Wednesday, April 10, 2002 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Joe Henry
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I rise today to pay tribute to a lifelong Yukoner and one of Dawsonís oldest and most respect elders, and a friend of mine, who passed away last month at the fine age of 103.
Joe Henry, or Joseph Henry Shädä, was born in 1898, along the Ogilvie River, at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. Joe lived a long and fulfilling life, spanning three centuries.
Unlike most, Joe Henry had the opportunity to witness a lot of remarkable events, as well as a number of changes throughout his lifetime. During the early years of his life, Joe spent much of his time learning the traditional ways of his people, which he later taught and openly shared with his family and friends.
Joe worked on construction boats, acted as a guide in the bush, delivered mail to Alaska by dog team, worked with the RCMP and helped rebuild the Jack London cabin in California. He was a longshoreman on the Dawson waterfront. During all this while, he continued to hunt and trap in-between jobs. Joeís attendance at Expo 67 in Montreal was an event he spoke of during one of my last visits and, also at that time, he spoke of going back out on the trapline.
Among Joeís many accomplishments over the years, the most significant achievement that comes to mind is that of his 81-year marriage to Annie Gervais, a remarkable feat that was recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records as being the longest marriage held by any couple in the world.
Joe and Annie were married on July 15, 1921 at Moosehide by Reverend Julius Kendi. As spoken by one of their sons a few years back, Joe and Annie had some pretty tough times, as Joe spent years trapping the Blackstone area and Annie had nine of their 12 children in the bush.
Despite the difficult times, they managed to strike gold over their 81 years, and their commitment to one another remained true, right through to the end. Over the years, I have come to know and respect Joe as a kind and laughing and giving man who loved to laugh and share with all. In fact, his laughter was so great it was contagious. Within my home are a fish wheel that Joe constructed, a model of one, a pair of moccasins that Annie handcrafted, and a pair of Joeís famous snowshoes. Irreplaceable, these treasures will continue to remind me of the kind-hearted man Joe was and the number of lives he touched over the last 100 years. Joe was a happy fellow and lived life as such. He was liked and respected by everyone who knew him, and his loss will be felt not only in the Klondike but throughout the Yukon and the entire north.
While Joe will be greatly missed, he leaves behind the legacy of some 100 direct descendants. On behalf of my constituents, I wish to extend our deepest sympathy to Joeís wife Annie, their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, their great-great-grandchildren and their great extended family.
Thank you. Mahsiícho, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: On behalf of the official opposition, I too rise today to pay tribute and to give thanks for the life of Joseph Henry, a most respected elder who passed away last month, at the age of 103.
[Member spoke in native language. Translation unavailable.]
Grandpa Joe Henry, as we all got to know him, shared three centuries of wisdom, knowledge and the traditional way of life with his family and with his relatives across the territory. Grandpa Joe lived a long and fulfilling life. He has seen many changes. Most of his life was spent out on the land with his family. He travelled the traditional territory of the Gwitchin and Han Gwichíin people, and this was done mostly by dog team and by foot.
Joe and Annie Henry were united in marriage on July 15, 1921, at Moosehide by a Gwitchin minister, the Reverend Julius Kendi. Together, they raised 12 children and have many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Our history today is very unique because of the legacy of our ancestors such as Joe Henry, and I wish to extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Joe Henry.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I would like to pay tribute to Joe Henry on behalf of the government side. I had the unique opportunity of meeting this individual in 1998 during the 100th anniversary of Yukon celebrations that summer in Dawson.
Truly a unique individual, he was born at the height of Yukonís gold rush in 1898 and, although certainly very young at the time, when many of us could only read about the gold rush, he was one of only two or three in Yukon who could truly say, "I know; I remember, because I was there then."
He was married to his wife, Annie, in 1921 ó two full years before the Queen Mother was eventually married to King George VI, and we thought that was a long marriage. Together, their marriage of 80-plus years made the Guinness Book of World Records. His life spanned across three different centuries of time, and he also holds the record of being the oldest member ever of the Dawson First Nation. There were six boys and girls born to Joe and Annie, and life was not always easy raising a family of that size around Dawson and Moosehide during the war and after the war years, but Joe worked hard at it all the time. He ran the mail to Eagle, Alaska. He worked as a scout for the RCMP, and he worked for the cat-trains that plowed further and further north, marking out the route for the highway that was to eventually become the Dempster.
One of his most memorable experiences he told me was working on the expedition with the author, Dick North, in search of the lost cabin of Jack London in the 1960s.
So long, Shädä, as he was affectionately known. You are gone but not forgotten ó not forgotten by a generation of Yukoners who can only dream of living a life as long as you have and a life that was as eventful as yours was.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introductions of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I would like to ask everyone to share in welcoming the chair of the Hamlet of Mount Lorne council, Mark Stevens.
Speaker: If there are no further introductions of visitors, are there any returns of documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Kent: I have for tabling an economic analysis prepared in support of the Yukon placer authorization review done by BDO Dunwoody.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 72: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 72, entitled Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 72, entitled Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 72 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 58: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 58, entitled Act to Amend the Economic Development Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 58, entitled Act to Amend the Economic Development Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 58 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 60: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 60, entitled Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 60, entitled Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 60 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 71: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 71, entitled Corporate Governance Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 71, entitled Corporate Governance Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 71 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 59: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 59, entitled Government Accountability Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 59, entitled Government Accountability Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 59 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, may I draw the galleryís attention to the presence of Mr. Judd Deulingís class from Vanier high school in Riverdale.
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 65: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 65, Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 65, entitled Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 65 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 62: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 62, entitled Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community Services that Bill No. 62, entitled Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 62 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the tragic events of September 11, 2001, will have a serious impact on the upcoming visitor season both in Yukon and Alaska; and
(2) tourism visitation in Yukon will be further eroded should Parks Canada employees go on strike and close down many of the territoryís major tourist attractions;
THAT this House recognizes that a recent survey by the Alaska Travel Industry Association indicates that bookings for airlines and hotels in Alaska are down by 25 percent when compared to a year ago, and that a similar downturn will be expected by Yukon tourism businesses; and
THAT this House urges Parks Canada to reach a fair and just settlement with its employees so as to not further deter tourism visitations to the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that this House recognizes that many teachers are retiring and the Yukon is already travelling to the provinces to lure teachers to the north; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to set up, within this school year, a bachelor of education after-degree (BEAD) program commencing in the fall of 2002 in order to start producing Yukon teachers right here in the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. Jim: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should create a position of childrenís advocate, which would
(1) provide advocacy to children who are receiving services, pursuant to the Childrenís Act and provide due consideration of their rights, interests and viewpoints before final decisions are made; and
(2) identify issues, information and advice with respect to the nature, adequacy, availability, effectiveness and appropriateness of services offered to children in the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon government should ensure that additional funds are provided to expand the children in residence and care programs, as was recommended by the Anglin report, in order to meet the many basic needs of children in care.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any ministerial statements?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Economic development agreement
Mr. Fentie: Iíd like to direct a question to the Premier today. The fact that this government no longer has a Department of Economic Development speaks volumes about this governmentís attitude toward our dismal economy. Now, I would like to ask the Premier, given the fact that the economy has in fact stopped at her desk, a very serious question about what we need to do.
Yesterday we urged the government side to immediately enter into an arrangement with the federal government with the collective voice of this Legislature behind that request. So far, that request has fallen on deaf ears. For the sake of getting our economy out of the ditch and back on the road to recovery, will this Premier now commit to take an initiative from this Legislature, speaking on behalf of the Yukon public, to the federal government and establish immediately an economic development agreement for this territory? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With all due respect to the member opposite ó both. The fact is that this government has lobbied the federal government, as previous governments have, to come through with a northern economic development strategy. That has not occurred. With the progress we have made in achieving devolution, we can approach the Government of Canada with an early request to access the western diversification fund, which is a position supported by my colleagues in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, who have been lobbying for the same thing. So, rather than duplicate administration and set up a whole other group of people to look after an additional fund ó that we be allowed to access the western diversification fund early. So, if the member opposite would like to propose a motion to that effect, Iím sure we could debate it and pass it, probably unanimously, in this House and approach the federal government with that position.
Mr. Fentie: This side of the House is always willing to work in a collective manner to achieve results for this territory. What weíre not willing to do is play politics with the economy of this territory. The federal Minister of Finance stated clearly in this territory that we must have an economic development agreement here. Thatís what weíre asking this government to do. Surely the Premier is aware of whatís going on in the Northwest Territories today at the insistence of Mr. Nault, the federal Minister of Northern Affairs.
Obviously, the Premier in the Northwest Territories has a special relationship with Ottawa, unlike this minority Liberal government here in the Yukon.
Will the Premier at least put some real effort toward a very important initiative that the federal governmentís willing to work with us on, and that is the fire smart program? Will this Premier now immediately go to the federal government, through an economic development agreement, and try and enhance our fire smart program in this territory, so that we can stimulate our economy and, at the same time, diminish fire risk for every Yukon community in this territory?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We have done that. We have approached the Government of Canada on, not only a northern economic development strategy, which they have not done. We have, in turn, approached them about accessing the western diversification fund. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources indicated to the member opposite yesterday he had already approached Steven Owen, the minister responsible for that, and we are working with that. We welcome and appreciate the member oppositeís support for us doing that and, again, I appreciate his indicating he would be bringing forward a motion to that effect.
Whether that western diversification fund then translates into fire smart is something that, certainly, weíd have to investigate, and Iíve indicated weíre more than willing to do that.
Mr. Fentie: Well, itís obvious the Premier doesnít get it. All the minister responsible for the Department of Mines, Energy and Resources could tell us the other day was re-announcing an old announcement with regard to the strategic highway infrastructure program. What weíre saying here in this Assembly is we, collectively, on this side of the House, are willing to back this government to go immediately to the federal government, not for discussions but to receive immediately an injection of monies to the fire smart program to stimulate our economy. This injection of money would put small operators to work, would put unemployed Yukoners to work, and would diminish the fire risk of Yukon communities here in this territory that each and every ó
Speaker: Order please. Question please.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I ask again the Premier: will she take this constructive suggestion to heart, as itís intended, and go the federal government and request that assistance? The federal government has already signalled theyíre willing to look at investing in the fire smart program. Will she do that now? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have indicated already twice on my feet today that we certainly appreciate the member oppositeís support, and we have and we will continue to lobby the federal government for access to economic development money, whether itís through the western diversification fund ó weíve indicated that. Iíve welcomed the member oppositeís support. Iím not certain what else he wants me to convey to this House, other than I indicated to him once already, Mr. Speaker that, should he bring forward a motion, yes, unanimous support ó it only helps our argument, and we welcome that assistance. Thank you.
Question re: Land claims, status of
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier about the recent progress at the land claims table. There has been a lot of talk over the last week about the four new final agreements, and Iíd like to take the opportunity to congratulate and thank all those who have been involved in the negotiations on all sides, particularly the negotiators. I know itís a tough job out there.
One thing that we would like to know ó and I asked the Premier to clear the air on this ó is: what is the actual status of these agreements? Are they negotiatorsí agreements, or are they just MOUs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I thank the member opposite for the question, and I would especially like to thank him for recognizing the negotiators from all three parties ó the First Nations, the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon ó that worked long and hard to complete these agreements.
Now, what has been initialled off ó the member is asking me precisely. Kwanlin Dun First Nation, Kluane First Nation, the White River First Nation, and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation have signed a negotiatorsí memorandum of understanding, indicating that agreements have been reached with Yukon and Canada on all issues. Thatís what has been concluded.
Mr. Fairclough: It still doesnít bring any clarity to this because, normally, thereís a negotiatorsí agreement. This means that the negotiators take it back to their respective parties for ratification. Now, we have a memorandum of understanding attached to this, and I would like to know: are any more negotiations taking place? Is it dead now with the four? Is it over with the four? Are there no more negotiations taking place? I would think thatís what it would be, if it is an agreement of the negotiators.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is an agreement of negotiators. The memorandum of understanding is attached to it. It indicates that all negotiations are complete. And the member opposite is quite correct ó there is a lengthy workplan thatís agreed to by all three parties, that does legal and technical drafting, but not negotiation. That legal and technical drafting is then followed by a ratification process. That workplan is agreed to by three parties. So, yes, the negotiations are complete.
Mr. Fairclough: I do have many more questions regarding land claims. I think this is good progress for the First Nations. But I have to say that some First Nations that have been involved in the announcement have already stated that things arenít as solid as the government suggests they are. As a matter of fact, some are concerned that maybe not all of what they had on the table has been met.
I would like to ask the Premier this then: are there outstanding concerns with the first four, and are they to be resolved in a different manner, other than negotiations?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: On March 31, at midnight Alaska time, deemed to be midnight Yukon time, a ceremony was held at the Kwanlin Dun Potlatch House, and at that ceremony, four First Nations negotiators, Canada and the Yukon initialled memorandums of understanding and indicated negotiations were complete. I believe the member opposite is making reference to a news story and a radio interview that was conducted this morning. I have not yet seen the transcript; however, it is my understanding that, at that signing ceremony ó as was indicated by all representatives present ó while there is much hard work to be done, negotiations were complete.
Question re: Tourism, promotion of
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture.
There were reports this morning from the Alaska Travel Industry Association about a survey it conducted of 256 Alaska tourism businesses concerning the impact of the tragic events of 9/11 on the Alaska visitor industry.
Bookings for airlines and hotels in Alaska are down by some 25 percent, and when you look, Mr. Speaker, at a 100-day operating season and you have 75 percent of what you had last year, which wasnít a stellar year, we have some serious problems to face.
In view of the fact that many of the tourists to Alaska pass through our territory, tourism visitations to the Yukon can be expected to seriously decline currently as well as for the forthcoming season. They are going to mimic what is happening in Alaska.
Can the minister advise the House what contingency plan he has put in place to help counteract this serious decline?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I very much appreciate the question from the Member for Klondike because I know that his riding is very much impacted by the potential results of 9/11.
Since 9/11 the department has been working full tilt in cooperation with our neighbours to the east and west because we feel that the north, north of 60, being a further distance to travel, will be impacted greater by that. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, we have been very strategic in how we are applying our resource dollars and encouraging tourism to Yukon this summer. As a matter of fact ó and I would like to compliment other departments in contributing to a total of $303,000 in new money that has been provided to deliver a new Welcome Alaska campaign that will entice Alaskans to travel to Yukon for shopping, for services, for tourism, for camping, for our small business here in the territory.
The private sector, as a matter of fact, has been contacted and is fully supportive of this initiative and is contributing approximately $55,000, and Tourism Yukon is contributing $40,000, for a total of $398,000 directly on this programming initiative, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that sounds very impressive, Mr. Speaker but, when you look at the president of the Tourism Industry Associationís press release of yesterday, it criticized the 2002-03 budget that this Yukon government presented. It was stated itís a status quo budget. It wonít address the needs of the tourism industry, which has been impacted by September 11th, and it has called upon the minister to allocate more money toward cooperative programs between government and industry. How is the minister going to respond to this request by the president of TIA?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact, when we announced the Welcome Alaska campaign and identified $303,000, the president of TIA personally contacted me and also acknowledged to the Premier that they very much appreciated the effort that this government had put in place and will continue to do that.
Mr. Speaker, there are additional new initiatives that we are implementing ó a redirection of funds within the department ó to address this concern specifically. There is no doubt that 9/11 is going to have an effect on Yukon, and we are mitigating that as best we can. Items such as the reconnect campaign of $15,000; a cooperative direct mail campaign with Holland America and the Canadian Tourism Commission of $15,000; an incentive travel program of $20,000; an increased investment in the rubber-tire traffic market of $100,000; an increased investment in German-speaking Europe of $12,000; a new partnership with Air North and Era Aviation; every investment in the Golden Circle tour route, Mr. Speaker; re-igniting the northern neighbours program; working with the Alaska marine highways system.
Speaker: Order please. The minister has 10 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to thank the minister for enunciating the programs that have already been announced and are underway. What we are looking for is something to help the dismal state of our visitor industry here in the Yukon. Both the president of TIA and the president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce have criticized the budget for not doing enough to help create a positive economic climate in the Yukon for business. Is the minister prepared to sit down now, with these business leaders and other industry leaders, to discuss concrete proposals for economic renewal, something he should have done before he tabled the budget? Is the minister prepared to do that, or what is the minister up to? Is he going to purchase that class A motor home he was looking at this morning and go camping for a month this year?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, the truth of the matter is that we do travel in the territory and we do gather information on behalf of all constituents ó all Yukoners, Mr. Speaker. The previous Minister of Tourism did extensive travels throughout the territory to find out exactly what the communities were concerned about.
I have met several times with the president of TIA. I have met with TIA a couple of times already. As a matter of fact, the weekend after next I will be attending the TIA meeting up in Dawson. I will also be attending the Association of Yukon Communities meetings three weeks from now to address these concerns specifically. I will be going to the Yukon Convention Bureau AGM this weekend, as a matter of fact, to espouse and offer assistance to the Convention Bureau. We are going full tilt in addressing these concerns of the industry in the territory.
Question re: Training trust funds
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Minister of Education. The NDP established training trust funds in response to needs expressed by communities and community groups. These trust funds served a number of functions. They provided training so that people could be work ready; they provided professional development for social services and other community groups and they gave employers an adequately trained workforce.
Now, the last Minister of Education did not support the training trust fund. Does the new minister support training trust funds?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Yes, this government supports training trust funds.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, they have a strange way of showing it. They support it by cutting it out of the budget and giving Yukoners a hard time. Look at what Yukon College has to go through. This training trust fund was used as a leverage to lever more dollars from other governments and private sectors.
I would like to ask the minister ó training trust funds have been cut; what was the rationale for that?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: This government is finding itself in the position of having less and less money. When we were out in the communities, we were asked to provide job opportunities, so we have taken some of the money from the capital training funds and put it into capital projects.
There is currently more money in training trust funds sitting in the territory right now than was used all of last year. We are asking people to access those funds for training opportunities, and the department is assisting them to do that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, thereís something wrong here, Mr. Speaker. The minister has to know that the training trust funds that went to the College were a tremendous leverage to gain more dollars coming into the Yukon Territory, and the minister canít cry poverty. Itís a $99-million budget that weíre dealing with, and surplus, so they canít do that. They canít say thereís no money in the budget now.
Would the minister do the right thing and maybe do exactly what the Minister of Health did and force this government to increase its spending on training trust funds, because Iím sure it would be agreed to by the Premier and the Finance minister, just like it was with the Health minister.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: There are approximately $2 million in existing training funds around this territory. That is more than was used all of last year ó funds like the Association of Yukon Communities with $460,000; the Tourism Industry Association, with almost $300,000; mining exploration, $276,000; et cetera. There are lots of training funds around the territory at this time.
We were asked to provide job opportunities, and we did that with some of the capital budget funds.
Question re: Yukon protected areas strategy
Mr. McLarnon: Today I rise to ask a question of the Minister of Environment. If we take the Liberal red of the government across the way, and take the green of this Minister of Environment, what we end up with is a shade of brown that is the best application and best description of any colour to describe the Yukon protected areas strategy at the moment.
Since I am now on this side of the House, I will ask a very basic question to understand this process as clearly as I can. Does the minister and this government still fully agree and support the spirit of the 1992 statement of commitment, signed by every Parks and Environment minister in this nation? And will he answer this, just to tell us, so we can let loose those muddied waters of confusion and controversy that we call the Yukon protected areas strategy?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Itís very interesting listening to the question from the member opposite, since he was fully supportive, as we discussed this many times in caucus, and he was very supportive of the process. Iím really quite surprised by his attitude toward YPAS now.
The YPAS is a culmination of many things ó the Brundtland Commission ó the Yukon Party of the day, as a matter of fact, signed on to the agreement that the Member for Whitehorse Centre just mentioned. Then there were subsequent meetings, and the natural evolution toward the YPAS evolved to the point where the former government did accept the strategy, as well as a process for implementation of the strategy.
The answer is that, yes, we support the Yukon protected areas strategy.
Mr. McLarnon: Well, that wasnít the question, Mr. Speaker. I asked, actually, if they supported the 1992 statement of commitment that started this whole strategy. I will ask the minister to clarify his answer and see if he does still support that statement later. Just as far as my own support, Mr. Speaker, I havenít said one way or the other whether I support their strategy or not. Heís implying already that I must be opposed to it, as every other Yukoner must be.
The reason Iím asking is because if he does support it ó and I need to know that clear question, because I think he said he supported it ó does he support, as well, the statement on page 7 that says, "Protected areas cannot be established unilaterally." We want to know if we still support the original principles it was set up on.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker. The fact of the matter is that the Yukon protected areas strategy in its development and evolution involved tremendous consultation with Yukoners. The Yukon protected areas strategy was put together through consultation and direct participation of Yukoners ó a broad cross-section of interests. We are working with the strategy. The strategy has evolved since we took office. It has been entrenched within the Parks and Lands Certainty Act, and we do have guidelines with respect to the process, Mr. Speaker. We will continue to do our consultations and work toward the goals of the strategy.
Mr. McLarnon: I think the waters are starting to muddy up a little more, unfortunately. What I want to do is try to bring it back to accountability, Mr. Speaker. In light of the Liberal platform commitment to bring the Yukon Chamber of Mines back to the table ó which hasnít happened ó and the fact that representative organizations of the vast majority of Yukon businesses are pointing to serious flaws in the process, is this minister willing to now stand by his statements and by his partyís own platform and be accountable and place a moratorium on the process until all sides are satisfied with the consultation and assessment processes so that all Yukoners can look at protected areas in the future and look at them in agreement that it was a good thing?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I donít think it is necessary for the member opposite to shout. I think we can hear quite clearly across the House. The fact of the matter is that when he was in caucus, he did understand fully the whole aspects of the YPAS strategy as well as the implementation aspects, and fully agreed to it.
So, when we were consulting ó my colleague the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and I are working diligently at communicating with and talking to business. My portfolio of Business, Tourism and Culture affords me the opportunity to speak to business people on a daily basis. So, the fact of the matter is that YPAS, especially the process to implement YPAS, is a living document. And by that I mean I am continually seeking opinions, suggestions from the public at large, including the mining industry.
Question re: Lottery Commission
Mr. McRobb: My question today is for the minister responsible for community services. Now that the minister is also responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, by some strange twist of logic, she is also responsible for the Yukon Lottery Commission.
Can the minister give us a brief rationale for why Lotteries Yukon now reports through the Liquor Corporation chain of command?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would be happy to address that question. The Lottery Commission previously reported through the Department of Community and Transportation Services, which no longer exists. There had been some concern that since Community and Transportation Services was also responsible for recreation, Lotteries was too close to that. And as I am now responsible for the Department of Community Services, which is responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, it seemed a logical place to put the Yukon Lottery Commission to remove them one step from any possible thought of conflict.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís very interesting, Mr. Speaker, but this parallels the move and the shell game this Liberal minority government played with the Womenís Directorate, and itís quite amazing. The Womenís Directorate change wasnít about improving service ó it was about control. The Lottery Commission change isnít about improving service ó itís also about control. We know that, and Yukon people know that.
My question is: can the minister explain why the management audit that said the Yukon Lottery Commission was being run very efficiently was totally ignored by this minister and this government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is no change in the day-to-day operation of the Yukon Lottery Commission, so there was no disregard of the audit.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, it doesnít matter how often the members opposite claim they are open and accountable ó the facts speak for themselves. This move will not improve service to Yukon people and it may, in fact, reduce service to Yukon people.
Now, the minister canít expect any easy way out of this issue, because weíre going to stay on her case until the real story comes out. Today, I want the minister to make one clear commitment on behalf of the retailers who do business with Lotteries Yukon. Will the minister give her assurance that the storefront operations of Lotteries Yukon will not be moved to the Yukon Liquor Corporation warehouse at any time during this governmentís mandate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon Lottery Commission will operate from a location that is suitable for its operation and convenient for its operation. At this point, it has a lease which, as I understand, has some time yet to run, so I donít think the members opposite need fear that it is going to be moving any time soon.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 189
Clerk: Motion No. 189, standing in the name of Mr. Jenkins.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Klondike
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the placer mining industry has traditionally been the backbone of the Yukon economy and can continue to be a major economic contributor, provided that the Yukon placer authorization, under which the industry operates, results in practical, cost-effective regulations that will govern the placer mining industry in the future; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to break its silence and speak out in favour of developing practical, cost-effective regulations in the Yukon placer authorization process that will allow the placer mining industry to continue to operate and grow.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what we have before us today is a motion that deals with one of the last areas of some economic activity here in the Yukon ó the placer mining industry.
The placer mining industry is under attack. Itís under attack specifically by the environmental groups that see its operation as destroying the environment ó destroying the environment to a level that is unacceptable.
Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from reality. What is underway currently, Mr. Speaker, is a review of the Yukon placer authorization. Now, what is the Yukon placer authorization? Under the federal Fisheries Act, the Yukon placer authorization is a policy directive that accompanies the Yukon Waters Act. Under section 35.(2) of the Fisheries Act, the Yukon placer authorization authorizes the alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat of certain Yukon streams or portions of streams by placer mining. The Yukon placer authorization was developed in 1993, when the Yukon Party was in power, when the Yukon Party supported all parties equally in the process.
Thatís not the case today with this new placer authorization, Mr. Speaker. This authorization only applies to Yukon placer mines, and the argument being put forth currently is that the Yukon placer authorization in its present format is going to end up destroying the environment. Now, this is a position that is being advanced by the Conservation Society. And the Yukon Conservation Society is part of the committee, which has a veto power on what is concluded by this group. Theyíre currently stuck on 10 points, two of which are very critical.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I came into the House early today, because an amount of sediment is under dispute. When I came in early, I put in my glass the same amount of sediment that is being requested by the placer mining industry.
You canít even locate it in my glass, but the Conservation Society is requesting more stringent standards than what is being advanced, and that, in itself, is a shame. Itís not going to produce any benefits for anyone here.
With all due respect to the government of the day, they have spent a little bit of time initially lobbying officials in Ottawa and doing a review of the benefits that the placer mining industry contributes to Yukon. That review has been done a number of times previously. The last time Iím aware of it having been done, it showed that the major contributor to the economy where I live, in Dawson City, was the placer mining industry ó not the visitor industry, as everyone suspected. But it takes a little bit of background research to ascertain these numbers and results.
We start moving along further and, on this committee, there is a representative from the Government of Yukon who is doing an excellent job of making the points that the Yukon government must make. But this committee is at an impasse. Given that the Conservation Society is not prepared to compromise one iota from the position they advanced before they even sat down at the table, we have a serious problem. There is no way this body can achieve consensus.
The only way consensus can be achieved is if this body at the table is removed from the table. They have gone in there with an agenda they advanced before they got to the table. Granted, it wasnít hidden, but thereís no way we are going to see an industry survive that has to have a standard for water that even Mother Nature herself cannot achieve, nor does Mother Nature achieve.
One only has to look at the Yukon River and travel the Yukon River from Whitehorse down to Dawson. And itís very interesting that along that watercourse, Mr. Speaker, it is extremely pristine until you reach the White River, and from the White River on, the amount of silt that is dumped into that river is unbelievable. In fact, if you get the standards from the federal Department of Fisheries as to what salmon can survive in, theyíre not even supposed to be able to survive in waters with a silt content as high as the Yukon River has. Yet all you have to do is consult with anyone who has been around here for awhile, any of our elders, and there hasnít been a problem with the fish coming up the Yukon River and there hasnít been for a long time. The placer industry has contributed tremendously to the economy and tremendously to enhancing fish habitat, Mr. Speaker, because in some of the watercourses that have been mined and levelled and recontoured where there were no fish before, you can now find fish today.
So I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that the placer mining industry has actually had a net benefit to spawning grounds, enhancing the areas where fish can spawn here in the Yukon. That isnít even recognized in the equation. And why? I donít know.
Now, what we are seeing, and I have some serious reservations about it, is whatís called devolution. What it means is that all of the federal acts are going to be transferred from the federal government and will become the responsibility of the Government of the Yukon ó the Quartz Mining Act, the Placer Mining Act, Waters ó and what it means, Mr. Speaker, is that theyíre all going to be on a level footing.
So the Yukon Lands Act could superimpose regulations on the mining industry now. That will probably happen in due course. Whereas previously the quartz and placer acts were senior acts to territorial legislation and thus had some superior strength. Of course the most senior act of all, the federal Fisheries Act, is causing us some grave concern.
Now, over the past while, the inroads that the federal Department of Fisheries and the Yukon Conservation Society have made on the mining industry have basically shut down quite a good number of operations. And the question has to be asked and has to be answered as to why these operations have been shut down and what it has accomplished.
Gone are the days of midnight sluicing; gone are the days when you could avoid the reality of environmental laws. Virtually all of the miners that I know mine in a mining-like manner and are extremely cognizant of the environment and do nothing but enhance the environment and leave it in a manner that is appropriate for that area. And a lot of them do it at great additional cost and go above and beyond what the law requires, but nothing is ever said or rarely spoken of these individuals who exceed the regulations as far as contouring, as far as reclamation. Yes, there is the occasional award that is given out for reclamation work and for enhancing these areas, but by and large, all that is being offered the placer mining industry is criticism.
What Iím urging the government today to do is balance the equation and balance this body with equal representation and ask the federal minister to remove from the Yukon Placer Committee the presence of the Yukon Conservation Society. That society should be, and must be, a third party that has very much an interest in the subject, but nothing will ever be accomplished with them sitting at a table where they have a pre-established agenda and go in with a veto power.
On February 11 of this year, I took it upon myself to write to Mr. Bob Nault, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. It was with respect to removing the Yukon Conservation Society from the Yukon Placer Committee. In the course of my letter, I went on to say that the Yukon Conservation Society is a member of the Yukon Placer Committee, which operates by consensus. In effect, YCS thereby has a veto over what the YPC recommends in relationship to the YPA.
I went on to spell out the misinformation that the Yukon Conservation Society was spreading. It was spreading misinformation about the lower standards that were being brought about for protecting fish, fish habitat and water quality. They even equated it to anywhere else in Canada, Alaska, Montana, Washington, Oregon and New Zealand. And they went on.
They tended to ally themselves with the Yukon First Nations, and a number of Yukon First Nations acted upon that misinformation.
The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in went about their research themselves, Mr. Speaker, consulted with the elders in our community, took a look at what the placer mining industry was all about, and quite a number of First Nation individuals from my area actually work in the industry. So, there was a background knowledge and understanding of it. And the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in concluded that the placer mining industry had no adverse effect on the fish and the environment in the Klondike, as long as it was done in conformity with existing rules in place at that time.
They said, yes, in the past, back in the early days, there were problems and, yes, there were abuses, but those abuses have been corrected. Now, Mr. Speaker, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in official who attended the open meeting ó the public meeting in my community of Dawson ó spelled this out very, very clearly and succinctly and, of course, was well-received.
On the other hand, the Yukon Conservation Society said that they were boycotting the meeting because they were concerned about their safety. Nothing could be further from the truth. Their safety wasnít an issue. Our community has a balanced mix of those in the placer mining industry, those who are on the other end of the scale with respect to the Yukon Conservation Society, and those who are 100-percent-plus members of the Yukon Conservation Society. But all are members of the community.
We look at the review thatís underway and we ask the question: why is this review underway? It was before the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act came into place. But then, if you look at the literature being circulated by the Yukon Conservation Society, they criticize virtually everything, everything that is being advanced. In fact, some areas that have not really even been investigated and thereís no background research or information about ó the conclusions that have been drawn are nowhere near what they should be. In fact, the conclusion drawn by the Yukon Conservation Society, before they even entered into negotiations or sat at the table ó and I will read their conclusion right from their own literature ó is that: "The Yukon placer authorization can no longer be accepted as a tool for the protection of fish and fish habitat in the Yukon. Placer mining in the Yukon must start to achieve modern standards and mine using responsible methods that will protect chinook salmon and other fish in the Yukon River."
It sounds very much like a generic statement, Mr. Speaker, that one should have no trouble accepting, except when you ask for definitions and you ask what they specifically find to be improper with the current regulations.
When you have one party at a table where youíre hoping to achieve consensus and they are hard and steadfast in their position ó wonít budge, wonít move, wonít attend public meetings to hear the other side of the equation ó Yukon has a serious problem. I would urge the Premier to once again get her pen out and write to the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and ask Mr. Nault to remove the Yukon Conservation Society from the Yukon placer authorization review.
There has been quite a bit of correspondence going back and forth between the Klondike Placer Miners Association and the Government of Yukon. In fact, I urge the minister to table all of the correspondence that he has at hand, because all that was tabled yesterday were the ones where the government received a justifiable pat on the back for their contribution to the Klondike Placer Miners Association for work that they should have rightly undertaken and done. But a lot of other requests have come from the Klondike Placer Miners Association looking for support, both financial and otherwise, to advance their cause and maintain their industry in a viable manner.
One only has to look at a letter sent from the Klondike Placer Miners Association to the chairman of the Yukon Placer Committee. Itís with respect to misleading information. The letter goes on to say, "Further to our commitment of January 31 to provide evidence of misleading information distributed by the Yukon Conservation Society to First Nations groups that will seriously impact the public hearing, we assert the following:
"In the autumn of 2001, the Yukon Conservation Society, a member of the Yukon Placer Committee, sent pamphlets with false and misleading information to Yukon First Nations. At least two, the Selkirk Renewable Resource Council and the Kluane First Nation, responded with remarkably similar letters to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on the same date of October 30, 2001." Copies of these letters were attached.
"The Yukon Conservation Societyís first pamphlet, entitled Review of the Yukon Placer Authorization, attempts to confuse the reader with a combination of erroneous and misleading statements. The main thrust is an attempt to compare the out-of-pipe discharge criteria of the Yukon placer authorization with fully diluted receiving water standards of other jurisdictions and with scientific findings that were based on fully diluted flows. The Yukon Conservation Society should be comparing the very stringent water quality objectives, which are 12.5 milligrams per litre, of the Yukon placer authorization with the fully diluted discharge standards of other jurisdictions such as Alaska and New Zealand. This error occurs both in text and in the figures throughout their pamphlets."
What that means, Mr. Speaker, is the flow of water out the end of a sluice box has a certain amount of suspended solids. If you compare that to the water quality in other jurisdictions, itís going to be immensely higher.
But if you compare the water quality that the placer mining industry has after itís being settled with other jurisdictions, which should be the rightful comparison, you will find that 12.5 milligrams per litre is something, Mr. Speaker, you canít even find in a glass of water, nor is it harmful, because itís virtually pure water. The letter goes on to state, "For example, the Yukon Conservation Society states the Yukon placer authorization is a lower standard for protecting fish, fish habitat and water quality than anywhere else in Canada, Alaska, Montana, Washington, Oregon or New Zealand." That information is incorrect, Mr. Speaker. Various discharge standards are provided for in the Yukon placer authorization from no discharge to a maximum of 5 millilitres per litre of suspended settable solids out of pipe at the property boundary. Other jurisdictions use various turgidity and suspended solids standards that generally preclude direct comparison. However, the following requirements of British Columbia and Alaska confirm the fallacy of this Yukon Conservation Society statement.
Mr. Speaker, it goes on and on and on. Here is the industry that gave birth to the Yukon as a territory under attack, and what is this government doing? Yes, theyíre putting a few dollars at its disposal. At last count, I believe it was just under $50,000. Compare that to what other industries receive, compare that to the marketing and promotion budget of the Yukon government, compare that to what is thrown away on Executive Council Office travel from these ministers traipsing all over North America trying to establish a pipeline that we now know is at least a decade or more away.
That is the amount of money that has been advanced with very stringent controls on, I might add, some for advertising public meetings, some for advertising various undertakings of the industry. But, by and large, this is an industry that is relatively self-supporting. It has been quite extensively in the past with membership fees, which run from just a basic membership right up to a corporate membership of $1,000 a year. I am referring specifically to the Klondike Placer Miners Association, and I know my firm is proud to be an associate member of this organization. When I look at the fees that our business pays to the Klondike Placer Miners Association, to the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, to the Tourism Industry Association of Alaska, and I look at the value I receive back in business, the one that has paid the most dividends in the past, and been the mainstay of the hospitality industry, specifically in my city, has been the placer mining industry. That no longer is the case, thanks to successive levels of government, which have put more and more regulations and restrictions on this industry, and why? Probably, I guess because some of the individuals in the placer mining industry have been extremely successful and they do not like it. So, once again, the Liberal philosophy, "If it works, figure out a way to destroy it."
If itís beneficial to Yukon, shut it down. If itís operating on a meagre budget and providing a benefit, like the museums, cut off their funding, reduce it. If itís an area like the education of our youth and the training of them, cut their funding also.
I donít know if itís a Liberal philosophy or where this is originating from, Mr. Speaker, but here we have a government that has, or had, a $99-million surplus. They had a strong majority, a very strong majority, but this government has proven they donít have the leadership to maintain that majority, and they have proven they donít have the leadership and the ability to get industry rolling again, so that Yukon can once again make a positive contribution to Canada.
The Yukon enjoys a $1 billion per annum GDP, over 80 percent of which is transfer payments from Ottawa ó 80 percent, Mr. Speaker. If you look back in history, that percentage doubled in a very short space of time. Now, sooner or later, taxpayers in the rest of Canada are going to wake up and say, "Hey, whatís going on up there? Why should we send that much money to the Yukon, for you to enjoy that standard of living at our expense, when you have a wealth of raw materials there, a wealth of natural resources, and could make a contribution to Canada?" Or is it that the Liberals have already predetermined that they want to create one big park here in the Yukon and depopulate the area?
That might very well be the case, Mr. Speaker. One of the last industries that is left ó resource extraction ó is the placer mining industry. Itís under siege from all sides and it needs help from this government ó help that, for awhile, appeared to be forthcoming. But, for some reason or other, that help has stagnated.
As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Placer Committee is stuck on 10 points ó two in which there is no movement whatsoever by the Yukon Conservation Society, nor does it appear there will be. How that organization got to be part of the process, other than just a lobbying force, is just beyond comprehension. But it happened ó only in the Yukon.
What weíre seeing now is an over-regulation of our resource-based industries. The same thing holds for forestry. The Yukon Conservation Society has been given a major role to play in the regulation of both the placer mining industry and the forestry industry. It is time to give the Yukon Conservation Society the same representation accorded other interest groups rather than to continue to give them full representation normally only accorded to governments.
My motion is very straightforward, very succinct.
I want to hear what the government of the day has to say. They play a very important role ó soon to play a much more important role here in Yukon. One only has to look at Mr. Nault and what he is saying to the Government of the Northwest Territories. The Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs says: we have transferred responsibility for a lot of these areas to you, Mr. Government of the Northwest Territories; our responsibility here now remains only to First Nations; your responsibility is now the northern development; I will be funding First Nation groups, as required and as I see fit, but you as a government will have to go out and find money from whatever source you can. Go and bang on the doors of other departments because, under devolution, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development ó basically, you might as well call it what it is ó downloads all his responsibility for northern affairs to the Government of Yukon and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Yes, we have this wonderful mirror legislation, Mr. Speaker, in which we have control over the mining industry ó both the quartz and the placer ó but, as I said earlier, itís all on the same level playing field, with no act superior, other than the federal Fisheries Act. What weíre going to see is an abundance of legislation from the Yukon Lands Act and land use regulations superimposed over the mining industry, which has never been the case before. If we have a dispute, weíre just going to make a wonderful industry here in the Yukon for those lawyers, because thatís where itís all headed, until case law is established and determined.
Thatís going to take quite a long period of time, and itís going to take deep pockets. And the industry does not have deep pockets, unlike government.
So, whatís going to happen? Well, we know whatís going to happen. Itís happening now. The mining industry kind of comes up the Alaska Highway, and those individuals from Vancouver who control Teck Cominco, which is generating over $1 billion U.S. in Alaska will, if they drive to Alaska, pass through, stop in, say hi and look at some of the most potentially rich mineral deposits and just wave, and go on to Alaska, where there is a political regime in place that at least gives them some finality. Some of the laws are actually tougher. The wages are higher. And Canadian companies are paying a premium to deal in U.S. dollars in Alaska, and we all know what the premium on a Canadian dollar is when you visit the U.S. ó itís significant.
But dollars are a very interesting commodity, Mr. Speaker. They know no boundaries. They go where theyíre going to get a rate of return, and it doesnít matter if itís a mine, a mineral deposit, an oil deposit, a gas deposit, or any of the transportation methods employed. Itís just looking at a rate of return, and mining companies operate in a fiscally responsible manner to their shareholders, which necessitates that they work in a very environmentally sound manner, and they do.
What Iím asking this government to undertake is an open and frank dialogue with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, asking him to remove the Yukon Conservation Society from the Yukon Placer Committee, allow them to have standing as a witness, and support more extensively and fully the individual who currently represents the Government of Yukon on this committee.
Here we have one individual in the entire Government of Yukon representing, really, the only thing thatís producing any revenues, other than the visitor industry ó one individual with a meagre budget. Mr. Speaker, heís supported by another individual in the office but, at the table, thereís one Yukon representative. So, if you look at the total department in this mining area, the Yukon can stand up and be proud. We recognize the importance of the placer mining industry. We have two people involved in the entire industry. Mr. Speaker, we have more people in the parks branch determining the size, quantity, shape and colour of washrooms in campgrounds than we have associated with the placer mining industry and the mining industry per se. I guess you can tell where the priorities of this government are, Mr. Speaker.
Iím not going to go on at great length, but Iím going to ask the Liberal government of the day to give further consideration to what they are doing with the placer mining industry, to intervene with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, because he is still responsible for northern development here in the Yukon, as well as Indian Affairs.
The last time I looked, they had equal weight in his portfolio until the new Yukon Act comes into force and devolution takes place, and then he has successfully downloaded everything on the Government of the Yukon and itís going to be a hot potato to deal with for quite a number of years.
But at this juncture, we can still ask the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to step forward to the plate and deal with the Yukon Placer Committee, put some semblance of reality forward, remove the Yukon Conservation Society from the table, give them standing, and allow this group to reach consensus. Because, as I said earlier, the misinformation that this organization is bandying about is a disservice to not just themselves ó the Conservation Society ó but all Yukoners. The confusion between the end of pipe and where you go back into the stream after full settlement and dilution is a critical mistake by the Yukon Conservation Society. What they are doing is comparing apples to oranges.
The federal Department of Fisheries is not going to say a word because it appears that they have somewhat of a hidden agenda here in the Yukon, and it appears that they want to establish case law with respect to municipal discharges and then apply it in the Lower Mainland. One only has to pick up a copy of the National Post from last Friday and read about effluent discharge from municipalities in the Lower Mainland.
The federal Department of Fisheries and the Department of the Environment arenít doing a thing about it because they really have no case law. So the easiest way is to establish that case law ó take on Dawson.
Itís interesting to note that if you want to look at discharge ó weíre all concerned with the fecal coliform count in the river ó most of the year, upstream of Dawson in the Yukon River, the fecal coliform count is higher than downstream from Dawson.
You have to shake your head and wonder why. It is basically because of the dilution of the Klondike River, but thatís Mother Nature, and Mother Nature is an awfully hard lady to disagree with ó we canít, no one can. So, there are some things that occur naturally in nature; there are other things that man gets into and alters. But here we have a vast area. We have less than 30,000 individuals.
I just recently read excerpts from a wonderful book on the environment, and some of the statistics jumped right out at me. One of the ones was about overpopulation, and this book pointed out that you could take the entire population of the world ó the entire population of the world ó and you could move them all to Texas, and each individual would have 1,200 square feet in the State of Texas, and the State of Texas is basically 100,000 square miles larger than the Yukon ó not very much larger. We are about 186,000 and they are about 200,000, not even 300,000. You know, you start looking at some of the areas that the Yukon Conservation Society is concentrating on and the scaremongering that is coming out of this organization.
But today, in the Klondike, the placer mining industry is somewhat viable. It has been attacked from all fronts. It doesnít have the financial wherewithall to stand on its own. It could, if the Government of Yukon got behind it, and the Government of Yukon should. This is an organization that stands proud. They donít like to go to the government and look for money.
But, when youíre beaten down into submission so far, enough is enough is enough, and that appears to be where weíre at today.
Mr. Speaker, I would encourage this Liberal government to make a direct approach to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, requesting that the Yukon Conservation Society be removed from the Yukon Placer Committee, and that that committee be allowed to move forward on a consensus basis.
Thatís all Iím asking.
Take a look at this industry that was once the backbone of the whole Yukon, once contributed significantly to how the Yukon went about its business, once was the main business, along with all the support services and transportation networks, was why a railroad was built from Skagway to Whitehorse, was why a whole series of riverboats were put in place, one of the largest fleets of sternwheelers. Thatís all gone now. All we have today is a lot of government and a lot of potential, but that potential can only be realized with the correct regulations and rules in place that is the responsibility of government to ensure are there.
So, Iím encouraging this Liberal government, Mr. Speaker, to take a good, hard look at what is transpiring because, as I said earlier, there are 10 points on which this committee is currently stuck. Two are at an impasse ó two, if the Conservation Society achieves consensus on the levels that they want, this industry is gone.
Mr. Speaker, I encourage all members to support this resolution, and I encourage the government of the day to move forward on addressing what I consider to be their responsibility to represent the business interests, along with all the other interests that they represent.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I rise today in support of a number of economic drivers for the Yukon. I rise in support of the placer mining industry. I rise in support of the hard rock mining industry as well as other resource extraction industries that exist in the Yukon today. I also rise in general support of the Member for Klondikeís motion.
We will be proposing a friendly amendment later on in debate today regarding this motion, but generally Iím quite supportive of the motion as it exists. We all are.
Mr. Speaker, let me first speak to the importance of mining overall to the Yukon. Mining has played a key role in the social and political development of the Yukon for the past 100 years. The influx of prospectors during the Klondike Gold Rush created a requirement for better administration, which ultimately led to the creation of the Yukon Territory. Over the last 100 years, Mr. Speaker, more than 16 million ounces of gold has been produced in the Yukon.
Since 1960, the Yukon has had 12 significant hard rock mines in production.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukonís economy remains small and specialized and will continue to be impacted by the natural resource industries, particularly mining. No other sector of the northern economy can produce as much wealth from a small fraction of the land base as mining and the oil and gas industries.
While work toward the diversification of the economy continues through the tourism sector, the IT sector and many other sectors of the economy, the strong relationship between the health of the mining sector and the strength of the overall economy will remain. This reinforces the importance of a plan that can restore the sector to its prominence in the Yukon economy.
Many of the benefits Yukon residents enjoy today come from infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, electrical power facilities and entire town sites originally developed to service the mineral industry. Other sectors of the economy, such as tourism and forestry, can now take advantage of this infrastructure. Furthermore, growth in the mineral industry leads to new infrastructure requirements and employment opportunities in the construction of new facilities.
The mineral industry is the most significant private sector economic force in the Yukon. Over the period 1986 to 2000, the mining sector accounted for as much as 28 percent of the total Yukon gross domestic product. In 1997, the mining sector alone accounted for 12 percent of the Yukonís GDP. Mining jobs also pay very well, Mr. Speaker. Employees earn approximately 1.7 times the business sector average.
The mining sector can continue to play a key role as an economic engine of the territory by financing infrastructure, supporting local businesses and providing high-paying jobs for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, some of the examples of Yukon infrastructure built to support the mineral and other resource sectors are the following: the townsites of Dawson, Mayo, Faro, Elsa, Whitehorse, the Aishihik Lake hydro facility, the Klondike Highway, the Top of the World Highway, the Dempster, the Robert Campbell Highway, Freegold Road, Annie Lake Road, Mount Nansen Road, as well as the White Pass and Yukon Route.
Mr. Speaker, our government has a vision to provide a healthy and sustainable mineral industry that contributes to the economic and social well-being of Yukoners. What we have to do is establish an attractive investment climate in the Yukon. Some of the points that we need to deal with are: providing a stable political climate that encourages mining investment; an environment that can reconcile conflicting and competing interests and provide certainty of tenure by completing the Yukon protected areas strategy efficiently and fairly; an environmental assessment and regulatory regime that is timely, fair and predictable; the possibility of quality projects or prospects with the potential to attract risk capital; a competitive tax regime that supports an acceptable return on investment; competitive foreign investment rules that protect capital investment and permit repatriation of profits; a history of government encouraging private sector investment in this region; and a government policy that supports energy and transportation infrastructure development, as well as the availability of services, supplies and a skilled workforce at a very competitive cost.
Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to take a little bit of time to speak about the Yukon placer authorization review, which is the gist of the motion put forward by the Member for Klondike.
In response to Motion No. 189, Iíd like to take some time to inform this House of some of our actions in support of the Yukon placer mining industry.
Contrary to what weíve heard in this House over the past number of days, our government has not been silent on this matter. In fact, our government has been working very hard to ensure this important industry has a future in the Yukon.
First, let me take a moment to explain what the Yukon placer authorization is and why it is so important. This authorization establishes a management regime under the Fisheries Act for placer mines, which includes a classification scheme for Yukon streams according to fish utilization, established sediment discharge standards designed to ensure a high level of protection for the fish that use the streams, and outlines policies and procedures for the inspection and monitoring of placer mines to ensure compliance.
The authorization also established the Yukon Placer Committee, which makes recommendations on classifications and other matters to the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The Yukon government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, and the Yukon Conservation Society are members of this committee. The salmon subcommittee of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board also actively participates on the YPC.
This important committee is chaired by long-time Yukon businessman, Al Kapty. As we speak here in the House today, this authorization is under review. I want you to know that both the Premier and I have discussed the matter of the review with the Minister of DFO, and both have expressed the importance of ensuring this work is done by the Yukon Placer Committee.
Several federal ministers have piles and piles of letters on their desks from both myself and the Premier regarding the success and the fact that we have to ensure that this industry continues to thrive and provide a very strong economic contribution to the Yukon Territory.
Under the leadership of Mr. Kapty, with the Yukon stakeholders, including the mining industry, they are all actively involved in this process. Part of this review includes a requirement to examine the economic implications of the authorization.
I am very pleased to inform this House that our government has taken a leading role in completing that work, and that is with the report that I tabled earlier in the Legislature today, which shows the results of a study commissioned by the government that confirms the importance of the placer mining industry. This study assesses the impact of placer mining operations on the territoryís economy, the influence of gold prices and fuel costs on placer operations, costs associated with compliance of the Yukon placer authorization and the impact the authorization has on potential new mine development. The results were compiled through a survey of placer miners in the territory and through consultation with members of the Yukon Placer Committee.
At this time, I would like to highlight for you and for this House some of the key findings of the report. The majority of placer miners and their employees are Yukon residents and spend winters in the Yukon. The placer mine has often been referred to as the family farm of the north, and I certainly concur with that, having had the opportunity to visit an operating placer mine with the Premier last June and, with my roots being from Saskatchewan, we certainly see the similarities between the family farms of the prairies and the placer mines of the north.
Theyíre small family operations with hard work done from dawn till dusk ó possibly not in the Klondike Valley, because I donít think the sun sets, but I know they put in some fairly long days out there.
Mr. Speaker, 47 percent of capital expenditures for equipment and 92 percent of operating expenses for placer mines occur within the Yukon. The annual economic impact of mining in the year 2000 ó when, coincidentally, the price of gold was very low ó was between $30 million and $58 million. The average cost of reclamation to a placer operation varies widely, from under $5,000 to over $100,000. The report suggests reclamation is approximately 7.4 percent of the total cost of the mining operation.
Mr. Speaker, in the last sitting, in the fall sitting of the Legislature, I congratulated Mr. Norm Ross of Ross Mining for receiving a lifetime reclamation award for placer mining, and Iíd like to take the opportunity here today to congratulate him again for that remarkable accomplishment. Mr. Rossís operation in the Member for Klondikeís riding is very important, and he does excellent work and should be commended for that.
The major impact of the Yukon placer authorization on the ability to mine new areas of the Yukon appears to relate to the length of time it takes to get a stream classification. Survey results indicate that it can take as long as five years to get a stream classified by the Yukon Placer Committee. The report also concludes that the future outlook for gold prices is promising, given a rebounding global economy, reduced sales of gold by central banks, and current investment trends to safe markets. Increasing costs of gold, or positive long-term projections for the price of gold, bode very well for the Yukonís mineral industry. We have a number of world-class gold occurrences, and, of course, not to mention the importance of the price on the Yukon placer mining industry as well.
Mr. Speaker, our report does not stop simply with this report. I can assure the House that this government is actively working on the Yukon Placer Committee to ensure there are practical standards for placer mining in a renewed authorization.
The next few weeks are a very crucial time for this review, with a number of important meetings. My government is fully engaged in the discussion, with a view to ensuring a renewed authorization is balanced and fair and continues to provide the high level of protection for fish and fish habitat while not compromising the ability of the industry to operate at profitable levels. It is our intention to ensure that we continue to have an active placer mining industry, as well as a fishery. We believe this is possible under a renewed authorization.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps I can also touch on some of the activities that have taken place over the past number of months with the placer authorization. A Vancouver-based consultant conducted public consultations on the Yukon placer authorization review during February and reported back to the Yukon Placer Committee. We did have a Yukon government official present at the meetings in Whitehorse, Mayo, Dawson and Carmacks to monitor the publicís comments. I have attended many functions of the Klondike Placer Miners Association. I believe it was in late August of last year I attended their AGM, as well as a presentation by the KPMA president and Randy Clarkson on the effects of the Yukon placer mining industry and how important a contributor it is to the Yukon economy.
Mr. Speaker, there is an MOU between DIAND and DFO outlining a cooperative arrangement for the inspection and monitoring of placer mining. YTG would like DFO to consider continuing this cooperative agreement after devolution. When my officials and I were in Ottawa recently, we made those representations to DFO staff, and we are awaiting a response from them.
A professional mediator has been engaged to facilitate discussion and resolution of outstanding issues at the committee. It is not yet clear if his efforts will be successful. The committee does operate on a consensus basis. So, when the Member for Klondike says that the Yukon Conservation Society has a veto, I donít necessarily agree that he is correct on that. I think that, as you move toward consensus, everybody has a veto, but we all want to see it move toward a common understanding, where we can protect fish and fish habitat and also protect the rights of the miners and the opportunities that the miners have to earn a living in the Yukon Territory in this very important industry.
Iíd like to outline some principles that our government has established when we deal with the health of the mining industry in the Yukon. First, certainty. Access to land for mineral exploration and development is a fundamental requirement of a successful mineral industry. Certainty of mineral tenure is critical to ensuring continued investment.
We also have to respect the rights of First Nations. Yukon First Nations have rights protected under the Constitution and the Yukon First Nations final agreements and self-government agreements. Of particular interest to the mineral industry are the rights and responsibilities in these agreements that apply to lands and resources, as they may affect non-renewable resource development in the Yukon.
The government recognizes the jurisdiction of First Nations established in legislation: agreements that provide certainty for the mining industry and investors, and new opportunities and responsibilities for the Yukon First Nations people.
The government will be working closely with First Nations to ensure that implementation of mining activities is consistent with their agreements.
Mr. Speaker, we also have to have respect for environmental and community values. The Yukon government is committed to maintaining a balance between temporary land use for mining, meeting the needs of Yukon communities and people, and a long-term approach to environmental protection and stewardship.
The Yukon government is also responsible for developing policies and programs as a foundation for a responsible administrative regime for the mineral resource industry. These policies and programs must meet the needs of the communities, the industry and the public.
Economic well-being must be attained through sustainable development. The mining industry has been a significant part of the Yukon economy for more than 100 years. The Yukon government recognizes the benefits to Yukon people of responsible and sustainable mineral resource development.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, there must be cooperation. To be successful in achieving the vision of a revitalized industry, all stakeholders need to continue efforts to work together.
The Yukon government needs to be responsive to industry requirements while supporting the goals and values of Yukon people. Many Yukoners are concerned about this industry and wish to participate in the decisions that will affect the future of mining in the Yukon. Government will work closely with the mining industry, Yukon businesses, Yukonís First Nations, the various boards established under the land claims legislation, conservation groups, individuals and organizations that have an interest in the future of mining in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike referred to a couple of letters from the Klondike Placer Miners Association that I tabled yesterday in the Legislature.
Iíd certainly be more than happy to table other letters as well, with regard to correspondence that I have had with federal ministers, that the Premier has had with federal ministers, as well as other correspondence from the Klondike Placer Miners Association and interested parties.
One letter that I can table today, that I didnít have the opportunity to table yesterday, is one from a Klondike Placer Miners Association director, in which he writes, dated April 8, 2002, a letter addressed to the Premier. Some of the excerpts that I can read from this letter are the following: "The work you have done in setting up meetings with the federal Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is greatly appreciated. Your hard work has not gone unnoticed. With 100 years of placer mining behind us, and with government support such as we have seen from todayís YTG, placer mining will continue to be a cornerstone of the Yukonís economy."
I will table this letter at this time, Mr. Speaker.
The Member for Klondike, in his opening, said that we only had two YTG employees who were tasked with supporting the Yukon placer mining industry. I would like to remind the Member for Klondike that direct support for the Yukon Placer Committee is only part of the things we do to support the placer mining and other mining industries and other hard rock industries in the Yukon.
Let me speak specifically about mining roads. Mine road openings in the Dawson area on the east side of the Yukon River commenced on March 4 of this year and were completed by March 14. This was in response to an inquiry that I had from a placer miner who wanted to access his claims earlier, and we were able to accommodate him.
The only exceptions were from kilometre 78 to 83.5 of the Hunker and at kilometre 14 of the Upper Bonanza. These spots were left due to heavy glaciation, which historically has been the practice. This does not mean that the roads were closed, as they can be accessed from both sides. The Sixty Mile Road and the Clinton Creek Road off the Top of the World Highway were opened on March 21 of 2002. The Mt. Nansen Road was kept open all winter. The Freegold Road is in the process of being cleared, and opening is expected by early next week. All mining roads where miners had indicated their needs for an early opening ó their requests were met this year by this Yukon government, and I would like to applaud the transportation maintenance branch of the Department of Infrastructure for the hard work that they have done this year in ensuring that we were able to meet the needs of Yukoners and support Yukon industry in allowing placer miners to get in and access their claims and operations and start up earlier than normal.
Mr. Speaker, we also support the hard rock industry through infrastructure development. Some of the proposed transportation projects for this year ó capital projects for this year, many of which have already been tendered and awarded, and some of which will be tendered in the next little while include the following: on the Alaska Highway, the Shakwak project, which is a very important transportation corridor for Yukoners and our visitors as well as commercial and tourist traffic that goes on to Alaska, we have 10 kilometres of construction: kilometre 1674 to 1684; from kilometre 1738 to 1750, Destruction Bay, work includes construction of subgrade, granular base and drainage structures; construction, kilometre 1775, Burwash Creek, to 1786, Quill Creek, construction of subgrade, granular base, drainage structures and guide rail; BST from kilometre 1664 to 1674, 1684 to 1692 as well as 1798 to 1820, as well as seeding and fertilizing work on the Shakwak project.
The total budget this year for the Shakwak project is some $23.5 million. As we all know in this House, that money is flowed to the Yukon government by the United States federal government, but we are also contributing with resources of our own to support highway and infrastructure improvements that benefit all industries in the Yukon, including the mining industry as well as a number of other industries.
Spending by this Yukon government from our own resources on the Alaska Highway this year will total in the area of $9.3 million.
We will be doing an asphalt overlay from kilometre 1444, the Yukon River, to 1454, Carcross Corner. This work includes construction of hot-mix asphalt overlay including paved shoulders and rumble strips. The proposed tender date for this project is in early May 2002.
We will be doing some intersection improvements on the Alaska Highway near the Fish Lake Road. Work includes construction of turning lanes, and the proposed tender date for this is mid-May 2002.
We are continuing with reconstruction on the Champagne revision, or Champagne bypass, from kilometre 1557 to 1572. Work includes construction of a Mendenhall culvert, sand sub-base, granular base, a tie-in at both ends of the Champagne revision, and removal of the existing Mendenhall bridge. This contract has already been tendered and awarded to Pelly Construction of Whitehorse.
The project that I announced with the Member of Parliament, Mr. Larry Bagnell, the other day ó of course, he was speaking on behalf of the federal Minister of Transport, David Collenette ó is construction from kilometre 1572 to 1586, near Cracker Creek. Work on this includes construction of subgrade, granular sub-base, granular base and drainage structures. As I mentioned in the House earlier this week, we expect a tender to be awarded in early May.
On the Klondike Highway No. 2, we have allotted capital budget money of some $450,000. This will primarily be used for asphalt overlay from kilometre 198, the Hot Springs Road, north. Work includes removal of crack-seal material and construction of hot-mix asphalt overlay.
The Campbell Highway No. 4 has a budget of some $900,000 for this year. Seeding and fertilizing, construction, crushing and stockpiling, and slide repair at kilometre 576 are some of the examples of the infrastructure development and support that weíre giving for not only the mining industry, the oil and gas industry, the visitor industry and the commercial traffic industry.
Mr. Speaker, we have $200,000 dedicated to work on the Dempster Highway, as well as $800,000 for work on the Tagish Road; $400,000 for work on the Top of the World Highway; $100,000 worth of work on the Silver Trail ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: I always assumed ó and maybe itís just an assumption ó that when weíre speaking to motions, weíre supposed to speak to motions as directed, and working on highways in Tagish is just not speaking to the motion. Could I have clarification, please?
Speaker: The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kent: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, Iím merely showing how much support this Yukon government is giving to the placer mining industry and the mining industry through capital improvements to our infrastructure.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Iíll accept the ministerís explanation. He needs all the help he can get, because heís obviously doing very little for the placer mining industry.
Speaker: I donít think itís necessary for the Chair to rule. Iíll just ask the minister to proceed.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Member for Klondike for allowing me to continue.
Weíre seeing a number of successes in the mining industry in the Yukon. Not only are we seeing success in the placer industry ó and I sincerely hope it will continue to be a very successful and strong economic contributor to the Yukon Territory ó but there are successes in the hard rock industry, as well as the exploration side of the industry, which is very important to ensuring that we can have a healthy and sustainable mining industry in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I can speak to some specific examples of the hard rock industry and how important it is in the Yukon. The Elsa mine, and the work that AMT Canada is doing on that property, is proceeding quite nicely. I had the opportunity to visit the Elsa project in March with a proponent, Mr. Phil Cash, as well as the opportunity to meet with a number of placer miners from the Mayo area and discuss some of their concerns prior to my travelling to Ottawa to meet with the federal Minister of Fisheries, as well as other ministers who are responsible for the placer industry.
Mr. Speaker, with AMTís operation, last year this government worked hard to take a leadership role in getting Ottawaís attention to the importance of a good working relationship with the new owner of the Elsa property, AMT Canada, and the president, Mr. Phil Cash. We are continuing to work on behalf of the creditors, the former employees and all Yukon businesses that wish to see new economic activity at the mine site. AMT Canada plans to spend significant resources this year and employ up to 100 people on environmental work, open pit mining and reprocessing tailings. Longer term plans include underground development and production at the Silver King and Bellekeno mines. AMT Canada has applied to the Yukon Water Board to take over the existing water licence previously held by the United Keno Hill Mines, and the president, Mr. Phil Cash, is working through his insurance company to place the deposit that is required with the Water Board.
Mr. Speaker, another success story for the Yukon mining industry ó although the mine itself lies within the Northwest Territories, it is accessed through the Yukon and has provided considerable benefit to the Town of Watson Lake as well as to other Yukon communities and businesses ó is the former Cantung mine, now operated by North American Tungsten. The Yukon government is pleased that production has resumed at this mine, and a number of Yukoners are working as employees or contractors. Under the MOU between this government and the company, best efforts were made to recruit employees from local, northern communities and First Nations. The agreement for the shared maintenance between the Yukon government and North American Tungsten for the Nahanni Range Road is in place. The government completed work last spring, which enabled the company to prepare for mine reopening, and will continue to provide maintenance assistance in 2002.
Mr. Speaker, the current water licence for the Cantung mine expires in September 2002, and I know that I received a letter from the Member for Watson Lake that asked us to assist the mine operators in applying for a renewal of this licence. The Yukon government has been in contact with the regulatory authorities in the Northwest Territories as to the status of the application. We will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the North American Tungstenís operating of the Cantung mine can continue to provide economic benefits to Yukon communities, in particular the community of Watson Lake, as well as Yukon residents.
Mr. Speaker, we have done a number of things to promote mining in the Yukon Territory. Over 80 percent of the capital budget for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources goes to the promotion of mining through such initiatives as the Yukon mining incentives program, the Yukon geology program, as well as a number of other initiatives that our government has undertaken to promote and foster a strong mining regime in the Yukon Territory.
At this yearís Cordilleran Roundup, Mr. Speaker, I also introduced a new mine plan. The Yukon mine plan will create an attractive investment climate for the mining industry through an enhanced mineral exploration tax credit, which was enhanced from 22 percent to 25 percent by the former Minister of Economic Development, the Premier, and was extended by me. I made that announcement at the Geoscience Forum here in Whitehorse last November. So weíre extending that tax credit because weíve heard from industry that that tax credit, along with the Yukon mining incentives program, is very important when they are deciding where to put their exploration dollars.
Also a part of the new mine plan is the mineral compensation policy, which was very well received by industry down south, including the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. We will continue to provide infrastructure support, as I mentioned, with spending on the highways, on electrical infrastructures such as the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, as well as supporting the establishment of the international committee for the Canada-Alaska rail link.
Infrastructure is so important. We are very fortunate here in the Yukon that we have good, solid infrastructure compared to what our neighbours in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have. But still we can improve it and make it so that it can be very well-utilized by not only the mining industry but commercial traffic and the tourist industry as well.
Part of this governmentís commitment to strengthening Yukonís key resource sectors also lies in gas and oil development. We are committed to making land available for regular dispositions for oil and gas rights. We are promoting and encouraging development of an Alaska Highway pipeline. We are promoting and encouraging development of the mineral industry to the federal government at Cordilleran Roundup and conferences such as the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada in Toronto. During Mine Week, we are promoting the mineral industry and the oil and gas industry at many conferences and events. As I mentioned before, we have been working with AMT Canada Inc. to encourage their operations at the Keno silver mine. We have also seen some successes with the emerald property near the Kudz Ze Kayah deposit close to Finlayson Lake.
True North Gems has optioned the property from Expatriate Resources and is carrying out an aggressive and advanced exploration project this summer. Theyíve contracted a local Yukon firm to conduct the drilling and exploration work.
I also heard at PDAC that the gold sector is showing signs of recovery and we can expect some exploration dollars to flow to the Yukon this year from advanced exploration projects in the gold sector, including some very, very advanced ones, such as an underground exploration project in the neighbourhood of $1 million to $2 million worth of expenditures for this summer.
In government, and in my role as the minister responsible for the Department of Infrastucture, as well, we will certainly look to assist where we can companies that are doing exploration in the Yukon, and through the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources ó of which I am also the minister ó to do a number of promotional activities and to make sure that the miners can operate in a stable environment.
So, as you can see, Mr. Speaker, not only do we provide a lot of support and encouragement for placer mining, we also provide a lot of support and encouragement for other resource sectors, including oil and gas.
Let me touch briefly on what we are planning for the forest industry after devolution, when the Yukon government takes control of that industry, and in fact, over the next year, as we lead up to the devolution date of April 1, 2003.
There are a number of strategic initiatives that weíre undertaking with forestry regime development and management of Yukonís forest resources. Mr. Speaker, we intend to develop a forestry policy framework to guide management of forestry post-devolution. Weíre going to work on a Yukon forest industry strategy by striking a task force to assess and to make recommendations on an improved tenure system appropriate for the Yukon. We will undertake policy work to prepare for the development of new forestry legislation. We will also collaborate on the completion of a new timber supply analysis for the southeast Yukon and also work with industry and DIAND to ensure new timber tenures are negotiated and awarded.
Mr. Speaker, as you can see, our government is very supportive of natural resource industries and developing the abundance of natural resources that we have in the Yukon Territory for the benefit of all Yukoners.
The 100-year history of mining has certainly not gone unnoticed by our government. Weíre very appreciative of all that the mining industry ó and in particular the placer mining industry ó has contributed to the Yukonís economy, the Yukonís infrastructure, as well as the social well-being of the Yukon over the past 100 years. I certainly contend that it will continue to do so over the next 100 years and beyond. So weíre very, very enthused and supportive of the placer mining industry.
The industry must be able to continue to thrive and be supported by government and be able to work through the difficult times when fuel prices are high and gold prices are low, and we have to make sure that the industry can survive during those conditions. I know that they were successful last year. As I said, even in last yearís difficult times of high fuel prices and low gold prices, they were able to generate somewhere between $30 million and $55 million worth of economic activity in the Yukon. I hope that can continue.
Mr. Speaker, I would certainly like to offer some of my colleagues on this side of the floor, as well as colleagues in the opposition, the opportunity to speak to the Member for Klondikeís motion on the placer mining industry.
So with that, I will conclude my remarks and turn the floor over to another member for comments on this motion by the Member for Klondike, which I am generally in support of, as I mentioned in my opening. We will, however, be proposing a friendly amendment later on in the debate this afternoon.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to the motion presented by the Member for Klondike, and Iíd like to read the last portion so that itís perfectly clear to people: "THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government of Yukon to break its silence and speak out in favour of developing practical, cost-effective regulations in the Yukon placer authorization process that will allow the placer mining industry to continue to operate and grow".
Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House feel that this is something government should be doing anyway. In many different cases, we will be assuming a lot more responsibility once devolution does take place. But I also feel that the placer mining industry plays a fairly important role in our economy in the Yukon Territory.
I donít agree with many of the issues that the Member for Klondike raised in regard to the CPAWS and the Yukon Conservation Society. I think they play a really important role in ensuring that many of the issues are dealt with in debate before decisions are made. I think that itís only right that they do play a role in the processes that we lay out in front of them.
The protected areas strategy is to involve the mining industry. I donít see why anything to do with mining cannot fully involve the environmental side of things, too.
As we all know, the mining industry has been hit hard in the Yukon Territory. Over the past number of years, we have seen and felt the effects of the Faro mine shutting down. Weíve seen many people leave the territory, just because of this one mine, and we know that things do affect the way mining operations happen.
The price of gas and the price of diesel, of course, is going to be a factor in how the placer mining industry operates this summer. If the price of diesel goes up double of what it is, it will double the cost of their operations. Certainly the price of gold plays a big role, too. Those who are out there working and breaking even over the last couple of years would feel it even tougher to go out and do what they love to do so much.
Also, there are the regulations, the time it takes to get a water licence, and so on, is of big concern to the placer mining industry. Land tenure is another one. Road access and government help in dollars to go into the clearing of roads, and so on, is another big one.
It appears that we have a protected areas strategy that is a deterrent for those investing in the mining community here in the Yukon Territory. I donít believe it is, and if you go out and talk to the people who really hold the purse strings who can make these types of developments happen, they donít believe it either. Before YPAS, it was the development assessment process. That was what was deterring investors from investing in the Yukon Territory with junior mining companies.
We also know that because of all this, people who are investing are, of course, investing to make money, and if theyíre not going to be making money by mining in the Yukon Territory, they look elsewhere. The place where people have been looking is investing in high tech and making money there, in some cases.
In meetings around the Yukon, I have met with the travelling show on placer mining regulations and so on. In the community of Carmacks, a large number of people showed up. I believe it was close to 50, but I may be wrong in the number. But for that community to have that number of people show up on this issue is huge. People from Pelly Crossing showed up, of course, because there were no meetings there and the people had an interest in the effects of placer mining, the effects on fish and wildlife and so on, and it was obvious that not everybody knew what a placer mining operation entailed. I think you can draw a similar picture, perhaps, to the outfitters in the Yukon Territory. Nobody knew exactly what the outfitters were doing out there in the bush. Whatís happening with all the meat? I mean, theyíre out there for the antlers, of course, and maybe the hides of bears and so on, but how were they conducting themselves out there in the bush?
What were they doing with the meat? Were they bringing it home? Was it rotting out there? Were they throwing it in the lakes and letting it drown? All these stories are coming out before anybody really had a chance to talk with the outfitters to see exactly how their operation works, and I would say maybe there are a few bad apples out there, but there are a lot of good operations that are out there, also.
In regard to the placer mining, I think itís the same thing. For a number of years, weíve seen destruction of our land; weíve seen destruction of wildlife and fish and so on. When people speak about mining, it is mining with one word, and it wasnít the difference between placer mining and hard rock mining. When you see people taking advantage of a situation and leaving behind a mess, mining gets tagged with a bad name, and it happened over and over again in the Yukon Territory. Elsa was one of them; Faro of course is another. The most recent one was BYG. In the middle of all this, of course, the price of gold is going down and so on, and investors werenít pulling in. Weíve also had to deal with Bre-X. So the Yukon really took a big shot, and I know that itís tough to get it back up and running. This is an industry, I think, that supported a lot of small communities, including my own. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, in my riding, in the community of Mayo, is where all the action in placer mining had really started, before even what took place in Dawson City during the gold rush. People were in Mayo. They were placer mining at that time. Of course, we all know about the silver and how they had to even pack it down to the boats with dog packs to have it shipped out.
In my riding, I have two communities, really, that have depended on mining: the coal mine in Carmacks, the mine in Mt. Nansen and Freegold. In Mayo, of course, itís all around. Just look around. Certainly that has played a big role in families and the income of families in the territory.
Now, the motion doesnít ask all that much of government. It asks that it develop practical and cost-efficient regulations. I think that, at all times, we should be looking at improvements to that. But a suggestion I would make to the government would be that ó and I found this to be the case in Carmacks ó people donít know the difference between hard rock mining and placer mining. Being tagged as one industry I think is a bit wrong, because they are two different things. I think government could take and work with the communities and they could work with the Placer Mining Association to develop some material to educate the public on the difference between the two.
I know that a lot of people still have that feeling ó environmentalists and so on ó that mining is bad. Once they get out to a placer mining operation, they may change their minds.
I can tell you a little story about Carmacks and the Carmacks First Nation. Of course, like everybody else, they have a concern about the environment. And thatís not going to stop; we know that. They had a concern about placer mining and the effect that it has on fish. Now, we have all kinds of creeks and small rivers that we see every spring that appear to be muddy. We just couldnít understand how fish would be able to live through this whole process. What happened was the one outfit close to Carmacks that uses the road, the Casino Trail ó which has a couple of washouts right now ó to get to their operations, invited the First Nation up and, when they landed there with the helicopter and talked with the workers there, they asked, "Well, where is your operation?" They said, "Well, youíre standing on it. Itís right here. This is the work that is being done." This is one operator who decided to do some good work and do good reclamation work.
I think we should be promoting that and ensuring that everybody follows that type of standard. If the Liberal government can produce some materials to educate people on the difference, then I think we have moved a long way from not knowing whatís out there, and not knowing how operations work, so if youíre going to make a decision, a more informed decision can be made.
Now, of course, none of us wants to see this industry die and go away, and I donít think it will. People just like the land out there too much. Even though theyíre not making as much as they did in the past, and may even be going in the hole, they still go out there and mine. They still go out there and work. Some people have lost their homes trying to get the gold out of the ground.
Iím actually glad to see the Economic Development minister going up to the community of Elsa and talking with the owner of that operation. One thing I would ask him to do ó and itís really important ó when he speaks to Phil Cash. There are three people who have worked there, who have volunteered their time to keep this mining operation going ó to keep the water licence and not have it disappear and have to go through the whole process again. They have worked on a volunteer basis, with the understanding they would be paid. When the settlement did happen, and monies in place to do some of this work were given back to Phil Cash, these three people were not paid.
If the minister is really sincere about working for the small person, I would think that maybe he could work hard to ensure that these three people do get paid by Phil Cash out of Elsa.
We know that thereís lots of gold out there. I think many of us know that there is more than that. People have talked about gems and diamonds and so on. We think our land is pretty rich, when we think about it. We have oil and gas, lots of timber. Nobody has really tapped into that much. A lot of our land hasnít been explored.
As far as placer mining goes, thatís something Iím personally interested in doing, at one time or another, once Iíve maybe finished this political career, years down the road. I would not want to see it so restrictive that I cannot operate either. As a matter of fact, when First Nations speak about it, they would not want to see that happen either. Land selections werenít all about traditional use. It was to get economic development happening, and it was put in place, strictly in some cases, for mining. I know we have subsurface rights, and weíre going to exercise that, as aboriginal people.
Carmacks, for example, has two blocks of land, which are 200 square miles each, basically selected strictly for mining. So, Iím hoping that industry doesnít fall out, and the whole land selection, for that reason, has just gone by.
Now, the price of gas and the price of fuel are going to be a big deterrent to people this summer, if it doubles in price, for example ó the price of diesel. The price of gold is going to determine some, too. Iím hoping to see it rise. If government is going to do an amendment to the motion thatís on the floor, which they say they are, then Iím hoping they may include something to do with gathering information to put materials together to educate the general public, and actually go out and do it and not just have it put in our libraries, like we generally do.
Thatís not useful. People like to see it, they like to know what a placer mining operation does and what it means when theyíre finished. You know, the groundís dug up, but what does it mean when theyíre finished.
I live in the community of Carmacks, where we are surrounded with placer mining. As a matter of fact, at the place where I like to go hunting a lot, there are placer mines all over the place. If it wasnít for the placer mining, I donít think Iíd be able to get out to some of those difficult-to-access spots, because the miners do maintain the road on their own, and so on. Also, the community members have access to more of the land by road versus going out by snowmobile, and so on.
And we all know what the price of gold has done over the last number of years. We have seen it drop to an unusual low ó two minutes? ó and thatís unfortunate, because I think we would have seen some mining operations open up. One Iíd like to refer to is the Western Copper grounds, and one of the reasons why they would have opened up was because they could have kept in operation. When the price of gold was up ó this was a copper-gold operation ó the price of copper was down, and when the price of gold went down, the price of copper went up. That would have kept this operation going steady. What we have seen is the price of gold stay down so long, the price of copper stay down so long, that nobody was really there to invest in this operation and, of course, itís right in the middle of everything thatís happening out there with Bre-X, and so on.
In regard to the motion itself, I would like to support it. I would like to see the changes offered by the Liberal government on their side and debate them a bit, and Iíd like to see it expanded, to see where we can get more information out to the general public.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I, too, would like to speak in general support of this motion, but I will take some umbrage at the portion that refers to the Yukon Liberal government and its silence on this issue. We have spoken out very loudly and very strongly and repeatedly in favour of mining in the territory.
And I would like to digress for a moment on to one of the reasons why we strongly support mining. If you look at the budget for this year and for future years, you will see that we are spending more than we earn. Most people realize, when they spend more than they earn, they run out of money. It is illegal for the government to go into debt. Now, we have all heard here over the last week everybody getting up and saying, "Give us more money in education, give us more money in health, give us more money in tourism, give us more money in alcohol and drugs, give us more money, give us more money."
But, you know, we donít have a lot more money. So, what we need to do as a territory is start making some, and gold is still a medium of exchange, and it is money. We support mining and we support it in a responsible fashion. Mining brings employment to the territory. Itís new money. It generates revenue for us. It also has a long history in this territory. We have tourists coming up here to look at the mine sites. They look at our dredges, they read Robert Service, and they marvel at the history of the Yukon. It is a wonderful place to be.
I myself have spent quite a bit of time in Dawson in the surrounding area and in Mayo and quite enjoy going out in the old claims and looking at how things were done in the past. My husband is a hobby prospector and is hoping to find the mother lode at some time, so heís out there on a regular basis, tapping away, trying to find his share of Yukon gold.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Iíll thank the member opposite for that comment. Although the question isnít as imminent for me as it is for him at the moment.
You know, the other side of gold mining that we donít really talk about is what we do with that gold. What we do with that gold supports another entire industry, which is the creation of nugget jewellery and gold jewellery. We are famous around the world for the Yukonís nugget jewellery. I was actually sitting on a ferry in Mexico one day, and a gentleman sitting across from me asked where my wedding ring came from. I said that I had got it in the north, and he proudly stuck out his left hand and showed me a matching sluice box gold wedding band that he had purchased in the north. So it doesnít matter where you go in the world, our placer mining operations are famous. It has history; it has tourism; it has creativity, and it employs all kinds of people directly in the industry. Weíve got all the spinoff industries associated with it ó heavy equipment, training. Weíve even got health and safety industries associated with it.
What we also recognize ó and one of the reasons why we were elected into office was because we wanted to find a balance between tourism, mining and the environment, and weíre working hard to do that.
The mining industry and placer mining has a tremendous economic impact up here. We have all acknowledged in this House that the regulations have become extremely onerous. We have also all agreed that we want to have a safe, healthy environment. So how do we find that balance? We sit down and we work very hard together toward changing those regulations or to make them more responsive to the industryís needs.
One of the members opposite was talking about the price of gold being down for extended periods of time. Well, the prediction, for all investors out there, is that the gold prices are going to start going up. Basically, base metal prices are going to start going up. Weíre looking forward to a resurgence in mining activity, and weíre trying to create the framework and the environment to make the Yukon a very attractive place to mine. I think all the members in this Legislature are doing the same.
We want to have a healthy economy. In order to do that, we have to be attractive to industry to make it easy for them to come here and, at the same time, continue with responsible controls to ensure that, when the product is out of the ground, we still have a wonderful territory for other uses.
I heard one of the First Nation people in my riding talk about returning the site to its natural state and the very, very minimal impact on the environment if mining is done properly. I think the First Nations themselves now, with the settlement of land claims, are looking forward to tremendous economic opportunities. And I think they are working very hard on the world stage and the Canadian stage to attract mining companies to their areas. I think theyíre going to do a very good job.
There have been a lot of outside political interventions in the price of gold valuations, and weíre anticipating that to change. There has been artificial holding of gold reserves. Thatís changing. We also have investment trends changing. People are moving away from other soft commodity investments, back into the mining sector, and weíre all looking forward to that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Oh, I think that people are going to come back and invest in the Yukon. You know, we have made an awful lot of progress in the last couple of years ó devolution is signed and passed, we have land claims coming to fruition.
Anyway, I understand the role of the opposition is to be critical and oppose anything we say, whether itís right or wrong, fact or fiction. My belief is in the future of the Yukon, and I believe that we can have a strong, healthy and active mining industry along with a nice, clean, healthy environment.
One of the other things that was brought to my attention by the Klondike Placer Miners Association is that placer claims and leases cover less than a third of one percent of the Yukon land base. They are on less than three percent of the watercourses. The actual mining impacts are even smaller than that fraction; 99.9 percent of these claims lie on the Yukon River near Dawson. Placer miners only use that water that is directly affected in gravity to recover the gold. Harmful chemicals such as mercury or cyanide are not used any longer in gold recovery. We have to recognize, as all these industries ask for support, that one of the biggest draws to the Yukon is the placer mining. Placer mining generates over $50 million annually.
The tourism industry profits from this, and we all benefit peripherally from the parks and the Chilkoot Trail and all those other things, and Dawson City and Mayo and Carmacks and Keno. I mean, why are Yukoners Yukoners? You know, the mining industry is a big part of our heritage. I know that my husbandís parents came here in the 1940s and went directly to Mayo to be involved in the mining industry.
Weíve had many people come here for that and stay, fall in love with the Yukon and become part of Yukonís heritage.
The other thing about the mining industry in the Yukon is that it has been continuous. Since 1886, there has been gold production in the Yukon. The placer mining industry has produced more than 70,000 ounces of gold annually since 1980.
The very foundation of the Yukon as an administrative entity occurred because of the placer gold activity. Both the federal government and the territorial government continue to support the industry by mapping areas of high potential, background research into natural stream sedimentation and by continuing to visit placer operations to collect data and to provide valuable advice to the operators.
The recent Yukon exploration and geology report indicates that there were 124 placer mines operating last season, and they employed over 400 people. Placer mining is an expensive business, and they pump millions of dollars directly into our economy. Thatís new dollars. Those are dollars outside of the revolving government fund.
Somebody gave me a comparison once. They said, you know, itís interesting that 17 people sit in the Legislature every year and fight for months over how theyíre going to divide the same pie.
Well, one of the things that we made a commitment to when we were applying for these jobs was to find a balance, as well as some sort of continuous, ongoing process to provide some certainty for Yukoners that we werenít going left to socialism and we werenít going right to conservatism. We were going to try to find some balances up the middle where we assisted people to help themselves and we assisted those in need and we worked hard to help create a really healthy and vibrant economy. And placer mining is one of the keystones of our economy. The members on this side, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and our Premier and our Minister of the Environment, have all worked exceedingly hard to try to find that balance and to bring mining back to this territory.
When I was elected, somebody also said to me, "You know, I feel sorry for you. You have taken over government at one of the worst times in the Yukonís history. No matter how hard the Liberals work in the course of their mandate, itís going to take time to get the industry back here." And theyíre right. It is going to take time. But the best thing we can do, which is what weíre working on, is to provide an environment and a framework for them to come back here and do mining, so that they can make a profit, and we can make a profit, and everyone can benefit.
There are many complex issues facing the industry, and weíre going to try to continue to support them in resolving some of those issues.
Far from being silent, we have been working hard. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has been in Ottawa speaking with the minister there. We have had people travelling around, bringing the Yukon back to the attention of the world mining industry, and I think that every dollar spent in that area is worthwhile.
You know, often when I travel, people ask me about the Yukon. Iím really proud to say that mining is a part of our history and a part of our life today.
I would like to say, on behalf of the constituents in my riding ó we have quite a few people who are involved in the mining industry and, in some cases, they are barely surviving and, in some cases, theyíve mothballed some of their sites. In other cases, they are sort of working to make ends meet. But generally speaking, in the last six months or so, Iíve noticed that there is a more positive attitude out there. Theyíve seen the price of gold start to move. Theyíve watched what is happening in the stock markets and theyíve watched what is happening with investor confidence. They have been saying to me that they truly believe that we are going to see a big surge in these prices, not just for gold, for silver as well.
So I would like to just go back to this motion for a minute and say that not only is it the opinion of this House, but it is specifically the opinion of the Yukon Liberal government, that mining is part of the backbone of this territory, and we strongly support it. We are vociferous in our promotion of the Yukon mining industry, and we will continue to get out there and work daily to try to do the things necessary to get the federal government and the mining industry back here and to do the economic agreements. We do have a relationship with Ottawa.
Itís clearly evident that it has benefited the Yukon over the last two years. There are many things that Ottawa has done for the Yukon that previous governments tried to get them to do and werenít successful. We have been successful. There has been benefit to the Yukon. Weíd like to see that continue.
I think that all Yukoners need to be represented, and I think that having organizations present at meetings is beneficial because you hear another perspective. Again, we take exception with the extreme point of view. We support the moderate approach and making progress. Weíre going to continue to do that.
We have extended the mineral exploration tax credit. We are working on land certainty. The government here is a major economic contributor to the territory, and we would like to be able to use those monies that we receive for some fundamental issues for the Yukon people.
We all know whatís happening in health. There has been some major national dialogue on that and how we can sustain the health care system. We need to have some of the same dialogues in education in the territory, which is why we will be creating, through this amended legislation, the education advisory council. We need to find some way to meet the needs of Yukoners, and one of the best ways to do that is to get industry up and running here in the territory.
So I, too, am generally in support of this motion. I commend the member opposite for his championing of the placer industry in his riding and in others. I think that he does a good job of championing that industry. I also think that both the Premier, the Minister of the Environment and our Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources also do a good job.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Roberts: Itís like a big love-in. Weíre all supporting the same thing, and I think itís great. I think thatís one of the problems that we have in the Yukon, that we are really a small family ó 30,000 people. This is what should happen in all government and all legislation and all issues. Have our differences, work them out here on the floor, and come up with the best decisions for Yukoners.
Iíd applaud the government for their mining incentive programs. I believe that they are very good as well. Iíd like to think that maybe at one time I was part of some of those initiatives, at least promoting them. I believe that they are good initiatives. Itís not often that I have given applause to the Member for Klondike. As a matter of fact, when I was on the other side I tried not to give him much applause, but I think today I have to. He has brought a motion forward that I think is a very positive one. If Iím hearing correctly that thereís going to be an amendment to it, I hope itís an amendment that is even more positive than what it already is. I think itís already a good motion the way it is.
I think most of us in the Yukon understand the history of mining in the Yukon. The Klondike is a world-famous attraction. Many of us came up here to seek that history.
Some of us came for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, a year, and then some of us never left. So I believe it is one of those motions that the whole House can support. I would like to see many more of these motions in the future. I would like to see the legislation that is being brought forward by the government work toward consensus and building for all Yukoners. Letís get rid of the political issues and get on with what is best for Yukoners.
I just have to make a few comments about some of the points that the Minister of Education was making ó we want more money for schools, we want more money for drug and alcohol treatment, we want more money for highways, we want more money for all these things. Yes, I think there has to be a balance somewhere. I do agree that we canít have monies for everything that everybody wants. So I would hope that the Minister of Education will heed her own words when it comes to looking at where we spend our money. Do we spend it on schools that are not needed or do we put it into appropriate planning so that all Yukoners can benefit.
I see the Premier shaking her head as if to say well, we are back on this again. Yes, we are back on it again because I have received phone calls from citizens, constituents from Riverdale, today, applauding what we are doing here ó bringing that to an issue. These are parents who had children in Grey Mountain School who have said it's a great school, but we donít need to build a new one. It has outlived its usefulness as far as why it was set there in the first place. Send them to Selkirk where it is half full. I donít know, I am just telling what ó and I know there will be some parents out there that will call me and say build Grey Mountain, but that is only because they are not seeing the big picture.
Politicians have to make tough decisions. A tough decision to build something that we donít need, personally, thatís not a tough decision, thatís just a political promise. Thatís the problem with party politics. We get into the promises we make because we want to guarantee that our members from that area get re-elected because we do what we said we would do. Personally, I donít buy it.
It was interesting that the Premier went on a Russian trip ó and I donít disagree with going on these trips, as long as they gain something for the Yukon, and as long as it develops into something that is going to be long lasting. My understanding is that there were very few economic benefits brought to the Yukon regarding this trip, other than signing an agreement with Fulda that we will give them hundreds of thousands of dollars ó money that they donít want. They made it very clear that they donít want the money, "but if the government is going to give it away, weíll take it".
So, again, itís a matter of priorities. Itís a matter of looking at where we spend our money.
I keep coming back to the commonsense decisions that I believe that I got into politics for. We make them for the right reasons, not because of political promises. If the circumstances change, if the elements change to make yet another decision, then we make that decision.
We donít just go down to the fire and into the fire saying, "we promised, we promised, we promised." There are lots of promises out there. Maybe what should happen is maybe people shouldnít be making promises that are not practical and common sense. Thatís the problem with party politics ó everybody makes promises.
I believe that mining is very important to the Yukon. Itís fundamental. I have a lot of small placer mining operators in my riding. It has fallen on hard times, and you canít blame the government for the hard times. Obviously the price of gold is what has made it difficult, as has, as some of my other colleagues have mentioned, Bre-X and all these other issues around mining. But also regulation, overregulation, park after park after park, whether itís fact or imagination, has in some ways developed a very negative connotation to people who are the developers.
I know that some of the people opposite, on the side of the government, will get a chuckle out of this, particular the Minister of Environment. We talked a lot about YPAS and how this is essential and why we signed into it and why we didnít do this and why we should do that and so on, and I donít disagree. I live in the Yukon because I like its pristine environment, but I also realize that we have to have a balance of economy. I would like my grandchildren to actually come back here and live, and actually be able to live here because they donít necessarily have to work for the government. Thatís the only industry we have right now ó government ó and thank God we have that, because thereís not much else out there.
I said it often ó and I think the Minister of Environment will have a little chuckle about this, or maybe not ó but letís just turn the Yukon into a park, the total Yukon. Make it a park. That will satisfy everybodyís thoughts out there. But letís be able to mine in the park. Letís do some creative thinking. This is not rocket science. We might need some rocket scientists here to help us out because obviously weíre not thinking, other than what the mindset of certain individuals is that you canít mine in a park. Why canít you mine in a park? They do it in Manitoba. Theyíre doing it in Ontario. Theyíre doing it in France. Theyíre doing it in many parts of the world.
The problem we have with mining, fellow MLAs, is the fact that people donít follow the rules. Thatís why they go to South America ó because there are no rules. Once you have no rules, then obviously you are going to have problems. We have rules here. We have very good rules. It has even been told that people involved in the mining sector actually did not follow some of the rules here in the Yukon and allowed some mining operations to get out of control and, therefore, pollute the environment. But even people involved, who are licensing and granting various permissions to go ahead and mine ó that some of these people allowed this to happen so that a bad name could be given to mining, so they could say, "Well, look at what BYG has done. They are polluting the environment."
The understanding I had about BYG, especially in their settling ponds, is that it was too small in the first place. It should never have been allowed by those people who were allowing it ó the people who signed off on this. I hope there is no truth to that, but obviously there could be some reality to what some people see the Yukon as being.
Iím told that people of reasonable mind ó thatís a bit of a pun, in a sense ó can come up with the right decisions for the right reasons. I believe that mining is one of those mainstays of the Yukon. Itís one of those mainstays that maintains a lot of families in a small way, and anything can throw it off ó the price of fuel can throw it off, not having good roads can throw it off, the idea of not being able to get through regulations can throw it off. Water licences can throw it off.
So there are a lot of issues around why mining has such a negative connotation to a lot of the development people Outside. We as a government or we, as I was in the government, said we would make it easier. I donít think we have. I donít think the government has. Yes, there have been some incentives put in place. More money is being spent on it, but the belief must be that if thereís a will, thereís a way. I still talk to a lot of geologists who are unemployed, and the connotation of the Yukon protected areas strategy is on the tip of their tongues. Itís almost like a swear word out there. It may be a very good thing, but obviously the message of what itís supposed to do and how itís supposed to respond to the issues around the Yukon has not really taken foothold in many of our Yukonersí minds. Another pun.
I think, Mr. Speaker, we have a viable mainstay here if weíre willing to look at it in an open and honest way. If we donít support this motion, or if we try to modify it to water it down ó I think itís so clear what the intent of the motion is, that we could unanimously support the motion in this House the way it is. Now, Iím open to whether there is a hook in there, a little curve that might cause a problem. I donít see it, but then I did say many times I can be very politically naive about some of these issues. Thatís what the legislative floor is for ó for good discussion, good debate and honest portrayal of how each of us sees it. So far Iíve heard all positive comments made about this motion.
I believe it is a good one, and like I said, I didnít think I would ever be saying that about my good friend from Klondike because we have had a lot of other harsh comments in the past. But when I think something is good, we support it. I feel very strongly that the government today is working hard in the whole area of trying to support the mining sector. There is more that can be done, but itís like anything else ó where do you get the funds for it, where do you get the support for it? Resources are limited and decisions have to be made.
I believe that decisions have to be made around a commonsense view. I believe that is why Porter Creek North constituents voted me in because they knew I would challenge a question or challenge an issue, have a good debate, and then hopefully come up with a good decision. It doesnít have to be my decision. It has to be what is best for all of us. And to me, that is what the value of the Legislative Assembly is all about: seventeen people expressing their views, their understanding, their ideas and then collectively coming together with a decision that is going to be good for all Yukoners, and hopefully trying to move away from the politically charged kind of emphasis that we get in a lot of these decisions. Quite often I see a lot of things voted down or supported, not because of their value quite often, but because they are politically loaded. I think we have to move away from that. We have got to try to build more consensus in our Legislature. Yukoners are telling us that. I think all of us today should keep our ears open, should talk to our constituents. Donít fuzz their minds with the fact that only party politics work and that it is my way or the highway. Actually talk to people who are saying, "Look, there are other ways of trying to solve problems."
This mining recommendation, this mining motion, I think is one of them. It tells us that all of us are agreeable, and that we can move down that path. I think there is a lot of legislation forthcoming, hopefully, where we can come up with some alternate ways of trying to deal with things, trying to work on aspects that will be pleasing to all the House. Wouldnít it be wonderful if every piece of legislation that went through this House could have unanimous approval from all of us because there was a give and take by all the people in here? Now thatís a bit of a dream, I know, but I would believe, hopefully, that we can make concessions and that we can move forward in that area, Mr. Speaker.
I believe that mining is going to be here for the future. It has been there in the past. It has made many of our communities what they are. Iíve had some jousting with my good friend from Faro many times about Faro and what should happen to Faro. Weíve had some good laughs about that before. Iíve known the Member for Faro for many years, and I really appreciate his integrity and his honesty and his chuckles. Iíve told him many times prior to this that Iíve been looking for the light switch to turn the lights off in Faro. Itís a mining town; it was built on mining and so when the mine goes, so does the town go. Well, Faro is still there because of the ingenuity of a lot of resourceful people in the community who want to keep it there. So I applaud the community for trying to build on that.
I would hope that in the future ó and I would think that thatís a reality ó we will no longer be building mining towns. I think thatís a figment of our past.
But I appreciate the fact that the Member for Faro has been very steadfast in trying to keep that light switch on. Iím still looking for it ó Iím just going to let the member opposite know Iím still looking for the light switch. Maybe some day Iíll find it. Maybe Iíll never find it.
I support this motion. I believe itís a good motion. I believe itís one that will show that we, as a House, can work together. I believe itís one that all of us fundamentally support, and I wait for ó I heard something about an amendment from the Minister of Energy and Mines, or whatever their new name is, or Economic Development, if thatís what it is ó the old name ó and Iím curious to know what that amendment is going to say. I believe that the motion can stand the way it is, and I think it would tell the Yukon public that we, as a team of MLA legislators, can agree to move forward and do something thatís very basic in the community of Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Sam McGee, The Shooting of Dan McGrew ó just a couple of names of very famous poems that were written by one of Yukonís most famous poets, who arrived in the Yukon as a result of the gold rush placer mining industry. We have so much history. So much character of Yukon has been built as a result of the placer mining industry here in the territory.
You mention, the world over, Chilkoot Trail, Dawson City, Dredge No. 4 ó again, the result of the great adventure that occurred in 1898, all the result of gold found in the Yukon. Today, for the most part, Mr. Speaker, we do have a strong ó but it could be stronger ó placer mining industry here in the territory.
As the Minister of Environment and as the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture, I believe I indicated in the House yesterday that I find those two portfolios very, very compatible. And I would like to indicate to the placer industry that both of those portfolios are very supportive of the placer mining industry in the territory.
I have lived in the territory a good long time but became fairly and intimately aware of the placer industry in the late 1980s as a result of being appointed to a task force by the then chair of the Yukon Territory Water Board, Diane Grainger. She tasked this task group with examining a way of working out a way that the industry, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the federal Department of Environment and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development could come to a consensus or an understanding on how industry could continue to prosper and grow in the territory and still respect the conditions of the fishery and other habitat values.
It was a great pleasure to be on that task group. As a result of that, a commission was struck, and the result was what is now known as the YPA and the YPC. The chair of the YPC is certainly to be commended because this individual, who was appointed at that time, has tenaciously stuck with the job all these years, and continues to work toward finding compromise between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the placer industry. I think that Mr. Kapty is to be commended for his efforts all those years, all through the frustrations of dealing with the federal governmentís Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and working toward finding a way for the industry to continue.
The industry has continually worked under the regime that was struck and administered by the YPC to where they are today. Even though some of the conditions are onerous, they continue to want to work in a responsible and effective manner. The industry has, I feel, gone the extra mile to accommodate the regulatory aspects and still want to function as a thriving industry here in the territory.
I certainly commend the industry for doing that. As the Member for Klondike has indicated, it is one of our best economic generators in the territory right now. As a result of being in that task group, I was then appointed to the Water Board as a member, and I was a member for roughly 12 years. For the last two years, I was the chair of the Water Board.
During those times, Mr. Speaker, the Water Board made many trips to the field, specifically to the placer mining industry. I must say that, when the Water Board and its members travelled throughout the territory, the placer miners that we would visit on the streams were very hospitable and open. It turned out to be an incredibly educational experience.
We have a very unique industry, in that almost every operation in the placer industry is different ó different in how they feel is the best way to extract the gold from their pay dirt and still respect the environment.
Mr. Speaker, the Klondike Placer Miners Association has been very responsible in its efforts to ensure that the industry they represent is respectful of the environment. They have, in most instances, complied with the rules and regulations of operating on different classified streams in the Yukon, following the guidelines, depending on the type of stream it is.
As the Minister of Education had indicated, approximately three percent of all Yukon waters ó streams, rivers ó are impacted by the placer mining industry.
The silt loading that occurs in the river as it passes Dawson is the result of over 99 percent natural cause ó suspended solids that are the result of glacial till, and melting from the White River and from the Takhini River load the Yukon River from natural sources. So you really do have to wonder that the insistence that the placer industry be forced into a tighter regulatory regime really has to be looked at. I know that again, as a Water Board member travelling the placer industry in Mayo and Dawson and other parts of the territory, individual placer miners are always looking at efficiencies. Of course they are. They recognize that on some of the streams, especially Hunker and Bonanza, there are a great number of placer miners. And at times, in the latter part of the summer, the water source kind of dwindles. But the industry and the members have respect for each other, knowing that downstream users still need water for their operations, so they are very cognizant and share the water resource on those two particular Yukon historic streams. And they are still complying with the regulations; they are still meeting discharge standards. So I know that they work hard and diligently to minimize consumptive water use in their operations because they are licensed according to the water they use in order to extract their pay from the pay dirt that they are working on.
My colleague, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, did extend an appreciation toward one individual who has been incredibly hospitable to the Water Board on several occasions ó Mr. Norm Ross in Dawson ó in allowing the Water Board to see his operation and his efficiencies. There were numerous times when I had the opportunity to actually see the values that had been collected in the discharge aspects of their sluicing operation. I have to tell you, when you look down on a mat that is probably two feet wide by about four feet long and it glitters, you can see why so many people made the trek up to Dawson in 1898. It is quite a sight to see.
Mr. Speaker, the fact is that our short industrial and economic history in the territory was principally started as a result of gold and gold mining. I agree wholeheartedly with what the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources had indicated toward his support for this motion.
I also would like to indicate to the Member for Klondike that I too am in support of his motion ó almost.
It is a good thing, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources indicated that he and the Premier have had letters of support on the efforts this government is exercising toward its support of the placer mining industry. It is recognized directly by the industry itself, and I think thatís the greatest compliment one can get.
Mr. Speaker, the effects of 9/11 are going to have, as I indicated earlier today in Question Period, an effect on our tourism industry. Our tourism industry is based a lot on the history of Yukon particularly, and not only the gold mining industry but on our cultural history, and especially the First Nation cultural heritage industry and history in the territory. Itís rich, itís vibrant, and this is what our draw to the territory is.
One of the major draws, of course, is Dawson City as the heart of the gold rush. I know there have been other cities in the country that have attempted to take credit for the Klondike. As a matter of fact, I think thereís one city that has an annual event in the summer called Klondike Days. We share the name but we know where the real Klondike is, and I think a lot of people the world over now know where the Klondike is.
Our tourism industry is making every attempt to mitigate the impact of 9/11, Mr. Speaker.
And I believe that the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture is making extreme efforts in recognizing that as well, not only for tourism but for business, that we are directing strategic campaigns and we are focusing our limited financial resource on those sectors where we feel we can have the most beneficial impact ó mainly our neighbours: Alberta, B.C., Northwest Territories, and Alaska, where we are promoting ourselves as the place to come. We are promoting Yukon as a place to visit, promoting Yukon as a place to work, promoting Yukon as a place to live.
I know that ó no pun intended ó weíve become a little territorial. But we really do encourage and promote business here in the territory, whether it be small business, whether it be entrepreneurial business, whether it be wilderness tourism, any business in downtown Whitehorse or any of the other communities. We are continually and aggressively finding ways to promote that industry from the outside. We are encouraging people to come and see why we live here, why we donít want to leave here and why we understand the spell of the Yukon. We want to share that.
So we are promoting ourselves, Mr. Speaker. As a matter of fact, we put together a $303,000 program, where we are focusing on our closest neighbours, encouraging them, especially Alaskans, to take advantage of the dollar exchange, to really come and experience the hospitality that we have here in the territory, the values, the wonders, the natural scenery, and the spectacular scenery that we have, as well as taking a trip around the territory.
Visit Mayo, visit the gold fields, visit Dawson ó the history can best be seen from the surrounding mountains, from the Top of the World, when you look down the valley and see the serpentine strips left from gold dredges in the valley. It really is spectacular. We have a lot to be proud of here. We have such a diversity of culture and history.
But we are not going to stop promoting Yukon in the immediate future through Business, Tourism and Culture. Weíre also going to be looking at new initiatives that are going to promote Yukon in many and varied ways in the business sector, in tourism and in culture and heritage values.
Mr. Speaker, I donít believe there is anyone in the House who best understands and is working very hard in working toward an understanding of YPAS and the YPAS process. I am going to make an all-out effort to approach business and to approach industry Ö
Speaker: Order please. The minister has two minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Ö in the very near future, sitting down with these people and indicating to them that I believe there are ways that we can still proceed with identifying areas of interest, as well as finding ways to accommodate industry ó exploration, oil and gas, mining, placer ó in the territory, in a compatible way. I want very much to be directly talking to these individuals and finding ways that are to the benefit of both.
I support the placer mining industry. It is part of our heritage and our history here in the territory.
Thank you very much.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to thank the previous speaker for sharing with us his insight today from his previous role as chair of the Water Board, which inextricably linked him to such processes as this one and dealing with placer miners.
Thereís no doubt that the Yukon Territory today owes a lot of thanks and understands that its heritage is due, in great part, to the placer mining industry and the events of a century ago.
Many of us who live in the Yukon today are from families that came to the Yukon as a result of the early pioneers who participated in the previous gold rush. I, for one, have an uncle who came to the Yukon in about 1950 and worked as a steamboat pilot and, later on, for White Pass on the train. Through my uncleís life up here, other family members were attracted.
So, a lot is owed to the placer mining industry in the territory. Thereís no doubt about that. Many tributes were given this afternoon, and I certainly echo a lot of them.
Regarding the motion, I do support it, but I have a friendly amendment to make on it, because I think it lacks somewhat in balance.
You might wonder why that is, Mr. Speaker, and Iíll draw your attention to some of the wording, such as "cost-effective". When we hear the wording "cost-effective" when dealing with regulation and so on, really that is code for minimizing other concerns, including environmental or social concerns. When I see such a code as that in a motion like this, it brings me to realize that some balance is required.
Where in this motion does it mention the need to protect our environment and so on? Itís completely lacking. So Iím going to table an amendment here, in a minute, that I think very suitably handles that deficiency.
But first I want to acknowledge the placer miners in my riding, and there are a few, Mr. Speaker, even though there are limited areas in the Kluane region where placer mining still exists. Some of them include the Fourth of July Creek up on the east side of Kluane Lake, and in and around Quill Creek. In years past, placer mining was allowed in Kluane Park, until the federal Liberals outlawed that. I believe it was in 1972 when Kluane Park was first established. In addition to that, there are placer miners Iím aware of who conduct their activities in other parts of the Yukon, such as the Freegold Road area.
So, certainly I keep in touch with these placer miners and hear their concerns on a regular basis, and I believe that, by and large, theyíre asking for nothing that should not be considered unreasonable.
I think part of the problem in the Yukon is the fact that the processes surrounding the regulation of the placer mining industry have been controlled from Ottawa. I might be an optimist but I am hoping that a lot of those wrinkles get ironed out after devolution brings those processes home where we can deal with them completely within the Yukon and have more ability to influence the outcome of those processes by, for instance, appointing Yukoners to those boards.
The Yukon has also played an important part in the history of mining in the Yukon in another way besides the early gold rush, and thatís for processes such as the Whitehorse mining initiative, which was a national undertaking agreed to by all parties up here. I think it was about a decade ago. So the Yukon is an important player in the history of mining in our country.
One of the concerns that is common to placer mining is the impact it may have on fish populations. You know, although we like to speak in favour of the placer miners today, I think itís incumbent upon me as critic for the Department of Environment to mention that we should be very mindful of the need to protect our fish populations of the Yukon.
I point recently to an open letter to the editor that I wrote, calling on the Environment minister to do something about the Liberal government in B.C. and its deregulating of the fish-farming industry, what that may lead to and how it may affect the resident fish populations in the Yukon. Iím pleased to report that the minister did respond and he sent me a copy of his letter to his counterpart in B.C. asking him to exercise caution when dealing with this matter.
We also understand that fish returns in some areas of the Yukon are in a critical state. For example, the number of chinook salmon crossing into Yukon in 1989 was under 43,000 and the number in the year 2000, two years ago, was barely above 17,000. Clearly something is wrong and we have to do something before it is too late.
Now, recognizing such needs as this, Mr. Speaker, you may again wish to re-examine the wording of the original motion and ask yourself where such concerns are reflected. I believe that you will find that there is a complete lack of such concerns in that motion. There are a number of areas of this motion I would like to speak to if I had more time. Members will know that I am sponsoring the second motion of the day on the fee hikes, and I am really anxious that we get to that motion this afternoon, so what I am going to do is introduce the amendment now, and we will proceed from there. Hopefully we will get this motion to a vote.
Speaker: Order please. It has been moved by the hon. Member for Kluane
THAT Motion No. 189 be amended by adding, after the words "continue to operate and grow", the words "while achieving adequate standards for protecting fish health, fish habitat and water quality."
Mr. McRobb: Well, I think the amendment is very clear in itself that it adds a bit of balance to the motion and reflects some of the other values that any reasonable person or reasonable board would have to consider when making any decisions on this matter. Certainly, as members at the political level, we should be considering that today. That is the reason I am introducing this amendment.
I also want to make another comment that might have been more appropriate before introducing the amendment, and that is the rhetoric espoused by the moving member toward a certain non-governmental organization of the Yukon. I believe there is no need to personalize our attacks in this Legislature in the way the member has done this afternoon and in other Question Periods this week, as a matter of fact. I would challenge the member to provide some evidence to support his allegations against that organization, if he is going to make such charges on the floor of this Legislature.
I want to stick up for the Yukon Conservation Society as a former board member and make it clear to all members here that the society has a strong reputation for conducting excellent research and accuracy, and they have provided valuable input to not only government but also many boards and committees over the years on a wide variety of issues.
Itís because of this reputation that they should be at the Yukon Placer Committee. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, as we all know, in a consensus model everyone tries to work together, and there are many types of consensus models. Some allow for dissenting views. Some allow for dissenting views to be recorded, et cetera. So for the member to single out and condemn one particular group and label them as having a veto really shows a complete ignorance of the process.
I just wanted to establish that point on the record. Thereís no need for me to blast on about this for a long period of time, as the member has done this afternoon, because I think the point could be made quite succinctly.
Anyway, Mr. Speaker, as I indicated before, I would like to move on to the other motion, so I would encourage all members to support this amendment on the basis it adds some much-needed balance to this motion. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment, Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to the Member for Kluane and his amendment to the motion, and I am somewhat concerned. In fact, I am extremely concerned by the amendment and, basically, the accusations I made that were based on fact.
Mr. Speaker, I guess what weíre going to do while achieving adequate standards for protecting fish health ó I guess we must have some sick fish. I say that somewhat facetiously in that all of the information is readily available and Iím going to be supplying the Member for Kluane with a copy of the information that he is suggesting is kind of out of place.
I also have for tabling another letter I was hoping the Minister of Economic Development would have tabled from the Klondike Placer Miners Association, dated February 7. Itís addressed to the Premier. At that time, the president of the KPMA writes to the Premier as follows:
"The Klondike Placer Miners Association is concerned that the Yukon Conservation Society has been conducting a campaign of misinformation about the Yukon placer authorization. The public hearings on the YPA review are being conducted in the Yukon between Tuesday, February 5, and Friday, February 15, 2002. We are concerned with the quantity of misinformation that is presented and distributed in an attempt to influence these public hearings. The Yukon general public does not have a good grasp of the many scientific issues that were developed as a result of research." And itís pointed out here that $1.5 million was spent by the KPMA on the research, and that research was used to formulate the regulations of the YPA in 1993.
"The YCS, as a member of the Yukon Placer Committee, has access to all of this information. The YCS apparently see the lack of public knowledge as the weak link in the review process and have accordingly tried to exploit this lack by spreading misinformation. We attach for your reference the statements made by YCS, our statements of the fact, as well as a copy of letters to the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by two First Nations that show their interventions were clearly based on YCS misinformation. The facilitator of these public hearings, Robert Hornal, is charged with the responsibility of gathering an accurate cross-section of public opinion regarding possible changes required to the YPA.
"The mandate of the YPA is to continue to protect the fisheries of the Yukon and to allow placer mining to continue to contribute to the economy of the Yukon." That is the underlying and fundamental statement, Mr. Speaker, of what this exercise is all about.
"We sincerely believe that the public opinions have been severely influenced by this information campaign. We believe, therefore, the results of the YPA review will be flawed when it takes into account the opinions expressed by individuals and groups that have been mislead. The Yukon Conservation Society is currently a member of the Yukon Placer Committee. They have been interfering with the public process by deliberately presenting misinformation. The Yukon Conservation Society has violated their obligations as a committee member. We ask that you please review these materials that we put forward to you and express any concerns that you have to the Yukon public, the public facilitator for the YPA review and the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. We believe that our industry is under an unscrupulous attack and that the very core of the Yukon economy is in jeopardy.
"Thank you for your continued support of the Yukon placer mining industry.
"Sincerely, Tara M. Christie
"President of the Klondike Placer Miners Association."
Iíll supply the Member for Kluane ó and the minister is heckling in the back saying, "So what?" I understand and appreciate that the environment is to be protected. That is of paramount importance ó the protection of the environment by the resource extraction industries. That is a way of conducting business today, and it has been for quite some time by this very industry, Mr. Speaker. But what is in jeopardy here is the fundamental right of an organization to have a fair and reasonable hearing. That is what this issue is all about and thatís what this motion is all about.
I myself recognize the importance of the Yukon Conservation Society, as does my party. And I know of many members who support our party and who are members of this organization. Thatís their right, and the aims and objectives of this society, the Yukon Conservation Society, are admirable and, to a great degree, I support a majority of what they are proposing to do. But the pendulum that they are swinging has swung too far when they resort to using misinformation to achieve their goals. That is not fair; that is not reasonable. That is not what the public here in the Yukon should be seeing from any organization.
Mr. Speaker, this motion as amended ó Iím sorry. I canít agree with it. Iím prepared to accept a friendly amendment to this Motion No. 189 that is before the House in the hopes that it can be moved forward with the support of the majority of the members of this Legislature, but I see this proposed friendly amendment as being misdirected at this juncture. I cannot support it, and I ask that the House look at defeating this amendment.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: In my capacity as Minister of Environment, Iíll address the amendment proposed by the Member for Kluane.
First and foremost, I do not agree that the Conservation Society should be expelled from the YPC. I think they provide a useful and functional role. I have not seen, personally, the information alleged to have been provided by the Conservation Society as being misleading or abdicating their responsibilities with respect to being a part of the committee, but I do think that there is a useful role for a member of the Conservation Society being on the committee.
I do believe that, as the Member for Klondike has just suggested, in many of their efforts they are fair and equitable in their involvement and evaluations and judgements on any projects. From a previous life, working for a conservation organization, Ducks Unlimited, for 20 years ó and 15 of those years right here in the territory ó I know that many times I worked very, very cooperatively with the placer industry. I know that there are numerous operations up in Dawson where, as a conservation organization, we worked collaboratively on the restoration projects of certain operations in the Klondike Valley and on the Fortymile and Sixtymile. As a matter of fact, just simple suggestions where we could increase the reclamation practices of mining operations to the benefit of waterfowl at that time proved very, very worthwhile.
Again, I have to laud the efforts of the placer industry, or those members I worked with on these projects. Even though there was extra work involved, they took it upon themselves, in respect to the environment, to move forward and implement suggestions and design changes to core streams and to settling ponds, which become nesting sites for water fowl. And some of the vegetation thatís used, as a matter of fact, also assisted in cleaning the water or slowing down flows of water so that additional settling from natural sources, as well as the industrial sources, could occur.
I was also involved with a dredge operation that was slowly moving up a creek and, again, I made recommendations along with a consultant on how this operation could proceed up the stream leaving behind a stream bed and curves to the stream that were beneficial not only to the water fowl ó which was my objective at the time ó but also to improving fish habitat, Mr. Speaker.
So, I know the industry is very, very cognizant of environmental impacts. They know that I donít find it at all objectionable that the industry is there, that they do turn over creek beds, that they are there for a purpose. The industry members that I had dealt with and worked with were very cooperative. As I had indicated, the mitigable impacts and restoration efforts they went through were paid for out of their own pocket. So, I think, Mr. Speaker, that they have made incredible best efforts and are continuing to do that. I know that the innovative equipment theyíre using on some of these streams ó theyíre continually designing and improving the efficiencies of their operations and I think they are to be commended for that.
I know that the territorial Water Board was frustrated many, many times as a result of not being invited to participate in setting the parameters of regulations that were administered by the Water Board. They were not involved in setting those parameters. It was very unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, because who better knows the industry than the Water Board? Every placer application is reviewed by the Water Board and they grant water licences and the conditions to the type of stream they are working on.
I feel, Mr. Speaker, that the existing standards or guidelines that the industry is working on are adequate to address the amendment as being proposed by the Member for Kluane, in that, as the industry well knows, there are five types of streams classified through the placer authorization, by the Placer Committee, and the industry is certainly working toward those standards and working within the classification systems that have been assigned to the creek that they are working on.
So, Mr. Speaker, I do believe that they are certainly working under the current constraints, and I donít believe that the industry has to be impacted any further through unnecessary regulation.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment? Are you agreed?
I think the nays have it.
I declare the amendment defeated.
Amendment to Motion No. 189 negatived
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to rise to speak to this particular motion, and I believe one of my colleagues has another friendly amendment they would like to propose toward it.
There has been some suggestion in this House that we on this side do not have a history of support for the placer mining industry when, in fact, there is a long history of association with the placer mining industry here on this side and represented on these benches. For example, myself working in Dawson for two seasons in a small business in the early 1980s, when gold was at a significantly higher price than it is today and fuel was significantly lower, and the placer mining industry was doing very, very well. It was a major contributor, as it is now, to the Yukon economy. Unfortunately, at that time, Fisheries officers were the least popular individuals in Dawson and, unfortunately, is still the case to some degree. It was a very, very difficult, fractious time between individuals.
In 1984, when working in Ottawa for then deputy prime minister Erik Nielsen, I worked with the Klondike Placer Miners Association, most notably with Norm Ross, Ken Tatlow and Rick Hirtle of BDO on allowing stripping to be declared as a Canadian exploration expense for the placer mining industry.
It was a significant achievement to have this regulation work toward and support the placer mining industry. I was pleased to work with the industry on it, and we have continued to work together, as I will continue to do, no matter where I have been, either in this House ó on that side or on this one ó or as a private citizen. I have been very supportive of the industry and continue to be.
At that time ó again, we are talking about the early 1980s ó gold was significantly higher priced. The difficulty arose with the industry ó and some have made mention of it already this afternoon ó in part because there is a conflict in the law. While we as legislators do our very best to pass legislation and give it thorough scrutiny, we are not always advised that a piece of legislation passed here is in conflict with a piece of legislation passed at a later date. This is the problem in part for the placer mining industry. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans ó the law has regulations and points, I believe section 30-something, about the discharge of deleterious substances into the water. Then we have the Quartz Mining Act that says, yes, mining should continue, mining should be here.
My colleague from Riverdale North has referenced several times a former chair of the Water Board ó a sadly missed Yukoner, Diane Granger ó and her work as chair of the Water Board and the task group that included the now Member for Riverdale North on dealing with this conflict in legislation and how we can help this industry survive and thrive. That commission that looked at the mining industry at the time and these conflicts ó later there was an additional commission that was composed of David Anderson, Ken Weagle and Ione Christensen. Their significant report gave rise to some of the innovations in legislation and the authorization as well as the recognition that the placer industry is not just located in Dawson City and that there is significant placer mining in the ridings of the Member for Kluane as well as the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, as well as in other areas.
Although it takes place in Atlin as well, there are many Yukoners who mine in Atlin. The fact is that that particular commission that toured the Yukon raised the profile of the placer mining industry among all Yukoners, and it was very significant.
Again, going back to my personal support in whatever capacity I have served the Yukon, I have expressed my support for the placer mining industry and will continue to do so. For example, as leader of the third party, I attended the Klondike Placer Miners Association meeting, which, on that particular occasion, the Member for Klondike did not. As well, I have attended a number of other Klondike Placer Miners Association annual general meetings in my subsequent capacity as Minister of Economic Development, and my colleague, the current Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, has continued that trend.
The Yukon placer authorization was a significant achievement that recognized and dealt with the conflicts in law. It said that placer mining could and should exist in the Yukon and here is how it should be done. It was also built into the placer authorization that there be a review.
And let that be a lesson to all of us. We frequently stand on the floor of the House and talk about reviews, or build them into our legislation, and then donít outline what that review should be or how it should be conducted, and what factors it should take into account. Review doesnít mean rewrite from scratch. Review means see how well it is going to work and how well it has been working and deal with some of the issues. So it is a lesson for all of us in our legislation.
Nonetheless, the Yukon placer authorization review is required and has been undertaken. One of the first problems we as a government dealt with in that placer authorization review was the insistence, at that time, of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that they donít want to do their own subsequent review. That was the first issue in this particular review that the now Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and I dealt with.
And I met with Minister Dhaliwal, wrote to Minister Dhaliwal, finally managed to convince, between the efforts of our Member of Parliament, Larry Bagnell, myself, all of our caucus members and the Klondike Placer Miners Association, that the review should go ahead as originally planned and that we should deal with it ó so success number one with respect to this particular review.
Actually, Mr. Speaker, I think that success number one in government has to be recognizing the Klondike Placer Miners Association and ensuring that they were funded. As then Minister of Economic Development, that was one of the first things that I did. And that was over and above ó that was new to that organization, for the first time ever, and that was over and above our existing support for the chair of the Yukon placer authorization and the Yukon Placer Committee. So we have not only talked the talk; weíve walked the walk with respect to the Klondike Placer Miners Association and the placer mining industry as a whole. And our lobby efforts continued.
We have worked diligently, ensured that the efforts of the chair of the Yukon Placer Committee ó that the chair continues in his current role. We have lobbied for his appointment and reappointment.
And we would be remiss in a debate on placer mining not to publicly recognize the efforts of the Yukon Placer Committee chair, Mr. Al Kapty, who has given a great deal of time and energy to this particular subject as well as this industry, and his efforts have not gone unnoticed by Yukoners. He knows this subject very well, and he has done an admirable job on behalf of all Yukoners and continues to do so, in spite of some very difficult challenges.
Iíd also like to speak briefly about David Anderson. David Anderson, as Minister of the Environment, is unique in that having participated in that initial commission on placer mining, now serving as Minister of the Environment, heís one of the signatories to the Yukon placer authorization. He is one of the few federal ministers ó and no disrespect intended to any of them ó of any political stripe, who truly understands and knows the industry. He has seen it first-hand and has heard first-hand through months of testimony and discussion about the problems of the industry. We do not lose an opportunity, whenever weíre speaking with Minister Anderson ó and he was here last week on his way to Old Crow ó to remind him of his responsibility, being knowledgeable about the placer industry, to ensure that the review is completed and that placer mining continues to operate in the Yukon Territory. Itís vitally important to us.
We follow up those meetings and those lobbying efforts with letters to the parties and to the Government of Canada. There has been a great deal of comment, with facts and figures, about the placer mining industry. There has been shared personal knowledge on the floor of this House about the industry and how important it is. Itís very important to Yukoners. This government, all members of this Legislature, support the placer mining industry in the Yukon and we certainly will continue our efforts in that regard.
I would like to publicly acknowledge the Member for Klondike for bringing the motion forward. Indeed, discussion of the placer mining industry is important to this Legislature. I would also like to, in the same vein, in fairness, ensure that we also recognize the efforts that have been made by my colleague, the Member for Riverdale North, in a previous capacity serving on the Water Board, as serving on one of the initial commissions looking into placer mining, and how to reconcile these different pieces of federal legislation.
I would especially like to give credit where credit is due ó to the current Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, who has continued a solid lobbying effort and has made sure that every federal minister, indeed everyone we come into contact with, is aware of our support and our work for the placer mining industry in the Yukon.
Our government is supportive of the industry, as are all members of this House, and I look forward to its continuing contribution to the Yukon economy.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the motion today, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I think it has been quite clear that this Liberal government has not been silent. We have spoken out for placer mining and will continue to do so. We want the placer mining industry to grow and to thrive, and to develop practical, cost-effective regulations in the Yukon placer authorization process is the logical way to go.
This Liberal government is the first to support the Klondike Placer Miners Association with core funding ó $15,000, starting last year. As has been said several times this afternoon, the placer miners themselves recognize that we support them.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I think Iíve been hearing a consensus this afternoon that all members in this House do generally support this motion, and I would like, in a friendly manner, to move
THAT Motion No. 189 be amended by replacing:
"THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government of Yukon to break its silence and speak out in favour of developing practical, cost-effective regulations in the Yukon placer authorization process that will allow the placer mining industry to continue to operate and grow" with "THAT this House urges all Yukoners to speak out in favour of developing practical, cost-effective regulations in the Yukon placer authorization process that will allow the placer mining industry to continue to operate and grow."
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister for Community Services
THAT Motion No. 189 be amended by replacing:
"THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government of Yukon to break its silence and speak out in favour of developing practical, cost-effective regulations in the Yukon placer authorization process that will allow the placer mining industry to continue to operate and grow."
"THAT this House urges all Yukoners to speak out in favour of developing practical, cost-effective regulations in the Yukon placer authorization process that will allow the placer mining industry to continue to operate and grow".
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I certainly agree wholeheartedly that the placer mining industry has traditionally been extremely important to the Yukon economy, and I am confident that it can still be a major economic contributor. And I believe that all Yukoners will agree with me on this. Now, some placer miners have stopped mining for the time being, the gold price certainly being a prime factor in that decision, and they stopped long before this Liberal government took office. Some placer miners are eternally optimistic and they continue with their chosen work, because they love the lifestyle. I am certainly in support of placer mining and the placer mining lifestyle.
As someone who was born and raised in the Yukon, I have been acquainted with placer miners since early childhood. I would love to be able to tell you that, when I was young, we used to get up at 5:00 in the morning, eat a breakfast of cold porridge, hike 45 miles through the bush in hand-me-down shoes and pan in the creek for 18 hours to get enough gold to feed the 18 kids, but you know that I have only one sister, Mr. Speaker, so I wonít tell you that.
My family worked in support of the transportation industry or in the transportation industry itself, not in placer mining, but that description of the lifestyle isnít too far off sometimes. It is a hard life and a rewarding one. The rewards arenít just the gold nuggets in the sluice box. The rewards include a lot of physical activity, which is good for the health, as this government has been trying to promote, and a lot of outdoor work, which especially on a clear day is good for the soul. It also includes the satisfaction of an honest dayís work. As my colleague from Riverside said when he was speaking to the main motion, the placer mine is the family farm of the north.
People have raised their families on their placer mines, and some of these people also live a trapping lifestyle in the mining off-season. The two are complementary ó mining in the summer, trapping in the winter. Placer mining families value their lifestyles and their independence. We on this side of the House certainly value their work, and I believe Iíve heard members from the other side say that they do the same.
Our many visitors to the Yukon also value the work of the placer miner. Theyíre eager to visit operating placer mines and try their luck at panning for gold. The Klondike Gold Rush was vitally important economically 100 years ago, and the cultural remains of that time are very important to the Yukon now. For example, I always enjoy visiting both Dredge No. 4, which is always larger than I remember it from the last time, and Bear Creek. And Iím sure youíve seen the gold room there, Mr. Speaker, where the raw gold was poured into bars. I donít know if you remember the great radio documentary that CBC Yukon produced when Bear Creek closed down. I certainly remember it, and I always love to hear those familiar voices talking about their work at Bear Creek and about the importance of the gold to the Klondike and the Yukon.
And, of course, there are the nuggets. Weíve heard from other members about the nuggets. Yukoners love gold nugget jewellery. My first gifts as a baby included a baby spoon with a nugget on it. My favourite piece now is a necklace made by a friend of mine. The nuggets arenít from his placer mine because they werenít the right shape for what he wanted to make, but theyíre from another Yukon placer mine.
That reminds me, Mr. Speaker. It has always amazed me that someone with the knowledge and experience can pick up a Yukon nugget and tell you not only which area itís from but which creek and where on the creek. Each nugget has its own story to tell.
Other members have talked about the importance of gold to the tourism industry these days, so I wonít do that again.
It was about 40 years ago when I first visited the Klondike gold fields with my family. There were still dredges functioning and it was quite amazing to see and hear them. Thereís a lot of placer mining still around Dawson. A lot of it is reworking the old tailings piles from the dredges. The Mayo area is still very active. I visited one of the larger placer mines there and was surprised at the number of employees and the size of the equipment. I also have friends in several areas with what youíd call the "mom and pop" operations ó one or two or three people.
The Carmacks area is home to placer mining, as well, with the Nansen Road providing some of the most appealing scenery in the territory, along with a lot of gold history. And, of course, if youíre on the north Alaska Highway in the Kluane riding, you go through more placer mining country, as the Member for Kluane has enumerated.
From all of that, it sounds as though placer mining takes up a great deal of land in the territory. It doesnít. Less than a third of our land base is taken up by placer claims and leases. To recover that gold, all a placer miner uses is water and gravity and a bit of equipment. His activity, and the activity of his placer mining colleagues, is worth $50 million annually to the territory.
Mr. Speaker, I think all Yukoners are aware of the benefits of placer mining and the long history placer mining has had in the territory. As I said earlier, I think I heard a consensus of support for the industry, so Iím hoping that all members can support this friendly amendment.
Speaker: The leader of the third party, on the amendment.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what are we trying to accomplish here with this amendment? Iím attempting to urge the Liberal government to get more involved and not just stand back on the sidelines. Now, some initial contacts were made with officials in Ottawa by the current Liberal government, and they were positive contacts. But, for the past little while, this government has been mute in its dealings with Ottawa and, to the best of my knowledge, there has been no further correspondence taking place of late between the Premier and other Cabinet ministers in Ottawa on the issue of the placer authorization.
Mr. Speaker, an expression came to mind when I first heard this amendment to the motion, and that expression is: lead, follow or get out of the way. What Iím asking this government to do is to lead. What theyíre suggesting is that all Yukoners follow.
Now, I am not comfortable with what this amendment does to this motion, but it seems to be the Liberal way ó that you stand on the sidelines and then, when a decision is made, you jump down on the side that has won. There seems to be an issue of identity crisis. It seems like the current Liberal government has all sorts of praise and recognition for the placer mining industry, but they donít want to come out in full force and effect and say, "Hey, look, we need to change a couple of conditions. We need to do something." There has not been a position established that has come forward from this government, other than the generic support for the placer mining industry.
That brings up a paper that was just tabled by the respective minister ó the Yukon placer authorization review by BDO Dunwoody. Itís interesting that the officials involved in this study achieved such a poor response from the placer miners. In fact, of 148 surveys that were sent out, they only received 33 back, and then after a great degree of effort on the part of these individuals.
But I guess thatís what happens when you send out another 10-page survey of industry. I know when I received such a request thatís not required, I know where that request heads to, and itís called file 13. And thereís a lot of information thatís requested here, and nobody really wants to take the time and confide that information to a government or a government-sponsored agency, nor will they. A lot of the placer miners are very close-lipped. They just want to have the opportunity to go to work in an environmentally responsible manner and mine.
Itís interesting, Mr. Speaker, that BDO Dunwoody concluded that the impact of the Yukon protected areas strategy regulations currently adds about seven percent to the cost of those who responded to the survey. What should have been included is the total cost and the total burden of government regulations from all sources, because that virtually doubles that factor.
Mr. Speaker, when you look at the terms of reference and when you look at the conclusions reached ó and the individuals who facilitated this review concluded that itís beyond the terms of reference of the project to determine the cost or economic impact of government regulations of the placer mining industry.
It can be done, and itís being done on a regular basis. But these organizations and individuals in the placer mining industry are reluctant to share that information with just anyone. In fact, knowing as many of them as I do, I am sure, upon receipt of this 10-page, doubled-sided request, it ended up right in file 13. I would encourage the minister to go to BDO Dunwoody and say, "Look, this is not a satisfactory overview of the placer mining industry. There are ways that you can obtain that information but its going to have to be on a one-on-one basis with somebody like the individuals who wrote this paper, who know specifically a great number of the placer miners." They could obtain that information on a one-on-one basis, because this information and the summary are inconclusive and the gap is so wide that it renders this document virtually useless. The economic impact is somewhere between $30.6 million and $58.2 million before considering the cost and economic impact of government relation. That is almost a 100-percent gap. You could sit in your office and conclude the same, or you could take a stab at it and be much more accurate. Now, this could be a very, very worthwhile document. In its present format, itís not.
I would encourage the minister responsible for requesting this information to go back to BDO Dunwoody and say, "Hey, look, we need something a little bit more conclusive, a little bit more focused." And it neednít take a great deal of time. Itís interesting to note that, of 13 respondents who answered the question on YPAS, eight of them concluded that they would be unprofitable due to the new YPAS regulation.
Mr. Speaker, we commission these kinds of studies for specific purposes, and when theyíre presented, theyíre usually considered to be the gospel. But, knowing the placer mining industry, and knowing a number of individuals in the placer mining industry, and knowing the economic benefits that accrue to my community as a consequence of the operation of the placer mining industry, I do not share the conclusions reached in this piece of paper. And theyíre probably going to tell you itís because of the small sample that responded.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the amendment to the motion, it takes the onus off this Liberal government to do anything, which was one of the major intents. I guess I go back to my original position and the original expression that came to mind after I first heard this motion ó "You lead, you follow, or get the heck out of the way."
Well, itís obvious that this government doesnít want to lead and get involved, so I guess they are neutering this motion by suggesting it be a motion that all Yukoners get involved.
While it doesnít have the same force and effect as my motion did, if itís what it takes to get this motion through the House, I will support it reluctantly, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Kent: On the amendment, Mr. Speaker, this was the friendly amendment that I proposed when I followed the Member for Klondike when we started debate here this afternoon on this motion. At that time, I indicated to the House that I was generally supportive of it. Certainly I think that, by virtue of the letters I have tabled over the past number of days from the Klondike Placer Miners Association and Klondike Placer Miners Association directors thanking myself and the Premier for the continued support that weíve given the Klondike Placer Miners Association with regard to their industry, promotion of the industry and help with the Yukon Placer Committee and the Yukon placer authorization, as well as our continued support for the independent chair, Mr. Al Kapty, who is doing a fine job as the chair of the Yukon Placer Committee, itís quite evident that the Yukon Liberal government hasnít been silent when it comes to promotion of Yukon placer mining.
I informed the Member for Klondike that, on a recent trip to Ottawa, I met with a number of federal ministers, including the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and I spoke with him about the importance of placer mining to the Yukon.
Placer mining is somewhat of an unknown entity outside the Yukon and parts of British Columbia. Iíve even heard some bureaucrats in Ottawa refer to it as "placer" mining, which we all know is certainly not the case.
One need not look any further than our accountability plan for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources to see exactly what weíre going to do to continue to support the placer mining industry and the mining industry in general in the Yukon Territory. Under the objectives and key strategies, by goal, for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Iíll read a few of the goals that are specific to natural resources, mining and the placer mining sector in general.
Under goal 1.2, under key strategies, in the mineral sector: identify administrative process efficiencies for programs being transferred from Canada in conjunction with other partners and commence implementation April 1, 2003. Goal 2.1 ó there are three key strategies here: promote investment in the mining sector by communicating Yukonís advantages to industry, maintain Yukonís favourable taxation regime in conjunction with the Department of Finance, and develop and implement natural resource investment, promotion and public education initiatives.
Something else that the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is doing in conjunction with the Department of Infrastructure to support natural resource development and mining development is the access corridor study, and we intend to carry that out over the next year, Mr. Speaker.
Under goal 2.3: work to expand the mineral industry knowledge base through support of the Yukon geology program, education programs, industry forums and workshops; work with partners to support improved environmental performance of mining projects through research identified by the mining environmental research group.
Mr. Speaker, under goal 2.4, weíre going to work with mineral project proponents to increase Yukon employment and business opportunities. Weíll work with industry, First Nations, communities and other stakeholders to identify barriers and opportunities for local employment and local business development opportunities in the resource sectors. Weíre going to continue the development of a comprehensive benefit agreement policy for Yukon resource development projects.
Mr. Speaker, under goal 3.2 in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources accountability plan, weíll prepare a framework for management of minerals post-devolution, based on Government of Yukon priorities. Weíre going to implement commitments in the mine plan, including work on a comprehensive Yukon mineral policy, support for the review of the Yukon placer authorization, implementation of the mineral compensation policy, and a streamlined permitting process.
Mr. Speaker, since we took office two years ago and when the Premier was the Minister of Economic Development, she worked very hard for the placer mining industry in making sure that their concerns were known in Ottawa. I have continued that work as Minister of Economic Development and now as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Certainly I and everyone on this side of the House, and indeed everyone in this Legislative Assembly, recognize the benefits of the placer mining industry. In recent years, the placer operations throughout the Yukon have produced anywhere from $23 million to $50 million worth of gold and employed an estimated 400 to 700 people annually. So it is a very important contributor to the economic well-being of the territory. Indeed, I think itís incumbent upon all Yukoners to realize this, to speak out in favour of developing the industry, and that is why we have proposed this amendment.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Somehow the Member for Klondike is painting a highly imperfect picture that this government, the current Liberal government, isnít behind the placer industry in the territory, and I want to reiterate that that is a pretty wide stretch.
Last November, the Member of Parliament and I attended an awards banquet here in Whitehorse where the placer mining industry passed out environmental awards for the industry. I was quite impressed with the three or four awards that were presented that evening. And the placer mining industry is doing wonderful things ó than they were 20 years ago, and probably far different from when the member himself first went to the Dawson City area 30 years ago.
The member has said that the Liberals have turned into silence in Ottawa. That is not true. We have heard the Member for Riverside say that countless times today. We have made representations to Ottawa. We have been on the side of the placer mining industry.
Speaker: I would like to remind members that we are referring to truths or not truths in the House. It has passed by prior to now, but it is time to address it. I would ask the member to please just rephrase it.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I ought to remind the member that at the placer mining banquet in November, a number of awards were passed out and we were quite impressed with the awards. The Member for Klondike ó we agree that things have changed considerably. The Member for Klondike also knows that the government is participating in a review of the Yukon placer authorization. But there are times when the Member for Klondike raises the level of panic and angst to a much higher level in the Legislature when he is trying to make a point.
Our position is clear. We have awaited the report that the Member for Riverside has tabled today for a number of weeks now. As a government, we stated that the discharge rate, which placer operators currently operate under, is adequate and not in need of changing. Until there is an extremely compelling reason to alter the rate, there is nothing on the table that is going to change the governmentís position.
The Yukon government does take clear positions with regard to the issues that face the placer authorization. For the Member for Klondike to suggest that maybe that isnít the case perhaps shows a definitive lack of understanding on his part. We know that gold prices are critically important in making the industry survive in Dawson.
We have been successful in achieving the northern mine ministers meeting in Dawson City in the year 2003. Thatís never been done before. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is going to attend the gold show in Dawson City in May. We are there; we are demonstrating that weíre doing lots.
The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has mentioned that the major impact of the Yukon placer authorization and the ability to mine new areas of the Yukon often relates to the length of time it takes to get stream classification. The survey results indicate that sometimes it can take as long as five years to have it classified.
We want to ensure that this government is actively working on the Yukon Placer Committee to ensure there are practical standards for placer mining ó no question. The next few weeks are an important time for review. The government is fully engaged in a discussion, with a view to ensuring the authorization is balanced, fair, and continues to provide that high level of protection.
But it is our intention to ensure that we continue to have an active placer mining industry, as well as a fishery. This is going to be possible under the renewed authorization. We have always said we would be fair and open in our dealings with the industries. The Member for Riverside has mentioned that we are opening mining roads, and that makes a big difference.
We are going to continue to work with the industry, and I think members opposite fully understand. The fact that we have spent as long as we have this afternoon and heard from the number of members we have, indicates that this industry, which has continued to anchor the economic picture in Dawson City for years, is not one that members in this House take idly.
I want to commend to all members of the House the excellent amendment brought forward by the Member for Laberge. In doing so, she has removed the partisan shot that is contained in the initial main motion that indicates that all of the fault perhaps lies with the Yukon Liberal government. That is not the case. We are leading, despite what the Member for Klondike thinks, and the motion proposed by the Member for Laberge involves all of the Yukoners. It takes away from the sideways type of cheap shot that the member has in his original motion. I want to urge all members present to vote for the amendment as put forward by my colleague for Lake Laberge.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Keenan: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Mr. Jim: Disagree.
Mr. McLarnon: Disagree.
Mr. Roberts: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are seven yea, nine nay.
Speaker: I would ask members to take their seats until we are finished here.
The nays have it. I declare the amendment defeated.
Amendment to Motion No. 189 negatived
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion?
If the member now speaks he will close debate; therefore, I will recognize the Minister of Justice.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Placer claims and leases cover only 0.33 percent of the territory. Only 2.5 percent of the watercourses are affected. Actual mining impacts ó even the smaller fraction ó the impact is mitigated by stringent environmental controls. In contrast, many cities, towns and rural development in the Yukon cover over two percent of the land base.
99.9 percent of the silt in the Yukon River in Dawson is generated naturally, much of it from the glacial runoffs from the White River, where there is no placer mining. Yukon placer miners use only water and gravity to recover gold. Harmful chemicals such as the mercury and cyanide that we have seen in other mining operations, which the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is well familiar with from his riding, arenít used in the mining. Regulation of the placer industry requires two primary permits: a water licence and a mining land use permit. Reclamation is now mandatory, and a plan must be approved before licences are issued.
The stringent standards oblige placer miners to settle the silt out of the discharge water. Thereís no disagreement there. The silt collected in the settling ponds revegetates rapidly, usually with willow growth that provides browse for the moose, and where ponds remain as wetlands, the migrating waterfowl find a very useful habitat.
Placer mining is an important part of the Yukon economy. It generates over $50 million annually. Cultural remains of placer mining are still the number-one tourist draw to the Yukon. The Klondike Gold Rush is Yukonís main tourist icon. Tourism industry profits from the display of these items, like the fully restored Dredge No. 4, the largest wooden-hulled bucket line dredge in North America, and the gold room at Bear Creek, where raw gold was poured into bars for shipment to the outside world. Placer miners and other Yukoners go a long way toward crafting Yukon gold nugget jewellery from the product of these operations throughout the territory. This adds value to the primary product. Theyíre made-in-Yukon products, and each nugget represents a little piece of Yukonís fine history.
When I first explored the Klondike goldfields, it was great to be able to go through the cabins and see the large and small dredges and the other equipment that abounds around the area of Dawson.
Many of Yukonís artists are working with materials from placer mining, such as the gold nuggets and the mammoth ivory, and also use relics like cabins and landscapes for creating the visual artwork.
Driving up the Burwash Creek road is a great way to see the interior of the front ranges of the Kluane mountains. Members opposite would agree. Having this access really helps to get into the good hiking and the wildlife viewing country around the gold fields.
Many members present have also been to the Mayo placer mining camp ó beautiful up there. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun and I would agree on that point.
The drive to Keno City ó
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 189 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers was tabled April 10, 2002:
Yukon Placer Authorization Review (dated March 25, 2002) by BDO Dunwoody LLP (Kent)
Yukon Placer Miner Authorization Review: letter from Grant W. Klein, KPMA Director to Premier Duncan (dated April 8, 2002) (Kent)