Monday, March 24, 2003 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.
Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker:Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling the report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on the 2002 general election.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Child Welfare League of Canada conducted a Review of Services to Children in Care and prepared a report to the Liberal government in June 2002, which resulted in 15 recommendations;
(2) the Child Welfare League of Canada recommended as a first priority that government address social worker and supervisor staffing shortfalls;
(3) the Child Welfare League of Canada recommended that government hire child welfare policy staff as a second priority;
(4) that the Yukon Liberal government publicly agreed with these two recommendations and was working toward their implementation; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to detail its response to the recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada report and to provide timelines for the implementation of recommendations for addressing social worker, supervisory and policy staffing shortfalls.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) the Yukon Party promised, during the 2002 general election, to create an all-party committee to make recommendations with respect to proposed appointments to major boards and committees; and
(2) the government House leader announced, during the March 24, 2003 meeting of House leaders, that the Yukon Party government is proceeding unilaterally to appoint the Chair and the employee representative to the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board;
THAT it is the opinion of this House that these unilateral appointments are contrary to the Yukon Partyís commitment to make such appointments subject to recommendation from an all-party committee; and
THAT this House urges the government to immediately bring forward a motion to appoint the all-party committee on appointments so that it may meet and make recommendations on the proposed appointment of a Chair and an employee representative to the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. Hardy: I have for tabling the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) non-profit community organizations provide a wide range of necessary services to Yukon people on behalf of the Yukon government;
(2) effective planning and delivery of services requires stable, long-term funding agreements between the Yukon government and the non-profit organizations that act on its behalf; and
(3) arbitrary funding cuts not only jeopardize programs and services directly, they also jeopardize the ability of non-profit organizations to attract and retain both the professional staff and the voluntary board members they need; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to enter into stable, long-term and binding funding agreements with the non-government agencies that provide services to the Yukon people on its behalf.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Party government to maintain funding to Yukon school councils in the 2003-04 fiscal year at no less than the current levels and to begin immediate consultation with school councils on capital allocation priorities for school replacements and renovations for the next five-year period.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Shelter for the homeless
Mr. Hardy:Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Will the minister tell us his plans for dealing with the plight of homeless people in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Through the auspices of the Salvation Army and a number of other NGOs, we are making best efforts to address the plight of homeless people here in the Yukon.
Mr. Hardy: This morning on the radio, the minister was blaming his botch-up on the Dawson Cityís shelter on a miscommunication. This is the same excuse that was used with the Department of Education last week. The members opposite have finally stopped blaming all their mistakes on the big, bad spending trajectory. Their new excuse is miscommunication. Now weíve learned that the new Salvation Army shelter in Whitehorse will be closing its doors as of April 13.
Will the minister confirm that this closure is the result of inadequate funding from this government, or would he like us to believe there is another miscommunication at work?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, our governmentís commitment from the Department of Health and Social Services is the same commitment as last year ó $40,000 for this specific program.
Mr. Hardy: This government has a serious credibility problem. Before the election, they were champions of social programs. Now that theyíre elected, weíre watching program after program fall by the wayside, and this minister, of course, is right in the middle of it all.
Will the minister show some compassion to the homeless people in Whitehorse and provide adequate resources for the Salvation Army to keep its shelter doors open after April 13?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What we have here, Mr. Speaker, once again, is an issue of the federal government pulling their funding. They had a boutique program in place. The federal government has pulled out of an initiative that they had begun.
Our commitment to this area remains the same ó $40,000 ó and our government is very cognizant of our responsibility for these programs in this area and will continue to address this issue on an ongoing basis. What has been done in the past will be done in the future.
Question re: Program cancellations due to budget cuts
Mr. Hardy:I have a related question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Will the minister save this House some time by providing a list of programs that are being cancelled as a result of his funding cuts?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The funding cuts that the member opposite is trying to identify as being our governmentís cuts are programs that were begun at the federal level. The boutique programs have flowed funds to the Yukon for a whole series of areas and, at the end of the day, the feds have backed out. Our government commitments remain firm and strong. What is happening is, in a number of areas, the respective NGOs are coming to our government and saying, "Hey, look, weíve got a funding cut," but that funding cut, by and large, usually relates to funding cuts from the senior level of government.
Mr. Hardy: This minister is developing a pretty impressive track record of turning his back on Yukon people: seniors, women in crisis, homeless people and auxiliary employees. Iím sure these people are thrilled about this government pursuing a multi-million dollar bridge in the ministerís riding. Iím sure they are thrilled about pay raises for this governmentís top political staff. Last month we learned that the No Fixed Address Outreach van is in jeopardy because of funding cuts to the Yukon Family Services Association. Has the minister given any assurances to the Yukon Family Services Association that funds will be available to keep this service going?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Yukon Family Services Association has received no funding cuts from our government. We have maintained the same level of funding for that organization as has been in place for the previous year. What has happened, once again, is the association has been very capable in leveraging federal funding. That federal funding is not forthcoming, or it hasnít been identified for this next fiscal period, and the member opposite is trying to tie the responsibility for a funding cut to our government. That is not the case, Mr. Speaker. Our funding level for the Yukon Family Services Association remains firm, committed and ongoing.
Mr. Hardy: Letís add street kids, intravenous drug users and youth at risk to the people whose needs this minister has put on the chopping block. The Outreach van has had tremendous support from the community, including private businesses, service clubs, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, and non-profit organizations. Since the minister wonít resign and the Premier wonít fire him, will the minister at least do the job that he is being paid to do, which is to ensure that these programs can continue? Will the minister prevent a potential tragedy by restoring Yukon Family Services funding to keep the Outreach van on the road, whether itís federal or territorial?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, what the member opposite is conveying to this Legislature is inaccurate. He is indicating that there has been a funding cut from our government. That is very inaccurate. It is not correct, Mr. Speaker. Our funding to the Yukon Family Services Association remains firm and committed and ongoing. What has transpired here is that, through their very capable work, they have been able to leverage additional funding from the federal government and various federal government programs, and that funding is the funding that has been cut or curtailed. Now, letís tie the can where it firmly belongs, and thatís on funding cuts from the federal Liberal government.
Question re: Highway maintenance budget cuts
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the minister responsible for the Department of Highways and Public Works. The new minister has fit right in with his Yukon Party colleagues who say one thing to get elected and something different after getting into this Legislature. During the campaign, the Yukon Party was asked this specific question in a survey: "Will your government assure Yukon communities that highway maintenance funding will be preserved at the current levels over the next four years?" And this was their response: "Yukon Party governments in the past have traditionally spent more money on Yukon highway systems than either previous NDP governments or the current Liberal government. The next Yukon Party government can be expected to follow that tradition." That was their written commitment. The new budget cuts over $1 million from highway maintenance ó another promise made, another promise broken. And I see the minister getting advice from the minister of broken promises.
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please ask the question?
Ms. Duncan: Certainly. Why was this Yukon Party promise broken?
Hon. Mr. Hart: To answer the member opposite, the issue here is that we will be working toward that particular issue, and we havenít broken the promise.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party budget cuts $1 million from the maintenance of our highways. This government has broken another promise to Yukoners. This government is cutting maintenance, and itís cutting capital construction projects as well. That means job cuts in the private sector.
Yukon road builders are extremely disappointed with the new budget. The highway construction budget is down almost $9 million and total capital spending in the transportation branch is down over $10 million. Thatís a 22-percent cut.
Can the minister tell Yukoners how many private sector jobs his dismal road budget does create?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Well, Iíll reiterate that we have provided approximately $5 million recently on the Shakwak project, as well as another $1.1 million for the same particular aspect on that work, and we have two more projects underway in that particular area.
Ms. Duncan: After promising in writing during the election campaign that they would spend more money on highways, this government is in fact spending less. The Yukon Party says itís the private sector that will create jobs in the Yukon economy, and yet the Minister of Highways canít tell us how many jobs his dismal budget will create. Let me connect the dots for the new minister.
Letís use the Champagne-Aishihik bypass as an example. That beautiful new section of road last year was $7 million in the Liberal government budget, creating 14 kilometres of new road and creating over 80 private sector jobs. This 22-percent budget cut by the minister cuts well over 100 private sector road-building jobs. How does the minister suggest the private sector road builders create jobs and employ Yukoners this summer?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We will continue to provide jobs to the private sector by providing our contracts to the private sector for jobs on the highway ó the Shakwak and other jobs both on the north Klondike Highway and the south Klondike Highway.
Question re: Dawson City womenís shelter funding
Mr. Hardy:My question is for the Premier, following up on my earlier questions to the Minister of Health and Social Services. Does the Premier agree with the ministerís unilateral decision to change an existing contribution agreement with a non-profit community organization?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The data shows clearly that the funding being allocated to the shelter in question is ample funding for that shelter to carry out its duties in its primary function of addressing the needs of women in the City of Dawson. There is absolutely no question about that, and if there is a need demonstrated through the course of the fiscal year, we will act as we have done with Kausheeís Place, which demonstrated a need for an increase and they received an increase. But in this particular case the funding is adequate to carry out that primary function that the shelter is intended to do.
Mr. Hardy: This morning the minister claimed he had reached a compromise with the Dawson City womenís shelter. The only compromise is the way he compromises the societyís ability to do its job. I pointed that out last week. When you take money out of an NGO, you do compromise its ability to operate.
Two weeks before the new fiscal year starts, he has cut $50,000 out of the societyís budget. Did he consult with them? No, the president of the society called him last week about this.
The minister broke a written funding agreement ó period. Services are being lost ó period. Jobs are being lost ó period.
Will the Premier now direct the minister to reverse his unilateral decision and honour the funding agreement between the Yukon government and the Dawson City womenís shelter?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: When is the opposition going to provide questions and information that are based on fact? There are no job losses in the Dawson City shelter. There are no reductions in programs or services. The historical data shows clearly, beyond any doubt, that the level of funding that is being allocated to that shelter is sufficient for that shelter to carry out its primary function.
But this is not a question of one shelter in one community. This is an issue for women across this territory. This government has increased funding in an area where it was most needed, and that is going to help women in need as is the Dawson City shelter going to continue to carry out its primary function with the necessary funds itís receiving from this government.
Those, Mr. Speaker, are the facts.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, this Premier has used his trajectory to challenge and attack the women of this territory. When are we supposed to believe anything about this government? Certainly not its election platform. The Premier says he wonít be implementing it ó certainly not its claims about no layoffs or job cuts. The evidence is to the contrary. Itís all over the place.
The government continues to play the game of hide and seek, first around jobs, now around NGO cuts. Even written agreements are in question. Itís time for the Premier to provide some assurance to non-government organizations that their services wonít be cut unilaterally at the whim of a minister.
Will the Premier agree to sit down with all non-government organizations that provide services on behalf of the Yukon government and work on stable, long-term and binding contribution agreements with them?
Speaker:Before the hon. Premier answers the question, Iíd like to remind the leader of the official opposition that the term "attack" is unparliamentary, and I would ask you not to use it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, itís clear that the only evidence that has been brought to the floor of this Legislature is the oppositionís inability to see clearly what the realities are in todayís Yukon. Weíve tabled the third highest budget in the history of the Yukon Territory. There is simply no evidence that we are ignoring NGOs in this territory. Furthermore, we are gravely concerned for the plight of women in this territory. That is why we reinstated the Women's Directorate and, contrary to the third partyís claim on the floor of this Legislature, that Women's Directorate now reports to a minister, not a manger. So we are working diligently and daily with NGOs and all Yukoners to turn this territory around after two years of mismanagement by the former Liberal government. Thatís the evidence and weíre here to correct that problem.
Question re: Special needs program cuts
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Education.
The Yukon Party promised to provide assistance to children with special needs. This is number five in the Yukon Partyís FASD action plan. In the budget on page 7-9 under Education, there is a reduction of four percent for special programs. Iíd like to ask the minister this: how is the reduction helping to provide assistance to children with special needs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would have to say to the member opposite that this government totally respects the special needs students and that the level of support that we give them will stay in place.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister can explain that a little more because, in the budget we have in front of us, Mr. Speaker, there is a four-percent reduction. A reduction to these special programs obviously brings into question the Yukon Partyís commitment to excellence in education.
Weíve seen other cuts in education. There is a $540,000 reduction in education support services; thereís a three-percent reduction in school support services, a five-percent cut in personnel, and on and on it goes.
This minister also admitted that there are 12 fewer teachers for next year, Mr. Speaker. Can the minister explain how these additional cuts in education will support children with special needs and their parents and improve our educational system?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the FASD initiative is housed in the Department of Health and Social Services, Iíll respond to that question. Our government is committed in this area to addressing the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder issue, and to that end, weíre assembling a number of NGOs and a number of other government agencies and putting together this team, which we indicated in our platform would be in place.
Now, weíre several months away from seeing the results of our efforts, but it is ongoing and it is committed. This issue of FASD crosses over from Health, Education and Justice, and it is impacting on us all. Our party has a very firm commitment to address this issue and will be doing so.
Mr. Fairclough: The Minister of Healthís attempt to answer the question for the Minister of Education ó well, there was no answer in that answer, Mr. Speaker.
I asked the minister to explain how these additional cuts are going to improve our education system, and there is a failure there.
Clinical psychologists help mentally and emotionally disturbed clients. They give diagnostic tests, provide individual, family and group psychotherapy, and implement behaviour modification programs. They also develop and implement treatment intervention programs with physicians and other specialists, and these cuts are in education.
So I would like to ask the minister this: how is the ministerís plan to eliminate the only clinical psychologist helping to meet the needs of children with severe behavioural disorders in our schools?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To make the record clear, I would like to state that there are three full-time education psychologists in the education system and there is also one position that is supplied when needed. The position that the member opposite is referring to is at this time vacant, and the department is in the process of assessing that position.
Question re: School replacements
Mr. Fairclough:The people of Carmacks have been waiting patiently to get a badly needed new school. My question to the Minister of Education is very simple. Why does the ministerís budget for 2003-04 completely ignore this need?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to state that all education facilities are of importance to this government.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister didnít answer the question. Why wasnít this reflected in the budget? These answers from the minister opposite are bad, Mr. Speaker, and I ask the minister to do his homework and read his own budget. Maybe if this minister did some proper consultation he would know the issue. What will it take for this minister to take the needs of Carmacks students, the teachers and the parents seriously? What would it take?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To set the record straight, I would like to state that this minister does know the issue with regard to the school in Carmacks and that while the budget process was actually taking place, we received a letter from the citizens of Carmacks requesting that we do not build on to that school.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Partyís platform commits to excellence in education, yet the budget reduces funding for school councils around the territory by some 34 percent. I would like to point out for the minister it is reflected on page 7-20 in this budget, so the minister canít say that there isnít a reduction. School councils, of course, as the minister knows, are made up of community people, including parents, and itís an excellent organization to deal with local issues. So will the minister restore the school council funding and get school councils together to identify the order of priorities for school replacements and renovations? Will he commit to that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I want to set the record straight. We did not cut the funding to school councils. I think we basically asked if they would use up the surplus in which a different formula of topping up the school council financial support would be implemented.
Question re: Burwash sewage lagoon
Mr. McRobb:Today my question is for the Minister of Community Services. It was with dismay that I learned this morning that another project from my riding has been cancelled by this Yukon Party government. I am referring to the Burwash sewage lagoon project.
This project has been on the books for several years. I recall, in the Piers McDonald government speaking to it, the money was on the books. The previous Liberal government spoke to this project twice. Now that this Yukon Party has another chance to deal with this project, itís being delayed.
The previous Yukon Party government refused to deal with this matter. Itís very serious. It has environmental implications and tremendous implications for the community. Will the minister please confirm that his government has shelved this project and please explain why?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Community Services is in the process of reviewing the particular application that the member opposite is referring to, and itís under investigation.
Mr. McRobb: I would suggest that it would be more appropriate to investigate the content of this governmentís answers in Question Period. That was not an answer to my question. I asked the minister to confirm the postponement or deferral of this project. He failed to do that.
So now, once again, the minister has two questions to answer. It seems this governmentís commitment is very questionable when it comes to the environment and doing anything for ridings other than Klondike or Watson Lake. I would like to ask the minister exactly what the holdup is on this project in meeting regulatory requirements and, of course, to confirm that it has been cancelled and explain why.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are reviewing this application because it is currently under a water licence issue, and that is the delay in the process.
Mr. McRobb: It is awfully unusual for a government to remove an item that has been booked in the budget because of some delay in licensing. For his information, I have asked the officials to bring me back a chronology on this matter so we can investigate it further to hold this government accountable, because something doesnít smell right with this. This government has cancelled a number of projects in my riding like the Mendenhall fire hall. They have laid off government social services. There is nothing new for the Kluane riding. We all canít move to Watson Lake or Dawson City, Mr. Speaker, and unfortunately that is what it seems to be coming down to. When will this minister commit to proceeding with this project?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Well, for the member opposite, I guess the $2.2 million for Haines Junction doesnít mean anything in this particular venue. I would like to impress that particular aspect on him. The issue for Watson Lake is $1.4 million. The issue for Dawson City, on the other hand, is $4.4 million, but it is to do with a large sewage facility there ó okay? If he would like to rap on about the numbers, that is fine but we are putting money into other rural communities and it is pretty evident in our budget.
Question re: Municipal block funding
Ms. Duncan:I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. During the election campaign, the Yukon Party wrote a lot of letters and made a lot of promises. We have already learned that this government is breaking many of those promises. During the election the Yukon Party was asked by the Association of Yukon Communities to provide extra money to municipalities this fiscal year under the municipal block funding program. The Yukon Party replied, yes, it would provide the extra money this year. They may have even also said "immediately", Mr. Speaker. Can the minister tell this House why this promise made by the Yukon Party has been broken?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The promise hasnít been broken. The funding has been provided to the Yukon communities, and thatís where weíre at.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the promise has been broken. No extra money has been paid out ó another broken promise.
In the same letter, the Yukon Party was asked to amend the Municipal Finance and Community Grants Act. The Yukon Party said yes, in time for the next fiscal period. Well, the next fiscal period starts in one week, on April 1. The only municipal legislation we have on the books is not the promised changes to the Municipal Finance and Community Grants Act.
When will the Government of Yukon meet this particular promise or keep this particular promise?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, the Association of Yukon Communities has indicated to us ó several times, I might add ó that they donít want the formula adjusted.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Association of Yukon Communities asked these questions. The commitment was made by the Yukon Party. The Yukon Party said that they would amend the Municipal Finance and Community Grants Act in time for the new fiscal year that starts in a week. They havenít done it. The minister wonít answer when theyíll do it.
Itís one broken promise after another ó two commitments to municipalities, two broken promises, cuts to highway spending, child care, community development fund, subdivision developments, fall sitting, improved economy. Itís cut after cut, broken promise after broken promise.
If the government ever does get around to living up to this particular commitment, the community that will suffer the most is Faro. Is the minister aware of that and has he discussed that with the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, and can he tell the House how much Faro will lose when they keep this promise?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I reiterate that this is the third largest budget thatís coming before the House. We are providing and maintaining services all over the place, in all rural communities. With regard to the formula funding to the communities, Iíll reiterate again that the communities have told us on several occasions that they donít want the formula adjusted. Okay? And thatís from the AYC.
With regard to the memberís issue, Faro does stand to lose the most in the reconfiguration, but Iíll reiterate that the association has indicated they donít want the funding adjusted, and thatís what has been reported to me.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed and we will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. Do members wish a 15-minute recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will now stand in recess for 15 minutes. The matter before the Committee after the recess will be Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. Weíll continue on with the Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03. Mr. Fentie, you have the floor, and weíre still on general debate.
Bill No. 2 Ė Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Hon. Mr. Fentie:As we were debating on Thursday of last week regarding the supplementary budget tabled here in the House regarding fiscal year 2002-03, which brings us up to and including period 8, there was an obvious attempt by the third party to try and offload ó
Chair:Order please. The Chair is, as has reminded the member, uncomfortable with the term "attempt" as itís imputing motive ó Standing Order 19(g).
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The member from the third party was immersed in the issue of this supplementary budget and its spending. We said on this side of the House, continuously, that we are responsible for tabling this supplementary budget, as it is our duty. Given the election timing, we are in the midst of a fiscal year that was commenced by the former Liberal government. It is standard practices and procedures of government that these supplementary budgets come forward.
There are always variances throughout the course of the fiscal year. Those variances must be reflected in these types of supplementary budgets and the spending that goes with them, and itís important that we understand that. Our government has openly stated that we are responsible for tabling this budget. We are responsible for what is in this budget as it reflects the former government spending, which is housed here in the supplementary budget for all to see, including the spending that we committed to.
Itís a needless debate in this regard as to who is responsible for each and every dollar because for the most part the money is spent. It has passed us; itís in the past. Itís money that flowed throughout the course of this fiscal year.
Iím sure something else will come forward in the fall, in all likelihood, to close out this fiscal year. That happens on a regular basis ó as we sat here earlier last week debating a supplementary budget that was closing out the fiscal year 2001-02. So the debate ultimately is defined in standard accounting practices ó those things that must take place. They must be booked. There is no other way.
There are also Management Board directives that flow into a supplementary budget, and thatís important because there were a number of Management Board directives throughout the fiscal year 2002-03 that reflected the former Liberal governmentís direction to the government, in terms of expenditure.
Of course, there were our directives from Management Board, upon taking office and being sworn in on December 2. Firstly, a call letter for the new budget went out December 11.
But we also have to make sure that we dealt with the business at hand, up to and including that point, which is what this supplementary budget is all about. Now the member of the third party, the leader of the third party, the former Premier has made much about a number of items that have to be addressed, and there is no question about it. Because government decision making is where the responsibility lies and the former government made a number of decisions that have impacted Yukon today and will have impacts into the future. It is essentially what has brought us to the fiscal situation the Yukon Territory finds itself in. Letís just look at some examples. Let us start adding up the dollar values that the member opposite said that we are responsible for taking out of their direction to government for expenditures. And if we add those dollar values back in, we are quickly going to find that our annual deficit dramatically increases for the year. The fiscal situation that the Yukon Territory finds itself in becomes even worse. There was an election in the midst of all this where commitments were made by certain parties, and those commitments obviously resonated with the public as they came from our government, our side of the House, and the results of November 4, 2002, clearly show that. Then we have to look at some of the other areas where the responsibility for these decisions rests solely with the former Liberal government.
Today, our government in the territory grapples with a decision that has huge ramifications for the Yukon taxpayer. It has been unheard of in the history of this territory that a government would pay the amount of rent that is now the responsibility of the Yukon government, thanks to the former governmentís decision to rent space in what the former government called the one-stop shop. If you factor in the costs that are associated with the per-square-foot rental arrangement, we are looking at approximately $34 a square foot, the highest ever in the history of the Yukon Territory of a government rental agreement, and that has raised the bar.
Also, Mr. Chair, the Yukon, after a decade of paying this high, high rent, would have no ownership whatsoever in this particular building, and it has obviously brought a situation to bear where we are trying to address that particular issue by ensuring that the situation is not compounded in a negative manner by having more and more people move out of the downtown core.
So, we have taken steps in that area to ensure that that doesnít happen.
I point this out because of course we, as a government, have to make decisions that reflect what Yukoners desire, and they made a clear statement on November 4 of what their desires were. So we put a stop to the one-stop shop, as it were, to see if we could, in some manner, find a way to reduce this cost to the taxpayer ó this highest rental cost in the history of this territory that government would be paying out. Thatís a decision that had to be made.
The issue on other fronts is also part of what had to be made to ensure we stayed within the fiscal parameters that weíre required to stay in, as laid out by the Yukon Taxpayer Protection Act.
So, when it comes to constructive debate in regard to this supplementary budget, the defining argument is not: who spent what dollars? The defining argument is: how did we get to this juncture? Well, it begins with the start of the fiscal year 2002-03, and the highest budget in the history of the Yukon Territory tabled and passed ó some $560 million.
This supplementary budget, which takes us to and including period 8, takes that expenditure and increases it to $590 million. If we had not made the decisions we did in certain areas on behalf of the taxpayers to save them money, our budget today ó this supplementary ó would reflect a fiscal year of over $600 million. That is something that cannot be sustained, not only by the Yukon government, but by the Yukon taxpayer. Itís an impossibility, Mr. Chair.
Now, it is important that that opposition bring forward information and put on the floor of this Legislature in debate things that can be certainly rationalized, that clearly have the burden of proof attached. Theyíve made much about cuts, and they begin with this supplementary with the third party making the claim that weíve made many cuts. As I pointed out, we did, on behalf of taxpayers, make certain decisions to save them money, but we still have a $590 million fiscal year 2002-03, which is $40 million ó these are approximates ó higher than the fiscal year 2001-02.
Itís an enormous increase in expenditure, when we are looking at a loss in population and a decrease in revenues because of that loss in population. When you consider that 50 cents of every dollar thatís earned by government ó revenues for the Yukon government ó is coming from personal tax, income tax, and with that loss of population ó I think we can see the trajectory, and it is why we had to act. We begin acting with this supplementary budget on behalf of the taxpayers.
Now, the members opposite make a great deal out of the cuts to a budget and as it relates to, especially, government jobs. I want to point something out. We have here the information that shows clearly where weíve been from 1997 to 2003-04. When you look at the overall reduction in O&M costs, which are a reflection of jobs in the public service, all we have reduced the O&M costs by is $2 million.
It is not a cut in a job when an on-call auxiliary is not going to be called in until there is a need demonstrated. It is not a cut in a job when a term position ends and is not renewed. Those are not cuts and that has been clearly established. We will, based on demonstrated need, act accordingly and we will continue to do that, but we are going to get a firm grip on the fiscal situation of this territory. The warning has been there over and over and over again. No government has heeded that warning until now. The heeding of the warning is the direct result of the fiscal situation that the government and territory are in.
Chair: The member has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Chair. So we have to act and we act based on behalf of the taxpayers of this territory, and fiscal responsibility dictates that we do so. So I want to point out that no matter what the debate may be, no matter what the third party, former Premier may say, we, the government of the day, take full responsibility for this supplementary budget. We take full responsibility for tabling the expenditures that are the direction and the decision making of the former Liberal government, and we take full responsibility for the decisions that we made post-December 2, 2002. Those decisions clearly are set in place to deal with what has become a major problem, and much of that can be attributed to the former Liberal government whose spending spree was the highest ever in the history of the territory in the two short years that they held office. Unfortunately for Yukoners that spending did not result in any major improvement in the lives of Yukoners. It continued to create an exodus of our population. It continued to increase dependence on government versus growth in our private sector. It is not the way to spend the taxpayersí money. We on the other hand have now charted a new course. It began with this responsibility in the supplementary and it will continue on with our budget, which will commence April 1, 2003.
Mr. Chair, I would urge the member opposite to neglect ó
Chair: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Standing Order 42(3) states, "No member shall speak for more than 20 minutes at a time in Committee of the Whole."
Ms. Duncan: I was pleased to hear the Premier, the Minister of Finance, in his response take full responsibility for the supplementary budget that was tabled. This supplementary budget increases the deficit for the 2002-03 fiscal year to in excess of $60 million. The deficit tabled by the Liberal government was $41 million, Mr. Chair. And the Finance minister has stood on his feet and accepted full responsibility for increasing that deficit substantially and tabling, in fact, the largest deficit budget in the history of the Yukon.
Iíd just like to review the facts of the matter as we went around them on Thursday, when we were here last. This supplementary budget, which is the balance of the 2002-03 spending ó the Finance minister indicated that Management Board was sworn in on December 2. Management Board makes the decisions about how taxpayersí money is spent. It is chaired by the Minister of Finance. The Finance minister agreed with that in the Legislature. He also indicated that it directs the spending.
What has not been made clear in the debate in that the other members of Management Board under this government are the Member for McIntyre-Takhini and the Member for Klondike. The others, the balance of Cabinet and the caucus, are not included in the spending decisions.
There has been a lot of discussion about the special warrant, Mr. Chair. The special warrant, by our government, covered the period October 1 to March 31, 2003. It was for $12,465,000, of which in excess of $4 million is money that was coming back to the Government of Yukon for a particular capital project ó the Dawson City Airport.
It was a cost-shared arrangement with Canada. We issued the special warrant so that we could start on that and enter into the contracts.
The special warrant that the Finance minister sought from the Commissioner also covered the period October 1 to March 31, 2003. It was for $12,729,000. In the debate on Thursday, the Finance minister suggested that only $5 million of the $25 million theyíre seeking from this Legislature was a result of decision making of his and his Management Board, while in actual fact that warrant in excess of $12 million is already more than the $5 million the member has. But again, he indicated he was taking full responsibility for the $25 million, so Iíd just like to further outline how that occurred. There are several pages in Hansard where the Finance minister has suggested that the issue around the $2,797,000 in Legislative Assembly was solely the result of our government, and I just want to remind the Finance minister that the $2.6 million request was the actuarial evaluation that was signed off in 2003, so it was signed off and reported to this Legislature under the current Finance ministerís watch. The point is on the record in Hansard. The Finance minister was suggesting several times that that was a result of some error by the previous government. In actual fact, that is quite incorrect, and I am pointing that out today and establishing the facts of the matter.
The other part of the $12-million warrant sought by the Finance minister from Watson Lake is a reversal of $7.8 million permanent fund, a reversal of $3,492,000 for Grey Mountain School in Education funding; a reversal of $300,000 in Environment; $302,000 in Energy, Mines and Resources; $145,000 in capital in Health and, of course, the ending of the construction project ó the badly needed, required, Whitehorse Correctional Centre ó for almost $2 million was a funding decision by the current Yukon Party government.
So the Yukon Party government made the decisions surrounding $12 million ó a small part of the Yukon Party government made the decision surrounding $12 million. The additional spending and decisions on the additional spending are made when the variance reports come to Management Board.
Now, period 5 was the last variance report seen by the former Liberal government. It was not, to my knowledge, approved. In fact, in the first finance report that the current Finance minister delivered to the Yukon public, he indicated period 7, and he outlined the projections.
So, just as Iím pointing out to the public that the $12-million special warrant and funding decisions made by the previous government were reversed by the Yukon Party government, so I am also outlining the variance reports, any seen by the previous government, could have been reversed ó and in all likelihood, for all we know, were reversed ó by the Yukon Party government. In other words, the additional $25 million being sought by this government in expenditures ó this so-called handle on the big, bad trajectory. In fact, the Premier has made decisions to increase that trajectory by $25 million. Thatís an extraordinary sum.
Just another point about the variance reports that I would like to speak about for members who may not be familiar is that often in Health the variance reports come in ó and variance reports are for those monies spent over and above what a department had voted, what they have vote authority in the Legislature for. So they will come to the finance Management Board and say, "Weíve overspent our budget." What happens is that a supplementary comes before the House.
Management Board has to make a decision on that. With Health, there is no ability really to control those expenditures, because the government itself ó the novice Health minister ó has committed to the five principles of the Canada Health Act.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Would you like me to not use the term "novice"? Certainly, Mr. Chair, I would withdraw that.
In health care spending ó what happens is we provide health care costs and cover health care costs for patients who travel outside of the territory. We have no ability to control either the out-of-territory costs, the number of patients or when other provinces increase those costs. So what will happen is the Health department will come in and say they have had an extraordinary number of patients and need more money in this area. Of course any government who subscribes to the five principles of the Canada Health Act will approve those expenditures. This current government has the ability to approve those expenditures, to suggest the money come from elsewhere, for example, to change a contribution agreement with an existing organization, to tell the department to meet it within or to approve the additional expenditures. It is the Management Boardís choice, just as it is the Management Board that approves the supplementary expenditures that come before the House. This supplementary budget was approved by that government. That is the point that I am making. The suggestion that the supplementary budget then makes this the highest spending budget ever by a Yukon government is correct; however, the Finance minister has to take responsibility for that. I find it interesting because it was the Management Board that approved the supplementary for all the money.
The other point I would make is that the Finance minister has not noted the lapses. That is where a department doesnít spend money. How much will the lapses be? Are they overestimating them or underestimating them?
For example, in our debate last week, the Finance minister agreed that in the 2001-02 fiscal year, the Liberal government had lapses of $40 million. So this all gets into the point that in order to discuss the financial picture of the territory, we have to discuss the whole financial picture.
Iím pleased, again, that the Finance minister has taken responsibility for this supplementary and the spending decisions. Iím pleased that he recognizes that this in fact doesnít end the trajectory of government spending, but increases it.
I was interested to hear his comments with respect to the service centre. It sounded achingly familiar to most Yukoners ó like Taga Ku under the previous Yukon Party government. I was also interested to hear his comments about heeding the warning with respect to government funding, and suggesting there was a new course. Well, the new course is significant government spending, but what the Premier and Finance minister also didnít note is that there is also almost $6 million in new revenues that have been spent under this government.
So, in addition to bringing forward a supplementary that has $25 million in spending, which he has responsibility for, thereís also almost $6 million in additional revenue. The voted-to-date revenue was $529,213,000, and it adds $5,987,000 to that in this supplementary, Mr. Chair. The expenditures were $565 million, and the expenditures have been increased by $25 million.
The contingency has also been subsequently significantly reduced by the government.
Yet, although we have seen lapses, historically, in the neighbourhood of anywhere from $20 million, $25 million, $30 million, even $40 million, the Premier just says thereís all this spending but doesnít talk about the lapses, doesnít talk about which projects wonít be completed.
So, Iím quite prepared, given the Premierís acceptance of his responsibility for bringing forward this rather extensive and expensive supplementary, to move on, Mr. Chair, and debate in line-by-line the significant approvals for each of these departments. I believe there may be some additional general debate questions from my colleagues; however, Iím certainly prepared to move on, provided of course that the Premier is.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím pleased to see that the leader of the third party is now prepared to move on, finally coming to the understanding of what actually takes place with a supplementary budget, knowing full well what took place, given Management Board directives up until the time of the election call, including the directive to make sure that a supplementary budget was created in preparation for what may be a fall sitting. And I think that is probably as far as we should take this debate.
We, the government side, have no problem admitting our responsibilities, as we should do. We are responsible not only for the former governmentís spending this fiscal year, given the timing of the election call and a new government being sworn in in the midst of a fiscal year. We are pleased that we were able to inject some money into the Yukon through Project Yukon/CDF, and also FireSmart. Those monies are certainly helping in the communities in short-term stimulus.
Just to show a little bit, Mr. Chair, of the member oppositeís approach to debate, she made mention of increase in revenues for the supplementary budget.
Well, Mr. Chair, the member forgot to inform the House that $7.7 million were recoveries. That has a big bearing on it, but if you want to look at what is really the important issue here, itís that the territorial revenues decreased by $3 million up to this point in the fiscal year. Thatís the telling tale, because 50 cents of every dollar of territorial revenue comes from personal taxes. That is the critical issue; that is the situation we must address. We must return people to the Yukon instead of having the exodus that was experienced under the former government.
So the critical thing is that we have taken that step in this supplementary and beyond into the new budget. We are responsible for our expenditures, which are the community development fund and FireSmart, and we take responsibility for the former governmentís expenditures, because they were already booked.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Hardy: I wonít be long. There were just a couple points that were mentioned that I would like some clarification on before we go into line-by-line, and Iíd like to go back to what the Premier said in regard to the one-stop shop, since he brought it up ó if he could give me some more detail on the agreement. And he mentioned a square-foot cost and, if he has that price, he could give it to me now and we can move on from that one.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I can give the exact figures to the member opposite, if he wants it in writing, but it stands this way: under the agreement ó and Iím going off the top of my head ó I believe the square footage rental is $31 a square foot. When you factor in the heat and other costs to that, thereís an average across the board that brings that cost up to approximately $34 a square foot. That is not a standard rental rate; thatís significantly higher.
The issue is compounded by the fact that it would have moved a great deal of traffic out of the downtown area by moving many, many government employees out of existing rental spaces, away from the downtown core, diminishing what happens in the downtown core. This is in contradiction to our commitment to the Yukon when it comes to Whitehorseís downtown core. In fact, we want to see it enhanced.
So we certainly want to maintain a government presence here, and we are looking for options on what we can do with this building down on the waterfront across from Wal-Mart. We intend to hopefully come up with options that will reduce the cost to the taxpaying public, as this is a 10-year contract and, at the end of that 10 years, we will not even own this building.
Mr. Hardy: Could the Finance minister tell me: what is the standard rental rate, since he brought that one up as well?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I can recall going over options in other areas of rental for government where it ranged up to $25 a square foot; some can be a little higher, but certainly not in this range.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I have to share with the member opposite his concerns about this agreement. My party as well, during the election, had some very serious misgivings about the contract that was signed, especially around the fact that there is no return value to the taxpayers at the end of the day. In other words, they donít even own the building itself, which at one point would be an investment, and with that investment, the ability to lower the cost to government and to the taxpayers.
Hearing what the member opposite says, I get the impression that he would be in favour of the purchase of this building as a resolution if there were some way to do it. There probably isnít with the agreement that exists. So my question here is: is that some kind of negotiation that is ongoing? Is there any way to somehow recoup some kind of ownership on the building at the end of this extraordinarily expensive rental?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: To the best of my knowledge, there are no provisions for a purchase on this. I will point something out to the member ó and I think a lot of this leads to why the election was called. I think the former Premier realized, when we got to this juncture of the fiscal year, that there was a serious fiscal problem, and one of the ways to address the Yukon Taxpayer Protection Act and not go into an accumulated deficit was rental. As long as thereís no rental-purchase agreement, or anything that would force ó through standard accounting practices ó the government to book the value of the asset, then it does not impact or affect the accumulated surplus/deficit position.
So, in looking at this, it appears that is a possibility but, as far as I know, there are no provisions in the contract that would allow the Yukon government to purchase this building.
Mr. Hardy: Then I could ask a question, because Iím really curious about this building, as itís having a huge impact upon the finances. Is the renovation work ongoing right nowó not the renovations; itís a brand new building ó but the building of it, without the idea of what might go in it, or has there already been some stoppage of the work until thereís some idea what would be moved into it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There has been ongoing work upstairs. The downstairs, which I believe is a 10,000-square-foot space, is a little different. Weíre looking at a number of options now that include government and the possibility of entertaining some sort of relationship with the private sector or others that may help diminish the cost to the taxpayer in this very exorbitant agreement that was entered into by the former government.
Mr. Hardy: Well, as the MLA for downtown, I really appreciate the member oppositeís comment about ensuring there is no more drainage out of the downtown core because, truthfully, the businesses down there could not survive if we remove them from that area. My assumption in trying to find a solution to this problem would be that the government is looking at bringing some of the services that are actually farther from the downtown core into that building, which would bring them closer to the downtown core and maybe spread some of the spending power down in that area. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, that is correct. There are some rental arrangements that are coming to term that the Yukon government has that would enable us to use those particular agencies of government as a possible option. It is truly unfortunate, considering we want to enhance and experience growth in the downtown core, that this particular arrangement did not reflect the fact that we have another arrangement with the same proponent up on Burns Road. This would have been a fantastic opportunity to move all of that downtown but, unfortunately, at the same time the former government entered into this agreement on the waterfront, it also extended the rental agreement for that particular option, negating what was a golden opportunity to move a large number of government employees and services into the downtown area.
Mr. Hardy: Could the member opposite tell me the duration of the new contract for the building up in the Burns Road area, I believe, across from the airport? I think weíre all familiar with it and the owner as well. At least I am. I dealt with him on about seven different negotiations ó on employee negotiations ó since his has been a very active company in the Yukon for over 30 years. However, could he tell me the length of the contract that was just recently entered into?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the situation on Burns Road is this: two years of the existing contract were cut short, renovations were done, and a new 10-year agreement was entered into, within a reasonable proximity of time to when the agreement on the one-stop shop was entered into.
So, overall, we have two sites with 10-year rental agreements, we lost a golden opportunity to move a significant number of government employees and services into the downtown core ó this new building would have given a tremendous opportunity for that to happen ó and now the taxpayer is going to have to pay for two 10-year agreements. We now are researching diligently our options to try and diminish that cost to the taxpayer. And thatís a decision made by the former Liberal government ó not good fiscal management.
Mr. Hardy: Could the member opposite tell me what the upstairs of the building is going to be used for? That seems to have slipped my mind.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: On a preliminary basis, we have a government agency ó although the final decision has not been made at this time today, it will be soon; that is, its term or its agreement has reached its term and we have the opportunity to move that agency into the upstairs part while we look at the other options for the bottom floor.
Mr. Hardy: He didnít actually give me the name of the agency.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: I heard the member opposite say "not until itís definite." I guess what I would just want is confirmation that it is coming in from outside of the downtown core.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, it is, Mr. Chair. It would be coming from the industrial area into this particular building across from Wal-Mart.
Mr. Hardy: I guess my final question around this building right now is this: has there been ongoing negotiations with this owner to see about changing the agreement in some manner that doesnít affect their ability to make their profit but still allow the government to get a better deal and get some kind of ownership of the building?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There have been some discussions, and there will be a further meeting next month with the proponent to see if thereís something we can do there. We look forward to talking to them, recognizing the situation that the Yukon taxpayer has been put into. Weíre trying to improve on the situation, as I said, to diminish the cost to the taxpayer, which is the prudent course to take, and weíll exhaust all the options to try to achieve that.
Mr. Hardy: Just going to another comment that the member opposite made, which is the comment that the territorial revenue has been reduced. Could he explain that please?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Based on the supplementary, which is fiscal year 2002-03, we find that, although you will see an increase in total income, the issue is that $7.7 million of that increase is recoveries. The transfer from Canada is $1,244,000. I think we can attribute that to what happens within the formula, whether it be increased spending by provinces or provinces decreasing taxes ó those types of things tend to have an upward pressure on the transfer. But the biggest issue is that there is a $3-million reduction in territorial revenue. I think we can attribute a great deal of that ó the breakdown for the member, by the way, is on page S-8 ó but we certainly can look to the areas where we have had a decrease based, in all probability, on the loss of population and on our resource sector being down ó those types of things all contribute to reductions in territorial revenues.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís going into line-by-line, so with that, Iíll ask the same questions, or along the same lines, for a little bit more of a breakdown when we get to that. Thatís it for my general debate.
Ms. Duncan: Given that we have wandered into a debate with respect to the one-stop service centre, I would just like to have, in general debate, a couple of questions on the record, please.
Can the Premier identify what change orders were issued to this contract after they took office?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: None.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Government of Yukon advertised for customer service representatives to fulfill the one-stop service centre jobs. Shortly after taking office that was a Public Service Commission recruitment. Perhaps the Premier would like to explain where those individuals will be working from. The Premier made some rather far-reaching statements with respect to the rental agreement that was entered into as expensive and not netting the government and taxpayer an end result at the end. Perhaps the Premier would like to outline precisely how long we have rented some of the buildings around town. How long have our rental agreements been with these particular companies? For example, the one on Main Street ó the Mainsteele building ó the Shopperís Drug Mart building, and how long those lease arrangements have been entered into and re-entered into and at what various rates we have paid them. Perhaps the Premier would also outline ó given that the government subscribes to one of the five principles of the Canada Health Act being accessibility ó the Health and Social Services centre as part of this one-stop shop rearrangement of office which did not result in a net loss to the downtown core of individuals. The Health and Social Services centre was to be in a far more accessible location. That, too, has been cancelled as a result of this. The service centre making some offices available in a one-stop service centre meant that an individual could, for example, gain their driverís licence, their hunting licence and a number of other required licences in one location. Now the Premier has ended that initiative, pushed the undo button on renewal and the undo button on providing greater service and accountability to Yukoners, which would have resulted in, for example, the amalgamation of, say, the lands branch in one location as opposed to three or four and, post-devolution, it would have also provided space for the 250 Government of Canada employees coming over.
Perhaps the Premier can outline where the space committee currently sits. Have they been reconvened? How are they reconfiguring the space allocation?
Perhaps the Premier would also, in his comments, outline ó there was a net savings to government over the course of the life of the lease arrangement that has not been outlined. Perhaps he would confirm that figure for the floor of the House as well.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have to begin by pointing out to the member opposite that the principle under the Canada Health Act, when we come to accessibility, does not mean location. It means access to the system. Thatís why we fought Ottawa on the issue of the new health accord ó because our situation in the territories is access to that system. What a southern Canadian enjoys in terms of access to the system is far different from what we north of 60 must do. What is an ambulance ride to a hospital in a city like Edmonton is a plane ride out of the territories. Thatís all about accessibility and thatís why we took the federal government to task on that principle. The results, I think, were favourable for the territories.
In regard to how long all these rental agreements have gone on ó for quite some time, Mr. Chair, in the downtown core. And that contribution made in the downtown core has been very important to the centre of Whitehorse. We had no intention of changing that, so when the member opposite, the former Premier, asks who made the decision, I think we have to again go back to the election and commitments. We stated clearly that we would not proceed with what the former Liberal government had proposed when it came to the so-called one-stop shop.
In fact, we would stop it and not vacate the downtown core and all those other rental agreements that the government has today assisting all kinds of other businesses and people and Yukoners, and we would look for our options to ensure that the taxpayer was getting the best possible return for that expenditure. Thatís what weíre doing, and weíll exhaust all those options and make a decision on behalf of the taxpaying public of the territory.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, with all due respect to the Premier and the Finance minister, accessibility is important, and accessibility also means being able, if youíre a senior making use of a walker, to get a flu shot thatís offered by the clinic without difficulty. It also means being able to access a well-baby clinic without struggling up several flights of stairs carrying a nine-pound baby safely ensconced in a three-pound baby carrier. The health centre is very difficult to access ó very difficult, particularly for the services they provide. And the Premier has still not indicated exactly what the space plan is, whether or not the space committee has been reactivated, what their recommendations are. And Iím happy to accept that by legislative return.
Now, the Premier has made a number of statements on the floor, and Iím simply asking that he substantiate those ó if heís making the statements in public, Iím asking that he substantiate the statements in public.
He said that there was no benefit to the taxpayer for a long-term lease agreement at the end of which we didnít own the building. Well, weíve entered into those arrangements many, many times ó many different governments of many different stripes. There is a net benefit to the taxpayer, and itís working with the private sector, which previous governments have considered important.
In his earlier comments the Premier also suggested that ó and I must say I think it casts aspersions to suggest that the previous government called an election because of concern for the Taxpayer Protection Act.
I can state categorically, as a member of the previous government that also issued a management call letter and that had a capital budget ready to go on the floor of this House, that that was not the case. Absolutely, categorically, that was not the case. The reason for the election call was that every single member of the opposition in a minority government told us they would bring down the government. I would far rather have sought the peopleís opinion in October than in December. I fully respect the peopleís opinion. I also remind the Finance minister that while the majorities on paper and in seats of this House are large, they are in actual vote count very slim. So to suggest there was an overwhelming decision by the downtown core and that the Yukon Partyís suggestion of ending the service centre was overwhelmingly endorsed ó well, the member who was elected from Whitehorse Centre is not of that political stripe, Mr. Chair.
I go back to my point. If the Premier is going to make the statements on the floor of the House that ending the service centre ó he says heís doing that, yet he has sought applications for customer service representatives. And if that is, in fact, being ended, what change orders have been issued? Substantiate his argument that it is, in fact, a net cost overall to the taxpayer and not a net benefit. Previous lease arrangements had been a net benefit. Substantiate that, in fact, there were no cost-savings. In fact, there were cost-savings. Substantiate that the individuals who are transferring over in a week know where their offices are and that the public knows where the lands branch is going to be located.
I will go back to review the Blues, but the Premierís comments with respect to the one-stop service centre require some substantiation, Mr. Chair, and I would like the Finance minister to either provide that by legislative return or indicate on the floor of the House his answers to those questions.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In terms of the health services issue, it was the former governmentís decision to move that particular agency of government into the liquor store and then move the liquor store, and we are addressing those needs and those issues. Of course, itís important that seniors and others do not have difficulty in getting to required services.
But let me answer the member opposite this way. The member oppositeís government committed the Yukon government to a rate of $31.14 per square foot for a term of 10 years. The other rental agreements that the Yukon government has today range from $18.37 a square foot to $26.70 a square foot. Thatís a significant increase experienced in this new arrangement, so I think that substantiates what weíre doing, Mr. Chair.
Weíre dealing with an issue that commits the Yukon taxpayer to paying a significantly higher rental rate. What weíre doing is reviewing the options, exhausting all options, to try and diminish that cost to the taxpayer and bring it into line with other rental agreements that the government has had for years, ranging from $18 to $26 a square foot.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, will the Finance minister also indicate for the public record that the contract for leased space was publicly tendered and that that was the lowest tender submitted?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I donít dispute that, but governments have choices and governments make decisions. In this particular case, our position is the decision was made. Weíre going to make the best of it, and what weíre going to do is ensure that, when this building is occupied, we are, to the best of our ability, ensuring that the cost to the taxpayer is relative to what it should be. If that is not possible then, of course, we have no option but to do this. Thatís unfortunate, because that cost is substantial, and there are other things that the government could be spending money on besides rent of this type of high rate. But thatís what weíre dealing with, as the newly elected government, and weíll make best efforts to diminish this cost to the taxpayer.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is the Premier suggesting, as they reversed a number of other decisions ó pushed the undo button on renewal, or the rewind ó did the Premier investigate ending this contract with the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the member knows full well weíre not going to tear up contracts. Thatís not the way things are done, but I pointed out a few moments ago on the floor of the House that we are having discussions. Next month, we will have more discussions with the individual or the company in question.
And as far as renewal, unfortunately that was a very misguided exercise within government at a time when devolution was happening, much was going on, and renewal certainly threw the Yukon government into chaos and confusion. Much has transpired through that process that weíre trying to address in a manner of impressing upon our public servants that, in areas like recreating the Department of Economic Development, we will work closely with them to diminish any situation that may arise that creates undue stress or unnecessary problems that happened in renewal ó a great deal of problems arose from that exercise. Today we are dealing with it.
There are government employees who are still a little bit confused as to exactly what it is they are intended to do. We are trying to deal with that situation. There was absolutely no need to completely eradicate the Department of Economic Development at a time in this territory when economic development was in crisis. The former government created another regulatory body when economic development was the need, and a department fully focused and in the lead of addressing the economic issues of the Yukon was required. So we are replacing that as the new budget reflects. Advertisements are out for a deputy minister right now for the Department of Economic Development, and we look forward to good things coming out of that department. Beyond all that, again, we are dealing, in responses here, with what has already happened. I would urge, on behalf of the Yukon public, that the member opposite fastforward to today so we can deal with the publicís business ahead of us, because that is what Yukoners are really concerned about and the member could add constructively to that debate in addressing what is ahead of us. What is behind us and decisions made in the past are done, and the member opposite went around the House during the debate on the supplementary budget on who was responsible for this $100 expenditure and who was responsible for that expenditure. At the end of the day, the money has been spent. The defining argument is that this Legislature is responsible to the Yukon public and, if we want to live up to that responsibility, we should get on with constructively debating what is ahead of us. We are debating something that is behind us.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the fact is that devolution will take place April 1. There are a number of offers made to government employees who will be coming over to the Government of Yukon. The focus and reason for renewal was so that the devolution employees would receive a concrete job offer that outlined exactly what they were going to do, and we were also working on where they would work out of. We were working toward being able to consolidate Energy, Mines and Resources to make an efficient use, and to have the health centre more accessible. There was an entire, laid-out plan for people to avail themselves of, to work toward, so that everybody knew where they were going and what they would be doing.
Now the Government of Yukon has undone that. No, we donít need a service centre. No, somehow thatís not part of the downtown core. Health and Social Services moved significantly away from Main Street and there wasnít this debate. It houses a number of Government of Yukon employees who, at various points in time, have been in this building, in the Mainsteele Building ó theyíve been all over town. Theyíre consolidated in one place. It helps the department. It helps the efficiency of the department. Likewise, with Energy, Mines and Resources ó it would help the department, it would help the public if they knew where they were going, if they were dealing with the lands branch in one location. That was all laid out. That was then. This is now.
I have asked the Premier: where are all these people going, whatís the space allocation, whereís the committee, whereís the decision-making process, and when is it going to be outlined? I have asked the Finance minister for that information. Itís not forthcoming.
Mr. Chair, the member has, at various points in time, said that these are bad decisions, and I have asked him to substantiate that, but he hasnít been able to do so and he hasnít been able to tell the House or the public where individuals are going to be working out of.
Heís had plenty of time. This was work in progress. In some cases, the decisions had been made. He has pushed the undo button on that. He said that renewal was a bad thing. Renewal was a result of devolution. Renewal was enabling the Government of Yukon to be able to offer those employees ó show them on the organization chart where they would be working, outline clearly a job with specifications, with duties. There were also some space allocation issues. Iíve just asked the Premier ó heís just undone this building, undone this lease or doesnít know and just simply doesnít like it. He doesnít like it because the lowest and best price we were able to get reflects todayís market. He doesnít like it. So, if thatís the case, then what does he like? Where is he putting these Government of Yukon employees and why is he hiring a customer service representative to work in a one-stop service centre if heís undoing this? Iíd like him to be clear with the public on that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I think weíve been clear. Undoing it is not the issue; we said we are looking at the options in this particular area to do the best possible thing that we can on behalf of the taxpayers and also to ensure that we do not diminish government presence in the downtown core. The space committee continues to meet. The member is correct; itís a work in progress.
But to reflect renewal in a manner that it was strictly driven by the devolution initiative is not the case. Thatís not the case at all. The renewal initiative was driven internally by the former Liberal government for reasons unknown. The spin was that it was because of devolution. There were other ways to deal with devolution and do it in a manner that reduced the unsettling of the Yukon government until it became clear exactly where it was best applied in terms of federal government powers and responsibilities.
That could have been done in a very thoughtful and organized manner without throwing the Yukon government upside down through a process called "renewal", but it was basically navel gazing, and weíre getting through all that. Employees are starting to understand more clearly where this process has taken them. Theyíre becoming more comfortable with what has taken place now that weíve done some things to assure them that we will make best efforts to create a smooth transition when it comes to devolution and to diminish any upheaval in government as we proceed. Thatís not something we take lightly, because it means the delivery of services and programs to Yukoners and an unsettled chaotic, public service is not conducive to a positive light in those areas when it comes to the delivery of programs and services.
So, again, we are going around and around and around on what has already happened. Weíve answered the question a number of ways, that weíre reviewing our options when it comes to the one-stop shop. We are committed. The former government signed us into an agreement that has a term of 10 years, and it begins July 1, 2003, and it ends June 30, 2013. So weíre certainly proceeding according to the timelines available to us and expect to have some finalization in those areas in the coming days to weeks.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member suggests that renewal was not part of devolution, that it was some sort of ó I think he used the word "spin." In actual fact, devolution necessitated the process of renewal in the Government of Yukon.
And no it did not throw the entire Government of Yukon upside down. Health and Social Services, for example, were not included in the renewal discussions. Health and Social Services employees provided their input and asked when they too could have their department examined and be part of this renewal of Government of Yukon. A serious examination of Government of Yukon operations had not been done in years in the sense of department and departmental name change. And the Finance minister has suggested it was not thoughtful. I believe that the input from government employees, from the individuals employed in Old Crow to those in Watson Lake and every point in between, was very thoughtful. The feedback was very good and it was not all positive ó of course ó not but it was very thoughtful however. Every last comment and every comment was tabled in this Legislature and was provided to members of the then opposition. It is unfortunate that the Finance minister did not choose to review them. It was very well organized and in fact I note that the Government of N.W.T. has asked for our advice as to how to go about organizing renewal process. And the other point I would ask the Finance minister to confirm. One of the suggestions and recommendations out of renewal was Highways and Department of Infrastructure to be named the Department of Infrastructure. Now the government at that point included the infrastructure such as the IT sector as well as French languages. Now we have the Department of Highways and Public Works, which is not a change of a single job description, not a change of a single organization chart as I understand it and I ask for that confirmation. However, it is a change of letterhead and it is a change of stationery for that department. Are the costs of this particular ó for the sake of an argument ó name change included in this supplementary as part of the general debate? If the Finance minister wishes I can ask the Highways minister when we get back to line-by-line. That is for sort of a change that has no thoughtful organization behind it. Is it simply a whim on the part of the party? Is the cost of that change reflected in the supplementary?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, the member knows full well that the cost of the name change, which takes place on April 1, 2003, in the new fiscal year, is not going to be reflected in a supplementary from this fiscal year. The member knows that and is asking the question about something she knows already. Secondly, the francophone community is really pleased about being stuck in the Department of Infrastructure, as the former government was calling it. Weíve heard about that continually. Again, thatís another area of renewal that weíre trying to rectify. Weíre working with the francophone community on that and internally to see what we can do.
Beyond all that, again I point out that weíre going around in endless discourse on something that has already happened. This expenditure is done and it has taken place. There is much ahead of us in terms of conducting the publicís business on behalf of Yukoners. I would urge the member to fast-forward to today and letís get on with that debate as Yukoners want us to.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Fairclough: I have one question in general debate here. It is in regard to restructuring. Both the Minister of Health and the Premier, when in opposition, asked questions about what the real cost of restructuring government was. At that time we were given the line items in the department but what we wanted to know were the real costs. How much time was involved in restructuring departments, departmental personnel? We would like to know what the real cost was and if government worked on it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The Department of Finance doesnít have those numbers. There was a renewal committee that was tracking, to the best of its ability, the costs of renewal. Iím sure there is a substantial cost with it, considering all the changes and upheaval, but we can make best efforts to see if we can ferret out those direct costs as best we can. Itís important to point out that government requires direction, especially from the political arm of government, and when the direction is confusing, it tends to filter down throughout government and that even further compounds the problems of dealing with issues like keeping those costs firmly under control when you have initiatives like renewal that are massive changes to government with little thought put into it by the political arm of government in terms of providing clear direction on where weíre going with this.
So, the member oppositeís question is a very valid one, and we will do what we can to get the numbers for the member in terms of the cost of renewal.
Mr. Fairclough: I appreciate that. It is a question that has been asked in opposition in the past.
I would also like to know, when weíre talking about the real costs, the amount of time that was spent by departments and personnel in regard to restructuring, if we can get that from the minister also?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, we will try and ferret that out, see if we can find out exactly; however, I donít believe things like that were tracked as it was all happening, because, again, there was no real framework or format or anything else. It was just "letís change this", "letís change that," and "put this over here and that over there". Thatís not how things work in a very productive manner, and it lends to unknowns, if you will. So weíll see what we can do and provide the details as best we can, considering what has been tracked and logged and accounted for.
Mr. Fairclough: I appreciate that, and I understand where the member opposite is coming from. It is difficult to get an exact number, but I know that there were personnel assigned to deal with restructuring in every department, and obviously their time could be added up.
I would like to ask the Premier, then: is the restructuring that was done by the Liberal government a total and complete reversal now, under the Yukon Party?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Not at all, Mr. Chair. The third party put on the floor that we pushed the change button or something to that effect ó Iíd have to look in Hansard verbatim. But no, weíre not undoing or redoing renewal. Thereís no need to unsettle the public service any further. What weíre trying to do is implement clear direction from the political arm of the government. Weíve made very limited changes in terms of renewal. We are going to re-establish a stand-alone Department of Tourism. Weíve already done our work with the Womenís Directorate. That will come into effect April 1, under the new budget. Contrary to what the third party has stated again on the floor, the Womenís Directorate reports now to a minister, as committed.
We are recreating the Department of Economic Development. Those types of things are very limited changes. For instance, in Economic Development, it should not be an onerous task of moving some agencies out of departments where they are today because of renewal, back into the Department of Economic Development. Then of course, April 1, we take on those federal powers and that begins a new era for the Yukon. We are working toward as smooth as possible a transition and to manage expectations because, for the start of devolution, we have to mirror exactly what the federal government has in legislation and regulations. Those things have to be implemented in a manner that we hope will increase our ability to do things in this territory, especially in rebuilding our economy.
Mr. Fairclough: I am hoping that maybe the Premier can give us a breakdown of that and what is being changed. I know that he has listed some of them. We are particularly interested in how devolution would be affected by this move.
Ms. Duncan: The Finance minister has said that he would do his best to ferret out costs of renewal and provide it to the official opposition. In so doing, I would ask that he also provide the substantiation and papers that were produced with respect to, for example, a paper on why the interprovincial trade unit should go to the Department of Finance, where and why forestry or fire management is with Community Services, or not. If heís providing information on costs, would he also provide any papers that substantiate where branches of departments were going?
He also indicated that no, there is no pushing of the undo button, or rewind, but there is re-establishment of a stand-alone Tourism department and a stand-alone Economic Development department. He also said that everyone knew where they were going, so perhaps he could outline the ó there were a number of responsibilities transferred to the Department of Finance through renewal, where they more appropriately belonged. Are they going back to Economic Development? The Premier said everyone knows, so whatís happening with them?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As I stated earlier this afternoon, when we make these moves like the recreation of the Economic Development department, we will work closely with the public service to get their input to ensure that what we structure in terms of the department is going to work in the interest of Yukoners. So we certainly will continue in that regard. There may be some moves out of Finance, there may not be. It depends what the overall structure for that department is going to entail.
Again, the member is wanting a lot of detail on things the member oppositeís government created. We will make best efforts to dig out that detail, but weíre spending a lot of time right now providing information through ATIPP on my travel claims so officials are quite busy providing that member with information.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just as they have been before. Officials have provided a great deal of detail to this House on a number of occasions.
The member has said that I want a great deal of detail. Iím asking that that detail be put on the public record because the Finance minister has said that it previously did not exist, that there was no thought or organization. Now heís saying that yes, he will get me the detail.
Thatís why Iím saying I want the detail on the public record because the detail does exist, there was thought, there was organization.
The Public Service Commission and public servants provided a great deal of input into the organization of departments and where certain agencies and certain elements of different departments were best served; for example, interprovincial trade barriers, the suggestion was that they do belong with the Department of Finance. There are other financial matters that were moved out of Economic Development into the Department of Finance.
The public servants and the Public Service Commission have provided substantial input, and Iím pleased that the Premier has indicated that he will listen to that input. Perhaps in providing the member of the official opposition with the detail, when he examines the detail that was provided and the input of the public servants, he will see that the right decision was made in the first place. I would encourage him to continue to listen to that good advice.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line examination.
On Schedule A
On Operations and Maintenance Expenditures
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Chair: Refer to page 1-3. Is there any general debate on the Yukon Legislative Assembly, Vote 01?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: The Members' Services Board is responsible for budgets of the Yukon Legislative Assembly and its House officers. This includes the Yukon Legislative Assembly, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Ombudsman and the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Funding for the Conflicts Commissioner is included as a program in the budget of the Legislative Assembly. It is therefore appropriate that the chair of the Members' Services Board provide information to the House on these appropriations.
As we are now on Vote 01, I will speak to the supplementary funding being requested for the Yukon Legislative Assembly. Supplementary funding totals $2,797,000. Of this amount, $2,665,000 is being allocated to the retirement allowance and death benefits program. All but $12,000 of this is required to cover a fund deficit in the retirement allowance trust fund. This deficiency was identified in an actuarial evaluation prepared by the MLA pension planís independent actuary.
The Membersí Services Board was informed of this at its first meeting in January of 2003, when it received a draft of the valuation. The board approved the assumptions being used in the valuations, and the valuation was subsequently finalized and distributed to all members earlier this month.
The additional $12,000 being requested is to cover the liabilities incurred by the addition of an 18th member to this Legislature during the period from November 4, 2002, to March 31, 2003. Secondly, an additional $116,000 is being added to the legislative services program. $84,000 of this amount was required to cover contract costs associated with the transition from the Liberal government to the Yukon Party government. The remaining $32,000 is required to cover the costs of the new 18th member of this Assembly. These costs included the memberís indemnity, expense allowance, fringe benefits, travel and caucus support services.
Finally, $16,000 is being added to the conflicts commission program. These are due to an increase in the daily fees paid to the Conflicts Commissioner and the additional billing hours and travel costs resulting from the need to hold meetings in Whitehorse after the general election. These meetings were with MLAs, outgoing and incoming Cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and Cabinet staff.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I ask the chair of Membersí Services Board to confirm that the next actuarial evaluation is due to be performed March 31, 2005? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: Yes, that is correct.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, logically then, if that actuarial evaluation was to show a funding deficiency, then it would appear in 2005-06 as a supplementary. Is that assumption correct?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: That assumption is correct.
Ms. Duncan: I note in the summary of the actuarial evaluation, the first point did indicate in point one that the plan was in a deficit position with the funding deficiency of $2,482,000 as of March 31. Number one was to recommend that government make future appropriations to the plan to eliminate the funding deficiency within 15 years or a shorter period. I am confirming that Membersí Services Board has confirmed that the deficiency was to be eliminated with this one, as opposed to stretching it out over 15 years.
Hon. Mr. Staffen: That is correct.
Ms. Duncan: That was a choice then made by Membersí Services Board.
Hon. Mr. Staffen: That has followed the evaluations that have been made by every Membersí Services Board since the mid-1980s.
Ms. Duncan: So what the chair of the Membersí Services Board has confirmed for me is that, although the actuarial said that you could spread this payment out over 15 years, the practice of every government has been to simply deal with the shortfall in that particular year, as opposed to stretching out payments.
Hon. Mr. Staffen: What the member was referring to was an actuarial draft that was tabled at the Membersí Services Board meeting in January 2003. The Members' Services Board at that time felt that it was meeting the requirements of the Auditor General, and thus we moved forward in that light.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Fairclough: I have just one quick one to the minister. Can the minister provide a breakdown of the special warrants in regard to what was brought forward by the Liberal Party and the difference in the special warrants with the Yukon Party?
I understand that it isnít in the Legislative Assembly but we would like to have that answered in all of the other departments.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the Yukon Legislative Assembly, Vote 01?
On Legislative Services
Legislative Services in the amount of $116,000 agreed to
On Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the chair of Members' Services Board to just confirm for the record the date of the Members' Services Board meeting that dealt with the actuarial evaluation of the MLA pension plan?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: On January 7, 2003.
Mr. Hardy: Following up on that question, there is no problem with that meeting happening without the people actually being named in the Legislature previously, because thatís exactly what happened. Let me clarify: any decision we made there, the House had not yet sat, and we had not been named as members of the board. So, is there some kind of legality in making a decision before weíre actually named within the House?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: Yes, the leader of the official opposition is correct in that, technically, the MSB was not legal at that point in time. However, none of those decisions would have any bearing on the legality of the decisions that were made. There had to be a committee of the Legislature sit and that was the most expedient way to do it at the time.
Mr. Hardy: Actually, that raises more questions for me. So, the board doesnít have to have approval within the House to actually authorize the expenditure of funds. Is that what youíre saying?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: The board recommends expenditures and, in fact, they are not expenditures until they are passed by the House.
Mr. Hardy: Has that money, then, actually been allocated to where it was supposed to go before we came into the House?
In other words, has that money been spent ó if I remember rightly, at that board meeting there was a sense of urgency to deal with this matter, not knowing when the House was going to sit, and thatís where the decision was made.
Iím just wondering, if you have to wait for the House to name the board members to give them authority, then that money could not have been allocated. Thatís my understanding.
It might be in the warrant, but you have still got a new board that has to approve it. Sorry, Mr. Chair. Iím just sorting it out. Iím not trying to cause any kind of hardship here or a problem. I just want to make sure everything is kosher.
Hon. Mr. Staffen: The money was in the warrant. The action taken to put the money in the MLA pension fund was not taken until the Members' Services Board approved of that action. The actual expenditure for the pension fund was actually done by the deputy minister.
Mr. Hardy: The special warrant date has a date on it of December 23. To help me clarify this, Mr. Chair, was the money authorized by the government under a special warrant without the Members' Services Board even being informed?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: The money was authorized in the special warrant, but would never have been used without permission of the Members' Services Board.
Mr. Hardy: Then it wasnít a special warrant, was it? That means all this money in the special warrants could also fall under that category, could it not ó all spending there?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: Thatís correct.
Mr. Hardy: So itís kind of a twisted path to follow, actually. If I understand this right, the money was approved by the new government under special warrants on December 23 ó two days before Christmas. Then there was a meeting on January 7 of a non-authorized Members' Services Board. Am I correct? At that time, the Membersí Services Board was given the situation regarding the shortfall within the pension plan. The non-authorized Membersí Services Board approved that amount of money being directed toward dealing with the shortfall ó though they had no authorization to do so, until they are actually named within the Legislature. Am I correct with that assumption?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: I hear the Finance minister say it is the same people all the time, but that does not authorize it, just because itís the same person all the time ó there is a change in people. I understand, but that still does not give authorization for these people to be able to authorize that money to be spent until they come into the Legislature to get that authorization of all members within the Legislature.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: I am trying to find out. Iím trying to ensure that what happened does follow proper procedure. Otherwise, my assumption, if this were looked at by ó who would it be? ó the Auditor General, he could find a dereliction of duty or whatever you call the fault.
Is there some way to get some clarification? Were we actually involved? Was I involved in making a decision I had no authorization to make until I was approved within the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I understand where the member is coming from, and because there was no legislative sitting, there was no way to formalize the MSB. That certainly does not preclude the Membersí Services Board from meeting and making decisions. And when it comes to the Auditor General ó if we hadnít booked the money in the fiscal year during which this particular issue was generated, then we would have been in trouble with the Auditor General and he would have informed us to book the money back into this fiscal year, 2002-03. So, by standard accounting procedures, this exercise had to be done.
I guess we could focus in on the minutia of whether the Membersí Services Board had the validity to make this decision or not, but I would suggest that it did. The formalization of that board took place here on the floor of the Legislature but the representatives on that board come from the same areas, whether it be the leader of the official opposition, the Premier, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly as the chair, and a representative of the third party. So nothing changes that fact. And regardless, we had to book it into the fiscal year and it is done, and the Membersí Services Board is now formalized and the warrant was issued. We are now debating the supplementary budget that reflects all of it.
So I donít know where we are going with this but, if the member wishes, we could lapse it and bring in another one-page supplementary and rebook it right here.
Mr. Hardy: I think the Premier knows exactly where I am going with this. I am not trying to be a devilís advocate. I am not trying to create a situation. I do recognize very well that this is money that needs to be allocated. I also recognize my role in this at the Membersí Services Board when it was presented to us and approved. There is no question about that.
But when we are elected, we are responsible for following proper procedure. If we start to deviate in this case or that case, depending on certain circumstances that are not accountable, then we are not doing our due diligence to the public who elected us and trusted us. We have to follow proper procedures, and they have to be very clear and above-board.
Now the Finance minister, the Premier, is wrong. We had asked, if I remember rightly, for a fall sitting in order to have the Members' Services Board named. We could have come in, named the Members' Services Board; we could have come in and approved the funding that the government wanted to bring forward, because we had already indicated that we totally supported them in that; and we would not be having this discussion right now, because we would have named all the boards and committees and we could have gone forward and dealt with this before Christmas.
However, that didnít happen. Thatís looking in the past. We wanted it to happen; they didnít want it to happen. My concern now is that we are not derelict in our duty and we are not seen that way and it cannot come back to us actually changing the rules of the game to suit our own particular needs.
So, to do it properly, I think itís essential. We are not talking about chicken feed here; weíre talking about a substantial amount of money toward a certain shortage that has to be addressed. There is no one here, as far as I know, and definitely not on this side, who is against that transfer of money. But letís ensure ó thatís what Iím asking, just to make sure ó letís ensure that it has been done properly and, if it hasnít, letís deal with it right away and get it done. Otherwise, if it has been done properly ó itís not going to come back on us for not doing due diligence on it, for following proper procedure and being chastised by the Auditor General ó then so be it, we can move forward.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I would submit to the member opposite that we followed the correct procedure. We had the advice of the Legislative Assembly Office, the Clerk of the Assembly. We had to book this money. If we had not booked it, we would have then been dealing, at the end of this fiscal year, with the Auditor General. This is a formality. This is not an issue of dereliction of duty ó not in the least. What took place here was reflective of the circumstances that we were dealing with.
The member opposite is talking about having a sitting. Well, again, the decision was made not to have a sitting. Therefore that decision triggered the events that we had to take care of, and this is one of them. If the member is concerned about the memberís duty and whether he was derelict in that duty, I am sure we can provide him in great detail why he is not.
And so again, this is a formality. The money was in the warrant. The Membersí Services Board, once it was formalized, addressed that issue and it is now reflected in the supplementary budget.
And frankly, spending a lot of time debating MLA pensions is not the smartest thing we should be doing in this Legislative Assembly. There is no reason to. These are things that have to take place out of our control. We donít control what happens with that fund, other than making the decisions to solve the problems when there is a shortfall. That is what we did and that is living up to our responsibility and our duty. There was no sitting; therefore the argument or debate around that is moot because there wasnít one. We formalized the process and followed all the direction and advice, and this Assembly should be able to move on.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just want to add a point to this. The issue is not the fact around MLA pensions. The issue that has been raised by the Member for Whitehorse Centre is around process, and I challenge the Finance minister in his comment that it had to be done December 23, that it had to be done. The fact is that the supplementary for the Judicial Compensation Commission ruling is in a supplementary well after other supplementaries for 2001-02. There is no reason why that supplementary request couldnít have gone through in February or March and have been tabled in an additional supplementary. There is absolutely no reason.
What the Finance minister is doing is following the very same advice that I have also received ó book early and book often all those expenses when youíre a new government. Thatís what the Finance minister has done. He has booked the expenses he has known were coming. He has put it out there, booked it in the supplementary, got the money so that it canít be touched by anybody else. It has been voted on.
Iím not arguing about the amount, Iím not arguing about where it went, Iím not even suggesting for a moment that we shouldnít follow the recommendations of the actuarial evaluation. What I am suggesting is that, contrary to what the Finance minister has said, he had a choice. This could have been brought forward and approved after Membersí Services Board had approved it. It could have been done in either period 8 or period 9 variance reports and brought to this Legislature. It did not have to be done in the Commissionerís warrants. It didnít have to be. He had a choice, and he exercised that choice.
Iím not arguing that he has the right to do that. Iím not arguing it. Iím not arguing that it has to be paid. All Iím saying is that he had more leeway than what heís letting on in the Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair. Of course governments have choices, but the member well knows, having been in this position ó or at least should know ó that if we had not done this, then the Legislative Assembly Office would have broken its vote authority by the shortfall. Therefore, instead of getting berated by the Auditor General, okay, on why we did not do this, we took the appropriate action. Thatís the choice we made: the choice to take the appropriate action.
The fact that we didnít have a formalized Members' Services Board doesnít change the issue that itís the same people who sit on it and that the spending warrant reflects that issue around the vote authority for the Legislative Assembly Office. So the appropriate choice was made, contrary to what the member from the third party is saying. And thatís the action we took, and thatís all of us in this Assembly. And the members opposite, who are members on the board, were there and know full well what the details were.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, exceeding a vote authority ó approvals to exceed a vote authority can be given by Management Board at any time during the fiscal year. The Department of Health comes in regularly. My only point to the Finance minister is he could have gone to Management Board and asked for this amount to exceed their vote authority at any point in time. He did not have to do it December 23. That is my only point. Iím not arguing about seeking additional vote authority; I believe it should be done. I also believe the minister had every opportunity to seek that vote authority from January 8 through to the tabling of this supplementary. Iím sure there were plenty of Management Board meetings where it could have been done. He chose instead to go earlier.
He chose, instead, to get the vote authority on December 23, before that. He could have gone later. Thatís the only point Iím asking the Finance minister to agree on. He could have sought it at a later point in time other than in the warrant on December 23 and still have it tabled in this House. Yes or no ó could he have sought the vote authority at a later point in time?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, we could have done a number of things but, always, we must take the appropriate action. The government took the appropriate action. The member was present at the Members' Services Board. This is a debate that is highly unproductive, and the member herself was part of the decision. Therefore, I submit that we can move on now and put this issue to bed.
Mr. Hardy: Iím not so sure why the Finance minister wants to move on so quickly, because he should be quite concerned about this as well. Itís about process. My position here, as a person who was at that meeting, is that I want to know for a fact that we did follow proper process and didnít go outside the bounds of what we were eligible to do. That is my concern because, if thatís the case, if we do it, it does not send a good message to either the Auditor General or to the public of how we are going to conduct business in here.
Because we were at the meeting ó that was a meeting that was called ó there was a question about whether we had authorization without being in the Legislature. It was felt that, I guess, we could go ahead and approve that. If thatís the case, thatís all we need an answer to. If there is no problem there and everything is fine in that manner, then I donít see a problem. But if there is a problem in it, then what we should do is redress it right away and move on in a way that is proper, that is one that follows proper guidelines to ensure that there is no legal problem with this authorization of the money.
To me itís complicated. I just want to make sure that what we did and what we are doing is legitimate and proper procedure, just as the public expects us to do.
Hon. Mr. Staffen: If it would be appropriate and if the leader of the third party would consider this, we would be prepared to come forth at the next Members' Services Board meeting with an appropriate opinion in terms of both the legality and the propriety of the issue. And if that would help expedite the debate today, I would make that offer.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I like that suggestion because that would clarify the questions I have here. But what do we do with this line item? What is the chair of the Members' Services Board recommending to deal with this line item? Would we be continuing to exacerbate the problem, or are we fine to go ahead with this line item and then deal with the other stuff later?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: The advice I am getting from my officials right now is that we are perfectly able to clear this line item and then deal with it at the next Members' Services Board meeting.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Finance minister has said in response to my question that this item could come forward at any point in time. So it could be in a supplementary brought forward by the minister for an additional supplementary. There is quite often more than one supplementary for a year, so this line item could be brought forward in an additional supplementary.
If indeed ó and I am not convinced necessarily that the Auditor General would say it had to be booked in 2002-03. The Auditor General, in light of the report, says that yes, it is perfectly acceptable to book that in 2003-04. Perhaps the Speaker of the House would indicate that as well, given the timing and when the report was received and so on.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, this issue is one whereby the shortfall took place at the end of the fiscal year 2002. Of course, if we had not booked this in the fiscal year 2002-03 ó the Auditor General would have informed us of that and we would have been doing another supplementary, rebooking it back where it belonged in the correct fiscal year.
So, what weíre dealing with here is a formality. Thereís no legal issue here. Thereís no dereliction of duty. There is a situation that we had to address, given the circumstances. We addressed it based on the advice and the direction of those who know. From that, it resulted in this amount ó the shortfall was created in a previous year, being booked in accordance with standard accounting practices. And thatís the long and the short of it.
Weíll provide the member with the comfort that what weíve done here does not reflect negatively on his duty and the memberís ability to carry out his responsibilities. But at the end of the day, something had to be done. We acted appropriately because of that requirement, and thatís the choice that was made.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iíll accept that learned individuals are indicating that it would have to be booked in 2002-03. I will accept that fact. I will also accept the Finance ministerís recognition that that could have been done at any point in time and did not have to be done on December 23. It could have been done any time from January until the date the supplementary went to the printer.
So the two points are on the record. One, the vote by Management Board and Membersí Services Board of the $2,665,000 could have occurred at any point in time prior to the supplementary being done. The Minister of Finance has indicated, however, that the vote authority would have to belong to 2002-03. I accept that; it could have been done at any point in time in defence of my colleagueís point.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The minutia this member likes to debate simply is a situation where there is absolutely no point to the issue. It had to be booked. There was no Membersí Services Board formalized because there had been no sitting. There was no sitting, and we had to make a choice. We made the appropriate choice, and thatís what was done. Itís here now, reflected in the supplementary budget. Furthermore, I believe it had to be done so that the shortfall was paid, and thatís an issue here. Otherwise, it would be months later when weíre dealing with it. This was an issue, and it had to be dealt with, so we took appropriate action and dealt with it. And, thanks to those members on the Membersí Services Board, we did the appropriate thing. I want to thank them for their input and their efforts in this regard.
Mr. Hardy: Okay, so it had to be booked. We could have had a sitting and we could have done it. That was our suggestion, but weíve already talked about that one. We wonít go around the mulberry bush on that one too much.
I guess my question is, because the Premier had mentioned this and it kind of twigged my memory from sitting on a multitude of organizations ó he said itís perfectly legitimate or normal accounting practices. So is he saying that it is perfect? Well, heís got his help right here. Is it a perfect accounting practice, Mr. Chair, to have an amount of money approved ó before the board is named ó by people who are not yet on the board? Is it legitimate to spend the money of an organization or a group before a board has even been named by people?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís not an accounting issue. Thatís a legislative procedure and formality. If we follow that logic, the Members' Services Board should never have met. The member was there at the meeting. The third party was there at the meeting. We followed the standard procedures for the Members' Services Board ó which, by the way, had nothing to do with standard accounting practices ó and once there was a sitting, we gave the formality to the Members' Services Board. That should not, because there was no sitting, preclude us from doing our job.
In this instance, the Members' Services Board did its job, acted appropriately and solved an immediate problem. As I stated moments ago, I commend the members of the Members' Services Board for taking on this difficult issue and living up to its responsibility and its duty. Once we had a Legislative Assembly convened, we formalized the membership on the board. Up until that point, the board acted appropriately.
Mr. Hardy: Well, that wasnít the question I asked. Itís a pretty simple question: is it appropriate for a board to make a decision on spending monies when they havenít even been named as a board ó to authorize the use of that money? Is it appropriate? It was the Finance minister who suggested that it was appropriate accounting practices. There is an accountant, I believe, sitting beside him. Is that appropriate?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There are two issues here. The formalities of our Legislative Assembly and the standard accounting practices that the government must follow or adhere to ó and it was appropriate. Furthermore, the Members' Services Board addressed what was a liability.
Now, the Members' Services Board was formalized at a certain time by the Legislative Assembly because the only way to do that is by passing the motion.
That does not preclude the Members' Services Board from meeting. There are the same representatives on the Members' Services Board for every government or for every session. So I donít know how else we can go about doing this. The issue is fairly straightforward. The Members' Services Board met. It took appropriate action on an issue, and the issue is reflected here in the supplementary budget, and it solves a problem, a liability from a previous fiscal year. Thatís it.
Mr. Hardy: Iíd actually like to have a recess. I want to think about this for a few minutes and make sure that we can move ahead. I donít want to tie it up. I just want to make sure where weíre at and what the Premier said. I want to give some thought to what he said, from the advice that he has received, so that we can move ahead and we can look back later and make sure that everything was ó you know, like we didnít go outside the boundaries of our responsibilities or overstep what we were supposed to do, but even if we did, at least we can move forward. But I wouldnít mind a recess for a few minutes to reflect on this.
Chair: Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll now stand in recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come back to order. We will continue our debate on retirement allowance and death benefits.
Mr. Hardy: I have thought about it and I liked the Minister of Financeís suggestion that they would just take it out of this supplementary and bring it in the next yearís budget, and we agree with that. We can move forward with this and we will improve this whole thing with this move forward.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I actually said, "What would the member do? Have us take it out and lapse it and bring in a supplementary," which, by the way, we canít do because it is paying for a shortfall from a previous year and, once the spending authority has been given, that is done. Why go through this issue of lapsing this and bringing in another supplementary? What difference would it make for the member opposite? Is the member saying that, because of this Members' Services Board formality, this is something he canít agree to? My question then is, why did we proceed as we did at Members' Services Board?
Mr. Chair, thereís no reason to go down this road. Frankly, what has been done here is the appropriate action. There was no other course to take, considering the circumstances. The Members' Services Board did that. Thereís no legal attachment to the Members' Services Board or its members ó not at all. The bases were covered by putting in a special warrant in case something like this should happen. This has to be paid for by March 31 of this year, and that is in relation to standard accounting practices and a liability that has been brought forward from a previous fiscal year.
Mr. Hardy: From what I was told over the break, there were no legal ramifications around this. However, I do have to disagree with the minister opposite in that there was no other option, because there was an option, and he well knows there was another option. We gave him that option. From November 4 to December 23 is time enough to have a very short sitting to take care of some of this stuff; however, Iím not going to belabour the point. Iím pretty well finished with my line of questioning here, and the chair of the Members' Services Board has indicated that they will come back with some direction, I guess, on what had happened to the Members' Services Board for us to look at down the road. Heís nodding his head, so Iím finished with this.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, obviously thereís an issue with this whole process so, when we do get that information back, we would like some suggestions on how we can improve on this process and avoid being in the situation we are currently in. All Iím suggesting is for that additional information.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member should elaborate on what situation it is weíre in.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, we just spent a whole pile of time on this. The decision was made before the Membersí Services Board was even put together. We didnít have a sitting to name board members. We think there are some potential problems with this. Letís make improvements. Thatís all Iím asking ó in the process.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think this memberís leader has submitted to the House that the Legislative Assembly will provide the information. There is no legalese here. The member should elaborate on what situation weíre in. There isnít a situation other than what the official opposition is trying to take issue with, and thatís the government not calling a legislative sitting before Christmas.
Well, that decision was made. Again, weíre debating what has transpired versus whatís ahead of this territory and what the Yukon public is more concerned with. This particular issue, frankly, is not that onerous or difficult for the Yukon public to manage and understand. It certainly is becoming a huge problem for the official opposition.
There will be information provided but there is no legal issue here. Itís just a formality. The formality is done. There is now a Members' Services Board formalized by the motion passed in this House. But, again, I say, that that does not preclude those members ó the same members who are on that motion ó from doing their duties. Furthermore, there was another issue to this and itís called accounting, and the standard accounting procedures that we must follow and the shortfall being in a previous fiscal year ó we acted, we acted appropriately, we solved a problem and thatís a good thing. Thatís what government should do. Thatís what all members in this House should be doing.
As far as the sitting, there wasnít one and there is not much point in hashing that out because it didnít get called and there is no way to turn back the clock. Frankly, itís easy for the official opposition to stand on this floor and berate the government for not calling a legislative sitting. However, there comes a time when decisions by government have to be made and you must make those decisions in the best interest of the Yukon public, not of a few members of the opposition. We made a decision in the best interest of the Yukon public.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd just like to wrap up the way I understand the discussion to have gone so that the answer can then be clearly provided. My understanding is that on December 23, there was a special warrant approved by the Finance minister and signed off by the government. It included a requisition for $2,665,000, the line item weíre debating. That was approved and signed by the Commissioner on December 23.
The Membersí Services Board met on January 7. The Membersí Services Board was actually formally appointed by the Legislature on March 4. The issue for the official opposition is how the decision was reached ó this appointment of the board and the voting of the money and the request for additional money. The issue for me is when it was done.
Now, the Finance minister has said that, consistent with generally accepted accounting principles, you have to book an expenditure in the year in which itís required and the year in which itís incurred. I donít disagree with that. I also know that governments have, sometimes in the past, put off expenditures and, in the past, there have also been qualifications to our statement by the Auditor General.
So, there is a choice involved, and the Premier has admitted that, yes, the current government made a choice and chose when this decision and this expenditure would occur.
So the issue is how the decision was made and the issue is when the decision was made. Now, unfortunately, although the Finance minister made an offer to book this in another year, he is now rescinding that offer. The issue for the members of the Legislature is not what was done, it is how and when it was done. That is the issue and that is the issue that will be answered by either a legislative return by the Finance minister or by the chair of Members' Services Board. But I just wanted to outline very clearly that those are the two points that are troubling for members of the opposition: how this decision was made ó paying it out December 23, 2002, without a duly constituted Members' Services Board. The issue for me is when it was done. It is consistent with other Finance ministers. Book the expenses and book them early and book them often. However, in this particular instance, the Finance minister had a choice. Earlier, he wanted to make that choice and put it in the next year. He is not now prepared to do that and he doesnít want a qualification; so be it, but the Finance minister is making a choice and the record needs to reflect that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member opposite should also ensure that what is on the record reflects what was said and the comment to the leader of the official opposition was what would the member have us do, lapse these monies and put it into another year? That does not reflect a commitment from this side to do that. That was a comment. This member knows full well about government choices because, in the two short years of this Liberal government ó some of the most difficult times this territory has ever faced ó a lot of choices were made by the former Liberal government that are having tremendous, negative impacts on the territory and its citizens. So the member knows all about choices. Most of them were bad ones and reflect a situation that we now have to try and rectify, and that is why the Yukon public spoke loud and clear on November 4, 2002. The member says this was a close election, that the public was undecided in some way.
I submit to you, Mr. Chair, that a spread of 1,600 votes between the incumbent government ó and its ousting ó and the newly elected government, when it comes to the Yukon, is significant, itís substantial. The difference between 28 percent of the vote and 40 percent of the vote is significant, itís substantial. This just reflects what this member has shown to date in this sitting in terms of putting the factual information on the record. So I hope this clears it up for Hansard and the record because that member certainly cannot point fingers at anyone when it comes to correcting the record.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I would like to clear the record as well.
I did not start this line of questioning just so we could hash out the failure of this government to have a sitting after the election in the early winter. Thatís not the reason for the line of questioning. The line of questioning was because there were some answers that needed to be clarified. There were some discrepancies about the understanding of the Members' Services Board and there were some timelines about the votes, the special warrants, the Members' Services Board and now whatís before us all. We, on our side, as this member opposite knows full well, must do our duty and ask these questions. There is no desire whatsoever to go around and around on this sitting or not. So thatís just clearing the record on this side.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I appreciate the memberís comments on clearing the record. They are valuable comments because it certainly clears the matter up for this side of the House. If we are now prepared to move on, Iím sure there are other questions within this supplementary that the members would like to get to.
Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits in the amount of $2,665,000 agreed to
On Conflicts Commission
Conflicts Commission in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Yukon
Legislative Assembly in the amount of $2,797,000 agreed to
Yukon Legislative Assembly agreed to
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: Mr. Chair, the supplementary funding provided for Vote 24, Elections Office, totals $461,000. This amount reflects the amount identified by the Chief Electoral Officer as being required to conduct the 2002 general election.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Weíll then proceed line by line.
Elections in the amount of $461,000 agreed to
Operations and Maintenance Expenditures for Elections Office in the amount of $461,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for Elections Office in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
Elections Office agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman
Chair: Vote 23, Office of the Ombudsman, is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: The supplementary funding provided to Vote 23, Office of the Ombudsman, totals $31,000. $17,000 of this amount is the cost of conducting an investigation requested by the City of Whitehorse. This cost is fully recoverable from the City of Whitehorse. The remaining amount of $14,000 is required to cover salary increases for the Ombudsman. This was occasioned by the increase in judicial compensation as the Ombudsman salary is linked to that of the Chief Judge of the Territorial Court.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the Office of the Ombudsman? We will proceed, then, line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Office of the Ombudsman
Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $31,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $31,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman agreed to
Department of Finance
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, if it pleases the House, considering the official from the Department of Finance is here right now, is it possible for us to move into debate on Finance and clear that department, and then we can go back to the order in the supplementary?
Mr. Hardy: I see no problem.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have no difficulty with that. I would like to commend the House for its collaboration on acceding to the Finance ministerís request.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I thank the members opposite for their indulgence. It is my pleasure to introduce the 2002-03 Supplementary Estimate No. 1 for the Department of Finance. On the operation and maintenance side of the department, the increase requested is $444,000, which brings the revised O&M vote for the department to $5,310,000. The increase is made up of three main components: $112,000 relates to staffing costs for various positions in the department, offset, in part, by vacancies; $142,000 was earmarked to approved one-time economic development expenditures, including business law reform registry and DIAND-funded innovation knowledge fund and e-commerce strategies; and $190,000 is the cost of banking contract due to insufficient offsetting compensating cash balances.
Mr. Chair, I will be pleased to answer any questions of a general nature that you or the House may have at this time.
Ms. Duncan: The Finance minister mentioned three economic development expenditures and strategies in his list of expenditures. Could he outline whether or not the Finance department intends to continue with those or whether theyíll be transferred to the Department of Economic Development? There were three expenditures approved and there was also some revenue that the Finance minister didnít outline ó some capital expenditures that will not be spent. Can he outline for the House in which variance board report those expenditures were approved and the lapses indicated ó and just which variance report they are in?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In regard to the Economic Development question from the member, that will become a decision made once we go through the process of structure and decide what components of existing departments we will house in the Department of Economic Development.
As far as the capital reductions that the member is talking about, they have to do with contingency for the loan venture guarantee program.
Ms. Duncan: So, Mr. Chair, weíre advised that, in this supplementary, these are expenditures that have passed. So what the Premier has just said is that, of this money in the Department of Finance, this money has been spent ó for example, one portion of it ó on three different Economic Development expenditures.
So, weíre voting on money that has been spent. The Premier didnít answer when it was approved that that additional money be spent, and didnít indicate what was going to happen with these strategies in the future. So weíre voting on the money; the money has been spent. Whatís the Premier going to do with them in the Department of Finance? Whatís going to happen with all that information?
This lapse in the contingency for the loan venture guarantee fund ó this is a lapse of funding, so was the uptake not there on the loan venture? Or what is the lapsed funding, and why was it lapsed?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member should well know that, in this particular area, we only pay it out when somebody defaults on a loan that is linked to the venture loan guarantee program. These lapses reflect the fact that it wasnít needed, because the amount of defaults did not relate to the amount of money that was put there for contingency. So, itís not needed.
As far as the initiatives the member talks about, these are one-time-only arrangements with the federal government. They are fully recoverable.
Ms. Duncan: So, this money entered into, then, is fully recoverable, itís paid by Canada, and this is the vote authority to simply make sure we entered into those arrangements ó the vote authority to enter into them ó so the money is actually being paid by Ottawa.
And this lapsed funding is money that was not used because the loan venture fund was so successful we didnít need the contingency, because there arenít the unpaid loans in this particular section. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In a perfect world ó itís not quite that way. Itís just, in this particular timeline, the amount set aside for contingency was not required because the amount of default was less than the amount set aside for contingency. I wish all loan transactions worked that well.
On the other side, we had to sign agreements with the federal government for those economic development initiatives. This is now not so much giving spending authority, although it is, but to reflect in our books that we have entered into those arrangements with Ottawa, the money is flowing to the Yukon, and itís now booked.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just would ask the Finance minister to refresh my memory, then. When were those agreements signed with Ottawa? He can just perhaps outline that. Was this a period 3 variance, or was it in period 8? When did the variance come forward?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: To the best of our knowledge, Mr. Chair, the actual agreements were signed somewhere post-November 4. I just donít have the exact date in memory. But the signings of those agreements, in all likelihood, relate further back in the fiscal year when these initiatives were first triggered; and the overall process took place between Ottawa and Yukon to the point where we had agreements come forward; we signed them. That becomes the contribution agreement between us and Ottawa. The money flows and is booked in the supplementary.
Ms. Duncan: But the variance increase would have been approved post-November 4. They work on assigning the agreements and the work on negotiation and so on, but the understanding and the realization by Finance that, "Holy, weíre going to need more vote authority", would have gone to Management Board after November 4.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, that is, in essence, what takes place. Once the agreements have been entered into, they go through Management Board, and that gives it its formality and then we book it into the supplementary.
Ms. Duncan: So this amount in Finance in the supplementary was booked by that Finance minister; thatís correct?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís correct, and itís fully recoverable ó every dollar of it.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Vote 12, Finance? Hearing none, weíll go into line-by-line.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Finance minister said that every dollar of the $444,000 is recoverable, but the O&M recoveries only show $112,000 and revenue is $17,000, so how is every dollar of $444,000 recoverable if the recoveries on the innovation and knowledge projects are only $112,000?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, we are only talking about the programs that we have an arrangement with Ottawa on. There seems to be a little confusion here, and it is not reflected in the total of $444,000. It is merely the programs that add up to that ó innovation, action plan, e-commerce strategy proposal, which add up to $112,000 in total, which is reflected in the second line down in O&M recoveries.
Ms. Duncan: Then the balance of the Treasury items were approved at some other point in time by the Management Board. The Premier is now saying that, of the $444,000, he is only taking responsibility for $112,000 of the spending, because it is fully recoverable. He is saying that it is Management Board that approved the other staffing costs, and I forget what the $190,000 was for.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, here we go again. We take responsibility for this supplementary. The issue the member is speaking of and the $112,000 was an ongoing initiative that flowed through the fiscal year to its inevitable end when a contribution agreement was signed.
As far as the $190,000 in offsetting cash balance, thatís due to a cash shortfall in the government. That certainly reflects the spending of government up until that period. We all know when the election was called and what happened after that. So, coming into office, we had to take responsibility for the government being in a cash-short position.
Ms. Duncan: So these items were in the period 8 variance report. I thank the member for confirming that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: No, these items flowed through a number of periods, culminating with the contribution agreement. The cash-shortage position is a culmination of the spending of government that commenced with the start of the fiscal year 2002-03. That shouldnít be a difficult thing to determine by the member opposite. Thatís what happened.
So, up until this point in time, the spending of government put the government in a cash-short position. We, upon taking office, had to address that cash-short position that was sitting there.
Ms. Duncan: Before the Finance minister wears out his arm patting himself on the back, may I just remind him that if he goes back in debate, he will see that the lapsed funding for 2001-02, which significantly reduced the deficit for that year, was $40 million and that the cash shortfall is a matter of financing during an election period. It is nothing new or different to any government.
So, my only point is on this Treasury vote, including the O&M expenditures and the O&M recoveries ó we are on the O&M expenditures now, under Treasury. The additional funds requested were requested post-period 3 through to the current period. Thatís my point. They occurred over a number of different variance reports; however, they are post-variance no. 3 and pre-variance no. 9. Thatís my only point.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, Mr. Chair, they are within those time frames. The government spending money as it did is reflected here. We took on the responsibility of those expenditures upon taking office. We had no choice. Thatís the way it is.
The net result was that we have here before us a supplementary increasing the voted-to-date expenditure by Treasury by $444,000, and that can be attributed to the fiscal year up to and including the first period to the seventh period. Then we had to deal with what was reflected in period 8. All can be attributed to the responsibility of government spending its money and us taking office in a timeline when the money was spent and we have to deal with the issues, including the cash-short position.
Treasury in the amount of $444,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Department of Finance in the amount of $444,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Loan Guarantee Contingency
Loan Guarantee Contingency in the amount of an underexpenditure of 150,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for Department of Finance in the amount of an underexpenditure of $145,000 agreed to
Department of Finance agreed to
Chair: The Chair seeks some direction as to which vote youíd like to proceed with next?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Now that Finance has cleared. Weíll just go back to the lineup in the supplementary, which would be Executive Council Office next.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, before addressing the Premierís point about moving on, is there not any discussion of the revenue line items on page 10-3?
Chair: The discussion on revenue was conducted during general debate. As it does not involve an expenditure, it does not have to be cleared.
Executive Council Office
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This supplementary provides a net increase of $150,000 in O&M spending by the Executive Council Office and a decrease of $7,885,000 in capital. O&M of $1,085,000 is for costs associated with the devolution transfer, $935,000, which is 100-percent recoverable, and $400,000 for termination benefits for the previous Liberal government. $250,000 of the termination costs were covered by existing funds in Executive Council Office. These funds were from salary surpluses due to vacancies.
O&M recoveries of $935,000 are included to cover the increase in O&M expenses relating to devolution.
On the capital side, there is a $10-million decrease in the Yukon permanent fund and a $2,115,000 increase for the Kwanlin Dun heritage cultural centre and the Kwanlin Dun waterfront land purchase, which is related to the land claim.
In conclusion, this provides members with an overview of the supplementary estimates for the Executive Council Office, and I will respond to further questions you may have during debate.
Ms. Duncan: There are a number of questions associated with this expenditure. Prior to the vote being taken at Management Board with respect to the elimination of the Yukon permanent fund, was there a review of the public comments that were submitted with respect to the Yukon permanent fund? Did the Finance minister ask to see the brochures and the responses from the public? Did he ask, and did he review that material?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think a great deal of review took place pre-election and during the election, and it was evident that the permanent fund was simply not something that was going to work in the context of what the member opposite thought it was going to do. Therefore, considering the fiscal situation the Yukon government was in ó and just by using standard arithmetic, I think we can quickly clear that up, looking at what would have been a situation on the fiscal front, as far as a surplus deficit ó decisions were made to dissolve the permanent fund. The decision was made based on the fact that the permanent fund and salting $10 million away simply was not going to address our economic needs and would be much better used in other areas, including the short-term stimulus of the Yukon economy.
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to note that itís unfortunate that the views of a number of Yukoners who took substantial time to e-mail, telephone, write via snail-mail ó I think thatís via Canada Post ó were ignored.
I would just like to ask the Premier a couple of questions around the waterfront land purchase and the Kwanlin Dun cultural heritage centre. These, of course, were commitments of other governments. They are pre-implementation of the land claim. Would the Finance minister indicate if the waterfront land purchase has been concluded, who did the environmental report, at what cost, and at what additional cost to the $1,235,000 is anticipated? Do that for starters, just around those purchases.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Unfortunately, the member is incorrect about us ignoring the comments of Yukoners. We took the comments of Yukoners under advisement with respect to the permanent fund and made that decision accordingly based on comments from Yukoners.
In regard to the purchase for the waterfront, these are commitments that go back even beyond the third partyís government, in relation to the land claim. As the land claim was being negotiated, these elements were being put in and agreed to. As far as the completion of the purchase, we are now in the stages of dealing with that with the City of Whitehorse because they are the seller.
Ms. Duncan: The final land selections were agreed to under our government and signed off in the memorandum under our government. On the Kwanlin Dun waterfront land purchase, I am quite well aware that it is a discussion between the Government of Yukon and the City of Whitehorse. I am asking the Finance minister where those discussions are. Are they close to being concluded? Has there been an offer and an acceptance? Is it in the hands of the lawyers? Where is the land purchase?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The land purchase is a work in progress. The offer has been made and it is now up to the seller to do their due diligence, and we await a response in regard to the offer that has been made by government.
Ms. Duncan: So what the Finance minister is saying is that the offer has been made and there has not been an acceptance of the offer. What are the issues on the table? What is not to accept? Is it a question of us arguing over finances? Are we arguing over who has the environmental liability? What is the sticking point in the negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member is getting a little ahead of herself by stating that there is an issue of acceptance here. The offer has been made and the city, of course, owning the property, is doing its due diligence as it should. We donít expect there to be any major issues. We have not argued with the City on the price, and I see this resolving itself in due course.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the offer has been made for some time. Where is the city in its review? Do we have a deadline? Do we have a date when we might receive a yea or nay on their acceptance?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In regard to that question, it might be advisable for the member to contact the city. Our work is certainly done to the point where we have made an offer to purchase.
Ms. Duncan: So, what the Finance minister has said, then, is that we have made an offer to purchase and weíre waiting now to hear from the city. What I am saying is that the offer to purchase was made some time ago. The offers usually are good for X period of time. What is that time period? When are we expecting an answer from the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I expect weíll be getting an answer in due course.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the members opposite are very fond of reference to "in due course". Could the Finance minister, with all due respect, attach a time frame around "due course"?
The date for ratification has been set for Kwanlin Dun. The land packages are being discussed publicly. There has been an offer made for some time. In what time frame are we expecting to hear from the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Iíll try and clarify that for the member. The member doesnít like "due course" so itís between now and the immediate future.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Finance minister may find this humorous. I would like some information, and Iím sure the general public would like to know too. Weíre voting on an expenditure and the Premier said the money has already been spent. Well, that money wonít be spent if the city does not accept the offer. He may come back and ask for more.
Weíre in general debate, Mr. Chair, and in general debate Iím asking about these specific expenditures. I can ask "generally speaking" if the member would prefer ó to please outline, generally speaking, when we generally might expect an answer on some of these expenditures in his department.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair. This purchase is part of an agreement that that member negotiated. We are awaiting a response from the city. We expect that response between now and the immediate future. Our government will not dictate to the city what they should do. They are another level of government. They are doing, Iím sure, the necessary work that they have to do in relation to their responsibilities, as we have to do in relation to our responsibilities.
Ms. Duncan: In relation to his responsibilities, the Finance minister also has responsibility for land claims and First Nations relations. This particular line ó and there are a couple of other lines in this Executive Council Office expenditure that the current Finance minister is seeking the House authority for. So the offer has been made. Yes, the offer was made by a previous government. The current government changed any number of decisions, and I could reel off a list of them.
They elected to continue with this offer. Iím asking when we might hear some more information on this. Itís a fair question. We are being asked to approve these expenditures. When might we hear on the land purchase? Is this the final expenditure under the heritage cultural centre? Are these expenditures under the land claims and implementation secretariat, generally speaking, in terms of First Nations relations? There is also a $100,000 lapse in land claims and implementation secretariat. I would like the Premier to outline those lapses, to outline the First Nations relations lapses and the government audit services lapses. There are a number of lapses. There are a number of expenditures. I would like the Finance minister, the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office, to outline, in detail, what they are.
Well if the Premier wants to wait until we get into line-by-line, we can wait until line-by-line. Generally speaking, in terms of mandate, the minister responsible for Executive Council was thrilled to stand on this side of the House and say, "What is the mandate for negotiating land claims?" I will ask the Finance minister. What mandate has been given for negotiating the Kaska claim? Has a mandate question come before Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: That question is more relevant to the next budget. What we are dealing with here in terms of land claims and the issues that go with it reflect the former government, and I am sure that when we get into the new mains for the next fiscal year, we will have a debate about mandates and other things. In this particular case though, we are dealing with a supplementary budget that has to do with the fiscal year 2002-03. The member has asked about the city land purchase. The offer is in. We are awaiting response. We expect that to happen in the immediate future, and there are other issues that we can certainly deal with on a line-by-line basis.
Chair: Order please. During line-by-line debate, we will only be reviewing those lines that include an expenditure. We will not be reviewing lines that have a zero value or a negative amount. So the appropriate time to discuss those types of issues would be now during general debate.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate your focus of the debate.
So in other words then, what we should be focusing our time on in general debate are those items that have a negative line. We have already established that the Yukon permanent fund has a negative line of $10 million, and the Premier has said he has listened to the comments of Yukoners about it but did not read any of the submissions, nor was he present at any of the budget meetings that I held that discussed the permanent fund. So in actual fact, there hasnít been a site review, if you will, of the valuable input from Yukoners on the permanent fund.
The Premier could then explain to the Legislature why there is lapsed funding in government audit services, First Nations relations and land claims implementation secretariat.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: At this period in time in the fiscal year, under the former government and up to this point, a number of vacancies were unfilled, and these values reflect those unfilled vacancies.
Ms. Duncan: There should be a reflection, though, of the $200,000 sole-sourced contract entered into by the government, entered into through the Executive Council Office. Where is that sole-source contract reflected that was entered into in December? It was entered into in January, and it goes through until December. So, the $200,000 ó whether all of that is spent or not, has to be booked. It was entered into in the fiscal year, which is the period weíre covering. So, where does that appear?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There was no reason to book that in this supplementary. You book it in the current year, when the contract is taking place and valid.
Ms. Duncan: The contract is taking place in this fiscal year. It covers the period January 8 to December ó so, January 8, 2003. This supplementary covers until March 31, 2003. There are three months of expenditures of that contract in this fiscal year. Where does it appear?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In this particular case, it is being dealt with within the existing budget envelope. Thatís not unusual. Sole-source contracts happen all the time that donít appear in a line item in a budget, and the member opposite knows that.
Ms. Duncan: So, Mr. Chair, the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office is saying it appears in the budget envelope ó which budget envelope? Is it in the line item land claims implementation secretariat? Is it in O&M? Is it in capital? And what Iím hearing him say is I should look for it within the expenditures of the department when we come to debate it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, itís handled within the existing budget envelope. Itís a sole-source contract. If you picked up the sole-source list, there are many, many sole-source contracts that are not shown in a line item. They are managed within the existing budget envelope. Thatís one of the issues around sole-source contracting: governmentís ability to move on initiatives, to address those initiatives, go to work on those initiatives and, in this particular case, the fiscal year weíre in, a portion of that sole-source contract is being managed within the existing budget envelope. The balance of it will be managed within the next budget.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím going to take the member at his word and understand that itís in the budget envelope of Executive Council Office. Iíd like the member to be a little more specific. Is it Cabinet and caucus? Cabinet offices? Thereís an envelope inside the envelope, to put it more bluntly for the member opposite. Is it in the Cabinet offices envelope, or is it in O&M, or is it in capital? Is it in the First Nations relations envelope? Could the minister responsible please be a little more specific? What precise budget envelope is it being managed from?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís being managed within the budget envelope of the Executive Council Office and it is to do with First Nations relations. There are a number of areas within the Executive Council Office that directly relate to that. What else can I say? Itís not a line item, itís a sole-source contract being managed by the department with existing monies that spending authority has already been provided for, and it is to do with First Nations.
Ms. Duncan: I fully understand that and appreciate that the member opposite is saying that itís in Executive Council Office. What he wonít tell us is whether or not itís operation and maintenance or whether itís capital ó which it is being managed from.
I fully realize that single sole-source contracts wonít appear as line items unto themselves. They wonít be labelled "sole-source contracts", but there are a number of smaller envelopes within Executive Council Office that are line items that we debate when it comes to line items. Right now in general debate, we are looking at a number of lines that are underspent. I am asking the minister responsible to confirm within which line the sole-source contract is being managed.
I understand that itís being managed within the overall Executive Council Office envelope. I understand that. Iíd like to know if itís O&M or capital, and Iíd like to know which specific line. If weíre saving $100,000 or $200,000 in staffing and still managing to pay a portion of a $200,000 sole-source contract in the land claims implementation secretariat, thatís important information. The public needs to know.
Iím just asking the minister responsible to confirm: where is it? I understand itís in the Executive Council Office. Is it O&M or capital, and in which section of the envelope?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, itís in the existing budget envelope for ECO. They have the latitude to do these types of things when it comes to sole-source contracting. It has to do with First Nations relations, which could mean that they may use money out of the land claims implementation secretariat, First Nations relations, and so on. Thatís what itís all about.
The member opposite knows that. The member was minister in charge of this particular area at one time and understands this process fully when it comes to sole-source contracting, and I think we have been very clear.
Executive Council Office is mandated to deal with First Nations relations. The sole-source contract is directly related to First Nations relations. The Executive Council Office has an existing budget envelope and a portion of the overall contract is being handled out of that existing envelope for this fiscal year.
Ms. Duncan: Where are the other recoveries coming from in these lines then? There are other recoveries. Land claims implementation secretariat, First Nations relations, government audit services are all showing lapsed funding. Theyíre managing this contract, this portion of three months of this $200,000 contract, plus theyíre lapsing money. Where are the lapses coming from and why?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have already stated, Mr. Chair, that the lapses reflect unfilled vacancies at this particular time. That does not mean that that is money redirected. This is money that is not needed to fill vacancies or to pay for employees because those vacancies havenít been filled. We know that there is a standard process in government whereby there is a percentage of vacancies ongoing. There is a process that deals with that. We see advertisements for job opportunities constantly in the public domain where government tries to fill vacancies. It has nothing to do with anything else. The sole-source contract in question is being managed by the existing budget envelope for this particular fiscal year, and we are reflecting the fact that there are some lapses to do with some unfilled vacancies.
Ms. Duncan: So just to be very clear then, what the member is saying is that the department is lapsing some $250,000 in its O&M budget envelope because there are various vacancies in the department. At the same time, within that same budget envelope, theyíre cash managing a three months of the year, $200,000 sole-source contract. Doesnít that qualify with contracting out with the Public Service Commission?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Nice try. No, it doesnít reflect contracting out. In fact, that is completely ridiculous. Some of these positions have now been filled. We are dealing with a supplementary budget that reflects up to a certain period, and we will probably have another supplementary to close out this fiscal year but, as far as contracting out, no, no way, not a chance, not happening, never will under this government in the terms that this member has put forward in this House.
The sole-source contract is not contracting out but rather a specific initiative being managed within the existing budget envelope at this particular time, and the member knows this or at least should, given her position prior to the position she is in now. She knows full well there are ongoing vacancies across government. We reflect the fact that these funds are lapsed because those vacancies havenít been filled to this period. It is called standard accounting procedures and practices, but some of these vacancies subsequent to this period have now been filled. No, it is not contracting out.
Ms. Duncan: Itís also standard practice in hiring and in labour law that, when an individual does all of the functions and jobs associated with an employee, that that person, for all intents and purposes, should be considered an employee, rather than being on a contract basis. There are very clear lines in labour law saying, "This person is doing all of the functions of an employee, therefore they should be made an employee and not placed on contract to do the job of an employee."
So, my question with respect to drafting this sole-sourced contract ó and now it has had several months to work ó is: has the Finance minister received advice from the Public Service Commissioner that, in fact, this individual is an employee, and should be an employee, rather than on contract?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, thereís a good one. We now have companies as employees. Letís get serious here, Mr. Chair. This is not contracting out; this is not an employee. It has happened across government many, many times where sole-source contracts are issued. In many cases, theyíre issued for government to address specific issues. This is not unheard of. Other sole-source contracts have been issued in specific areas to deal with initiatives that government feels are a priority. Itís not an employee, and itís not contracting out. And everything thatís done here is within the confines of what government must do, whether it be the public service, the sole-source contract regulations ó what have you. It follows due process, and thatís what this side of the House intends to continue to do. The inference from the other side is simply incorrect, and Iím hoping that Iím clearing that up for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, no, the member opposite is not clearing it up, because the sole-source contract in question ó yes, itís listed as a consulting firm. Itís one individual, and itís quite frequently the case ó and I have heard the advice from various points in this Legislature, from various points in the private sector ó when an individual is contracted to do certain things that an employee would do, like report to work, have an office, be somewhere on a regular basis, when expenses are submitted for one person to be travelling and those expenses are paid, like an employeeís expenses would be paid, then quite frequently, the Public Service Commissioner, who knows labour law better than most of us, would come in and say, look, under standard practice, just like the standard accounting principles, this person is an employee and should be an employee, not a contractor.
Iíve been on the receiving end of that advice in various walks of life. All Iím asking the minister responsible to confirm is that he has not received that recommendation from the Public Service Commissioner; that the Public Service Commissioner has not gone to the minister responsible and said that this person is doing all the tasks of an employee and should be treated as an employee, as opposed to us issuing a contract. Itís a yes-or-no question; the minister responsible is fond of them. Did the minister responsible receive that advice? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The government followed due process. The member is making an argument here that I find very interesting. The member says an individual should be treated like an employee. Well, letís go back to this memberís watch. Do the two candidates who ran in the last election qualify the same way as the member opposite is now pointing a finger at a contractor for this government? Do those members ó were they employees or were they contracts?
Does the famous Mr. Almstrom and the $377,000 of contracts issued ó was that an employee or was that a contractor? The member is in no position to be going down this road. We follow due process. We intend to continue to follow due process. The contractor in question is not an employee. The contract in question follows all the regulations that go with a sole-source contract.
Chair:Order. The Chair is not comfortable with individuals being named, and I would strongly caution members from going down that avenue.
Ms. Duncan: With all due respect, I appreciate your ruling about naming individuals. We are dealing with a situation where there is a clear precedence in law and a clear precedence in labour practice where an individual is being contracted by a government ó and itís dealt with in opposition caucuses, itís dealt with by government ó and where contracts are issued and the Public Service Commissioner says, "No, this person is an employee and should be treated that way."
In answer to one question of the minister responsible, under my watch there was a contract issued to the individual in question. We received that advice and we acted on it. The individual became an employee of the Cabinet and caucus. We followed that practice.
All I asked was whether or not the Finance minister received that same advice. He can go on and on and on and suggest that the contracts issued by the previous government were somehow incorrect, and go on and on about how he followed process. I am quite sure that his signature is on the right line and, as far as issuing a sole-source contract, the date on it is right and it spells out what the contract is supposed to be for.
The fact remains that he may or may not have received advice that the individual should be an employee not a contractor. All Iím asking is whether or not he received that advice. And I will stand here ó and I appreciate your ruling, Mr. Chair, so Iím not going to rebut every one of the particular contracts, although Iíd be prepared to do so. The current minister responsible did not mention the one I signed and the one I received advice on, and the individual was made an employee. It was in a similar line item.
The minister responsible for ECO is lapsing funding because of unfilled vacancies ó lapsing funding. Heís covering off the funding through the existing envelope for three months of a sole-source contract. Iím asking if he received advice that he should make that individual an employee and not issue a contract. Did he receive the advice? Yes or no?
Well, the minister responsible is refusing to answer the question of whether or not he received that advice. I take it that he did and refuses to accept it.
In general debate with this supplementary, the ratification votes were to be concluded by March 31. There have been new dates established with the consent of all parties, and I appreciate that a number of those memorandums of understanding are moving toward ratification.
For the record, would the Premier indicate in this debate ó there is lapsed funding in a number of these areas, so unfilled vacancies, the ratification dates have moved past March 31 ó if we are currently staffing these positions? Do we have a full complement of staff in land claims implementation secretariat?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, in government we receive a lot of advice. When government says we have gone through due process, that includes ensuring that we have acted appropriately, based on the best available advice.
Now, anybody can come forward with an opinion on something, but ultimately we make decisions based on that best available advice and move forward. So the issue in question is no different than many others. There are many individuals who do work for government through a contract basis. That is not unusual. It happens all the time, especially in sole-source contracts.
Therefore, I submit to the member the inferences being made are really off base. There is no relevance to what is happening. So I would hope that the member reflects on this a little bit and understands that it has happened on many occasions, even under her watch in government, where individuals receive contracts. That is what happens. They receive contracts, and the decisions are made on the best available advice for governments.
As far as the lapsed funds she is talking about, we have already gone over this. Up to this point in time in this fiscal year, there were vacancies that generated these reductions, because those vacancies were not filled, but today that would be different, because some of them have been filled. It is an ongoing process in government where vacancies materialize for whatever reasons and the government tries to fill vacancies. There is a percentage across the board where, if you went back historically in government, you would see that it is very close at all times. Besides, I think the member is trying to imply that the government held these vacancies open to generate lapsed funds.
Thatís not the case either. We donít get involved in personnel matters. The member knows that. The member knows full well that there is a Public Service Commission, and there are job descriptions, classifications, hiring process, job competitions ó there is a litany of issues that must be dealt with through the personnel department and we, the government side, the elected officials, do not get involved in personnel matters. Those are handled by the appropriate agencies, and the member knows that.
So, in this particular case, the member is debating something that the member should know the answers to. The vacancies werenít filled at this time, therefore we reflected that in the dollar values in this supplementary in terms of a reduction in those areas. Vacancies subsequent to this time have been filled, so variances will reflect different numbers. And that is the standard procedure, all done through the appropriate agency and certainly not by us, the elected arm of government. We have no place in that area, and we do not interfere. And the member knows that also.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just asked if land claims had a full complement of staff now. I accept the fact that the member opposite didnít want to answer that question.
Just a point ó the difference with respect to when a contractor becomes an employee ó one of the issues is usually whether they do contracts for other people. I would just like the member opposite, if he wouldnít mind, to answer that question: do the land claims and implementation secretariat, First Nations relations and government audit services appreciate their lapsing funds this year ó because there are unfilled vacancies? Do they have a full complement to be able to bring the memorandums of understanding to their conclusion?
I am not suggesting for one moment that the Premier is interfering in the staffing of these particular branches. I am asking if we are expecting these vacancies to be filled or if weíre leaving them to lapse until the new fiscal year. Whatís happening with these positions? And in the meantime, is there a full complement of staff to be able to bring the memorandums of understanding to ratification?
Perhaps while heís on his feet, there are some key questions around the contracting Iíd like to ask. The contract for a review of child care issues ó and I understand the Premier has had several meetings on this issue ó is not in Health and Social Services. Is it contained in here? Because the money has been spent. Could we have copies of it? And also, the reclassification ó the member brought that up ó of two key positions in the political staff was done extremely quickly. Perhaps the Public Service Commission will be prepared to answer the question of how long the reclassification line is for the rest of the Yukon public service when we get to that debate. Could the Premier indicate whether or not the increases paid to those particular employees are contained in the supplementary?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We have, Mr. Chair, the necessary people and the necessary positions to press forward diligently, and hopefully expeditiously, with concluding the memorandums of understanding and the ratification process. It is well known to the member opposite that there have been extensions given by the federal government due to any number of issues, certainly not vacancies in positions in the Yukon government, but extensions have been given.
In relation to what the member is saying about the contract for child care, itís a convenience contract and falls under a little bit of a different category. The member knows that also. There is a threshold that triggers the next level of regulation and processes we must follow. That threshold in this particular case was not reached. Therefore, itís a different style of contract.
Now, regarding the comments on job classification ó and Iím sure the member is referring to the often-made remark by that member opposite on raises, raises for, how the member termed it, "friends of the government", and Iím going to set the record straight on this issue once and for all.
When we took office, there was not a full complement of job descriptions or classifications, and that is something that maybe the member opposite understands better than I ó they were not there.
Government structure is such that, once youíve determined what positions you want filled, you require job classifications and job descriptions. We went outside of government to ensure objectivity and a fair process and to utilize the private, individual contractor who does this for government regularly. The contract was specifically given and awarded to provide job classifications and descriptions.
Now, once those job classifications and descriptions were completed, that was what dictated payscale.
Let me point out something that the member opposite should know when it comes to the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act. Subsection 1.2(2) of this act reads: "The position shall be classified and shall have payscales assigned to them in the conformity with same criteria that would be applied if the positions were established in the public service under the Public Service Act." Thatís due process; the member well knows it.
Furthermore, how conveniently the member does not state on the floor of the Legislature, when she refers to this side of the House as the "old boys club", that our government, caucus support staff, consists of 20 people ó 13 of those people are women. Out of that, seven of those individuals are executive assistants. How conveniently this member does not state that, in the Premierís office, my executive assistantís responsibilities also include First Nation liaison on behalf of the Premier and that this person is a woman ó a single mom. How conveniently that member does not put that on the floor of the House in an attempt to create perception.
Well, Mr. Chair, frankly, it is a waste of time in this House ó
Chair:Order. The term "attempt to create perception" is unparliamentary.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, it might be unparliamentary but that is exactly what the member opposite is trying to do. So I will rephrase that. I will retract that and say the member opposite continually brings to the floor of this Legislature incorrect information that is skewing the debate, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair:Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: A point of order: to suggest that a member is bringing incorrect information that is skewing would sound to me like the member is casting aspersions on another member and suggesting motive.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would suggest a dispute between members.
Chair:There is no point of order. There is a dispute among members. However, I would like to caution all members to avoid using language that would imply that another member is deliberately misleading this House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I want to put on the record the fact that, when structuring our government, we took the time to get the best possible people in place that we could. We are proud of the team that has been created. Out of the caucus and Cabinet staff, we are very proud of the fact that 13 of 20 support staff are women. We are very proud of the fact that our commitment to First Nations to bring them into government in meaningful roles has been done. We have a contractor out there working on one of the highest priority initiatives this government has. In the Premierís office, a First Nation woman is the executive assistant and First Nation liaison officer. That is an important statement to be making on the floor of this House, and it honours our commitment to First Nation people to bring them into government in a meaningful way.
Our team is based on experience, capacity and talent, and their wages are based on job classifications that are created outside government by a contract service that does this continually for government. Those job classifications, Mr. Chair, reflect the payscale, which is in conformity with the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act. I read the section that reflects it.
So the member opposite is in no position to point fingers in this manner. If the member opposite is taking that position, the member opposite has a duty to provide the burden of proof on the floor of this Legislature, as I just have when it comes to our caucus and Cabinet staff.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the fact of the matter is that the member has read out a section of the act, which makes reference to job classifications. The job classifications and duties that were performed by previous Cabinet and caucus staff were provided to Executive Council Office. They were provided by the chief of staff. They were readily available. They were provided to the government. To suggest otherwise is a dispute between members, Mr. Chair, because I maintain itís incorrect. If the member wishes the burden of proof, Iíll obtain a copy of the e-mail.
With respect to the classifications, the point is, Mr. Chair, that members of the public service have waited years to have their jobs reclassified, have stood in line ó every Wednesday it used to be in 1999-2000 and every Wednesday the Public Service Commissioner did nothing but deal with reclassifications. We pledged to deal with that issue. The lineup was considerably shorter.
My point with respect to the reclassification of the job description, which was done outside and not by the Public Service Commissioner ó there was a special contract brought in to do this reclassification and this job description. The Premier himself has said that. That means that other employees who are waiting for reclassification should expect the same service.
Thatís my point about two lineups. With respect to the involvement of women in the Government of Yukon and in positions of power in the Cabinet and caucus, our government was the first and only gender-balanced Cabinet anywhere in Canada. The representation, unfortunately, of women in this Legislature has gone down since the last election. Itís unfortunate, but thatís the way that it goes.
My question with respect to women and gender balance in politics, perception is reality ó and thatís a quote, Mr. Chair.
My question that was not answered by the Premier in his unfortunate lecture to me was whether or not the reclassification, the additional pay, is included in the supplementary. Thatís the only question I asked: is it in the supplementary?
Now the minister responsible said that there was a convenience contract issued with respect to child care. Itís still a contract issued by the government. Would the minister responsible ó and I understand in this case itís the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office ó please provide a copy of it to both opposition parties? Whether itís a convenience contract or a sole-source contract, we should still be able to get a copy of it. Please, could we have one?
And could we also have copies and an outline of how many other contracts have been signed, convenience contracts or sole-source, by the Premier and the amounts? If theyíre covered in this supplementary, I would like that recognition from the minister responsible. Is it this supplementary or are they in the budget coming? And he hasnít outlined a line item, but could he please outline how much has been expended on this sole-source contract to date?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, I think itís obvious you are correct. There is a dispute between members. The dispute goes very deep. Itís in our respective approaches to governing. There is a distinct difference between this side and that member oppositeís government. The official opposition probably has much more to say in debate than what weíre getting from the third party.
However, when it comes to the funds for the wages of caucus and Cabinet staff, the member well knows that weíre in the midst of a fiscal year and, of course, those wages must be covered. Weíre not working gratis until the next fiscal year. People get paid. There are a number of areas where our government has ensured gender balance. We do not, though, dictate the outcome of elections. The Yukon public does that.
The Yukon public voted for the representatives they felt would do the best job for them, and theyíre reflected here in this House ó right here in this Legislature. That was the choice the Yukon public made. But we as a government made every effort to ensure gender balance and beyond, and we have accomplished that. Weíre proud of that fact.
Now, the member is very fond of doing things in a manner that tries to deal with issues by providing information that is absent of the full equation. Now, Mr. Chair, if we are ever to have constructive debate, the full equation must be presented. There is no other way to have a constructive debate. We canít be debating something in parts, minus the most important elements. Thatís whatís happening here today.
Weíre going around and around and around with parts of the information and not the full information, as we on this side of the House have presented continually.
Again, when it comes to the funds, the question asked ó weíre in the middle of a fiscal year and wages have to be paid, so they are reflected not only in this supplementary; they will be reflected in the mains that weíre about to debate if we ever get off this supplementary.
But at the end of the day, I would urge the member, in the context of having a constructive debate in this House ó letís debate the full equation and not piecemeal the issue because this House has a responsibility to the Yukon public, and the member opposite, I think, has to pull a little more of the weight in reflection of that responsibility than the third party does at this point in time.
Ms. Duncan: The full weight and the full equation was a request to have the convenience contracts and other contracts signed by the minister ó and that are being paid out in this supplementary ó provided to the members of both opposition parties. Itís a simple request and one Iím sure the minister responsible, in his eagerness to ensure we are all pulling our full weight, will provide that information. I would just simply request that it be provided soon, in due course, perhaps immediately, so that we can conclude this debate.
Just for the memberís benefit, so that weíre clear on what the questions are, Iím curious as to how much has been expended this fiscal year on the sole-source contract to Obsidian Consulting ó and would the minister responsible also indicate how much has been expended on the convenience contract with respect to the child care contract and provide copies of the contract and any other contracts that have been signed and will be paid out in this fiscal year in the supplementary?
I am asking for the information and the details around the supplementary. Could the minister responsible please provide that information?
In general debate, generally, there has also been an outline of anticipated expenditure for the waterfront land purchase. There is an amount that has been put in there. I am interested to find out ó the offer hasnít actually been accepted yet ó I would like the minister responsible to outline, generally speaking, as a matter of government policy, if it is common to put the full amount one intends to pay in a line item and a vote. What is the contingency if that amount isnít accepted, or if a lesser amount is achieved?
The reason I am asking these is because I can recall, during a debate in this Legislature around a land purchase in Carmacks, the amount the government intended to pay for the land was put in the budget prior to an offer being made, and the minister responsible was roundly criticized for it. Now I understand, in this case, an offer has been made and an offer has been made for that amount and the minister responsible is seeking vote authority.
Where do we go from here? Is this the total amount of the vote authority and we canít exceed it? What do we do if that offer is not accepted? Whatís the contingency plan, and what does the government intend to do with respect to the additional funding that may or may not be committed for the heritage cultural centre? Is this the total amount?
Sorry, back to the land purchase ó is there additional money if there are additional expenses associated with the cost of the purchase of the land, and where would the vote authority come from? Is the minister responsible planning to come back with a supplementary, or how does the minister responsible intend to proceed with this particular item?
The lapses have been explained to my satisfaction. The minister has indicated that they are for unfilled vacancies but that there is a full complement in that staffing. I would look forward to his outline in greater detail of these additional expenditures when we resume debate. However, I would suggest, in light of the hour, Mr. Chair, that Committee of the Whole adjourn debate.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that the Committee will report progress on Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: I still have the floor, then, do I not?
Chair: Thatís correct.
Ms. Duncan: Yes, thank you. So we will be resuming the debate in Executive Council Office, Mr. Chair, and in resuming the debate, I would just like to respectfully request that the Premier come prepared to fully debate all of the expenditures in this supplementary, those expenditures being the convenience contracts, the amount expended on the sole-source contract, and to outline further ó and he may wish to defer this until we get to the additional line specifically, but I would just, generally speaking as a matter of policy, is it a good idea to put out to the public what the governmentís willing to pay for something before it has actually been accepted? I understand the need to get vote authority, but is it necessary to put the full amount, and how does the Premier intend to ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím just going to help the member opposite. The offer to purchase was in August, under her watch, so the numbers reflect their offer to purchase.
Chair:There is no point of order.
Mr. Hardy: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Hardy, on a point of order.
Mr. Hardy: The game playing thatís happening in here over TV time is getting a little disgusting, and I notice that, if it goes past 6:00, my understanding is weíll be paying an extra $1,000 an hour for those people sitting in there for a few minutes.
Chair:There is no point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Thanks, Mr. Chair.
Just to conclude with these questions, I fully appreciate ó and Iíve stated several times that the offer was made by the previous government. I understand that. But I didnít table the supplementary with an amount in it. And a deal has not been concluded.
Is it common practice ó without an acceptance, without a conclusion ó to have put the full amount? If thatís the case and the governmentís policy, then how does the minister responsible intend to deal with any contingencies associated with the purchase ó any additional expenses? How does the minister intend to reflect them? And when it comes to the cultural centre, is this the conclusion or is there additional funding to be expended?
And the record will reflect that in this afternoonís debate, the minister has not indicated ó and has chosen not to answer the question ó whether or not he received advice with respect to a particular contract, if that should be an employee or not. Perhaps thinking about it over the evening, he may choose to come back with an answer on that, in which case I look forward to the additional information to be supplied by the member opposite.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have answered the question on when it comes to advice. The government receives advice across the board, constantly; itís on a daily basis. We act on that advice and we make decisions incorporating advice. That is our job.
As far as the value for the property purchase, it certainly was there upon taking office. The offer was in August. It was part of the call to book the supplementary, so again the member is merely ragging the puck on needless debate. She knows full well what the deal is with the city because the member made the offer to purchase back in August 2002 while still in government.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress.
Chair: Order please. The motion is not in order as a similar motion had previously been defeated. The time being 6:00 p.m., the Chair shall now rise and report to the House.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call this House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:02 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 24, 2003:
Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon, Report on the 2002 General Election