first being elected, would come forward with a balanced budget. Where is the balance here? What happened to that? Did it just get thrown out the window? It appears that there is no set plan throughout this whole budget on where this government is going. There are some goodies thrown out here and there, but nothing to really give us a clear picture of where this Liberal government is going.
There is a lot of money - $750,000 - to look at the pipeline again. It's paying some wages, that's what it's doing.
What happened to the other work that was out there? It's good that there is money in the arts fund, but where are the other things like trade and export? Why isn't there money there? I remember the Premier saying that she wasn't in favour of these trade missions. What happened when they got elected? Boom. She was on the plane, gone to China.
The next place that the Premier will be going is probably Russia, and we will have lots of fun with that one. Lots of quotes on that one. She might be too embarrassed to go. I believe that is what is going to take place. Russia - we're going to trade with Russia now.
I will allow the Premier to get up and correct this if this is a mistake. It's in her budget speech and it's in regard to the income tax. It says that the rate will go from 50 percent to 46 percent, but I don't see it reflected the way it is. This is a 2002 budget, but in here it says 44 percent. It's not written out properly or it's a mistake. It is on page 4 of her budget speech - 50 percent to 46 percent. The reason why I say it might be a mistake is that this is 2002-03, and we are at 44 percent here.
There's another reason why I said it was a mistake. Just give me a second and I will have another page here identified for you to look at.
Now, what did the members opposite say to this? That we have cut the territorial personal income tax from 50 percent to 46 percent of the federal rate. It almost sounded like this was a new initiative. Then I look back at the New Democrats who put forward this initiative and, by January 1, 2002, it would be down to 44 percent of the federal rate. There has to be a mistake in here, in how it is written up. If the graph is right, which I think it is because it does have 44 percent at the year 2000, then this Liberal Party is right on schedule with the NDP budget of two years ago - back to the future.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government said that they are going to be innovative and that they are going to be cautious in how they put budgets together and how they spend taxpayers' dollars. And I am wondering where the innovation is in this budget. Where is it and what is new? The permanent fund - that's being innovative? What else do we have in here that is different from two years ago, and how is that helping the economy, a thing we should be concentrating on now? The Yukon has a lot to face over the next little while and one of the things we should be doing is looking at our economy.
The Premier said there were many people working in the communities this summer. Well, there were, and there were also a lot of people from outside the Yukon working in communities. Some of the smaller communities had problems even trying to find swimming pool managers, simply because this Liberal government, when they came to power, immediately showed the general public that they had no vision. They were lacking new ideas and people started to leave. Who left the Yukon? That's the important thing. It was the people between the ages of 25 and 40, our workforce, our skilled labour. They're gone. Some have made attempts to come back, but we still haven't seen that take place in any big numbers yet, and others are leaving for jobs elsewhere because, when you head down south, it's quite easy to get one - a job, that is.
Mr. Speaker, the big push - and this might be the innovation that the government had in mind - was the renewal initiative to take departments, mix them up here and name them something else. That should give better service to Yukoners.
The part that really bothers Yukoners - and even the department - is that there is no plan in place. Can anyone on the government side - do they even know if there's a plan in place for renewal, other than, "This is what it's going to look like"? There doesn't seem to be any rhyme nor reason why government suddenly decided that this is the route they wanted to go. It's supposed to give better service to Yukoners, but I think that, if you really want to look at it, everybody has to be talked to, including First Nations, senior governments, those that have worked really hard on negotiating claims for the last 25 years and now have self-government agreements.
There's a reason why government was proceeding with renewal, but it didn't make sense. They said it was for devolution because devolution was taking place, and it was to improve the services to Yukoners. Well, Mr. Speaker, devolution is not taking place as of April 1, 2002. It's later, and we're looking at 2003, which this budget doesn't even affect, because it ends the day before devolution takes place.
They've also decided that - this must have been a group decision, I believe, on the government side - the Premier did have too much work to do, that the load was too heavy, and they have to give some to the Member for Whitehorse Centre. So he has taken on this challenge. He didn't make it to the first meeting, but he'll get there. He missed the first meeting.
I'm hoping that the government side would allow us to ask questions of those who are taking up these important tasks. It's only right. They're the ones that know the ins and outs, the goings-on. And it would be a pleasure to ask the Member for Whitehorse Centre some questions on this, if he's allowed to answer them, in the House. That would be fun, actually. But I don't think he'll be answering the question, because the Minister of Education likes to answer questions for other people - the Premier. He bails them out of the tough times and tough questions.
I was really hoping - and if there's still time - that the Member for Whitehorse Centre, in his task of overseeing renewal, does ask First Nations about this, because I believe it is important. Senior governments deal with one another all the time. There are ways to improve services. Why not talk to the people who might give some really good suggestions?
This is kind of an interesting remark by the Premier in her response. She said, "We are also committed to making the Yukon government an attractive and desirable place to work for our professional public servants." Well, what happened there? Is this a new thought of government? Because when they took office, their promises to, for example, the teachers didn't pan out. It was to the point where the teachers went on strike and were protesting outside of this Legislature where all could hear during the throne speech. What happened to that? It wasn't just that. We have an Education Act review by which this government wants to take away those teachers' ability to strike. So you can see how hard the impact was when the teachers went on strike, when they were let down by a promise of this government. That's what it is.
They are also saying that renewal will depend on many of these objectives that this government has committed to and that the successful implementation of this project will go a long way to restoring confidence in government
I believe the government has a long way to go to restore that confidence. Where is it right now? People are angry. The government has a big pot of money and refuses to spend it. This is money for next year. They are going to have to wait all year, until next summer, to have government refuse to fund their project - one whole year. And it's going to have to go one whole year again if their project ever gets funded.
I'm not sure if this Liberal government thought this through clearly. I think there is ample time for government - the Member for Whitehorse Centre's job is overseeing renewal - to go through the year and have this implemented in 2003 rather than in 2002 because there is no rush to have it done. They said it was for purposes of devolution and improving services, so why not take the time to do it, rather than having the department people scramble around, paying full attention to this renewal rather than their jobs? Prudence is the watchword that this Liberal government is going to stand by.
I'm not exactly sure where being on the side of caution would be - where this government is going on the side of caution - when it comes to spending money. Certainly, you don't go out there and have projects that communities cannot handle because of O&M costs. But I do think that this government could go and talk with communities and get some of the real story. For example, there are monies in here for the sewage plant in Carmacks.
In recent discussions with the municipality there, because of all the water testing that has been taking place in the community, and the need to basically redo all the water lines - and I just want to also give you information on this. This sewage plant serves 40 percent of the community - pretty low for an expensive piece of equipment - 40 percent of the community, just downtown Carmacks. I got a commitment, though, from the Community and Transportation Services minister that all the community would be served by this dollar amount that's going. It surprised me a little bit, because I think the cost is much higher when you look at having lines cross the river to have access to the sewage treatment plant. It is the only mechanical plant in the Yukon, and it was there for a pilot project, and was really not run properly right from the beginning, because no one knew how to run it.
What the community is looking at now, because of all the water tests that took place in the community, and because of the location of the landfill that's there in the community, and so on, is having water to the community.
So, if the community was going to be digging up the streets and installing new lines that go to this new sewage treatment facility, they could be installing water lines with that, and that takes help from this Yukon government. Normally, it is about 90 percent funded by Yukon government.
It doesn't make sense - if the community has to do it - to bury this sewage line, and then have to rip it up once they put new roads over top of it. That's a cost that the community is trying to save. It's too bad that this has only gone to a certain point. I think that just a little community meeting could have gone a long way in that community.
Just while I am on the community of Carmacks, I was also disappointed that the Tantalus School planning dollars were bumped back another year, and instead there was a political commitment on behalf of the Liberals to do that. I thought that if there was any respect shown to that whole process it was to the chairs of the school councils that developed that priority list, so why not stick to it? But it didn't happen.
Grey Mountain School was going to be built no matter what, and it is too bad because it's the communities again, and it wasn't for any reason, not that numbers are going down in Whitehorse here. There is one new student in the Grey Mountain School, and I guess that was the push for this Liberal government to fund this school. They had one more student. They didn't look at being efficient, being good fiscal managers as they say.
They are, Mr. Speaker? They didn't look at the efficiency of possibly having those students go to Selkirk Street Elementary School but they are continuing with the plan. What is going to happen with Takhini Elementary School? There was a commitment at a public meeting by the MLA for McIntyre-Takhini to not have that school close down. I know that wasn't a commitment of the rest of the government, but he made it on the floor because the pressure was on. There was a commitment there. There were also all kinds of questions about what happens to Whitehorse Elementary School. The government wanted to shut it down and turn it into a downtown community campus. That was their vision - their direction - but it only lasted a couple months and, boom, they changed their minds.
So when the public is asking where is this government going with even something as simple as that, they couldn't stick to their guns. Having the building of Grey Mountain School fits right in with this Liberal plan, but they're not telling the public yet. I don't think it's showing respect to the general public when you're hiding things like that.
I know that the government did like the long-term plan of the NDP. They followed it basically word for word. After voting against it and after beating up on it, it's basically the long-term plan, word for word, in the budget.
The only thing that has changed in there is the year. It was 2000-01. It is now 2002-03, because they couldn't muster up doing a good long-term plan in the first place. And then all the way through - there are only a couple pages of it. I have to say that I'm glad to see that there's work being done on the Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing, and it is with a heating system and addition. That school still uses trailers and has had all kinds of problems with the heating system from day one. Lots of money has gone into it. But if the government is looking at these two areas, I think you should look beyond just the heating system and the additional class or classes that are needed in the school. Now, they have a fairly small population in that community, but the number of students in school is very high for the population. I think it's close to 70 or 75 for a population of 350.
If you walk through the gym, for example - and I know the Liberals are really in favour of this, particularly with the replacement of the Vanier School gym floor - just have a look at the one in Pelly Crossing. They make no mention at all of doing some improvements to the existing school. Walk through the gym. It doesn't have the luxuries of the schools in Whitehorse or the gyms in Whitehorse. It doesn't have a stage, for example, or a proper storage area. Some communities just don't have that. Even in the community of Carmacks, that school does not have a stage and it doesn't even have standing room for anyone to see any events.
I'm disappointed in the fact that the Liberals are also moving back, in their long-term schedule, the Tantalus School in Carmacks. In 2003-04, there will be planning monies. In 2004-05, some building. There's $2.8 million - particularly when work has already gone into that.
The community was looking forward to this Liberal at least doing some work in that area. They have seen removal of a drinking establishment with the whole vision of having the school added on without disrupting classes, meaning that the old section of the school could be torn down a year after or that they wouldn't have to bring in mobile units to hold classes in while the school is being built.
So, I'm disappointed in government moving it that far back, and I'm sure that you will hear from that community very soon. Once again, if he had stopped and talked to the village, he could have heard this expressed to him and maybe have it reflected. But, since nothing was said to this government, because they used last year's consultation that took place, they bumped it back. It can't be anything big, because nobody's squeaking about it. Neither would this government let people really voice themselves where it's needed.
F.H. Collins is starting to have money supplied, as it was this year, over the next couple of years, for planning dollars. That is something that I think is long outstanding for replacement. It also has a very big dollar value added on to that.
When you look at the budget and some of the capital projects that are taking place - the highways, for example, some money is going to Renewable Resources for campgrounds - well, that's normal, isn't it? Except maybe we'll see a number of Big Toys being built in all our campgrounds throughout the Yukon. That was a big thing the Liberals had. It would be good to see them in some of the campgrounds, but not all of them. Not all of them get that type of use.
But there really isn't anything here about a balanced budget. The Premier said nothing about why the spending is the way it is, and how it fits into the year after, or the year before, or the present. There's nothing in there like that.
So it's hard for anyone to really judge this whole thing, other than saying that it was put together without people of the Yukon. The Premier can't say that there was consultation other than the meetings that took place, because there wasn't. There wasn't consultation by the Finance minister.
The Premier also talked about the impacts, directly and indirectly, of other provinces on the Yukon economy through things like transfer payments. Well, we've seen some good impacts on the Yukon from what took place, for example, when Alberta lowered their income tax rate. We saw a benefit to Yukon.
The Premier also said that they will be open and accountable, that their government and all the ministers will be open and accountable. Is it that they will be open and accountable when this budget gets passed?
Mr. Speaker, I believe the Member for Faro has some props in place that are not allowed. He is breaking the rules, improving the decorum in the House.
They said they would be open and accountable, but we're not sure when they are going to be open and accountable. Is it just with this budget that they will be open and accountable? Well, they weren't open to Yukoners' suggestions, first of all, in developing this budget. And when the Minister of Health went and made his own decision to privatize the CT scanner and develop a two-tiered medical system in the Yukon - that was his own doing - was that being open and accountable? Where was the consultation for that?
And I'm sure that the rest of the Liberal caucus came to a decision to really get rid of that very quickly and do the right thing, and that is to purchase the CT scanner. I can just imagine what the Liberal government is going to say once the CT scanner is purchased and once it is here - that they lived up to their commitment. But they didn't. What they're admitting in this budget is how Liberals can delay things - 2000-01 is in the 2001-02 budget, but not all of it. You have to flip pancakes first before you can pay for the rest of this.
I'm hoping that there is money for campgrounds in this budget - $270,000 to campgrounds, which is pretty normal. That money goes toward improvements, upgrades and so on. I'm hoping that the Minister of Renewable Resources would be able to do some small work in the community and the campground in Keno City. They have been asking for gravel, and it was committed to them, for that campground, which isn't used very much. But the community takes pride in having a clean and neat campground, and it's run and operated by - the upkeep is done by one of the people there. They wanted to see that, and I hope the Minister of Renewable Resources can talk with the people in Keno this winter, if he can get there, and talk about that a little bit, because it's something that they wanted to see.
On capital spending, the Liberals say they are increasing their capital spending over the next couple of years and that there are over $118 million in capital projects and some recoveries of $47 million with about $70 million net. Well, that's not really correct in that there are some monies here that are not being spent at all. Money is put into a fund but they don't know what they're going to do with it yet. So that bumps it down to $108 million, and I can see that it's even lower than what was budgeted for in the year 2000; that's two years later.
There's lots of work on highways, and that's a good thing. I would like to see that. I would like to see more brushing take place on highways north of Whitehorse here in the summertime. When the leaves fall off the trees, we can see a little clearer. That seems to be when the Community and Transportation Services takes some time to do work on clearing brush on the highways. I would like to see a stronger commitment from the Community and Transportation Services in communities like Keno, to have at least some snow ploughed downhill at an appropriate time so they can have tourists access the signposts earlier than late June, when more than half the traffic is already here.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon New Democratic Party, when in government, negotiated, with Alaska, funding for the Shakwak project. This is Community and Transportation Services money coming out of government, but it's also replenished by the Government of Alaska. There's flexibility as to how much you can use per year. It's not stuck at $20 million, or whatnot, in a year. If a project is to be bigger, it can go higher, but there's a certain pot that you don't go over. It means, in one year, there may be less work done. There's $23.5 million in the year 2002-03 to go toward this project.
I think we're definitely fortunate to have this type of money coming in, because it does put a lot of people to work. I'm hoping that, the next time we have big contracts going out, they go to Yukon companies, and not so much of what we've seen throughout the territory, going out to Alberta companies, and so on.
Mr. Speaker, this is monies between Alaska and the Yukon, and I don't believe that governments are restricted so much in that type of money coming in from Alaska, because it's different monies than what we have here. I think that some parameters put in place could see more Yukon companies working on these, and getting these bigger contracts.
Now, I don't want to see any political interference in this, or any other contract, by this government.
It's referred to by the Premier, on the highway projects, as real jobs. I wonder how the Liberal government refers to those jobs that were building homes, when there were houses being built in places like Chile - whether those were real jobs, or whether looking at companies here that can export their product, like fish, for example, or even beer, were real jobs. Is it just the highways that are real jobs? What about forestry? What happened to that whole thing on the Liberal side? Is there no support for that any more - one mill opening up and may shut down? I didn't see any support at all from this Liberal government going out and lobbying on behalf of the forest industry in having something permanent here.
The big thing right now, I believe, of the Liberal government is to wait because we will have control of this resource one day - 2003. Well, we will have control of it, but would we fully have the ability to do the right thing with the resource that we have. I think that we certainly can. We have demonstrated that with taking down oil and gas in the past, and we have seen and tried to move a lot in that field. But I don't believe that we should be putting all of our eggs in the pipeline basket. We've asked companies out there to invest in the Yukon and to do some exploration work, but I don't think that we should sell out what we have here either. And for a company to bid $2 million or $3 million in exploration work, that is not very much money at all.
It should be more like $200 million or $300 million. I believe Yukon has a lot to offer in that regard. It's just that people have to look for it.
Here's one that upset a lot of people, too - there is money going to the rate stabilization fund. Remember this one? Millions of dollars are put toward this so that the rates don't go up. It certainly wasn't a very popular move when the NDP did it and the Liberals were in opposition. But now, without notice, they're throwing $3 million in there, with the rest coming from the Yukon Development Corporation. We'll just take some of that money and throw it in here. There is no real reason behind it. I believe they were caught crying poverty again. That's what it looks like to me. There's not enough money in the kitty for an election war chest. That's what the Liberals used to call it. We may as well use that term, too.
It's unfortunate that the Liberals just went ahead and pulled this money out of the corporation to go toward rate stabilization. If they're truly committed to this, use the general revenues to go toward this and have the corporation have some flexibility in what they can do.
I say that without knowing the total balance that's left with the corporation. Maybe they can move a few things around, but maybe this Liberal government doesn't like other organizations doing some positive things for Yukoners and want control. Some people think that this Liberal government are control freaks. They take the money out of the corporation without consulting Yukoners. "We know best." That's a good one - and for Yukoners to take advantage of some of the lower power rates in the rest of Canada.
Well, this is $12 million that is going into the RSF - $12 million for three years. When the NDP put money in there it was $10 million for four years. So there is something wrong with the math here. Maybe the fact is that the rates are going on and more money is going to keep the rates down. Just give that clear message to Yukoners out there; that's all they want.
$600,000 is going to be set aside for BIP, the business incentive program, when they meet the objectives of hiring Yukon people. I think right now we have a challenge to make sure that our companies are able to get out there and bid on jobs that are elsewhere other than Yukon. Of course, the Northwest Territories is making it tough for us here in the Yukon. The Premier said that they are working on that - that's great. We can have some kind of a working relationship with the Northwest Territories because it seems to me that the Premier of the Northwest Territories just seems to have an upper hand when it comes to projects of interest to both parties. Take for example the pipeline, where we seemed to have a pretty good voice and a pretty good representation with the federal Liberals. What happened to this special relationship with the federal Liberals?
This one kind of surprised me. The Premier talked about the opening of the Cantung mine and the news that the United Keno Hill property could be back in production next year and demonstrated that this government is making progress, and she congratulated the Member for Whitehorse Centre on this.
With all of the hard work that took place, we got a mine going, particularly when this Liberal government was not in favour of any monies being put into roads when the NDP was there. They weren't in favour of that. They voted against it. Now, it just goes to show you that the NDP had some vision in having this particular mine open up. And now it's happening, and monies have been put into the road. Who did that work, anyway? Was it the Minister of Economic Development in his two months of work? Well, Mr. Speaker, we'll see some rearrangements of some of the government departments that may eliminate some of the backbenchers who have been given the responsibility of minister.
The Member for Riverside deserves credit for his contribution to these success stories. What's his contribution?
We have rotating Speakers here. What happened to the Speaker, anyway? Is he out? Scrap that from the record.
Also, credit for the Cantung site and the work being done there was given to the MLA for Faro.
I was surprised to hear that. Of course people in Faro are going to be looking for work if they don't have work. And if they have mining experience, they're not going to stay home when there's something like this taking place. It happens all the time.
I live in a community that was born because of mining - the community of Carmacks - and, although a First Nation did trading there, it was the Mount Nansen mine, when it opened up, that really got people to stay in that community. We've seen the coal mine there open and close down, and people moved to Faro, and a lot of experienced miners moved wherever they could to get a job, because a lot of these jobs are well and good paying jobs. So what's new about that? What's new about people who haven't got jobs, who are unemployed in the Yukon, going and finding work where there is employment? They have to leave the Yukon but, what the heck, not much is happening here.
The Yukon mining incentive program, $850,000. Is this a Liberal program, a Liberal Party program? Well, it isn't. And, as we go through all of these in here, one after another, where is the new stuff that's coming out that's showing Liberal direction? Where is it?
And the Premier was also so bold as to say, and have written in this speech, that they are the only political party in the Yukon that supports the Alaska Highway pipeline project.
That's absolutely amazing. When the NDP tells the Premier that we support the Alaska Highway pipeline project, what does the Premier hear? If she can't hear that from this side of the House, what is she hearing from the general public? "No, you shouldn't build a school"? "The people in Carmacks want a school." "No, you don't want a school." Is that what the Liberal government hears? It's absolutely amazing. That's a reflection of how bad things are and how bad the information is that has gone down to this Liberal government.
Now there's $750,000 to pay wages in this project. I don't know where the other $750,000 went, or what we got out of that. What did we get? Recognition? No. Throughout this whole budget are many of the things the New Democrats have done, and it has been cut back quite a bit by this Liberal government. Fire smart has been given money again. Many communities were wanting safe communities, and we even saw, while we sat in this House, a community destroyed by fire, and how we should be planning a little bit better. Certainly the Liberals could not cut that one out, but another very popular project was the community development fund project.
Now, if the Liberals weren't going to go out to the communities to listen to people, the fund that was put in place, that took care of priorities of organizations, municipalities and First Nations, and so on, should have been enhanced, rather than cut back. There is $750,000 going into that, and we're seeing a cutback from its original $3 million.
It's obviously a phasing-out process that this Liberal government is doing. So we may as well be clear with your message when you go back home that this Liberal government is phasing out the community development fund or project Yukon, that it wasn't good any more. Change the name and it has had the same impact. I don't know what else they can do to it - maybe change the name again, put tighter parameters on it so that projects can't get funded. They had to mention that they are completing the Mayo school, and it is supposedly going to be completed before Christmas. I talked to the DM on that when I met him in the hallway once and he said that it was on schedule, but I am hoping to see then a Christmas concert in the new school gym.
I talked about the Pelly school already, and I am hoping that this Liberal government would look into that a bit more closely - look at the classrooms that are in that school. I'd ask any one of you to go through that school and walk through it. It's in bad shape and it needs money. I know the Member for McIntyre-Takhini was in that school. Look at the gym; the floor is all cracked up. There is nothing in here that says that the school gym floor would be replaced or that a stage would be built in the school. And I know I have his support, and I am hoping that the members opposite do make that commitment and go in the school and look at it carefully because it does need more work than just adding a classroom or the heating system that is there.
There's lots of money going into highways. There's some work on the Campbell Highway. No real vision as to what's being done there, for whatever reason. For example, there could be work continuing on from the junction in Carmacks out, improving the road with chipseal and so on. It might be targeted, like taking down a hill or a corner for safety improvements, and I certainly support that, particularly between Faro and Ross River. If you travel that road, you'll see how dangerous it can be. As a matter of fact, the community of Ross River was quite concerned that some of the maintenance on the road between Ross River and Faro just doesn't happen as often as they would like to see, and when their ambulance went off the road and had an elder in there, that of course came to the forefront in making sure that somehow we get better highways between the communities. Should this government look at those improvements, that certainly would be supported by us on this side of the House.
There is work that's going to be done for upgrades on bridges, over $1 million worth, and I remember once that the Member for Riverdale South brought a prop into this Legislature once and was very concerned. It was a bag of paint, chipped paint falling off.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: It was passed between Riverdale and Porter Creek South. It was so important to them at the time that they had to bring a prop in, a bag of chipped paint from bridges. The concern was that it was contaminating the water, killing the fish and everything else in it. Nothing lived.
He had to paint the bridges. He didn't say what the impacts that sandblasting the bridges would be or of paint falling into the water or anything like that. But he had to paint the bridges. I did see a bridge get painted - the rails - this summer between Whitehorse and Teslin. Someone went along with a brush and in a couple hours had that painted up in no time - Trem Clad blue. I am hoping that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, when discussing this million dollars - that we will see some bridges painted because that was a commitment by the Liberal government at the time.
The Liberals said that they were fixing our electronic highway, too - not just our roads, but our electronic highway. Completion of a high-speed Internet connection to most communities - notice how they use that word "most" communities. What happened to Faro and Ross River? What happened to Keno? This is their third-year mandate. This is the third-year budget, and there is still no reflection of that in their budget - none. They only have one more after that to present. You have to have something to say to the people in Keno who still have to phone long distance to Mayo to use their Internet. There is no commitment at all from this government on that. I remember how, when the Liberals were in opposition, this was not a good project at all. Maybe they still feel that way but feel trapped that they have to do this, using the immigrant investor fund to look at this.
Certainly, there are telephones that, all of a sudden, are not part of the project, but the service improvement plans will hopefully take care of that.
But this is not a project of the Liberals. It certainly isn't. It's one that was started by the NDP because it had some vision in it. We looked at how Yukon and Yukon communities could be better places to live, and a better place where other people might want to move to.
I also look forward to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and the review of the water and sewer infrastructure in Yukon communities. I did not know that this was taking place or that there was such a review. I am hoping that all communities are looked at and that maybe some members on the other side will hold the minister to her words on that. I'm thinking about the unincorporated communities that might be within an incorporated community, like the Village of Carmacks and the First Nation. Funds go to the Village of Carmacks and, although the population was used to categorize them at one point - that was before the Municipal Act changed - for them to be a village, nothing goes toward services - not even paying for street lights, for example. The First Nations are the ones responsible for that - road clearing and so on. None of that money goes toward the First Nation at all.
So, when I asked the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the sewage plant and the system they may put in place, there was a commitment there that it would serve the whole community. I got clarification as to what the community is, and that the First Nation was part of that community. Good - I'd like to see that happen.
I don't want to see this be a shortfall again, especially with how it was put in place the first time.
And there was also a very brief mention of Yukon Housing programs and support in this budget, that $6.7 million was going to go to Yukoners for mortgage loans. That's a regular, normal thing. It's good to have monies going into the Housing Corporation for this type of thing. It's monies that come back to government anyway, and we do make money on that. I'm wondering on this whole thing, as it was laid out to us, where the green mortgage was in this. Is it gone? Scrapped? Are the Liberals no longer interested in such a thing as that?
Another nice thing about the budget is that there is still some monies going toward rec centres. I remember when asking questions about this, there was a very brief response to budget remarks that the government did because they had no faith, I guess, in the budget at that time and did not want to talk about it too much. The Member for Porter Creek North said that it was not about rec centres, and we shouldn't be concentrating on building rec centres and so on. That was the remark made, and what happened? You flip-flip around, and you saw that there was a need and interest and it is a healthy thing for communities to have these types of things in place? You said we can't be building rec centres and just rec centres in communities, but I believe that any government is going to have to look at the priority list of communities and fund their priority list.
I've already talked about the Correctional Centre, where monies are going this year. It's funny to see that, but this Liberal government doesn't have anywhere else to turn when it comes to this project. But, Mr. Speaker, they certainly didn't support it when the NDP put money toward it. That's the funny thing about Liberals wanting to do things differently, or the same, as the NDP.
So, when you look at the budget that was tabled and at NDP budgets in the past, and then you think about the cartoon in the paper, it's pretty accurate.
The Premier said that the capital plan for the next fiscal year, and well into the future, speaks to all seven priorities, particularly rebuilding the Yukon economy and developing infrastructures, and that the budget is important to fulfilling an important part of their commitment to Yukoners.
What did the Liberal Party do? Did it commit the same things as the NDP did to Yukoners? Because there's no change - very little change. Well, if you start talking to people, that's the only thing to do. It is to look at these well-thought-out initiatives that were brought forward in the long-term budget. I'm glad to see that this Liberal Party has gone to look at the importance of having at least a three-year plan in place and follow the steps of those who knew what they were doing when developing budgets.
Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed in many of the things that are not in the budget when it comes to communities. I urge the Premier, the Finance minister, to make those trips to communities, to put together meetings with different organizations, not just the contracting community and those that pick up the telephone to call in and say hello. I think you need more than that, and this budget certainly shows no balance when it comes to the environment or the economy, which was one of the things the Liberals said they were going to do. They'd have a balanced budget.
It was thrown together very quickly and I think people are disappointed in that, Mr. Speaker. I'm hoping that, for the communities' sake, the Premier does go out to communities and have a heart-to-heart talk with people out there, tell them what the true surplus is and not go off about what they said it was before, because that's embarrassing. When the Minister of Health got up and said, "There is only $15 million in surplus in the budget -" no, the Premier said $51 million. I'm not talking about his comments today. I'm talking about previously. There's $15 million. That's all that's in there, is what the Minister of Health said. That was his math, and it turned out to be $80 million. So, that goes to show you how far this government has come when reading budgets and reading projections. It absolutely amazed people. That's when they cried poverty, if you can remember, Mr. Speaker, because there were people out there demonstrating on a promise that this government made and broke.
It's all about broken promises - this Liberal Party - and, Mr. Speaker, we will see it over and over again, and I am sure we are going to see it again, right to the election. People will know it and they are seeing it now. We will have a lot of time to debate the different departments in the budget, but I know the members opposite are eager to talk to this. And I just went through the budget speech. Now I would like to go through the budget. I'm kidding, Mr. Speaker. That is it for me.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to support this budget. This budget was prepared over many days and I can't tell you how many meetings with a number of different groups throughout the Yukon Territory. Between April and September alone, there were over 200 meetings with people within the Yukon Territory. These meetings took place with First Nations. These meetings took place with municipal governments. These meetings took place with associations, boards and committees, as well as individuals. And all of our caucus travelled throughout the Yukon to speak to Yukoners about what they wanted to see, not only in the budget, but where they wanted to go with us as a government in the Yukon Territory. Those comments have been reflected in this budget, community priorities such as these: $750,000 as part of the multiyear commitment for the construction of a sewage disposal plant in the Village of Carmacks; the community priority of $1 million toward the multiplex in Whitehorse; the community priority of $2.1 million for the Dawson reserve fund, which includes monies for the recreation centre and sewage treatment projects; a community priority, like the $350,000 to finish the recreation centre, again, in Carmacks; and a community priority for $180,000 for repairs of the recreation centre in Ross River.
Those messages were heard by the members of this caucus who travelled throughout the Yukon Territory. Within the budget, there are a number of initiatives that are specific to tourism. We are building a vibrant and healthy arts community, and we're doing that partially with the Yukon arts fund. This is a new item in the five-year capital plan. This is an arts fund, a half a million dollars, which is distributed to Yukon artists. In addition to that, we also have the craft strategy. The craft strategy is a long-term project, one that two previous governments started and could not complete. This government is working quite well on it. This October, there will be two training sessions for people - both retailers and people who are developing their crafts - to work toward getting that final part of the equation, where the Yukon artists create the crafts and the Yukon retailers sell the product, which, for some reason, has been difficult to attain in the past.
In addition to that, of course, is the heritage resources trust fund. This is our commitment to the heritage community - half a million dollars - which tops up the heritage resources trust fund started in the early 1990s, which allows the heritage resources board to access the interest off $1 million and send that money out into the community to support heritage projects. Now, half that money will be put back into the capital so that there will be more interest in the future to distribute to Yukon people who are looking for ways to work on Yukon heritage.
In addition to that, in the capital budget is a core support, financial support for the Yukon tourism marketing partnership. This is an industry partnership with input from First Nations as well as from municipalities. This partnership is industry driven and industry led. What it brings to the government is the perspective of the people who do this every day, as opposed to bureaucrats who sit in their offices and often make decisions that are less than realistic for the person who works on these to support our number one industry in the Yukon Territory.
Seventy percent of small business in the territory is tourism-related.
In addition to that, ice patch research is in the capital budget. This is discovering, collecting and protecting First Nation artifacts and partnering with Renewable Resources and co-managing with Yukon First Nations. This is important. We have wonderful finds found just at the edge of the glaciers as they slowly recede.
We have certainly been working hard on the film industry. It was started - I certainly have to give the previous government credit for coming up with the film incentive program. It's a program where film producers go out, spend the money and then get the money back. It's very similar to the business incentive policy. But we have worked hard in this area. We have the film commission with offices and three staff that hadn't been allocated by the previous government, and with this we have been able to maintain and enhance the level of film productions in the Yukon. We have already surpassed Saskatchewan in productions this year, and the Yukon is a very small jurisdiction. It's an amazing accomplishment.
The president of the Northern Film and Video Industry Association said today in the media that there are apparently four different films already in production just on Beringia. I know that there are far more films that are going to be in production this winter. But those four films alone will bring in at least $1 million to the economy this winter. That's an important investment in Yukon industry.
Also within this budget is funding for the museum strategy. This was a campaign commitment made by our government, in particular by the now Premier. This election promise, which we are fulfilling, which is a good thing, said to the museum community that there are problems now with the way that we manage and finance museums because we are out of date. The information that we are working with is 15 to 16 years old, out of the old Lord study. Many of the recommendations from the Lord study were not even implemented. What we want to do is take a look at the new landscape. Part of that landscape, of course, is the invention of the Internet sometime in that 16-year period. Although it seems like it has always been around, it hasn't been. Now we have all the virtual museums that allow the geographically challenged Yukon to send our message out to the rest of the world about what we have to offer.
Also within this budget is our five-year capital plan. Within the five-year capital plan are three things that were not a priority of the previous government. The first one, of course, is Grey Mountain School. School councils had created a priority list of schools that were to be built. Grey Mountain School was the next on the list. We're following through on that commitment - not only our election commitments, but also the commitment made by school councils that Grey Mountain School was the next school that had to be rebuilt.
Grey Mountain School is a wonderful school. It is an example of the very good education that we have in the Yukon Territory, partially because we have very small classrooms. The classroom size in the Yukon Territory is quite a bit smaller than it is in many other jurisdictions. I know that when I grew up in the Yukon Territory, classes of 45 were not unusual at F.H. Collins, and they're certainly smaller than that now.
Examples of some of these great programs, of course, are the MADD program at the Wood Street Annex; experiential science; Grey Mountain School, which consistently has children doing the best in Canada in some areas on the Canadian Test of Basic Skills; Elijah Smith School, which has a school within a school in the primary levels, has children coming out of grade one being able to read, and that is an accomplishment. In addition to that, of course, are the programs out of Watson Lake - the SADD program, which is not as diverse as it has been in the past, but still exists in Watson Lake. It's a wonderful program, with lots of innovation. We do know how to educate kids in the Yukon, and we do it well. We do it well because we have small numbers in the classrooms, and we have very innovative thinkers within the education system.
Also in the five-year capital plan, of course, was the jail. For eight years, the previous Member for Riverside said, "Build the jail. We have to build the jail. The jail is in really bad shape. We have to rebuild the jail." And two previous governments talked big about it, but nobody rebuilt the jail. It's not politically sexy.
But this government is rebuilding the Correctional Centre. We're doing it. The rest talked about it; we're doing it.
What else is new in the five-year capital plan? The arts fund, and I spoke about that earlier. The arts fund is an opportunity for artists to work not only on economy-driven projects but also to work on the art that they are so good at and to educate youth as well.
In the capital budget is funding for the air access study, which we are still undertaking with our government partners, of course, particularly the Yukon tourism marketing partnership. This is an area that changes literally, Mr. Speaker, by the hour as airlines move in and out of what they're able to do on the world stage.
In the mining industry, we are looking at Cantung opening in December. This is how we're rebuilding our economy, our infrastructure. We're improving highways, we're improving schools and we're improving recreational facilities.
And yes, Mr. Speaker, we are supporting the pipeline. We're supporting the pipeline. The member opposite said that, apparently, they have been very clear about their support for the Alaska Highway pipeline. However, it was only as recently as October 10 in the Whitehorse Star that the critic for the NDP said, "The Premier is now waking up to the fact that a pipeline isn't realistic." The member opposite, the critic for the NDP, the Economic Development critic and, thank goodness, just the critic, said that he believes the government should focus on other resource industries like mining and forest, but the pipeline apparently was not important.
Mr. Speaker, it's quite clear that we may be the only party in the Legislature that supports the Alaska Highway pipeline, and I have to quote from the Whitehorse Star again, from the other party, "She [meaning the Premier] is back-pedalling now because the pipeline ain't going to happen." And that's from the October 10 Whitehorse Star.
Mr. Speaker, it's quite clear that we are the only party in the Legislature that supports the Alaska Highway pipeline. We are also aware that that is not the only way to work with building our economy and rebuilding our economy.
Let's go through some of the good things that we are doing. We're achieving devolution. Once again, it is one of those items that lots of governments talked about in the past, but never happened. Settling outstanding land claims - very important. We need certainty over our land, not only through the protected areas strategy and wildlife, but we need that by settling land claims within the Yukon Territory. This is part of our culture; this is part of whom we are, and it's a long, long negotiation. It has been going on for a long time, and I would imagine that there is some movement, and hopefully, it will be moving forward in the future as well.
Now, in this capital budget, we also have a multi-year commitment to the construction of a $1.2 million Kwanlin Dun cultural centre. We didn't just talk about that commitment, Mr. Speaker; we did it.
We're maintaining quality health care. Our commitment to seniors - $530,000 for the completion of the new continuing care facility. This is our commitment to seniors; $100,000 in renovations and equipment at McDonald Lodge in Dawson City - that, once again, is our commitment to seniors, something that the side opposite says we're not doing.
We are also developing infrastructure - $650,000 to upgrade Vanier Catholic Secondary School; $3.1 million in improvements on the Watson Lake high school, the Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing and Golden Horn Elementary. These are huge projects. This is how we're rebuilding the economy. We're doing it the best we can.
At the same time, we have to be careful. We have put $15 million for census contingency reserve. The reality here, Mr. Speaker, is that, as of March 31, 2002, there will be a $51-million surplus, and although that sounds like a great deal of money, our advisors tell us, as they told previous governments, that any government needs to have a one-month operating surplus. That's $35 million to $40 million. We have $51 million because we're also concerned, because the census is saying that those numbers are going to be down - way down - and we may not be receiving the rather substantial transfer payments that we've received in the past. And, being prudent fiscal managers, we are paying attention to that.
Mr. Speaker, I support this budget. There was a lot of work that went into it. The side opposite, which has been in government, knows that. They spent many painful hours, I am sure, going through the budget line by line when they were in government. I know that our entire caucus has done that and has very carefully put forward the views and viewpoints of Yukoners into the development of this capital budget. One of those viewpoints, of course, comes from contractors. We listened to all Yukoners, including contractors - something that previous governments haven't done - and the contractors said to us that they need certainty, they need to know what is going to be out there next year. They said, "That is why we want you to do a capital budget in the fall." And, Mr. Speaker, we heard what they said, and we did it because we say what we are going to do.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, while this is the third capital budget tabled by the Yukon Liberal government, it is in fact the first capital budget prepared by the Liberals, as their previous two budgets were merely follow-through on initiatives of the previous NDP government. It is very telling that, after a year and a half in office, the Liberal government has finally tabled a budget it can call its own. Congratulations. What it tells Yukoners is that when the Liberal government was elected on April 17, 2000, the Liberals were not prepared to govern. After Yukoners have had an opportunity to review this budget, they will conclude that this Liberal government is: (1) not prepared to govern, and (2) not capable of governing. It is not that they don't want to; it is because they lack the vision, the capability and the competence to do so.
To be fair, there are some very good initiatives in this budget that Yukoners will welcome.
The emphasis on building transportation and community infrastructure is a positive move, Mr. Speaker. However, the claim that the Liberals, in providing funding for roads is making up for years of neglect by previous governments, may be true in relation to the NDP government, but it is not correct in relation to the Yukon Party government. The Liberals still lag far behind the emphasis put on roads and infrastructure of that nature by the Yukon Party when it was in office.
The description in the Budget Address of what could be called the "Liberal budget odyssey of ministers travelling through the territory to determine what should be in the capital budget" is both factually challenging and amusing, Mr. Speaker. It is a fact that most ministers were absent from their Cabinet duties over the summer and that there were no community meetings to give the public the opportunity to comment on what should be in this capital budget.
I found the story about the $100,000 replacement of the culvert on the Silver Trail particularly amusing, Mr. Speaker. One can well imagine the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the minister of towns and trucks, bumbling along the Silver Trail - of course, at the proper speed limit - shrouded with all of the vegetation growing up and over from both sides of the highway, losing sight of the highway because of the absence of brush clearing, going off the highway, and crushing this culvert. Little wonder, Mr. Speaker, that it does need replacing.
Similarly, the odyssey of the Minister of Renewable Resources staying in campgrounds was more likely to have occurred in Australia than in the Yukon, because the minister was gone most of the summer, Mr. Speaker.
It is very interesting to see - and I'm sure it will be very telling - the travel budget of Cabinet ministers and political staff. That budget will tell the true tale of where Liberal ministers have been this summer, because they certainly were not here in the Yukon.
Now, let's look at some of the positive initiatives - the reinstatement of the rate stabilization fund. That's great. But, once again, the new program will not be as good as the rate relief program established under the Yukon Party government, Mr. Speaker. It will have the clawback provisions that were established under the NDP. It's interesting to note where the money is going to flow from to service rate relief. A lot of it will be coming from the Yukon Development Corporation, as well as a capital contribution from the Government of Yukon. Under the NDP, it was totally a capital contribution, Mr. Speaker. The telling tale is that rate relief is being increased from $10 million to $12 million, even though it wasn't totally subscribed to in the past number of years. That tells the tale that there is going to be a rate increase in the not-too-distant future by the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Limited.
Mr. Speaker, I'm also encouraged to see that the Minister of Health and Social Services has finally come to his senses and decided to purchase a CT scanner for the Whitehorse General Hospital. Here again, he's forcing the hospital to raise $150,000 to purchase this scanner. The Liberal government is sitting on a $99-million surplus. That can only be described as extremely vindictive by this minister and this government.
It is absolutely ludicrous to have one of the most modern, new hospitals in Canada - thanks once again to the effort of the previous Yukon Party government - not to have a publicly funded CT scanner, a basic diagnostic tool today in a modern hospital. Shame, Mr. Speaker. Shame that it has taken so long that the minister has procrastinated to the extent that he has, and finally the lights came on in his office. It must be due to the rate relief of the previous government.
If the Health minister persists in requiring the hospital to contribute $150,000 through a fundraiser, I would recommend that the minister himself agree to host a pancake breakfast and to flip 150,000 pancakes at a buck each. The minister should have no difficulty in meeting this challenge as he has proven his ability at flip-flopping in public over and over again, Mr. Speaker. Of course, this pancake breakfast would only be attended by Liberals who appear to be the only group in the Yukon that can afford to pay such amounts for pancakes, Mr. Speaker.
My sharpest criticisms, however, have to be directed at the Minister of Education and at the Premier in her capacity as the Minister of Finance. Both have clearly demonstrated that they are not capable of attending to and dealing with their respective jobs. The Minister of Education, through his action and relationship to the school budget, has proven himself to be the Minister of Education for Riverdale rather than the Minister of Education for the Yukon. The decisions that are made are self-serving and fiscally irresponsible. I would suggest that the minister do the right thing and resign his Education portfolio.
If we look at the Premier with respect to her Finance portfolio, the Premier is simply in over her head. She does not know what to do. Yukoners are about to face one of the toughest winters on record, economically. Many of them are going to be forced to leave because there is nothing in this budget to keep them here. Despite having a surplus of $99 million, the Premier devoted no money to create a winter works program. Virtually all of the $118 million will be utilized to help create employment next spring and next summer. How are unemployed Yukoners expected to make it through this winter? Move to the Northwest Territories or some other jurisdiction in Canada that is much more politically astute and knows how to address the economy.
This oversight by the Minister of Finance is both tragic and inexcusable. Yukoners are going to have to pay the price now, but there will be a final day of reckoning when this Liberal government comes to the polls at the next Yukon election. The fact that the Premier is so focused on the construction of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline to the exclusion of mining, forestry and other industries has been her greatest failing.
Once again, for the record, the Yukon Party and I support the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. I don't know how many times it has to be said. Either the Premier and her colleagues are not listening, or they won't listen, or they have started to listen to themselves and they have repeated it often enough that they are starting to believe their own rendition of rewriting the history books.
If you look at the concentration of efforts by the Premier and look at the resulting occurrences, we find that mining exploration and development in the territory is the lowest in Yukon's history. The forestry sector has been virtually shut down because of a lack of access to timber. While there was a mention in the budget of THAs, indications are it's not enough and it's going to lead to further complications that could probably end up seeing this matter before the courts in the not-too-distant future, Mr. Speaker because, once again, federal Liberals are reneging on their promises here in the Yukon.
What we have is the Premier and the Minister of Renewable Resources literally putting the Yukon's economy into park. You'd think it was an automatic transmission that's going into park. Well, that's where it's at. Then they have translated that to mean that we just create a whole series of parks, Mr. Speaker and, under this Liberal government, four parks have been established in the first year and a half that they have held office. During this sitting, the Minister of Renewable Resources is going to ram through a Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act that will enshrine the Yukon protected areas strategy in law. If you just spend a little bit of time on this new act, you'll find that it will allow parks to be established by regulation. None of the stakeholders have even seen this act yet. Its title is a misnomer, because it will not create economics of land certainty in the territory. What it will do is create more parks. More parks have yet to be created within the land claims process, and it now appears highly likely that several land claims will remain outstanding after this deadline for them expires.
This is bound, Mr. Speaker, to create even more uncertainty. The biggest challenge facing this Liberal government lies in restoring investor confidence here in the Yukon. In that regard, Mr. Speaker, this Liberal government has failed miserably to address that issue.
One has to just contrast what is transpiring in the Northwest Territories to what is transpiring here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. In the Northwest Territories, that area is probably going to be self-sufficient as far as revenues derived from their investments. And if you look at just the oil and gas sector, the Inuvialuit corporations, many other First Nations, are investors, not only in the equipment for the exploration but in the exploration process, in the transportation process - they've actually installed a natural gas distribution system in Inuvik. So they're participating in all sectors of the oil and gas industry in the Northwest Territories, and they're reaping the economic benefits from that investment, Mr. Speaker.
Now, contrast that to what is transpiring here in the Yukon, and all we're being asked to do is to provide a corridor for the transmission of a product through Yukon. The benefits are not going to be anywhere near what the Northwest Territories is currently receiving and enhancing upon, Mr. Speaker.
What we see, though, is the government that cannot restore investor confidence by constantly enclosing mining claims within park boundaries. The NDP government of British Columbia did that and effectively destroyed mining in that province for over a decade. What we have now, Mr. Speaker, is the Yukon Liberal government having done that four times in the Yukon. What message does that send to the mining community and to the investment community?
While the Premier has created uncertainty in the business and resource sectors, she has also created uncertainty in the public sector through this government renewal initiative. Public servants no longer know if their jobs are secure, as the Premier has hinted that some downsizing may occur. It is interesting to note that virtually all of the Yukon's senior civil servants are involved in this government renewal initiative. Government renewal has more resources devoted to it than any other major issue underway here in the Yukon. Land claims and devolution play a back seat.
Looks like the Liberal agenda is right on course - depopulate the Yukon and create one big series of parks from Yellowstone to Yukon. It's coming into focus more and more clearly all the time. What this says, Mr. Speaker, is that the Liberal government is addressing the issues it considers important.
I feel that I must also comment on the budget speech itself, in that it is probably the most political budget speech in the history of this Legislature. The Premier incorrectly chose to accuse the opposition parties of not supporting the Alaska Highway pipeline and, furthermore, government ministers were mentioned by name - shame, Mr. Speaker. So much for decorum in this Legislature and improving the way we operate. The Liberal government of today should take a page and read it themselves.
I must also note that this Budget Address suffered from the greatest budget leak in the Yukon's history. Prior to the budget being tabled, the Minister of Education announced that the school enrolment study had been shelved, that no schools were being closed and that he would be building a new $3.2-million Grey Mountain Primary School for his riding. Similarly, the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation announced a $12-million rate subsidization fund and, from the Minister for Health and Social Services, an announcement on that same day that the government would be purchasing a CT scanner for the Whitehorse General Hospital as long as they raised $150,000 themselves.
Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the Liberal political advisors hit the panic button and instructed these ministers to implement immediate damage control and to not wait for the Premier's Budget Address. One can only conclude that after listening to what was said and looking at the timing of these press releases.
It is my job, Mr. Speaker, to hold the government accountable and to critique the budget. It is also my duty to provide constructive alternatives to this government's actions.
Prior to the budget being presented, I indicated some of the initiatives I wanted to see in the 2002-03 capital budget. The Liberal government acted on two of them: $12 million for a new rate stabilization program, and the purchase of a CT scanner for the Whitehorse General Hospital. I thank the government for accepting these two initiatives. Unfortunately, the Liberal government ignored other suggestions I have made, but I will not lose heart and will continue to make recommendations on what the Liberal government should be doing.
The first thing that government should be doing is to come up with initiatives to keep Yukoners employed this winter while some of the capital projects come into place in the spring and summer. I recommend that this government put an additional $3 million on what they now call the Project Yukon, instead of the old community development fund program, instead of gutting it to a mere shadow of its original self. The purpose of this money would be to provide community and tourism infrastructure.
There are things like the Beringia Centre, which was slapped around by all of the opposition parties of the day but is now coming into focus as a major economic generator. There is a whole plan in place for the Beringia Centre as to where it should flow over the next little while. I would encourage the government of the day to dig up those plans and have a look at them, because they were carefully thought through with respect to the economic impact they could have on the Yukon. Indeed we are just seeing that impact, Mr. Speaker.
Now, the previous Yukon Party government did create the Beringia Centre and the Watson Lake Northern Lights Centre, to name but a few. These facilities have turned into major attractions and will certainly encourage our visitors to stay another day, if not another week. Why doesn't the Liberal government consider more initiatives such as these? Increase funding to our museums instead of reducing the funding to enable them to develop more programs. The resource sector is just about extinct here in the Yukon. The only viable part of our economy is our visitor industry. We might as well enhance that and develop it.
I also want to make the point that spending millions of dollars isn't going to turn the economy around. That money has to be spent creatively to create employment. Even more important are the anti-development policies and legislation being presented by this government, particularly the protected areas strategy and the development assessment process. The development assessment process, that should be renamed under this government as the "development abolition process," Mr. Speaker.
These pieces of legislation should not be allowed to proceed in their present form. A change in direction on these two initiatives will work wonders in helping to restore investor confidence in the Yukon.
If we look on the health side, Mr. Speaker, the minister's asleep at the switch back there - everyone's wrong, according to the Minister of Health and Social Services - but more money should be spent on developing a comprehensive plan to address FAS/FAE, rather than spending millions of dollars setting up a big bureaucracy. More money should have been devoted to recruiting doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. These are competitive marketplaces. These skills we have to attract with a wage and benefit package as well as a lifestyle, and we can only do that with the government's backing and a concerted effort rather than the minister of no saying no to virtually every initiative.
More money should have been devoted to building multi-level health care facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City. Funds should have been devoted to helping youth at risk, in particular the Blue Feather Youth Centre. Whitehorse needs a home for the homeless. It also needs a detox centre.
On the community side, the government should be examining a more fair distribution of funding than currently exists under municipal block funding. Watson Lake and Dawson City are running on empty, money wise. It is up to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to fix that problem. The money is there. It requires a fair distribution.
These are just some of the initiatives that I would propose. There will be many more as the current sitting progresses. I would encourage the Liberal government to give them serious consideration.
In conclusion, I support parts of this capital budget, parts of it I do not. And I would encourage this Liberal government to examine the areas that I have pointed out today as ways that they could go about putting this money to work for the betterment and enhancement of all Yukoners.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, the leader of the official opposition was quick to criticize the budget when it was tabled in the Legislature on Thursday, but when he went home over the weekend and thought about it, he soon realized what a good budget it was. Why do we know that? Because today he is trying to take credit for that same budget. The New Democrats promised tax cuts when they were in government, but did Yukoners see any of those tax cuts? - no. They are what are called the phantom tax cuts. They are here today in the newspaper headlines and are gone tomorrow. Phantom tax cuts are all Yukoners ever saw from those opposite members. It wasn't until this government took office that Yukoners began to see a real reduction in rates. Tax cuts by federal Liberals in Ottawa and the Minister of Finance in Whitehorse have put $10 million back into the hands of Yukoners, and it is showing up in consumer spending in this territory.
It's clear that those members opposite haven't got any vision of their own. They have promises and hopes, but no vision.
There is another lack of vision that the members in the official opposition have. The leader of the official opposition accuses us of not travelling to the communities and listening to Yukoners when this budget was prepared. He is wrong. There have been over 200 combined days of travelling to communities over the past summer by all members. In his budget response this afternoon, the leader of the official opposition realized his mistake and then began to criticize us for spending money on travel.
The leader of the official opposition is also wrong when he says that we're in the third year of the mandate. We're only at one and a half years. But here's the problem, Mr. Speaker - the members opposite can't add their math. What they see is that the members on this side have worked so hard, they have done three years of work in a year and a half. The members opposite are getting lost in the Liberal dust. That's the problem.
We're working hard for Yukoners. We're tackling tough issues - issues that previous governments haven't had the conviction or the courage to deal with. We worked hard all summer. The proof is in the capital budget that was tabled on Thursday and in the legislation that was tabled today - four bills on Thursday and twice that many today. When are the members ready to go to work? We're not sure they are. We have been working on the following. We have a huge list of things we have worked on. We have negotiated a devolution agreement. We're the only government in the history of this territory that has negotiated a successful, complete devolution transfer agreement. The others thought they had it. The Yukon Party spun their wheels in the sand. The NDP tried harder; they put everything in four-wheel drive and managed to get all four wheels stuck in the sand.
We initialled a land claim agreement with the Ta'an Kwach'an, and my colleague, the Member for Riverdale North, has instituted a long overdue review of the Education Act. My colleague from Riverdale South has instituted a review of the Liquor Act. We're tackling, courtesy of the Minister of Health and Social Services, the hard issues: drug and alcohol issues. We have cut the taxes. We're aggressively promoting the Alaska Highway pipeline, and we are the ones who moved to re-open the Canada Tungsten mine site for North American Tungsten.
We're fixing YPAS. You people weren't there; face reality. We have invested millions of additional dollars in health care. We're trying to find the solutions to the problems of dealing with children in care, despite what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is trying to do to frustrate it.
We took the hard steps and initiated the review of the electoral boundaries. Members of the official opposition went the other way when they were in government. We're rebuilding highways and other infrastructure, and we're developing our oil and gas industry. We're working to ensure that mining is an important part of our economic future.
Where's the Yukon Party? Members opposite - but especially the member from the Yukon Party - jumped to their feet on Thursday and said, "My feelings are hurt. I support the Alaska Highway pipeline." On the same day, he's out talking to media, saying, " The Alaska Highway route is not realistic. The route's not going to be chosen." This is the member whose feelings - his sensitive feelings - were abused Thursday afternoon, October 18. Then to stand in this House and say, "I support the pipeline" - not so.
Let's take a look at what the Member for Klondike says about the community development fund. He went to the media on October 16 and said, "I want the territory, this Liberal government, to create jobs by putting more money into community development." When the Member for Klondike was a member of this Legislature in the period 1996-2000 and was a part of the caucus discussions, this is what his esteemed leader said: "...this administration appears to be hanging their hat on the ill-fated community development fund, a be-all and end-all to help them with the unemployment problems in the Yukon." I want to go a little bit deeper into the community development fund because I think it's a wrong move by the government; it's a wrong move.
The Member for Klondike stands in this House and says, "That's what I want you to do", after his leader, three years earlier, castigated the whole fund. Where is the Yukon Party on this? Nobody knows. Then further, Mr. Ostashek, the leader at the time, went on to say, "They may have created some short-term jobs for a few months and allowed people to go back on unemployment insurance. They really didn't address the question that we have to address." He also said, "I think programs such as the community development fund are morally wrong....we create enough work for them to go on UI for six or eight months then we find a few more months' work for them, be it a seasonal job on the highways, and they go back on that for a few months and then back on UI."
Where is the Yukon Party on the community development fund? That's why Yukoners today can't believe what the Yukon Party and their lone stalwart in this Legislature stands for. Talk about flip-flop. That's the Yukon Party. "That's not spending tax dollars very wisely, especially from a government that's pleading poverty to the people of the Yukon every time one of the ministers gets up to speak" was what Mr. John Ostashek, the then leader of the Yukon Party, said.
Mr. Speaker, the very fact that this government has moved the capital budget to the fall session is a major step forward in the progression of financial improvements. Now Yukon's private sector will be able to plan their spring and summer construction season with much more ease and a much greater ability to manage human resources over the fall and winter period. It's going to greatly impact their ability to manage cash flow, equipment and people to do the jobs that will make this territory a better place in which to live.
This budget is about creating jobs, growth, opportunity and infrastructure. It's about caring for Yukoners, caring for their families, their fortunes and their future. We have increased net capital spending by almost $8.5 million over the original projections of the year, which has resulted in a net increase of 14 percent, obtaining the desired objectives I have referred to.
Mr. Speaker, members opposite have complained bitterly that there's nothing for rural Yukon. The work being done on the Champagne to Haines Junction road is in the amount of $7 million and that's certainly in rural Yukon, unless the Member for Kluane suddenly envisions himself as a Whitehorse member, and what a stunning surprise that would be for the residents of Whitehorse.
We have increased support for the rural roads upgrade program 100 percent from $400,000 to $800,000, and in case the members opposite have forgotten, those are the roads to the boat ramps, the sawmills, the agricultural areas, the gold mining areas, and those are most likely to be found in rural Yukon. What's the problem - nothing for rural Yukon?
An additional $900,000 worth of work is being done on the Campbell Highway, and a large portion of that work is being done on the portion between Ross River and Faro, providing much safer travel for Ross River residents when they go to Faro or when they go on to Whitehorse. This distinctly provides job opportunities for residents in both communities. This, Mr. Speaker, is all about rural Yukon. There is $800,000 being spent on the Tagish Road to straighten and improve it. That, Mr. Speaker, is rural Yukon.
My colleague, the Minister of Education, has budgeted $2.5 million for an addition and a heating system replacement for Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly. He has further budgeted $350,000 for a major upgrade at the Watson Lake school. That is rural Yukon, Mr. Speaker. And do you know what the tag team opposite me probably will do - the tag team representing those two ridings of Mayo-Tatchun and Watson Lake? They'll stand up and vote against the Minister of Education's fine work in this area. Mr. Speaker, let them prove me wrong. My feelings aren't that easily hurt if they vote for the budget. We'll see what they do; we'll watch.
The government continues its intentions to put a half a million dollars into the fire smart program. Mr. Speaker, I don't see a lot of brush being cut down in downtown Whitehorse in the riding of Whitehorse Centre. Most of this money goes directly into the fire abatement programs in rural Yukon, and it was specifically designed to reduce fire risk in Yukon communities - rural Yukon again.
Mr. Speaker, one only has to look at the monies being put into the mineral programs in this territory to realize this government's commitments to rural Yukon. The Yukon geology program, $1.6 million; regional mineral development, $500,000. The mining incentive program, which encourages companies to prospect and explore for minerals in Yukon, has again been increased to $850,000.
An additional $200,000 for oil and gas assessments has been provided. Mr. Speaker, there's not a lot of geological prospecting going on in Porter Creek and Riverdale. Those monies in the mineral industry are being spent in rural Yukon. And there is almost a quarter of a million dollars for restoration work at Fort Selkirk and Rampart House, and, in case members didn't recognize it, those locations were still in rural Yukon the last time I looked at the map.
Mr. Speaker, don't tell anybody that by currently working hard revitalizing North American Tungsten's mine site, this government doesn't care about rural Yukon. My colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, moved swiftly last spring to put a plan into place that would improve, reconstruct, repair soft spots and repair bridges and culverts on the Nahanni Range Road in order to allow crews to effectively access that mine site. That was because of us, not because of those members opposite. We said we would move to restore mining in this territory, and we're moving to do just that.
We put $3 million into the rate stabilization fund to assist all Yukoners with power bills. Mr. Speaker, rural Yukoners still use power, don't they? They will benefit immensely as well from this program. The list goes on and on. Opposition members seem to be reading from a different script when they say that rural Yukon has been forgotten by this government.
We're putting $140,000 into road improvements in the community of Pelly Crossing and $100,000 into a culvert replacement on the Silver Trail.
Last but not least, out of consideration for rural Yukon and the health and safety of our citizens, we have budgeted $2.7 million for a sewage disposal plant in Carmacks. This is to take care of a long-standing problem in that community that previous governments and ministers failed to address.
Mr. Speaker, I commend this excellent budget to this Assembly. I commend the Premier for carefully developing this document at a very difficult time in world events. I urge the members opposite to give speedy passage to this important piece of legislation so that Yukon's private sector and, indeed, all of its citizens, can take advantage of the work that has been done on this side. As I said earlier, it is about caring for Yukoners, caring for their families, caring for their fortunes, caring for their futures. Do the opposition members want to be part of Yukoners' future or do they want to be against it? Their vote will tell us in what direction they want to go.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, in my response to the budget, I would like to first say that, with the initiatives that have been put forward by this Liberal government to my riding of Vuntut Gwitchin, I do support those initiatives. With the mere $264,000 that we will receive to have some improvements on our airport, which was started last summer, and a great need that we have to take care of the riverbank erosion, and the other initiatives that are to follow that, some have been started already.
I have been here for about a year and a half representing my people in this Legislature. Within that year and a half, I have brought many concerns and many issues forward from my community. Some of them are services that we are greatly in need of in Old Crow. Voicing those concerns in here, in this House, at first being naive, I was hopeful. As time went on, I brought forward more concerns and repeated the ones I had already brought forward. I was asked to wait, and then to wait again until this budget was brought forward.
I looked at it with great interest. I was a little excited. I thought maybe this time some of those issues and concerns might be addressed. But I was very disappointed when I looked and saw what my community was getting. I compare that amount of money, and I look at where a lot of the other monies are being spent.
In my year and a half in this House, I have heard many good words, many encouraging words. First, I heard, "We're going to make a difference." Then, next sitting, I heard about their commitment to the Yukon people through consulting, through listening. Again, I thought I had a little bit of hope.
But today, Mr. Speaker, that has gone. I have a look at this. I know what I hear from my community when I'm home, from people who are very concerned about where our community is going. As leaders of Old Crow, as people who live in the most isolated community in the Yukon, who pay the highest price for any given service, any kind of food, anything that we need, we are getting $264,000.
I have heard from my community members this summer, "When are we going to start working?" We had few seasonal jobs. There are actually people leaving the community of Old Crow to work wherever they can. They have to leave their families and travel down to Alberta, to B.C., and leave their young families at home. It is coming up to winter. We have wood heating systems in our community, and family helping family to survive. Thank God our people still live off the land, because the price you have to pay for one little thing of hamburger is ridiculous.
Our people are wondering when are we going to start working.
The consultation process that usually happens with any budget that's put forward is that a responsible government usually comes to our community. I've been to many of those consultation meetings before, and last year I went to one. I have asked. I haven't been in my community in the last two weeks. I called to find out if there had been any consultation done within the last two weeks in my community by anyone, and the answer was no. And the very reason that I'm bringing that up right now is that, again, I had some hope. I recall, last year, being a witness to an intergovernmental agreement signed by the chief on behalf of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation government. The Premier and I witnessed that document. Again, I did have some hope at that time.
And again, I did have some hope at that time - a hope that we might meet some of the goals that we had for our community to move forward. Like I said before, we always have a vision of where we want to go. It's not for today. We have a plan for our community for five years down the road and 10 years down the road, and we need partners to help us to get there. And the government of yesterday, that I heard referred to before, were our partners, and we're still looking for our partners of today.
We need to fulfill some of that vision that we have so that we can empower our people, so that the people can have some hope and so that we can live in a good way. I remember making this same statement last year just before Christmas - we were worried about the economic activities within the Yukon, and I was concerned, again, about my community of Old Crow, where very little activity is happening. Again today, I am bringing that same message here to whomever might listen to me. We have an Economic Development department. We have a new minister. The message is out there. We have all these people - who is going to listen?
I haven't seen that minister in my community. We are very interested in economic development in Old Crow. The people of Old Crow would like to move forward and see some growth and have an economy that is thriving. But no, once again Christmas is coming and our only other option might be social assistance. With the cut and reduction in the monies allotted for projects where our people can apply for monies so they can try to have some jobs available for the winter - there is next to nothing. And again, our people are leaving our community, relocating when they would rather be home with their families and working and taking care of their families right within the communities.
There were some long-term plans in the last budget for a new airport terminal in Old Crow, and again, I was excited about that.
I was told, "Wait and see what happens with the capital budget." There is some money set aside for a long-term plan, and that's only what it is - a plan. There is no commitment. There is no commitment for a terminal building. All of these plans are fine and dandy, but that's also just a smokescreen. They say, "Yeah, we thought of you, but sorry."
Within that intergovernmental agreement that was signed, we had specifically wanted to address some social issues within the community, and our social department in Old Crow is in some very serious need of some resources. Again, I was hoping that some of these might be addressed. I would like to go back to my community and bring some good news to them, and say, "Yeah, we actually have been listened to."
A lot of hoping didn't get me anywhere, but that's not going to stop me from bringing forward more of our issues, more of our concerns. There are lots of dollars being placed in our mining industry. I have a hard time understanding that because I don't know which mines are active right now.
There are lots of dollars going to mining initiatives, and I compare that to any dollars that are coming out of this budget for any environmental initiatives. Because when I talk about my community, my people still live off the land, our land animals, our rivers and our resources. Everything we do in our lives is connected to the land, and our elders always tell us to take care of our environment first, because if we don't have that, we will have nothing.
And that doesn't hold true for only Old Crow. It holds true for the territory as a whole, for the many communities throughout the Yukon. We've asked for support from the territorial and federal governments to help us in our plight with the Porcupine caribou herd, and we've received verbal and written support from this government, which we appreciate.
Since September 11, with all that has happened, it has been more out in the open and in the public that that issue needs to be resolved very soon. The decision makers and politicians are playing a ping-pong game with the decision to drill in the very area that we're asking them not to, and the ping-pong game has got to stop. We're asking, if at all possible, to be more supported so that the message can be out there loud and clear that, yes, we want that place to be protected forever.
Because it affects and impacts a nation of people, and we don't want to repeat history ever again. The oil and gas that they are talking about drilling for in that area is only six months' worth, and if it ever happens, it is going to happen, they estimate, within 10 years. Within 10 years, lots can happen and lots can also be lost. We live in a monetary world. They tell us we might be rich; it's like striking gold. One of the senators involved has also told me that I should open my mind up a little bit more, have a little vision for my people, and that they might be a little richer. My response to him was that we are already a rich people. We will always be rich as long as we have our traditional territory and as long as we can go up for a walk on the mountain and breathe that clean air and continue to drink that clean water from the river that flows by our village.
I am a rich person today, and I would like to see that continue, not only for my grandchildren, but for everybody's grandchildren in this House, because it is our responsibility to take care of that. And while I am talking about living off the land, that brings me to another thought of living a healthy lifestyle. Again, I can't stress enough the need to address the social programs in our communities, whether it be providing alcohol and drug services or additional services for social services, so that we can continue to live a healthy lifestyle. In order for us to do that, again, we require a partnership, and that partnership has to be with the government of today and the governments of tomorrow, so that we can move forward to meet our goals and to continue to have those visions for our people.
There is one thing that I am excited about in this capital budget, and that's that we're moving forward with a new design for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. That initiative was started by my colleagues, and we will hopefully see it to completion.
I have an area of concern in the area of justice, and that's with the community justice programs. I understand that a person has been hired to gather information about these programs that are being delivered within the communities. This program has been up and running in my community for awhile. Like any other program, they do run into some stumbling blocks, and they are learning as they go along. That's something I need to gather more information on for myself.
And then we come to the Education department, and some of the questions I have had to date around some of the budgeting for that area are very questionable.
I support the improvements that are being made to some of the schools throughout our territory. I feel sad that some of the plans for the new schools haven't been followed through with, and the biggest question for me to date is the process around the Education Act review. There are many partners within that whole process - very key partners who are playing very key roles. I have said in this House before that education is one of the highest priorities for our people throughout this territory, not only for a personal goal and achievement, but so that we can follow through with some of our self-government initiatives because we always want our own people to work in our own government.
When I see the things that are happening, such as what is happening throughout this Education Act process, I become very, very concerned. Halfway through completion, I have this legislation that has been introduced today.
Partners that are feeling that they are not being very well listened to are asking for a little bit more time and are not being heard, and the decisions that are going to be made in that process affect our children of tomorrow. It is going to have a great impact. It is going to have a great effect.
I was thinking about that the other day and thinking about my own role here. One day I would like to have grandchildren and when I am blessed at that time, I would like to play a part in their education as I have with my son. I would like and I would be so grateful and proud if one day my grandchild said, "My grandmother played a part in making a difference in improving our education system. She voiced her concerns; she voiced her issues; she spoke on behalf of us and, hey, the minister of the day actually listened." That is what I believe it is all about, and that is what our people believe. We make decisions here today that will affect the future of all people.
I hear people making comments, saying, "Rural community, Whitehorse - there is very little difference for me there." Because over the years I have lived in Whitehorse, and even when I lived in Old Crow, I still had to come to Whitehorse to spend my money here, whether it be to buy groceries or a piece of furniture or whatever I needed at the time.
Our Yukon Territory is different from the rest of Canada in that way, because I believe the people in the Yukon are still able to help each other out, to lend a helping hand and, over time, they have showed that kindness to people in my community when they were in a time of need. When an individual or a group of people were facing a crisis in Old Crow, people across this territory didn't hesitate for one minute to help out.
I hope we can continue to do that, and that's the difference. And I hope we can make that difference when it comes to the education of our kids and the decisions that have to be made.
We actually have some roads in Old Crow too, and some of them do need to be upgraded.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mrs. Peter: Had a consultation process come to my community, I'm sure you would have heard that. Maybe that's something you can keep your ears open to in the next little while.
With that, that concludes my comments in response to the budget speech.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In my reply to the capital budget, Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to be able to talk with rural Yukoners about their priorities during my travels in the last few months. All of us on this side of the House have been out talking to Yukoners, and I'm completely astonished that the members opposite, in their replies to the budget speech, are showing themselves to be so out of touch with their constituents. If you really want to know community priorities, all you have to do is go and listen. We did that.
The leader of the official opposition was concerned that we'll say only, "We're making good progress on outstanding land claims."
Now, the negotiation of land claims agreements is a highly confidential process, as the members opposite should know. We can't talk about it in public. What we can say is very limited, and the Kwanlin Dun cultural centre is one of those things we can talk about. The opposition has been begging us to violate confidentiality on the land claims. They don't like not knowing what's going on. We will not violate that confidentiality, Mr. Speaker. We cannot.
I resent the opposition calling budget items "goodies". That may be what they used the budget for; it's not what we use the budget for. We're doing things in this budget that need to be done, Mr. Speaker. Highways is just one example. As the Premier stated in her Budget Address, the years of neglect are over for our highways. Highways are our economic lifeline for commerce. We recognize that highways bring in all our visitors.
In this budget, there's a 22.6-percent increase in capital spending on highways. We're changing the sorry state of affairs that existed a year and a half ago when we became government, and the highways capital budget, outside of the Shakwak project, was less than $4 million. We fixed that, Mr. Speaker.
I was aghast that the leader of the official opposition doesn't even know that the Shakwak project is an agreement with the United States of America, with the federal highways administration, not with the State of Alaska. That's a basic fact that he should be aware of. He suggested that we should fix the bid so that only Yukoners and Yukon companies could get work on the Shakwak project - for shame, Mr. Speaker.
Whether you look at spending another $7 million on the Champagne section of the Alaska Highway, spending $800,000 on the Tagish Road, $900,000 on the Campbell Highway or doubling the rural roads program to $800,000 - no matter how you slice it, Mr. Speaker, it's good news for Yukon road construction.
When you throw in another $2.6 million for pavement rehabilitation, and another million into bridges, we have the makings of a good start at resurrecting our highways from the culvert-crushing abyss they slid into under the previous government.
Mr. Speaker, we recognize that basic infrastructure spending is one of the cornerstones to maintaining our excellent quality of life. As the Premier indicated in her address, I will be tabling in the fall session of the Legislature, this session, a review of the sewer and water infrastructure and associated cost estimates for all Yukon communities. Before we can prioritize what needs to be done for our basic infrastructure, we need to know the state of that infrastructure. Spending priorities and future budgets will take this inventory into account when assessing the request of each community.
Mr. Speaker, the Village of Carmacks needs a new sewage disposal plant. It has needed this plant for some time, and this government has committed to building it.
The City of Whitehorse identified a need to realign the Mount Sima Road for safety reasons. This Liberal government identified this project as a priority, and $1,650,000 are identified in this budget for the Mount Sima realignment project and the roadwork, which will further cement our relationship with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the Premier was able, in her budget speech, to tell Yukoners that the conditions at the current Whitehorse Correctional Centre will soon be changing. The safety issues that have long plagued that facility and caused the fire marshall to order basic changes or he will close it have been a result of previous governments' lack of will and leadership to change things. The plight of our inmates, unfortunately, does not draw much attention from some governments because it is often more politically expedient to put the money into projects that the taxpayers see every day. However, a significant percentage of our Yukon population has some contact with the justice system. If many of our taxpayers were ever to have the opportunity to visit the current facility they would be sorely disappointed at this lack of human decency for both the inmates and the staff. I wish to congratulate those staff members who put so many dedicated hours into working in our prison, often ignored and frequently underappreciated.
This government was listening to their concerns and to the concerns of all Yukoners, and we're doing something about it, Mr. Speaker. The new Correctional Centre will be built - another campaign promise fulfilled.
Mr. Speaker, the home repair program used to be an all-or-nothing program that didn't allow much flexibility for homeowners to choose the kind of repairs they wish to do. I'm pleased to congratulate the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation for changing this program to be more flexible. This capital budget item that often went partially unspent has seen dramatically increased uptake, and many more Yukon homes are a little more snug for the coming winter and, coincidentally, more efficient.
The Premier and the Minister of Economic Development have so clearly reflected the Liberal side of this Legislature's ongoing commitment to the pipeline. I won't say any more about that.
Economic development in the territory has been a back-to-basics story under this government. The Minister of Economic Development is doing that through initiatives such as the Yukon mining incentives program, which increased by $100,000 to $850,000, $500,000 set aside for the regional mineral development program, and increases to both the Yukon geology program and mineral resource assessments.
The pipeline is not the only show in town, as the members opposite would like to have the public believe. Despite opposition party cynicism, we've been pursuing many avenues of economic development. Oil and gas sales continue to enjoy strong Liberal commitment. And, Mr. Speaker, we also balance those economic aspirations with good consultation processes and continuing with the YPAS process at the same time.
The opposition members clearly can't stand to see a government successfully have both a strong environmental position and a clear mandate for economic development. That's thanks to the ministers of Renewable Resources and Economic Development working so well together.
I'm also pleased to congratulate the Minister of Tourism on her initiatives. We said during the election that, if elected, Yukon heritage would play a greater role in our tourism strategies. The minister is delivering on that commitment with such items as $170,000 for ongoing work at Fort Selkirk, $50,000 for Rampart House, and $110,000 for interpretation and signage at a variety of heritage sites.
Setting aside another half million dollars to support the arts in this budget will also go a long way to keeping our cultural events part of our day-to-day lives.
The Health minister had a hard time of late. I know there are people out there who would accuse him of trying to erode our health care system and of trying to tear down this health institution. To them I would say that you need to ignore the naysayers and look instead to his actions. The previous government went to the voters with the idea that they would like to install a CT scanner, if only they were re-elected. Well, we all know they weren't re-elected. I am sorry to say that what they didn't tell Yukoners was that they hadn't done their homework. In fact, their only research consisted of a rough estimate of what a CT scanner might cost, without any consideration for what the actual operating costs were and where the technology was going. No one should blame a minister for trying to save a program that was a result of previous bad management by exploring any avenue that might result in cost savings to the taxpayer. I know the Minister of Health to be a person genuinely caring about the health of Yukoners. He is dedicated to the principles of the Canada Health Act and I, therefore, congratulate the minister on his difficult decision.
My final comments are regarding our Minister of Finance and our Premier. Too often in this country there have been politicians who have succumbed to the make-work projects at any cost because of political pressures. Politicians who only see to the end of a mandate rather than the greater economic and political picture are always dreaming up ways to squander the wealth of their people on programs which are inefficient and do nothing to address the long-term systemic problems. The Premier, the Minister of Finance, has been prudent with this budget by saving for a possible shrinkage in our transfer payment. She has successfully negotiated a devolution agreement that will go a long way to addressing the problems we have faced in our economy. This agreement will be the cornerstone of the Yukon with land certainty in our parks system and homemade solutions for logging, mining and disposition of land and I encourage her in her ongoing efforts. We can't do everything at once, but we are doing a lot in this document. This is a good budget and I am proud of it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. I see two members are up here. I've been advised that the speaking order had been agreed upon, and the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin went in one ahead of where she was supposed to. I have been told now that there has been an agreement that two members from the government side would speak. If that agreement hasn't been reached, I'll be forced to recommend to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: I'll follow the speaking order that's on the list, and the opposition is next. So I'll recognize the Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, following the Member for Lake Laberge certainly won't be a tough act, because I think what the public has been told and what the truth is are two completely different things, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. It's unparliamentary to refer to truths or untruths in here, and I would ask the member to not do that.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. McRobb: I apologize, Mr. Speaker, but I thought in that context it was within the bounds of this Legislature.
Anyway, there are several areas I wish to highlight, and I wish to give my budget reply in a few different categories. I have some opening remarks. I have some comments that are riding-specific. I would also like to address the departments that I'm critic of. That would be the Department of Community and Transportation Services, and the departments of Tourism and Renewable Resources. Then I wish to make some general comments and some closing comments.
I know we have limited time, Mr. Speaker, to make it through all of those things, and my time will be ended shortly for today because I know we have to report progress fairly soon.
But anyway, Mr. Speaker, what I have done is to review the Premier's budget speech very closely. I have also reviewed the budget speech from February of this year. That would be the mains budget for 2001-02. I have also reviewed the Liberal campaign platform. I have reviewed various Liberal promises. I have reviewed previous sayings in this Legislature and commitments from the government, along with a number of other items, Mr. Speaker. And all together, this information has contributed to what I would like to say in reply to the budget speech.
Mr. Speaker, there are many things to say in response to this budget, but one of the main themes in the budget is that the Liberals are failing to do what they said they would do. And as I pointed out in my February budget reply speech, the Premier neglected to repeat that promise in her budget speech this time. Nowhere in the budget speech does the familiar quotation appear, "We will do what we said we would do."
Mr. Speaker, there is one reason why the Liberals have conveniently forgotten that promise, and that's because they are not doing what they said they would do. As I go through the various sections of what I want to say, I'll point out examples, here and there, to support my belief.
Now, it has been said by our leader, Mr. Speaker, that much of what is in this budget is simply a continuation of the NDP's long-term plan. My research included a review of the NDP's long-term plan. I compared that with the Liberals' long-term plan, and it's essentially a carbon copy. Many of the capital projects contained in the Liberals' budget and their so-called long-term plan - I'll get to that later - were already identified in the NDP's budget - that was the election budget a year and a half ago.
I'll review them, probably tomorrow when I continue.
On the matter of long-term budgeting, Mr. Speaker, I recall the Premier, when in opposition, demanding that the NDP premier table a five-year budget. This was a major issue. Well, we are one and a half years into this Liberal government's mandate and they have yet to produce what they called on others to do. Given the fact we won't see another capital budget for another year, which is two and a half years into the Liberals' mandate, is simply too little, too late.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the Premier, when in opposition, said that tabling a long-term budget plan at the end of the mandate was a cop-out, was not responsible government. She said a Liberal government would table a long-term plan at the beginning of the mandate.
Now, in reviewing my reply speech to the budget in February of this year, I saw that I had pointed out this shortcoming to the Liberal government and I'm sad to say, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have failed yet one more time to provide a five-year capital plan.
So, as I have already touched on, that is a lost opportunity and it will be never again an opportunity for this Liberal government to do what it said it would do.
Mr. Speaker, by the time the next one rolls around, it will be way past the halfway mark of the mandate of this government. At that point we might only be a year away from a general election so if the Liberal government ever does get around to producing a five-year capital plan like it demanded the NDP do, it would be doing the very thing it accused the previous government of doing, and that is providing a long-term capital plan at the end of a mandate.
Mr. Speaker, ask yourself, is that doing things better? Of course not. It's not doing things better. Given previous positions, Mr. Speaker, it's doing things worse. Let's make no mistake about it.
Given the time, Mr. Speaker, I move you adjourn debate.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Kluane that the debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on second reading of Bill No. 8 agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move 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 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled Oct. 22, 2001
Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board (Yukon) Audited Financial Statements as at December 31, 2000 (Roberts)
Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues 2000/2001 Annual Report (Edelman)